THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANYByTiffany ChuTiffany ChuCapstone History: Hitler and Nazi GermanyJanuary 12, 2018IntroductionThe creation of the Nazi regime caused a shift in Germany’s attitude towards women. Legislation and policies were employed to reflect the change in views that the Third Reich held towards the role of women within Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Women were expected to fulfill their role as wives and mothers, and were considered a vehicle of increasing the population of racially pure Aryans. The role of women in the Third Reich was vital in creating an ideal German community where a larger, racially purer population would enhance the strength of the Nazi Party. The stated primary goal of the Nazi party under the leadership of Adolf Hitler was the unification of all German speaking people and the betterment of the Aryan race; German women played a major role in achieving this goal. In stark contrast against the more progressive culture of the Weimar Republic, many policies were passed under the government of the Third Reich that encouraged domesticity and asserted control in the lives of German women. While the Nazi doctrine elevated the role of German men, women were subject to policies that confined them to the roles of mother and spouse and excluded them from all positions of responsibility. Employment of WomenTowards the end of the Weimar Republic, unemployment rose to 6 million, meaning nearly 33% of the German working population were without jobs. Due to women being paid less during the early 1930’s, it was easier for females to obtain jobs in the workforce compared to males as “skilled women earned 66 percent of men’s wages, unskilled ones 70 percent, which explains why during the Depression nearly one man in three (29 percent) was dismissed but only one woman in every ten (11 percent).” By 1933, women comprised 37 percent of Germany’s total employed labor force. Melita Maschmann, in her memoir Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self, discusses why people, including herself, were drawn to Hitler:Part of the misery about which the adults complained daily was unemployment. One could have no conception of what it mean for four, five or even six million people to have no work… I believed the National Socialists when they promised to do away with unemployment… I believed them when they said they would reunite the German nation, which had split into more than forty political parties, and overcome the consequences of the dictated peace of Versailles. Maschmann, like many other Germans, supported Hitler, believing he could provide a solution to the high level of unemployment. Promising that he would dismiss 800,000 women from the labor market within four years if placed in power, Hitler and the Nazi Party became the largest party in the Reichstag after the election in November 1932. With the onset of the Great Depression, many called for employed married women to fulfill the role of wives and mothers and be replaced with male workers. Once the Nazi party came to power, legislation was passed through the Reichstag to decrease male unemployment such as the Marriage Loan Act. Established on June 1, 1933, the Marriage Loan Act was created by the “Law for the Reduction of Unemployment” as a major attempt by the government to decrease the number of women in the labor market while also increasing the national birth rate through the use of financial incentive tactics. Newly married couples could receive a interest free government funded loan amounting to 1,000 Reichsmarks in the form of vouchers for furniture and household items under the condition that women left their jobs and ensured they would not enter the labor market until the loan was paid off, unless the husband lost his job. These loans were only available to “racially fit” couples, contributing to the Nazi ideology of forming a pure Aryan nation. By the close of 1934, approximately 360,000 women gave up work as a result of this act. In 1936, a third of all German marriages were supported by the program, and by 1939, 42% of all German married couples were receiving government assistance. Additionally, income tax deductions increased by 15 percent for each child and women with more than six children did not receive any form of income tax. Through the use of legislation and societal pressures, the Nazi government manipulate women into leaving the workforce in order to decrease male unemployment and encourage women to conform to the role of wives and mothers. Methods of Increasing the Birth RateAlthough Germany was a leader in contraceptive devices in the 1920s, all forms of birth control became outlawed under the Third Reich with harsh penalties for violators including fines and even death. The government eventually outlawed even publicising or talking about birth control. These measures were taken not only to increase the population but also because many developers of contraception such as condoms, diaphragms and intra-uterine devices were of Jewish heritage. Abortion was prohibited as well as it was considered a “crime against the body and against the state”. Strict requirements for abortions on the basis of medical grounds were implemented and those involved in illegal pregnancy terminations were severely punished. Although banned for Aryan women deemed socially fit, as Hitler considered contraceptive use “a violation of nature, a degradation of womanhood, motherhood, and love”, abortion was encouraged for mentally handicapped women and those of non-Aryan races, including Jews, Gypsies, and women of conquered areas such as Poland. This group of “inferior” women were not only allowed to have abortions but often forcibly sterilized. Through these population policies that aggressively encouraged “racially pure” women to bear as many Aryan children as possible, Germany successfully saw an increase in the number of births, lending to the Nazi’s plan of establishing a booming population of racially pure German Aryans.Propaganda One of the initial goals of the Nazi government was to generate a larger population of pure Aryan Germans in order to form a strong nation. During the era of the Weimar Republic, the birth rate dropped from 27.5 births per thousand inhabitants in 1913 “to 25.9 in1920, and to 14.7 in 1933, then the lowest figure throughout Europe.” In an effort to change this, once the Nazi party came to power, marriage was encouraged through the use of propaganda specifically targeted towards housewives and mothers that were designed to glorify motherhood. Hitler claimed that the Nazi government was elevating the role of women by depicting mothers as heroes. This characterization was promoted through forms of communication in Germany such as art, books, speeches, and radio. One children’s story portrays an idealistic Nazi mother who believes that “though her work is difficult at times, she is happy because she is serving her nation… she claims that she does not want to be relieved of her duties because it proves her patriotism”. School textbooks even had illustrations of “perfect families” depicting a husband and wife with ten to twelve children. In a speech given on March 18, 1933, six weeks after Hitler took power, Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany, spoke about the effects of National Socialism on altering the role of women in German society:A fundamental change is necessary… The first, best, and most suitable place for the women is in the family, and her most glorious duty is to give children to her people and nation, children who can continue the line of generations and who guarantee the immortality of the nation. The woman is the teacher of the youth, and therefore the builder of the foundation of the future. If the family is the nation’s source of strength, the woman is its core and center. The best place for the woman to serve her people is in her marriage, in the family, in motherhood. This is her highest mission… the first task of a socially reformed nation must be to again give the woman the possibility to fulfill her real task, her mission in the family and as a mother.Propaganda of German motherhood was used to convey the image of the “ideal Nazi woman”, portraying German women as caring, loving mothers who were devoted to their family and the Nazi state. A form of propaganda installed in Germany in 1934 through the Ministry of Propaganda was Mother’s Day. A form of public celebration of National Socialism that took place on May 1, the birth date of Adolf Hitler’s mother, Mother’s Day evolved into a significant holiday in the Third Reich. Beginning in 1939, the Cross of Honor of the German Mother was a state decoration distributed to women based on how many children they had. There were three classes of the cross awarded to German mothers: women with four or more children received bronze, women with six or more children got silver, and women with eight or more children were personally awarded the gold cross by Hitler. Additional rights provided by the Mother’s Cross was the ability to apply for extra ration cards during wartime and skip to the front if there were lines in shops. An element of manipulation in order to incentivize women into having more children, the Cross of Honor of the German Mother served as a major tool of Nazi propaganda within the Third Reich. By encouraging the births of more children through this popular celebration of motherhood, the Nazi government established a sense of clout and admiration around childbirth, creating an idea that a large family was a sign of prosperity and nationalism.Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Reich Women’s Leader and head of the German Girls’ League, argues in her book To Be German Is to Be Strong about the role of women to be mothers in Nazi Germany: Many women were superficially mothers (in the past), but they had forgotten to subordinate themselves to the law of life, which sees the affirmation of a child as the answer of the woman to her people, and also her contribution to the right of her people to survive. Transforming the calling of motherhood to the job of motherhood left children joyless, unhappy, without strength or soul. Devilish forces under the leadership of Marxism attempted to lead German women along this path. It is therefore our task to awaken once again the sense of the divine, to make the calling to motherhood the way through which the German woman will see her calling to be mother of the nation. She will then not live her life selfishly, but rather in service to her people.Scholtz-Klink’s mentality that promoted male superiority and the importance of child-bearing was a common sentiment shared amongst members of the Nazi party and as a result, Germany as a whole.Political Programs Along with legislation and propaganda, the regime created multiple programs with the purpose of aiding mothers. Founded in 1934, Hilfswek Mutter und Kind: The Charity of Mother and Child was formed by the NS-Volkswohlfahrt Nazi welfare organization to provide “welfare and recuperation for mothers, welfare for small children and the establishment of help and advice centers”. Aid was available for all women and children deemed racially pure through the form of not only food and money, but also houses with nurses provided to tend to new mothers. While the children were looked after by a nurse, the women who had recently given birth were sent to a recuperation home were they were taught Nationalist Socialist ideology about the role of women and the proper way to raise children fit for the regime. Also created in 1934, the Reichsmutterdienst (RMD) was a Nazi training program that involved “mother schools”, training facilities that taught child care and family life to women. This program was created with the goal of boosting the amount of racially pure children in Germany as women were encouraged to produce as many offspring as possible.Created during the Weimar Republic, the Reichsbund der Kinderreichen (RdK): the National League of Large Families was a program made to increase Germany’s declining birth rate that was used to the Nazi’s advantage. Under the RdK, starting in 1993, all media, literature, or theater that portrayed large families or mothers in a negative fashion was destroyed. The program expanded to providing aid to large families with rent, shelter, and employment opportunities. These programs that aimed to mold the concept of motherhood in the minds of German women were used as a Nazi propaganda tool to achieve the goal of an expanding German population composed of a generation of racially pure Aryan children. Women were indoctrinated with National Socialist ideology about the proper role of women and methods of raising children for the nation under the guise of education. Women were taught that it was their task to educate their children in Nazi ideology and maintain the household while their husbands worked.Founded in December 1935, the Lebensborn program was another political initiative by the government in the Third Reich that adamantly encouraged women to bear babies whether or not they were married. Headed by SS leader, Heinrich Himmler, this program “established a network of homes to enable racially desired pregnant single women to bear their children in discrete and comfortable surroundings”. Single women of “good blood” were impregnated by SS men and the children were adopted by SS families. Due to belief that it was promoting impure actions, the Lebensborn was a controversial program with many Nazi leaders disapproving of the government providing aid to unwed mothers giving birth to illegitimate children. In conversation with Felix Kersten, Heinrich Himmler expresses his stance on the Lebensborn program:Only a few years ago illegitimate children were considered a shameful matter. In defiance of the existing laws I have systematically influenced the SS to consider children, irrespective of illegality or otherwise, the most beautiful, and best thing there is. Their girls consider it an honour, not a source of shame, in spite of existing legal circumstances.Himmler insisted that this program would create genetically pure children who would be adopted into honorable German families, and the Lebensborn program continued. During this period, attempts were made to destigmatize the perception of unmarried women and illegitimate children. Single mothers were no longer considered degenerates by the Nazi state and were considered superior to women who avoided having children.Women in Political and Academic Spheres Women were told that their primary role in society was raising children at home while their husbands worked and were discouraged from participating in political and academic spheres. As the Nazi party decreed that “women could be admitted to neither the Party executive nor to the Administrative Committee”, the exclusion of women from political life of Germany was heavily promoted. Political schooling for women did not involve gaining political knowledge or learning the Nazi Party programs but rather molding to an attitude that reflects the aims of the government. Under the Third Reich, society emphasized the ideals of the patriarchy as women were not expected to work after marriage or pursue a professional career. Despite the decline in unemployment after the Nazis gained power due to successful propaganda and political initiatives that persuaded women to leave their manual labor, more forceful action was taken to remove women from working in more professional spheres. In 1934, married female doctors and civil servants were dismissed and starting in 1936, women were prohibited from serving as judges or public prosecutors.Women became ineligible to perform jury service as many believed that women were not capable of using logic or reason and were solely influenced by emotion. Another goal of the Nazi government was to reduce the number of women in higher education. Higher education was available to only an exceptionally few amount of girls and from their earliest years, the notion of motherhood and importance of procreation was taught to girls in school. As Richard Evans, the author of The Third Reich in Power wrote: The reorganization of German secondary schools ordered in 1937 abolished grammar-school education for girls altogether. Girls were banned from learning Latin, a requirement for university entrance, and the Education Ministry did its best instead to steer them into domestic education, for which a whole type of girls school existed… The number of female students in higher education fell from just over 17,000 in 1932-33 to well under 6,000 in 1939.Starting in 1934, the proportion of female grammar school graduates allowed to proceed to university were ordered to not exceed more than 10 percent of that of the male graduates. Also in 1934, only 1,500 of the 10,000 girls who passed entry examinations were granted university admission. The number of women students in German universities fell significantly in the period where the Nazis were in power. While not explicitly banning women from accessing higher education, the Nazis attempted to significantly restrict women from learning about more intellectual subjects like classics and the sciences, in favor of guiding girls into “womanly” areas of study such as gardening and domestic science. There was a fear that if women were exposed to academia, it would divert them from the path of motherhood, going against Nazi ideology and the goal of repopulating Germany. Limited by a lack of higher education or career options, many women had no other choice than aligning themselves with the values of the Third Reich fulfilling their very specific role that focused on taking care of the household and producing as many children as possible for Germany.Expectations of Behavior It was very clear how young women in Nazi Germany were expected to behave. Adolf Hitler held strong views on the topic, describing his own ideal woman as “a cute, cuddly, naïve little thing – tender, sweet, and stupid.” The German Girls’ League (BDM) played an significant role in developing these values in young German girls. In his book, A Social History of the Third Reich, Richard Grunberger discusses the manner members of the German Girl’s League were taught to conduct in:They were trained in Spartan severity, taught to do without cosmetics, to dress in the simplest manner, to display no individual vanity, to sleep on hard beds, and to forgo all culinary delicacies; the ideal image of those broad-hipped figures, unencumbered by corsets, was one of radiant blondeness, crowned by hair arranged in a bun or braided into a coronet of plaits. As a negative counter-image Nazi propaganda projected the combative, man-hating suffragettes of other countries.Smoking was heavily condoned for women as there were claims that there existed a positive correlation between excessive nicotine indulgence and infertility. If caught smoking, members of the BDM could possibly be expelled from the organization.Conclusion The Nazi party did not admire motherhood or family structure but were using female’s reproductive abilities as a way to achieve their goal of building a strong, populated German nation. Through the use of propaganda aimed at motherhood, the Nazis created the ideal image of a German woman and the role mothers held in the family and Nazi state; This instilled the idea that it was the civic duty of women to produce as many children as possible in order to strengthen the country into the mentality of the German public. Due to Germany’s declining birth rate in the 1920’s, the Nazis believed the German birth rate must dramatically increase as many other eastern European countries had significantly higher birth rates. Through the use of legislation, the Nazi government manipulate women into leaving the workforce in order to decrease male unemployment and encourage women to conform to the role of wives and mothers. Due to political and societal pressures, many German women complied with the orders of the government to produce many children and the national birth rate increased. The Nazi party did not respect women or their maternal nature but had self-serving initiatives as they only seeked a strong, populated German nation in order to assert their dominance over the rest of the world. Restrictions were placed upon the lives of German women in all aspects of life, from their physical appearance to their attitude towards serving their country. Under the rule of Hitler and the Nazi party, the ideology that the ideal German woman was expected to be subservient to her husband and the Nazi government, and produce a large amount of children for the regime was created and forced upon women across the German state. BibliographyPrimary SourcesGoebbels, Joseph. “German Women.” German Propaganda Archive. 1999. Accessed January 3, 2018.Maschmann, Melita, Geoffrey Strachan, Helen Epstein, and Marianne Schweitzer Burkenroad. Account rendered: a dossier on my former self. Plunkett Lake Press, 2016.Secondary SourcesGennari, Regina. “Motherhood in Nazi Germany: The Propaganda, The Programs, The Prevarications.” Motherhood in Nazi Germany. Accessed January 10, 2018.J. Llewellyn et al. “Women in Nazi Germany.” Alpha History, 2014. Accessed January 9, 2018.”Mothers and Aryan Women.” Nazi Policies Towards Women. March 10, 2014. 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