Sex Reform and the Crisis
of the Republic, 1931 to 1933
We have emergency decrees in the purest sense of the word, for they decree a social emergency and escalate the state of emergency that already exists.
in her final address to the Reichstag
on August 30, 1932I
The abortion campaign wound down as the Weimar Republic lurched toward its chaotic final year. Weakened by spiraling unemployment and the bitter divisions between Communists and Social Democrats, the working-class movement with which sex reform was so tightly linked fragmented further, even as some urban neighborhoods settled into a state of virtual civil war between Nazis and Communists. 2 The social welfare institutions, which were the focus of so much sex reform effort and ire, unraveled while trying to cope with mounting social and economic tensions. Paradoxically, the breakdown of traditional working-class and family structures and the extreme precariousness of the Weimar welfare state created space for radical innovation by the left and sex reform, especially in the "sexual struggles" of youth and women. Conventional politics seemed increasingly out of control as the republic endured no fewer than five major electoral campaigns in 1932. A divided and angry left saw the Nazis exploit a virtually unbroken stream of public exposure and activity.
Yet Berlin became even more "red." With the Social Democrats firmly ensconsed in the Prussian state government (until the July 1932 Papen coup), the Communists were the strongest party in the capital. In the last Weimar election in November 1932, nearly one-third of the Berlin electorate voted Communist, and the KPD gained a majority in nine proletarian districts that were also centers of sex reform activity (Wedding, Friedrichshain, Neukölln,