sterilization and abortion, they were formulated with the understanding that
such measures were a necessary step toward eventually increasing the number
of desirable births. The desire to prevent the hereditarily sick from reproducing
must be understood in the context of the twisted Darwinian logic of Nazi law-
makers: they assumed that an ever-increasing number of diseased individuals
would overwhelm societal resources and eventually lead to both a qualitative
and a numerical decline in the German population. Pronatalist and antinatalist
tendencies in the Third Reich are thus not easily separated, and a lack of vol-
untary access to abortion and birth control coexisted with forced sterilization
and abortion for those declared racially and eugenically ÔÇťof lesser value.ÔÇŁ111
Banning abortion in the Third Reich, as in the Soviet Union, was a form of
coercive pronatalism for the portion of the population considered racially desir-
able, even while it must also be considered a eugenic and antinatalist measure
The of´¬ücial English translation of the law described these in the following terms: innate mental
de´¬üciency, schizophrenia, manic-depressive-insanity, hereditary epilepsy, hereditary (Hunting-
tonÔÇ™s) chorea, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, severe hereditary physical deformity.
See ÔÇťThe Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity,ÔÇŁ clipping in Freie Univer-
sitat Berlin, Sammlung Rott (hereafter FUB, Slg Rott), C5b, 9101, Box 8. For an of´¬ücial text
and explanation of the law see: Arthur Gutt, Gesetz zur Verhutung erbkranken Nachwuchses
vom 14. Juli 1933, mit Auszug aus dem Gesetz gegen gefahrliche Gewohnheitsverbrecher und
uber Massregeln der Sicherung und Besserung vom 24. Nov. 1933 (Munich: J. F. Lehmann,
Grossmann, ÔÇťThe Debate That Will Not End,ÔÇŁ 196.
Cited in Bock, Zwangssterilisation im Nationalsozialismus, 90.
Gabriele Czarnowski, Das kontrollierte Paar, 15.
Utopian Biopolitics 115
for others. A similar mixture of pronatalist and antinatalist objectives was
apparent in marriage policy.
In this context, we must also mention the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, the
most infamous of which was the ÔÇťLaw for the Protection of German Blood and
German Honor,ÔÇŁ or the Blutschutzgesetz, which outlawed marriages between
Jews and gentiles and classi´¬üed Jews according to degree of racial mixing. Soon
after, on October 18, 1935, the Ehegesundheitsgesetz (marital health law, of´¬ü-
cially called the Gesetz zum Schutze der Erbgesundheit des deutschen Volkes)
was proclaimed. This law de´¬ünitively transformed marriage counseling from
the Weimar model (which although professing eugenic considerations ÔÇťmostly
provided contraceptives and sex adviceÔÇŁ) to a system of government spon-
sored Bevolkerungspolitik ÔÇ“ large, ÔÇť´¬ütÔÇŁ families became the exclusive goal of
marital health regulations.112 The law prohibited marriages between partners
likely to produce ÔÇťundesirableÔÇŁ offspring or between an infertile, sterilized,
or otherwise un´¬üt partner and a racially desirable one.113 Additional decrees
to the marital health law stipulated that health certi´¬ücates (Ehetauglichkeits-
zeugnisse),114 which had been certi´¬üed by newly created counseling cen-
ters for genetic and racial health (Beratungsstellen fur Erbgesundheit und
Rassenp´¬‚ege), had to be exchanged before marriage. A circular clarifying the
application of the law emphasized the eugenic considerations that should be
applied, stating that ÔÇťcareful evaluation of all circumstances speaking for and
against the marriage must be undertaken, primarily with reference to genetic
and health considerations.ÔÇŁ115 Despite the link between the Ehegesundheitsge-
setz and the Blutschutzgesetz, then, the emphasis of the former remained on
eugenic health rather than racial considerations. The Ehegesundheitsgesetz was
clearly directed at the majority population and meant to strengthen the core
society for nationalistic purposes. An increasing number of exceptions made
during the application of the law demonstrates the degree to which policy-
makers saw this aspect of their racial policy as a legitimizing feature of the
regime. The aim was to sell the Ehegesundheitsgesetz to the German public as
an instrument of personal protection.116
It is clear, then, that neither Nazi nor Soviet reproductive health policy
con´¬üned itself to coercive measures and that even some apparently coercive
policies were formulated so as to encourage compliance on the part of citizens.
We will now turn to policies that provided even more explicit incentives for
Grossmann, Reforming Sex, 141.
The law also only applied to German citizens, or in cases of German men who married foreign
women. If a German woman married a foreign man, their future children were not considered
Germans and the woman lost her citizenship.
Note the change in terminology from Weimar usage, which had called marital health certi´¬ücates
Ehegesundheitszeugnissen. It is no longer simply health, but ÔÇť´¬ütnessÔÇŁ for marriage that is being
Reichsminister des Innern to Landesregierungen etc., 18 Feb. 1939 in Landesarchiv Berlin
(hereafter LAB), Rep. 12, Acc. 1641, Nr. 239.
For further clari´¬ücation see Timm, ÔÇťThe Politics of Fertility,ÔÇŁ 289ÔÇ“300.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
citizens who were either racially desirable (in the Nazi case) or politically
compliant, demonstrating that population policy was not only an instrument
of social control but also a means of legitimizing state projects. It was a crucial
component of the respective projects to remake society.
Alongside coercive measures to raise the birthrate, the Soviet government
offered ´¬ünancial inducements for women to have many children. The same
decree that outlawed abortion granted women a 2,000-ruble annual bonus for
each child they had over six children and a 5,000-ruble bonus for each child
over ten children. These bonuses drew an immediate response from women
with seven or more children. Local of´¬ücials were deluged by requests from
(primarily peasant) women who quali´¬üed for these bonuses.117
In addition to bonuses paid to individuals, the Soviet government encouraged
motherhood by providing maternity facilities and services. Within months of
coming to power, the Soviet government founded a large number of maternity
homes, nurseries, milk kitchens, and pediatric clinics. With the pronatalist
push of the mid-1930s, funding for maternity wards and nurseries increased
even more, though not nearly enough to meet the needs of the millions of
women in the workforce. Given that the Soviet government channeled virtually
all resources into rapid industrialization, it lacked the money for adequate
child care facilities. But in principle, the Soviet government committed itself to
complete care for mothers and children.118 The Soviet government also sought
to ensure that women did not avoid pregnancy for fear of losing their jobs or
wages. As early as 1921 the government decreed that pregnant women who
were unable to work were entitled to receive their full salary from workersÔÇ™
insurance funds. By 1927 Soviet law guaranteed women eight weeks of paid
leave both before and after giving birth.119
As part of its pronatalist campaign of the mid-1930s, the Soviet government
also celebrated motherhood and portrayed having children as a natural and ful-
´¬ülling part of a womanÔÇ™s life. Articles in the Soviet press stressed the happiness
that children brought to womenÔÇ™s lives. One testimonial from a woman with
´¬üve children described how much her children loved her, while another article
claimed that children took care of each other, so that having many children
was an advantage rather than a burden.120
While Soviet efforts to glorify motherhood resembled pronatalist propa-
ganda in other countries, they were distinguished in one crucial way. The
Soviet government encouraged and expected women to continue working while
Sobranie zakonov i rasporiazhenii, no. 34 (July 21, 1936), p. 511; GARF f. 5446, op. 18a, d.
2753, l. 4. The Soviet government had to allot 35 million rubles in 1936 alone to pay such
bonuses; GARF f. 5446, op. 18a, d. 2753, l. 31.
Drobizhev, 109, 122; GARF f. 5446, op. 18a, d. 2754, l. 45. See, for example, the draft of
a pamphlet by Elena Stasova, ÔÇťFor Women in the USSR All Paths Are Open,ÔÇŁ in which she
stresses the concern and material aid provided by the Soviet government to mothers. RGASPI
f. 17, op. 120, d. 202, l. 11.
GARF f. 4085, op. 12, d. 320, l. 16; Molkov, ed. (1927), 318.
Martenovka, 1 May 1936, 5; Rabotnitsa i krestÔÇ™ianka, no. 15 (1936): 5; Rabotnitsa i
krestÔÇ™ianka, no. 2 (1936): 20. See also Gigiena i zdorovÔÇ™e, no. 4 (1938): 6.
Utopian Biopolitics 117
pregnant and after giving birth. To ensure that pregnant women could ´¬ünd or
maintain jobs outside the home, the Politburo approved a decree in Octo-
ber 1936 that made it a criminal offense to refuse to hire or to lower the
pay of women during pregnancy.121 Soviet leaders, then, constructed gender
in a way that stressed womenÔÇ™s roles as both workers and mothers, and they
insisted there was no contradiction between the two. In contrast, many of´¬ücials
and social commentators in Western Europe blamed feminism and womenÔÇ™s
employment outside the home for the weakening of traditional female roles
and the decline in the birthrate.122
As we have already seen, the Nazis emphasized that womanÔÇ™s place was in
the home, and most of the positive ´¬ünancial incentives they offered to encour-
age women to have more children were predicated on the assumption of a
single-earner family. Differing markedly from Soviet policy, the Nazis offered
some of their ´¬ünancial incentives for births only to women who gave up paid
employment. The policy of providing marriage loans to genetically ÔÇť´¬ütÔÇŁ cou-
ples began as a labor policy ÔÇ“ as a measure to decrease unemployment by
removing women from the workforce. Enshrined in section ´¬üve (Promotion of
the Marriage Rate) of the Law to Decrease Unemployment of June 1, 1933,123
the law on marriage decreed that eligible couples could apply to receive loans of
up to one thousand Reichsmarks to buy goods needed to establish a household.
Eligibility was limited to engaged or recently married couples when the wife or
female partner was employed but promised to give up her job upon marriage.
The exact stipulations of length of employment were gradually loosened, so
that by the end of August, even women who had only worked for a period of six
months sometime between 1928 and 1933 were eligible. Gabriele Czarnowski
has argued that the policy was not simply a reactionary effort to redomesticate
women, but rather a very modern attempt to manipulate female labor. The ini-
tial goal of expanding job opportunities for men by removing married women
from the labor market was abandoned in the changed economic circumstances
after 1936. After the boom in armaments industries and the resulting shortage
of labor, women no longer had to give up their jobs to receive the loans.124
As one contemporary commentator put it, the ÔÇťpopulation political goal [of
the law] remained the same as it had been in 1933,ÔÇŁ125 but it now served to
encourage rather than discourage female employment, since the requirement
of previous employment remained.
Nevertheless, after 1936, the primary effect of the law was to place an
ever-expanding percentage of married couples under eugenic surveillance, since
racial and eugenic criteria were stipulations for eligibility. By 1937, Czarnowski
RGASPI f. 17, op. 3, d. 981, l. 69.
See Offen, 138.
A copy of the law, along with the various revisions and decrees, can be found in Reichs´¬ü-
nanzministerium, Ehestandsdarlehen (Berlin, 1935).
The changes to the marriage loan policy in 1937 were not simply cosmetic. A separate law,
ÔÇťThe Law for the Promotion of Marriage Rates,ÔÇŁ was promulgated.
Cited in Czarnowski, Das kontrollierte Paar, 105; Erich Berlitz, Ehestandsdarlehen (Berlin and
Vienna: Spaeth & Linde, 1940), 39.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
argues, the racial hygienic criteria were dominant, and ÔÇťthe public health
examinations for marriage loans proved themselves to be one of the most
important turning points between ÔÇ˜supportiveÔÇ™ and ÔÇ˜eliminationistÔÇ™ reproduc-
tive politics.ÔÇŁ126 In other words, this apparently ÔÇťpositiveÔÇŁ eugenic measure
provided public health doctors with a wealth of genetic and social informa-
tion about prospective marriage candidates that could be used for negative
eugenic purposes. Ever more stringent and bureaucratically organized eugenic
testing for marriage loans led to a decrease in the number of couples applying
for them. New forms in January 1934 were likely partly responsible for this
decrease, since patients had only to look at the long list of illnesses and the
blank spaces for information on family members to begin to fear that there
might be information they had better hide from medical of´¬ücials.127
All the same, the policy must be interpreted as an attempt to legitimize the
health plans of the regime. For the most part, marriage loans were provided as a
bene´¬üt and accepted by the public as a right of citizenship. A demonstration of
this can be found in a letter of complaint from a Berlin man whose ´¬üanc┬┤ e had
just undergone a health examination for a marriage loan application in May
1936. After complaining about general bureaucratic delays and annoyances,
the author described his outrage at the conditions under which his ´¬üanc┬┤ e was
One has to report . . . to room 35, am Urban, for a blood examination. On this
door hangs a large enamel sign ÔÇťClinic for the Venereally Diseased.ÔÇŁ
Any commentary about this would actually be super´¬‚uous, but in the hopes
of emphatically awakening the bureaus that will perhaps receive this letter, and
which are apparently somewhat obtuse, I would like to say, that . . . every deli-
cately sensitive female heart is extremely offended and shamed to sit next to the
painted ´¬‚owers [P´¬‚anzchen], whose source of income is too obviously visible in
their appearances, [not to mention the fear] of then being denounced by the mouth
of some casual acquaintance as belonging to the contaminated. Apparently the
head of this clinic has more understanding than the administration of the district
of Kreuzberg, because he saw us together upon our request and added the phrase
ÔÇť. . . for a marriage loanÔÇŁ when he called our names.128
The tone is clearly that of an outraged citizen who feels that he has not been
treated with due respect. There is a sense of entitlement, and his goal, he claims,
is to improve conditions so that others will not have to suffer through the same.
The complainantÔÇ™s outrage is not imaginable outside a context of considerable
consensus about the stateÔÇ™s right to be involved in marriage. It is not the pol-
icy itself that the man decries, but the disrespectful way that it was carried
out. The complaint is therefore evidence that marriage loans were part of the