Thursday, July 19, 2018

Amy Carney's "Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS"

Amy Carney received her PhD in modern German History from Florida State University in 2010. She is currently an Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University, the Behrend College. Her research focuses on the Third Reich, specifically the SS, as well as the history of science and medicine.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her first book, Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS, and reported the following:
The number 4 – that is an essential topic on page 99.

But what is so significant about 4?

To answer that question, let’s first address a stereotype about Nazi Germany: the Nazis wanted to breed blond-haired, blue-eyed babies.

Except they didn’t.

Nazi leaders embraced the tenets of a then-valid science—eugenics. Eugenics was essentially about promoting the birth of healthy offspring. For decades, scientists and physicians in many countries, Germany included, had called upon the “best” people to have these children.

But “best” is a vague word. Eugenicists, and politicians too, defined best differently from country to country, and even from one decade to the next. In the Third Reich, “best” meant encouraging the people with the right racial credentials to have healthy Aryan babies.

But wait: Aryan isn’t the right term. That’s another popular misconception. Even Nazi leaders knew that Aryan was a linguistic term, and for the most part, they used the scientific term: Nordic. (Admittedly, most people of Nordic descent did have blond hair and blue eyes).

So, Nazi leaders wanted to use eugenics establish a racial state, and within this new community, one organization in the Nazi party, the SS, sought to be the racial model for the nation.

That, in a nutshell, is what my book is about: how SS leaders selectively applied the tenets of eugenics to encourage their men to marry racially-suitable women and to have hereditary-healthy, Nordic families.

This brings us back to the number 4.

Page 99 is a just over halfway through the book, and it is about the number 4: to be precise, 4 children. If SS families were to lead the Third Reich as its new racial aristocracy, then every SS couple needed to have at least 4 racially-healthy children. But they did not have those children, not in the 1930s, nor during the Second World War. And that’s what page 99 is about: SS men not having the requisite number of children during the war.

The lack of numbers displeased the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, and he made his displeasure known. Repeatedly.

From page 99:
…in a June 1942 speech before the leadership corps of a Waffen-SS division, [Himmler stated]: “the number of children [born to SS members] does not replace even half of those who had fallen … A terrible loss, much more terrible than the death of the men themselves.” Coming from Himmler, who had never served as a soldier, such a comment probably did not go over well with the division’s officers, who, along with their men, were fighting at the front.
But Himmler was not alone:
Other prominent [SS and party] officials encouraged Himmler’s quest to make sure that SS men produced children. First and foremost was Hitler himself, who on occasion spoke privately about the need for many children: “everyone should be persuaded that a family’s life is assured only when it has upwards of four children – I should even say, four sons.” Himmler knew of this four sons comment, and he sought to ensure that SS men were aware of it, too. Hitler also…proclaimed that the nascent German elite would descend from the SS because “only the SS practices racial selection.” He wanted this practice to continue, especially because he recognized that part of the job of the SS was to set an example.
How well did SS men and their wives set that example? Not very well. Why did they not have 4 children per family? Well, the answer to that question lies further in the book.
Learn more about Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS at the University of Toronto Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue