particularly in motherhood, and by being mothers and wives. There were, in fact, many women who actively participated in Nazi race policies, but they do not correspond to this notion. They were a minority among the perpetrators and a minority among women at large, though a remarkably tough and efficient one, as their victims often emphasized. The more active among them were usually unmarried and without children; they were drawn from all social classes except the highest ones; and their participation in racist policies was mostly, as was often the case with comparable men, a function of their job or profession. Whereas the sterilization policy was entirely directed by men, some female social workers and medical doctors helped select the candidates. In the six T4 killing centres, female nurses assisted male doctors in selecting and killing. Female clerical workers worked alongside men in the offices and bureaucracies which dealt with race policies and genocide. Some women academics co-operated with their male superiors in gypsy studies and laid the groundwork for the selection and extermination of gypsies. Female camp guards who supervised women in the concentration camps came mostly from lower-class backgrounds and had volunteered for the job because it promised some upward mobility. Of all the women activists, they were closest to the centre of the killing operations and the most responsible for their functioning. 45 National Socialist racism was not only institutionalized as state policy, but also professionalized. Female participation in it, and responsibility for it, did not depend on a commitment to female difference, separate spheres, and motherhood, but on the extra-domestic adaptation of women to male-dominated and professionalized race policy. These women did not act as mothers, nor did they believe in maternalism as a feature of the female sex.
In this essay I have aimed to show why a range of prevailing opinions about the place of women in National Socialism are problematic. Many of their problems are due to traditional and simplified conceptions of the meaning of gender equality and gender difference for the National Socialist regime, particularly in the context of its racism and for the history of women under this regime. I have attempted to focus not only on some top Nazis' ritualized pronouncements on women, conjuring up 'the nobility of