Governmental laws and family matters : elements of continuity and change in German family policy, 1871-1963 / Jutta K. Scott
Includes bibliographical references (p. 328-336)
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German governmental legislation directed at the family showed substantial continuity from 1900 through the 1950s, despite the fact that this time spanned four very different forms of government: the German Empire (1871-1918), the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), the Nazi Regime (1933-1945), and the Federal Republic of Germany (post-1945). Family policies throughout this period were oriented on a conservative, patriarchal family concept and were characterized by strong pro-natal tendencies. Pro-natalism became a widespread sentiment in response to the rapid decline in Germany's fertility rate after the turn of the century--a result of the growing adoption of birth control among the population. Fertility decline caused growing fear about the eventual depopulation of the country at a time when expanding populations were regarded as insurance against outside threats and a precondition for territorial conquests. Already before 1933, pro-natal legislation was frequently debated in nationalist and eugenic terms; after 1933, family policies culminated in the excesses of National Socialism. Now, pro-natal measures for "aryans" were combined with genocide for so called "non-aryan" groups to ensure the desired quantity and "quality" of people in the future. West German administrations during the late 1940s and 1950s distanced themselves from the excesses of Nazi policies, which had discredited nationalist and eugenic arguments, but opposed redefinition of the underlying pro-natal and patriarchal family ideal that had been the basis for German family policy from the time of the Empire. Conservative resistance, however, could ultimately not prevent post-World War II reform; a political opposition, which had been rendered more effective by West Germany's new parliamentary structure and more determined by the Nazi experience, succeeded in laying the foundation for new directions in West German family policy.
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