Claudia Koonz
Claudia Ann Koonz is an American feminist historian of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. Her principal area of interest is the experience of women during the Nazi era.

Career overview

Koonz first came to fame in 1969 with a dissertation on Walther Rathenau
Walther Rathenau
Walther Rathenau was a German Jewish industrialist, politician, writer, and statesman who served as Foreign Minister of Germany during the Weimar Republic...

. She was awarded a PhD from Rutgers University
Rutgers University
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey , is the largest institution for higher education in New Jersey, United States. It was originally chartered as Queen's College in 1766. It is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine Colonial colleges founded before the American...

 in 1970. She has taught at the College of the Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross
The College of the Holy Cross is an undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA...

 in Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

 and at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...


Koonz is best known for documenting the appeal of Nazism to German women, and that German women played an enthusiastic role in supporting the Nazi regime. Koonz has established that the leaders of German feminist groups were happy to go along with Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung , meaning "coordination", "making the same", "bringing into line", is a Nazi term for the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control and tight coordination over all aspects of society. The historian Richard J...

 that coerced Germans into following Nazi policy. Koonz has noted that female supporters of the Nazis accepted the Nazi division of the sexes into a public sphere for men and a private sphere for women. Koonz has claimed that women involved in resistance activities were more likely to escape notice owing to the 'masculine' values of the Third Reich. Another notable claim made by Koonz is that women who most successfully asserted themselves in the Third Reich were also the women who violated the norms of civilized society such as Ilse Koch
Ilse Koch
Ilse Koch, née Köhler , was the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, commandant of the Nazi concentration camps Buchenwald from 1937 to 1941, and Majdanek from 1941 to 1943...

. Koonz maintains that only women who were opposed to Nazism 100% can be considered to be a resistance; those women who protested against sterilization and the Action T4
Action T4
Action T4 was the name used after World War II for Nazi Germany's eugenics-based "euthanasia" program during which physicians killed thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination"...

 program, but who did not protest the deportation of Jews to death camps are not considered by Koonz to be part of the resistance. Koonz's views have often had her pitted against Gisela Bock
Gisela Bock
Gisela Bock is a German feminist historian. She studied in Freiburg, Berlin, Paris and Rome. She took her doctorate at the Free University Berlin in 1971 and her Habilitation at the Technical University Berlin in 1984...

 in battle some have referred to as the Historikerinnenstreit (Women Historians' Dispute).


  • co-written with Renate Bridenthal "Beyond Kinder, Küche, Kirche: Weimar Women in Politics and Work" from Liberating Women's History: Theoretical and Critical Essays edited by Berenice Carroll, 1976.
  • "Conflicting Allegiances: Political Ideology and Women Legislators in Weimar Germany" pages 663-683 from Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Volume 1, 1976.
  • co-edited with Renate Bidenthal Becoming Visible: Women in European History, 1977, revised edition 1987.
  • Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family, and Nazi Politics, 1986.
  • "Ethical Dilemmas and Nazi Eugenics: Single-Issue Dissent in Religious Contexts" pages S8-S31 from Journal of Modern History, Volume 64, 1992.
  • The Nazi Conscience Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003

Further sources

  • Gordon, Linda "Review of Mothers in the Fatherland" pp. 97–105 from Feminist Review, Volume 27, 1987.
  • Mason, Tim
    Timothy Mason
    Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany.-Life and work:He was born in Birkenhead, the child of school-teachers and was educated at Birkenhead School and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford from 1971–1984 and was twice married. He helped to found the...

    "Review of Mothers in the Fatherland" pp. 200–202 from History Workshop Journal, Volume 26, Autumn 1988.
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