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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2013

2 - Divorce


In 1932, Frau R. petitioned the Dortmund Landgericht (regional court) for a divorce from her husband Otto, claiming that in his drunken stupors, he threatened her with statements such as: “You whore! You swine! I will beat you to death.” Earlier that year, he had hit her in the face with his fists. Otto did not deny the charges against him but responded with the counterclaim that his wife was having an affair with another man.

In 1939, Herr Voges, a photographer, filed a petition to divorce his wife, Beate, on the grounds that she neglected the household and refused to cook meals for him. He further asserted that her multiple criticisms of the Führer and defense of Jews made her an enemy of the state (staatsfeindlich eingestellt). In her rebuttal, Frau Voges flatly denied that she had neglected her household, portraying herself as a good wife and mother whose husband had so severely abused her that she had appealed to the Führer himself for advice. While she admitted that she thought some Jews were good Germans, she emphasized that overall she supported the Third Reich.

The Dortmund Landgericht judges who heard these two cases bore responsibility for determining whether the legal conditions for divorce existed. In reaching their verdicts, the judges evaluated not just the facts presented to them in the courtroom but also their own ideas about gender and marriage and their perceptions of the “public good.”