2/6 Michael David-Fox @ TAMEW: ""Sex and Civilization on the Eastern Front"

Transnational Approaches to Modern Europe Workshop



Wed, February 6, 5:00-6:30pm

John Hope Franklin room, SSRB 224


Michael David-Fox

Professor of History, Georgetown University


Sex and Civilization on the Eastern Front:

Comrade Liuisia and the Komsomol Underground in Occupied Smolensk


Discussant: Eleonora Gilburd, Assistant Professor of History, University of Chicago


This paper analyzes ego-documents and contemporary interviews of Young Communist League women working underground in German-occupied Smolensk on the Eastern Front in World War II. No other aspect of the Wehrmacht occupation of 1941-1943 was as fraught, or taboo, as the sexual relationships between German men and Russian women. These previously unavailable testimonies offer a window into the experiences of Liusia Madziuk, whose knowledge of German allowed for extensive interactions with Germans, and her friend, Asia Shnaiderman, who concealed her Jewish identity as she worked in the city’s communist underground. The public spectacle of Nazis consorting with young Russian women dressed up in their finest clothing and speaking pigeon German evoked strong sentiments on both sides because it stood in as a metaphor for conquest and domination. As a result, German treatment of women became a central issue in a cross-cultural encounter between Germans and Russians in Smolensk that occurred in the midst of the hardships and atrocities of the war. It fed a broader, consequential discussion of which civilization was superior, Germany’s “New Europe” or Russian culture in its socialist or Stalin-era incarnation.


The paper is now available on our website and Canvas. Contact us if you need the password to access the paper. Dinner will follow, RSVP required (let us know your food restrictions, please).