Resources

Partee, Kimberly. “Evil or Ordinary Women: The Female Auxiliaries of the Holocaust.” Ed. April Anson.  The Evil Body. Inter-Disciplinary Press. “http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/parteeepaper.pdf”.

Partee’s article examines the role of “ordinary women” who were supporters, auxiliaries, and guards who became part of the implementation of the Nazi’s Final Solution.  The article seeks to displace the picture of evil women that has been created by the few extraordinary examples of truly brutal female concentration camp guards.  The media has focused on these notorious individuals, ignoring the many women who were at the camp simply because of economic necessity or forced coercion.  The article theorizes that cultural influences are the main influence on the participation of female concentration camp guards in forms of brutality.  The article focuses on Ravensbrück, a camp that was primarily run by and incarcerated women.  The overseers were typically single, lower-middle class, with rudimentary schooling who at first volunteered and later were conscripted into service.  The article notes that becoming a guard offered opportunities for females that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise, such as career advancement, privileged living conditions, and the opportunity to meet men.  The article summarizes their training, in which they were subjected to rigorous military discipline similar to that of the men, and punished often.  In many cases, the women vented their frustrations of being punished onto those beneath them – the prisoners.  Brutality was common, but the article is clear to argue that because many women did not exhibit excess cruelty, they remained at an entry-level rank and thus were not remembered by inmates or other guards – or history.  A small percentage of the women were cruel, a small percentage overly helpful, and the majority were somewhere in between, doing their jobs indifferently.  Peer pressure, group mentality, and situational influences may certainly have encouraged women to conform to the doctrine of terror and violence.  Prisoners have described the guards at Ravensbrück as automatons that performed their job without thought or feeling, simply following the norms.  The article concludes that few female concentration guards were ever caught or tried, and the ones that were are so extraordinary that they shouldn’t be used as a basis for all female guards.  Women should not be branded as sadists, but also should not be overlooked.

Sarti, Wendy Adele-Marie. “Examining Why: Sadism Violence and Identity, The Group and the Common Enemy.” Women and Nazis, Perpetrators of Genocide and Other Crimes During Hitler’s Regime, 1933-1945. Palo Alto: Academica, 2011. 59-69.

This article seeks to determine what caused female concentration camp guards and other female to Nazis to commit violent crimes.  Many of the women claim to have been coerced, that their superiors forced them to act that way, or that they had no choice, but the article questions not only if this is true, but also if it is truly an excuse for committing horrific acts against other humans.  Throughout history, women have demonstrated levels of violence and sadism that are on par with those of men, and the Holocaust was no exception.  The level of abuse the female concentration camp guards participated in was shocking and included medical experimentations, selection, sexual abuse, beatings, infanticide, and more.  It is difficult to understand what may have led women to act this way.  Socioeconomics or background don’t seem to play a role, as the women came from all walks of life and demonstrated that anyone can be capable of violence and murder.  Forced conscription into the SS services might serve as a partial explanation for their actions, as could propaganda and peer pressure.  The Nazis created a generation of people infused with hate through film, posters, speeches, and more. The article says that female concentration guards may have experienced a psychological indoctrination in which they saw the Jews as a common enemy, and their apprehension towards them manifested into a collective desire to harm them.  Peer pressure may also have played a role, as anyone who opposed the Nazi ideology could become an outsider, and this was a time when outsiders very easily disappeared.  The most confusing and shocking part of this research is that personal choice remains an overwhelming commonality among the female camp guards – whatever the reasons were behind their actions, they chose to commit horrific atrocities against other human beings.

Christie, Alix. “Guarding the Truth.” The Washington Post 26 Feb. 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/21/AR2006022101413.html.

This article in the Washington Post is an interview of Margarete Barthel, a former Ravensbrück concentration camp guard.  The article gives great insight into the life of an “average” concentration camp guard, one who flew under the radar.  Barthel was conscripted into service from her factory job with her two best friends.  Her emotions towards her time as a guard are mixed – on the one hand, she feels guilty and horrified at the violence and terror that occurred at Ravensbrück.  On the other hand, she says her time as a guard was a “beautiful time,” where she finally had freedom from her family.  She was able to be independent, go out dancing, flirt with men, go to the cinema, and more.  Barthel claims she never hurt a prisoner and never even set food inside the camp, and says she was unaware of the horrors going on inside the camp walls until 1944 when a crematorium was built at Ravensbrück.  Critics say, however, that Barthel was as much a part of the violence as any other guard.  She says herself that she heard the gunshots, saw the flames and the corpses, and though she says she never set foot inside the camp, the guards at Ravensbrück all ate dinner at the canteen inside the camp, overlooking the prisoners.  This article raises the question of guilt, of whether or not the “ordinary” women can be held responsible for the atrocities of the camps.  It was very useful for our research in providing insight into the life of a guard.

Owings, Alison. “A Job in Its Own Category.” Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1993. 313-41.

This interview by Owings offers another account by a women who was conscripted into service as a camp guard.  It was very useful in showing what training and daily life was like for the women, as well as the history of how and why women were conscripted for service as guards.  She is a woman who doesn’t want to commit violence, who says that the prisoners “were human beings and should be treated as human beings.”  She describes what her duties were as an overseer and has useful observations about relationships between the guards and the prisoners.  She describes both acts of violence she saw and people she worked with who were very humane.  This article was useful in again showing the mostly untold story of the “ordinary” female camp guards.

Aroneanu, Eugene. Administration and Camp RegulationsInside the Concentration Camps. Westport: Praeger, 1996. 23-27. Print.

The thesis of the chapter is that women were often forcibly recruited to be camp guards and underwent dehumanizing training that lead them to do the terrible things that they did in the camps. Eyewitness stories are used to show just how brutal the training of the women was and to recount the stories of the terrible acts done towards the prisoners. Aroneanu supports his points all through the use of eyewitness accounts. I learned that many young prison patrons learned how to handle female prisoners by practicing on other patrons in training. There was a mix of regular German girls, a long with those from other countries that have been forcibly recruited.

Von Kellenbach, Katharina. “God’s Love and Women’s Love: Prison Chaplains Counsel   the Wives of Nazi Perpetrators.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 20.2 (2004): 7-24. JSTOR. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. .

The thesis of the article is that the Holocaust was created and put into effect by German men, but many women were involved in the brutality and torture that occurred in the concentration camps. Katharina con Kellenbach used stories about women concentration camp guards, such as Isle Koch, and direct stories from the survivors about their experiences with women guards and their level of brutality.  Kellenbach supports her thesis by describing the actions of the women guards in the camps and the relationships they had with their husbands and how that affected their behavior. I learned more about the how the women guards treated their victims and also what some of the reasons for their ferocity might be.

Hieneman, Elizabeth D. “Sexuality and Nazism: The Doubly Unspeakable?” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11.1/2 (2002): 22-66. JSTOR. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. .

The thesis of the article is that sexuality had a huge impact on what occurred in the concentration camps and on the level of brutality that women guards reached. Heineman analyzes the material by exploring the role sexuality played in the a women’s decision to be a camp guard, such as addressing whether or not they chose their posts or were unwillingly assigned them, whether their new freedom from their parents and role of authority increase their violent inclinations, and how romances between SS men and female staff could have made women anxious to please at the workplace in order to remain there. Heineman supports her thesis by showing the reasons why sexuality had a large impact on female guard brutality and how the Holocaust as a whole was affected by sexuality. I learned that female guards were often from poor families and were forced into their positions, while others were hired more willingly. Those that came directly from living with their families had a new sense of freedom, and although it wasn’t much, a position of power, which increased their drive to succeed at their job (which often meant being as brutal as the men SS officers).

Von Saldern, Adelheid. “Women.” The Third Reich. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. 207-27. Print. 

The thesis of this article is addressing the question of whether women are portrayed as victims especially those whom were not Jewish and Gypsy women and those who took place in the resistance. Whether or not the women whom were the victims of structural discrimination in politics, society and the economy can be considered on the same level of victimization as the Jewish, Gypsy, and resistance women is a controversial issue. I learned that one element of the current controversy is whether or not the women who were perpetrators can also be seen as victims or whether they hold the same responsibility as their male counterparts.  Male and female concentration camp guards were typically allowed to change their jobs if desired. Yet, even though there was a degree of freedom, many women were raised in such a way (their social milieu, gender-specific upbringing and education, along with the current political system) that it “did not allow (them) to act as responsible subjects.” Another question that needs to be addressed when discussing the question of gender is whether women as individuals shared the guilt of the Nazi regime or if there could be a specifically female guilt. Women concentration camp guards were extremely small in numbers compared to the guards who were men. The main contribution by women was in the traditionally female sphere, in the home or in the community.

“Nazi Women’s Violation of Women Prisoners.” Confronting Global Gender Justice: Women’s Lives, Human Rights. Ed. Debra Bergoffen and Connie L. McNeely. 26-27

This article focuses on female perpetrators in the holocaust and their various crimes against mainly their female inmates in concentration camps. The women featured in the article are mainly the most brutal and terrible female guards from the holocaust. These women were different from their more average counterparts in that they went out of their way to torture, maim, and kill prisoners so much that they often received nicknames for their particularly vicious behavior. Her prisoners called Maria Mendel, rather appropriately, “the beast,” The article suggests that the fact that they were women made the prisoners hate them even more than some of the male camp guards because of the fact that women are expected to be more nurturing, mothering figures than men were. All in all, many of the acts committed by these women were quite shocking, but would still be so had they been committed by men.

“Chapter 4: Administration and Camp Regulations.” Inside the Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Hitler’s Death Camps. Comp. Eugene Aroneanu. Trans. Thomas Wissen. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1996. 24-26. Print.

This chapter of a book made up of compiled stories about the holocaust contains one particular chapter that discusses the role of female concentration camp guards. The main points to take away was that women lived in similar conditions to the men in any given camp, but that they were often guarded by what they referred to as SS “matrons” as opposed to male guards. One other interesting piece of information that comes out of this source is that most of the SS matrons were convicted criminals that were occasionally inmates themselves. Sometimes when the SS were short on matrons to guard the women they would recruit them by force from the factories.

Macuse, Harold. “Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933-2001.” Cambridge University Press (2001): 100-01. Web.

In this article Harold Macuse gives several stories about Dachau, but one story in particular about a female camp guard provides some interesting insight. Elisabeth Volkenrath and Irma Greese were two female guards at Dachau who both testified about their experiences at the Belsen trial. Both women echo similar sentiments that they felt as if they were treated almost equally as poorly as the inmates at the camp. Volkenrath talks about pay being withheld from them, and Greese complains of only being able to go home once after her training. These female guards seem to have similar levels of disdain and disconnection from the inmates as the male guards did.

 Saidel, Rochelle G. “The Jewish Women of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.” (2002): 13+. Web.

This article by Rochelle Saidel again gives several examples of female concentration camp guards in Nazi camps. While the article’s main focus is not necessarily on female camp guards, they are discussed several times and seem to have behaved similar to the male guards in this case as well. They are never described as being more cruel than the male guards, but commit acts of similar levels of violence. This source seems to support the idea that female guards were used more exclusively for female prisoners, but treating them similarly to the way male prisoners were treated.