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After the First World War women in Germany were given the vote and feminist elite, led

by Rosa
Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, helped to shape the political post-war scene. Luxemburg, the
leader of the Spartacus League, was murdered by the Freikorpsin January, 1919, but other
women replaced her at the forefront of politics and by 1932 they had 36 members of
the Reichstag. Germany also had 100,000 women teachers, 13,000 women musicians and 3,000
women doctors. (1)
The Wall Street Crash caused serious problems for the German economy. The collapse in share
prices meant an urgent need to repatriate American capital invested abroad. The number of
registered unemployed in Germany rose from 1.6 million in October 1929 to 6.12 million in
February 1932. Since these figures did not include the "invisible" unregistered unemployed, it
has been estimated that the true figure was 7.6 million. "Thirty-three per cent of the workforces
were without jobs. Taking into account dependants, perhaps twenty-three million people was
affected by unemployment." (2)
During the early 1930s women often found it easier to find jobs than men. The main reason was
that female labour was cheaper. As Richard Grunberger has pointed out: "Skilled women earned
66 per cent of men's wages, unskilled ones 70 per cent, which explains why during the
Depression nearly one man in three (29 per cent) was dismissed but only one woman in every ten
(11 per cent)... In 1933 women formed 37 per cent of the total employed labor force in Germany.
Unemployment and the Nazi Party
During the election campaign in 1932, Adolf Hitler promised that if he gained power he would
take 800,000 women out of employment within four years. Hitler told a delegation who had
come to discuss women's rights with him he told them the solution was for every woman to have
a husband. The American journalist, William L. Shirer, who was working in Germany at the
time, has argued that politicians such as Adolf Hitler "thrive only... when the masses were
unemployed, hungry and desperate". (4) In the election in November 1932 the Nazi Party won
230 seats, making it the largest party in the Reichstag. The German National Party, won nearly a
million additional votes. (5)
Wolfgang Willrich, The Aryan Family (1930)
Cate Haste, the author of Nazi Women (2001) has suggested that Hitler was popular with German
women. "When Hitler came to power, almost half of those voting for him were women. His
promise to restore order and end unemployment held strong appeal. German women had
experienced the anarchy of street fighting between rival political gangs on their doorsteps.
Unemployment bred uncertainty and discord at the heart of their family lives. Women who
worked to keep their families as their husbands lost their jobs, or who saw their standard of life
deteriorate, longed for stability and certainty - feelings successfully tapped by Hitler." (6)
Melita Maschmann was a young German woman who supported Hitler because she believed he
would bring an end to unemployment: "Part of the misery about which the adults complained

daily was unemployment. One could have no conception of what it mean for four, five or even
six million people to have no work. Berlin had four million inhabitantsImagine all the families
living in Berlin having scarcely enough dry bread to satisfy their hunger... I believed the National
Socialists when they promised to do away with unemployment I believed them when they said
they would reunite the German nation, which had split into more than forty political parties, and
overcome the consequences of the dictated peace of Versailles." (7)
Poster, "We Women Are Voting National Socialists" (1932)
After taking power Hitler's main idea of reducing unemployment amongst men was by taking
women out of the labor market. Ministers in the Nazi government made speech after speech
encouraging women to allow men to take their jobs. Joseph Goebbels made a very important
speech on the subject in March 1933. He pointed out that the Nazi Party had been criticized for
keeping "women out of daily politics" in Germany. "We do not see the woman as inferior, but as
having a different mission, a different value, than that of the man. Therefore we believed the
German woman, who more than any other in the world is a woman in the best sense of the word,
should use her strength and abilities in other areas than the man."
Goebbels condemned the idea that women had as much right as men to work. "Looking back
over the past years of Germanys decline, we come to the frightening, nearly terrifying,
conclusion that the less German men were willing to act as men in public life, the more women
succumbed to the temptation to fill the role of the man. The feminization of men always leads to
the masculinisation of women. An age in which all great idea of virtue, of steadfastness, of
hardness, and determination have been forgotten should not be surprised that the man gradually
loses his leading role in life and politics and government to the woman."
Goebbels then went on to argue that in recent years: "Some good, noble, and commendable
things have happened. But also things that are contemptible and humiliating. These revolutionary
transformations have largely taken from women their proper tasks. Their eyes were set in
directions that were not appropriate for them. The result was a distorted public view of German
womanhood that had nothing to do with former ideals. A fundamental change is necessary. At the
risk of sounding reactionary and outdated, let me say this clearly: The first, best, and most
suitable place for the women is in the family, and her most glorious duty is to give children to her
people and nation, children who can continue the line of generations and who guarantee the
immortality of the nation. The woman is the teacher of the youth, and therefore the builder of the
foundation of the future. If the family is the nations source of strength, the woman is its core and
centre. The best place for the woman to serve her people is in her marriage, in the family, in
motherhood." (8)
Women as Mothers
Adolf Hitler also reinforced this idea. In a speech he made in September 1934, he suggested that
the slogan "emancipation of women" was invented by Jewish intellectuals and was clearly
associated with Marxism. Women needed to leave the workplace and return to the home. For
her world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home. But what would become of the
greater world if there were no one to tend and care for the smaller one? The great world cannot

survive if the smaller world is not stable. We do not consider it correct for the women to interfere
in the world of the man. We consider it natural if these two worlds remain distinct." (9)
Nazi propaganda was carefully designed to elevate women's role. Motherhood was glorified in
posters, paintings and sculptures. "The breastfeeding mother appeared on sometimes graphically
deplorable posters and was sculptured for placing in public spaces. Painters depicted mothers
surrounded by their families in warm, soft-toned agricultural settings, intended to invoke the
peasant rural idyll within which the Nazi fantasy of ideal family life was framed." (10)
The NSDAP Protects the national community (c 1934)
Adolf Hitler returned to the subject a few months later. He argued that the Nazi government was
protecting the best interests of women by encouraging them to get married: "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." (11)
Reduction of Unemployment
Soon after Hitler gained power he ordered the Reichstag to pass legislation that would reduce
male unemployment. Young couples intending to get married could apply in advance for the
interest-free loan of up to 1,000 Reichsmarks provided that the prospective wife had been in
employment for at least six months in the two years up to the passing of the law. Importantly, she
had to give up her job by the time of the wedding and undertake not to enter the labour market
again until the loan was paid off, unless her husband lost his job in the meantime. To stimulate
production the loans were issued not in cash but in the form of vouchers for furniture and
household equipment. By the end of 1934, around 360,000 women had given up work in order to
get married. (12)
As Richard Evans, the author of The Third Reich in Power (2005), has pointed out: "That this
was not a short-term measure was indicated the terms of repayment, which amounted to 1 per
cent of the capital per month, so that the maximum period of the loan could be as much as eight
and a half years... However, the loans were made more attractive, and given an additional slant,
by a supplementary decree issued on 20 June 1933 reducing the amount to be repaid by a quarter
for each child born to the couple in question. With four children, therefore, couples would not
have to repay anything." (13)
To pay for these loans single men and childless couples were taxed more heavily. The German
government also made changes to the law to make marriage an instrument of racial policy. In
1934 the Nazi Racial Policy Bureau introduced ten rules to be observed when considering a
marriage partner. This included "Remember you are a German.... Being a German, only choose a
spouse or similar or related blood! When choosing your spouse, inquire into his or her
forebears... Hope for as many children as possible! Your duty is to produce at least four offspring
in order to ensure the future of the national stock." (14)

Adolf Hitler signing autographs for young women (c. 1936)

The German government also introduced measures to prevent these loans being obtained by
people they did not believe deserved them. All applicants had to undergo a medical examination
to see that they were really Aryans. If they had any hereditary diseases or were associated with
oppositional movements like the German Communist Party and Social Democrat Party they were
turned down for loans. (15) By the end of 1934, around 360,000 women had given up work.
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink
Adolf Hitler appointed Gertrud Scholtz-Klink as Reich Women's Leader and head of the German
Girls' League. A good orator, Scholtz-Klink's main task was to promote male superiority and the
importance of child-bearing. In one speech she pointed out that: "Woman is entrusted in the life
of the nation with a great task, the care of man, soul, body, and mind. It is the mission of woman
to minister in the home and in her profession to the needs of life from the first to last moment of
man's existence. Her mission in marriage is... comrade, helper and womanly complement of man
- this is the right of woman in the New Germany." (16)
In July 1934 Scholtz-Klink was appointed as head of the Women's Bureau in the German Labor
Front. She now had responsibility for persuading women to work for the good of the Nazi
government. The decline in unemployment after the Nazis gained power meant that it was not
necessary to force women out of manual work. However, action was taken to reduce the number
of women working in the professions. Married women doctors and civil servants were dismissed
in 1934 and from June 1936 women could no longer act as judges or public prosecutors. Hitler's
hostility to women was shown by his decision to make them ineligible to jury service because he
believed them to be unable to "think logically or reason objectively, since they are ruled only by
emotion." (17)
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Baldur von Schirach and Artur
In 1936 Scholtz-Klink published To Be German Is to Be Strong where she argued that it was the
role of women to be mothers in Nazi Germany. "Many women were superficially mothers (in the
past), but they had forgotten to subordinate themselves to the law of life, which sees the
affirmation of a child as the answer of the woman to her people, and also her contribution to the
right of her people to survive. Transforming the calling of motherhood to the job of motherhood
left children joyless, unhappy, without strength or soul. Devilish forces under the leadership of
Marxism attempted to lead German women along this path. It is therefore our task to awaken
once again the sense of the divine, to make the calling to motherhood the way through which the
German woman will see her calling to be mother of the nation. She will then not live her life
selfishly, but rather in service to her people." (18)
Traudl Junge argued that many young women were turned off Nazism by the image projected by
Scholtz-Klink. "The Fhrerin Gertrud Scholtz-Klink was the type we did not like at all. She was
just bourgeois and she was so ugly and wasn't fashionable at all. So that was why we didn't
bother about joining her organization... It didn't touch me or my friends very much... We were

interested in dancing and ballet, and I didn't care much for politics." Junge did not like the
message that young women should not wear make-up and had to be "naturally beautiful, sporty
and healthy, and giving her leader (Hitler) a lot of children." (19)
One of the objectives of the Nazi government was to reduce the number of women in higher
education. On 12th January 1934, Wilhelm Frick ordered that the proportion of female grammar
school graduates allowed to proceed to university should be no more than 10 per cent of that of
the male graduates. (20) That year, out of 10,000 girls who passed the Abitur entry examinations,
only 1,500 were granted university admission. In the year before the Nazis came to power there
were 18,315 women students in Germany's universities. Six years later this number had fallen to
5,447. The government also ordered a reduction in women teachers. By 1935 the number of
women teachers at girls' secondary schools had decreased by 15 per cent. (21)
A group of young girls parade in Coburg Hauptplatz, giving the Hitler
salute and singing the Horst-Wessel, the unofficial anthem of the Nazi Party.
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink was placed in charge of the Nazi Mother Service. The organization issued
a statement explaining its role in Nazi Germany: "The purpose of the National Mother Service is
political schooling. Political schooling for the woman is not a transmission of political
knowledge, nor the learning of Party programs. Rather, political schooling is shaping to a certain
attitude, an attitude that out of inner necessity affirms the measures of the State, takes them into
women's life, carries them out and causes them to grow and be further transmitted."
Joseph Goebbels pointed out in a speech in 1934: "Women has 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 female bird preens herself for her mate and hatches her eggs for him. In
exchange, the mate takes care of gathering the food and stands guard and wards off the enemy.
Hope for as many children as possible! Your duty is to produce at least four offspring in order to
ensure the future of the national stock." (22)
As Richard Evans, the author of The Third Reich in Power (2005) has pointed out: "The
reorganization of German secondary schools ordered in 1937 abolished grammar-school
education for girls altogether. Girls were banned from learning Latin, a requirement for
university entrance, and the Education Ministry did its best instead to steer them into domestic
education, for which a whole type of girls school existed... The number of female students in
higher education fell from just over 17,000 in 1932-33 to well under 6,000 in 1939." (23)
The Schutzstaffel (SS) also established bridal schools. Gertrud Draber later recalled: "I wanted to
be a perfect housewife. And I wanted to do something different with my life, not just be a
working girl in an office... None of us had a clue about running a household. So we were taught
everything that was necessary to be a woman; house-keeping, being a mother, and being a good
wife... My main aim as a woman was above all, and as soon as possible... to become a mother.
That was my main ambition." (24)

Efforts to "propagate the master race" ended in failure. SS members managed by 1939 to
produce on average only 1.1 children and the SS leaders a mere 1.4 children. This was far short
of the four required by the State. Despite constant pressure, 43 per cent of SS members remained
unmarried. (25)