A Gender History of National Socialism – History, Memory, Debates

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Johanna Gehmacher


This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Women’s- and Gender history of National Socialism, which has developed into a differentiated field of research in the last four decades, has clearly shown that Gender is highly relevant to the analysis of National Socialist ideology and politics in many respects. This applies to gendered hierarchies of the political public, to gendered strategies of the war economy, as well as to the racial politics of reproduction that affected women’s lives in unequivocal ways. Gender is also extremely relevant to analysing specific forms of participation of men and women in crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. When, however, gender policies of the National Socialist regime are addressed in a broader public phantasmatic images that identify submission with femality are widespread and in popular TV documentaries voyeuristic perspectives on the wives and mistresses of Nazi leaders often figure rather prominently. This course will contrast such popular perceptions with a reflexive approach to the wide range of scholarly literature on the gender history of the National Socialism. It will also address gender as a category for the analysis of National Socialism which cannot be discussed without regard to the category of race—to which it is subordinated in National Socialist ideology and politics. The course will reflect the vibrant and controversial field of research from its beginnings in the 1970s up to the present, and thereby combine the approaches of social and gender history, discourse analysis and the history of memory.

The course will both address the historiography of the field and discuss central analytic concepts. It will look into the history of fascist movements in Germany and Austria and examine the participation of women as well as the movements’ gendered concepts of society. Students will learn about different aspects of the installation of the National Socialist regime in Germany in the 1930s and discuss various aspects of the gender history of the regime (eg. the intersection between racial laws and family policies, the changing policies on the female work force during the war, the gendered history of genocidal extermination policy or gendered strategies of resistance) using a variety of analytical texts as well as (translated) original sources. The course will also confront the history of public memory of National Socialism and tackle the peculiar role of specific gendered images in memory politics as well as in popular history.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

10 x two-hour seminars in the MT and the LT. There will be a reading week in the MT and the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay, 1 exercise, 1 presentation and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

A 1,500-word book review, a 2000-word essay, a 500-word analysis of primary source, a class facilitation presentation.

Indicative reading

Abrams, Lynn/Harvey, Elizabeth (eds), Gender Relations in German History. Power, Agency and Experience from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century (London 1996)

Bridenthal, Renate et al., When Biology Became Destiny. Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany (New York, 1984)

Burleigh, Michael/Wippermann, Wolfgang, The Racial State. Germany 1933–1945 (Cambridge 1991)

Campt, Tina M., Other Germans. Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (Ann Arbor, 2004)

Century, Rachel, Dictating the Holocaust: Female Administrators of the Third Reich (PhD Dissertation, University of London 2012)

Gottlieb, Julie V., Feminine Fascism. Women in Britain’s Fascist Movement (London and New York 2002)

Grazia, Victoria de, How Fascism Ruled Women. Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley et al., 1992)

Grossmann, Atina, ‚Feminist Debates about Women and National Socialism‘, in: Gender and History 3 (1991), pp. 350-8

Harvey, Elizabeth, Women and the Nazi East: Agents and Witnesses of Germanization (Yale, 2003)

Heineman, Elizabeth, What Difference Does a Husband Make? Women and Marital Status in Nazi and Postwar Germany (London, 1991)

Herzog, Dagmar (ed), Sexuality and German Fascism (New York and Oxford, 2004)

Lower, Wendy, Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Boston, 2013)

Ofer, Dalia/Weitzman, Lenore J. (eds), Women in the Holocaust (New Haven and London. 1998)

Reese, Dagmar. Growing up Female in Nazi Germany (Ann Arbor, 2006)

Sachse, Carola, Industrial Housewives. Women’s Social Work in the Factories of Nazi Germany (New York et al., 2013)

Scheck, Raphael, Mothers of the Nation. Right-Wing Women in Weimar Germany (Oxford and New York; 2004)

Sneeringer, Julia, Winning Women’s Votes. Propaganda and Politics in Weimar Germany (Chapel Hill and London, 2002)

Snyder, David Raub, Sex Crimes under the Wehrmacht (Lincoln, NA 2007)

Stephenson, Jill, Women in Nazi Germany (Harlow 2001)

Stibbe, Matthew, Women in the Third Reich (London 2003)

Weitz, Margaret Collins, Frauen in der Résistance (Münster, 2002)

Weitzmann, Leonore J./Ofer, Dalia (eds), Women in the Holocaust (New Haven and London, 1998)


Essay (25%, 3000 words) and case analysis (15%) in the LT.
Essay (25%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (15%) and class participation (20%) in the MT and LT.

3000-word historiographical essay due in Lent Term (25%); 3000-word state-of-the-field essay due in Summer Term (25%); 500-word analysis of primary source (15%), participation (20%); presentation (15%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills