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University of Notre Dame

1. Martina Cucchiara. "Bitter Times:" The Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hitler's Germany, 1933 to 1945</h1>.

Degree: PhD, History, 2011, University of Notre Dame

This dissertation focuses on Catholic sisters in modern Germany, with a particular emphasis on Nazi Germany. In the 1930s, nearly one hundred thousand nuns lived in Germany; this figure compares to about 22,000 priests. I present a representative case study of the Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame. With about 4,000 members, the institute of the Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame was one of the largest teaching congregations in Germany in the 1930s. My work destabilizes common historical narratives that associate women’s progress in the modern era only with secularization. Catholic religious vocations in fact offered countless women an alternative to marriage, a higher education, and the chance to enter a profession at a time when opportunities for women contracted in the secular realm. But longstanding saccharine and mocking portrayals of nuns in popular culture, such as in films like The Sound of Music and Sister Act, have contributed to the dismissal of nuns in the modern era as serious historical actors. Clichés of nuns are in fact linked to the women’s contested status in patriarchal Western society that expressed common anxieties about women foregoing marriage and childbearing in favor of a life of public service in all-female communities. These age-old tensions between the social and sexual demands placed on women and women’s continued insistence on religious vocations reached a zenith in Nazi Germany. The history of Catholic sisters illuminates the contested position of the Catholic Church in Hitler’s Germany between privilege and oppression. The women worked to integrate into the Nazi state and through their labor in schools, the Poor School Sisters both legitimized and subverted the regime. Although the sisters tried to assimilate, they remained on the fringes of Hitler’s “people’s community."� When the Nazis attempted to remove nuns from the public sphere, the women learned that they could not rely on the clergy to come to their aid and they formulated an independent response to National Socialism. The Poor School Sisters relied in part on popular support to preserve their privileged position in society, and my work therefore adds new insights to key debates on Nazi Germany as a dictatorship of consent. The history of nuns exposes the extent to which Hitler depended on ordinary Germans to participate in the persecution of outsiders. For instance, in 1935 the Nazis orchestrated a series of sensational criminal legal proceedings against nuns in order to persuade Germans to turn against the women and the church. Although the Nazis used many of the same measures against nuns as against Jews, most people refused to shun the women because in their case, crucial pre-conditions for persecution, in particular latent prejudices and opportunities for self-advancement, were absent. I reject ubiquitous depictions of nuns in the scholarship as victims of Nazism. I argue instead that despite Catholic sisters’ dismissal from schools, their sphere of influence in Germany actually increased in the… Advisors/Committee Members: Kevin Spicer, Committee Member, Semion Lyandres, Committee Member, Thomas Kselman, Committee Member, Doris L. Bergen, Committee Chair.

Subjects/Keywords: National Socialism; Catholic Church; Women; Germany; Nuns

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APA (6th Edition):

Cucchiara, M. (2011). "Bitter Times:" The Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hitler's Germany, 1933 to 1945</h1>. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Notre Dame. Retrieved from https://curate.nd.edu/show/dz010p11c1w

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Cucchiara, Martina. “"Bitter Times:" The Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hitler's Germany, 1933 to 1945</h1>.” 2011. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Notre Dame. Accessed March 29, 2020. https://curate.nd.edu/show/dz010p11c1w.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Cucchiara, Martina. “"Bitter Times:" The Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hitler's Germany, 1933 to 1945</h1>.” 2011. Web. 29 Mar 2020.

Vancouver:

Cucchiara M. "Bitter Times:" The Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hitler's Germany, 1933 to 1945</h1>. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Notre Dame; 2011. [cited 2020 Mar 29]. Available from: https://curate.nd.edu/show/dz010p11c1w.

Council of Science Editors:

Cucchiara M. "Bitter Times:" The Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame in Hitler's Germany, 1933 to 1945</h1>. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Notre Dame; 2011. Available from: https://curate.nd.edu/show/dz010p11c1w

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