Zwischen Emanzipation und Trauma: Soldatinnen im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Deutschland, Sowjetunion, USA): Ein Vergleich

TitleZwischen Emanzipation und Trauma: Soldatinnen im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Deutschland, Sowjetunion, USA): Ein Vergleich
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsMaubach, Franka, and Silke Satjukow
JournalHistorische Zeitschrift
Date Published2009

Gender historians consider the entrance of the female combatant onto the historical stage as a landmark on the road to gender equality. Yet only rarely has it been discussed thus far what the opportunity to bear weapons and the resultant ability to use them in an act of (offensive or defensive) violence means in actuality. Commonly, confrontations with military violence, with death and killing, are less liberating but rather traumatizing – for men and women alike. This hypothesis can be productively explored by looking at the example of the massive military and paramilitary employment of female recruits during World War II. The analysis focuses comparatively on German female auxiliary forces (Wehrmachthelferinnen), female Red Army soldiers, and US-American WACs in order to reconstruct the varying degrees to which women were involved in armed conflict and to investigate the diverse approaches towards these modes of military mobilization. While many female Red Army soldiers fought at the front lines of the war bearing combat weapons, the WACs remained largely aloof from the immediate battle field. The service rendered by women in the German Wehrmacht must be situated somewhere in between the two forms of deployment. And even though female soldiers were overwhelmingly demobilized in 1945, the new female experiences with war had significant short- and long-term consequences. It seems that, once the war was over, those women who had come closest to actual combat were least able to consider their often traumatizing experiences as in any way emancipating. By looking at the preconditions for the various deployments, the military experiences themselves as well as at their aftermaths this essay explores the still rather obscure sphere between emancipation and trauma in which female military participation must be positioned. [de Gruyter]

Translated TitleBetween Emancipation and Trauma: Female Combatants in World War II (Germany, Soviet Union, USA): A Comparison
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