Czarnowski, ÔÇťFrauen ÔÇ“ Staat ÔÇ“ Medizin,ÔÇŁ 81.
See Bock, Zwangssterilisation im Nationalsozialismus, 142ÔÇ“53
ÔÇťEhestandstandsdarlehen in Berlin: Bisher 5000 Antrage bewilligt,ÔÇŁ Vossische Zeitung, 22
November 1933, clipping in FUB Slg Rott, C6(4), Box 10; and ÔÇťDie heiratsfreudige . . . :
Bisher uber 10 000 Antrage auf Ehestandsdarlehen,ÔÇŁ Volkischer Beobachter, 22 November
1933, in ibid.
Keine Bedenken beim Ehestandskandidaten . . . ÔÇŁ: Heiratslustige vor dem Richterstuhl des
Arztes,ÔÇŁ Berliner Tageblatt, 5 January 1934, clipping in ibid.
Weyrather makes this argument about motherhood crosses, and I ´¬ünd it much more convincing
than Gisela BockÔÇ™s insistence (Zwangssterilisation im Nationalsozialismus, 142ÔÇ“53) that the
crosses had nothing to do with pronatalist policies. Weyrather explicitly takes Bock to task on
this point. See Muttertag und Mutterkreuz, 151.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
was willing to accept the marriage loans and motherhood crosses as a bonus of
belonging to the national Volksgemeinschaft and as a public reward even when
most still continued to think of reproduction as a private act. This valorization
of motherhood bore no direct relationship to effective welfare support for fam-
ilies; nor did it likely increase the number of children that a given family was
likely to have. But it may well have encouraged some to have children earlier
than they had originally planned, and, even more importantly, it likely coaxed
them into understanding this act as an expression of national duty.
A similarly lively response followed the implementation of the new mar-
riage laws. The public reception of the Nazi attempt to legitimate social policy
through a rede´¬ünition of marriage was not, as has occasionally been asserted
or implied, universally negative. The collection of private petitions to federal,
state, and city governments reveals that many citizens saw the new laws as
a means of manipulating social policy for their own ends. Citizens wrote to
government demanding that of´¬ücial calls for more healthy German children be
supported with improved access to medical care, decreased rents, and better
economic conditions.148 There were also personal appeals to the Fuhrer, ask-
ing him to introduce laws that would allow them to better control the marital
choices of their children. The tone of these letters, even from the hands of
relatively uneducated citizens, proves that Nazi propaganda about the declin-
ing birthrate and the need to implement population political laws had reached
public consciousness even during the early days of the Third Reich.
What was the popular response to the Soviet pronatalist campaign?
Government reports indicated that the population received the decree ban-
ning abortion ÔÇťenthusiastically.ÔÇŁ Some women who received birth bonuses did
write letters to thank Stalin and promised to continue having children.149 Yet
in practice the response of most Soviet women was far from enthusiastic. The
ban on abortion led to a huge number of illegal abortions. Commissariat of
Health reports in October and November 1936 cited thousands of cases of
women hospitalized after poorly performed illegal abortions. Of the 356,200
abortions performed in hospitals in 1937, and 417,600 in 1938, only 10 per-
cent had been authorized, and the rest were incomplete illegal abortions.150 In
response the Soviet government stepped up efforts to identify those who per-
formed illegal abortions and in 1937 arrested and convicted 4,133 abortionists.
As the law dictated, those found guilty of performing abortions were sentenced
to a minimum of two years in prison.151 But despite considerable efforts, Soviet
See, for example, the letters in BA-B ÔÇ“ RMI 1501/26231, Bl., 44ÔÇ“6, 61ÔÇ“3, 70, 77ÔÇ“80, 198.
GARF f. 5446, op. 18a, d. 2753, ll. 15, 22, 26, 35.
GARF f. 5446, op. 18a, d. 2753, l. 85; RGAE f. 1562 s.ch., op. 329, d. 407, ll. 22ÔÇ“5. Another
1937 report noted that the ´¬ügure of 323,438 cases of incomplete abortions that had to be
completed in hospitals in the RSFSR was clear evidence of a mass of underground abortions;
GARF f. A-482, op. 29, d. 5, l. 9.
Sovetskaia iustitsiia, no. 34 (1936 34), 16; RGAE f. 1562 s.ch., op. 329, d. 407, l. 25; TsMAM
f. 819, op. 2, d. 27, ll. 12ÔÇ“15. Those who had performed multiple abortions often received
four yearsÔÇ™ imprisonment or more.
Utopian Biopolitics 125
authorities found it dif´¬ücult to catch underground abortionists, because women
who entered hospitals after botched abortions rarely cooperated with police.152
The ban on abortion did result in a rise in the birthrate, but this rise was lim-
ited and temporary. The birthrate per thousand people rose from 30.1 in 1935,
to 33.6 in 1936, to 39.6 in 1937. But in 1938 the birthrate began to decline
again, and by 1940, marital fertility for European Russians was below the 1936
level.153 The enormous social disruption of the purges and mobilization for war
in part accounted for the decline of the birthrate beginning in 1938. But even
before these disruptions the birthrate had not even approached preindustrial-
ization levels, and evidence on illegal abortions indicates that Soviet women as
a whole did not abide by the governmentÔÇ™s abortion ban. As Soviet authorities
had noted in 1920, but then chose to ignore in 1936, the outlawing of abortion
only drove women to seek illegal abortions. Repression proved ineffective at
raising the birthrate in the long term.
The Second World War produced catastrophic casualties and further
depressed fertility, so it is not surprising that during the war and postwar
period the Soviet government made renewed efforts to prevent abortions and
raise the birthrate. In July 1944 it issued a new family edict that retained the
1936 ban on abortion and made divorce even more dif´¬ücult and expensive. The
new law also ended single mothersÔÇ™ right to sue fathers for child support and in
its place granted them state ´¬ünancial assistance.154 But many women continued
to terminate their pregnancies, and in 1945 the Soviet government expressed
alarm at the extremely high rate of underground abortions.155 The Ministry of
Health reported that in 1949, 93,597 women had been granted legal abortions
for medical reasons, but it estimated that this ´¬ügure accounted for only 10.4
percent of all abortions ÔÇ“ meaning that over eight hundred thousand under-
ground abortions had taken place that year.156 The Ministry recommended
that doctors closely monitor pregnant women (including visiting their homes
and forcibly hospitalizing those women suspected of wanting an abortion) as
the best way to prevent abortions, but doctors by and large did not engage
in this type of policing. Understaffed hospitals and clinics lacked the person-
nel for home visits and lacked the beds to hospitalize pregnant women. Nor
From 1938 to 1940, prosecutions for abortion declined, and despite a rise in convictions in
1941, the criminalization of abortion overall proved to be, in the words of one leading scholar,
ÔÇťa particularly ineffective extension of the criminal law.ÔÇŁ Peter Solomon, 220ÔÇ“1.
Lorimer, 134; Coale, 16. Fertility in the ´¬ürst quarter of 1938 was substantially below the 1937
level; RGAE f. 1562 s.ch., op. 329, d. 186, l. 5. For further discussion, see Wendy Z. Goldman,
Women, the State, and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917ÔÇ“1936 (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 294ÔÇ“5.
See Greta Louise Bucher, ÔÇťThe Impact of World War II on Moscow Women: Gender Con-
sciousness and Relationships in the Immediate Postwar Period, 1945ÔÇ“1953ÔÇŁ (Ph.D. diss., Ohio
State University, 1995), 9.
Bucher, 236. Oral history interviews conducted by Bucher in Moscow in the early 1990s
revealed that most women knew of underground abortionists and that the practice was
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
is it clear that doctors would have policed womenÔÇ™s pregnancies even if they
were able. Some doctors warned that pregnant women would avoid clinics if
medical personnel played a policing role, and others even performed illegal
abortions themselves.157 Birth bonuses and the glori´¬ücation of motherhood
also proved ineffective in the ´¬üght to prevent abortions and raise the birthrate.
The women who received the bonuses were primarily peasant women who
already had many children prior to the introduction of monetary incentives.
The resources allotted to expand maternity wards and child care were insuf´¬ü-
cient to improve markedly the lives of mothers. Government priorities contin-
ued to focus on heavy industry, while child care systems and communal dining
facilities remained woefully underfunded. And given the equally underfunded
consumer sector, women had enormous dif´¬üculty simply obtaining basic neces-
sities for their children.
One other crucial consideration is womenÔÇ™s place in the workforce. As men-
tioned above, women had been recruited in large numbers into industry during
the 1930s, and the of´¬ücial emphasis on motherhood was in no way intended to
free women from their obligation to perform ÔÇťsocially useful laborÔÇŁ outside the
home. Indeed the Second World War further accelerated womenÔÇ™s entrance into
industry ÔÇ“ women constituted 92 percent of all new workers recruited between
1941 and 1950 ÔÇ“ and postwar propaganda continued to stress womenÔÇ™s roles as
both workers and mothers.158 Soviet law did allow women up to two months
of maternity leave ÔÇ“ a fact Stalin took care to stress publicly ÔÇ“ but this was only
another small inducement for women to have children.159 The realities of Soviet
life saddled women with the double burden of full-time work and uncompen-
sated domestic chores. Soviet leaders wished to exploit both the labor and the
childbearing capabilities of the female population, and they proved unwilling,
of´¬ücial rhetoric notwithstanding, to assume state responsibility for domestic
chores and child raising.160
While the war served to advance the goals that Soviet population policy had
originally set out to achieve (the integration of mothers into the workforce) it
greatly complicated some, though not all aspects of Nazi population policy. It
is certainly true that the war provided a cover for genocidal crimes in the East
and the maltreatment of slave laborers and others on German soil, drastically
increasing the intensity of the regimeÔÇ™s violence toward certain groups of clearly
de´¬üned enemies. This aspect of Nazi population policy has been explored in
detail elsewhere and is not the primary focus of the present essay. Keeping
this in mind, however, we can also argue that the war limited the reach and
decreased the power of various other bureaucracies involved in population
Bucher, 238ÔÇ“42; Burton, 289ÔÇ“90.
Bucher, 7, 23.
See StalinÔÇ™s statement for the resolutions of the 1935 congress of collective farm shock workers,
RGASPI f. 17, op. 120, d. 138, l. 85.
For further discussion, see David L. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet
Modernity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), chapter 3, 88ÔÇ“117.
Utopian Biopolitics 127
management. Leaving aside the obvious fact that wars tend to separate potential
fathers from potential mothers, manipulation of individual decision making
became more dif´¬ücult under conditions of extreme understaf´¬üng and general
social turmoil as the war progressed. Decisions about genetic ÔÇťvalueÔÇŁ now
tended to be made on a rather ad hoc basis. Local health administrators even
began to believe that stringent de´¬ünitions of genetic ´¬ütness previously stipulated
for marital health examinations, marriage loans, and other population policies
were being relaxed. Although they were admonished by of´¬ücials from the Reich
Ministry of the Interior,161 it is clear that work in local marital health clinics
no longer proceeded entirely according to plan during the war. For one thing,
the war drastically increased the daily workload in the genetic health clinics
(as a result of a ´¬‚ood of marriage loan applications from soldiers about to
leave for the front, and an increase in political pressure to process applications
for motherhood service medals) while halving the available personnel, now
regularly called into military service or seconded to other duties.162 Under
these conditions, local health of´¬üces in Berlin reported that they only had time
to track down the most pressing sterilization cases and that the monitoring
of ÔÇťasocialsÔÇŁ was now all but impossible.163 Needless to say, Allied bombing
raids in the major cities also destroyed the ´¬üles necessary to implement these
These factors clearly limited the scope and breadth of Nazi population policy
during the war. Given the increased latitude of local of´¬ücials to decide which
cases were truly ÔÇťpressingÔÇŁ and which were not, and given the absence of
supporting documents, it is likely that the enforcement of strict provisions for
positive eugenic measures and the selection of individuals for negative eugenic
measures became even more random and less predictable. As the war dragged
on and GermanyÔÇ™s military position weakened, the fa├§ade of a comprehensive
system of eugenic controls began to crumble. In September 1944, the Reich
Ministry of the Interior informed the chancellery that total war conditions
required further restrictions to the sterilization law. Most genetic health courts
were shut down as of October 1, 1944, with only one lower court remaining
The RMIÔÇ™s Linden wrote to BerlinÔÇ™s genetic health court on 5 Dec. 1939 complaining that too
many health of´¬üces were taking the August directive as a sign that sterilization policy and the
implementation of the marriage law were to all but cease during the war. He instructed Berlin
authorities that ÔÇťthe laws should be carried out within the boundaries of the possible.ÔÇŁ See
Linden to Erbgesundheitsgericht, Berlin, 5 Dec. 1939, in LAB, Rep. 12, Acc. 1641, Nr. 246.
See Chef der Sippenamt im RuS. Hauptamt SS, 26 Oct. 1939, in ibid. and Sutterlin ÔÇťan ┬Ę
die Gesundheitsamter,ÔÇŁ 21 Dec. 1939, in LAB, Rep. 12, Acc. 1641, Nr. 247. See also
ÔÇťVierteljahres-Bericht AprilÔÇ“JuniÔÇ“JuliÔÇ“Sept. 1939ÔÇŁ signed by Reinhardt, 15 Nov. 1939, in
ibid. By 1940, several districts reported that motherhood service medal applications were tak-
ing precedence over genetic data collection and other duties. See, for example, the reports from
Tempelhof dated 6 September 1940, in ibid.
Ibid.: Kreuzberg, 6 Sept. 1940; Schoneberg, 13 Sept. 1940; and Lichtenberg, 10 Sept. 1940.
The Berlin district Horst Wessel, for instance, faced 1,600 unprocessed sterilization cases going
back as far as 1934. See Bezirksburgermeister in Horst Wessel to Oberburgermeister, 9 May
1939, in ibid.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
for each state. Pending cases were to be dropped unless they were ÔÇťparticularly
urgent and straight forward.ÔÇŁ164
To sum up, it seems clear that taken as a whole and leaving the case of
the Holocaust aside, World War II had quite different effects on the politics of
reproduction in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In the Soviet case, the war