The Nazis believed that a woman’s place was in the home where she should look after her husband and children. Women were expected to only focus on the three K’s – Kinder, Kuche and Kirche (Children, cooking and church).
Hitler was concerned because the birth rate in Germany had fallen from 2 million a year in 1900 to just one million in 1933. This was partly due to contraception and also women going out to work
Hitler needed a bigger population to create a strong army, and also to populate the areas of land the Nazis planned to take from neighbouring countries to the East, under the ‘lebensraum’ policy. So Hitler regarded it as a necessity to come up with policies to make women stay at home and have more babies.
By 1936 the birth rate had increased by 30%. The Nazis achieved their aims using 3 key things: legislation, propaganda and education:
Law for the Encouragement on Marriage
This was introduced in 1933. Loans of 10,000 marks (9 months wages) were given to couples who married, provided the wife left her job. 800,000 couples took out these loans.
For each of their first 4 children the couple got to keep a quarter of the loan. If they had 4 children, they would keep all the money.
The Mother’s Cross
An award was given to mothers according to the number of children they had: bronze for 4-5 children, silver for 6-7 children and gold for 8 or more. The medals were distributed every year on Hitler’s birthday, 12th April.
Meaning ‘fountain of life’ this was a programme designed to increase the number of ‘racially pure’ children born. It provided financial assistance and nursery places for women who had babies with SS soldiers – including unmarried women. However, their babies were taken away and adopted by ‘worthy’ German families. Potential mothers and fathers in the programme had to pass very strict tests on how Aryan they were.
Most female doctors, lawyers and teachers were made to leave their jobs. This also helped to reduce official unemployment levels as it created jobs for unemployed men.
The education system prepared girls for what was expected of them as Nazi women. They were taught:
- How to stay healthy (not be too thin)
- Home Economics – cookery/needlework
- Marry and help their husbands to be good workers
- Have babies and bring them up to be good (Nazi) Germans
- Stay at home and not be involved in work or politics
- Not wear makeup, high heels or trousers
- Not die or perm their hair
- Not smoke
They were also discouraged from learning foreign languages, mathematics and science subjects.
Girls also had their own youth movement ‘The League of German Maidens’, which they attended from the age of ten until they were 21. This continued to reinforce the Nazi message outside of school.
German Women’s Enterprise
This organisation was formed to promote the teaching of good motherhood through classes and radio broadcasts. Eventually the expansion of German industry meant that some women had to be encouraged back into work as there weren’t enough men to do all the jobs.