Classroom Activity on Women in Nazi Germany

During the depression in Germany, a third of male workers lost their jobs. These men were often replaced by female workers. When Adolf Hitler took power, he claimed that he intended to force married women back into their homes to provide more work for men. While this never actually happened with manual work, it did seriously affect those 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 for jury service because he believed them to be unable to "think logically or reason objectively, since they are ruled only by emotion."

Primary Sources

Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 1) Poster, "We Women Are Voting National Socialists" (1932)


(Source 2) Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (1971)

The truth was that female labour was cheaper (in the period before Hitler came to power): 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 labour force in Germany.

(Source 3) Cate Haste, Nazi Women (2001)

On 30 January 1933, the Nazis came to power. They celebrated with a huge parade: column after column of uniformed men - swastika banners waving, torches burning and music playing- marched through the Brandenburg Gate and took over the streets of Berlin. In this massive show of political strength, there was not a single woman.
From the foundation of the Nazi Party in 1921, women were denied any position of power in its hierarchy - the only reference to women in its programme was Point 21, which pledged protection for mothers. Since winning the vote in 1918, women had been elected in significant numbers to represent all the other main parties in local and regional government, and in the German Reichstag, where they made up 10 per cent of deputies. In the National Socialist Party there were no women representatives at all...

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.

(Source 4) Joseph Goebbels, The Womanhood (1934)

Our displacement of women from public life occurs solely to restore their essential dignity to them... It is not because we did not respect women enough but because we respected them too much that we kept them out of the miasma of parliamentary democracy.

Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 4) 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.


(Source 5) Adolf Hitler, speech to the NSDAP Women's Organization (8th September, 1934)

The slogan "emancipation of women" was invented by Jewish intellectuals. If the man's world is said to be the State, his struggle, his readiness to devote his powers to the service of the community, then it may perhaps be said that the woman's in a smaller world. 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.

(Source 6) Adolf Hitler, speech (September, 1935)

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.

(Source 7) Adolf Hitler, speech on 26th January, 1942.

I detest women who dabble in politics. And if their dabbling extends to military matters it becomes utterly unendurable. In no section of the Party has a woman ever had the right to hold even the smallest post.

In 1924 we had a sudden upsurge of women who were interested in politics. They wanted to join the Reichstag, in order to raise the moral level of that body, so they said. I told them that 90 per cent of the matters dealt with by parliament were masculine affairs, on which they could not have opinions of any value. Gallantry forbids one to give women an opportunity of putting themselves in situations that do not suit them.


Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 8) The NSDAP Protects the national community (c 1934)

(Source 9) Adolf Hitler, quoted in Hitler's Table Talk (1953)

The woman loves more deeply than the man. But in her, intellect plays no role... In political questions, the woman, even if she is extremely intelligent, cannot separate reason from feeling... I am no friend of female suffrage. If however we must continue with this tomfoolery, then we should draw what advantage we can... Women will always vote for law and order and a uniform, you can be sure of that.

(Source 10) Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (1987)

Women served the will of the nation - and that will was male, declared one male follower of Hitler in a Nazi women's magazine: "The National Socialist movement is an emphatically male phenomenon as far as political power is concerned. Women in parliament are a depressing sign of liberalism. They insult male values by imitating men. We believe that every genuine woman will, in her deepest feelings, pay homage to the masculine principle of National Socialism. Only then will she become a total woman!"

(Source 11) Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power (2005)

The new regime also acted quickly to take people out of the labour market as well, thereby reducing the number of economically active persons against whom the proportion of unemployed were measured. The most notable scheme in this area was the issuing of marriage loans, begun as part of the Law on the Reduction of Unemployment issued on 1 June 1933 and backed up by subsequent regulations. Young couples intending to get married could apply in advance for an interest-free 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 promulgation of the law. Crucially, 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. 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.

Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 12) Wolfgang Willrich, The Aryan Family (c. 1934)

(Source 13) Jutta Rüdiger, heard Adolf Hitler to speak in Düsseldorf in 1932.

It was a huge hall and everyone was waiting for Hitler to arrive... I must say it was an electrifying atmosphere... Even before 1933 everybody was waiting for him as if he was a saviour. Then he went to the podium. I remember it all went quiet, and he started to speak in his serious voice. Calm, slow, and then he got more and more enthusiastic. I must admit, I can't remember exactly what he actually said. But my impression afterwards was: this is a man who does not want anything for himself, but only thinks about how he can help the German people.

(Source 14) Isle McKee was a member of the German Girls' League, later recalled her experiences in her autobiography, Tomorrow the World (1960).

We were told from a very early age to prepare for motherhood, as the mother in the eyes of our beloved leader and the National Socialist Government was the most important person in the nation. We were Germany's hope in the future, and it was our duty to breed and rear the new generation of sons and daughter. These lessons soon bore fruit in the shape of quite a few illegitimate small sons and daughters for the Reich, brought forth by teenage members of the League of German Maidens. The girls felt they had done their duty and seemed remarkably unconcerned about the scandal.

(Source 15) Louis P. Lochner, What About Germany? (1942)

I have heard the Fuhrer address a group of German women, speaking so tenderly of his mother, expressing such fond concern for the problems of the housewife, tracing so eloquently what the German women had done and could do for the Nazi cause, that the listeners were in tears.

Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 16) Adolf Hitler at a NSDAP gathering (1939)

(Source 17) Traudl Junge, To The Last Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary (2002)

Hitler didn't marry, he said himself, because he didn't want to lose his fascination for women. Obviously, an unmarried man is far more desirable than a boring husband... As a man, he didn't look attractive at all. It was more that he personified power - that was his fascination. And also his presence. He had a way of looking at you with those eyes, which could really set you alight. And somehow he was a mythical figure for women. He was a saviour, and he gave off an aura of power, and that impressed women. Like a Messiah, perhaps...

The first time I met Hitler, what surprised me most was how different he was from the Hitler you knew officially. He had a soft gentle voice that was full of melody. It wasn't like a machine gun thundering away. And later I found him very charming in the way he behaved in private. And he had a sense of humour, I can't deny that... I never heard an impolite or angry word. He was always friendly and patient.

(Source 18) Gertrud Draber attended an elite bridal school at Schwanenwerder and was interviewed about her experiences in 2001.

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.

Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 19) Adolf Hitler with a group of young women (1939)

(Source 20) Nazi Racial Policy Bureau, ten rules to be observed when considering a marriage partner (1934)

Remember you are a German.

Remain pure in mind and spirit!

Keep your body pure!

If hereditably fit, do not remain single!

Marry only for love.

Being a German, only choose a spouse or similar or related blood!

When choosing your spouse, inquire into his or her forebears!

Health is essential to outward beauty as well!

Seek a companion in marriage, not a playmate.

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.

Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on radio on 31st January, 1933
(Source 21) Adolf Hitler signing autographs for young women (c. 1936)

(Source 22) Joseph Goebbels, speech in Munich (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.

Eva Braun
(Source 23) Adolf Hitler and his girlfriend, Eva Braun.

(Source 24) William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960)

Hitler, although he was undoubtedly extremely fond of her and found relaxation in her unobtrusive company, had always kept her out of sight, refusing to allow her to come to his various headquarters where he spent almost all of his time during the war years, and rarely permitting her even to come to Berlin. She remained immured at the Berghof on the Obersalzberg, passing her time in swimming and skiing, in reading cheap novels and seeing trashy films, in dancing (which Hitler disapproved of) and endlessly grooming herself, pining away for her absent loved one.

Questions for Students

Question 1: Hitler said he would reduce male unemployment if he obtained power. How does the information in source 2 indicate the problems he would face keeping this promise.

Question 2: Read the introduction and sources 8, 11, 12, 14, 18, 20 and 22. Explain how the Nazi government was able to reduce male unemployment.

Question 3: What does source 4 tell us about life in Nazi Germany.

Question 4: Before the Nazi Party took power in 1933, 10% of the Reichstag were women. Afterwards, there were no women represented in the German parliament. Read sources 5, 6, 7 and 9, and explain Hitler's views on women and politics.

Question 5. Despite his openly expressed sexist views, Hitler received the support of 50% of female voters. Use the information in sources 13, 15 and 17, to help explain his appeal to women.

Question 6: Adolf Hitler rigorously controlled the photographs that appeared of him in the German media. Can you explain why sources 16, 19 and 21 were approved for publication, whereas 23 never appeared in German newspapers?

Question 7: Sources 8 and 12 were part of a Nazi propaganda campaign. What do they tell us about what Hitler wanted from German women?

Answer Commentary

A commentary on these questions can be found here.