NSDAP activist Dr. Sofia Rabe’s 1932 pamphlet on German women and their rights and responsibilities under National Socialism
A common criticism levelled against National Socialism during the interwar years was that the NS movement’s outlook on women tended to be somewhat backward, and therefore potentially harmful to its political success. A frequent enough accusation was that National Socialism was intent on transforming women into “breeding machines,” docile house-slaves whose sole purpose in life would be to deferentially serve their husbands while pumping out an ever-growing flock of Aryan children. In light of some of the attitudes expressed by male party members at times, this charge is perhaps somewhat understandable; a 1926 letter-writer to the Völkischer Beobachter, for example, once argued that, “It is further asserted that man wants to reduce women to a ‘breeding machine’…. Nature has given this role in its wisdom and for the good of humanity to women… It is therefore the absolute duty to her race of every normal woman to give birth to seven, but at least six, children…” Yet this particular perspective did not really reflect the reality of movement life for most National Socialists. In Austria and the Sudetenland, women National Socialists had been actively involved in party and electoral work since before the War, and the 1918 Vienna Programme had explicitly advocated “legal and political equality for women.” Even in Germany proper, where movement culture tended to be somewhat more conservative and much more overtly militant and masculine, women were actively involved in street politics: handing out leaflets, pasting up posters, attending rallies, providing first aid, hiding weapons, acting as SA ‘scouts’. The NSDAP was a broad church on many issues, including the topic of women’s rights, and while the polar extremes were represented by the radical “NS feminists” on one side and retrograde advocates of “breeding machines” on the other, the majority within the party tended towards the view that women deserved some level of agency as individuals, even if motherhood was still undeniably accepted as being their primary, intrinsic duty towards their Volk. Clarifying the party’s stance on this subject became especially important in the early 1930s, when electoral victory seemed much more attainable; women constituted a hugely important voting bloc, and tended on the whole to lean towards conservative and nationalist parties. The pamphlet translated below, written by NS-Frauenschaft member Dr. Sofia Rabe and produced by the NSDAP’s central publishing house, is an example of some of the intellectual work the party directed at women in this period. It constitutes an attempt by the author to combat negative perceptions of the National Socialist stance on women and to set against it a view of women’s emancipation in which women are to be emancipated from the workforce, not from men – while still ultimately retaining their right to independent work and education under National Socialism, if that is where their strengths lead them.
Woman in the National Socialist State
Dr. Sofia Rabe, 1932
All other parties have repeatedly reproached female National Socialists [Nationalsozialistinnen] for failing to take a clear stance on the role which they would have to fulfill within the NSDAP: that they would simply become slaves to an ideology which is rooted in blind faith in a leader. These issues have been raised again and yet again, along with the assertion that the influx of women into National Socialism is based solely upon complete ignorance of the fate which would befall them within the Third Reich.
These allegations are expansive in number, though not in relevance nor in factual knowledge. Our opponents have written entire books about the position of women in National Socialism, all of which culminate in a single sentence: National Socialism wishes to degrade women into breeding machines, so that women in National Socialism will only have a biological function to fulfill.
At the same time, Adolf Hitler and [Alfred] Rosenberg have been quoted – in sentences taken completely out of context – and those quotations twisted and turned as needed and desired.
We women National Socialists have only one response to this: For us there is no Frauenfrage1 along such lines, we know of only one goal: to serve our Volk and to aid in the great struggle for the liberation of Germany, and in so doing to integrate ourselves into the whole of the Volk as its welfare demands.
On one side we see that old (not in years) generation who like to regard everything today as being good and right; whose ideal exhausts itself in working for its own sake; who allow themselves in their inadequacy to be set upon the wrong path.
Opposite them we see the young generation who stand today within the ranks of the NSDAP. For them the misery of women is a part of that great misery of the German Volk, and can only be solved in conjunction with it. Continue reading