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World War Two: Nazi Policies That Oppressed Women

Updated on May 14, 2017
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Working towards a Bachelor of Arts, Asteriaa writes articles on modern history, art theory, religion, mythology, and analyses of texts.

As many governments have throughout history, The Nazi Party implemented a divide and conquer tactics to prevent uprisings against the Nazi regime. These divides were seen through perpetuating the fear of communism, racism, homophobia, anti-disabled persons propaganda and of course, women were no exception. The Nazi Party meticulously embedded sexism within society whether it be from their laws to their schooling curriculum. Through creating fear, The Nazi Party was successfully able to continue their hold over Germany, causing and controlling mass hysteric conditions that were created due to World War One.

Women and Legislations

Nazi policies played a paramount function in domesticating women in 1933-39. Concepts such as Kinder, Kuche and Kirche were integrated into the lives of women through a series of laws that encouraged segregation of working females in society. For instance, Hitler promoted the idea of women merely being useful for becoming eternal mothers for the nation and unable to sustain a job since they were ‘controlled by emotion.’ Nazism played an invasive role in the lives of women when policies such as the ‘Unemployment relief Act (1st June 1933) lead to the dismissal of newlywed women from the workforce after a couple of months to become reliant on their husband’s income.

Women in Nazi Germany (WWII)

Domesticating Women

This accounted for the Nazi laws that encouraged marriage since 1933 that were promoted in order to subjugate females to become more reliant on males. In the same year, this law extended to the retracting women from professional posts such as the position of doctors to ultimately be restricted from being able to participate injuries.

Furthermore, this revolutionised the standard of beauty as women who fit into the stereotype with no make-up, plaits and childbearing hips became desired. Collectively, these Nazi policies caused women to become more compliant to Nazism through social pressures as they were harassed out of the workplace and were to give their jobs to men. Therefore, Nazism played a crucial role in retracting women rights to domesticate them to fit Nazi idealisms as highlighted through the unemployment acts of 1933.

Propaganda

Women's “nature” was shifted in war time in order to benefit the needs of the government and nation as a whole while its men were off fighting. Women were then encouraged to work when before they were encouraged to be a housewife
Women's “nature” was shifted in war time in order to benefit the needs of the government and nation as a whole while its men were off fighting. Women were then encouraged to work when before they were encouraged to be a housewife

The 'Master Race'

Nazism played a prominent role in encouraging women to adopt the domestic role of a mother. Consistent laws had been embedded in order to promote the value of lebensraum and the growth of an Aryan race. The objective, in order to create a master race, was to create an Eastern Empire of 230 pure Aryans.

Hitler needed the collaboration of women in order to create an Aryan Germany. Those women who were not of pure Aryan birth were stopped from having children, often by sterilisation. Hence, this accounted for the involvement of anti-abortion legislations in 1939 for Germans in order to increase the population that jumped up to 19.2% in 1938.

“… most historians seem to agree that … women counted merely as mothers who should bear and rear as many children as possible, and that Nazi antifeminism tended to promote, protect and even finance women as child bearers, housewives, and mothers. It seems necessary to challenge various aspects of this…. The Nazis were by no means simply interested in raising the number of childbearing women. They were just as bent on excluding many women from bearing...with sterilisation"

— Gisela Bock

The New York Daily News front page headline

Racism in Nazi Germany

However, the same did not apply to Jewish citizens implying how Nazism policies acted to separate racial impurities from a pure German bloodline and degrade culturally mixed relationships.Racism was evident among Aryan German women, and led to the sterilisation of non-Aryan women. Nazi women shared the anti-Semitism of men, and Hitler’s tendency to blame the Jews for all the evils in Germany helped to fuel anti-Semitism. Hitler stated that “the slogan ‘Emancipation of Women’ was invented by Jewish intellectuals.”

This was capitalised further by the laws that encouraged marriage such as how tax for marriage would have been reduced by 250 marks for each child a couple would have. This would have been accompanied with a motherhood cross medal (1939) in accordance with a number of children a female would give birth to. Ultimately, Nazism had played a critical role in instilling values such as lebensraum into order to revitalise the place of females in German society.

15 Sep Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship. This is an image of Nazi police publicly humiliating and shaming a German woman and a Jewish man for sleeping together.
15 Sep Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship. This is an image of Nazi police publicly humiliating and shaming a German woman and a Jewish man for sleeping together.

Women's Political Role

Women did not have a political role in Nazi Germany – it was not seen as their job to interfere in state matters.Under the Nazis, It was believed that women’s reasoning was based on emotions, and so they were not allowed to take part in political processes such as voting. In 1936 women were banned from being judges or sitting on juries.

“...we have kept women out of the parliamentary-democratic intrigues of the past 14 years in Germany not because we do not respect them, but because we respect them too much.”

— Joseph Goebbels, March 1933

Opposition From Women

Women who were not of the Aryan race suffered greatly under the Nazi regime. In 1933, the Nazis opened the first concentration camp for women at Moringen, followed by others such as Ravensbruck. These were mainly for women who were Jewish or communist. Many women who valued their rights and equality under the Weimar constitution joined left-wing political groups, and some even committed suicide in opposition to the Nazis.

“Today man is educated not for, but against, marriage. We see our daughters growing up in stupid aimlessness living only in the vague hope of getting a man and having children. A son, even the youngest, laughs in his mother’s face. He regards her as merely a servant and women in general as mere tools of his aim.”

— A letter to Hitler sent by several women to a Leipzig newspaper in 1934:

Nazi School Curriculum

Nazism youth policies moulded young Germans with ideas about racial purity, Aryan supremacy, Lebensraum and future military conquests. This was dictated by Hitler’s desire to create a National Socialist movement that Nazi policies attempted to enforce through subjugating those who compromised the Aryan stereotype from a young age. For instance, Hitler had intended to create a brutal and domineering youth (Hitler, 1933) through instilling a Hitler youths. As the Nazis infiltrated schools they shaped the curriculum to convey their own values and political beliefs. At the core of this curriculum was to enlighten children of Untermensch to keep those who compromised the Aryan race from maintaining a sense of security in Germany.

For instance, geography consisted of educating youths of the need for lebensraum in opposition to the Treaty of Versailles. Nazism further re-wrote the history to what young Germans were to learn. This comprised of Pro-Nazi histories filled with tales of Germanic heroes and warriors reinforcing the myth of Aryan supremacy.

Furthermore, Nazism became instilled into the profession of educators with the creation of the Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund (Nazi Teachers’ League). Teachers of Jewish origin, liberal or socialist political beliefs were harassed out of their profession whilst Non-Nazi teachers were pressured to join the Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund or face losing their jobs. Hence, it is clear that Nazism played an extensive role in education curriculum and segregated the Untermensch from teaching profession.

Nazi Policies towards Women

Nazism and Education

In the mid-1930s Nazism had implemented the structure of the education systemization in order to inspire a national socialist movement through the younger generation. Consequently, from 1931 Von Schirach ensured these groups were divided by age and gender as males were put into a Hitler Jugend (14-18yrs), Jungvok (10-14yrs) and a Pimpfen (up to 10 years.) Nazi youth groups combined paramilitary style training and skills with National Socialist teachings and indoctrination, such as worship of Hitler and the significance of racial purity.

For instance, an appropriation of the Our Lord’s Prayer was created in order to glorify Hitler and urge German youth to pledge loyalty to the Reich. Furthermore, female groups were composed of a Jungmadel (10-14 years) and a Bund Deutscher Madel (14-18 yrs.) These groups circulated Nazi ideology and reinforced traditional conceptions about the roles of women.

The man who didn’t salute Hitler. A German man standing at a rally in 1936. Hamburg, refuses to give the Nazi salute. The photo laid unnoticed for nearly 55 years
The man who didn’t salute Hitler. A German man standing at a rally in 1936. Hamburg, refuses to give the Nazi salute. The photo laid unnoticed for nearly 55 years

Conclusion

In conclusion, the woman’s role in Nazi society as housewife and child bearer was imperative to Nazi success. To expand the Third Reich and allow it to grow in power, Hitler needed the support of women in order to expand the population. The Nazi party clearly did this through embedding fear within the everyday life of Germans through divide and control tactics, which disallowed Nazi Germans to see the oppressive regime for what it was- a far-right oppressive regime. The amount of effort that was used in creating a space of fear through propaganda reveals the true fear of The Nazi Government itself- the people. And as much as the government pushed to have control of all of its citizens. Protests were still held. Opposition against the party still existed. Resistance still remained despite fear.

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