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1 Epilogue: The Holocaust and Masculinities Thomas Kühne The Holocaust is one of the best if not thebest explored events in human history, with some 15,000 to 20,000 thousand books catalogued in the Library of Congress, written by historians and scholars of all disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. These books and innumerable articles and essays include titles that focus on women and female perspectives, and yet it is safe to say that Holocaust studies have been reluctant to utilize the concept of gender as a tool to analyze relations between men and women and the manifest and hidden workings of ideas and imageries of masculinities and femininities. Inquiries into women’s suffering from, women’s agency during, and women’s complicity in the Holocaust have rendered obsolete initial worries of some Holocaust scholars in the 1980s and 1990s. A gendered approach, they suspected, might distract from the common suffering of Jewish men and women from Nazi persecution and obfuscate the priority of race over gender in the Nazi genocidal mindset. But this is a misunderstanding of the concept of gender. As a category of social difference and social hierarchies—of power—gender operates in conjunction with other categories of difference and power, such as race. A gendered approach does not need to question the impact of racist ideologies, political institutions, great men (and women), military conquests, or economic exploitation. It rather supplements and often corrects them (Rittner & Roth 1993; Baumel 1998; Ofer & Weitzman 1998; Kaplan 2003). Gender studies’ initial and primary goal has been to unveil the obvious or clandestine marginalization of women in society. Subsequently, gender scholars have exposed specifically female experiences of victimization under the Holocaust such as the humiliation from head and body shavings, the loss of menstruation, and coerced abortions in the camps (Weitzman 2010). Gender scholars have drawn attention to previously neglected spaces of genocidal terror such as family life, intimacy, and sexuality. They have revealed how such terror challenged traditional gender roles, emasculated Jewish men, and enabled Jewish women to gain agency by assuming those traditionally male roles (Kaplan 1998; Tec 2003). More aggressive processes of female empowerment have been diagnosed for perpetrator society (Koonz 1987; Stibbe 2003). There, women pursued careers as camp guards, engaged in ethnic cleansing, served as military aides, or provided idyllic family retreats for male perpetrators (Schwarz 1997; Harvey 2003; Lower 2013;
2 Mailaender 2015). Without these studies, our knowledge of the social fabric of the Nazi genocide and its broad social basis would be miss their crucial pieces (Kühne 2010, 137-161). Gender Dynamics and Male Perspectives Only rarely have Holocaust scholars or genocide scholars more largely inquired into the male perspective of these gender dynamics or into men’s gendered acting, enabling, or resisting genocide. Unwillingly, these scholars have thus confirmed the subtle power strategy of patriarchal gender regimes. These regimes “unmark” maleness and present it is the human