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Sex and Secularization in Nazi Germany

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Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


In the historiography of the Third Reich, the subjects of sex and religion have generally been considered separately, and the issue of Nazism’s impact on processes of secularization has hardly been considered at all. Yet if we are to make sense of Nazisms sexual politics we cannot do so without attending to the fierce struggle that raged throughout the Third Reich between Nazism and Christianity. Conversely, we cannot fully comprehend what was at stake in the combative relationship between Nazism and Christianity without taking into account how much of that relationship had to do with sex. Above all, historians of Christianity need to begin acknowledging how central sexual issues have been to processes of secularization in the twentieth century. Numerous books and articles have been written about the churches under Nazism, but while several of these do mention the Nazi campaign to charge Catholic priests with homosexuality, they have remarkably little to say about any other sexual issues. This is all the more perplexing considering how urgently—and despite the atmosphere of terror and reprisals against those who would disagree with the regime—Catholic spokespersons in particular, though at times also Protestants, criticized the Nazis for their celebration of nudity and strenuously tried to defend Christian marriage against Nazi encouragement of pre- and extramarital heterosexu-ality. It is also surprising in light of the fact that the competition and cooperation between Nazis and Catholics over sexual mores provided the single most important context for the regime’s elaboration of its own particular sexual vision.

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© 2004 Angelica Fenner and Eric D. Weitz

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Herzog, D. (2004). Sex and Secularization in Nazi Germany. In: Fenner, A., Weitz, E.D. (eds) Fascism and Neofascism. Studies in European Culture and History. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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