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Stolen manhood? : German-Jewish masculinities in the Third Reich, 1933-1945 Huebel, Sebastian

Abstract

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they used various strategies to expel German Jews from social, cultural and economic life. My dissertation focuses on gendered forms of discrimination which had impacts on Jewish masculine identity. I am asking how Jewish men experienced these challenges and the undermining of their self-understandings as men in the Third Reich. How did Jewish men adhere to pre-established gender norms and practices such as the role of serving as the providers and protectors of their families? How did Jewish men maintain their sense of being patriotic German war veterans and members of the national community? And finally, how did Jewish men react to being exposed to the physical assaults and violence that was overwhelmingly directed against them in prewar Germany? These central questions form the basis of my study of Jewish masculinities in the Third Reich. I argue that Jewish men’s gender identities, intersecting with categories of ethnicity, race, class and age, underwent a profound process of marginalization that undermined their accustomed ways of performing masculinity; yet at the same time, in their attempts to sustain their conception of masculinity they maintained sufficient agency and developed coping strategies to prevent their full-scale emasculation. Jewish men adapted to their persecution by finding alternative employment, assuming an increased presence in the domestic sphere as fathers and husbands; maintaining an emotional spiritual-belonging to Germany; resisting their sexual-racial classification as racial defilers; minimizing physical victimization in concentration camps and the public by embodying military virtues like strength and discipline; and finally developing gendered survival strategies living as “illegals” in the underground during the years of the Holocaust. In their totality of perceptions, reactions and often overlapping coping strategies, Jewish men comprised a heterogeneous group of marginalized men who with their families strove to have normal lives in Nazi Germany. Supplementary materials available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/65080

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