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A 1940 draft letter (that was never sent) argues that properly funding Lebensborn could prevent

six hundred thousand abortions yearly, thus providing an extra two hundred regiments of
soldiers within eighteen or twenty years. See letter dated July 1940 in BA-B “ NS19/1082, Bl.
Himmler to Reichsminister Lammers, 11 March 1939, BA-B “ NS2/55, 1939), Bl. 139“40.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm

them out to German families, many of whom were unaware of the exact cir-
cumstances of the children™s departure from their homes.86 This program is
perhaps the best example of how Nazi conceptions of family were explicitly
linked to violence and to primitive understandings of the connection between
physical (in this case military) strength and the right to fatherhood.
The Soviet attitude toward fatherhood had an entirely different focus. In
tandem with its pronatalist campaign, the Soviet government sought to enforce
paternal obligations. A 1933 decree that required all births to be registered
within one month included provisions for a mother to name the father of her
child regardless of whether they were married or even whether he was present.
Men who did not acknowledge paternity of a child would still be registered
as the father if a mother named him as such and provided any evidence of
cohabitation.87 In 1936 the same law that outlawed abortion and made divorce
more dif¬cult also tightened regulations on child support. It set minimal levels
of child support as one-fourth of the unmarried or divorced father™s salary for
one child, one-third for two children, and one-half for three or more children.
It also increased the penalty for nonpayment of child support to two years
in prison.88 In subsequent years the Soviet government proved serious about
paternal responsibility and took numerous steps to track down delinquent
fathers.89 Soviet propaganda also stressed the importance of paternity; a lead
article in Pravda entitled “Father” stated that “a father is a social educator. He
must prepare good Soviet citizens.” Another article stated, “A poor husband
and father cannot be a good citizen. People who abuse the freedom of divorce
should be punished.”90
It was just prior to the campaign to strengthen the family that the Soviet
government recriminalized male homosexuality. In December 1933 the head
of the Soviet secret police, Genrikh Iagoda, sent Stalin a draft decree outlaw-
ing sodomy and justi¬ed it by citing “associations of pederasts” engaged in
“the recruitment and corruption of completely healthy young people.” The
Politburo approved the ban on male homosexuality, which was issued as
law in March 1934.91 Dan Healey notes that the Soviet recriminalization of
sodomy was preceded by Hitler™s accession to power and a virulent propa-
ganda war between fascism and communism which included mutual accusa-
tions of homosexuality. In this atmosphere, homosexuality became associated
with fascism in the eyes of Soviet of¬cials, and in fact Maxim Gorky justi¬ed

See Gitta Sereny, The German Trauma: Experiences and Re¬‚ections, 1938“2001 (London:

Penguin Books, 2000).
Gosudarstvennoe upravlenie: Kodi¬tsirovannyi sbornik zakonodatel™stva RSFSR na 1 ianvariia

1934 goda (Moscow, 1934), 49.
Sobranie zakonov i rasporiazhenii, no. 34 (21 July 1936): 515“16.

GARF f. 9492 s.ch., op. 1, d. 2, l. 183; TsMAM f. 819, op. 1, d. 3, l. 1; f. 2429, op. 7, d. 200,

l. 34; d. 220, l. 4.
Pravda 9 June 1936, 1; Ogonek 10 January 1936, 4; Timasheff, 197.

Istochnik, no. 5“6 (1993): 164“5.
Utopian Biopolitics 111

the antisodomy law with the slogan “Destroy the homosexuals “ fascism will
Healey also points out that attacks on homosexuality coincided with the
Soviet government™s mid-1930s drives to cleanse cities of “social anomalies”
and to promote the (heterosexual) family. In 1936 the Commissar of Justice
Nikolai Krylenko linked homosexuality with bourgeois decadence and coun-
terrevolution and stated that it had no place in a socialist society founded
on healthy principles. He called homosexuals “declassed rabble, either from
the dregs of society or from the remnants of the exploiting classes.” Krylenko
declared that homosexuals were not needed “in the environment of workers
taking the point of view of normal relations between the sexes, who are build-
ing their society on healthy principles.”93 Emphasis on the family should thus
be seen as part of a larger effort by the Soviet government to make hetero-
sexuality and procreation compulsory in the interests of the state and larger
In addition to enforcing heteronormative behavior and paternal obligations
among men, the Soviet government sought to rationalize and maximize repro-
duction through a range of studies and measures to safeguard women™s repro-
ductive capacities. Soviet medical specialists in the 1920s used the language of
industrial production to describe reproduction, including the term “productive
capacity” to describe women™s ability to become pregnant and bear healthy
babies.95 A. S. Gofshtein, in his article “The Rationalization of Maternity,”
described mothers as “producers” and wrote that pregnancy could be “pro-
ductive” or “unproductive,” depending on whether it ended with the birth of
a healthy child or with miscarriage, abortion, or infant mortality. Gofshtein
studied the histories of pregnant women and calculated that women would
optimize their productivity by having three children, all four years apart. He
noted that more frequent pregnancies weakened “the female organism,” pro-
duced sickly children, and diminished women™s value in the workforce.96 Other
Soviet doctors studied reproductive capacity by combining obstetrics and gyne-
cology with anthropometry (for example, measuring women™s pelvises). One

Dan Healey, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gen-

der Dissent (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 182“90. See also Laura Engelstein,
“Soviet Policy toward Male Homosexuality: Its Origins and Historical Roots,” Journal of
Homosexuality 29, no. 2“3 (1994): 155“78.
N. V. Krylenko, “Ob izmeneniiakh i dopolneniiakh kodeksov RSFSR,” Sovetskaia iustitsiia,

no. 7 (1936), as cited in Healey, 196. See also James Riordan, “Sexual Minorities: The Status
of Gays and Lesbians in Russian-Soviet-Russian Society,” Women in Russia and Ukraine, ed.
Rosalind Marsh (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 160; Igor Kon, “Sexual
Minorities,” in Sex and Russian Society, eds. I. Kon and James Riordan (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1993), 92.
On the prosecution of sodomy cases after 1933, see Healey, chapter 8, 207“28.

Hyer, 113.

A. S. Gofshtein, “Ratsionalizatsiia materinstva,” Vrachebnoe delo , no. 19 (1927), as cited in

Hyer, 113“18.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm

researcher warned that women who worked in factories had narrower (and
hence inferior) pelvises than women who did not.97
Because women in the Soviet system were expected to serve as both mothers
and workers, specialists showed particular concern with the effects of industrial
labor on women™s reproductive abilities. They conducted studies on the effect
of heavy lifting and concluded that it could damage pelvic organs and cause
problems with pregnancy. In 1921 and again in 1927 the Soviet government
established employment guidelines to ensure that women were not in jobs that
required heavy lifting, for fear that such work would harm their reproductive
organs.98 Health of¬cials also promoted physical examinations and education
as means to protect women™s reproductive capacities. Delegates to the Third
All-Union Conference on the Protection of Maternity and Infancy in 1926
stressed that young women from the beginning of their sexual maturity should
have regular medical consultations, initially arranged through schools. They
also noted that these consultations would give doctors the opportunity to edu-
cate them about the dangers of abortion and diseases. Throughout the 1920s
specialists on women™s hygiene and sexual enlightenment carried on studies
and educational efforts, most of which emphasized the social importance of
women™s reproductive health and childbearing.99
The legislative centerpiece of the Soviet government™s campaign to raise the
birthrate was the decree of June 27, 1936, which outlawed abortion, except for
medical reasons. Politburo discussion of the decree prior to its promulgation
emphasized the importance of achieving the maximal possible birthrate.100 The
Politburo subsequently decided “to limit as much as possible the list of medical
reasons” for permitting an abortion, and this decision was promulgated later
in a November 1936 decree that limited the medical reasons for permitting an
abortion to cases in which hereditary diseases were likely or in which a woman™s
life was endangered. The decree stated, “Abortion is not only harmful for a
woman™s health, but is also a serious social evil, the battle with which is the
duty of every conscious citizen, most of all medical personnel.”101
The ban on abortion was preceded by a huge publicity campaign and public
discussion of a draft of the decree, and it was followed by further propaganda
on the new law™s validity and importance. Numerous articles stressed the harm

Hyer, 115.

Hyer, 116“17; Thomas Schrand, “Industrialization and the Stalinist Gender System: Women

Workers in the Soviet Economy, 1928“1941” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1994), 159“
60. Similar policies regulating work for pregnant women were instituted in Weimar Germany.
See Patricia R. Stokes, “Contested Conceptions: Experiences and Discourses of Pregnancy and
Childbirth in Germany, 1914“1933” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 2003).
Resoliutsii III Vsesoiuznogo soveshchaniia po okhrane materinstva i mladenchestva (1926),

17“18; Malinovskii and Shvartsman, 5. For discussion of Soviet sexual enlightenment pro-
grams, see Frances Lee Bernstein, The Dictatorship of Sex: Lifestyle Advice for the Soviet
Masses (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007).
Sobranie zakonov i rasporiazhenii, no. 34 (21 July 1936): 510“11; RGASPI f. 17, op. 3, d.

976, l. 4.
RGASPI f. 17, op. 3, d. 980, l. 1; d. 982, ll. 126“30.
Utopian Biopolitics 113

that abortions did to women™s physical and mental health.102 (No mention
was made of the extreme danger posed to the health of women who in the
wake of this law sought illegal abortions.) One article asserted that the “single
goal” of the decree was “the protection of the health of the Soviet mother.”103
Commissar Semashko warned that abortion could not only cause infertility, but
also have an adverse effect on a woman™s other organs and nervous system. But
he also justi¬ed the ban on abortion as crucial to “the state task of increasing
the population of the Soviet Union.” He went on to compare the fertility rate of
the Soviet Union with those of other industrialized countries and argued that the
abortion ban would allow the country to maintain or even increase its superior
birthrate.104 Here again it is noteworthy that Semashko referred to increasing
the population as a “state task.” Rather than conceptualize population issues in
terms of “national superiority” or “race suicide,” he and other Soviet leaders
espoused a nonracial approach that sought to boost the birthrate to build
socialism and prove its ideological ascendance.
This, of course, contrasts sharply with the racialized reproductive policies
in the Third Reich. Nazi racial hygienists went beyond arguments about prov-
ing the superiority of their political and health care system through higher
birthrates and conceived of even the domestic population in highly competitive
terms. An ideological division was made between those who were and those
who were not considered racially and genetically desirable. The former were to
have no access to abortion, since the children they might produce were con-
sidered too valuable to the nation. Differential access to abortion based on
racial criteria can thus be viewed as a form of coercive pronatalism.105 Those
of “lesser value” (Minderwertigen), while also not given reproductive choice,
were certainly provided access to or sometimes forced into an abortion. Abor-
tion laws, which had been liberalized somewhat in the Weimar Republic, were
tightened in May 1933.106 Thereafter a woman who procured or induced an
abortion for herself or the practitioners of abortion were subject to between
one-day and ¬ve-year detentions, or up to ¬fteen years if money had changed

Rabotnitsa i krest™ianka, no. 11 (1936): 6; Rabotnitsa i krest™ianka, no. 12 (1936): 1. See also

Izvestiia, 5 June 1935.
Pravda, 5 September 1936, 4.

N. A. Semashko, “Zamechatel™nyi zakon (o zapreshchenii aborta),” Front nauki i tekhniki, no.

7 (1936): 38. For further discussion, see Susan Gross Solomon, “The Demographic Argument
in Soviet Debates over the Legalization of Abortion in the 1920s,” Cahiers du Monde russe et
sovietique 33 (1992): 59“82.
Atina Grossman also makes this argument. See her chapter “The Debate That Will Not End:

The Politics of Abortion in Germany from Weimar to National Socialism and the Postwar
Period,” in Medicine and Modernity: Public Health and Medical Care in Nineteenth- and
Twentieth-Century Germany, eds. Manfred Berg and Geoffrey Cocks (Washington, DC, and
Cambridge: German Historical Institute and Cambridge University Press, 1997), 195“6. This
runs counter to Gisela Bock™s argument (in Zwangssterilisation im Nationalsozialismus) that
Nazi reproductive policies can be characterized as primarily antinatalist.
Paragraphs 219 and 220, which had been eliminated from the Penal Code in Weimar era

reforms, were reintroduced, once again prohibiting education about abortion or abortifacients.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm

hands.107 Then in June 1935, the policies on abortion were linked explicitly
to eugenic sterilization measures when an amendment to the July 14, 1933,
sterilization law (the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Off-
spring, which had called for the mandatory surgical sterilization of all people
with “hereditary” diseases)108 declared even very late-term abortions legal if
they were certi¬ed eugenically necessary by a medical commission. Thereafter,
eugenic abortions were followed by sterilization. That Nazi medical authorities
envisioned abortion primarily as a eugenic measure was further emphasized in
the Reichsarztekammer™s 1936 “Guidelines for Interruption of Pregnancy and
Sterilization on Health Grounds,” which narrowed the possibilities for thera-
peutic abortions (that is, abortions made necessary by threats to the woman™s
health) to only very severe cases.109
Nazi abortion policy must be understood as a continuation of the spirit of
the 1933 sterilization law, not least because the two policies were eventually
linked. The ¬rst sterilization law had been followed by an extensive propa-
ganda campaign that used terms like “differential decreases in the birthrate,”
“quantity versus quality,” and “constitution of the genetic makeup of our
Volk” to argue that sterilization of the un¬t was a necessary countermeasure


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