Type of Document Dissertation Author Carney, Amy Beth URN etd-06142010-154717 Title Victory in the Cradle: Fatherhood and the Family Community in the Nazi Schutzstaffel Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department History, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Nathan Stoltzfus Committee Chair Fritz Davis Committee Member Jonathan Grant Committee Member Matt Childs Committee Member Robert Gellately Committee Member Birgit Maier-Katkin University Representative Keywords
- Race and Settlement Main Office
- Heinrich Himmler
- National Socialism
- Schutzstaffel (SS)
- Racial Hygiene
Date of Defense 2010-04-27 Availability unrestricted AbstractRacial superiority was deeply embedded in the philosophy and world-view of National Socialism. It was also a key tenet within the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel), as possessing a superior Nordic racial lineage became a crucial criterion for admission to the organization by the early 1930’s. With this racial basis, the SS was posed to serve as a new aristocracy in the fledgling Third Reich. However, this service was only to be the beginning. The leader of the SS, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, desired that his elite corps not only serve Adolf Hitler’s Reich in the present, but perpetually in the future as well. To achieve this goal, he created an ambitious plan to use his SS men as a starting point from which he could establish a larger SS family community (Sippengemeinschaft). To realize this aspiration, the wives and children of SS men also had to be vetted in order to prove their biological and hereditary worth. An entire process was created to oversee the development of the SS Sippengemeinschaft as both a biological and a cultural entity, with the vast majority of it managed by the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt).
This administrative oversight of family life, and in particular the promotion and regulation of fatherhood among SS men, represented one method through which the SS leadership wanted its elite cadre to reshape societal and familial norms, thus having these men and their families serve as the racial and biological vanguard of the Nazi Reich. However, the means used to attempt to achieve this goal were not unique to the SS, the Nazi party, or even to Germany. The vast majority of the measures implemented in the SS to encourage SS men to marry racially suitable women, to father racially healthy children, and therefore to create the ideal SS family community were based on ideas which had been existed for decades as part of a then-valid science, eugenics. Eugenicists, especially those in Germany, Britain, and the United States, had wanted to find a humane means of selection to improve the quantity and quality of their respective populations. Based on their class, racial, religious, or national bias, they wanted to limit benignly the reproduction of certain people while strongly encouraging other people to have more children. However, while many scientists and physicians advocated a wide variety of measures, eugenics had been nothing more than scientific rhetoric in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particualrly when it came to using this science to promote the birth of “wellborn” children. That changed in the 1930’s as among the people who saw value in positive eugenics was Heinrich Himmler. He sought to reshape the SS and to construct a family community within the organization by selectively employing the eugenic ideals which best suited his needs. Therefore, what Himmler and the SS, particularly the Race and Settlement Main Office, attempted to do was to turn rhetoric into reality by applying eugenic ideals.
By investigating fatherhood and the family community in the SS, this work contributes to several historiographies. First, it contributes to a stronger understanding of the SS. It evaluates how the construction and implementation of a racial ideology facilitated the burgeoning bureaucracy of the SS, especially in the offices responsible for promoting and supporting families. This research analyzes the notion of the SS as an elite community, both the ideology and the reality of this ideal. In particular, it examines how the SS leadership sought to have its men willingly comply with its racial notions instead of obliging them to obey through force as well as allowed selective compliance from SS men, particularly during the Second World War. Consequently, this dissertation explores why, if the ideal of developing eugenically healthy families represented a goal of the SS, SS leaders permitted their men leeway in their personal decisions and how this tolerance defined the organization’s familial ideology. Second, as this endeavor by the SS to foster an elite community was an application of eugenics, it was the first attempt to implement this scientific rhetoric in a positive manner. Therefore, this work adds to the literature which examines the role of the biological sciences in the Third Reich. Third, it engages historical research which focuses on family life in the Third Reich as well as in the postwar era and provides a stronger understanding of the role of the father within the family. Fourth, this research addresses sexual politics in Nazi Germany, specifically how the SS attempted to reconceptualize the purpose and value of sex in order to create its family community.
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