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13 - ‘A Birth Is Nothing Out of the Ordinary Here… ’

Mothers, Midwives and the Private Sphere in the ‘Reichsgau Wartheland’, 1939–1945*

from III - The Private at War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2019

Elizabeth Harvey
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Johannes Hürter
Affiliation:
Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin
Maiken Umbach
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Andreas Wirsching
Affiliation:
Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin
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Summary

This chapter examines birth customs and bodily experiences and practices as an important but rarely considered dimension of private life under Nazism, setting them in the context of the complex racial and ethnic hierarchies created by Nazi occupation policy in Poland. It outlines the power relations and practices associated with women giving birth in the Nazi-annexed Polish territory of the ‘Reichsgau Wartheland’, and focuses in particular on the relationship between ethnic German (Volksdeutsche) women giving birth and the German and Polish midwives they sought out to assist them. Efforts by Reich German midwives to control events in the birth room sometimes faced fierce opposition on the part of the women giving birth, who asserted their right to privacy and to choose persons they trusted to be present at the birth. While the Nazi regime sought to exclude Polish midwives from attending German women giving birth, the supply of German midwives was inadequate. Polish midwives therefore continued to practise, though their precarious status made them vulnerable to harassment by the occupation authorities and accusations by Volksdeutsche of malpractice.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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