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Sex After Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany

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What is the relationship between sexual and other kinds of politics? Few societies have posed this puzzle as urgently, or as disturbingly, as Nazi Germany. What exactly were Nazism's sexual politics? Were they repressive for everyone, or were some individuals and groups given sexual license while others were persecuted, tormented, and killed? How do we make sense of the ev What is the relationship between sexual and other kinds of politics? Few societies have posed this puzzle as urgently, or as disturbingly, as Nazi Germany. What exactly were Nazism's sexual politics? Were they repressive for everyone, or were some individuals and groups given sexual license while others were persecuted, tormented, and killed? How do we make sense of the evolution of postwar interpretations of Nazism's sexual politics? What do we make of the fact that scholars from the 1960s to the present have routinely asserted that the Third Reich was sex-hostile? In response to these and other questions, Sex after Fascism fundamentally reconceives central topics in twentieth-century German history. Among other things, it changes the way we understand the immense popular appeal of the Nazi regime and the nature of antisemitism, the role of Christianity in the consolidation of postfascist conservatism in the West, the countercultural rebellions of the 1960s-1970s, as well as the negotiations between government and citizenry under East German communism. Beginning with a new interpretation of the Third Reich's sexual politics and ending with the revisions of Germany's past facilitated by communism's collapse, Sex after Fascism examines the intimately intertwined histories of capitalism and communism, pleasure and state policies, religious renewal and secularizing trends. A history of sexual attitudes and practices in twentieth-century Germany, investigating such issues as contraception, pornography, and theories of sexual orientation, Sex after Fascism also demonstrates how Germans made sexuality a key site for managing the memory and legacies of Nazism and the Holocaust.


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What is the relationship between sexual and other kinds of politics? Few societies have posed this puzzle as urgently, or as disturbingly, as Nazi Germany. What exactly were Nazism's sexual politics? Were they repressive for everyone, or were some individuals and groups given sexual license while others were persecuted, tormented, and killed? How do we make sense of the ev What is the relationship between sexual and other kinds of politics? Few societies have posed this puzzle as urgently, or as disturbingly, as Nazi Germany. What exactly were Nazism's sexual politics? Were they repressive for everyone, or were some individuals and groups given sexual license while others were persecuted, tormented, and killed? How do we make sense of the evolution of postwar interpretations of Nazism's sexual politics? What do we make of the fact that scholars from the 1960s to the present have routinely asserted that the Third Reich was sex-hostile? In response to these and other questions, Sex after Fascism fundamentally reconceives central topics in twentieth-century German history. Among other things, it changes the way we understand the immense popular appeal of the Nazi regime and the nature of antisemitism, the role of Christianity in the consolidation of postfascist conservatism in the West, the countercultural rebellions of the 1960s-1970s, as well as the negotiations between government and citizenry under East German communism. Beginning with a new interpretation of the Third Reich's sexual politics and ending with the revisions of Germany's past facilitated by communism's collapse, Sex after Fascism examines the intimately intertwined histories of capitalism and communism, pleasure and state policies, religious renewal and secularizing trends. A history of sexual attitudes and practices in twentieth-century Germany, investigating such issues as contraception, pornography, and theories of sexual orientation, Sex after Fascism also demonstrates how Germans made sexuality a key site for managing the memory and legacies of Nazism and the Holocaust.

30 review for Sex After Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Herzog claims that “careful attention to the history of sexuality prompts us to reconsider how we periodize twentieth-century German history.” It does this by challenging assumptions about “key social and political transformations” and providing “new insights into a broad array of crucial phenomena.” It also provides “content [and:] force” to anti-Semitism before and during the Third Reich. It provides an understanding of the appeal of Nazism to conservative and liberal Germans. It helps explain Herzog claims that “careful attention to the history of sexuality prompts us to reconsider how we periodize twentieth-century German history.” It does this by challenging assumptions about “key social and political transformations” and providing “new insights into a broad array of crucial phenomena.” It also provides “content [and:] force” to anti-Semitism before and during the Third Reich. It provides an understanding of the appeal of Nazism to conservative and liberal Germans. It helps explain the demoralizing and emasculating effects of the loss of WWII. It also helps to explain the ways in which sexuality was used to “master” the Nazi past both in the 1950s Federal Republic of Germany and the 1960s youth protesters and their sexual liberation movement. How sexuality is remembered at different points in German history by historical actors is directly related to their actions in their present. The book begins, for example, with the observation that the memory of sexuality under the Nazis during the 1950s was of sexual liberalization and the abandonment of traditional sexual morals. It was state-endorsed depravity and secularization. The move back toward Christian sexual mores, while partially stimulated by the Allied-promoted revival of Catholic and Protestant churches in the Federal Republic, and the rise of the Christian Democratic Party, was in large part a move by Germans to distance themselves from the depravity of the Nazis. Focusing discourse exclusively around the sexual misdeeds of the Nazis, not around the persecution of the Jews, was a method of mastering this past. Herzog’s examination of Nazi sexuality shows that Germans in the immediate postwar years were not wrong to remember the Nazis as sexually liberal. Nazism’s anti-Christian neo-paganism did promote heterosexual sex of all kinds (marital, pre-marital and extra-marital) as the privilege of the master race. Sexual restraint, experimentation, sterilization (and of course worse) were reserved specifically for those deemed undesirable by the Nazi racial hygiene program. Herzog examines popular magazines, sex advice columns, and other evidence, showing that the rhetoric of sexual dignity was mostly aimed at the depravities of Jewish sexuality and bourgeois depictions of the body. Nazi sexual policy intensified the liberalization of sex that began in the Weimar era, even as it criticized it. Later, in the 1960s, a new generation coming of age came to believe that the sexual conservativism of their parents was a holdover of Nazi sexuality. The New Left student movement were exposed to the Auschwitz trial (1963-1965) that revealed the horrors of the holocaust that had gone unremembered in the 1950s relentless focus on sexuality. The students promoted a connection between sexual repression and moral atrocity that was then echoed by scholarly examinations of Nazism of that era. Disturbingly, these students likened themselves to the victims of the holocaust, and likewise their parents to Nazis. Again this misremembering of the Nazi past was a way of mastering the past. One of the movements most interesting components is that, while it sought to prevent fascism through sexual liberation, it nonetheless contained anti-Semitic undertones. Jews were absent and faceless in this understanding of the holocaust, and its victims and its horrors abstract.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Francesca

    Herzog's thoroughly researched book gives great insight into attitudes towards sex, and their relationship to gender dynamics, from the Weimar Republic to the 1990s with a particular focus on the post- War era. The conclusion details her aim as being to refute the claim that Nazism never would have occurred without sexual repression, which she has successfully managed by giving a detailed yet highly readable engagement with the misremembering of how sexuality really was in each era. Her discussi Herzog's thoroughly researched book gives great insight into attitudes towards sex, and their relationship to gender dynamics, from the Weimar Republic to the 1990s with a particular focus on the post- War era. The conclusion details her aim as being to refute the claim that Nazism never would have occurred without sexual repression, which she has successfully managed by giving a detailed yet highly readable engagement with the misremembering of how sexuality really was in each era. Her discussion of sexual liberation and the correspondingly more emancipated role of women in East Germany is handled in an informative and well balanced way too, and sheds real light on the lives and attitudes of many Germans throughout the century.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kittie

    I only managed to read 3/4 of the book because my friend had to take it back to Germany with him. The history of sexuality in the post-war years and how it was wielded as a political tool by fascists, conservatives, and even the left was highly interesting. I only managed to read 3/4 of the book because my friend had to take it back to Germany with him. The history of sexuality in the post-war years and how it was wielded as a political tool by fascists, conservatives, and even the left was highly interesting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    The book's analysis of culture within the German borders is diminished by the slightly embarrassing oversight of the nearly-precise parallels to simultaneous goings-on in the U.S. (Uta Poiger's subsequent work integrating the two sides is much more convincing). The book's analysis of culture within the German borders is diminished by the slightly embarrassing oversight of the nearly-precise parallels to simultaneous goings-on in the U.S. (Uta Poiger's subsequent work integrating the two sides is much more convincing).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate O'Hanlon

    Fascinating and well researched. Herzog traces changes sexual attitudes and practices in Germany from Weimar to the 90s, teasing out the various and contradictory ways in which memory, politics, religion and the specter of Nazism inform the oscillations between conservatism and liberalization.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sean Robinson

    Best book I've read in a good while.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  8. 4 out of 5

    Clayton Whisnant

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew McGaffey

  10. 4 out of 5

    John

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

  12. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  13. 5 out of 5

    ben

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brad Mckeen

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charles Nicholas Saenz

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Schwartz

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell Horkoff

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian Nielsen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Moga

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Niederhauser

  25. 4 out of 5

    Seb

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mir

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amber Nickell

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Collins

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