One of the earliest laws that Hitler passed was the “Law for the Encouragement of Marriage”. This law stated that all newly wed couples were to be given 1000 marks (which was the equivalent of approximately 9 months wages), and instead of re-paying the loan with money; they could clear the loan by having children. It would be cut by 25% per child, so it would take four children to clear it completely. This system proved to be popular, with 800,00 newly weds following the law.
Women were encouraged in many other ways to have greater numbers of children, apart from the marriage loans. To prevent women from protesting about becoming unemployed, they were also given generous social benefits, which would provide them with secure money. However, not all the techniques that the Nazis used to expand the population were done pleasantly. Abortion became practically illegal, and this would mean that there would be an increased number of births, as once women became pregnant, they had no choice but to have the baby. The role of women in Nazi Germany was largely to produce a big amount of children.
Every year, on the 12th of August, women were awarded the “Motherhood Cross”. The most productive mothers were awarded medals. Eight children would give you a gold medal, producing six children was for silver, and bronze was awarded to mothers who had raised four children.
In appearance, the Nazis wanted women to dress sensibly, and unfashionably. Women were not expected to wear make-up or trousers, and only to wear flat, low-heeled sensible shoes. But it didn’t stop at clothes, the dyeing of hair and perms were not allowed. The Nazis preferred their women to be well built rather than slim. Women were told that slim women would have problems in their pregnancy.
They were discouraged from doing things that could possibly harm their chances of having children. By coincidence, one of these “dangerous things” for a woman to do was to work. If they really had to work, then they would not be allowed to be doctors or lawyers, but were told to stick to “natural” occupations, reflecting their “natural” talents, such as nursing. The women were only allowed to be nurses, not doctors.
At first, women were encouraged to stay at home, but later on, there was a Labour shortage, and the government needed women to fill the gaps, and despite their previous views that women should not work, they needed women to become employed. In my opinion, one of the reasons for there being a labour shortage was because so many women were either forced or persuaded to leave their jobs to stay at home and be housewives, but the government ended up swallowing their pride and realised that they still needed women to work.
A common rhyme for women to follow went:
“Take hold of kettle, broom and pan,
Then you’ll surely get a man!
Shop and office leave alone,
Your true life work lies at home.”
I found this amusing, because no woman nowadays would follow this (I hope) but this rhyme sums up exactly the role of women in nazi Germany. A quote from Joseph Goebbels is “the mission of women is to be beautiful, and to bring children into the world”. Joseph Goebbels sounds like a hypocrite to me, because he is saying that the role of women was to be beautiful, but women in Nazi Germany weren’t allowed to be beautiful, they weren’t expected to have interests in fashion or make up, or slimming.
The role of women in Nazi Germany was to not only have children, but to bring them up to believe that Hitler was the greatest, and that Jews in particular had lower status. Children would be brought up in a sexist environment, in my opinion. From a very early age, boys and girls didn’t mix at the different Hitler groups for the youth, for example “the little fellows” and “young maidens”. Mothers would also be expected to teach their children what would be expected from them later on in life, depending on their sex.
So, unlike a man’s role, which was that of a provider and a defender, a woman’s role was to be a good housewife, and to stay at home cooking and cleaning, and to bring up as many pure German children as possible.
Hayley Hassan 10 03