Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

By Atina Grossmann | Go to book overview

— six —
Continuity and Discontinuity

Gleichschaltung and the Destruction
of the Sex Reform Movement

If we really get a national socialistic government, help God us [sic] German Jews and German socialists.

DR. RUDOLF ELKAN,
July 30, 1932I

The National Socialist triumph in 1933 ended the hopeful and problematical experiment that had been Weimar sex reform. The National Socialists destroyed sex reform leagues, closed birth control clinics, and arrested and forced the emigration of many movement doctors and activists. At the same time they expropriated many of the movement's social health and public hygiene goals in the name of Volksgesundheit, placing them in the service of an ultimately genocidal racial hygiene program. As we have seen throughout this study, the language and concepts of eugenics and racial hygiene were deeply rooted in even the most "progressive" Weimar social health and welfare initiatives. Nonetheless, in this chapter I argue that sex reform and social medicine underwent a definitive and irrevocable break in 1933.

If Nazi social health policy in many ways continued the harsh fiscal rationalization and extensive state intervention intermittently imposed during both the stabilization and depression periods, it also represented a profound change: fiscal rationalization was now combined with racial and political purification. The goals of urban social hygiene shifted from the regulation and treatment of the sick, needy, and dependent to the coercive elimination of the "unfit" and mobilization of the "fit." The new emphasis on "blood, race, heredity, selection, family as the germ cell of kin and Volk," 2 together with the massive firing of racially and politically undesirable personnel, had immediate and concrete institutional consequences. Berlin's Treptow district, for example, reported:

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