Ending Thoughts

Hello All! And SO we come to the final post of Enter Ophelia. In this last post, I would like to discuss what I have learned from this blog and this class. This blog began as a blog where I could explore deeper into women’s issues and voices relating to the historical events discussed in class and read in assigned books. However, what I loved most about this class — and Dr. Sherman– is how my ideas grew and changed as a result of this class. While this blog began as venue for a select voice, it ended as a place where all voices – genders, races, age- could be heard. I think that is what I have learned most through this class – that everyone has an individual voice and individual experience. One of the great problems in academia and discussions in general is how to examine a population in terms of individuals. I have had such an amazing time delving deeper into the personal stories of some incredible individuals who lived under extraodinary circumstances – circumstances which were to them, just their daily lives. 

 

Based on our discussion Monday concerning private vs. public schools, I LOVED this article. What I love about this article is that it represents both sides of the public vs. private school debate that I heard in the classroom on Monday. In the article, two mom’s are interviewed, one who is sending her kids to private, and the other public. Lyz Lenz of Rapid Iowa has been getting a lot of flack for sending her kids to private school until they read Highschool age.

Lenz says, “So a lot of the conversations I’ve heard are, ‘Oh, do you not think the schools are good enough?’ or ‘Are you afraid of the experiences your kids are going to have?’ ” — comments that she says feels like “coded language” accusing her of racism

Yet speak to mom Julie Deneen of Clinton, Connecticut, who has a entirely different experience of getting judged for sending her kids to public school.  “It feels like they’re insinuating that I am somehow doing less for my child by keeping them in public school,” said DeNeen. 

The argument of the “experience” and the “independence” one gains from public school were ones I heard in class on Monday. Additionally, it was discussed how Private schools are as a whole more judgmental towards children, stifling free expression. On the other side, I also heard kids argue that Private schools offer a better education and train kids better for the future.

Honestly, I don’t see that one experience is better then the other, and I don’t see why one has to be. I feel like this whole mentality of “private is better then public” or “public is better then private” just harkens back to the problem society has with holding up an “ideal”. One way has to be better then another way of doing something. Yet, the reason why we can say one is better then the other, is because we have an ideal in our mind by which we are judging things. I personally am a bit confused by those arguing that one is “better” then the other. One experience is what it is, and has what it has to offer, while another experience is what it is and has what it has to offer. Both are different and offer different things.

 

 

Frederic Turbach’s book, German Voices: Memories of Life During Hitler’s Third Reich, is a fascinating picture of a child’s life in Nazi Germany. For me, reading this book and the interview below helped me understand more about the environment Nazi youth grew up in. In movies such as “The Boy in the Pajamas” and “Schindler’s List”, children of Nazi Germany are consistently portrayed as unsympathetic little twats. They tattle on the Jewish children, turn Jews in, and have loud annoying voices. Yet what I think Frederic Turbach’s book and story teaches is that these children are a product of an environment. If a child from birth grows up in a world where all he knows is what he taught in Nazi Youth , then he is a product of his environment. The moral question after this then, is as a product of this environment, is he to be held responsible for his/her actions? This question has always fascinated me, and is one I do not have yet an answer for. For, on the one hand, one could argue that he is a free-thinking human being who should know right from wrong. On the other hand however, one could point out there is not possible way for him to know right from wrong, for he/she grew up in a world where the standard “right” was called wrong, and the “wrong,” right. Through Turbach’s interview below, I feel one gets a rounded sense of what a powerful effect Nazi Germany managed to have in shaping children’s beliefs, using harmless subjects as sports and incentives, thus understanding better the environment Nazi children were nurtured in.

 

The Interview:

How did the project get started?
At a German conference, some older members met privately to discuss their experiences between 1933 and 1945. It was difficult for us; the stories were fresh and raw. I realized there was no collective memory to contextualize our individual stories and create a public arena.

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What did you discover?
They were quite honest. Some were Nazis from the beginning. Others were opposed. Some families were deeply split. Clearly our monolithic notion of the average German, which comes from what I call staged reality—Goebbels’s propaganda and Leni Riefenstahl movies like Triumph of the Will—isn’t true. I wanted to capture how Germans actually were as I grew up. That is difficult, and not exact, but very suggestive and more accurate than assuming the Nazi Party spoke for them all.

How did Nazi-staged reality help suppress dissent early on?
People wanted to believe in it because it was so comforting. Meanwhile the violence that had filled German cities from the end of World War I ceased—or seemed to. So people found it easier to believe because on the surface, things seemed calmer. Once Hitler came to power in 1933, he and the SS immediately started to push the Brown Shirts [storm­troopers whose whose violent tactics helped secure the Nazi rise to power] into the background. Violence had to be kept out of sight of most Germans. Public executions were no longer announced, by order of Himmler. Every-thing was to be kept as quiet as possible to allow the Nazis to consolidate power and win over the German people.

By improving the national economy?
Besides big projects like the autobahns, every town had collection boxes for the poor, painted in bright red, about 10 inches high, a tangible presence in everyday life. Everyone, even poor people, gave, knowing someone poorer than they were would get it. That created incredible solidarity: we are creating a new Germany and starting with this box. It was powerful; the Nazis’ big ideas had a humble physical representation that touched everyone. It also meant, “if you do this, you have helped Hitler.”

For kids, what was the Nazis’ biggest hook?
Our natural fascination with sports. Very powerful, and the Nazis knew very well how to use it. You went to school and got your grades, but there was another reward system at work: if you do well at sports, you’ll move up in the Hitler Youth ranks. It forced you to assess yourself. My grades were OK, I was rather slight and not too strong, so I realized the thing for me was long distance running, because I had ambition and tenacity. The better you did, the more you moved up. The 1936 Olympics made this even more important to us. The big German cigarette makers made coupons of German Olympic stars, which we collected. They were gods to us, just as Riefenstahl represented them in the film Olympia.

How else did they mold your behavior?
I was 13 when I was picked, one of five out of 50 kids in my school, to attend a Nazi development camp for the Future Little Elite. One kid brought a condom. He blew it up to make it a balloon. We opened the window and threw it out. A Nazi youth leader found it. He knew our room was where it came from. He lined us up and grilled each of us really hard. But we showed solidarity; we did not reveal who did it. They really liked that. That’s what they wanted. They weren’t interested in morality or social behavior. They wanted us to show solidarity about this rogue act. The message was, “You can do what you want, you can let your teenage violent impulses out, it doesn’t matter, as long as you do it for us.” This was never discussed. They just congratulated us on sticking together and dismissed us.

How effective were these techniques?
Many people today think all Germans then were like Muslim extremists in madrasahs now: we only read Mein Kampf the way they only read the Koran. No. Family, school, and church: these three forces worked on us too. It varied with individual experience. But in school there was, for the most part, not much difference from the Weimar Republic and earlier.

Wasn’t there indoctrination?
That was largely pursued indirectly by some Nazi teachers. They wanted us to read about Germanic myths. But we weren’t examined on their preferences. Most of us read what students had always read.

What about the Hitler Youth?
We had to belong, and there were meetings twice a week, but what the leaders said was emotional and inconsistent. The Nazis weren’t as far advanced, in that way, as Stalinist Russia, which strictly maintained a very developed ideology and total control over every aspect of everyday life. Family was more important for most of us. If the family was anti-Nazi, odds were the child would be. That’s a big reason the Nazis wanted to undermine the family.

And religion?
People from a religious family usually had a kind of protective coating: “Christ is more important than Hitler.” They might only think it or say it under their breath, but many felt it.

You say Kristallnacht—the attacks on Jewish businesses and homes in late 1938—changed everything. Why?
It ended the summer of our innocence. For young Germans, the 1930s were just wonderful. The red flags with swastikas, the zeppelin Hitler sent to fly all over Germany, the Austrians wanting to become part of it—to us, it was just like sunlight and peace and eating again. Things were moving up! Of course, Jews were being eliminated from the professions; the Nuremburg Laws of 1935 prohibited intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews. But until all the Jewish shops were attacked, the violence was off camera. Kristallnacht suddenly brought it right next door. The Jewish shoemaker for my village no longer was there. Life was upset. It was like 9/11, a collective unease started. Many said, “This is the beginning of war.” For some, there was an undertone of anti-Semitism: “The Jews will take revenge.” But we all sensed something fundamental had changed: peace was finished.

What happened when the war started?
Hitler had the people behind him through the French campaign. With only Britain left, many felt we would make peace. Why not? We have revenge for the Versailles Treaty, we’re marching down the Champs Élysées, we have united Germans to build a new Europe; this is what we hoped for. The moment Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, a change was palpable. The huge apprehension about attacking this mass of Slavic and Asiatic humanity mixed with Communists—for the first time appeared a phrase you heard more as the war progressed: “Hitler did so well in the 1930s he must know what he’s doing now.” Then came Pearl Harbor; doubts really grew. Germans remembered the doughboys of World War I decided victory. They had extensive connections with America. They knew its power and potential.

And the Gestapo tracked these changes in attitudes.
Very carefully, yes. Hitler never trusted the German people. There was extensive surveillance, down to the city block—a party member watched and reported any deviance. People were executed for making a bad joke about Hitler.

How could Germans not have known about the death camps?
The word used to describe what was happening to the Jews was “relocation.” Even in their own reports, the SS did not reveal what went on in the camps. When mass extermination started in 1941, the Jews were gone from Germany. Where were they? People simply didn’t ask, because “relocation” had an ominous ring, and they were scared to find out. When the Allies began seriously bombing Germany, Germans forgot about the Jews altogether. Then Stalingrad showed everyone we were in trouble, and Goebbels announced total war; the partisans, the Communists, the Slavs, the Jews—they’re all against us. Germans stopped asking, “What happened to the Jews?” So the truth didn’t get out. If it had, it would have been very dangerous, probably fatal, to say it.

 

A recent article in Slate Magazine discusses why being a single mother is the better option for some women. In light of the numerous discussions this semester in class concerning divorce and single parenthood, I found this article well worth posting.

The article chronicles single mother Lily, who is raising her child as a single mother in Kansas city. Her reason? “I can support myself. I always have. I can support myself and our kid. I just can’t support myself, the kid, and him.”  In these tough economic times, where finding a job isn’t getting any easier, many the unemployment rate for men is 13 percent. Further, those with only a high school education are twice as likely to be unemployed as those with a college degree. Jobs that are available are unreliable, and the father of Lily’s child has been laid off several times. 

Recently I watched the documentary “Paycheck to Paycheck”, which chronicles the daily life of single mom of three Katrin Gilbert. In this documentary she was working grueling 16 hour days for 8 days straight  in order to make ends meet. What surprised me more, however, was that both the men in her life worked inconsistently. Her ex husband, who was in and out of jobs was constantly scrambling for money. Often, he borrowed from Katrina, who had little herself to give. Katrina’s boyfriend, Chris, also appeared to be of little help financially. Both men seemed to be for the most part to be just another mouth to feed and take care of in Katrina’s life.

I suppose this goes back to the question discussed many times in class on the effects of divorce on children. Yet my question is would I rather raise my child in a home where I was working and the child’s father was constantly around, sleeping, being of no use (like Katrina’s husband was). Or, would I rather raise the child by myself, where I would have to worry about one mouth less to feed? Both options are less then ideal, and I feel like in both situations, something is lost.

Dropping Birth Rates in Italy

I found this article extremely interesting, after our recent discussion on the decline of birth rates in Germany and the Soviet Unions. Today, such a decline in birthrate has been noticed in Italy, as reported by  The Wallstreet Journal and Slate Magazine. According to statistics, at the current rate Italy is producing children, by 2050, “ there will be 263 elders for every 100 young people, which means retirees are in big trouble.” 

The reason for this decline? That is exactly what I find fascinating! It is the same reasons which were discussed in class ?? women in Nazism. The article reports 

“Italian women often find it daunting to balance work against the traditionally demanding expectations for mothers in Italy. Surveys consistently find that Italian men help less at home than their counterparts in other countries do, and that Italian mothers are painstaking in their approach to child care, to the point of hand-washing and ironing baby clothes” 

 Here we seem to have the same problem of a daunting standard applied to mothers, which in the end scares away potential mothers from reproducing. Additionally, I find it interesting that the role of raising the child in Italy seems to be entirely the burden of the mother. Further, the WSJ reports: 

“The protracted economic crisis has worsened obstacles Italian women have long faced in starting a family—from lack of child-care centers to less-than-helpful partners. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rate of childlessness among Italian women born in 1965—those turning 50 next year—is nearly 10 percentage points higher than it is among those born in 1960.”

In Italy, it seems to be a problem of the lack of state helped, coupled with the lack of family help has left women expected to wash dirty diapers on their own. I find it interesting in Italy’s case, neither the state nor the fathers seem eager to step up and help prepare for the next generation … of which, it appears, they will have very few. 

Sesames and Lillies

Based on last week’s discussion of the women as the “Angel of the House” in the Victorian Era, I researched how this manifested itself in Advertisement during Victorian times. In class we discusses how as the work life moved outside of the home, there became an increasing need for consistent, nurturing home environment. In Sesames and Lillies, a Victorian publication, describes the home as a “temple on earth”, and “the vestibule of heaven”. As discussed in class, before the work moved outside the home, women were integral part of the family business.  Yet once the spheres were separated, and the “man’s world” of work was distanced from the home, there seems to be this need to elevate one above the other. To  validate one on its own right.

  The book “Consuming Angels”, written by Lori Anne Loeb explores how advertising encouraged this ideal of women. In one advertisement for a tea and coffee company, the husband is returning home, greeting his children, while the wife stands near the door of her abode. Here, she assumes an almost holy position, her arms stretched out, welcoming her husband home. Her outstretch, open palms reminded me of a statue I had seen of Mother Teresa recently.

 I have always been (regrettably) influenced by the advertisement world. I see a women wearing something and it will 9 times out of 10 convince me I should be wearing that myself. With that said, I would love to have explored the psychological minds of these women who lived an era where everywhere they looked, they saw what they should be. Much like how eating disorders exists today, I would guess that women living in Victorian eras suffered from some form of anxiety, over worry of how to achieve the heavenly perfection which seemed to surround them, but which they themselves knew little about.

Higher Education in the Industrial Revolution

During our discussion of the Industrial revolution and it’s effects on families, it was discussed how children became an important part of the workforce in factories. As the agricultural family life, which allowed the work to remain at home, was replaced with industrial factories, children began to be seen as means by which the family could earn income. To this effect, this class discussed how children were from an early age sent off into the workforce, with little education. Since education was limited, they grew up largely ignorant of any knowledge outside of the factory work they had been taught.

The article “The Industrial Revolution and the European Family: The Institutionalization of ‘Childhood’ as a Market for Family Labor” argues that in the wake of the industrial revolution, middle class families ultimately paid a higher price. The article argues it was during this time that paying for schools and colleges became more important, for families were preparing their children to enter into the industrial workforce. It was no longer therefore good enough for children to merely be under the apprenticeship of a carpenter or a blacksmith. Rather, it was crucial the child receive the education necessary to be successful in the competitive market he would enter. The article particularly England, commenting how “The primary purpose for education in England was to condition the next generation for factory labor.” I find it interesting about this is this was the transition for higher education in England. That once the automatic machinery began making products, humans began copying this machinery and sending their children to expensive schools in order to hopefully make human products out of them which would be put to good use.