Remasculinizing the Shirker: The Jewish Frontkämpfer under Hitler

Research paper by Michael J. Geheran, Thomas Kühne

Indexed on: 04 Oct '18Published on: 01 Sep '18Published in: Central European history


This article examines the impact of Nazi persecution on the gender identity of German-Jewish veterans of World War I. National Socialism threatened to erase everything these Jewish men had achieved and sacrificed. It sought to destroy the identity they had constructed as soldiers in the service of the Fatherland, as well as the high status they had earned as Frontkämpfer (front-line fighters) in the Great War, upon which their sense of masculinity identity rested. Although diminished and disempowered by Nazi terror, Jewish veterans were able to orient themselves toward hegemonic ideals of martial masculinity, which elevated military values as the highest expression of manhood, giving them a space to assert themselves and defy the Nazi classification Jew. For the Jewish men who fought in World War I, the Nazi years became a battle to reclaim their status and masculine honor. They believed that the manner in which they handled themselves under the Nazis was a reflection of their character: as men who had been tried and tested in the trenches, their responses to persecution communicated their identity as soldiers, as Jews, and as Germans.