Hitler's Girls is not just another Hitler Youth history book. Concentrating purely on the role of German girls in Hitler’s Third Reich, we learn of their home lives, schooling, exploitation and eventual militarization from firsthand accounts of women who were indoctrinated into the Jung Madel and Bund Deutcscher Madel as young girls. From the prosperous beginnings of 1933 to the cataclysmic defeat of 1945, this insightful book examines in detail their specific roles as defined by the Nazi state.
Few historical literary works have gone as deep to find the truth, the conscience and the regret, and in this sense Hitler's Girls is a unique work unlike any other so far published. Written in an attempt to provide a definitive voice for this unheard generation of German females, it will leave the reader to decide for themselves whether or not the girls were the obedient accessories to genocide, and it will lead many readers to question many aspects of what they have previously thought about the role of girls and young women in Hitler’s Third Reich. This is their story.
|Publisher:||Pen and Sword|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Born in to a military family, Tim Heath’s interest in history led him to research the air war of the Second World War, focussing on the German Luftwaffe and writing extensively for The Armourer Magazine. During the course of his research he has worked closely with the German War Graves Commission at Kassel, Germany, and met with German families and veterans alike. Following the successful debut of Hitler’s Girls, Hitler’s Housewives will be Tim’s fifth book to contribute to this overlooked part of an otherwise heavily scrutinised period of history.
Read an Excerpt
The Third Reich is Born
After what can only be described as an extraordinary series of social and political events, including the death of German president Paul von Hindenburg on 2 August 1934, Adolf Hitler became Führer, or leader, of Germany and the Third Reich was conceived. Hitler acted quickly to ensure he seized total power in Germany. He appointed loyal Nazis to various positions within the new government and replaced all labour unions with the Nazi-controlled German Labour Front, or Deutsche Arbeitsfront. In addition to these measures, Hitler outlawed all other political organizations.
The National Socialist monster it had, perhaps inadvertently, helped to create was rapidly swallowing Germany. Very soon, the press, economy and all activities of a cultural nature were placed under Nazi authority. It soon became very clear to many that one's livelihood would depend on one's political loyalty. This applied particularly to the wealthy.
There were thousands who opposed the Nazi regime and the way that it had seized power. Many of these anti-Nazis were rounded up and transported to concentration camps. No secret was made of the fate of those who opposed the Nazis – the existence of the concentration camps was widely publicised. Between 1933 and 1944, a total of 13,405 death sentences were passed in Nazi Germany, and of these 11,881 were carried out.
Soon, any sign of dissent within German society disappeared within the brutal veil of a massive propaganda campaign that hailed the destruction of democracy in Germany. At the same time, huge specially staged rallies were organised, giving the casual observer the impression that everyone supported Hitler. There were of course a great many who did support Hitler. Most of his support came from the working and middle classes, as it were they in particular who had suffered the most after Germany's defeat in the First World War, particularly as a result of the implementation of the hated Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler had taken care to ensure that he gained the support of these social and economic classes during his rise to prominence. By 1933, unemployment had reached an all-time low of thirty-five per cent. That said, things improved only very marginally for the working and middle classes, many of whom could still not afford to feed their families. The re-armament of Germany, as ordered by Hitler, far from improving things actually proved detrimental to the economic situation.
By the mid-19th century, a dense mass of tenements had been erected to the northeast and south of the central 'Mitte' district of the city of Berlin. Known as the 'Mietskasernen' (rent barracks), these buildings were the homes of the working-class families who worked in the nearby industrial plants and factories. Aristocrats and middle-class families lived in the peripheral communities of Dahlem, Grunewald and Kopenick. The Mietskasernen was a typical industrial area, crammed with terraced houses and where everything appeared to be dark and forbidding. In fact, the Mitte district of Berlin was much like London's East End, its populace looking and going about their lives in much the same way.
It was in this Mitte district that Anna Dann was born on 14 January 1929 into a working class family, consisting of her mother Hanna, father Erich, and two older brothers Franz and Josef. Though Anna did not join the Jung Madel until 1939, by which time both school and Jung Madel activities were concerned primarily with the issues of war, she explains:
I was only four years old when Hitler came to power and I can remember certain things such as my father Erich coming home from the factory which he was employed at. His face and hands were almost permanently stained black from smoke and oil and whatever else he had to work in. His health suffered greatly as a result of his work and I remember how he coughed and wheezed to the point where he almost vomited. I remember my mother and father talking about Hitler and I wondered whom this Hitler was, but had no understanding of what he was or what he was doing at that time, as few young children ever have any political understanding. To me Hitler was a kind of cartoon character back then.
From looking back at those early years I cannot say that our basic living conditions improved that rapidly under the Nazis as our home was small, often dirty and frequented by rats and mice (a legacy of the nearby factories) and with very few of the amenities of a modern house in Berlin where the 'Mitte' district borough still forms the heart of the newly unified city, along with five other central borough areas.
I know that my father was impressed with Hitler's vision and of what he might offer by the way of prosperity. Everyone wanted to have a better standard of living and my father joined his friends by going to listen to Hitler. It was a bitterly hard existence and we were often hungry and in the winter we were cold.
My mother Hanna did her best to care for us to ensure we were as clean as was possible and most of our clothing was never thrown away as it was always repaired and worn again. At that time there was no financial help that families like ours could fall back on and it was the job of the father to provide for his family, while the mother cared for the children. In fact, there were times when I did not even have shoes or socks to wear on my feet. It was only as I grew older that I became aware of my surroundings and of course the Nazis and what their plans were for Germany and its peoples.
My father was patriotic and I can remember him reading a Nazi Party publication. I do not remember so much the text but the cover. It portrayed a group of German workers with their fists raised towards the sky and they looked like my father and I would say, 'Father, this is you.' The cover caught my eye because it was so colourful and powerful in a visual sense. I suppose that looking back it was meant to provoke aggressive patriotism. It is so strange to think that I myself would later meet, though very briefly, and shake hands with this man Adolf Hitler as I too became a part of the machine.'
By the summer of 1933, Hitler was in complete control of Germany. Having made sure that existing social, economic and professional organizations had been completely absorbed into the Nazi Party, Hitler appointed party members to various key positions of authority to ensure loyalty as well as to keep an eye on the conduct of the ordinary individuals within. Even the leaders of the Protestant and Catholic churches pledged their support for the Nazis, unaware that they were in a sense supporting what was to become a slave state.
Hitler and the Nazis kept its promises to the working classes as all manner of building projects were started in an effort to defeat the scourge of unemployment. One of Hitler's successes was the creation of the German autobahns. These roads were not really created out of any particular automotive necessity, though they were strategically vital once the Nazi war machine began to roll, but it gave the working-class man, who at best could only expect to be able to perform menial tasks, a job and a wage. He could gain back his self-respect, and feed his family. Such initiatives achieved great success, and by 1938, unemployment in Germany had fallen to less than five per cent. This was in every respect a monumental achievement and went some way to convincing the sceptics that Hitler's policies could indeed create radical social change.
The Winterhilfswerke (WHW), or Winter Relief Fund, was established in September 1933. The WHW collected donations from businesses, institutions and wealthy individuals around Germany, donating such funds to those Germans suffering from the combined effects of poverty, unemployment and homelessness. Again, this proved to be a success. It was of huge benefit to the poor working-class families of the industrial heartland who suffered particular hardships during the past winters of the pre-Hitler years. The WHW adopted the morale-boosting slogan of 'A People Helps Itself'.
It was also in 1933 that Hitler ordered the rearmament of Germany. The rearmament programme would further aid the problem of unemployment as well as form the foundation of Nazi aggression in Europe.
Kirsten Eckermann was ten years old when the Nazis came to power in 1933:
I remember my father's initial excitement over Hitler. My father and mother had both suffered like many German families as a consequence of the First World War. My father had lost members of his family in that war and I suppose looking back he can be forgiven in a sense because of that. We lived in the industrial village as some called it in central Berlin. The men there were all labourers but some were very skilled at their work. There were times when unemployment caused great misery and if men could not work they could not feed their families and violence in the home became frequent.
My father like many men of his kind was a very strong disciplinarian with a temper. He rarely ever displayed any open affection towards me. Even as a young child he would not kiss and cuddle me very often. I always did what I was told and obeyed my parents, it was the way that girls were expected to be. I myself was never really interested in politics and often ignored the conversations that my mother and father had about Hitler and the Nazi Party. The name Hitler was mentioned many times in our house. There were days when my father would come home drunk and all he would go on about was Hitler. I dared not leave the room without my parents' permission and had to sit there and listen to him rant on and on until he had got it out of his system.
I know that there were a great many working-class Germans who blamed Jews for their predicament. That was because they had been listening to Hitler and he had exploited their fears to further himself politically, though of course there were obvious problems and maybe Jews were to blame for some of them. Many factories, workhouses and businesses in the streets were under Jewish ownership. When the men lost their jobs they obviously blamed the Jewish bosses and there was that resentment that Hitler and the Nazis exploited. My mother also once tried to find work within a Jewish-owned shop but had to leave because one of the owner's sons had tried to make sexual advances toward her. My father was furious but he could do very little about it at that time. Hitler considered Germany to be a racial sewer and he would shout and rage about how the inferior races, if tolerated, would destroy the Germanic race and its purity.
Hitler for some strange reason attracted girls and held their attention. 'Germany for Germans' he would shout at every meeting and he would do so with an immense depth of emotion. He would almost make you cry and he touched you in a way that no one else could. It really was no surprise to where this was all leading. I don't think many really considered the long-term reality of a Nazi government and the penalties that would have to be paid as a result of supporting it.
At school Nazi influence came into the classroom very rapidly. There were many Jewish children in our school but once the Nazis had gained control this soon changed. At my school, Jewish children became the subject of ridicule and over a period of time became victims of bullying from the non-Jewish children and the teachers. We dared not talk to Jewish children anymore as our teachers said it was forbidden. Groups of girls would gang up and single out a Jewish girl: they then pulled her hair and tore at her clothes and as she lay crying on the ground they would spit on her and shout 'Juden' repeatedly.
My god, those were dreadful times and it is one of the many reasons why up until now I have refused to talk about it. For heaven's sake, all we needed was bread – it just all went too far.
As Hitler began his programmes to mobilize his workers and rearm Germany, he also began to put into effect plans to rid Germany of undesirable racial elements by introducing discriminatory laws. Jews, gypsies, Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses and blacks were all considered as undesirables. When questioned on the issue, Hitler raged, 'Because they are independent of the German will and of German values, as an uncommitted race of criminals they can therefore contribute nothing to my Germany.'
The Jewish families who chose to remain in Germany were soon deprived of their citizenship. They were deemed unemployable and were not allowed to own even a motor vehicle. Jewish children were often expelled from public schools, while families had their valuables and property confiscated. Jews were in some cases also deprived of everyday essentials such as food and medicine. Such acts of racial extremity shocked many visiting foreigners.
Hitler had become so completely obsessed with racial purity that he had had numerous meetings with key henchmen to discuss what he referred to as the 'Jewish Problem'. While Hitler and those within his close circle discussed the Jewish Problem, violence towards Jews on the streets was becoming commonplace. Kirsten Eckermann:
Though it was some years until Kristallnacht ('Night of Broken Glass') of the 9th November 1938, when Jews were murdered by Nazi mobs, violence towards Jews could be witnessed regularly on the streets of Berlin in particular. Of course, we used to have to buy goods from Jewish-owned shops and before Hitler became Chancellor we never really thought anything about it much.
Once Hitler was in power he wasted little time in nurturing the resentment, which existed between working-class Germans and the rich Jewish families who owned businesses. It had been there for a while and was like dynamite waiting to be lit. The Nazis had gone to great lengths to prevent Germans from using Jewish-owned shops. Often it was the job of the SA/Brownshirts or Sturmabteilung (Storm Troopers) as they were known to us, to do this work. They would paint the Star of David on the front of the shop and add things such as 'Juden' or 'Achtung Juden!' (Beware Jews!) to make sure you knew not to buy goods from there.
I often went with my mother to buy the few goods and there were to be many occasions where we could not help but witness violence. A group of SA men were gathered outside a shop that had just received its Star of David symbol; they had also painted a skull and cross bones onto the front window. 'Don't buy from Jewish shops,' they cried as people walked by, 'Buy from German shops only', 'Keep away from these dogs!' and things like that. The owner of the shop had tried desperately in vain to reason with the SA, but in return they turned on the man and began to beat him in front of his wife and children. Other SA members began to smash the windows of the shop while the man was on the ground being beaten. My mother took me by the hand and quickly walked away from the scene. We had to push through a large crowd who had come to watch and as we pushed our way through, I remember the screams of that man's family, hysterical screams of the man's wife and the children. I looked up at my mother and asked 'mutter, why are they doing that?' And 'why can't we buy food from there anymore?' I understood the scrawl that the SA men had painted upon the shop windows but still did not fully understand why they had to do that to those people.
In school, they began to teach 'Mein Kampf' and they told us that if we did not destroy the Jews within our society then they would destroy us. When I joined and became a member of the Jung Madel (Young Maidens) and Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German Maidens), I began to understand the situation more, though I still could not fully grasp the politics. I can say with all honesty that I was not anti-Jewish, and that I would not have physically harmed anyone regardless of their race, etc. We were told it was the rightful way for us as German girls, and we had certain obligations to fulfil for our country and must obey the new German order in the name of Adolf Hitler our Führer.
The Nazis also wanted to create within its Third Reich a new culture, and on 10 May 1933, a parade of students arrived at the University of Berlin where a huge pile of books were set on fire. The books burned were all those concerned with traditional German thought, society and home, and in fact any material that referred to the German people and what was now regarded by many as 'the bastard culture' of the old Germany.
The Reich Chamber of Culture was created, under the direction of Dr Joseph Goebbels. Any individual or body engaged in fine arts, music or theatre, radio, etc, were all required to join their respective chambers. Anyone failing to comply with the strict legislation was given a jail term. Of all the chambers, the music one fared best, as music was the least political. That said, music written by Jewish composers and playwrights, such as Mendelssohn and Reinhardt, were forbidden. Jewish musicians were also removed from orchestras and opera.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Hitler's Girls"
Copyright © 2017 Tim Heath.
Excerpted by permission of Pen and Sword Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Third Reich is Born 1
Chapter 2 Mitte Girls and the Jung Madel 11
Chapter 3 Sugar on the Dog Shit 26
Chapter 4 An Audience with the Devil 40
Chapter 5 Young Women, Sex and the Führer 50
Chapter 6 The Bund Deutscher Madel 63
Chapter 7 A White Rose Remembered 84
Chapter 8 Bombs on the Reich 95
Chapter 9 Girls on the Land 107
Chapter 10 Terror from the Sky 124
Chapter 11 The Volkssturm and the Werewolf 138
Chapter 12 A Playground with Guns 157
Chapter 13 The Fall of Berlin 175
Chapter 14 The Soviet Rape of Berlin 203
Chapter 15 After the Reich 220
About the Author 240
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've read a lot of books about the Third Reich and Germany in World War II and I was excited to finally see a book about the female aspect of the Third Reich. The author delves into the female parts of the Hitler Youth and other female groups. Some parts of the book are very interesting and well written. The others though stray off subject and seem really redundant. It gives first hand accounts from females who lived during this time that were part of these groups. Overall, its a good read but a little dry.