How the Racial Policies of the Nazis Affected the Status and Role of Women in Nazi Germany
A film entitled “Zum 29, Oktober 1942” can be seen online, showing various idyllic scenes from the lives of a beautiful woman and her 6 children1. The family in the film was of Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister for Propaganda, and a member of Hitler’s close personal circle. The Goebbels were thought of as the Third Reich’s “First Family”, as Adolf Hitler, as the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, was always shown to the public as a single man, devoted to the Fatherland and its people. As such, Joseph Goebbels, his wife Magda, and their six children were depicted as the epitome of the German family, often depicted as such in propaganda films, magazine and newspaper articles. Magda in particular was used as an example, as a figure people could look to as the model German woman. Why was she depicted in this way? It is clear to anyone watching the home movies that she was a handsome woman, healthy, statuesque, and most importantly, a devoted mother. In the Third Reich, the “Mother” was the most important role a woman could hold. Therefore Frau Goebbels, with her 6 healthy, smiling, obedient children, was the perfect woman to depict the perfect woman. The primary social manifesto for the Nazi regime was the purification and growth of the Aryan race, and legislation dictated for the population reflected as much. The First World War and the years following it had a devastating impact on the population of Germany, and the birthrate was declining when the Nazis took power. For the Third Reich to be strong, Germany would need land and people. For example, the program called “Lebensraum (Living Space)2” would claim lands and resources from conquered eastern territories of Europe for use by Germans. These lands would be emptied of the native (and undesirable) population to make room for Germans. Because the Nazis 1 2
“Zum 29. Oktober 1942” Online Video, director, producer, unknown. 48 min., Google Videos Dr. Matthew Seligmann, Dr. John Davison, and John McDonald, Daily Life in Hitler’s Germany (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2003), 60.
were fanatical about what a German, as the Aryan Master Race, should be, many eugenics programs were introduced as state policies. Women of the Reich, whether she was considered traditional, non-traditional, or a-social, were affected by the racial policies of the Third Reich. The first entry in the outline of the “Basic Principles and Organizational Guidelines of the National Socialist Womenhood” states:
“1. We desire the awakening, the training, and the renewal of women’s role as the preservers of the nation’s springs: the nation’s love life, marriage, motherhood and the family, blood and race, youth and nationhood. The whole education, training, careers and position of women within the nation and state must be organized in terms of their physical and mental tasks as mothers.3”
This passage sums up the Nazi regime’s ideology on what a German woman should be. Strong emphasis was put on the return to traditional roles of women, the epitome of that being a mother. Women like Magda Goebbels, if they were physically, racially, and mentally acceptable to produce children for the future of the Third Reich, were lauded and given many benefits. Some were cosmetic, such as awarding the Mother’s Cross4, of differing ranks depending on the woman’s fecundity 5 . The wearing of this medal
Jeremy Noakes and Geoffery Pridham eds., Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1919-1945. Vol. 1: The Nazi Party, State and Society 1919-1939, (New York: Schocken Books, 1984) 460. 4 Noakes and Pridham, 452. 5 Adam LeBor and Roger Boyes, Seduced By Hitler: The choices of a nation and the Ethics of Survival, (Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc. 2000), 83.
commanded a salute from any passing Hitler Youth 6 . The growth of the Aryan population was so important to the Nazi regime that...