From nurturing the nation to purifying the Volk : conflicts in the implementation of German family policy, 1918-1945 / by Michelle Mouton
Includes bibliographical references (p. 315-337)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
Germany's first democracy, the Weimar Republic, established in the aftermath of the First World War, was replaced only fourteen years later by the National Socialist dictatorship. In the few decades between 1914 and 1945, Germans waged and lost two world wars and were devastated by severe economic turmoil. The cataclysmic demographic, political, economic, and cultural shifts associated with modernization altered people's understanding of the world in which they lived. The concomitant, pervasive fear that the German family was in a state of precipitous decline prompted both the Weimar and National Socialist regimes to create policy to restore 'traditional' gender roles and to rejuvenate families. Although both regimes attempted to raise morality among Germans, they had vastly different family policies. During the Weimar era, family policy issues were debated in a parliamentary democracy. Political strife, economic turmoil, and ideological differences precluded the creation of a unified or uniform family policy. In sharp contrast, the Nazis attempted to impose a monolithic, racially-driven, centralized family policy. The Nazis also believed that state aid should be limited to 'worthy' Germans. No state is a monolith, however. During both eras, the implementation of national policy depended on the participation of doctors, city officials, social workers, and judges. My dissertation explores the fundamental disparity between national policy and its implementation at the local level. My research, based on sources from state, local, and regional archives in Westphalia and from my interviews with Westphalian women, reveals that local realities sometimes facilitated, at other times hindered, the intended implementation of German family policy. I demonstrate how national policy was modified in light of budgetary limitations, political disagreements, church influences, and the personal beliefs of state agents. I also illustrate the crucial role individual Germans played in shaping the policy that affected them. Mothers, fathers, and children actively collaborated with, rebelled against, and maneuvered around state mandates. As a result, although national policy changed dramatically after 1933, local implementation changed less markedly and less consistently. I demonstrate that understanding family policy is not only a question of the state, but also of the individual.
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