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Abortion in the Third Reich: Ideology and the Penal System Concerning Women in the Penal Institution in Saarbrücken, Germany

With the help of almost 200 dossiers of the Penal Institution in Saarbrücken (Germany) from
the period from 1928 to 1944, I examine the situation of imprisoned German women during
the Nazi Regime. I am focusing on the cases of illegal abortions by examining individual
cases as well as common ideological and legal conceptions. The dossiers helped me to make
conclusions about the gap between ideological ideas concerning the German woman and the
complex and dark reality of life conditions for women. Insufficient medical and sexual
education along with a legal inferiority shaped the „abortion epidemics“ among lower class
women. Secondary and primary sources show that along with the gradual descent of the
whole legal system into a system of institutionalized crime, economic conditions also
influenced the catastrophic conditions for the pregnant lower class woman. The complexity of
the cases is striking: Along with the lack of understanding for the female body, economic
misery, legal problems and war, many other factors appear during the research. Pressure from
the own family, social norms and Christian morals played a role. Furthermore, men were an
essential part of this history as husbands, fathers or rapists. Moreover, abortions developed
into a business, as groups of men and women started to help other undergo abortion for
money. I also explain the most common procedure of abortion and its risks.

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