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Speaker: Eliisa Mailänder (Centre D’Histoire De Sciences Po, Paris)
This lecture sheds light on the lives, experiences, and violent acts carried out by a group of twenty-eight women who worked as concentration camp guards at Majdanek in occupied Poland between 1942 and 1944. None of these women were innate agents of terror. Yet, at different stages of their “careers” each complied with the destructive Nazi policies of colonization, persecution, and extermination, which empowered them to perpetrate workday violence.
National Socialism – as an ideology and modus operandi – spawned new taxonomic relationships between the sexes that are best understood by applying the categories of race, class, and gender. This intersectional approach more accurately reveals the individual responsibility of these young women, who were mostly in their twenties, in perpetrating National Socialist crimes in occupied Poland. Although the positions of authority in the camps remained firmly in the grasp of men, the case of the female camp guards at Majdanek clearly exposes that the war radically modified the relationship between the sexes in Nazi Germany: German women acquired considerable power over camp inmates and occupied civilians. These women had license to give orders and maltreat individuals – and, in some cases, to kill.
This lecture is sponsored by the William P. Goldman and Brothers Foundation