2019 HIST 298 Paper Proposal- “Soviet Women and Hitler’s Furies on the Eastern Front 1941-1945”

2019 HIST 298 Paper Proposal- “Soviet Women and Hitler’s Furies on the Eastern Front 1941-1945”

Little to no historiography on the experiences and roles of Soviet women during the war time exist. However, there are a couple scholarly works discussing the involvement of Soviet women as collaborators to German occupiers.[1] The aim for my research is to discuss the roles of Soviet women on the Eastern Front and their contributions to the war efforts between 1941-1945. First, I will briefly give context on the tensions in the East that gave way to Operation Barbarossa. Next, I will review the roles of women on both sides (Nazi/Soviet women) during the war and their contribution to the war effort. Then, I will review the female collaborators that aided the Germans, and their possible motives for doing so.

The primary source base I am using is the collection of World War II documents from The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. This collection contains many primary sources from World War II relating to law, history, and diplomacy such as agreements, treatises, charters, etc. from 1938-1947. I will also be using and collecting more sources from The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online, namely, interviews. For this research, the primary sources I will be reviewing include the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, an interview of a Soviet woman, and Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II.

The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was signed on August 23, 1939 and was an agreement between Germany and Soviet Union not to be violent with each other, nor would they assist a third party in harming the other. They also agreed to stay in contact and share information with each other and to resolve conflict in a friendly manner. The treaty was meant to last 10 years, and on the last year before it was up, this contract was meant to be reviewed again and extended for an additional 5 years if neither party objected.

The interview with a Soviet woman takes place in the 1950s and the interviewer asks her about certain issues of Soviet society “which are not touched on in other of our interviews but which will be of general interest for analysis at a later stage.”[2] Throughout the interview, the interviewer asks the woman about parts of her life. The interview takes place in 1951, but the interviewer covers parts of her life throughout the late 1930’s and into the 40’s, covering the years during the Eastern Front occupation. This source will give insight on the life and opinion of a woman who experienced Soviet society during the war time and the roles she assumed.

Lastly, Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War. Her book chronicles the experiences of hundreds of Soviet women during the war effort on the front lines, home front, and in occupied territories. Alexievich collected these women’s stories and compiled them into a book that reveals details of what their experiences were like. This source will be useful in examining the soviet women’s roles during war time, and add details to our understanding of everyday life during those years.

Secondary source book Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower focuses on individual women who collaborated with the Germans and their transformations within the “inner workings and outer landscapes of the Holocaust,” and argues that the women in her study are extremely diverse, coming from different socio-economic stations and ages.[3] Similarly, in Rudakova’s article, the author argues that there is not one stereotypical female collaborator, but rather, that the collaborators came from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and collaborated with the Germans for various different reasons.[4] Rudakova explores the women’s motivations behind collaborating noting that some voluntarily collaborate while others were coerced into doing so.[5] These two sources are used to understand the situation of the woman collaborators to better understand their motives.

This research is important because there is not much historiography on the roles of women during the war, despite them being half of the population. The history of the world has always focused on the male side or perspective but it is vital to recognize the other half of the population that also contributed and experienced these events. The Germans invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, broke the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, and launched Operation Barbarossa, affecting the lives of millions of Soviets and Jewish Soviets in many ways. During this occupation women assumed roles that contributed to the war effort. However, there were also women working against it who collaborated with the German invaders, and gave their neighbors up, aiding the occupiers in their mission. This research will add insight on the roles and participation of women during war time, and add to the growth of women’s history.


Primary Sources:

Alexievich, Svetlana. The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II.

Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Random House, 2017.

“Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule B, Vol. 15, Case 145 (interviewer H.B.).

Widener Library, Harvard University.” The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System.


“Treaty of Nonaggression Between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.’ The

Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy.            http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/nonagres.asp

Secondary Sources:

Geissbühler, Simon. “‘He Spoke Yiddish Like a Jew’: Neighbor’s Contribution to the Mass

Killing of Jews in Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia, July 194.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 28, no. 3 (2014): 430-449.

Hartman, Christian. “Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany’s War in the East.” Oxford

University Press, 2013.

Kallis, Aristotle. “‘Licence’ and Genocide in the East: Reflections on Localised Eliminaltionist

Violence during the First Stages of ‘Operation Barbarossa’ (1941).” Studies in Ethnicity

and Nationalism 7, no. 3 (2007): 6-23.

Kay, Alex J. “Transition to Genocide, July 1941: Einsatzkommando 9 and the Annihilation

of Soviet Jewry.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 27, no.3 (2013): 411-442.

Koch, H.W. “Hitler’s ‘Programme’ and the Genesis of Operation ‘Barbarossa’.” The

Historical Journal 26, no. 4 (1983): 891-920.

Kuromiya, H. “World War II, Jews, and Post-War Soviet Society.” Kritika: Explorations in

Russian and Eurasian History 3, no. 3 (200): 521-531.

Lower, Wendy. Hitler’s Furies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Matthäus, Jürgen. “What About the ‘Ordinary Men’? The German Order Police and the

Holocaust in the Occupied Soviet Union.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 10, no. 2

(1996): 134-150.

Priemel, Kim Christian. “Occupying Ukraine: Great Expectations, Failed Opportunities, and

the Spoils of War, 1941-1943.” Central European History 48, no. 1 (2015): 31-52.

Rich, Norman. Hitler’s War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion.

New York: Norton, 1973.

Robert W. Thurston and Bernd Bonwetsch, ed. The People’s War: Response II in the Soviet

Union. University of Illinios Press, 2000.

Rudakova, Daria. “Soviet women Collaborators in Occupied Ukraine 1941-1945.” Australian

Journal of Politics & History 62, no. 4 (2016): 529-545.

[1] See Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): 2013, and Daria Rudakova, “Soviet Women Collaborators in Occupied Ukraine 1941-1945,” Australian Journal of Politics & History 62, no. 4 (2016): 529-545.

[2] “Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule B, Vol. 15, Case 145 (interviewer H.B.), Widener Library, Harvard University.” The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. (1951): 3, https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:5387897$1i.

[3] Lower, Hitler’s Furies, 9.

[4] Rudakova, “Soviet Women Collaborators in Occupied Ukraine 1941-1945,” 529.

[5] Rudakova, “Soviet Women Collaborators in Occupied Ukraine 1941-1945,” 532.