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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2009

Manchester Metropolitan University
Department of History and Economic History, Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building, Rosamond Street West, Manchester, M15


This article sets out to explore the extent and to test the limits of the history of sexuality in twentieth-century Germany. It examines the ways in which sexuality can be explored from above and below. Drawing on medical-legal definitions of sexuality, feminist debates about sexuality, the science of sexology, and advice literature, the article sets out the state of debate together with ways that it might develop in the future. Arguing in favour of a milieu-specific history of sexuality, it suggests ways that the study of youth cultures and teenage magazines together with everyday, oral history and biographical approaches might help to arrive at this. It then goes on to chart new approaches, particularly with regard to sexuality in the Third Reich, and suggests ways that these reshape our understanding of sexuality in post-war Germany, East and West. Arguing against a reductive emphasis on a society being either ‘pro-’ or ‘anti-sex’ and calling for a clearer definition of what is meant by ‘sexual liberalization’, the article points to a more multi-layered and contradictory understanding of sexuality, which is still in the process of being written.

Historiographical Reviews
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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3 This did not prevent the continued development of lesbian/gay subcultures. See Adèle Meyer, Lila Nächte: Die Damenklubs der Zwanziger Jahre (Cologne, 1981).

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17 Ibid., p. 373.

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21 Wilhelm Karl Bach, Über die Behandlung des Sexuellen in der Schule (Bielefeld, 1907).

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35 Kaspar Maase, Bravo Amerika: Erkundungen zur Jugendkultur der Bundesrepublik in den fünfziger Jahren (Hannover, 1992); Erica Carter, How German is she? Postwar West German reconstruction and the consuming woman (Ann Arbor, MI, 1997).

36 Junge Welt, 18/19 June 1955.

37 ‘Jungen und Mädchen in einem Zelt?’, Junge Welt, 25 May 1956.

38 Elizabeth Heineman, ‘Sexuality and Nazism: the doubly unspeakable’, in Dagmar Herzog, ed., Sexuality and German fascism (New York, NY, and Oxford, 2005), pp. 22–66.

39 Ibid., p. 65.

40 Annette Timm, ‘Sex with a purpose: prostitution, venereal disease, and militarized masculinity in the Third Reich’, in Herzog, ed., Sexuality and German fascism, pp. 223–55, at p. 223.

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44 Geoffrey Giles, ‘The denial of homosexuality: same-sex incidents in Himmler's SS and police’, in Herzog, ed., Sexuality and German fascism, pp. 256–90.

45 Heineman, ‘Sexuality and Nazism’, pp. 54ff; Sophinette Becker, ‘Zur Funktion der Sexualität im Nationalsozialismus’, Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung, 14 (2001), pp. 130–45.

46 Atina Grossmann, ‘Victims, villains and survivors: gendered perceptions and self-perceptions of Jewish displaced persons in occupied postwar Germany’, in Herzog, ed., Sexuality and German fascism, pp. 291–318.

47 Dagmar Herzog, Sex after fascism: memory and morality in twentieth-century Germany (Princeton, NJ, 2005), p. 15.

48 Gordon, ‘Fascism and the female form’, pp. 167ff; Michael Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge, MA, 2004), pp. 95ff.

49 Hans Peter Bleuel, Strength through joy: sex and society in Nazi Germany (London, 1973), pp. 92ff; Peter Reichel, Der Schöne Schein des Dritten Reiches: Faszination und Gewalt des Faschismus (Munich, 1991); Irene Guenther, Nazi chic? Fashioning women in the Third Reich (Oxford and New York, NY, 2004).

50 Herzog, Sex after fascism, pp. 5ff, 72.

51 Ibid., p. 5.

52 Ibid., p. 183.

53 Ibid., p. 2.

54 Ibid., pp. 14–15.

55 Bleuel, Strength through joy.

56 It is necessary to read an earlier article to find out who these are. Herzog, Dagmar, ‘Hubris and hypocrisy, incitement and disavowal: sexuality and German fascism’, Journal of the History of Sexuality, 11 (2002), pp. 321, at pp. 5ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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58 Ibid., pp. 2, 4, 11.

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70 Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany, p. 168. A similar tone can be found in many of the GDR's internal reports. See, for example, ‘SED-Stadtleitung Leipzig: Teilbericht zur Analyse über Jugendarbeit in der Stadt Leipzig – gefährdete Jugendliche (Leipzig, am 11.1.1965)’, Saxon State Archive Leipzig, iv a-5/01/269, pp. 9ff.

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72 Herzog, Sex after fascism, p. 50.

73 William Combs, The voice of the SS: a history of the SS Journal ‘Das Schwarze Korps’ (New York, NY, Berne, and Frankfurt am Main, 1986), pp. 333ff.

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84 Herzog, Sex after fascism, pp. 206, 218.

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86 Herzog, Sex after fascism, p. 37.

87 Ibid., p. 205.

88 Discussion during the conference on ‘Beiträge zur Geschlechtserziehung in der Schule’, Pädagogik Beiheft, 2 (1962), at p. 34.

89 Herzog, Sex after fascism, p. 40; Christine Eifler, ‘“ … es schützt Dich mein Gewehr”: Frauenbildern in der NVA Propaganda’, in Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Frauenforschung der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, ed., Unter Hammer und Zirkel: Frauenbiographien vor dem Hintergrund ostdeutscher Sozialisationserfahrungen (Pfaffenweiler, 1995), pp. 269–76; Christine Eifler, ‘“Ewig unreif”: Geschlechtsrollenklischees in der Armeerundschau’, in Simone Barck, Martina Langermann, and Siegfried Lokatis, eds., Zwischen ‘Mosaik’ und ‘Einheit’. Zeitschriften in der DDR (Berlin, 1999), pp. 180–8.

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94 Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary modernism: technology, culture, and politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge, 1984).

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97 Evans, Jennifer, ‘The moral state: men, mining and masculinity in the early GDR’, German History, 23 (2005), pp. 355–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Josie McLellan, based at the University of Bristol, is set to publish a number of important and ground-breaking articles on the topics of erotica and nude photography in the GDR. McLellan, Josie, ‘State socialist bodies: East German nudism from ban to boom’, Journal of Modern History, 79 (March 2007), pp. 4879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar