Infant care

‘While man makes his supreme sacrifice on the field of battle woman fights her supreme battle for her nation when she gives her life to her child.’ To what extent was the Nazi view of women actually put into practice? When Hitler came into power in 1933 he set out a number of policies to ensure women knew their place, and stayed at home to raise the children. The Nazis saw women as breeders. Important to the regime producing offspring to be trained as soldiers or to become mothers. In 1933 Hitler emphasised that ‘in my state the mother is the most important citizen’. This one line sums up the general perception of women, they are born to serve a biological purpose and become mothers. A number of laws followed this to aid in the creation of the ‘Master Race’ for which Hitler strived.

Joseph Goebbels wrote in 1929 “The mission of women is to be beautiful and to bring children into the world. This is not at all as…unmodern as it sounds. The female bird pretties herself for her mate and hatches eggs for him. In exchange, the male takes care of gathering food, and stands guard and wards off the enemy.” Joseph Goebbels, writing in 1929″

Goebbels in Munich reiterated this in a speech in 1939. Other speeches made by Hitler were set to gain popularity and support for the party. These speeches continued throughout the time he was in power. Hitler used his talents to gain the support he needed from the women of Germany. It was through this means that he managed to make the vast majority of women comply with the programme and allow themselves to be manipulated and accept their traditional role of housewives. In a speech by Adolf Hitler in September 1935 he manages to denounce Marxists view of equal-rights and make his own view seem superior.

“The so-called granting of equal rights to women, which Marxism demands, in reality does not grant equal rights but constitutes a deprivation of rights, since it draws the woman into an area in which she will necessarily be inferior. The woman has her own battlefield. With every child that she brings into the world, she fights her battle for the nation.” One of the first laws to be enforced was the Law for Encouragement of Marriage.

This law meant that should a couple of Aryan appearance, and so of the correct race, marry they would be given a loan of 1000 marks; this was equivalent to about nine months salary This loan would then be reduced each time a child was born. 25% was deducted for each child, and if the family produced four children the loan would be cleared. It was single men and childless couples who were taxed more heavily that made this law possible. 800,000 newly weds took up this offer. This law was aimed at encouraging more couples to have more children; the population would need to increase severely if ‘Lebensraum’ was to succeed. The land acquired from Eastern Europe would require people to populate it. The marriage loan was abolished in 1937. Adolf Hitler appointed Gertrud Scholtz-Klink as Reich Woman’s leader and head of the Nazi Women’s League. Her main task was to promote male superiority and the importance of childbearing. In one speech she said, ‘the mission of woman is to minister in the home and in her profession to the needs of life from the first to last moment of man’s existence.’

Girls were taught from a young age that ‘all good German women married at a young age to a proper German and that the wife’s task was to keep a decent home for her working husband and to have children’. They were also told not to smoke or diet, as it would affect their ability to produce health children. From the age of fourteen girls entered the ‘Bund Deutscher Madel’ (German Girl’s League). Here they were taught their role as a good mother and wife and that their place was in the home. It was here they were steered towards the three Ks: Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (children, home, church)

In 1942 G. Zienef wrote: “I spent an hour with the principal, a very friendly, neat lady of fifty. She explained that every class in school was built around a course called Frauenschaffen, activities of women. This general subject was divided into: Handarbeit (handwork), Hauswirtschaft (domestic science,cooking, house and garden work), and most important, the Pflege course (eugenics, and hygiene, devoted to a study of the reproductive organs, both male and female, conception, birth, racial purity, infant care, family welfare).

She told me that the Fuehrer wanted the girls to feel that their bodies were more important for the State than their minds. He wanted girls to be proud of their bodies. He wanted them to get interested in the bodies of their sweethearts. If a girl had a healthy body, fit for childbirth, she should be proud to display it to advantage.” Contraception and abortion were all but banned, and unmarried women were encouraged to have children via Lebensborn’s: These were buildings where selected women could go to get pregnant by a ‘racially pure’ SS man. These buildings were not hidden away from the public eye, they were openly publicised by the government. Heinrich Himmler suggested that men should have a girlfriend in addition to his wife, to increase the population at a faster rate. This idea was dismissed as even the Nazi leaders realised that this would create social anarchy. Head of the German Girl’s League, Utta Rudiger, said this after she heard a speech by Himmler in 1939

“He 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 would bear his children. And I must say, all my leaders were sitting there with their hair standing on end.” Women were encouraged to have many children; they were offered rewards such as tax allowances, maternity benefits and health services. Hitler even publicly praised women for their ‘services to the state and race’. Women who mothered 4 or more children were awarded medals, known as The Mother’s Cross, if you had eight children you would receive a gold cross, silver for six children, and a bronze cross for four children. In 1939 three million women had received a Mother’s Cross.

During the years of Weimar Germany there had been a large female workforce, with 100,000 female teachers, 3,000 female doctors and 13,000 female musicians. In 1934 most women doctors and civil servants had been dismissed, this was followed in June 1936 when women were stopped from acting as judges or public prosecutors. Women were also discouraged from entering university with the number of female students falling from 18,315 in the year before the Nazis came to power, to 5,447 in 1939.

During the Second World War there was a shortage of workers as men were now being sent to fight. More women were being employed and in 1937 a law was passed that meant that all women had to work a ‘duty year’. They could work in factories and in other professions previously made unavailable. They were said to be working ‘patriotically’ and to help the Nazi’s ‘Economic Miracle’. By 1944, as more men were called out to join the armed forces, there were 28,378 female students training for better jobs.

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