List of Contents
I Main Part
a) Breeding Women
b) Political Women
c.) Working Women
“Women have the task of being beautiful and bringing children into the world, and this is by no means as coarse and old-fashioned as one might think.”The aims of the National Socialist women policy have not been as simple as Goebbels puts it in 1939. On the contrary, they were contradictory.
Firstly, the regime wanted to reduce women to their biological function. Their central task was breeding. This procreation policy bore two major advantages: It helped the Nazis in pursuing their racial policy of purifying the Aryan race and it provided a means for a decrease in the mass unemployment, as married women were supposed to give up their jobs.
Secondly, this family-orientated policy aimed at recording women and girls as party members and to organise them for this purpose in Frauenverbaende (women’s associations).
A complete change of this policy took place by the outbreak of World War II and during the war years. ‘Total war’ forced the Nazis to abandon the domestic ideal for women; hence a total mobilization of female labour was attempted although this led to a contradiction within Nazi ideology. “The intention of the conservative revolution to return women to the home had to be subordinated to other ideological goals – industrial expansion and war preparation.”
The following essay will examine the development of Nazi policy towards women and will, on the basis of primary sources, assess the experiences of women in the Third Reich from 1933 until 1945.
I Main Part
a) Breeding Women
The officially sanctioned position of women in the Third Reich was in the home. The Nazis believed that women had been designed by nature for motherhood and domesticity. At the Nuremberg Party rally of 1934 Hitler stated, “her world is her husband, her family, her children, and her house.”In contrast to many emancipatory goals women had achieved in the Weimar Republic, like the vote and vital roles in national politics, the requirements of the National Socialists were a huge setback.
In June 1933, in pursuance of a higher birth rate, the regime launched a marriage-loan program for couples satisfying certain tests of economic, political and eugenic ability. Each couple was granted 1000 Reichsmark and as a further impetus the loan was reduced by a quarter upon the birth of each child. Various other financial inducements were introduced by the Nazis to lure women to bear as many ‘Aryan’ children as possible. These included tax allowances for children, paid for by extra taxes on the unmarried, maternity allowances, child subsidies for poor parents with large families and child allowances. “In the Third Reich marriage is seen as a breeding institution and the woman is considered as a breeding machine.”This statement shows the scepticism many women had for the campaign to restore married women to their ‘proper’ place, which is mirrored by the low birth rate of 19 children per thousand inhabitants in 1938.
More significantly, the marriage-loans were conditional upon the wife giving up her employment. The regime hoped that as a consequence of this program eight hundred thousand women would leave their jobs within four years, so reducing the mass unemployment. Women’s access to the labour market was also blocked in other ways. For example they were prevented from working as doctors, civil servants, judges and lawyers and by 1936 were no longer allowed to enter teacher-training programs. Hitler’s hostility towards working women was based on his principle that women are unable to “think logically or reason objectively, since they are ruled only by emotion.”How frustrated many women became after giving up an important part of their independence illustrated Gerda Zorn: “After my marriage I had to give up my job as a secretary because so-called double-income couples were not allowed. I hated the ‘three K-role’ (Kinder-Kueche-Kirche/children-kitchen-church).”
J. Goebbels, ‘Speech in Munich (1939)’, in Women in the Third Reich, URL: http://www.kdhs.org.uk/history/as/as_unit3/hitlersgermany33_39.htm.
B. Sax, D. Kuntz, Inside Hitler’s Germany. A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich (Lexington, 1992), p. 277.
A. Hitler, ‘Speech at the Party Rally of the NSDAP on 8. September 1934’, in Voelkischer Beobachter (September 9, 1934).
Cited after: Unknown German, Der Deutsche Frauen Leid und Glueck (Paris, 1939), p. 47.
Compare: M. Freeman, Atlas of Nazi Germany. A political, economic and social anatomy of The Third Reich (New York, 1995), p. 83.
Compare: Life in Hitler’s Germany, 1933-39, URL: http://www.kdhs.org.uk/history/as/as_unit3/hitlersgermany33_39.htm.
G. Zorn, Frauen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Hamburg, 1980).