"Standing alone" : single women from Nazi Germany to the Federal Republic / by Elizabeth Diane Heineman.
This study examines German women who experienced the Second World War, the postwar crisis, and reconstruction West Germany without husbands by their sides. It considers unwed, divorced, separated, and widowed women both as a population "created" by the Second World War and as a group that played a crucial role in defining wartime and postwar society. The dissertation addresses state policy, single women's lived experience, and their symbolic functions. In its chapters on the Nazi era, the dissertation examines war and population policy as factors shaping women's marital status, single women who posed a threat to the goal of fully regulated social and sexual behavior, and single women's participation in the war effort. The study then turns to single women's experiences during the collapse and military occupation and to the ways single women's activities shaped Germans' understanding of the crisis years. The final section of the dissertation discusses single women and West German law, their lived experience in the face of decreasing visibility, and their impact on subsequent generations. "Standing Alone" adds a crucial angle to feminist scholars' consideration of difference and the poststructuralist challenge. The study argues that marital status is, for women, a critical category of difference. Individuals change their marital status, however, with far greater ease than they change their gender, racial, or even class identities. Because marital status is central to women's identity yet more flexible than other categories of difference, this work provides a case study of the fluid nature of difference. The dissertation also proposes a new understanding of Germans' ways of dealing with the Nazi past. The history of German women during the collapse and occupation offered Germans material with which they could construct a sympathetic understanding of their immediate past. In its popularized form, single women's history emphasized victimhood and the "phoenix rising from the ashes"; it did not include awkward issues about complicity with the Nazi regime. Recollections of single women, however, could also deflect attention from the Nazi past in a manner more damaging to single women. By symbolizing sexual chaos, single women gave West Germans the opportunity to interpret the military occupation, and not the Nazi period, as Germany's moral nadir.
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