Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Gillian Glaes

Second Advisor

Elvira Roncalli

Third Advisor

Charlotte Jones

Abstract

The rise of the National Socialists and the horrors that followed are one of the darkest episodes of human history. Hitler‟s rise to power and his subsequent acts of war and genocide are typically seen as the work of men; yet women too had their roles to play. The following paper makes the case that women who supported the regime whether by joining as Nazis, participating in National Socialist programs, or working directly in the regime like film director Leni Riefenstahl deserve a measure of culpability. It examines firstly the Weimar Republic, Nazi ideology as pertaining to women, Hitler and his prominent follower‟s viewers including Nazi women‟s leader Gertrud Scholtz-Klink. The next chapter delves into the problems of population growth and women‟s reproductive role as well as the regime‟s means of increasing family size, including propaganda and the mother‟s cross. This chapter focuses on the controversial lebensborn program. The final chapter hones in on an individual, Leni Riefenstahl, infamous creator of the propaganda film “Triumph of the Will.” The argument of this paper relies on a variety of sources including Hitler‟s manifesto Mein Kampf, various speeches of Nazi officials and diaries. It also utilizes accounts of women after the war, journals produced during the Third Reich and finally Leni Riefenstahl‟s works, her memoir, and the documentary produced concerning her life. Secondary sources, such as articles written about Riefenstahl, books examining Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis are also examined. Overall, this paper aims to delve into issues of responsibility and guilt. Though the she may not have marched into battle or gassed innocents, there is a case to be made that through the support of ordinary and extraordinary women like Leni Riefenstahl, Adolf Hitler‟s regime was able for a brief time to prosper.

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