For women exposed to persecution in Nazi Germany, marriage of
convenience to a foreign national presented a means of emigrating to
another country, where they were protected by their new citizenship.
Until now, this strategy of escape has not been subject of any academic research. It is time to inscribe marriages of convenience into history narratives of Exile and Holocaust studies.
In this research, a marriage of convenience will be defined
as a marriage entered into by a female who had to fear persecution
under the Nazi regime, and a foreign national. The main objective was
to derive one of the following benefits: to obtain an exit visa into a
country of exile and to gain a residence and/or work permit in the
country of exile either for herself or for her children, or to offer
protection against statelessness in case of a deprivation of
citizenship, or to avert the danger of deportation back into the �Third
During my research I have come across more than hundred cases of marriages of convenience documented in literature of exile, (auto-) biographies and interviews. There is hardly any scientific literature on the phenomena of marriage of convenience as such apart from mere descriptions of individual cases.
Due to most European countries’ patriarchal citizenship regimes, wives automatically received the citizenship of their husbands. Therefore, the research has a notable gender component: mainly women made use of marriages of convenience in order to escape persecution. So far it can be said that the persecuted women were defined as Jewish, had international networks, and were either wealthy members of the political and cultural elites, or members within oppositional political networks; sometimes these two groups overlap. These marriages originated within political and social networks and were occasionally paid for.
The countries of exile were mainly European countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and also outside Europe, such as Egypt, Palestine and the USA.
Research question and approach
The research project will analyse the complex phenomina on a
structural - i.e. legal conditions and institutional practices - and on
an individual level – case studies of couples and the
significance of fictitious marriages as means of escape and survival.
By combining the structural and the individual level, both the
framework and the individual partners in these fictitious marriages can
be made visible.
The interpretation of data will be done on the basis of intersectional theory. The topic making use of the categories such as gender, class, nationality/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and religion/world view) is very well suited for an intersectional analysis to learn more about different dimensions of inequality.
With the elaboration of quantitative (statistical analysis of fictitious marriages couples collected in a database) and qualitative methods (biographical methods, interpretation of data found by archive research) the proposed project will scrutinize the question of women’s agency as an active part in resistance and escaping the Nazi-regime.
2014 a one-year project started that is funded by
“Future Fund of the Republic of Austria”. The focus
is to conduct a quantitative analysis of the marriages of Jews listed
in the register of marriages of the Viennese Jewish Community during
the first half of 1938. These data will be used to find more cases of
suspicious marriages or some that point towards it and suggest further
The research project is funded by:
2014: Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich
2015: Nationalfonds der Republik Österreich, Edith Saurer Stipendium
2016: Hochschuljubiläumsstiftung der Stadt Wien