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Women, Class, and Mobilization in Nazi Germany Author(s): Leila J. Rupp Source: Science & Society, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Spring, 1979), pp. 51-69 Published by: Guilford Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40402148 Accessed: 24-12-2017 19:10 UTC

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WOMEN, CLASS, AND MOBILIZATION IN

NAZI GERMANY*

LEILA J. RUPP

NAZIS, ACCORDING TO THE OLD standard im-

age, efficiently reduced the number of women in th

labor force during the Depression, then quickly

mobilized women during the war - the former in accordance

with ideological principles, the latter to meet the inexorable de-

mands of a wartime economy. This image has come under much

attack in recent books and articles on women in Nazi society.1 We

now know that the Nazis did not successfully mobilize women

even after finally enacting a registration decree in 1943. The

explanation for this situation, however, is still a matter of debate.

Both Jill Stephenson, in her recent book, Women in Nazi Society,

and Tim Mason, in his two-part article on women in Nazi Ger-

many, argue that popular opposition to the mobilization of

women was a major cause of the regime's reluctance to conscript

women. In contrast, Dörte Winkler, in the first comprehensive account of Nazi policies toward the employment of women, de-

scribes the popular response to mobilization but concludes that

the Nazis never implemented general conscription of women for

war work because Hitler was ideologically opposed to the em-

ployment of women. Winkler does not ignore women's re-

sponses, but places the major responsibility for the lack of

mobilization on Hitler's staunch belief in "woman's place."

* The research for this paper was made possible by a grant from the National Endow-

ment for the Humanities.

1 Jill Stephenson, Women in Nazi Society (New York, 1976); Timothy W. Mason,

"Women in Germany, 1925-1940: Family, Welfare and Work," History Workshop:

Journal of Socialist Historians, 1 (Spring 1976), 74-113; 2 (Autumn 1976), 5-32;

Claudia Koonz, "Mothers in the Fatherland: Women in Nazi Germany," in Renate

Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz, Becoming Visible: Women in European History (Boston,

1977), pp. 445-473; Dörte Winkler, Frauenarbeit im "Dritten Reich" Historische Perspek-

tiven 9 (Hamburg, 1977); and Leila J. Rupp, Mobilizing Women for War: German and

American Propaganda, 1939-1945 (Princeton, 1978).

51

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52 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

That the Nazis did not succeed

agreed; the reason for Nazi policy i

Hitler's ideological opposition to the paper will first of all argue that the

primarily the consequence of the la

to the demands of the regime. That

belongs on the attitudes and actions

than on the traditional bourgeois v upper class women stayed out of e

the registration decree of 1943, as th

Women, then, are central - yet

women opposing conscription and effort. The nature of women's res

Mason points out in his most recen

under Nazism, classes did not ceas

proclaimed that they had.2 But it wa

tion that kept the Nazis from con working class dissatisfaction with

mobilization policies played a signi

mobilization. While middle and upp

ployment, working class women f women already employed would o

that would force non-employed wo

the war effort. The extensive public the regime make clear that women a legal controls bitterly resented the l measure. This paper will also argue, t

ure to mobilize women must be understood as a failure to

mobilize women not of the working class, and that this revealed an

deepened class conflict, belying the Nazi ideal of Volks-

gemeinschaft, a classless people's community.

*

*

*

The first issue is the zation policies played i

2 Timothy W. Mason, Arbeite

lished a revised version of t

Arbeiterklasse und Volksgem

"Class Struggles in the Third

138-159.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 53

engage in total war. That the female p

partially mobilized throughout the w

puted.3 The female labor force increase

during the war. This tiny increase was

level of mobilization in the prewar pe participation rate (the percentage of t

the labor force) was 35.6, the same as i

result of a sufficient supply of labor: th

ingly serious labor shortages that even th

workers and prisoners of war could not pled with the problem of mobilizing wo

Despite the impression of early obser

sessed "a system of regimentation of lab

such

,"

as the world has never seen

.

.

.

effectively implemented conscription.

Nazi officials had available a number of measures with the

potential to mobilize women even before the outbreak of war. A

law of 1935 introduced the Labor Book, a required permanent record of an individual's employment designed to control and

mobilize labor.6 Legislation a few months later made a term in

the Labor Service, originally a public works program designed to ease unemployment during the Depression, compulsory, but this did not become binding on women until the outbreak of war in

1939; even then its numbers never increased beyond 1 50,000.

In 1938, the Office of the Four Year Plan introduced the Dut

Year, a compulsory year of labor in agriculture or domestic ser-

vice for young single women seeking jobs for the first time.

3 See Winkler, Frauenarbeit', and Rupp, Mobilizing Women.

4 Calculated from statistics in Statistisches Reichsamt, Statistisches Jahrbuch jür da

deutsche Reich, 1941-1942 (Berlin, 1942), p. 33; U.S. Strategie Bombing Surve

(USSBS), The Effects of Strategie Bombing on the German War Economy, Overall Economic

Effects Division, October 31, 1945, pp. 202-207.

5 Ludwig Hamburger, How Nazi Germany Has Mobilized and Controlled Labo

(Washington, 1940), pp. 57-58. See also "The Employment of Women in Germany

Under the National Socialist Regime," International Labour Review, 44 (Dec. 1941),

617-659; and Judith Grünfeld, "Mobilization of Women in Germany," Social Research

(Nov. 1942), 476-494.

6 Reichsgesetzblatt (RGB), 1935, I, p. 311; RGB, 1939, I, p. 602. A law of 1939 extended

the coverage of the Labor Book; see RGB, 1939, I, p. 824.

7 RGB, 1935, I, p. 769; RGB, I, p. 1693. See Frieda Wunderlich, Farm Labor in Germany,

1810-1945 (Princeton, 1961), p. 322.

8 Reichsarbeitsblatt (RAB), 1938, I, p. 46; RAB, 1938, I, p. 48.

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54 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

More direct measures included drawn up in 1935, that called f

women and men in case of war, a the conscription of women and m for specific tasks.9 A final decree

ing women, issued in February

ment offices to conscript individ

tance.10

Despite these measures, the Na

the war not to mobilize women

fices called up women in certain

clusively women who had previou

non-employed. The Labor Minis

employment offices not to ca

worked.11 Winkler reports tha

women had been called up, and

(i.e., had been employed sometim

In this atmosphere of hesitati

engaged in a debate in 1940 ove

service obligation. Despite wides

ure, Hermann Goring, in accor

fused to sign the proposed decre

specifically empowered the emplo

who had left work since the outbreak of the war.14

The leadership waited until January 1943 to enact the

much-discussed general registration decree. The Law for the De-

fense of the Reich ordered the registration of women 17 to 45

and men 16 to 45. 15 It granted exemptions for those who

worked at least 48 hours a week, those who employed five or

more persons, those employed in agriculture or health services,

students, pregnant women, and women with one child under six or two children under fourteen. Further legislation extended the

9 RGB, 1935, I, p. 609; RGB, 1938, I, p. 652; RGB, 1939, I, p. 206. 10 RGB, 1939, I, p. 206; RGB, 1939, I, p. 403: RGB, 1939, I, p. 444.

11 Bundesarchiv Koblenz (BA), R 41/159.

12 Winkler, Frauenarbeit, p. 89; Winkler cites Deutsche Volkswirtschaft, 9 (1940), 731, as the

source of this information.

13 BA, R 43 11/652.

14 Meldungen aus dem Reich (MadR), No. 210, Aug. 11, 1941, BA, R 58/163; Arbeit-

seinsatz familienunterhaltsberechtigter Frauen, June 30, 1941, BA, R 43 11/652.

15 RGB, 1943, I, p. 67. A second decree appeared in 1944: RGB, 1944, I, p. 133.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 55

provisions of the registration decree, bu

successful mobilization, as the statistics sho

no clear allocation of responsibility for lab

enforce the registration of women could

of several officials. Hitler, whose persona

layed the introduction of the registration communicated his opposition to the conscri

Plenipotentiary General for Labor Suppl

Sauckel took office in 1942.16 Advocates of total mobilization,

especially Albert Speer, complained repeatedly, even after the

1943 registration law, of the lack of mobilization.17 In February

1944, the government, despite the 1943 decree, called once

again for the voluntary mobilization of women.18 Joseph Goeb- bels' appointment as Plenipotentiary for Total War in July 1944

and his desperate attempt to shut down all inessential activities

came too late. Despite the extension of the age limit for women in the registration order to 50, the situation did not improve.19

German retreat and defeat, combined with Allied bombing,

created such chaos that evaluation of this last period of the war is

difficult.20 Nothing like total mobilization was possible in the

confusion. In spite of Speer's warning, Germany went down to

defeat with a partially mobilized female labor force.

The failure to mobilize enough women to keep up the

strength of the civilian labor force while the armed forced con-

sumed men at an increasing rate involves a number of factors.

The decision early in the war not to conscript women reflected

the strength of traditional attitudes held by some of the Nazi

leaders, especially Hitler.21 In addition, Hitler was convinced

that the war could be won without an all-out effort. He decided

in 1941 that the mobilization of women would be necessary only

16 Interrogation of Sauckel, International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Crim-

inals Before the International Military Tribunal, XIV (Nuremburg, 1947-49), pp. 621-

622; U.S. Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy

and Aggression, III (Washington, 1946-68), p. 53.

17 Trial of the Major War Criminals, XLI, pp. 460, 468, 486, 487, 488. See Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York, 1970), pp. 294-

295. On the conflict between Sauckel and Speer, see also Edward L. Homze, Foreign

Labor in Nazi Germany (Princeton, 1957), pp. 204-229.

18 SD-Berichte zu Inlandsfraeen (SD-BzI), April 20, 1944, BA, R 58/193.

19 RGB, 1944, I, d. 168; Bormann to Lammers, lulv 29, 1944. BA. R 43 11/654.

20 USSBS, Effects, pp. 38-39. See Winkler, Frauenarbeit, pp. 142-153.

21 See Rupp, Mobilizing Women, ch. 2, for an analysis of Nazi attitudes toward women.

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56 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

if the United States entered the

declaration of war on the U.S.

conscription of women.22 The

government permitted the bloc points, so that even after the p

of January 1943, local officia

sometimes ignored the order

of antagonizing sections of th

the regime to implement mea and upper classes meant that

forcing the registration of wo

and encouragement through p

effort failed to remedy the situ

pinned its hopes on the expecta

to the Nazi image of the dedi

her own interests for the good

zation, then, was primarily t

from women to the demands

*

*

*

The second issue in th

en's responses. Mason

legal compulsion out o

ing widespread resist

this hesitancy was not the well-founded fear extremely unpopular,

examination of the a

more complicated s

markably well-inform

vice (SD) of the SS, in

22 Sept. 23, 1941, BA, R

43

11/652. On Hitler's belief t

Klein, Germany's Economic P Labor Force in War and Trans

1952): Alan S. Milward, The G

23 Trial of the Major War Cr

43 11/6

land to Reichsarbeitsministe

24 See Rupp, Mobilizing Wome

Nov. 3, 1943, BA, R

25 Mason, "Women," p. 21.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 57

on the attitudes of the population, circulat

government agencies every few days.26 Th

SD reports came from voluntary reporter

paid informers and attempted to include m

The reliability of these reports is suggested

present, not one the government would ha

tated the results in advance. Mariis Steinert, who used these re-

ports extensively in her book on public mood and attitude dur-

ing the war, indicates that a comparison of local reports and the

final reports shows some moderation in the final product, so that

the rather grim situation emerging from the reports may even be

understated.27 But, probably most telling of all, the truth ulti-

mately seemed dangerous to the Nazis; in 1944, Martin Bor-

mann and Robert Ley forbade all functionaries of the Party and

the Labor Front to cooperate with the Security Service.28 As a

result, the last regular SD report appeared in July 1944. Other

branches of both Party and state kept careful watch over public

opinion as well. All these records provide a clear picture of the responses of German women to labor mobilization.

It is certainly true that the voluntary recruitment of German

women was a disastrous failure. As early as February 1940, the

Security Service reported that it was no longer possible to recruit the women needed in agriculture, domestic service, and industry

through voluntary means.29 The failure of voluntary mobiliza- tion provided a constant theme in the population reports. Non-

employed middle and upper class women ignored the appeals,

while women called up by the employment offices and women

already working under strict legal controls, as well as non-

26 These reports, called Meldungen aus dem Reich (MadR), are located in the Bun-

desarchiv Koblenz (BA), R 58/144-194; they are also available on microfilm in the

Records of the Reich Leader of the SS of the German Police (T-175), Rolls 258-266,

National Archives Microcopy. See Heinz Boberach, Meldungen aus dem Reich: Auswahl

aus den geheimen Lageberichten des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS 1939-1944 (Neuwied und Berlin, 1965); and Ursula von Gersdorff, Frauen im Kriegsdienst 1914-1945 (Stuttgart,

1969). Dörte Winkler's section on public opinion is excellent and we agree in many of

our conclusions. I believe, however, that the responses of women are central to an

understanding of Nazi mobilization and that a fuller consideration is warranted.

27 Mariis G. Steinert, Hitler's War and the German: Public Mood and Attitude During the

Second World War, ed. and trans. Thomas E. J. de Witt (Athens, Ohio, 1977), pp.

14-18.

28 Boberach, Meldungen, p. xxvii- xxviii.

29 MadR, No. 55, Feb. 19, 1940, BA, R 58/148.

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58 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

employed working class wome

conscription measure.

The Nazi aversion to Marxist t

euphemism led to the develop

that obscures the real status of i

documents. The Security Servic to the resentment of women o

"so-called better circles" or "soci

often the reports talk about t

probably means the working cla "poorer circles" or "lower occupa

tainly refer to workers. This t

relationship women have to the cation with class through a husb as well as through their own - c Occasionally the reports identif

sharing the resentment of the

women. It is clear that employed women of whatever class, and t working class and lower middle

upper middle and upper class w

leisure. It is unfortunately im status of the anonymous indi

reports; one would like to kno

ground, especially something ab

fore 1933. Certainly not all wo

were all employed women worki

clear that working class wome

vored conscription as a measur

class and certainly upper class

often avoided employment.

The first question to consid

why non-employed women fail

voluntary mobilization. A majo

centive. Women complained ab

months of the war; they comp than the men they replaced ha

30

MadR, No. 27, Dec. 11, 1939, BA, R

5

58/148; MadR, No. 107, July 22, 1940, B

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 59

Frauenschaft, the Nazi women's organi

policy meant little in a state that organiz

no real power.31 Despite the Security

women should receive equal pay, wo

abysmally low wages.32 The regime, h

wage controls in an attempt to control crease women's pay. To make matters w

allowances for dependents of men in t

disincentives for employment during the

Allowances were quite generous, induc

quit their jobs at the outbreak of war,

their allotments without working.33 Eve

originally reduced the allowances of wo

Security Service repeatedly recommend

revise its policy toward dependents' allow penalizing women who kept working or e

the first time. In 1941 the governmen amending the legislation to end the pr

portion of a woman's wages from her allo

tion even reduced a woman's allowance if she refused to work,

an action that met with mixed results.35

BA, R 58/157; MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169; MadR, No. 338, Nov.

26, 1942, BA, R 58/177; MadR, No. 373, April 5, 1943, BA, R 58/182; Kreis-

frauenschaftsleitung to Kreisleiter, April 7, 1943, Records of the NSDAP (T-81), Roll

75, Frame 86374-86375, National Archives Microcopy.

3 1 On the Frauenschaft's support of equal pay for equal work, see Deutsches Frauenschaf-

fen: fahrbuch der Reichsfrauenführung, 1937, p. 50.

32 See Gerhard Bry, Wages in Germany, 1871-1945 (Princeton, 1960).

33 MadR, No. 55, Feb. 19, 1940, BA, R 58/148; MadR. No. 107, July 22, 1940, BA, R

58/152; MadR, No. 162, Feb. 13, 1941, BA, R 58/157; MadR, No. 181, Apr. 25, 1941,

BA, R 58/159; MadR, No. 189, May 26, 1941, BA, R 58/160; MadR, No. 194, June

16, 1941, Ba, R 58/161; MadR, No. 224, Sept. 29, 1941, BA, R 58/164; MadR, No.

263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169; Letter from Generalbevollmächtigte für die

Reichsverwaltung, May 9, 1940, BA, R 43 11/652; Letter from Reichsver-

teidigungskommissar für den Wehrkreis IV, May 27, 1940, BA, R 43 11/652; Letter

from Präsident des Arbeitsamtes Berlin, July 2, 1941, BA, R 41/162; Chef des OKW

to Beauftragte für das Vierjahresplan, Feb. 9, 1942, BA R 41/162. See Long, Labor Force, pp. 41^13.

34 Verordnung über Kriegsfamilienunterhalt, Sept. 1938, BA, R 41/160; Kritische Be- merkungen zur Verordnung, May 16, 1939, BA, R 41/161.

35 MadR, No. 224, Sept. 29, 1941, BA, R 58/164; MadR, No. 253, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R

58/169; Letter from Reichsminister des Inneren, June 30, 1941, BA, R 43 11/652; Ley to Goring, Sept. 10, 1941, BA, R 43 11/652; Dr. Suren to Goring, Oct. 2, 1941, BA, R 43 11/652; Letter from Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition, Aug. 21, 1941,

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60 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

Lack of financial incentive and

ing dependents' allowances, act

of the labor force. So too did

responsibilities and the failure o

services to help working wome

provision of special services f plained that they could not w

care for their children.36 Wo prompting the Security Servic

the work day and the institut

women to discharge their dom

included long commutes to and

culties.38 Working women c

women, who had all day to shop

ing the only hours when they

to this problem, typically, was t

"be Comrades" and shop early Women who could afford to

force because there was little fi

their traditional double burden

addition, some women who ha

work - for middle class women, employment - as well as the Lab

pected could keep them in the

emergency.40

BA, R 41/162; Bekämpfung der Arbeitsv

BA, R 41/162.

36

MadR, No. 30, Dec. 18, 1939, BA, R

5

58/151; MadR, No. 107, July 22, 1940, B

Ba, R 58/157; MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 19

1943, BA, R 58/182.

37 MadR, No. 30, Dec. 18, 1939, BA, R 58/146; MadR, No. 55, Feb. 19, 1940, BA, R

58/148; MadR, No. 100, June 27, 1940, BA, R 58/151; MadR, No. 107, July 22, 1940,

BA, R 58/152; MadR, No. 162, Feb. 13, 1941, BA, R 58/157; MadR, No. 189, May 26,

1941, BA, R 58/160; MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169; Präsident des

Arbeitsamtes Niedersachsen to Arbeitsminister, Nov. 24, 1939, BA, R 41/158.

38 MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169.

39 Poster in Bundesarchiv collection.

40 Reichsverteidigungskommissar für den Wehrkreis XII to Goring, Feb. 10, 1941, BA,

R 41/162. In response to fear of the Labor Book, the Labor Ministry issued an order

on June 16, 1941 giving women voluntarily taking up employment during the war an

"Ersatzkarte" instead of a Labor Book; BA, R 41/162. Fear of factory work was much

commented upon in the Security Service reports and in the Nazi press; see Rupp,

Mobilizing Women y p. 111.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 61

Non-employed women used ingenuit force. Young women of "known" fami Year obligation by arranging to "work

quaintances.41 Getrud Scholtz-Klink, the

en's organization, criticized mothers w

daughters the rigors of the Duty Year

tions with conveniences and no childr

women continued to avoid employment e

istration order. They sought medical

portedly, hurriedly became pregnant in

register.43 (One woman, the SD report

husband to urge him to come home quick conceive a child.)44 The number of wome

unknown destinations increased rapidly

lation reports.45 If none of the evasi

women demanded easy office jobs - anyt

factories. One individual wrote to the g

about women who entered the universities in order to avoid war

work: "There are young girls who, in wartime, studied first art history, then law, and now psychology."46 The SD reported that

in Vienna "society women" declared that they would not be forced to work and criticized the registration decree as "Bol-

shevist."47

Why non-employed middle and upper class women opposed

conscription, then, is not difficult to understand. (The ineffec-

41 MadR, No. 120, Sept. 2, 1940, BA, R 58/154.

42 Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Tradition is Not Stagnation But Involves a Moral Obligation: Wom-

en s Conference at the National Congress of Great Germany (Nuremburg, 1938), p. 9. See

Rupp, Mobilizing Women, p. 110.

43 MadR, No. 356, Feb. 4, 1943, BA, R 58/180; MadR, No. 366, Mar. 11, 1943, BA, R

58/181; MadR, No. 373, Apr. 5, 1943, BA, R 58/182; Reichsverfügungsblatt, Feb. 17,

1943, Ausgabe B, BA, R 43 11/654; "Schluss mit den Scheinarbeitsverhältnissen!"

Deutsches Nachrichtenbüro, July 28, 1944, pp. 35-36, BA, R 43 11/665; MadReichsgau

Oberdonau, Feb. 8, 1943, BA, NS 6/408; Auszüge aus Berichten der Gauleitungen

u.s. Dienststellen, Feb. 12, 1943, BA, NS 6/414; Stimmen zu dem Aufruf des GBA

, March 7, 1944, BA, NS 6/407.

44 MadR, No. 358, Feb. 11, 1943, BA, R 58/180. See also Einfluss der Versorgung mit

dem Bedarf zur Kinderpflege auf die bevölkerungspolitische Lage, May 2, 1944, BA,

NS 6/244.

45 MadR, No. 366, Mar. 11, 1943, BA, R 58/181.

46 BA, R 43 11/665.

47 MadR, No. 358, Feb. 11, 1943, BA, R 58/180.

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62 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

tiveness of Nazi propaganda is

and worth noting in passing.)

The responses of working class standable. From the early month vice reported that women of th they were forced to carry the e

The SD, in fact, explicitly attr

mobilization to the resentment

tion, citing complaints that wo

cles" still had servants, sat arou

played tennis, and lay around i

citizens called the attention

classified newspaper advertise

for companions with free time

the Duty Year, since it appli

planned to enter employme

employed wives of artisans an

children promised to take jobs

men in similar situations did.

bring back into the labor force

the beginning of the war p

Dortmund:

We agree that it is necessary that we return to work. It will mean a

great deal of inconvenience for us, but it is wartime and so we want to help. But why is Frau Direktor S. with her servants not called up? She could certainly put her four-year-old son in the NSV [National Socialist

Welfare Organization] Kindergarten for the day just as we

What has happened to the equal treatment of all folk comrades?53

48

MadR, No. 55, Feb. 19, 1940, BA, R 58/148. Also MadR, No. 100, June 27, 1940, BA,

R 58/151; MadR, No. 189, May 26, 1941, BA, R 58/160; MadR, No. 197, June 26,

1941, BA, R 58/161; MadR, No. 224, Sept. 29, 1941, BA, R 58/164; MadR, No. 263,

Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169; Dr. Naumann to Lammers, Jan. 2, 1943, BA, R 43

11/655; Gauleiter Ost-Hannover to Präsident des Arbeitsamtes Niedersachsen, Apr. 1,

1940, BA, R 41/158.

49

MadR, No. 107, July 22, 1940, BA, R 58/152.

50 BA, R 41/158.

51

MadR, No. 306, Aug. 6, 1942, BA, R 58/174; Kritische Stimmen zur Ableistung des

Pflichtiahrs, Nov. 12, 1942, BA, NS 6/243.

52

MadR, No. 146, Dec. 2, 1940, BA, R 58/156. Also MadR, No. 210, Aug. 11, 1941, BA,

R 58/163.

53 MadR, No. 210, Aug. 11, 1941, BA, R 58/163.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 63

Voluntary mobilization, and especially

of avoiding compulsory labor, seemed working under strict legal controls.

could be punished - even imprisoned -

work discipline. For example, the c

woman to prison for three months in 1 for a week for domestic reasons, a sente sidered unusually harsh.54 Employers so ployed women with the Gestapo.55 Men as well as women responded bitte

ceived as social injustice. The Security

front soldiers in particular objected to

wives while other women remained idle,

tion on the front could be extremely

leave angrily criticized women crowdi

and flaunting their idleness in cafes and

One soldier summed up what the repor

I have forbidden [my wife] to work as long a

are not called up to work as well. I am fighti

family, but for them as well

The wife o

for the state as the wife of a manufacturer.58

Another soldier wrote that he would not allow his wife to work

and asked the head of the employment office if his wife was

working, adding:

I bet she isn't, because then you would not have an orderly house in

which to recuperate from your hard

in your office whose wives have no children and who don't go to work.

If I were in your place I would be ashamed to summon to work a

soldier's wife who has a six-month-old child. But there is no point in

Certainly there are men

54 MadR, No. 197, June 26, 1941, BA, R 58/161; Also MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26 1942,

BA, R 58/169; MadR, No. 320, Sept. 25, 1942, BA, R 58/175; Schwierigkeiten beim

Fraueneinsatz, Nov. 13, 1940, BA, R 41/159; Bekämpfung der Arbeitsvertragsbrüche

der Frauen, Aug. 27, 1941, BA, R 41/162; Bekämpfung der Arbeitsvertragsbrüche,

Dec. 11, 1942, BA, R 41/237a.

55 MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169.

56 MadR, No. 162, Feb. 13, 1941, BA, R 58/157; MadR, No. 224, Sept. 29, 1941, BA, R

58/164; MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169. 57 MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169.

58 MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA R 58/169.

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64 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

writing you in this way, because you

You are only a bureaucrat, not a hu

Complaints from men were not li

the SD reported that men of th

employment offices to object to th

There is, of course, more involv

men than class resentment. Dörte Winkler makes a distinction

between petit-bourgeois resentment and proletarian conscious-

ness expressed in the letters of soldiers.61 I am not convinced,

however, that such a distinction is meaningful. All of the men, whether expressing hostility toward wealthy women or bureau- crats, shared a recognition of unjust treatment, but also a patri-

archal assumption of their right to dictate what their wives

should or should not do. Gertrud Scholtz-Klink recognized that

men opposed the idea of their wives working not only because it

was a mark of status to have a non-employed wife, but also

because employed women could not devote themselves as fully to providing domestic comfort for their men. In words that conjure

up the bureaucrat in his orderly house, Scholtz-Klink told men

that they could wait a little for their meals or warm up the food

themselves while their wives went out to work.62

The bitterness at obvious injustice continued as the war went

on; what legislation did exist seemed to working women to put

the entire responsibility for the war effort on their shoulders. As

early as 1940, while the debate over a general service obligation went on among the top Party leaders, the SD reported that the

population knew and approved of the expected order.63 When it

did not appear, Party leaders and propagandists, forced to jus-

tify patently unjust policies, grew increasingly nervous. Angry

people demanded explanations from Labor Front leaders; even

the best speakers lost the trust of their audiences by either re- maining silent on the question of conscription or giving conflict-

ing answers, causing the people to doubt the certainty of the

59 Transcript of letter to Arbeitsamt Görlitz, July 27, 1941, BA, R 41/162.

60 MadR, No. 146, Dec. 2, 1940, BA, R 58/156.

61 Winkler, Frauenarbeit, p. 111.

62 "Rede der Reichsfrauenführerin Frau Gertrud Scholtz-Klink im Sportspalast in Ber-

lin am 13. Juni 1940," N.S. Frauen- Warte, 9 (July 1940), 24-25. See Rupp, Mobilizing

Women, p. 107.

63 MadR, No. 107, July 22, 1940, Ba, R 58/152.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 65

leadership.64 As a result, work morale sank a

increasingly lost respect for the authorities, acc curity Service. Propaganda continued to call for good of the state, but from as early as 1940 the

noted the hypocrisy and resulting ineffectiv

peals.65

It was against this background that the January 1943 regis-

tration decree appeared. The Security Service reported great

popular interest, tempered by a great deal of skepticism. Party

officials in Vienna warned that if the measure were not fairly

implemented, sharp criticism and passive resistance could be ex-

pected.66 In small cities especially, the SD found, people closely

observed the wives of prominent men, suspicious that they would

not actually go to work.67 Hitler issued a statement expressing

his expectation that the wives and children of prominent Party

leaders would take up employment; such prompting suggests a

basis for the population's suspicions.68 Non-employed working

class and lower middle class women explained that their re-

sponse depended on the "fine ladies," often named individually,

being placed in the factories.69 In general, it seemed that the

success of the measure would depend on the fairness of its im-

plementation.70

The worst fears of working women were confirmed by the

reports of widespread evasion of the registration decree by the

"better circles."71 Given the reluctance of women to register and

64 MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169; MadR, No. 309, Aug. 17, 1942, BA, R

58/174.

65 MadR, No. 107, July 22, 1940 BA, R 58/152; MadR, No. 162, Feb. 13, 1941, BA, R

58/157; MadR, No. 263, Feb. 26, 1942, BA, R 58/169; MadR, No. 309, Aug. 17, 1942,

BA, R 58/174; Dr. Naumann to Lammers, Jan. 2, 1943, BA, R 43 11/655; Re-

gierungspräsident Magdeburg to Landrat des Kreises Jerichow II, Dec. 7, 1939, BA,

R 41/158.

66 Auszüge aus Berichten der Gauleitungen u.s. Dienststellen, Feb. 12, 1943, BA NS

6/414.

67 MadR, No. 356, Feb. 4, 1943, BA, R 58/180.

68 Anordnung des Führers über die vorbildliche Haltung der Angehörigen an hervor-

ragender Stelle stehender Persönlichkeiten bei dem umfassenden Kriegseinsatz, May

16, 1943, BA, R 43 II/655a. Also SD-BzI, Dec. 13, 1943, BA, NS 6/244.

69 MadR, No. 362, Feb. 25, 1943, BA, R 58/180.

70 MadR, No. 358, Feb. 11, 1943, BA, R 58/180; MadReichsgau Oberdonau, Feb. 2,

1943, BA, NS 6/408; MadReichsgau Oberdonau, Feb. 8, 1943, BA, NS 6/414; Aus-

züge aus Berichten der Gauleitungen u.a. Dienststellen, May 1, 1943, BA, NS 6/415.

71 MadR, No. 356, Feb. 4, 1943, BA, R 58/180; MadR, No. 357, Feb. 8, 1943, BA, R

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66 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

the apparent ease of landing in an

enforcement measures could have made this a successful mobili-

zation measure. Despite provisions in the 1943 law for fines and, as a last resort, legal proceedings, for women who did not report to the employment offices, the authorities were unwilling to take

strong measures.72 Even before the 1943 decree, a woman who

suggested that the army take control of mobilization noted:

there is at present hardly an official prepared to take measures

against women unwilling to work or engaged in passive resist-

ance at work."73 Party records generally admitted the failure of

the registration decree, and the statistics make clear that even the

successful registration of two and a half million women by the end of March 1943 actually added little to the labor force.74

*

#

*

The complaints report

Party and state agencies

conscription from

the

hesitate on the question non-employed middle an the reports of widesprea

"working population," i

women provided there

tributing the burden of

58/180; MadR, No. 358, Feb. 11, BA, R 58/182; Reichsverfügung

Sauckel to Gauarbeitsämter, Nov.

No. 210, July 28, 1944, BA, R

Arbeitskräften in Scheinarbeit

Oberdonau, Feb. 2, 1943, BA,

BA, NS 6/408; Zum

Bericht de

6/407; Zum

Bericht des SD-Absch

Bericht des SD- Abschnittes Sch

72 BA, R 43 11/654. See Verordu beitsverhältnissen, RGB, I, 1944

R 43 II/666b.

73 Irmgard Schäfer to General V. Bünau, Jan. 26, 1942, BA, R 41/162. See Winkler,

Frauenarbeit, pp. 96-101, on the punishment of women unwilling to work before the

1943 order. In general, as is clear from the failure of mobilization, women went

unpunished and took advantage of that fact.

74 MadR, No. 373, Apr. 5, 1943, BA, R 58/182; Sauckel to Gauarbeitsämter, Nov. 3,

1943, BA, R 43 11/654; Grundfragen der Stimmung und Haltung des deutschen Volkes, Nov. 29, 1943, BA, NS 6/244; SD-BzI, Dec. 13, 1943, BA, NS 6/244.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 67

The complaints about social injustice s

some people took seriously the Nazi p

gemeinschaft. From Breslau, for example

individual who insisted: "The word Volksgem

for that very reason it seems suitable that

this concept as it applies to employment to

ring to the registration decree, the S

population - and above all the working circ

implementation of this order exceptional ju

is what the regime promised; the official

example, carried an article about the reg

"Labor Mobilization According to the Pri

tice."77 The SD quoted a woman worker i

who summed up the unfairness of labor m

"I don't call that Volksgemeinschaft."78

It is conceivable that these comments re ipulation of Nazi ideology by the populatio

view, arguing that the more the people s ogy, the more they used it to advance th

would argue that it is simply impossible individuals quoted in the SD reports wer

Volksgemeinschaft as a weapon against its i

least a part of the working class, despite

mobilization policies, took the Nazi rhetori ously enough to complain when it was flag

practice.

What is perhaps most significant about the popular response to the mobilization of women is the clear indication it provides of intense class conflict and hostility. Even the Nazi officials broke down in the face of it and occasionally used the word "class" and

even "class conflict" (which had, according to Nazi ideology and

propaganda, been eliminated in the Third Reich). An SD report

in 1943 warned that unjust implementation of the registration

decree aroused "instincts of class conflict."80 Internal criticism

75 MadR, No. 210, Aug. 11, BA, R 58/163

76 MadR, No. 356, Feb. 4, 1943, BA, R 58/180.

77 "Arbeitseinsatz nach dem Prinzip der sozialistischen Gerechtigkeit," Völkischer Beobach

ter, Feb. 5, 1943, BA, R 43 11/654.

78 Zum Bericht des SD- Abschnittes Schwerin, Mar. 14, 1944, BA, NS 6/244.

79 Winkler, Frauenarbeit, p. 114.

80 MadR, No. 366, Mar. 11, 1943, BA, R 58/181.

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68 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

of Goebbels' famous Total W

argued that the propaganda di

the German population's attitu

mistrust.81 Sauckel released a

1943 that called, among other th "last tendencies of class conflict

tional levels" took malicious pl

persons employed in the muniti ing manual labor.82 And, probab leadership, the Security Service ers were beginning once again t speak of those who were exploit

Mobilization measures thro

brought no satisfaction to disg

the regime ultimately depende

the failure of non-employed w

expectations was crucial. Th

mobilization policies reveal that

gime was unable or unwilling women, despite desperate labo

somewhat paradoxical view of th

collect detailed information a

talitarian enough to suppress p

enough to enforce conscription

and upper classes, the mainsta

discontent with the injustice of

worry Nazi officials, but the

monopoly of force not to fear

ures taken in the first month

Communists, Social Democrats, a In order to enforce the regist

have had to be willing to impri

tion. Although the governmen

and punished some working wo

1943, the population reports m

81 Dr. Fritz Michael to Lammers, Feb. 21, 1943, BA, R 43 II/639a.

82 Manifest des GBA an alle Dienstellen des Arbeitseinsatzes und der Reich-

streuhanderverwaltunc, Apr. 20, 1943, R 43 II/652a.

83 Grundfragen der Stimmung und Haltung des deutschen Volkes, Nov. 29, 1943, BA,

NS 6/244.

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WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY 69

for women who did not register. The

Reich is here laid bare, as it is in the statements of Hitler and

others that women (meaning, of course, upper class women)

should be spared the rigors of employment - statements made in complete disregard of the millions of women already working. It is important to understand that, in the face of middle and upper

class women's reluctance to go to work in the factories, only decisive mass action could have succeeded in mobilizing them.

This suggests a kind of limit to the power of the authoritarian

regime, a limit imposed by the extent of passive resistance to

governmental policies.

But it would be mistaken, I think, to idealize the passive

resistance of middle and upper class women, or the resentment

of working class women, as conscious political resistance to

Nazism. Women forced by economic need to work for low wages and women subject to unfairly enforced legislation resented the

ostentatious leisure of middle and upper class women and re-

fused to take seriously talk of sacrifice and Volksgemeinschaft while

labor mobilization was unjustly enforced. This was class resent-

ment, but not necessarily ideological hostility to fascism. In the same way, the resistance of middle and upper class women to the

registration decree was not grounded in opposition to Nazism,

but represented a response to an unfavorable employment situa-

tion. Women realized that participation in the war effort was a

question of economics (how much they could earn) and politics

(how they could minimize government control in an author-

itarian system with theoretical totalitarian powers). What the government expected of women depended, before the war and

during the war, on the needs of the state. How German women

responded to the demands of the regime depended on their

perceptions of individual and class interests. Women's responses

to mobilization, differentiated according to class, are central to an understanding of the failure of mobilization, and give the lie

to the Nazi pretense of class consensus in the Third Reich.

Ohio State University

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