Sophie Rogge-Börner’s memorandum of February 18, 1933, requesting Hitler consider establishing the Third Reich on a foundation of sexual equality
Despite its reputation as a totalitarian movement, there was a significant degree of intellectual diversity within German National Socialism; Hitler was reasonably comfortable with dissenting perspectives being expressed within the boundaries of the NSDAP so long as those expressing them remained completely loyal to his leadership. Within the Party there could be widely-varying opinions on issues such as socialism, religion, Jews, and the Frauenfrage – the ‘woman question’, the debate over the role of women within the movement and their social position in the future Third Reich. Opinions on this topic ranged from those of paternalist radicals who saw women as little more than ‘breeding machines’ of future Aryan soldiers, to ‘feminists’ who believed in the innate equality of German men and women. These ‘feminists’ (a term they generally rejected) themselves expressed a diverse range of viewpoints, but they were united in their veneration for a semi-mythical Nordic Golden Age of sexual equality and their belief that a true Volksgemeinschaft based on harmony and class comradeship was impossible if the state continued to discriminate against half of the German population. One of the most prominent of the NS-feminists was teacher & writer Sophie Rogge-Börner. Rogge-Börner never officially joined the NSDAP (although she had been a member of various other völkisch groups, including the National Socialist Freedom Movement), but she was a supporter of National Socialism, was very active within the völkisch literary movement, and like so many nationalists she greeted the new Hitler government in 1933 with enthusiasm. The memorandum translated below, written by Rogge-Börner shortly after Hitler attained the Chancellorship, expressed the author’s plea to the new leadership that the coming Third Reich would be revolutionary in terms of gender as well as race, politics, and economy. She was not just speaking for herself. Her memorandum was soon published as the lead article of newly-established NS-feminist journal Die deutsche Kämpferin (The German Female Fighter, or The German Warrioress), and later it was compiled with multiple similar articles into the 1933 book Deutsche Frauen an Adolf Hitler (German Women Address Adolf Hitler). Rogge-Börner’s memorandum of course accomplished little, although it did receive brief written acknowledgement from Prussian Reich Commissioner Göring. Die deutsche Kämpferin was eventually banned in 1937 and Rogge-Börner forbidden from writing, but nonetheless she remained (mostly) supportive of Hitler and National Socialism even after the War.
to the Chancellor of the German Reich, Herr Adolf Hitler,
and to the Vice-Chancellor, Herr Franz von Papen
First published in Die deutsche Kämpferin, vol. 2, May (‘Maimond’) 1933
The gradual onset of the state’s reorganization makes it essential that German women of the völkisch-national way-of-life earnestly call the attention of the leading men to the fact that the state should not be allowed to once more be organized into a Man’s State, but must be established instead as the Lebensraum of the entire German people, comprising both men and women.
If we peer into the depths out of which emerge the spiritual driving forces behind contemporary events, then the route along which the path of destiny of white people has run becomes clear. Mankind’s first sociological age was a matriarchal order, as evidenced by its maternal family.1 After long periods of transition, of centuries (or perhaps millennia) of fluid boundaries and uncertain divisions of power, the progression to the second stage, to the patriarchal order, was fulfilled. Until, as matriarchy once had done, it too overstepped the bounds of its exclusive claim to power to such an extent that, around the middle of the 19th century, the women’s liberation-movement emerged within the Germanic countries. A Volksgemeinschaft of Germanic blood cannot in the long run be unilaterally led and directed through male dominance. The three generations presently living are drawn via an unambiguous gesture of the Creator’s will to the third of the stages: the social order of unified,2 holistic human beings.
The relationships which the sexes have with one another and with the community are intimately and directly bound to the racial essence, to the blood origin of a Volk. Because we Germans derive our origins from the Nordic race, it is essential to get a clear understanding of the validity of both sexes among our early Nordic ancestors and to draw from this the practical application for our way of life in the 20th century. The lore we have preserved draws a clear, sound picture of civilized behavior which I can only intimate here in broad outlines:
Man and woman constituted an unconditional community of life, creation, and struggle. They worked together in farm and field, in fishing, bartering, and commerce. They lived in lifelong monogamy, from which there were only rare deviations; in a marriage which had become intolerable for convincing reasons the man and the woman could be separated before witnesses. The intellectual influence of women on the leadership of the village community or the tribe was great; the decision over war or peace lay mainly with the wisest and most far-sighted women. Women who were self-reliant personalities were able to act independently and freely, both in their personal lives and for the common good. Women were tougher and more vigorous in terms of physical strength; their practice in the use of weaponry was a matter of course; they participated in armed combat when the situation demanded; they not only demanded blood vengeance,3 they exercised it themselves if necessary. They could also administer the judicial and at the same time sacerdotal duties of the Godes;4 and in early Germanic monarchism they could even take the King’s Seat.5 And despite all this, marriages were fecund and the women excellent mothers. Possessory rights placed the woman in an entirely independent position; it could not have happened that, as with countless women today, she should have had to carry on with an unworthy marriage out of brutal material necessity; the munt6 or the Mahlschatz,7 which as a bride she received from the betrothed man, also remained her personal possession alongside the dowry.8
The Danish researcher Wilhelm Grönbech9 emphasized this quite explicitly: “The entirety of old Nordic literature is unique evidence for the free and influential position of women.” That which we today call “truly feminine”10 would not have been applicable to the early Nordic woman on any level.
These sober facts, elaborated upon by a responsible-minded scholarship, are essential to understand if we are now going to reorganize the state. Passionate efforts are being undertaken anew to once again elevate a sentimental concept of femininity and a romantic veneration of mothers, both of which are not Nordic but of oriental origin,11 into idols of the Germans. We oppose this. The new German motherhood has the will to multiple children; but it also understands that it can only bestow high-quality children upon the nation.
In reaction to the abysmal psychological, spiritual, and physical distress experienced by every folk-comrade, Woman has again awoken to an awareness of what is ethnically-appropriate to our blood origins and what is alien to us. In this awareness she is determined to fulfill, in addition to motherhood, all other duties to the Volksgemeinschaft from which she has long been excluded. All those areas out of which paths of guidance radiate outwards into the life of the Volk [Volkslebens] must be interwoven with masculine and feminine substance. Only contact with both the masculine and feminine poles of thought triggers that intellectual flow of energy which makes creative leaders effective. Contact with one pole alone means the flow remains eternally dead. We Germans have experienced this bitterly in our völkisch destiny. For more than a thousand years we have unwittingly violated the will of the Creator who, not without prudent forethought, created humanity as two-in-one [zweieinig] and stipulated polarity within its earthly mission. Leadership by half the people destroyed the Nordic basis of our folkdom. We Germans stand at the brink of the final abyss. But we desire to pull ourselves back from it!
If we are willing to order the new state in accordance with our Nordic racial principle [Artgesetz], then qualified and capable women must now be involved with the state organism in every area. Nobody is thinking of urging the majority of women into the public sphere; they will find their life’s fulfillment as before in the vocation of housewife and mother, just as men find theirs in bread-winning and in fatherhood. The mass of men is just as unsuited to independent thinking and to any position of leadership as is the mass of women. But there are outstanding talents born in both sexes. The state needs them and has to assign them a position, irrespective of gender. It is pointless for careers to be open for women on paper if every state institution and every official professional association refuses them employment. All areas of national life are crying out for support to be accorded to the entire citizenry. Look how much good has been accomplished for the Volk, simply by excluding the female half of the population from the judicial benches and from the pastoral ministry! The gender which nourishes both sexes with its lifeblood and carries them to life surely has the greater capacity for empathy, and thus a greater aptitude for objective justice and for empathizing with individuals’ internal modes of experience. Man and woman together will at last establish German Law. And if any area requires the involvement of women, it is that of politics – domestic policy and foreign policy. Germany has never had an abundance of truly diplomatic and statesmanlike minds; the state should not forego a true political thinker when offered one. That sixth sense which has often been attributed to German women is in fact not a vague superstition; it is a reality, whose fateful significance we no longer understand today, but which is capable of discerning uncertainties which almost always play a crucial role, particularly in the foreign relations of nations [Völker]. These uncertainties cannot be formulated in any draft programmes, in any constitutional legal clauses, or in any international treaties; yet nonetheless they are not a product of the imagination, they are there! But they can only be detected and discerned by rare individuals, for whom this tactile sense still emerges as a by-product of their fortunate genetic heritage. And every experience has demonstrated that it is far more characteristic of the female sex than of the male. For this reason, competent, first-rate women also need to be present in the representative organs of the Volk in sufficient numbers, i.e. in the corporate, legislative, and political chambers. It is a serious obstacle to the realization of the Volksgemeinschaft that the National Germany12 almost completely denies its women from being delegated to its representative bodies [Volksvertretungen].
And the feminine gender desires being capable of defending itself again. Those girls who volunteer and who are physically fit should undergo regular training courses in the event that they have to be called up for national defense. Others, who are less robust, should receive professional training in administrative service at the postal and railway authorities and in wartime nutrition services [Kriegsernährungswesen], which requires careful planning. Our country is so deeply embedded in the heart of our continent that all Germans, man for man and woman for woman, have to be prepared to their utmost, at all times, in light of the hateful and highly-armed states on our borders. German women as a whole will no longer be excluded from the duty and honor of dedicating their lives to their nation and from protecting it in times of war! Almost all of our direct neighbors not only arm their men’s armies [Männer-Armeen] to the teeth, but now also train their capable women for military service. Only we Germans, who are ten times more vulnerable, submerge ourselves ever deeper into pacifist ideologies and intoxicate ourselves with a philistine “femininity” for which an honest existence in this transitional period, provocative to all belligerent powers, has no use whatsoever.
In all other areas of civic life the necessity of bringing in the foremost influence of women applies just as much.
This claim to a greater area of responsibility cannot be dismissed as feminism.13 The Volk have an inalienable right to leadership by the best Germans of both sexes. The Volk comprises the entirety of the people; if it is to prosper it can therefore only be led through the whole of the people. The best men and the best women have to share in the leadership of the nation. Men and women must participate in every leadership office.
Today the German woman calls on that sex which is still in exclusive possession of all civic and legislative instruments of power to take stock and to redirect us back to our natural origins. One of those great moments of the world, moments which only recur in thousand-year cycles, is upon us, and it places us Germans at the final crossroads of decision. We must build the new Reich in accordance with the principle under which we began. If the new state is established once again as a Man’s State, in which the woman is merely an object of the social order, then this is proof that we have lost the metaphysical powers which enable us to perceive those great spiritual floods by which all material events are set in motion. Then, in the best-case scenario, we may once again experience a technically well-organised state; but it will not encompass a free, racially authentic, genuine Volksgemeinschaft. That can only be formed organically by Nordic racial groups if the entire people, not half, shapes, leads, and unstintingly permeates the state order.
In this brief memorandum I have only been able to shed a hint of light on the most pressing issue today. I am always willing to provide more detailed explanation and evidence. The courage and inner empowerment I demonstrate in submitting my recommendations to the Reichschancellor, Vice-Chancellor, and to the Reich government in this respectful fashion, comes from the fact that for 14 years I have been on the front line of the battle for the future Germany, and have also published multiple works on the fundamental questions of the new form of state.
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 18th February 1933.
On 4th March the Reich Commissioner for the State of Prussia informed the sender: “I have noted with interest the memorandum on the reorganization of the state that was sent to me on 18th February, 1933.”
1. ‘Maternal family’ – in German ‘Mutterfamilie’. A sociological concept. ‘The maternal family’ as a term describes family structures in certain societies or among certain animal species where the mother is the family unit’s dominant figure, rather than the father. The concept was adopted by feminists of various political dispositions – it is referenced positively in the work of communist author Franz Jung, for example. These feminists, like the feminist faction of the National Socialist and völkisch movements, tended to the idea that that early human society was matriarchal rather than patriarchal in social structure.
2. ‘Unified’ – in German ‘zweieinigen’. A direct translation of this word would be ‘biunial” or ‘biune’, an adjective used to indicate that something consists of two things combined into one. Rogge-Börner is suggesting that the supposed transition from a matriarchal society to our present patriarchal order will eventually be superseded by progression to a new ‘biunial’ age, an era in which the two sexes are united as an equal whole, rather than divided by social and sexual inequality.
3. ‘Blood vengeance’ – ‘Blutrache’ in German. In Nordic societies in the medieval era, ‘like for like’ was an acceptable principle for the settling of certain legal disputes. If a person was killed or seriously harmed by someone else in the community, then a family member could request approval for Blutrache from whichever individual or body constituted the local judicial authority. Once the claim to vengeance was recognized, the family member was considered within their rights by the community to inflict the same harm, in proportion, on the perpetrator or on a member of their family. They could also use the threat of blood vengeance to demand significant monetary compensation instead. This form of conflict resolution sometimes led to an escalation rather than de-escalation of violence, resulting in blood feuds between families or clans which lasted generations.
4. ‘Gode’ (plural ‘Goden’) is an old Norse word for a position of authority within the community which combined both religious, priest-like duties with secular power and responsibilities. Kings, chieftains, and other high-status individuals in Norse society typically carried out sacrificial religious ceremonies; in this capacity as a conductor of communal religious rites they were known as a Gode. The office of Gode also had specific political functions which gave its holder certain powers in the Alting (the national legislature which governed the different chiefdoms/provinces collectively) and in appointing judges.
5. ‘King’s Seat’ – ‘Königsstuhl’ in German. The Königsstuhl of Rhens, located on the River Rhine near Koblenz, was the monument where the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire gathered to elect the Emperor and the German kings. The site was chosen because the four territories of the electors adjoined there; supposedly a hunting horn blown at the site could be heard in all four electorates at the same time. As part of the ritual of coronation, after their election the Kings or Emperor would at some point visit the site, mount the King’s Seat, and make an oath of loyalty. The suggestion here that women were allowed to take the Königsstuhl is not really accurate. Although women had a not inconsiderable level of influence even within early Germanic society, they still did not have any formal political rights; the most influential position they could hold was that of priestess. In the later Empire women were not eligible for election as Holy Roman Empress, and there were no queens regnant in any territories. Queens and Empresses could however influence political affairs through their husband’s position (Empress Maria Theresa of Austria being the most famous example), and there were a number of women who ruled with great ability as regent on behalf of young sons after the death of a husband – Brunhilda of Austrasia, Adelaide of Italy, and Theophanu of the Holy Roman Empire, among others.
6. ‘Munt’ – Old High German for ‘hand’, a term which in this context means ‘guardianship’ or ‘protection’. In early Teutonic societies the power which a familial patriarch had over everyone and everything in his household – wife, children, and property – was termed munt. Having ‘hand’ or munt implied both a duty (the house-father was expected to protect to his utmost his family and property) and ownership (both family-members and property were his to sell, bill, trade, etc., as needed). A man’s munt over a woman was established via marriage; in the early Middle Ages marriage essentially constituted a contract of sale between two families. Later, around the late 1200s, the right of munt was extended to women. Women in this era were increasingly entering into trade or crafts and producing and selling goods; as a result they were given increased mobility, increased rights within the courts, equality in the marketplace, and the munt over their own goods and property – although their husband still possessed unchallenged munt over the family property.
7. ‘Mahlschatz’ – A form of dowry among the Germanic peoples. Originally it was paid by the husband’s family to the bride’s father; later it was paid directly to the bride, who was allowed to keep it personally despite her husband’s munt over her or the family property in general. The mahlschatz acted as a kind of deposit, a pledge that the husband would keep the promise of marriage.
8. ‘Dowry’ – ‘Heimsteuer’ in German (lit. ‘home-tax’). Another form of dowry in Germanic custom, this one, unlike the mahlschatz, provided by the family of the bride. The name ‘home-tax’ for this form of dowry derives from the fact that it was usually provided as currency, intended to aid the newly-married couple in establishing their household. In some regions the custom was different, with the Heimsteuer instead consisting mostly of household goods rather than money – textiles, furniture, kitchenware, etc. A young woman accumulated these as gifts throughout her life; after marriage she would bring this acquired property with her, ensuring a ready-made home for her husband without cost to his family. Whether currency or property, the bride as homemaker would typically have full control over dispensation of the Heimsteuer.
9. Wilhelm Grönbech (or Vilhelm Grønbech) was a Danish academic and religious historian, most-known for his extensive research and expertise on Germanic religion and mythology. Grønbech’s writings were popular among German nationalists (his lectures achieved high rates of attendance during the Reich’s occupation of Denmark), although he was not himself especially political. There are romantic-nationalist or völkisch elements in Grønbech’s writings, but they are fairly unremarkable for the time and generally do not approach the bombast seen in National Socialist writings which idealize the Nordic past.
10. “Truly feminine” – “echt weiblich” in German. Weiblich, meaning ‘female’, ‘feminine’, or ‘womanly’, was a term used frequently by female National Socialists. According to Geraldine Horan’s work Mothers, Warriors, and Guardians of the Soul, the term weiblich had more biological and racial connotations for National Socialist writers than the alternate fraulich. It should be noted here that Rogge-Börner is criticizing modern notions of femininity. She believed women possessed an innate racial potential to be just as physically strong, economically industrious, and politically accomplished as men. Feminine stereotypes (a focus on beauty, fashion, submissiveness, childbearing as a central role, etc.) were “truly feminine” according to degenerate modern sensibilities, but for Rogge-Börner they did not match the true femininity of powerful Nordic women of old.
11. ‘Oriental’ – Usually a synonym for ‘Jewish’ in these kinds of writings. It was Rogge-Börner’s contention that women, who in the ancient Nordic era had supposedly once been both the physical and social equals of men, had degenerated physically as well as culturally due to the influence of the Jews. The decadence, capitalism, and Roman Law the Jews had supposedly brought in their wake had corrupted both women and men, spreading notions of sexism and inequality among men and leading women to become obsequious and physically weaker over generations. Modern notions of femininity for Rogge-Börner were an obvious offshoot of this insidious Jewish influence, since they kept Nordic women meek and materialistic and maintained the divide between the sexes.
12. ‘National Germany’ – A term commonly used in the early ‘30s. The legal revolution which brought Hitler to power in 1933 was frequently called the “National Revolution”, partly out of recognition that, while the National Socialists played a significant role in its conduct, the revolution was for the most part a joint effort between the NSDAP and the wider non-NS nationalist movement. The new Germany was thus commonly referred to as “the National Germany”, a name which set it apart from the ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic’ content of the Weimar Republic and which established that it was a Germany being built by concerted effort between all Germany’s nationalist forces. This wider nationalist milieu beyond the NSDAP was for the most part dominated by more conservative, bourgeois-nationalist groups like the DNVP, Pan-Germans, and Stahlhelm, political organizations which tended to a more idealized view of the Wilhelmine era than the NSDAP and were consequently dismissed by the National Socialists as “reactionaries”. The term ‘National Germany’ was also occasionally used by NSDAP members to refer to these groups as a whole (i.e. “the forces of the National Germany”), a way of distinguishing the bourgeois competition from the ‘purer’, more revolutionary nationalism of the National Socialists. The bourgeois-nationalists were completely subdued by the time of the 1934 Blood Purge, forced either to disband their organizations or to merge them into the NSDAP; talk of a ‘National Germany’ or the ‘National Movement’ thus became less common as National Socialism emerged unchallenged as the sole legitimate political force within the German state.
13. ‘Feminism’ – In German ‘Frauenrechtlerei’, or ‘women’s-rightsism’. Interestingly, ‘Frauenrechtlerin‘ (‘women’s rights activist’ or ‘feminist’) as a term was used derogatively by both National Socialist and some Marxist writers, who employed it as a way of distinguishing the bourgeois views of liberal feminists from their own perspectives on male-female equality. National Socialist feminists would contrast the views of the ‘Frauenrechtlerinnen‘ with their own beliefs, emphasizing that mainstream German women’s rights activism was ultimately Jewish and bourgeois in origin, while National Socialist perspectives on the inherent equality of men and women derived from Nordic racial reality.