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Nazi Germany and the Right-Wing War on Sexual Deviance

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In modern America, the Christian Right is obsessed with sex, sexuality, and what conservative Christians consider to be sexual deviance. They seem to spend more time on sexual and sex-related matters than anything else, it seems. It may not be entirely coincidental that sexual morality and sexual deviance were principle concerns of the Nazi Party. Both groups target similar enemies and, it seems, for similar goals.

 

Fighting Sexual Deviance

One of the things which the Nazis used to appeal to Christian voters in Weimar Germany was their strong opposition to all forms of sexual deviance: prostitution, pornography, sex without procreation, too much liberty for women, and of course homosexuality. The Nazis argued that all this created impurity within Germany and thereby imperiled Germany's future.

They, of course, offered themselves as the solution to Germany's problems and said that they would achieve their solution by, in part, removing sexual deviance from German society. Does this sound familiar? Doesn't it sound awfully similar to some of the positions adopted by American's Christin Right today?

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

The Nazi regime denounced the bold Weimar social welfare experiments, such as the health insurance and municipal clinics, as profligate purveyors of fiscal waste, sexual immorality, and eugenic irresponsibility, which disproportionately benefited the "unfit" and "asocial" at the expense of "worthy" healthy citizens.

In Hitler's Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany, Nikolaus Wachsmann writes:

The Third Reich cracked down with great force on all behavior seen as sexually deviant. The Nazi leadership was determined to improve the 'racial health' of the nation and to persecute any behavior that threatened to undermine the 'battle for the birth rate'. Many victims of this Nazi terror were homosexual men, singled out for their particularly 'immoral' and 'degenerate' behaviours.

 

Fascism vs. Female Sexuality

The Nazis' near-obsessions with sexuality and sex has been the subject of quite a bit of close study by various scholars. It has been theorized that there may be an inherent connection between fascism and fears of women, women's sexuality, bodily fluids, and the devaluation of manliness that seems to accompany homosexuality. Whether any of this is true or not, it's undeniable that language about purity, sexual deviance, traditional masculine qualities played a very important role in Nazi rhetoric.

David Raub Snyder writes in Sex crimes under the Wehrmacht:

First, homosexuality endangered the German nation. By renouncing their duty to procreate, homosexuals deprived Germany of valuable offspring, putting the Aryan race’s future at risk. Second, the true homosexual endeavored to seduce every youth with whom he came into contact. Himmler and other theorists believed that youths seduced by homosexuals developed “degenerate personalities.” They, in turn, became seducers themselves, spreading homosexuality like a virulent contagion.

According to Maiwald and Mischler, the Nazis appropriated Kraepelin and Bonhoeffer’s infectious disease theory (Seuchentheorie) of homosexuality. The theory attributed homosexuality to the seduction of youths by older men. Through this seduction, homosexuals infected “the entire body of the Volk with the disease of homosexuality.”

In 1937, Das Schwarz Korps, for example, asserted that only 2 percent of all homosexuality was congenital. Nevertheless, this 2 percent could be expected to “corrupt two million German men.” Himmler, however, thought that most homosexuals could be reeducated through hard work. On the other hand, he also believed that “seducers” were incurable. As traitors, they had to be eradicated.

Such attitudes can be common with American conservatives who see increases in sexual liberty as examples of sexual license which undermine both order and civilization. For conservatives, sexual "deviance" is seen as breaking the moral bonds of society. Combatting sexual license is therefore necessary for the defense of morality, civilization, and public order.

Notice how the elimination of homosexuals and other forms of sexual deviance is treated as a matter of public health. This isn't just a moral issue, it's a question of medical science: elimination of sexual deviance is like the elimination of parasites, viruses, and bacteria. This makes it easier to get people to stop feeling any human compassion for those targeted by the state. They aren't people, they are a disease. Their suffering is necessary for the greater good.

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