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

By Atina Grossmann | Go to book overview

— eight —
No Zero Hour

Abortion and Birth Control
in Postwar Germany

And so once again today, paragraph 218 stands as the flashpoint (Brennpunkt) of all discussions in the states of the Soviet zone and Berlin.

Delegate to the Saxon Parliament,
June 19471

Work for birth control ... needs a lot of civil courage, which is rather rare in this country!

West German lay activist
ILSE LEDERER, June 19542

This book ends with a discussion curiously similar to the one with which it began: German efforts to cope with defeat and postwar reconstruction and its perceived effects on women, family, and social health. Once again, the politics of reproduction and sexuality, and especially questions around abortion, birth control, and marriage and sex counseling, took center stage as a new welfare state (in this case, two new welfare states) was organized. But after 12 years of National Socialism, the repression of sex reform in the Soviet Union, and the exile of many of the most committed exponents of sex reform, the terms of debate had shifted. Defeat, occupation, and reconstruction could not, indeed deliberately did not intend to, restore what had been destroyed.

"Zero hour"—the metaphor often used to mark the apparent (but deceptive) collapse of old structures in a devastated postwar Germany—had come for the German sex reform movement in 1933, not 1945. Yet some veterans of the Weimar movement played a major role in the formulation of postwar family planning and social hygiene, as both East and West Germany appropriated, distorted, and renovated different parts of that legacy. Moreover, the

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