Independent Study Unit:
Women in Nazi Germany
What the man gives in courage on the battlefield, the woman gives in eternal self sacrifice, in eternal pain and suffering. Every child that a woman brings into the world is a battle, a battle waged for the existence of her people.
-Adolph Hitler (Bendersky, 1986, p. 165)
This message to the women of Germany by the Führer himself salutes their maternal sacrifices and clarifies one of the many roles that were expected of the women during the Nazi regime. Hitler had a loyal female following, in fact it is because of a woman named Helen Bechstein wife of Bechstein the piano maker, that Hitler was first introduced into exclusive Berlin society (Sigmund, 2000, p. 8). His ability to manipulate anyone who crossed his path and use them to further himself was another one of his traits. This trademark tool was used mainly in molding the German conscience, convincing them of their new purpose and the ideals of the National Socialists (NS). As soon as the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) gained momentum in the polls and the peoples' hearts, the need to thwart the overtly liberal and feminist philosophies of the Weimar era became a priority on the NSDAP agenda. Beginning with the anti-feminism movements, restricting employment and educational opportunities, banning women from politics and by monitoring them through youth and women's groups, Hitler controlled women, and ultimately the German culture.
After the Great War, 1918-1932, Germany was a democracy recognized as the Weimar Republic, whose democratic ambitions supported the "modern woman", creating work and educational opportunities as well as ensuring universal female suffrage (Seligmann, 2003, p. 117). Once the NSDAP was elected in 1933 the sexual liberation, emancipation of women, cabarets, bustling city centres and the hedonistic lifestyle was over. Henceforth women needed to reflect the conservative views of the Nazi party. The supposedly gentler sex were "
week, emotional creatures whose intellectual inferiority required male supervision and guidance," (Bendersky, 1986, p 163). This in turn created a culture of subservient women who would do as they were told. Nevertheless, the new concepts of the "modern woman" and emancipation that had sprung from the First World War were now embedded into German culture. Not even the melodious rhetoric of the smooth talking Führer could change that mentality over night. Nazi slogans such as "Men and women are two separate beings
each with just as separate functions, " and "The world of a woman is small compared to that of a man," caused outrage in many parts of Germany (Sigmund, 2000, p.18). However when the Nazi's held parliament in 1933 swift action in the form of anti-emancipation campaigns began and slowly Germany started adopting an old attitude towards women. The plans of the NS were to raise the population for the war efforts and the eventual settlement in the East. Since the birth rate had fallen from two million from the time of Hitler's inception to less than one million (Radway, 2002, p.48). Hitler began pushing to reduce the role of women, from individuals who were employed and studied in all fields same as men, to purely biological machines concerned only with their familial functions. The democratic ambitions of Weimar Germany that once assured universal suffrage and equality were now nowhere to be found, and according to Hitler and Nazi propaganda, the "modern woman" was a result of Jewish intellectuals that coined the term "emancipation of women" (Seligmann, 2003, p. 45). So now the only accepted idea of women revolved around "Children, Church and kitchen". (Grunberger, 1971, p.252). To start, loans, child subsidies and income tax cuts were established as incentives for the Germans to procreate. The Law for the Encouragement of Marriage, is one example. It gave loans of up to 1000 marks (equivalent to nine months salary), which would be paid...
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