Woman in the National Socialist State

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

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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

Why the German Workers’ Party? What Does it Want?

The first propaganda pamphlet of the (National Socialist) German Workers’ Party, written by Anton Drexler in February 1920

General poverty was the main condition under which the Munich-based German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP) operated during its early months of existence. When Hitler first joined the DAP he was shocked to find (as he related in Mein Kampf) that the party had “nothing, no programme, no leaflet, no printed matter at all, no membership cards, not even a miserable rubber stamp, only obvious good faith and good intentions.” The organization’s entire treasury amounted to barely more than a small handful of marks, with the sum total of these funds kept by members within a cigar box. That the party managed to expand its membership throughout the second half of 1919 and to acquire some actual resources was largely the result of Hitler’s own drive and organization, particularly the pressure he placed upon the DAP’s leaders to undertake the risk of holding public meetings at which the party could raise funds by charging entrance fees. So successful was Hitler’s choice of strategy that, in late December 1919, the German Workers’ Party was able to afford to rent its first party office, a back room in the Sterneckerbräu tavern. Furthermore, the DAP was finally able to look towards diversifying its propaganda strategy by putting out printed material, something which had previously been beyond its means in light of the high cost of paper in Germany’s unstable, rationing-afflicted, post-War economy. February 1920 thus saw not only the appearance of the German Workers’ Party’s new party programme, but also the printing and distribution of its first-ever propaganda document, translated below. This four-page pamphlet was authored by Anton Drexler, then First Chairman of the party, and focused on outlining to readers the miserable conditions under which the new German Republic was supposedly laboring, with the blame for these afflictions laid by the author firmly at the feet of both the ‘false socialism’ of the Marxists and the financial rule of global (“Jewish”) capitalism. Naturally enough Drexler’s document depicts the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as being (in contrast to the Social-Democrats) the way back to prosperity, the only real guarantor of an “honest and true socialism” capable of genuinely saving the working-class and of restoring German greatness. As the first-ever propaganda work published by the DAP/NSDAP the document bears some notable historical significance, even if the style of its writing and presentation is a little prosaic in comparison with the more sophisticated material put out by the National Socialists in later years. Drexler’s authorship of the pamphlet is also somewhat curious in light of the fact that Hitler was the party’s Werbeobmann (propaganda chief) at this point. Possibly it was felt that the honor of producing such a publication should be reserved for the party’s original founder and current leader, even if Drexler’s talent for writing tended to be more workmanlike than gifted overall.  

Why Did the German Workers’ Party Have to Come About?
What Does it Want?
Anton Drexler, February 1920

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The German Volk have suffered terribly as a consequence of World War, revolution, and fratricidal conflict. Those men who, after the storms of November, grandstanded under the finest promises as being the only people capable of saving Germany, have now governed us to death. All ties of order, justice, and custom have been broken. The freedom which was promised to us manifests itself instead in an unprecedented proliferation of common criminality, such as privileged usurers and the exploiters of our people [Volksausbeuter]. The old order collapsed – and now destruction grins, while no new life blossoms among the ruins! It must be stated clearly: “It was not a change of systems that occurred in the late autumn days of 1918, but rather the old system’s coronation. Before the German Revolution, the capitalist constitution ruled behind the scenes; with the Revolution it replaced every objectionable person with its cronies, and continued to misrule us until, through hardship, hunger, and misery, we became the willing slaves of world capitalism – whose representatives are also situated within Germany.”

1.35% foreign races = a 79% share in government.
98.67% ethnic Germans1 = a 21% share in the government of their own native land.
These numbers say it all!

German industrial- and working-capital amounted to twelve billion [Marks]. Whereas loan- and stock-market-capital totaled 250 billion.

But only working-capital was combated, which – in the form of tools, machines, ships, and every kind of manufacturing equipment – was the working Volk’s meal ticket.

Loan-capital, on the other hand, which weighs down upon our own land and soil, upon our buildings, houses, and tenements, was not only not combated – it was actually promoted. The representatives and agents of capitalism set themselves at the head of the combat troops which they themselves had organized against capitalism, and they steered the struggle against the working-capital which stood in their way. The working Volk are bound up with working-capital for better or for worse, and this capital must – while preventing any exploitation of the labor force – be protected. Continue reading

The Programme of the NSDAP

Content and context of the 1920 basic programme of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, drafted by Adolf Hitler and Anton Drexler

So far, when transcribing or translating material for this blog, my general rule has been to try and focus on texts which aren’t otherwise widely-available or well-known, at least in English. Occasionally, however, there is a need to make exceptions. Over the past couple of years I have been involved in tracking down as many National Socialist political programmes as I can find – it has always interested me that National Socialism was in fact a fairly broad movement, with a number of National Socialist parties actually existing before or alongside the more well-known NSDAP. As a result I’ve made an effort of seeking out and translating the programmes of these various groups, with one of my goals for this blog being that it should serve as a repository for these programmes and manifestos as I come across them. In order for the blog to be as complete a repository as possible, however, this does require that I also host a document which it is otherwise very easy to find online already: the 25-point “basic programme” of the NSDAP. One detriment which I have discovered in the wide availability of the NSDAP party programme, at least, is that many of the available translations seem almost deliberately inaccurate. Point 17 of the programme in particular is frequently translated rather oddly, with the party’s call for the elimination of ground-rent (“Abschaffung des Bodenzinses,” lit. “abolition of land-interest”) often incorrectly rendered as a demand for a ban on “taxes on land.” Anybody who has read Rudolf Jung’s book on NS ideology, which covers the subject of ground-rent fairly extensively, would know that this was not what National Socialists meant when discussing its abolition – they were not calling for an end to taxation on land, but for the elimination of a particular form of unearned income (ground-rent is the rent payable on ‘raw land’ to landholders; National Socialists believed it should devolve to the community, since its value was driven by the community’s “collective work”). My hope is that my translation of the programme, on this point and on others, will at least help clear up some common misunderstandings and inaccuracies. Alongside it, and in order to make this update a little more interesting to those already familiar with the 25 Points, I have included a number of other short, related documents, namely a couple of articles and a letter from the period, as well as two short excerpts from National Socialist publications (one pro-Hitler, one anti-Hitler) from the 1930s, all of which discuss the programme to varying degrees and which should help provide a little historical flavor to how it was received within the movement initially and in retrospect a decade later.

Basic Programme of the National Socialist
German Workers’ Party

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The German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP), after its founding on 5 January, 1919, was for many months a party without a programme. A set of ideological Guidelines had been drafted by Anton Drexler and read out at the DAP’s first meeting in the Fürstenfelder Hof, but this short document was regarded by early party members as inadequate, as a simple stopgap outline for the party pending the drafting of a proper, detailed programme. After Adolf Hitler joined the party in October his talents as a propagandist saw him swiftly inducted into the DAP’s leadership committee, and at a party meeting on 16 November the decision was made to set up a commission for drafting a proper programme in which Hitler (alongside Drexler, Karl Harrer, Gottfried Feder, and Dr. Paul Tafel) was to be involved. In actuality the programme which was eventually produced for the party appears to have largely been the work of Hitler and Drexler alone, composed by the two men over several “long nights together in the workers’ canteen at Burghausenerstrasse 6,” as Drexler recalled many years later. Feder is often suggested as a possible co-author, although there appears to be no direct evidence for this beyond the inclusion of some of his theories (of which Hitler and Drexler were already very familiar) within the document’s economic proposals. The new programme was first presented to the public on 24 February, 1920, at a tumultuous meeting of over 2,000 people at the Hofbräuhauskeller tavern in Munich. Hitler’s reading of the programme, point by point, above the yells and heckles of Communists and Social-Democrats dispersed among the crowd, was an event which acquired legendary status within the National Socialist movement over the following years. – Bogumil

The programme of the German Workers’ Party1 is a programme of its time. Its leaders have no intention, once the aims laid out in the programme have been achieved, of drawing up new ones solely for the purpose of facilitating the continued existence of the party by artificially increasing the discontent of the masses.

1. We demand the union of all Germans, on the basis of the self-determination of peoples, within a Greater Germany.

2. We demand equal rights for the German Volk vis-à-vis other nations, and the revocation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.

3. We demand land and soil (colonies) in order to feed our people and to settle our surplus population.

4. Only he who is a folk-comrade can be a citizen of the state. Only those who are of German blood, regardless of creed, can be a folk-comrade. Accordingly, no Jew can be a folk-comrade.

5. Whoever is not a citizen shall only be able to live in Germany as a guest, and must be subject to legislation relating to foreigners.

6. The right to determine the leadership and laws of the state shall belong to citizens of the state alone. We demand therefore that every public office, no matter of what type, whether in Reich, province, or municipality, may only be held by citizens.

We oppose the corrupting parliamentary custom of filling posts solely according to party considerations and without consideration for character or ability. Continue reading

The Conversion of “Comrade” Müller

“I probably will never be a real National Socialist, but…” A 1935 example of National Socialist ‘proletarian fiction’ by Labor Front writer Walter Dach

One of the many innovations which the early socialist movement developed in the field of propaganda was the concept of ‘proletarian literature.’ Proletarian literature constituted writing directly aimed at appealing to a working-class audience and at conveying socialist ideology to them through entertainment. Usually published as a novel or as a serialized story in a workers’ newspaper, proletarian literature was written in a popular, accessible style, and would typically focus on presenting readers with characters and situations they could relate to: working-class people living working-class lives and experiencing similar joys and frustrations to their own. This format’s efficacy in terms of communicating ideological principles and talking-points was notable, and proletarian literature was one of the many forms of socialist technique which the National Socialists in Germany and Austria incorporated into their own political propaganda work. Proletarian stories were not uncommon within National Socialist publications during the movement’s ‘years of struggle’ before 1933, and they were a regular feature in Goebbels’s daily Der Angriff in particular, which was specifically targeted towards a working-class audience. Proletarian fiction continued to be employed by the NSDAP after it came into power, with the vast resources of the German Labor Front (DAF) aiding in the publishing and dissemination of labor-themed stories and novels which it was hoped would help win over the workers to the ‘New Germany’ into which many of them had been somewhat reluctantly thrust. The story excerpt below is one such example. The author, Walter Dach, was employed by the ‘Strength Through Joy’ organization (an arm of the DAF) to write National Socialist-themed proletarian literature aimed at propagating National Socialist ideals about the ‘dignity of labor’ and the ‘ideal worker’ among the German working-classes. This particular story was excerpted from a 1935 collection by Dach entitled Volksgenosse Müller II: Erzählungen der Arbeit (‘Folk-Comrade Müller II: Labor Stories’), and includes a trope common to National Socialist fiction – the simple, noble-hearted German worker (‘Comrade Müller’), whose deep-rooted love of Volk and Fatherland causes him to rise above his conditioned sympathy for Marxism or Bolshevism and to embrace Germany (as well as Hiter and National Socialism) instead. This translation is not by myself, but comes from George L. Mosse’s book Nazi Culture; I have not so far been able to find an original copy of Dach’s book, so I am unsure whether this excerpt represents the story in its entirety or is merely a fragment. 

The Conversion of “Comrade” Müller
Walter Dach

“I must leave again right away,” Müller said quickly, after he had swept up his boys, all three of them, in the circle of his mighty arms, the while shouting “Loafers! Vagabonds!” and, in accordance with a long-established custom, carried them out of the kitchen and threw them onto the beds. The youngest, a six-year-old, enjoyed it most, but all three roared and bellowed like lions.

“Must you go out again?” Müller’s wife asked with a touch of apprehension. She knew that something was gnawing at him and boiling inside him. He was a regular fanatic in everything he did, and on occasion he easily became thoughtless. The cause of Labor seemed definitely lost; it had been drilled into him for a generation, so that he had to believe it now. But what wholly confused him was that he had no evidence for it. “Hitler is a slave of the bourgeoisie!” they had shouted for many years at political meetings. And now they saw how captains of industry and banker-princes had to ask this Hitler for favors.

“And they will certainly take him in!” Müller had tried to tell himself.

They want to. Could be. But will he permit himself to be taken in? That is the question. Frau Müller had never been particularly interested in politics. But this much she understood (in fact, she felt it): Hitler wants the best for the worker; one can trust him. He has himself stood on a scaffold as a simple worker, and he knows what’s in the poor man’s heart.

“He will forget, just like all the other big shots we’ve had before,” grumbled Müller.

“I don’t believe that,” said his wife. “The man lives so simply, you can see that by his clothes. Of course, time will tell. By the way, there’s a letter from the Association of the Saarlanders… about the plebiscite.”1 Continue reading