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German League of Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel)

German League of Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel)


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In 1930 the Bund Deutscher Mädel (German League of Girls) was formed as the female branch of the Hitler Youth movement. It was set up under the direction of Hitler Youth leader, Baldur von Schirach. There were two general age groups: the Jungmädel, from ten to fourteen years of age, and older girls from fifteen to twenty-one years of age. All girls in the BDM were constantly reminded that the great task of their schooling was to prepare them to be "carriers of the... Nazi world view". (1)

The historian Cate Haste has pointed out: "The leadership immediately set about organizing youth into a coherent body of loyal supporters. Under Baldur von Schirach, himself only twenty-five at the time, the organization was to net all young people from ages ten to eighteen to be schooled in Nazi ideology and trained to be the future valuable members of the Reich. From the start, the Nazis pitched their appeal as the party of youth, building a New Germany.... Hitler intended to inspire youth with a mission, appealing to their idealism and hope." (2) Schirach promoted the idea of the German Girls' League as "youth leading youth". In fact, its leaders were part of "an enormous bureaucratised enterprise, rather than representative of an autonomous youth culture." (3)

The duties demanded of the German League of Girls (BDM) were regular attendance at club premises and camps run by the Nazi Party. Christa Wolf joined the BDM in Landsberg. Her unit used to meet every Wednesday and Saturday. She remembers the importance of singing songs at meetings. This included the following: "Onward, onward, fanfares are joyfully blaring. Onward, onward, youth must be fearless and daring. Germany, your light shines true, even if we die for you." (4)

According to Richard Grunberger the ideal "German League of Girls type exemplified early nineteenth-century notions of what constituted the essence of maidenhood. Girls who infringed the code by perming their hair instead of wearing plaits or the 'Grechen' wreath of braids had it ceremoniously shaved off as punishment. As a negative counter-image Nazi propaganda projected the combative, man-hating suffragettes of other countries." (5)

The German League of Girls was not a popular organization until the election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor and in 1932 only had 9,000 members. (6) Traudl Junge was one of those who joined after the election: "In school and generally it was celebrated as a liberation, that Germany could have hope again. I felt great joy then. It was portrayed at school as a turning point in the fate of the Fatherland. There was a chance that German self-confidence could grow again. The words 'Fatherland' and 'German people' were big, meaningful words which you used carefully - something big and grand. Before, the national spirit was depressed, and it was renewed, rejuvenated, and people responded very positively." (7)

Melita Maschmann joined the German League of Girls on 1st March 1933 in secret because she knew her parents would disapprove. Like the other girls she was ordered to read Mein Kampf but she never finished the book. She argued that the BDM gave her a sense of purpose and belonging. Maschmann admitted that "she devoted herself to it night and day, to the neglect of her schooling and the distress of her parents". (8)

Elsbeth Emmerich was recruited by her school: "In High School, I became a member of the Jungmädel (Young Girls). We were all given the entry forms in class to fill in there and then, and told to take it home for our parents' signature.... I enjoyed being in the Jungmädel. We had to attend classes after school and learn about Adolf Hitler and his achievements. We did community work, singing to soldiers in hospitals and making little presents for them like bookmarks, or poems written out neatly. We also went on hikes and collected leaves and herbs for the war effort." (9)

Hedwig Ertl enjoyed the activities organized by BDM. "There were no class differences. You went on trips together without paying for it, and you were given exactly the same amount of pocket money as those who had lots of money and now you could go riding and skating and so on, when before you couldn't afford it. You could go to the cinema for 30 pfennings. We could never go to the cinema before, and suddenly things that had been impossible were there for us. That was incredible, those beautiful Nazi movies." (10)

Marianne Gärtner joined the local branch in Potsdam. This involved taking the oath: "I promise always to do my duty in the Hitler Youth, in love and loyalty to the Führer." Other mottos she was taught included: "Führer, let's have your orders, we are following you!", "Remember that you are a German!" and "One Reich, one people, one Führer!". As she later admitted: "I was, however, not thinking of the Führer, nor of serving the German people, when I raised my right hand, but of the attractive prospect of participating in games, sports, hiking, singing, camping and other exciting activities away from school and the home.... I acquired membership, and forthwith attended meetings, joined ball games and competitions, and took part in weekend hikes; and I thought that whether we were sitting in a circle around a camp fire or just rambling through the countryside and singing old German folk songs." (11)

Hildegard Koch was encouraged to join the BDM at the age of 15. A friend of the family, Gustav Motze, was a member of the Sturmabteilung (SA). He told Hildegard's father: "Your Hilde is a real Hitler girl, blonde and strong - just the type we need... Don't let her come under the degenerate influence of the Jews, make her join the BDM." Her father was sympathetic to the ideas of the Nazi Party but her mother, disliked the movement: "She was terribly old-fashioned and full of Christianity and all that sort of thing." Despite her mother's protests, Hildegard joined the BDM in 1933. (12)

The duties demanded of the BDM included regular attendance at club premises and camps run by the Nazi Party. Christa Wolf attended one in Landsberg: "In the Jungmädel camp, the leader or her deputies inspect the dormitory, the chests of drawers, the washrooms, every morning. One time the hairbrush of a squad leader was publicly displayed because it was full of long hairs. That was no way for a hair-brush to look if it belonged to a Jungmädel leader, the camp leader said in the evening roll call." From that moment on Christa "hid her hair-brush in the soap compartment of her trunk, because she couldn't manage to pick every last hair from her brush... because she didn't want the camp leader, of all people, to dislike her." (13)

Elsbeth Emmerich did not enjoy going away with the BDM: "We even went away to camp. I thought this might be exciting, but it wasn't like I imagined, even though it was right in the country in some lovely woodland. I was shouted at within minutes of arriving, for not picking up a bit of eggshell I'd dropped. We had to get up early each morning, standing to attention in the freezing cold and singing whilst the flag was being hoisted. Then someone stole my purse. My holiday was mainly doing what other people told you to all the time, like standing to attention and raising our arms for the Sieg Heil." (14)

Renate Finckh was only 10 years-old when she joined the BDM. Both her parents were active members of the Nazi Party. "At home no one really had time for me... at the BDM I finally found an emotional home, a safe refuge, and shortly thereafter also a space in which I was valued... I was filled with pride and joy that someone needed me for a higher purpose." Renate was also devoted to her leader, a teenager only three years older than herself. "We Hitler girls belonged together, we formed an elite within the German Volk community." (15)

Great pressure was put on young girls to join the BDM and by 1936 it had a membership of over 2 million. (16) In some industrial areas girls had some success in not joining the BDM. Effie Engel lived in Dresden: "We were constantly getting enlistment orders in school for the BDM. You were supposed to report and join up... In our area we had a lot of workers, left-wing oriented workers, there were many students in my class who said that they preferred sports and that they would never join up. In the end, almost half the class refused to join. So my class succeeded in this. But that hardly was possible for the classes after us, as they were put under a lot of pressure to join." (17)

In 1934, Trude Mohr, a former postal worker, was appointed as the leader of the BDM. In a speech soon after taking control of the organisation she argued: "We need a generation of girls which is healthy in body and mind, sure and decisive, proudly and confidently going forward, one which assumes its place in everyday life with poise and discernment, one free of sentimental and rapturous emotions, and which, for precisely this reason, in sharply defined femininity, would be the comrade of a man, because she does not regard him as some sort of idol but rather as a companion! Such girls will then, by necessity, carry the values of National Socialism into the next generation as the mental bulwark of our people." (18)

All girls in the BDM were told to dedicate themselves to comradeship, service and physical fitness for motherhood. In parades they wore navy blue skirts, white blouses, brown jackets and twin pigtails. (19) Parents complained about the time their children were forced to spend outside the home in activities organized by the BDM and the Hitler Youth. Its leader, Baldur von Schirach, argued "that the Hitler Youth has called up its children to the community of National Socialist youth so that they can give the poorest sons and daughters of our people something like a family for the first time." (20)

These arguments upset many parents. They felt that the Nazi Party was taking over control their children. Hildegard Koch constantly came into conflict with her mother over her membership of the BDM: "After all, we were the new youth; the old people just had to learn to think in the new way and it was our job to make them see the ideals of the new nationalised Germany". (21)

Members of the BDM later recalled that they welcomed the extra power they had over their parents: "As a young person, you were taken seriously. You did things which were important... Your dependence on your parents was reduced, because all the time it was your work for the Hitler Youth that came first, and your parents came second... All the time you were kept busy and interested, and you really believed you had to change the world." (22)

Susanne von der Borch was another girl whose mother did not want her to join the BDM. "My mother went early on, before Hitler was elected, to a political rally and she listened to him yelling. She was convinced that something terrible was happening to us. As a child, I could not judge. I was simply besotted by it." After she joined the BDM her parents called her our "Little Nazi". (23)

Ingeborg Drewitz joined the BDM in 1936 without daring to tell her parents. "Why? Well, because of the things that one thinks at age thirteen: I wanted to rebel against my parents at all cost because they disliked everything that everyone else liked." Gerda Zorn also secretly joined the BDM, even though her parents were members of the German Communist Party. She later recalled that she enjoyed the friendship, outings, and excitement "at working for a great cause". (24)

Other girls like Helga Schmidt wanted to join the BDM but her parents would not let her: "We were at first wild with enthusiasm about the Nazi regime. There was, of course, the Hitler Youth, which my father was against. Therefore, even though the school exerted a bit of pressure on us to join, I was among those who were not in the League of German Girls (BDM). And it was not pleasant for the older child to have to stand on the sidelines, because that is not one's inclination." (25)

Karma Rauhut, who attended a private school in Berlin, developed a hostility to the Nazi Party and refused to join the BDM. "One really had to be in the BDM. The trick was that I went to school (a private girls' school her mother had attended) in the city of Berlin, but lived so to speak in another district, so they never figured it out, because they had no communication with each other. In my village I always said more or less, I'm in it in Berlin. And at school I always said, I'm in the BDM at home. One could always create certain freedoms, right? But naturally the thing was, I did not have a uniform. And when there were big marches or school festivals, the teacher always said, Put on a black skirt and a white blouse, so it's not so noticeable. This odd jacket and the scarf and this leather scarf holder and the shoes, I would have died rather than put it on." (26)

Susanne von der Borch claimed that her school work suffered because of her BDM activities: "I only managed to get to the end of the school year with the help of my classmates. I was a very bad pupil. I was only good at sport, biology and sketching, I was very bad at all the rest... And the school didn't dare do anything so I had my freedom and didn't go to school if I didn't want to." She was told in the BDM and at school that Germans deserved to control the world: "We are the master race... The world presented to us was filled only with beautiful people, master race people, full of sport and health. And, well, I was proud about that, and inspired by it. I would call this a grand seduction of youth." (27)

The girls in the BDM spent a lot of time marching through the streets. Inge Scholl, who later joined the White Rose resistance group, that the German people were mesmerized by the "mysterious power" of "closed ranks of marching youths with banners waving, eyes fixed straight ahead, keeping time to drumbeat and song". The sense of fellowship was "overpowering" for they "sensed that there was a role for them in a historic process". (28)

Hildegard Koch later pointed out that she always appeared in the front line. "The Gau Leader herself had picked me from amongst hundreds of girls. I was half a head taller than the tallest of them and had wonderful long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I had to step out in front of the others and the Gau Leader pointed to me and said: 'That is what a Germanic girl should look like; we need young people like that.' Once I was photographed and my picture appeared on the tide page of the BDM journal Das deutsche Mädel." Koch was also successful at fund-raising. "When we had any street collections my box was always full first and I worked on the other girls to buck up so that our group always made a good impression wherever we went." (29)

Karma Rauhut was one of those who refused to join the BDM. The headmaster of her school called her to his office and said: "Well, my dear child, I cannot give you your diploma. And I must tell you, you will never amount to anything. You are not in the BDM, you don't join the Party... You might become a worker, but you'll never be anything." Karma replied: "Well, the world is round. It revolves." The headmaster was furious with this comment and reported her to the authorities. (30)

Ruth Mendel from Frankfurt remembers seeing a lot of posters in Nazi Germany advertising the BDM and the Hitler Youth: "They had these cute little girls with these blond pigtails and a couple of freckles on their noses and that was the ideal German girl. And they had these cute boys for the Hitler Youth. They were plastered all over." (31) This included on the walls of churches who objected to posters that depicted lightly clad BDM members. (32)

The girls in the BDM were required to pass certain physical tests. They had to run 60 metres in twelve seconds, to jump more than 2.5 metres, throw a ball over a distance of 20 metres, swim 100 metres and complete a two hours route march. Other physical requirements included somersaulting and tightrope walking. (33)

Susanne von der Borch was considered to be the "ideal German girl" as she was "tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed and mad about sport". She pointed out: "This was my world. It fitted my personality because I had always been very sporty and I liked being with my friends... I always wanted to get out of the house. So this was the best excuse for me. I couldn't be at home, because there was always something happening... riding, or skating, or summer camp. I was never at home." (34)

Members of the BDM spent a lot of time fund-raising. This upset some people: "What I considered negative was the street collections, which were held for one reason or another nearly every week. Collections were held for this and that - and in a rather pushy way. And house wardens were assigned to go around from house to house with lists for collections... The notion was that, whoever doesn't donate is the enemy." (35) Hildegard Koch enjoyed this activity. "When we had any street collections my box was always full first and I worked on the other girls to buck up so that our group always made a good impression wherever we went." (36)

Adolf Hitler had strong views on how young women should behave. He described his own ideal woman as "a cute, cuddly, naïve little thing - tender, sweet, and stupid." (37) This is why he was attracted to Eva Braun. According to Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962): "Hitler became genuinely fond of Eva. Her empty-headedness did not disturb him; on the contrary, he detested women with views on their own." (38)

Hitler also disliked women who smoked and wore make-up. He made it clear about how young women in Nazi Germany should behave. The American journalist, Wallace R. Deuel, pointed out that he read in the Völkischer Beobachter, a newspaper controlled by the Nazi Party, that: "The most unnatural thing we can encounter in the streets is a German woman, who, disregarding all laws of beauty, has painted her face with Oriental warpaint." (39)

The German League of Girls played an important role in developing these values: "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." (40)

There was also a campaign against young women who smoked. Medical experts wrote articles claiming there was a positive correlation between excessive nicotine indulgence and infertility. One report argued that smoking harmed the ovaries and that a marriage between heavy smokers only produced 0.66 children on average compared to the normal average of three. (41)

If caught smoking, members of the German League of Girls were in danger of being expelled. Hedwig Ertl, a loyal member of the BDM, fully supported these values: "The German woman must be faithful. She must not wear make-up and she should not smoke. She must be industrious and honest and she must want to have lots of children and be motherly." (42)

There was also a campaign in German newspapers against the idea of wearing trousers. Women were described as those "trouser-wenches with Indian warpaint". Magda Goebbels liked wearing trousers and she gained the support of her husband, Joseph Goebbels, to defend like-minded women: "Whether women wear slacks is no concern of the public. During the colder season women can safely wear trousers, even if the Party mutinies against this in one place or another. The bigotry bug should be wiped out." (43)

Adolf Hitler argued that the BDM should play its role in persuading women to have more children. "Good men with strong character, physically and psychically healthy, are the ones who should reproduce extra generously... Our women's organizations must perform the necessary job of enlightenment.... They must get a regular motherhood cult going and in it there must be no difference between women who are married... and women who have children by a man to whom they are bound in friendship.... On special petition men should be able to enter a binding marital relationship not only with one woman, but also with another, who would then get his name without complications." (44)

The Nazi government encouraged the mixing of the sexes. The Ulm district of the Hitler Youth pointed out the organization of mixed social evenings with dancing "had a more beneficial effect on the relationship between boys and girls than any number of exhortations and lectures". (45) In 1936, when approximately 100,000 members of the Hitler Youth and the BDM attended the Nuremberg Rally, 900 girls between fifteen and eighteen returned home pregnant. Apparently, the authorities failed to establish paternity in 400 of these cases. (46)

The daughter of the American ambassador in Germany, Martha Dodd, argued: "Young girls from the age of ten onward were taken into organizations where they were taught only two things: to take care of their bodies so they could bear as many children as the state needed and to be loyal to National Socialism. Though the Nazis have been forced to recognize, through the lack of men, that not all women can get married." (47)

Hildegard Koch could not understand why her mother was so upset by these stories of young girls getting pregnant. "After all, we were the new youth; the old people just had to learn to think in the new way and it was our job to make them see the ideals of the new nationalised Germany. When I told her about the camp with the Hitler Youth she was shocked. Well, suppose a young German youth and a German girl did come together and the girl gave a child to the Fatherland - what was so very wrong in that? When I tried to explain that to her she wanted to stop me going on in the BDM - as if it was her business! Duty to the Fatherland was more important to me and, of course, I took no notice." (48)

Isle McKee wrote about her experiences in the German League of Girls in her autobiography, Tomorrow the World (1960): "We were told from a very early age to prepare for motherhood, as the mother in the eyes of our beloved leader and the National Socialist Government was the most important person in the nation. We were Germany's hope in the future, and it was our duty to breed and rear the new generation of sons and daughter. These lessons soon bore fruit in the shape of quite a few illegitimate small sons and daughters for the Reich, brought forth by teenage members of the League of German Maidens. The girls felt they had done their duty and seemed remarkably unconcerned about the scandal." (49)

Members of the BDM went to camp and hostels for long periods of time. They also worked on farms together. William L. Shirer, an American journalist, visited these camps. "The girls lived sometimes in the farmhouses and often in small camps in rural districts from which they were taken by truck early each morning to the farms. Moral problems soon arose. Actually, the more sincere Nazis did not consider them moral problems at all. On more than one occasion I listened to women leaders of the Bund Deutscher Mädel lecture their young charges on the moral and patriotic duty of bearing children for Hitler's Reich - within wedlock if possible, but without it if necessary." (50)

Melita Maschmann claimed that she disapproved of the anti-semitism of the Nazi Party but was willing to end contact with her Jewish school friend. She later argued that she did this out of duty "because one could only do one or two things: either have Jewish friends or be a National Socialist." (51)

Hedwig Ertl became convinced that the Germans were the master race. The BDM and the school she attended was an important factor in this: "We had a history teacher who was a very committed National Socialist, and we had four Jewish pupils. And they had to stand up during the class, they weren't allowed to sit down. And one after the other they disappeared, until none were left, but nobody thought much about it. We were told they had moved.... We were told all the time that first the Jews are a lower kind of human being, and then the Poles are inferior, and anyone who wasn't Nordic was worthless." (52)

Others like, Hildegard Koch, were clearly anti-semitic: "As time went on more and more girls joined the BDM, which gave us a great advantage at school. The mistresses were mostly pretty old and stuffy. They wanted us to do scripture and, of course, we refused. Our leaders had told us that no one could be forced to listen to a lot of immoral stories about Jews, and so we made a row and behaved so badly during scripture classes that the teacher was glad in the end to let us out. Of course, this meant another big row with Mother - she was pretty ill at that time and had to stay in bed and she was getting more and more pious and mad about the Bible and all that sort of thing. I had a terrible time with her.... But the real row with Mother came when the BDM girls refused to sit on the same bench as the Jewish girls at school."

Hildegard Koch and her BDM friends began a campaign against the Jewish girls in her class. "The two Jewish girls in our form were racially typical. One was saucy and forward and always knew best about everything. She was ambitious and pushing and had a real Jewish cheek. The other was quiet, cowardly and smarmy and dishonest; she was the other type of Jew, the sly sort. We knew we were right to have nothing to do with either of them. In the end we got what we wanted. We began by chalking 'Jews out!' or 'Jews perish, Germany awake!' on the blackboard before class. Later we openly boycotted them. Of course, they blubbered in their cowardly Jewish way and tried to get sympathy for themselves, but we weren't having any. In the end three other girls and I went to the Headmaster and told him that our Leader would report the matter to the Party authorities unless he removed this stain from the school. The next day the two girls stayed away, which made me very proud of what we had done." (53)

Jutta Rüdiger, who was later to become the leader of the BDM, claims that the organization did not promote anti-semitism. She claimed that she told members: "Jews are not bad people... They are just very different to us in their thinking and their behaviour, and that's why they shouldn't control politics and culture... We said that they should marry a German, or a European who was a relative of our race, not a foreigner... Only the best German soldier is suitable for you, for it is your responsibility to keep the blood of the nation pure." (54)

Susanne von der Borch explained what she was told in the BDM and at school: "We are the master race... I would call this a grand seduction of youth." (55)

Some parents were appalled by their children's anti-semitism. Hedwig Ertl, remembers that at the age of ten being punished by her parents for expressing such views. As a child, she said to her father, "The Jews are our misfortune". She later recalled: "He looked at me in horror and slapped me in the face. It was the first and only time he hit me. And I didn't understand." Hedwig felt that her father did not understand the significance of "this great movement". (56)

Denunciations of parents by children was encouraged by the BDM and schoolteachers. It has been claimed that many parents "were alarmed by the gradual brutalisation of manners, impoverishment of vocabulary and rejection of traditional values". Michael Burleigh has argued in The Third Reich: A New History (2001): "Their children became strangers, contemptuous of monarchy or religion, and perpetually barking and shouting like pint-sized Prussian sergeant-majors. In sum, children appeared to have become more brutal, fitter and stupider than they were." (57)

In 1936 there was a massive drive by Baldur von Schirach to recruit all ten-year-old year olds into the BDM. Posters of fresh-faced, smiling young girls in uniform with swastikas in the background proclaimed "All Ten-Year-Olds To Us" or "All Ten-Year-Olds Belong to Us".

After Gertrud Scholtz-Klink married in 1937, she was required to resign her position (the BDM required members to be unmarried and without children in order to remain in leadership positions), and was succeeded by Dr. Jutta Rüdiger, a doctor of psychology from Düsseldorf. Rüdiger made a speech about her plans for the BDM on 24th November 1937: "The task of our League is to bring young women up to pass on the National Socialist faith and philosophy of life. Girls whose bodies, souls and minds are in harmony, whose physical health and well-balanced natures are incarnations of that beauty which shows that mankind is created by the Almighty... We want to train girls who are proud to think that one day they will choose to share their lives with fighting men. We want girls who believe unreservedly in Germany and the Führer, and will instill that faith into the hearts of their children. Then National Socialism and thus Germany itself will last for ever." (58)

Heinrich Himmler complained about the look of the BDM and considered their uniforms too masculine. Himmler told Rüdiger: "I regard it as a catastrophe. If we continue to masculinize women in this way, it is only a matter of time before the difference between the genders, the polarity, completely disappears." (59) A new uniform was designed and it was eventually approved by Adolf Hitler: "I have always told the Mercedes company that a good engine is not enough for a car, it needs a good body as well. But a good body is also not enough on its own." Rüdiger later recalled that she was "very proud that he had compared us to a Mercedes Benz car." (60)

According to Jutta Rüdiger, her commanding officer, Baldur von Schirach always used to say, "You girls should be prettier.... When I sometimes watch women getting off a bus - old puffed-up women - then I think you should be prettier women. Every girl should be pretty. She doesn't have to be a false, cosmetic and made-up beauty. But we want the beauty of graceful movement."

Joseph Goebbels also became concerned about what he called the "masculine vigour" of the BDM. He told one of his department chiefs, Wilfried von Oven: "I certainly don't object to girls taking part in gymnastics or sport within reasonable limits. But why should a future mother go route-marching with a pack on her back? She should be healthy and vigorous, graceful and easy on the eye. Sensible physical exercise can help her to become so, but she shouldn't have knots of muscle on her arms and legs and a step like a grenadier. Anyway, I won't let them turn our Berlin girls into he-men." (61)

At first, Adolf Hitler claimed that all the Nazi children groups were voluntary organizations. However, by 1938, laws were passed that meant that membership of the became obligatory. All other children groups such as the scouts were banned. By 1939 was estimated that virtually every young German aged between ten and eighteen was a member of the BDM or the Hitler Youth. (62)

In 1939 all young women up to the age of twenty-five had to compete a year of Labour Service before being allowed to take up paid employment. Nine out of ten young women were sent to farms where they lived in barrack-like accommodation under close supervision. It was seen as the female parallel to compulsory military service, aimed at producing a trained labour force in the event of war. It was also a source of cheap labour as the girls received only pocket money rather than wages. (63)

Melita Maschmann did her Labour Service in rural East Prussia. She later recalled that she found the whole experience uplifting: "Our camp community was a model in miniature of what I imagined the National Community... Never before or since have I known such a good community, even where the composition was more homogeneous in every respect. Amongst us there were peasant girls, students, factory girls, hairdressers, schoolgirls, office workers and so on... The knowledge that this model of a National Community had affected me such intense happiness gave birth to an optimism to which I clung obstinately until 1945." (64)

Hildegard Koch was sent to a camp in Silesia. "Our main job was helping on the land at the surrounding estates. This, of course was quite new to me. I had never done anything like it before, but I tried hard and being tall and strong I was soon quite good at it. We had a pretty uniform which suited me very well. I already knew the importance of cleanliness and neatness from the BDM and our Camp Leader took a liking to me from the beginning. After a couple of months she made me assistant to the Leader in charge of the kitchen and washhouse." (65)

When the Nazis took power women constituted about a fifth of the entire student body. Adolf Hitler was opposed to the idea of women being educated at university and over the next few years numbers dropped dramatically. However, in the build up to war young men were forced into military service. As a result, the number of young women going to university doubled and by 1943 had reached an all-time high of 25,000. (66)

On 23rd August, 1939, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact. A week later, on 1st September, the two countries invaded Poland. Within 48 hours the Polish Air Force was destroyed, most of its 500 first-line planes having been blown up by German bombing on their home airfields before they could take off. Most of the ground crews were killed or wounded. In the first week of fighting the Polish Army had been destroyed. On 6th September the Polish government fled from Warsaw. (67)

After the government surrendered later that month, Poland was designated as an area for "colonization" by ethnic Germans. On 21st September, 1939, Reinhard Heydrich issued an order authorizing the ghettoization of Jews in Poland. They were expelled from their homes, their land was expropriated and they were deported to the eastern areas of Poland or to ghettos in the cities. (68)

An estimated 500,000 Germans, many living in territories in the Soviet sphere of influence, were now offered land in central Poland. It was decided to send members of the German Girls' League (BDM), under Schutzstaffel (SS) control, to "feminize and domesticate the conquest". Their task was to "Germanize" them, "teaching German culture and customs to the families, many of whom didn't even speak the language." (69)

Susanne von der Borch was asked to a resettlement camp of 800 Bessarabian Germans in central Poland, to teach children art and woodwork. "I told my mother about it and she said to me, literally: If you do that and if you go there, then I never want to speak to you again. And I don't want to see you ever again. And I thought, I have to risk that.... Imagine, I was seventeen years old. I was a blonde girl. My parents were writing me off. They knew the camps were run by the SS and they thought I was going to be drawn into their hands and that would be my fate... Formerly they had been rich farmers, breeding sheep, and they were plunged into misery. They didn't have any ration cards, they were living in poverty in these camps." (70)

In 1941 Susanne visited the Jewish ghetto in Lodz: "The windows were covered with paint so you couldn't see through. The tram doors were locked and then we drove through the ghetto. People had already scratched little peep holes in the paint. And I scratched a little more to see as much and as clearly as possible what was happening in the ghetto. Jewish children stood there, half-starved, wearing their Jewish stars, at the fence, this barbed wire fence. They were in a terrible state, dressed only in rags, like all the other people. What I saw - it was dreadful. It was worse than my worst fears... I saw one Jewish child, I couldn't see whether it was a boy or a girl, and he was there at the fence and he was looking out with huge eyes, starved eyes, in rags and obviously in despair... The ghetto was horrific and when I returned to the camp I was totally shattered." (71)

Hedwig Ertl was recruited to be a teacher at a German school in Poland: "The Poles were told that they had a short time to get out and they could take with them a few possessions... They didn't want to be resettled, they were really fed up, because they had very bad quality land and they couldn't get along with... I would say they were bitter, but I never experienced anyone who fought it, or threw stones or showed outrage. They went in silence... Looking back, I never had the feeling of doing something that wasn't right." (72)

On her return to Germany, Susanne von der Borch made a report on her experiences for the BDM. She decided to include "everything that was important to me, I didn't keep silent about anything. I didn't gloss over anything." Her group leaders were horrified; BDM reports were read out to the girls at the weekly home evenings. One of the leaders told her: "You know that concentration camps are there for young people too." The report was returned to her a few weeks later with her signature, "but all the things that were important to me had been taken out. It was a beautiful trip and an exciting trip, and it was just a description of a trip". However, Susanne was not punished for her report but she now decided to distance herself from the organization: "For me personally, I drew the line and decided that this movement, which had been so very important, was now finished for me." (73)

During the Second World War there was an acute labour shortage. Jutta Rüdiger was at a meeting where Heinrich Himmler called for German women to have more children: "He (Himmler) said that in the war a lot of men would be killed and therefore the nation needed more children, and it wouldn't be such a bad idea if a man, in addition to his wife, had a girlfriend who would also bear his children. And I must say, all my leaders were sitting there with their hair standing on end. And it went further than that. A soldier wrote to me from the front telling me why I should propagate an illegitimate child." A deeply shocked Rüdiger replied: "What! I don't do that." (74)

Some members of the BDM were asked to take part in the Schutzstaffel (SS) breeding programme. Hildegard Koch was told by her BDM leader: "What Germany needs more than anything is racially valuable stock". She was sent to an old castle near Tegernsee. "There were about 40 girls all about my own age. No one knew anyone else's name, no one knew where we came from. All you needed to be accepted there was a certificate of Aryan ancestry as far back at least as your great grandparents. This was not difficult for me. I had one that went back to the sixteenth century, nor had there ever been a smell of a Jew in our family."

Koch was then introduced to several SS men. "They were all very tall and strong with blue eyes and blond hair... We were given about a week to pick the man we liked and we were told to see to it that his hair and eyes corresponded exactly to ours. We were not told the names of any of the men. When we had made our choice we had to wait till the tenth day after the beginning of the last period, when we were again medically examined and given permission to receive the SS men in our rooms at night... He was a sweet boy, although he hurt me a little, and I think he was actually a little stupid, but he had smashing looks. He slept with me for three evenings in one week. The other nights he had to do his duty with another girl. I stayed in the house until I was pregnant, which didn't take long." (75)

Melita Maschmann was a member of the BDM who was totally opposed to this breeding programme. Lynda Maureen Willett argues that Maschmann played a key role in fighting against this "population policy". "Maschmann states that one of the male leaders in the Hitler Youth had presented an argument for bigamy, with racially suitable women, to ensure the numbers of babies produced... Maschmann reports that this debate also began to go on in public. Maschmann herself became involved in producing leaflets and reports against this policy." (76)

In 1942 Martin Bormann suggested that the BDM established women's battalions to defend Nazi Germany. The BDM leader, Jutta Rüdiger replied: "That is out of the question. Our girls can go right up to the front and help them there, and they can go everywhere, but to have a women's battalion with weapons in their hands fighting on their own, that I do not support. It's out of the question. If the Wehrmacht can't win this war, then battalions of women won't help either." Baldur von Schirach said "Well, that's your responsibility". Rüdiger retorted: "Women should give life and not take it. That's why we were born." (77)

However, when the war began to go badly for Germany, attitudes began to change. In September 1944 German women began to be conscripted to reinforce frontier fortifications. They were now ordered to fight alongside the Nazi Party controlled citizen militia. (78) When the Red Army was advancing towards in Berlin in 1945 Rüdiger instructed BDM leaders to learn to use pistols for self-defence. (79)

Young girls from the age of ten onward were taken into organizations where they were taught only two things: to take care of their bodies so they could bear as many children as the state needed and to be loyal to National Socialism. Though the Nazis have been forced to recognize, through the lack of men, that not all women can get married. Huge marriage loans are floated every year whereby the contracting parties can borrow substantial sums from the government to be repaid slowly or to be cancelled entirely upon the birth of enough children. Birth control information is frowned on and practically forbidden.

Despite the fact that Hitler and the other Nazis are always ranting about "Volk ohne Raum" (a people without space) they command their men and women to have more children. Women have been deprived for all rights except that of childbirth and hard labour. They are not permitted to participate in political life - in fact Hitler's plans eventually include the deprivation of the vote; they are refused opportunities of education and self-expression; careers and professions are closed to them.

We need a generation of girls which is healthy in body and mind, sure and decisive, proudly and confidently going forward, one which assumes its place in everyday life with poise and discernment, one free of sentimental and rapturous emotions, and which, for precisely this reason, in sharply defined feminity, would be the comrade of a man, because she does not regard him as some sort of idol but rather as a companion! Such girls will then, by necessity, carry the values of National Socialism into the next generation as the mental bulwark of our people.

A subsequent visit to an ivy-covered school for older girls in Berlin, Westend, about ten blocks from the American School, gave me further information about this domestic-economy curriculum. When I arrived, the schoolyard was crowded with girls. They looked serious as old women. Most of them were jumping, running, marching to the tunes of Nazi songs, to make their bodies strong for motherhood. Some were talking about Party duties, and the latest decrees of their Youth Leader, Frau Gertrud Scholtz-Klink.

A whistle shrilled and the girls gathered about an elevated platform. A Gruppenleiterin was making announcements. Different groups were assigned duties. Some were to go on hikes over the week end, others were to attend anti-air-raid rehearsals. One of the troops, No 10, was specially honored. It had been selected by the district to represent the school at the annual parade on Hitler's birthday.

Group 4 was selected to attend a graduation ceremony in the Palace's courtyard. Jungmaedel from the district would be promoted to ihe BDM status. A stir of reverence went through the group at the mention of this sacred rite.

For fifteen minutes the girls received minute instructions until each knew exactly what to do and when to do it. There was no whining, no complaining. Everybody seemed eager and happy to follow orders.

In school and generally it was celebrated as a liberation, that Germany could have hope again. The words "Fatherland" and "German people" were big, meaningful words which you used carefully - something big and grand. Before, the national spirit was depressed, and it was renewed, rejuvenated, and people responded very positively.

The Bund Deutscher Mädel (German Girls' League) was the female counterpart of the Hitler Youth. Up to the age of fourteen girls were known as Young Girls (Jungmädel) and from seventeen to twenty-one they formed a special voluntary organization called Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schonheit). The duties demanded of Jungmädel were regular attendance at club premises and sports meetings, participation in journeys and camp life.

The ideal German Girls' League type exemplified early nineteenth-century notions of what constituted the essence of maidenhood. Girls who infringed the code by perming their hair instead of wearing plaits or the 'Grechen' wreath of braids had it ceremoniously shaved off as punishment.

We were told from a very early age to prepare for motherhood, as the mother in the eyes of our beloved leader and the National Socialist Government was the most important person in the nation. The girls felt they had done their duty and seemed remarkably unconcerned about the scandal.

At eighteen, several thousand of the girls in the Bund Deutscher Mädel (they remained in it until 21) did a year's service on the farms - their so-called 'Land Jahr', which was equivalent to the Labour Service of the young men. Their task was to help both in the house and in the fields. The girls lived sometimes in the farmhouses and often in small camps in rural districts from which they were taken by truck early each morning to the farms.

Moral problems soon arose. On more than one occasion I listened to women leaders of the Bund Deutscher Mädel lecture their young charges on the moral and patriotic duty of bearing children for Hitler's Reich - within wedlock if possible, but without it if necessary.


For Nazis, the key to the future of the Thousand Year Reich was the allegiance of youth. Hitler professed particular concern for children. He made a point of being filmed with them - at the Berghof, where he played the role of "Uncle Adolf" to the offspring of other leaders, looking unusually at ease as he chatted to them and cuddled them on his knee. It is a chilling picture. With children - and dogs - Hitler appeared relaxed. Other, more formal, photo-opportunities show him surrounded by uniformed young girls and boys, laughing as they look up adoringly at him. It was another aspect of stage-management of the leader cult.

The boys' Hitler Youth movement was set up in 1926 and the League of German Girls - the BDM (Bund Deutscher Madel) - established in 1932. As soon as the Nazis came to power, they set about eliminating all other rival youth organizations, just as they Nazified the rest of German life. Within a short time, the Catholic Youth organization was the only group left with a rival claim to young people's loyalty. All existing religious political and other youth groups were taken over, disbanded or banned. In one year the Hitler Youth movement, including girls, had climbed from a membership of 108,000 to more than three and a half million.

The leadership immediately set about organizing youth into a coherent body of loyal supporters. From the start, the Nazis pitched their appeal as the party of youth, building a New Germany. The leadership was fairly young itself, compared with the elderly, whiskery leaders of the Weimar Republic. Hitler was only forty-three in 1933, and his associates were even younger - Heinrich Himmler was thirty-two, Joseph Goebbels thirty-five and Hermann Goring forty. Hitler intended to inspire youth with a mission, appealing to their idealism and hope....

Girls joined the Jungmadel from age ten to thirteen, and the BDM from fourteen to eighteen. Posters of fresh-faced, smiling young girls in uniform with swastikas in the background proclaimed "All Ten-Year-Olds To Us" or, more menacingly - because this was the intention - "All Ten-Year-Olds Belong To Us!" Young people were schooled in loyalty to the Volk, which excluded all other loyalties, including to the family.

Many parents were disturbed that their young daughters were being swept up in this movement. Hedwig Ertl recalled the evening of 30 January 1933 when Hitler came to power. She was aged ten: "There was a lot of singing and shouting in the streets. I came home inspired by these events, with my copy of Der Sturmer in my hand. And I said to my father, "The Jews are our misfortune." He looked at me in horror and slapped me in the face. And I didn't understand. But later, when he would go to visit her mother's grave, which was near the Memorial To Nazi heroes, and rail under his breath against the Nazis, Hedwig could hardly conceal how ashamed she was of him. She felt that her father didn't understand the significance of this great movement. The BDM had started to alienate daughters from their fathers.

Susanne von der Borch's mother was thoroughly opposed, and tried to deter her daughter: "My mother went early on, before Hitler was elected, to a political rally and she listened to him yelling. I was simply besotted by it... "Little Nazi", they called me.'

For many girls, joining the BDM was an act of rebellion against their parents. Susanne von der Borch was "the ideal German girl" - tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed and mad about sport: "From the first day on, this was my world. It fitted my personality, because I had always been very sporty and I liked being with my friends. And I always wanted to get out of the house. So this was the best excuse for me, I couldn't be at home, because there was always something happening: I had to go riding, or skating, or summer camp. I was never at home." Renate Finckh found consolation in the BDM when her parents became active Nazis: "At home no one really had time for me." She joined, aged ten, and "finally found an emotional home, a safe refuge, and shortly thereafter a space in which I was valued". The summons to girls - "The Führer needs you!" - moved her: "I was filled with pride and joy that someone needed me for a higher purpose." Membership gave her life meaning.


German parents! My comrades! Shortly after the Reichsjugendführer appointed me to head the BDM on 24 November 1937, a foreign press article reported that I intended to increase the military education of the girls in the BDM.

Those who are familiar with girls’ organizations abroad know that some of the girls still wear shoulder straps and carry sheath knives. In some girls’ organizations, they learn to shoot. Those who know this realize that German girls are among the few who receive no military training. Anyone who maintains the contrary only proves how little he knows about the nature of National Socialism.

The Hitler Youth is today the largest youth organization in the world, and the BDM is the largest girls’ organization. One can understand this only by realizing that our starting point is Adolf Hitler.

Boys are trained to be political soldiers, girls to be strong and brave women who will be the comrades of these political soldiers, and who will later, as wives and mothers, live out and form our National Socialist worldview in their families. They will then raise a new and proud generation.

The foundations of our educational work with girls are worldview and cultural education, athletic training, and social service. It is not enough to provide athletic skills and training in home economics. They should know why they are being trained, and what goals they are to strive for.

Athletic training should not only serve their health, but also be a school that trains the girls in discipline and mastery of their bodies. Even the Jungmädel should learn through play to put themselves second and place themselves in the service of the community. Each German girl is trained in the basics of sports. If she proves particularly capable, a girl may choose the sport for which she is gifted, and after completing her other duties, continue to develop her skills in the Reich Federation for Physical Fitness, under the leadership of the Hitler Youth.

We do not want to produce girls who are romantic dreamers, able only to paint, sing, and dance, or who have only a narrow view of life, but rather we want girls with a firm grasp of reality who are ready to make any sacrifice to serve their ideals. Our Jungmädel, together with their comrades in the Jungvolk, join in the battle against hunger and cold. As they stand for hours outside in the cold with their collecting tins, they demonstrate true socialism [Children were put to work collecting for the Nazi charity].

We also expect that, consistent with the wishes of the Reich Youth Leader, each BDM girl will receive training in home economics. That does not mean that we make the cooking pot the goal of education for girls. The politically aware girl knows that any work, whether in a factory or in the home, is of equal value.

We will continually deepen and strengthen our efforts.

Over time, we will establish worldview training and physical education by age groups. That does not mean that we intend to develop a strict school system, but rather that we wish to encourage spiritual and physical development in the youth in ways appropriate to their ages.

Each year on 20 April, the Führer’s birthday, 10-year-old girls become part of the community by joining the Hitler Youth.

At twelve, the Jungmädel must pass the Jungmädel athletic test, and besides some more physical standards, are to be familiar with organizations and structure of the party and the Hitler Youth. The Jungmädel receives a merit badge, but only when her whole Jungmädel group has passed the test. Through this, even the youngest girl will learn that the greatest goals can only be achieved by the community working together.

At 14, the Jungmädel joins the BDM. Most enter the job market at the same time. As a result, the BDM’s educational activities are strengthened and deepened so that they are suited to employment and practical life. The Reich Youth Leader had established a merit badge for the BDM in bronze for athletic accomplishments that can be won by any girl with average abilities.

This year, a sliver merit badge will also be awarded to especially capable girls 16 and older. Besides increased athletic requirements, its recipients must also achieve the first level of awarded by the German Lifesaving Federation. The girl must also be able to lead a girls’ sports session, and conduct a meeting on worldview matters. The girl must also have completed a BDM health course or joined the air raid association, and participated in a long hike.

At 17, the girl can take a course in health, or continue her work in the air raid association. Typical duties in the BDM include two hours a week: a meeting and athletics. Since many older girls are being trained for jobs, which takes more time, and since some girls would like to take additional courses to further their careers, as of 20 April 1938 girls between 18 and 21 will have only one hour of weekly meetings. Sport training will no longer be required, although girls can volunteer for the Reich Federation for Physical Fitness under the supervision of the Hitler Youth.

Those aged 18 to 21 will henceforth be under special guidelines. As of 20 April, 18-year-old girls will be in separate groups. There will be groups for health service, the air raid association, sports, gymnastics and dance, crafts, and theatre.

Girls with gifts in specific fields can join together in small groups for geographical studies.

The small groups for geographical study are primarily intended for girls with foreign language skills. They will focus on a particular foreign state and its people so that they will be able to serve as translators in youth exchange camps. Their first goal is to advance understanding. If the peoples understand each others’ nature and customs, which women have a decisive role in forming, knowing, and respecting, understanding will be promoted.

The special groups will meet once a month to consider political-worldview issues or cultural training, which will build on what they learned between 10 and 18. It will focus on current affairs. Cultural training will include hone and clothing matters. The special meetings will occur at the time scheduled for the standard meetings.

We hope that these special groups will take girls who have been through the basic BDM training and give them a specialized and deeper knowledge so that they will be able to teach younger girls, be it in health training or, for girls in the sport groups, as sport trainers, releasing where possible their younger comrades for other duties. The girls this year will be put to practical work, and depending on their age, will remain active in the youth movement.

In the future, these participants in the special groups will be the source of leaders, speakers, and trainers. In coming years, this will relieve the shortage of leaders that we still face today. The girls who have served in the Reich Federation for Physical Education over the past year have done so well that the Reich Youth Leader, in cooperation with the Reich Sport Leader, has assigned them to the special BDM sports groups.

As in most of the youth groups of the Third Reich, there is hardly any discussion of politics in the Faith and Beauty organization. Its activities concentrate on doing graceful gymnastics and dancing, deliberately cultivating a "feminine line" so as to counter any "boyish" or "masculine" development. In fact this gymnastic dancing is also a way of making use of young women for the purposes of the Party and the state - not, of course, that anyone explicitly tells them so, and Traudl junge herself hears about it for the first time decades after the war. Their artistic commitment is intended to bring these young girls up to be "part of the community", and keep them from turning prematurely to the role of wife and mother; instead, they must continue to devote themselves to "the Fuhrer, the nation and the fatherland". Finally, Faith and Beauty will also qualify some of the rising generation of women for leadership; that is to say for posts in the BDM, the Nazi Women's Association or the Reich Labour Service.

He (Himmler) said that in the war a lot of men would be killed and therefore the nation needed more children, and it wouldn't be such a bad idea if a man, in addition to his wife, had a girlfriend who would also bear his children. A soldier wrote to me from the front telling me why I should propagate an illegitimate child.

As time went on more and more girls joined the BDM, which gave us a great advantage at school. Our leaders had told us that no one could be forced to listen to a lot of immoral stories about Jews, and so we made a row and behaved so badly during scripture classes that the teacher was glad in the end to let us out.

Of course, this meant another big row with Mother - she was pretty ill at that time and had to stay in bed and she was getting more and more pious and mad about the Bible and all that sort of thing. I had a terrible time with her.

After all, we were the new youth; the old people just had to learn to think in the new way and it was our job to make them see the ideals of the new nationalised Germany. Well, suppose a young German youth and a German girl did come together and the girl gave a child to the Fatherland - what was so very wrong in that? When I tried to explain that to her she wanted to stop me going on in the BDM - as if it was her business! Duty to the Fatherland was more important to me and, of course, I took no notice. But the real row with Mother came when the BDM girls refused to sit on the same bench as the Jewish girls at school.

Like Father I could never stick Jews. Long before our classes in race theory I thought they were simply disgusting. They are so fat, they all have flat feet and they can never look you straight in the eye. I could not explain my dislike for them until my leaders told me that it was my sound Germanic instinct revolting against this alien element.

The two Jewish girls in our form were racially typical. We knew we were right to have nothing to do with either of them.

In the end we got what we wanted. We began by chalking "Jews out!" or "Jews perish, Germany awake!" on the blackboard before class. The next day the two girls stayed away, which made me very proud of what we had done...

I was the Sports Group Organiser in our Section. I was the best at sports, especially at athletics and swimming. I got the Reich Sports Badge and the Swimming Certificate and came out first in both of them and got a lot of praise from our Leader. Altogether she was pretty pleased with me. When we had any street collections my box was always full first and I worked on the other girls to buck up so that our group always made a good impression wherever we went. In the summer we went to the great ReichYouth meeting. Thousands of boys and girls marched in close formation past the Reich Youth Leader, Baldur von Schirach. He and his staff stood on a dais and gave the salute; the trumpets blew, the Landsknecht drums rolled - it was a terrific moment.

At this parade I was right-hand Flugelmann, as always. The Gau Leader herself had picked me from amongst hundreds of girls. I had to step out in front of the others and the Gau Leader pointed to me and said: "That is what a Germanic girl should look like; we need young people like that." Once I was photographed and my picture appeared on the tide page of the BdM journal Das deutsche Mädel. Father was delighted and my comrades were terribly jealous.
Our Gau Leader gave me several talks on the duties of the German woman, whose chief aim in life should be to produce healthy stock. She spoke quite openly. Again I was pointed out as a perfect example of the Nordic woman, for besides my long legs and my long trunk, I had the broad hips and pelvis built for childbearing which are essential for producing a large family. Mother could not understand this at all. She thought talking about such things was disgusting and could not understand the ideals of the BdM at all.

One day, fittingly enough on Hitler's birthday, my age group was called up and I took the oath: "I promise always to do my duty in the Hitler Youth, in love and loyalty to the Führer." Service in the Hitler Youth, we were told, was an honourable service to the German people. I was, however, not thinking of the Führer, nor of serving the German people, when I raised my right hand, but of the attractive prospect of participating in games, sports, hiking, singing, camping and other exciting activities away from school and the home. A uniform, a badge, an oath, a salute. There seemed to be nothing to it. Not really. Thus, unquestioningly, and as smoothly as one day slips into another, I acquired membership, and forthwith attended meetings, joined ball games and competitions, and took part in weekend hikes; and I thought that whether we were sitting in a circle around a camp fire or just rambling through the countryside and singing old German folk songs...

There were now lectures on national socialism, stories about modern heroes and about Hitler, the political fighter, while extracts from Mein Kampf were used to expound the new racial doctrines. And there was nothing equivocal about the mother-role the Führer expected German women to play.

At one meeting, while addressing us on the desirability of large, healthy families, the team leader raised her voice:

"There is no greater honour for a German woman than to bear children for the Führer and for the Fatherland! The Führer has ruled that no family will be complete without at least four children, and that every year, on his mother's birthday, all mothers with more than four children will be awarded the Mutterkreuz. (Decoration similar in design to the Iron Cross (came in bronze, silver or gold, depending on number of children).

Make-up and smoking emerged as cardinal sins.

"A German woman does not use make-up! Only Negroes and savages paint themselves! A German woman does not smoke! She has a duty to her people to keep fit and healthy! Any questions?"

"Why isn't the Führer married and a father himself?" The question was out before I had time to check myself. It was an innocent question, devoid of any pert insinuation that the Führer ought to practise what he preached. Silence filled the whitewashed room, but the team leader offered neither answer nor reproved the question. She strafed me with a murderous look, then called for attention.

"Now, I want you all to learn the Horst Wessel Lied by next Wednesday. All three verses. And don't forget the rally on Saturday! Make sure your blouses are clean, your shoes polished, your cheeks rosy and your voices bright! Hell Hitler! Dismissed!"

Perhaps not surprisingly, by the time I celebrated my thirteenth birthday, my initial Wanderlied and camping euphoria had gone flat and I felt bored with a movement which not only did not tolerate individualists but expected its members to venerate a flag as if it were God Almighty, and which made me march or stand en bloc for hours, listen to tiresome or inflammatory speeches, sing songs not composed for happy hours or shout Führer, let's have your orders, we are following you!, one of the many slogans which, somehow, went into one ear and out the other.

But being old enough to realise that absenteeism from group and mass meetings, or a negative response to the demands of the movement, would be treated as political maladjustment, I thought it wise not to step out of line. Remember that you are a German! they said, and that there was only One Reich, one people, one Führer!, a motto which, like others, if trumpeted loud and long enough, would often come dangerously close to a Bible truth.

One morning I heard a girl tell another on the steps of the school, "Now Hitler has taken over the government." The radio and newspapers promised, "Now there will be better times in Germany. Hitler is at the helm."

For the first time politics had come into our lives. Hans was fifteen at the time, Sophie was twelve. We heard much oratory about the fatherland, comradeship, unity of the Volk, and love of country. This was impressive, and we listened closely when we heard such talk in school and on the street. For we loved our land dearly - the woods, the river, the old gray stone fences running along the steep slopes between orchards and vineyards. We sniffed the odor of moss, damp earth, and sweet apples whenever we thought of our homeland. Every inch of it was familiar and dear. Our fatherland - what was it but the extended home of all those who shared a language and belonged to one people. We loved it, though we couldn't say why. After all, up to now we hadn't talked very much about it. But now these things were being written across the sky in flaming letters. And Hitler - so we heard on all sides - Hitler would help this fatherland to achieve greatness, fortune, and prosperity. He would see to it that everyone had work and bread. He would not rest until every German was independent, free, and happy in his fatherland. We found this good, and we were willing to do all we could to contribute to the common effort. But there was something else that drew us with mysterious power and swept us along: the closed ranks of marching youth with banners waving, eyes fixed straight ahead, keeping time to drumbeat and song. Was not this sense of fellowship overpowering? It is not surprising that all of us, Hans and Sophie and the others, joined the Hitler Youth.

We entered into it with body and soul, and we could not understand why our father did not approve, why he was not happy and proud. On the contrary, he was quite displeased with us; at times he would say, "Don't believe them - they are wolves and deceivers, and they are misusing the German people shamefully." Sometimes he would compare Hitler to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who with his flute led the children to destruction. But Father's words were spoken to the wind, and his attempts to restrain us were of no avail against our youthful enthusiasm.

We went on trips with our comrades in the Hitler Youth and took long hikes through our new land, the Swabian Jura. No matter how long and strenuous a march we made, we were too enthusiastic to admit that we were tired. After all, it was splendid suddenly to find common interests and allegiances with young people whom we might otherwise not have gotten to know at all. We attended evening gatherings in our various homes, listened to readings, sang, played games, or worked at handcrafts. They told us that we must dedicate our lives to a great cause. We were taken seriously - taken seriously in a remarkable way - and that aroused our enthusiasm. We felt we belonged to a large, well-organized body that honored and embraced everyone, from the ten-year-old to the grown man. We sensed that there was a role for us in a historic process, in a movement that was transforming the masses into a Volk. We believed that whatever bored us or gave us a feeling of distaste would disappear of itself. One night, as we lay under the wide starry sky after a long cycling tour, a friend - a fifteen-year-old girl - said quite suddenly and out of the blue, "Everything would be fine, but this thing about the Jews is something I just can't swallow." The troop leader assured us that Hitler knew what he was doing and that for the sake of the greater good we would have to accept certain difficult and incomprehensible things. But the girl was not satisfied with this answer. Others took her side, and suddenly the attitudes in our varying home backgrounds were reflected in the conversation. We spent a restless night in that tent, but afterwards we were just too tired, and the next day was inexpressibly splendid and filled with new experiences. The conversation of the night before was for the moment forgotten. In our groups there developed a sense of belonging that carried us safely through the difficulties and loneliness of adolescence, or at least gave us that illusion.

The Hitlerjugend (HJ) come to you today with the question: why are you still outside the ranks of the HJ? We take it that you accept your Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. But you can only do this if you also accept the HJ created by him. If you are for the Fuehrer, therefore for the HJ, then sign the enclosed application. If you are not willing to join the HJ, then write us that on the enclosed blank.

Given this overall educational atmosphere, the Nazi rulers saw little need for radical innovation after the seizure of power; apparent continuity had the dual advantage of conserving resources and reassuring conservative opinion. Thus there was little surface disturbance of the routine of education. Few teachers were dismissed (among those who were, some of the non-Jews were reinstated during the subsequent shortage) and a sizeable proportion of old textbooks remained in use for the time being. One drastic new departure, which, however, only affected the top strata of the school population, stemmed from the regime's law against the overcrowding of German schools and universities, which in January 1934 froze the female share of diminishing university places at 10 per cent. At the academic level the resultant contraction was quite drastic. By the outbreak of war, university enrolment as such had declined by almost three fifths and the number of grammar-school pupils had been reduced by under one fifth.

Within the grammar-school population, the proportion of girls was reduced from 35 per cent to 30 per cent. In 1934 only 1,500 out of 10,000 girls who had taken the Abitur were allowed to proceed to university, and up to the outbreak of war the number of girls taking the school-leaving examination remained well below the pre-1933 average? When new boarding-schools for rearing a Nazi elite (the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten or National Political Educational Establishments - "Napolas" for short) were set up, the allocation of places for girls was given such low priority that only two out of thirty-nine Napolas constructed before the outbreak of war catered for them.

Girls staying on at higher schools were shunted into either domestic-science or language streams, the former leading up to an examination that became derisively known as "Pudding Matric", and represented an academic dead-end. The inadequacy of these arrangements occasioned widespread discontent. In 1941 girls who had obtained the "Pudding Matric" at last became eligible for university studies in the same way as their colleagues who had gone through the language stream. So keen was the competition for the limited academic career opportunities available that sixth-formers on occasion even resorted to denouncing classmates to the Gestapo.

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

German League of Girls (Answer Commentary)

(1) Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1998) page 46

(2) Cate Haste, Nazi Women (2001) page 129

(3) Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (2001), page 235

(4) Christa Wolf, Patterns of Childhood (1976) page 193

(5) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 335

(6) Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (1987) page 112

(7) Traudl Junge, To The Last Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary (2002) page 17

(8) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) page 275

(9) Elsbeth Emmerich, Flying a Flag for Hitler (1991) page 87

(10) Hedwig Ertl, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page page 135

(11) Marianne Gärtner, The Naked Years: Growing up in Nazi Germany (1987) page 53

(12) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 196

(13) Christa Wolf, Patterns of Childhood (1976) page 193

(14) Elsbeth Emmerich, Flying a Flag for Hitler (1991) page 88

(15) Renate Finckh, In Conversation with Heike Mundzeck (1982) pages 70-71

(16) Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1998) page 46

(17) Effie Engel, interviewed by the authors of What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) page 215

(18) Trude Mohr, speech (June, 1934)

(19) Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1998) page 46

(20) Baldur von Schirach, Jugend um Hitler (1934) page 104

(21) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 196

(22) Hedwig Ertl, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 131

(23) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 131

(24) Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (1987) page 194

(25) Helga Schmidt, interviewed by the authors of What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) page 177

(26) Karma Rauhut, interviewed by Alison Owings, for her book, Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich (1995) page 345

(27) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 135

(28) Cate Haste, Nazi Women (2001) page 136

(29) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 196

(30) Karma Rauhut, interviewed by Alison Owings, for her book, Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich (1995) page 345

(31) Ruth Mendel, interviewed by the authors of What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) page 85

(32) Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (2001) page 261

(33) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 354

(34) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 131

(35) Helga Schmidt, interviewed by the authors of What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) pages 177-178

(36) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 196

(37) Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889-1936 (1998) page 45

(38) Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) page 396

(39) Wallace R. Deuel, People Under Hitler (1942) page 161

(40) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 335

(41) G. Wenzmer, Should Women be Allowed to Smoke? Hamburger Fremdenblatt (22nd March 1944)

(42) Hedwig Ertl, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 95

(43) Joseph Goebbels, speech (7th October, 1940)

(44) Anson Rabinbach, The Third Reich Sourcebook (2013) page 835

(45) Frankfurter Zeitung (13th December, 1938)

(46) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 356

(47) Martha Dodd, My Years in Germany (1939)

(48) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 196

(49) Isle McKee, Tomorrow the World (1960) page 12

(50) William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959) page 316

(51) Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self (1964) page 30

(52) Hedwig Ertl, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 108

(53) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 196

(54) Jutta Rüdiger, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 135

(55) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 135

(56) Hedwig Ertl, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 130

(57) Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (2001) page 236

(58) Jutta Rüdiger, speech (24th November 1937)

(59) Doris Godl, Women's Contributions to the Political Policies of National Socialism (1st January 1997)

(60) Jutta Rüdiger, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 137

(61) Wilfried von Oven, With Goebbels until the End (1949) page 41

(62) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 350

(63) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005) page 367

(64) Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self (1964) page 36

(65) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 200

(66) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) page 332

(67) William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany (1959) page 753

(68) Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996) page 145

(69) Cate Haste, Nazi Women (2001) page 164

(70) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 165

(71) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 167

(72) Hedwig Ertl, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) pages 164-165

(73) Susanne von der Borch, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 167

(74) Jutta Rüdiger, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 124

(75) Hildegard Koch, interviewed by Louis Hagen, for his book, Nine Lives Under the Nazis (2011) page 202 (52)

(76) Lynda Maureen Willett, Women Under National Socialism: The Case Study of Melita Maschmann (2012) pages 75-76

(77) Jutta Rüdiger, interviewed by Cate Haste, for her book, Nazi Women (2001) page 186

(78) Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (2001) page 785

(79) Cate Haste, Nazi Women (2001) page 186


The Nazi League of German Girls, In Previously Unseen Pictures!

The League of German Girls, in German Bund Deutscher Mädel or BDM was the girls’ wing of the Nazi Party youth movement.

The League consisted of three sections “Young Girls” for ages 10 to 14, the “League Proper” for girls aged 14 to 18 and the “Faith and Beauty society” for girls ages 17 to 21.

In October 1945, after the Nazi’s were defeated the organization ceased to exist and was outlawed by the Allies.

What follows are pictures of the BDM during the early stages of Nazism up to 1943.


The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel)

The Bund Deutscher Mädel, also known as the BDM (League of German Girls), was the only female youth organization in Nazi Germany.

It was the female branch of the overall Nazi Party youth movement, the Hitler Youth. At first, the League consisted of two sections: the Jungmädel, or Young Girls League, for girls ages 10 to 14, and the League proper for girls ages 14 to 18. In 1938, a third section was introduced, the Belief and Beauty Society (BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit), which was voluntary and open to girls between the ages of 17 and 21.

History

The Bund Deutscher Mädel had its origins as early as the 1920s, in the first Mädchenschaften or Mädchengruppen, also known as Schwesternschaften der Hitler-Jugend (Sisterhood of the Hitler Youth). In 1930, it was founded as the female branch of the Hitler Youth movement. The league of German Maidens was nicknamed &ldquoThe League of German Mattresses,&rdquo perhaps suggesting sexual promiscuity between the gender-separated groups. Its full title was Bund Deutscher Mädel in der Hitler-Jugend (League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth). In the final electioneering campaigns of 1932, Hitler inaugurated it with a mass meeting featuring the League on election eve, the League and Hitler Youth staged &ldquoevening of entertainment.&rdquo It did not attract a mass following until the Nazis came to power in January 1933.

Soon after taking office as Reichsjugendführer on June 17, 1933, Baldur von Schirach issued regulations that suspended or forbid existing youth organizations (&lsquoconcurrence&rsquo). Those youth groups were compulsorily integrated into the BDM, which was declared to be the only legally permitted organization for girls in Germany. Many of the existing organizations closed down to avoid this.[citation needed] These Nazi activities were a part of the Gleichschaltung (Equalization) starting in 1933. The Reichskonkordat between the Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, signed on July 20, 1933, gave a certain shelter to the Catholic youth ministry, but they were the object of much bullying.

The Gesetz über die Hitlerjugend (law concerning the Hitler Youth) dated December 1, 1936, forced all eligible juveniles to be a member of HJ or BDM. They had to be ethnic Germans, German citizens and free of hereditary diseases. Girls had to be 10 years of age to enter this League.

Members of the BDM (1935)

The BDM was run directly by Schirach until 1934, when Trude Mohr, a former postal worker, was appointed to the position of BDM-Reichsreferentin, or National Speaker of the BDM, reporting directly to Schirach. After Mohr married in 1937, she was required to resign her position (the BDM required members to be unmarried and without children in order to remain in leadership positions), and was succeeded by Dr. Jutta Rüdiger, a doctor of psychology from Düsseldorf, who was a more assertive leader than Mohr but nevertheless a close ally of Schirach, and also of his successor from 1940 as HJ leader, Artur Axmann. She joined Schirach in resisting efforts by the head of the NS-Frauenschaft (Nazi Woman&rsquos League), Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, to gain control of the BDM. Rüdiger led the BDM until its dissolution in 1945.

As in the HJ, separate sections of the BDM existed, according to the age of participants. Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old were members of the Young Girl&rsquos League (Jungmädelbund, JM), and girls between the ages of 14 and 18 were members of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) proper. In 1938, a third section was added, known as Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schönheit), which was voluntary and open to girls between 17 and 21 and was intended to groom them for marriage, domestic life, and future career goals. Ideally, girls were to be married and have children once they were of age, but importance was also placed on job training and education.

Leaders

Trude Mohr was appointed the first Reichsreferentin in June 1934. Her main initiative was to nourish a new way of living for the German youth, stating:

In 1937, after marrying Obersturmführer Wolf Bürkner, she became pregnant and resigned her duties.

Jutta Rüdiger (1910&ndash2001) was a special case. She joined the BDM only in 1933, at the age of 23 and after having finished her doctorate in psychology. She obtained honorary positions instantly in 1933 and early 1934, was promoted to her first salaried position (leader of Untergau Ruhr-Lower Rhine) in June 1935 and was appointed Reichsreferentin for the BDM (head of the BDM) in November 1937 (aged 27), succeeding Mohr, who had vacated the position on her marriage, as Nazi policy required. She kept this position even until the German defeat, when she had reached the age of 34.

Clementine zu Castell-Rüdenhausen (b. 1912), a countess and member of the higher Franconian aristocracy, was appointed leader of Gau Unterfranken in 1933, at the age of 21, which also seems to have been the age when she joined the BDM, as no earlier date of membership nor any previous lower positions are recorded in her case. She was appointed head of &ldquoFaith and Beauty&rdquo in January 1938, a few days before her 26th birthday, and was discharged in September 1939 because of her marriage with Wilhelm &ldquoUtz&rdquo Utermann in October 1939. She was followed by an Austrian member, Annemarie Kaspar (b. 1917), who had been appointed Untergauführerin at the age of 20 in March 1938 and became head of B&B two weeks before her 22nd birthday. She too married and was discharged in May 1941, to be replaced in June 1941 by Martha Middendorf (b. 1914), who was 27 at the time of her appointment and was discharged already in February 1942, as she too had married. From this time on, Jutta Rüdiger, who was no candidate for marriage but living in lifelong partnership with Hedy Böhmer, took over to lead the B&B directly, thus holding both leadership positions until 1945.

Training & Activities

The BDM used campfire romanticism, summer camps, folklorism, tradition, and sports to indoctrinate girls within the National Socialist belief system, and to train them for their roles in German society: wife, mother, and homemaker. Their home evenings revolved around domestic training, but Saturdays involved strenuous outdoor exercise and physical training. The purpose of these activities was to promote good health, which would enable them to serve their people and their country. The &ldquohome evenings&rdquo&mdashideally to be conducted in specially built homes&mdashalso included world view training, with instruction in history. This instruction would include learning the Horst Wessel song, the Nazi holidays, stories about Hitler Youth martyrs, and facts about their locality and German culture and history. Physical education included track and field sports like running and the long jump, gymnastics (e.g. somersaulting and tightrope walking), route-marching, and swimming. The importance of self-sacrifice for Germany was heavily emphasized a Jewish woman, reflecting on her longing to join the League of German Girls, concluded that it had been the admonishment for self-sacrifice that had drawn her most. The League was particularly regarded as instructing girls to avoid Rassenschande or racial defilement, which was treated with particular importance for young females.

Berlin Girls of the BDM (1939)

Holiday trips offered by HJ and BDM &ndash i.e. skiing in winter and tent camps in summer &ndash were affordable children from poor families got subsidies. These offers were popular.

The League encouraged rebellion against parents. Der Giftpilz presented the propaganda of a German girl being ordered to visit a Jewish doctor by her mother the girl protested on the grounds of what she had learned at BDM meetings, and while at the office, remembered the warnings in time to escape being molested by the doctor. This caused her mother to agree that the BDM had clearly been in the right.

Ilsa McKee noted that the lectures of Hitler Youth and the BDM on the need to produce more children produced several illegitimate children, which neither the mothers nor the possible fathers regarded as problematic. These and other behaviors taught led to parents complaining that their authority was being undermined. In 1944, a group of parents complained to the court that the leaders of the League were openly telling their daughters to have illegitimate children. Public opinion attributed a great deal of sexual laxity to the members. The preparation camps for the &lsquoLanddienst&rsquo (land service) of girls and boys often lay adjacent to each other. 900 of the girls participating in the 1936 Reichsparteitag in Nürnberg became pregnant. In 1937, a prohibition came out saying that camping was forbidden to the BDM.

The Jungmädel were only taught, while the BDM was involved in community service, political activities and other activities considered useful at that time.

Before entering any occupation or advanced studies, the girls, like the boys in Hitler Youth, had to complete a year of land service (&ldquoLandfrauenjahr&rdquo). Although working on a farm was not the only approved form of service, it was a common one the aim was to bring young people back from the cities, in the hope that they would then stay &ldquoon the land&rdquo in service of Nazi blood and soil beliefs. Another form of service was as a domestic work in a family with many children.

The &lsquoFaith and Beauty&rsquo organizations offered groups where girls could receive further education and training in fields that interested them. Some of the works groups that were available were arts and sculpture, clothing design and sewing, general home economics, and music.

Das deutsche Mädel was the Nazi magazine directed at these girls.

Wartime Service

The outbreak of war altered the role of the BDM, though not as radically as it did the role of the boys in the HJ, who were to be fed into the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) when they turned 18. The BDM helped the war effort in many ways. Younger girls collected donations of money, as well as goods such as clothing or old newspapers for the Winter Relief and other Nazi charitable organizations. Many groups, particularly BDM choirs and musical groups, visited wounded soldiers at hospitals or sent care packages to the front. Girls knitted socks, grew gardens, and engaged in similar tasks.

Girls also helped stage the celebrations after the de facto capitulation of France.

BDM gymnastics performance (1941)

The older girls volunteered as nurses&rsquo aides at hospitals, or to help at train stations where wounded soldiers or refugees needed a hand. After 1943, as Allied air attacks on German cities increased, many BDM girls went into paramilitary and military services (Wehrmachtshelferin), where they served as Flak Helpers, signals auxiliaries, searchlight operators, and office staff. Unlike male HJs, BDM girls took little part in the actual fighting or operation of weaponry, although some Flak Helferinnen operated anti-aircraft guns.

Many older girls, with Hitler Youth were sent to Poland as part of the Germanisation efforts. These girls, along with Hitler Youth, were first to oversee the eviction of Poles to make room for new settlers and ensure they did not take much from their homes, as furniture and the like were to be left there for the settlers. Their task were then to educate ethnic Germans, either living in Poland or resettled there from the Baltic states, according to German ways. This included instruction in the German language, as many spoke only Polish or Russian. They also had to organize the younger ones into the League. Because many Hitler Youth leaders were drafted into the military, the task of organizing the boys into Hitler Youth also fell heavily on the League. They were also to provide help on the farm and in the household. As the only contact with German authorities, they were often requested to help with the occupation authorities, and they put on various entertainments such as songfests to encourage the down-spirited new settlers. Some members were sent to the colony of Hegewald for such efforts even when they had to receive gas masks and soldier escorts.

Conversely, the young Polish girls who were selected for &ldquoracially valuable traits&rdquo and sent to Germany for Germanization were made to join the League as part of the Germanization.

By 1944, the drafting of boys resulted in most of the &ldquoland service&rdquo help with the harvest being performed by girls.

In the last days of the war, some BDM girls, just like some boys of the male Hitler Youth (although not nearly as many), joined with the Volkssturm (the last-ditch defense) in Berlin and other cities in fighting the invading Allied armies, especially the Soviets. Officially, this was not sanctioned by the BDM&rsquos leadership which opposed an armed use of its girls even though some BDM leaders had received training in the use of hand-held weapons (about 200 leaders went on a shooting course which was to be used for self-defense purposes). After the war, Dr. Jutta Rüdiger denied that she had approved BDM girls using weapons, and this appears to have been the truth.

Some BDM girls were recruited into the Werwolf groups which were intended to wage guerrilla war in Allied-occupied areas.

The &ldquoKontrollratsgesetz Nr. 2&rdquo (enacted October 10, 1945) by the Allied Control Council forbade the NSDAP and all its sub-organizations, including the BDM. Their properties were confiscated.

Source: &ldquoLeague of German Girls,&rdquo Wikipedia.

Poster from BDM History.
Photos of girls Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-04517A / Georg Pahl / CC-BY-SA 3.0, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-E10868 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 and Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2000-0110-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.


Young Girls League

The Young Girls League (Jungmädelbund or JM) was part of the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel) but catered for young girls aged from ten years to fourteen years. Once girls in the Young Girls League had reached fourteen they moved to the League of German Girls the BDM. The Jungmädel organisation was all part of the umbrella Hitler Youth movement that was separated into boys and girls sections. The girls who acted as leaders in the Young Girls League were from the League of German Girls (the BDM) – older girls who had done their time in the Young Girls League.

The Young Girls League (JM) was all part of the policy of Gleichshaltung – coordination – introduced by Hitler. This was a policy where everyone, as the title suggested, did what everyone else did and what the state wanted. Within Nazi Germany girls had a very specific role to play. Girls were seen very simply as the future mothers of Germany and part of the grand plan for the Reich to exist for 1000 years. If boys were educated to be warlike, girls were trained for a future of domesticity.

Membership of the Young Girls League became compulsory in 1936 when the First Hitler Youth Law made it so.

However, as with all youth organisations that existed in Nazi Germany, there were strict criteria as to membership. Young girls who joined the JM (Jungmädelbund) had to be racially pure, free of hereditary diseases and hold German citizenship.

An ‘entrance exam’ was also held which consisted of attending a lecture about what the JM stood for and the satisfactory completion of a bravery test.

All new members of the JM joined on the same day of the year – April 20 th , Hitler’s birthday.

“One day, fittingly enough on Hitler’s birthday, my age group was called up and I took the oath: “I promise always to do my duty in the Hitler Youth, in love and loyalty to the Führer.” (Marianne Gartner in ‘The Naked Years: Growing up in Nazi Germany’)

Over the next six months girls were also expected to participate in the ‘JM Challenge’. The successful completion of this, which was essentially oriented around success in sport and the creation of a fit and healthy Nazi youth, meant that girls became full members of the JM until they were old enough to transfer to the Bund Deutscher Mädel – the League of German Girls (sometimes referred to as the League of German Maidens).

“(I participated) in games, sports, hiking, singing, camping and other exciting activities…ballgames and competitions and weekend hikes.” (Marianne Gartner in ‘The Naked Years: Growing up in Nazi Germany’)


League of German Girls

The League of German Girls (Bund Deutsche Mädel or BDM) was part of the Hitler Youth movement in Nazi Germany. The League of German Girls was for girls aged between 14 and 18 and followed on from the Young Girls League that was for girls aged between 10 and 14 years.

The whole idea of having a solely girls organisation within Nazi Germany started in the 1920’s. Hitler had already formulated his belief that young girls had to undergo training to make them fit and strong enough to be good German mothers to ensure the survival of the 1000 year Reich. While the Nazi Party was still a relatively weak political party prior to the 1929 Great Depression, it did have the Sisterhood of the Hitler Youth. In 1932, the name was changed to the League of German Girls. But initially membership of this youth movement was purely voluntary.

On June 17 th 1933, all youth movements other than the components of the Hitler Youth were ended by law. Some were closed down for good while others were absorbed into the Hitler Youth. The policy of Gleichshaltung (coordination) extended to Germany’s youth. Hitler wanted all German children to follow the same path, be it physical or spiritual.

Once the Enabling Act had been passed in March 1933, Hitler was free to ensure that such organisations were no longer run on a voluntary basis – membership of Nazi youth movements became compulsory for boys and girls in December 1936.

The leader of the Hitler Youth movement, and therefore the BDM, was Baldur von Shirach. However, in 1934, specific responsibility for the BDM was given to Trude Mohr. She answered directly to Shirach. Mohr got married in 1937 and as a result had to give up her position in the BDM as no BDM leader was allowed to marry or had to resign if they did. She was succeeded by Dr. Jutta Rüdiger who led the organisation until it was ended in 1945.

Girls in the BDM received what would have been perceived then as the traditional training and education they would have needed to be good wives and mothers. A great deal of what they did was geared towards this. However, the older girls also received training for some jobs.

Members of the BDM went on weekend camps while a long summer camp was available and subsidised for those families who could not afford to pay the full cost of such camps. They were taught about National Socialism and what it meant to Germany. After a day at school, BDM members went to evening classes where they consolidated their knowledge on domestic issues. Most weekend meetings of the BDM were spent on hard physical activities to ensure that they were physically fit when they got married. Long distance marches, running and outdoor swimming would have been common. Girls in the BDM were also required to take part in community events and “political activities”.

“Young girls from the age of ten onwards were taken into organisations where they were taught two things: to take care of their bodies so they could bear as many children as the State needed and to be loyal to National Socialism.” (Martha Dodd in “My Years in Germany”)

The successful completion of your time in the BDM meant that a girl was partway entitled to go to university or into a job. However, before this could be done every girl who wanted to go on to further education or a job, had to compete a year’s land service – the so-called ‘Landfrauenjahr’. This again was an extension of Hitler’s belief that true Germans were associated with the land – the belief in ‘blood and soil’. An alternate route – one taken by Sophie Scholl who was in the BDM – was to work with children in a kindergarten. Again, this fulfilled part of Hitler’s belief that young women needed to be associated with children and what better way than to look after them when they were very young.

Some young ladies chose to stay in the BDM in a group called ‘Belief and Beauty’, which was for 17 to 21 year olds. This further developed their knowledge of domestic life and how to be a ‘good’ wife.

“Our (BDM) camp community was a reduced model of that which I imagined our national community to be. It was a completely successful model. Never before or since have I had the experience of such a good community. The fact that I experienced this model of a national community intensely created in me an optimism to which I held on stubbornly until 1945. Surprised by this experience I believed in the face of all the evidence to the contrary that this model could be extended infinitely.” Melissa Maschmann in ‘Account Rendered’.

During World War Two, BDM girls were called on to help out in a number of ways. They collected old clothing that could be used to clothe those who had lost everything in Allied bombing raids. They also collected paper to make into fuel. BDM girls also helped out in hospitals and at train stations where they helped wounded soldiers. BDM choirs also toured hospitals to entertain wounded troops. As World War Two intensified and more and more German cities were bombed, BDM girls were used on the searchlight crews. Some were sent to Occupied Poland to help ‘educate’ young Polish girls who had been selected to live with German families because of their closeness to racial purity. By the time these young girls arrived in Germany, it was expected that part of the task of ‘Germanising’ them had been completed by BDM girls.

It is also known that a very small number of BDM girls helped to defend Berlin against the Red Army – such was the fear of the ‘Plague from the East’ – when they joined the Home Front. It is not known how many were killed in doing so and Rüdiger denied supporting this or ordering it when she was questioned after the war.

The Allied Control Council formally ended the League of German Girls on October 10 th 1945.


RELATED ARTICLES

Teenage girls in Nazi Germany received only a very limited education built around five menial principles: physical exercise, cooking, washing, cleaning and babies – though sex was not on the curriculum. Emphasis was put on the physical exercise, including naked dancing.

The German maiden had to be beautiful, supple, radiant and strong.

After school, girls between ten and 14 were required to attend Jungmadel groups, while 14 to 18-year-olds went to BDM meetings – where important Nazis including Himmler and Goebbels often lectured.

A member of the League of German Girls (left). The league was never intended as an arm of the German war machine, but as the tide of war turned, Hitler decreed that girls as young as ten must be trained to defend their cities. Right, German girls help man anti-air defenses

The BDM and the Jungmadel performed at the Nazis' showpiece Nuremberg rallies, and another young recruit, Helga Bassler, shook hands with the Fuhrer there.

She recalled: 'My knees began to shake and I had butterflies in my stomach as I watched Hitler slowly make his way towards me. Girls cried and reached out to him and some had brought flowers especially for him.

'From that day on, I looked upon Hitler as a personal saviour – like how modern girls look up to their favourite pop stars. Many of us became infatuated after meeting him, and we were in a way in love with him.'

After the Allied landings of 1944, when even the most fervent Nazis had to admit the tide of war had turned against Germany, the domestic emphasis was jettisoned.

A young German girl meets Hitler during a 1936 Nazi Party rally. One former BDM member recalls how her 'knees began to shake' when she met the dictator - and compared it to a modern girl meeting her favourite pop star

Hitler issued a decree that girls as young as ten must be trained to fight to the death to defend their cities. Members of the BDM were taught to lay booby traps, become snipers, sabotage roads, railways and telephone lines and even operate Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons in all-female Werewolf guerrilla units – part of the Nazis' desperate Volkssturm rearguard action.

Barbie was a Werewolf volunteer in Aachen.

'Our defences had been prepared – trenches, barbed wire, upturned cars, lorries and trams,' she said. 'Our task was to cause as many enemy casualties as we could. We felt confident we might prevent the enemy from capturing the city.

'Just before the American attack, our group leader told us, 'German girls, you are like the grey slender wolves of our nation. As she-wolves in the great wilderness, the human female is also a natural predator, provider and protector. As wolves, you shall roam the shadows and leave no enemy safe. Our enemy shall drown in their own blood – and ours if necessary.'

'I have never forgotten, because when the fighting started that leader donned civilian clothing and surrendered – so much for being a leader of wolves!'

A German girls helps observe enemy troops. By 1944 BDM recruits were seeing a very different side to the war. As part of Germany's desperate defense many were asked to lay booby traps, become snipers, and even operate Panzefaust anti-tank weapons

Willi Anderson, a young private with the American 26th Infantry Regiment, said: 'It was a shock to see kids shooting at you. You had no choice but to return fire and kill them. One incident sticks in my mind. We were advancing up a side street, a shot rang out from a cellar and one of our guys was killed. We took the only course of action we could and fired a bazooka through the entrance. One of our guys crawled inside.

'He came out in a state of shock and said, 'Jesus Christ, there's a dead kid in there, a girl.' '

Corporal R. Marshall, also of the 26th Infantry Regiment, added: 'They fought very well, considering they were young ladies. They sniped at us, threw grenades, and generally did their best to kill us. Yet when we captured them they would drop their weapons and raise their hands shouting, 'Amerikaner! Amerikaner!'

'Then they asked us for sweets and chocolate bars. They were just kids who should never have been fighting.

'After Aachen, I prayed every day that we would experience nothing like it ever again it was like a butcher's shop, with pieces of human meat lying everywhere, dead bodies of men, women and little children.'

Hitler meets a young admirer (pictured left). The Nazi propaganda effort (pictured right) helped convince thousands of young children that it was there sacred duty to kill, and if necessary, die for Hitler's warped vision of Germany

Barbie was captured by the Americans. 'I was asked how I came to get wounded and I told him the truth,' she said. 'He asked if the Nazis had encouraged and taught me to shoot and I told him that yes, they had.

'Then he wanted to know if I liked Hitler and if I wanted to continue fighting. I told him I only wanted to stop enemy soldiers from hurting my friends and that I had only seen Hitler in films and pictures.

'My war was over and in a way I was glad, but was also very fearful about what was going to happen to us now.'

If the situation in Aachen was terrible, conditions in Berlin were unspeakable. By April 1945, Berlin had been reduced to rubble, its citizens hiding in cellars and sewers.

Almost incessant propaganda boomed out across the city through loudspeakers, reminding civilians of what would happen to them if they were captured by the Bolsheviks.

Legions of adoring German girls wait for Hitler during one of his early rallies in the 1930s. The BDM was introduced as a way to indoctrinate young German women with the Nazi ideology

There was even a radio station, Radio Werewolf, continuously calling for the boys and girls of Berlin to fight, and die if necessary, for the Fatherland. 'Besser Tot Als Rot', they were told. Better Dead Than Red.

For the young Werewolf girls, the battle for Berlin would become a nightmare.

Heidi Koch recalled: 'I had never known fear like it. Loudspeakers were asking citizens not to run like cowards, saying relief would arrive soon. The bodies of traitors were hanging from trees and lampposts it was like everyone had gone mad.

'We spent much of our time digging holes, making walls of rubble and upturning motor vehicles and trams. There were many members of our SS in the city. I kept asking questions until one turned and shouted at me, 'Do you know what will happen if the Russians get here? They will probably f*** you, then shoot you, understand?' I turned and ran.'

Dana Henschell, then 21, remembered: 'We were told we must not let the enemy take the aerodrome. As a Heckenschutze [sniper], I had to move to the far side of the airfield, and watched as the Volkssturm men began to surrender. Some were shot and bayoneted by the Russians.

Hiter meets with a young German. Under the Nazi vision once a girl reached 14 she was required to attend BDM meetings where she would be taught five menial principals: physical exercise, cooking, washing, cleaning and babies

'The next few seconds were the slowest of my life. I lay beneath an abandoned vehicle, cocked the rifle and with a pounding heart, looked into the telescope. I held the black cross steadily on a Russian soldier, held my breath and slowly squeezed the trigger. I saw the Russian thrown back by the impact.

'Another Russian ran to help the man I had just shot, so I killed him too. Then a mortar bomb fell very close. Another two bombs came in seconds later, so I quickly backed away from the vehicle. Moments later, there was a loud whoosh and a large chunk of the vehicle sailed into the air.

'I ran to a first-aid post where there were men who had arms or legs blown off. Blood was everywhere, like a butcher's shop. Some of our girls could not cope and some were outside vomiting and crying hysterically. I retched but nothing came out. I was given a metal cup of sugared water and told I was suffering from shock.'

Theresa Moelle fired her anti-aircraft gun at zero elevation at the advancing Russians until she ran out of ammunition. Then a Russian T-34 tank came. 'One of our girls, an 18-year-old named Anneliese, began to babble. 'Someone is going to have to stop it or it will kill us all,' she said.

Soviet troops during the Battle of Berlin. Many BDM girls were involved in the defense of the city, and countless were raped by Soviet soldiers as part of their brutal reprisals against Hitler's Germany

'I shouted at her to give me the Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon and fired. I watched the little rocket streak towards the tank. There was a flash, followed by a puff of smoke. Suddenly, the lid of the tank blew off, followed by a rush of bright red and yellow flame and sparks.'

By the time Berlin surrendered on May 2, its civilian casualty figures were put at an estimated 125,000 dead, the result of Hitler's obdurate refusal to surrender.

Considerably more had been wounded, raped or driven to insanity, Hitler's girls among them.

Theresa Moelle recalled being clubbed from behind by Russian soldiers. 'I came around and had been bound and gagged. Everything was a blur. I was surrounded by objects on the floor. As my vision began to clear, I could see they were the severed heads of German soldiers arranged in a circle.

'Five Russian-speaking figures stood a few yards away urinating over a poster of the Fuhrer.

Sudenten-Germans give the Hitler salute in 1938, when Germany annexed Austria. Seven years later the Nazi vision would turn their country into an unspeakable slaughter

'I wondered what they had done with Anneliese, and later learned they had raped and shot her. One of the bastards took great pleasure in telling me I would be next.'

Her colleague, Anita von Schoener, was brutally gang-raped by Russian soldiers.

'I could not stop them, as while one did the raping, the others held you down,' Anita said.

'I had to survive what these men were doing to me for the sake of my child, so I shut my eyes. They were like a pack of wild animals and when they had finished taking turns abusing me, I had teeth marks on my neck, breasts and my shoulders.

'The worst thing of all was that I later discovered I was pregnant again, this time with a rapist's child. I went ahead with the birth, as many German girls did.

'But it was utterly impossible for me to show any affection for the child, and I gave it up straight after the birth. I did not even want to know if it was a boy or girl.'


Medieval period to Early Modern era Edit

Feminism in Germany has its earliest roots in the lives of women who challenged conventional gender roles as early as the Medieval period. From the early Medieval period and continuing through to the 18th century, Germanic law assigned women to a subordinate and dependent position relative to men. Salic (Frankish) law, from which the laws of the German lands would be based, placed women at a disadvantage with regard to property and inheritance rights. Germanic widows required a male guardian to represent them in court. Unlike Anglo-Saxon law or the Visigothic Code, Salic law barred women from royal succession. Social status was based on military and biological roles, a reality demonstrated in rituals associated with newborns, when female infants were given a lesser value than male infants. The use of physical force against wives was condoned until the 18th century in Bavarian law. [1] : 405

Some women of means asserted their influence during the Middle Ages, typically in royal court or convent settings. Hildegard of Bingen, Gertrude the Great, Elisabeth of Bavaria (1478–1504), and Argula von Grumbach are among the women who pursued independent accomplishments in fields as diverse as medicine, music composition, religious writing, and government and military politics.

Enlightenment and early 19th century Edit

Legal recognition of women's rights in Germany came more slowly than in some other countries, such as England, France, [1] : 406–7 the United States, or Canada. The equal rights of parents under German law did not arrive until the German Federal Republic in the 20th century the German Civil Code introduced in 1900 had left the law unaltered in the matter, basing it precisely on the General state laws for the Prussian states of 1794. Property rights were also slow to change. During the late 19th century, married women still had no property rights, requiring a male guardian to administer property on their behalf (exceptions were made for cases involving imprisoned or absent husbands). Any woman who had inherited an artisan business had some freedom in practice to run the business, but she was not permitted to attend guild meetings, and had to send a male to represent her interests. Tradition dictated that "the state recognizes a burgher but not a burgess". [1] : 406

The Age of Enlightenment brought a consciousness of feminist thinking to England and France, most influentially in the works of Mary Wollstonecraft. This was a development that lagged in German-speaking regions. Where upper-class women were literate in England and France and sometimes became prolific writers of feminist works, a network of feminist writers and activists was slow to emerge in what would become modern Germany. Many reasons have been considered as having a bearing upon this dilemma, from fractured regions, to the lack of a capital city, to the slow spread of novels and other literary forms in German-speaking areas. [1] : 406 Women with literary talent were more likely to work in relative isolation, yet they left a legacy of letters and memoirs that gained a new popularity as the nostalgic Kulturgeschichte (culture history) trend in the first decades of the 20th century. [1] : 407

Feminist ideas still began to spread, and some radical women became outspoken in promoting the cause of women's rights. Sophie Mereau launched the Almanach für Frauen (Women's Almanac) in 1784. [1] : 407 Feminism as a movement began to gain ground toward the end of the 19th century, although it did not yet include a strong push to extend suffrage to German women. Some women who worked for women's rights were in fact opposed to extending the vote to women, a stance that became more widespread at the turn of the 20th century, when many Germans were concerned that granting women the vote would result in more votes for socialists. [1] : 407

Hildegard of Bingen, Medieval religious and medical writer and polymath.

Wilhelmine Germany Edit

Germany's unification process after 1871 was heavily dominated by men and gave priority to the "Fatherland" theme and related male issues, such as military prowess. [2] Nevertheless, women became much better organized themselves. Middle class women enrolled in the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine, the Union of German Feminist Organizations (BDF). Founded in 1894, it grew to include 137 separate women's rights groups from 1907 until 1933, when the Nazi regime disbanded the organization. [3]

The BDF gave national direction to the proliferating women's organizations that had sprung up since the 1860s. From the beginning the BDF was a bourgeois organization, its members working toward equality with men in such areas as education, financial opportunities, and political life. Working-class women were not welcome they were organized by the Socialists. [4]

Formal organizations for promoting women's rights grew in numbers during the Wilhelmine period. German feminists began to network with feminists from other countries, and participated in the growth of international organizations Marie Stritt was active as a feminist leader not only in Germany but with the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). [5] Stritt met the radical feminists Anita Augspurg (Germany's first woman university graduate) and Minna Cauer, and became a supporter of the Women's Legal Aid Society. Stritt's goals included suffrage for women, access to higher education, an end to state-regulated prostitution, free access to contraception and abortion, and reforms to divorce laws. Stritt was active as a member and leader in many German feminist organizations during the late 19th century and early 20th century, including: [5]

  • League for the Protection of Motherhood and Social Reform
  • Reform
  • Federation of German Women's Associations (FGWA)

The FGWA had been moderate in its positions until 1902, then launched a campaign to reform the civil code, but the campaign failed to bring about any changes. Stritt found herself on the radical edge of Germany's feminist movement, spearheading the German Association for Women's Suffrage from 1911 until it disbanded in 1919, having achieved the goal of women's suffrage in November of that year. [5]

Die Frau magazine, January 1906, published by the feminist umbrella organization Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine (BDF).

Poster for International Women's Day, March 8, 1914. Claiming voting rights for women.

A bust of Clara Zetkin in Dresden, Germany. Zetkin was a member of the Reichstag, and co-founded International Women's Day.

Socialist feminists were active in promoting the rights of working-class women. Socialist, communist, and social democratic organizations had feminist members, who promoted women's rights with mixed success. During the rise of nationalism in this era, one Fascist organization that was vocally anti-feminist was the German National Association of Commercial Employees (Deutschnationaler Handlungsgehilfenverband, or DHV), which promoted the interests of the merchant class. [6] There was little opportunity for feminists of the working class and feminists of the middle or upper classes to work together. The expansion of Germany's industrial economy during the 1890s and up to World War I had brought more women into the labour force. However, cooperation between the social classes was "unfeasible" at the time. [7]

Women's emancipation was attained despite pressure from The German League for the Prevention of Women's Emancipation, which numbered several hundred supporters and was active beginning in 1912, disbanding in 1920. The antifeminist sentiment among some Germans reflected a variety of arguments against women's emancipation:

The arguments against women's emancipation varied but often included sentiments regarding the inferiority of women and women's subjugation to men as determined by God or by nature. More frequently and sometimes additionally, they included charges that a change in women's position in society would be morally wrong, against tradition, and would trigger a decline of the importance of the family. Such arguments sometimes surfaced as protective and paternalistic justifications, e.g., the desire to "shield" women from the public sphere. [8]

Writer Hedwig Dohm gave some impetus to the feminist movement in Germany with her writings during the late 19th century, with her argument that women's roles were created by society rather than being a biological imperative. During this period, a wider range of feminist writings from other languages were being translated into German, deepening the feminist discourse further for German women.

Access to education Edit

In Sex in Education, Or, A Fair Chance for Girls (1873), educator Edward H. Clarke researched educational standards in Germany. He found that by the 1870s, formal education for middle and upper-class girls was the norm in Germany's cities, although it ended at the onset of menarche, which typically happened when a girl was 15 or 16. After this, her education might continue at home with tutors or occasional lectures. Clarke concluded that "Evidently the notion that a boy's education and a girl's education should be the same, and that the same means the boy's, has not yet penetrated the German mind. This has not yet evolved the idea of the identical education of the sexes." [9] Education for peasant girls was not formal, and they learned farming and housekeeping tasks from their parents. This prepared them for a life of harsh labour on the farm. On a visit to Germany, Clarke observed that:

"German peasant girls and women work in the field and shop with and like men. None who have seen their stout and brawny arms can doubt the force with which they wield the hoe and axe. I once saw, in the streets of Coblentz, a woman and a donkey yoked to the same cart, while a man, with a whip in his hand, drove the team. The bystanders did not seem to look upon the moving group as if it were an unusual spectacle. [10]

Young middle class and upper-class women began to pressure their families and the universities to allow them access to higher education. Anita Augspurg, the first woman university graduate in Germany, graduated with a law degree from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Several other German women, unable to gain admittance to German universities, also went to the University of Zurich to continue their education. In 1909, German universities finally allowed women to gain admittance—but women graduates were unable to practice their profession, as they were "barred from private practice and public administrative posts for lawyers". [11] The first women's legal aid agency was established by Marie Stritt in 1894 by 1914, there were 97 such legal aid agencies, some employing women law graduates. [11]

Weimar Germany Edit

Following women's enfranchisement, women's rights made significant gains in Germany during the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Constitution of 1919 enacted equality in education for the sexes, equal opportunity in civil service appointments, and equal pay in the professions. These changes put Germany in the group of advanced countries in terms of women's legal rights (Czechoslovakia, Iceland, Lithuania and the Soviet Union also had no distinction between the sexes in the professions, while countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Norway held onto restrictions to the professions for women throughout the inter-war period). [12] Germany's Reichstag had 32 women deputies in 1926 (6.7% of the Reichstag), giving women representation at the national level that surpassed countries such as Great Britain (2.1% of the House of Commons) and the United States (1.1% of the House of Representatives) this climbed to 35 women deputies in the Reichstag in 1933 on the eve of the Nazi dictatorship, when Great Britain still had only 15 women members in the House of Commons. [13]

The umbrella group of feminist organizations, the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine (BDF Federation of German Women's Associations), remained the dominant force in German feminism during the inter-war period. It had around 300,000 members at the start of World War I, growing to over 900,000 members during the 1920s it has been noted, however, that the middle-class membership was far from radical, and promoted maternal "clichés" and "bourgeois responsibilities". [14] Other feminist groups were organized around religious faiths, and there were many Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish feminist groups.

Prominent feminists of this era included Helene Lange (founding BDF board member and women's suffrage activist who served in the Hamburg Senate), her life partner Gertrud Bäumer (writer and Reichstag delegate from 1919 to 1932), Helene Stöcker (pacifist, gender activist, writer and feminist journal editor), and Clara Zetkin (Marxist theorist, women's rights activist, and KPD Reichstag delegate from 1920 to 1933). [15] The 1920s also saw the rise of the "New Woman" (Neue Frau), as portrayed by authors such as Elsa Herrmann (So ist die neue Frau, 1929) and Irmgard Keun (Das kunstseidene Mädchen, 1932, translated as The Artificial Silk Girl, 1933).

Mother and Twins (1927/37) by Expressionist sculptor Käthe Kollwitz.

An issue of the lesbian periodical, Die Freundin, 1928.

League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel or BDM) gymnastics performance, 1941.

Women doing their wash at a cold water hydrant in a Berlin street, July 1945.

The Weimar Republic was an era of political fragmentation in Germany. Along with the economic chaos of the inter-war years, Weimar culture in general had a degree of social chaos, which was experienced in the city of Berlin in particular. War widows and their children struggled to earn a living in a city where hunger, unemployment, and crime were rampant. At the same time, a liberation of social mores meant that women had a social freedom they had not experienced until then. Socialists and communists in particular became open in demanding free access to contraception and abortion, asserting, "Your body belongs to you". [16]

Nazi era Edit

Historians have paid special attention to Nazi Germany's efforts to reverse the gains that women made before 1933, especially during the liberal Weimar Republic. [17] It appears the role of women in Nazi Germany changed according to circumstances. Theoretically, the Nazis believed that women must be subservient to men, avoid careers, devote themselves to childbearing and child-rearing, and be a helpmate of the traditional dominant father in the traditional family. [18] However, before 1933, women played important roles in the Nazi organization and were allowed some autonomy to mobilize other women. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, the activist women were replaced by bureaucratic women who emphasized feminine virtues, marriage, and childbirth. As Germany prepared for war, large numbers were incorporated into the public sector and with the need for full mobilization of factories by 1943, all women were required to register with the employment office. Women's wages remained unequal and women were denied positions of leadership or control. [19]

In 1934, Hitler proclaimed, "[A woman's] world is her husband, her family, her children, her house." [20] Women's highest calling was motherhood. Laws that had protected women's rights were repealed and new laws were introduced to restrict women to the home and in their roles as wives and mothers. Women were barred from government and university positions. Women's rights groups, such as the moderate BDF, were disbanded, and replaced with new social groups that would reinforce Nazi values, under the leadership of the Nazi Party and the head of women's affairs in Nazi Germany, Reichsfrauenführerin Gertrud Scholtz-Klink. [21]

In 1944–45, more than 500,000 women volunteers were uniformed auxiliaries in the German armed forces (Wehrmacht). About the same number served in civil aerial defense, 400,000 volunteered as nurses, and many more replaced drafted men in the wartime economy. [22] In the Luftwaffe, they served in combat roles helping to operate the anti—aircraft systems that shot down Allied bombers. [23]

West Germany, East Germany Edit

During the post-War period political life in the Federal Republic of Germany was conservative in character:

Political elites were dominated firstly by the CDU, a party focusing on economic growth and drawing on the support of established business interests and diverse local elites, and also latterly by the SDP with its traditional base in the male-dominated workers' organizations. [24]

Demographic changes which resulted from World War II meant that women made up a larger proportion of the electorate for several decades, but this did not result in significant representation in government by 1987, women still made up only 10% of the representatives in the Bundestag. Women had less education, and they were less likely to be employed, either in the professions, or the service industry. [25]

Yet, after the Federal Republic of Germany began to make strides in its recovery from the aftermath of World War II, feminist issues began to rise to the surface of public consciousness. The works of feminist writers such as Betty Friedan were translated into German, and a new generation of German feminists began to agitate for social change. A disillusionment with conventional political parties, and even with standard Marxist activism, led to the growth of the radical left during the 1970s, including militant groups. Rote Zora was one anti-patriarchy terrorist group while it carried out an estimated 45 bombings and arson attacks between 1974 and 1995, it accomplished little. [26] A development in the Left that had a longer-lasting impact was the establishment of the Green Party in 1980. Feminists pushed the Green Party to include abortion reform as an "unqualified party commitment", and as more feminists became part of the Party leadership, women's rights were brought to prominence by the mid-1980s. [27] West Germany's most well-known feminist, the "mediagenic" Alice Schwarzer, founded the popular feminist magazine EMMA in 1977, and remains its Editor-in-Chief. [28]

State socialism in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) ostensibly meant equality between the sexes. Marxist writers such as Frederick Engels, August Bebel, and Clara Zetkin had written of the role of gender exploitation in capitalism. In the GDR, there was little public consciousness of conflict between the sexes, although women's rights were discussed by certain activist groups, drawing Stasi attention. [29] The official GDR line during the 1960s and 1970s was that the Western feminist movement was "man-hating". [30] Women in the GDR were reputed to have a more exhausting way of life than women in the FRG, for a number of reasons. In addition to a longer formal workweek for GDR workers, women performed three-quarters of the housework and childcare [ citation needed ] . Few people owned cars, and product shortages and long lines made errands such as grocery shopping more time-consuming. [31] Although men were entitled to one year of parental leave following the birth of a child, they did not actually take it. By the 1970s, some GDR writers were observing that women's social roles were lagging their legal and economic status. Until 1977 married women in West Germany could not work without permission from their husbands. [32] However, women began to receive extensions to paid maternity leave that were generous by Western standards. [33]

By the early 21st century, issues of intersectionality between diverse social groups gained the attention of a larger number of feminists and other social reformers in Germany and beyond. After decades of pushing for greater legal recognition as full citizens, Gastarbeiter (guest workers) and their children (often born and raised in Germany) won some reforms at the national level in the late 1990s. During this time, women's rights groups had not, in general, made the guest worker issue a feminist cause. There were sporadic instances of women's rights groups voicing support for women guest workers' right to vote, and to have other women's rights included in the government's 1998 draft law for guest workers. [34]

Before 1997, the definition of rape in Germany was: "Whoever compels a woman to have extramarital intercourse with him, or with a third person, by force or the threat of present danger to life or limb, shall be punished by not less than two years’ imprisonment". [35] In 1997 there were changes to the rape law, broadening the definition, making it gender-neutral, and removing the marital exemption. [36] Before, marital rape could only be prosecuted as "Causing bodily harm" (Section 223 of the German Criminal Code), "Insult" (Section 185 of the German Criminal Code) and "Using threats or force to cause a person to do, suffer or omit an act" (Nötigung, Section 240 of the German Criminal Code) which carried lower sentences [37] and were rarely prosecuted. [38]

Networked feminism, where women's rights activists communicate and organize using social media, is a growing trend among younger feminists in Germany. The Ukrainian feminist organization FEMEN, established in 2008, has spread to Germany as of 2013. Chapters have been founded in Berlin and Hamburg. [39] In late 2012 and early 2013, Twitter became the medium of mass protests against common types of sexist harassment. Using a hashtag called #aufschrei (outcry), more than 100,000 tweets (messages) were sent to protest personal experiences of harassment, raising awareness of the issue and generating national and international press coverage. [40]

Women's representation in government and the workforce has made progress in the early 21st century. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has established her key role in European politics. Merkel's time in office has not been without controversy related to women's rights legislation in 2013, she opposed an EU proposal to introduce 40-percent female quota on executive boards in all publicly listed companies with more than 250 employees by 2020, on the basis that this was a violation of member states' affairs. Germany's Labour Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, a supporter of the quota in Germany, received a written order from Merkel to "alter her ministry's lack of an objection to the EU directive, so that the cabinet could present a unified face to Germany's EU officials". [41] However, in March 2015 the SPD party won the battle on female quota. A new law requires about 100 companies to appoint women on 30 percent of their supervisory board seats, beginning in 2016. In addition, 3,500 companies are required to submit plans to increase the female share in top positions. [42]


Hitler's Youth Movement - League of German Maidens - History bibliographies - in Harvard style

Your Bibliography: 2016. BDM girls taking part in gymnastics. [image] Available at: <http://www.nickelinthemachine.com/tag/nazis/> [Accessed 17 March 2016].

League of German Girls in Hitler Youth (1936)

In-text: (League of German Girls in Hitler Youth (1936), 2016)

Your Bibliography: 2016. League of German Girls in Hitler Youth (1936). [image] Available at: <http://spartacus-educational.com/2WWgirls.htm> [Accessed 17 March 2016].

- a historical research site

In-text: ( < Bund Deutscher Maedel >- a historical research site, 2016)

Your Bibliography: Bdmhistory.com. 2016. < Bund Deutscher Maedel >- a historical research site. [online] Available at: <http://www.bdmhistory.com/reenacting/facts.html> [Accessed 17 March 2016].

Young Girls League - History Learning Site

In-text: (Young Girls League - History Learning Site, 2016)

Your Bibliography: History Learning Site. 2016. Young Girls League - History Learning Site. [online] Available at: <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/young-girls-league/> [Accessed 17 March 2016].

Hitler's Influence Over Youth - GCSE History - Marked by Teachers.com

In-text: (Hitler's Influence Over Youth - GCSE History - Marked by Teachers.com, 2016)

Your Bibliography: Markedbyteachers.com. 2016. Hitler's Influence Over Youth - GCSE History - Marked by Teachers.com. [online] Available at: <http://www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/history/hitler-s-influence-over-youth.html> [Accessed 17 March 2016].

German League of Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel)

In-text: (German League of Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel), 2016)


BDM Girls

BDM in der Landwirtschaft (&ldquoBDM in Agriculture&rdquo), c. late 1939, held by German Federal Archives.

Before it became law in 1939, there were tens of thousands of girls signed up to the Hitler Youth organisations. The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel [BDM]) was the female section of the Hitler Youth founded in 1930. The purpose of BDM was to indoctrinate girls into the beliefs and ideals of the Nazi regime. This was a clever government program to create generations of girls dedicated to Nazism, being dutiful housewives, and whose primary purpose within society was to become a mother. The roles of girls and the women they would become was completely designed and proscribed by the government &ndash total obedience.

You had to have German parents, be healthy, and conform to Nazi racial ideals to be a BDM member. This was a club that girls wanted to belong to, for the most part. If you were not a member, you were shunned and treated badly by those who were. This public shaming was a common practice of the Nazis. Their education included modified versions of history and science to support the Nazi beliefs of Aryan racial superiority.

BDM girls served the regime in ways beyond just being good Nazis. They had mandatory domestic and agricultural labor to perform as well as supporting the troops with choral performances. Above all, they kept physically fit, to be perfect child-bearing vessels for future Nazis. This photograph is a terrifying reminder of not only what young people were capable of doing during the rise of Hitler and beyond, but also the power of group mentality, especially one lead by a government that is allowed to span generations. It is only a matter of time before they didn&rsquot know any different or any better.

-Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Girl Museum is currently producing an exhibition about Girl Groups, the positive ones. If you were a member of a girl group (i.e. Girl Guides or Scouts), please get in touch.

This post is part of our 52 Objects in the History of Girlhood exhibition. Each week during 2017, we explore a historical object and its relation to girls&rsquo history. Stay tuned to discover the incredible history of girls, and be sure to visit the complete exhibition to discover the integral role girls have played since the dawn of time.


Hitler Youth

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Hitler Youth, German Hitlerjugend, organization set up by Adolf Hitler in 1933 for educating and training male youth in Nazi principles. Under the leadership of Baldur von Schirach, head of all German youth programs, the Hitler Youth included by 1935 almost 60 percent of German boys. On July 1, 1936, it became a state agency that all young “Aryan” Germans were expected to join.

Upon reaching his 10th birthday, a German boy was registered and investigated (especially for “racial purity”) and, if qualified, inducted into the Deutsches Jungvolk (“German Young People”). At age 13 the youth became eligible for the Hitler Youth, from which he was graduated at age 18. Throughout these years he lived a spartan life of dedication, fellowship, and Nazi conformity, generally with minimum parental guidance. From age 18 he was a member of the Nazi Party and served in the state labour service and the armed forces until at least the age of 21.

Two leagues also existed for girls. The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel) trained girls ages 14 to 18 for comradeship, domestic duties, and motherhood. Jungmädel (“Young Girls”) was an organization for girls ages 10 to 14.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Watch the video: German Youth - Physical Training And Sports Meeting 1937 (May 2022).