Nazi policies on German women during the Second World War : lessons learned from World War 1?
At the end of his book on the Second World War Antony Beevor tells the story of a German farmer’s wife who was arrested in Paris in June 1945. She had illegally boarded a train carrying French workers back from Germany so that she could be reunited with the French prisoner of war who had worked on her farm and with whom she had fallen in love.1 Beevor uses her as an example of the unforeseen impact the war had on individuals and does not explore how this case can be used to cast light on the Nazis’ failure not only to prevent relationships between German women and foreign workers or prisoners of war, but also to impose their racial ideas on all Germans. This paper will examine how the regime dealt with German women’s relationships with foreign men, to explore how the Nazis tried and, at times, failed to learn from the experiences on the home front in the First World War. Although it is very clear to see the Nazis’ racism in their war-time policies regarding German women’s relationships with foreigners, it is remarkable how similar attitudes are among the population at large in the two war periods, and how, in essence, Nazi attempts to inculcate their racist beliefs in all the German people failed. [opening paragraph]