my father. But nothing--nothing on earth--will make me believe that he has ever done anything wrong. I know it is illogical; I know about the trial and the witnesses. . . . I love him--I will always love him. 53 In a bureaucratized society in which men separate themselves from their public deeds, the home takes on special meaning. Although in many ways Nazi social policy invaded domestic life (with its racial fetishism, spies, and media control), the family continued to offer a haven from public horror for the men who arrested, deported, tortured, and killed those they defined as enemies of the Volk.
The private sphere, a "place" apart from the brutal world, offered respite to people at both extremes of the moral spectrum. Guards and commandants, victims and resisters--at the outer flanks of the Nazi world, all needed the psychological "space" offered by a home (or at least the myth of one) to gather strength with which to face the deformed world outside. In the Nazi world, man and woman operated in radically separated spheres. Leaders designed programs to drain the home of its emotional meaning for average people, but for the elite who actually oversaw the concentration camps and death camps, an older ideal prevailed. When the SS man returned home, he entered a doll's house of ersatz goodness in which he could escape from his own evil actions. He, in contemporary psychological terminology, "split" his identity as public man from his warm and loving feelings for his family. Nazi wives did not offer a beacon of strength for a moral cause, but rather created a buffer zone from their husbands' jobs. Far from wanting to share their husbands' concerns, they actively cultivated their own ignorance and facilitated his escape.
Victims and resisters, by contrast, did their best to integrate their private morality into their public acts--even as they learned to dissemble in public to avoid detection. Both men and women adapted, often learning new roles and attitudes from each other. Women as well as men operated in the public world they found repugnant and found solace in carefully guarded private spheres. Their personal lives remained clandestine, genuinely "private," and their underground communities genuinely moral. When they needed a vocabulary to express the concern, trust, and idealism they shared, words like "sister," "brother," and "family" came readily to mind.
Guards and commandants rationalized their participation in Nazi schemes for genocide and repression by divorcing what they did from who they were. Victims and resisters, in contrast knew that sanity and survival depended upon preserving private integrity against Nazi power.