Historian Shelly Cline researches female Nazi guards

Historians in the News
tags: Nazi, WW II, female Nazi guards

Shelly Cline was trying to decide on a topic for her senior honors thesis at the University of Kansas when a professor suggested she write about female Nazi guards.

The idea led to a multi-year research project on how gender influenced the actions of women Nazi guards that would take Cline to Hamburg, Germany, and Ravensbruck, a World War II Nazi concentration camp that has since been converted to a youth hostel.

During her visit to the camp, Cline slept in the place that formerly served as the barracks for the women guards.

“By the time I arrived in Ravensbruck, I had already spent many years researching the women, and yet it took the experience of lightly floating in their reality to codify my approach to their story,” she said.

Cline, who earned a doctorate degree in history from KU in May and is the public historian at the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in Overland Park, said she first learned about the Holocaust as a middle school student in Belleville, a small rural community in north-central Kansas. 

The school band was rehearsing a USO-style concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of WWII.

“(The teacher) said we can’t do the music without understanding the history,” she said.

By the time she enrolled at KU in fall 2000, Cline had decided to major in history, with a particular interest in western civilization.

“Exploring issues of human nature brought me back to the Holocaust,” she said, explaining how she wanted to explore what ordinary people would do when placed in extraordinary conditions and how gender played a role in the perception of the female Nazi guards. “As I grew in my education, my perspective of these women changed.”  ...

Read entire article at The Topeka Capital-Journal

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