Women’s place in the Third Reich: Empowering or Degrading?
The state of women’s rights in the Third Reich revolved around their ability to reproduce the future leaders of the Reich. However, was this a degradation of women’s abilities in society or could women draw some power in society as the mother? As was stated in the Principles and Organizational Guidelines of the National Socialist Women’s Leagues, women’s place was as “guardians of the nation’s source of life” (Sax & Kuntz 264). And while it’s easy to say that a country seeing women as solely the mother, wife, and housemaker is oppressive, there is also a great sense of power bestowed upon the women of the country in the Volksgemeinschaft. In the speech Hitler gave at the Nuremberg Party rally of 1934 he states, “woman is also the most stable element in the preservation of a people” (Sax & Kuntz 263). Hitler talks about the woman as being the key source for the race to continue into the future. This can be an empowering notion for the women of Nazi Germany. It seems as though there are glimpses of the possibility for women to own the gift they have in order to remind the men of the day of their power in child production, a task that is unique to women.
While a great deal of power is placed into the hands of women because of their capability to reproduce, the rhetoric of Hitler’s speech also greatly degrades women. Hitler speaks of women’s inability to ennoble parliament and that their place is not in the large world (the men’s public sphere). Women, according to his speech, need to be protected from the evils of the world in order to maintain their place in society. These ideas certainly perpetuate the idea that women are not smart enough to participate in the public sphere specifically with his example of parliament. Women of the time could draw great pride in their position as the mother and housemaker for her family. However, looking back on the documents, it certainly seems that Hitler was only using this rhetoric to use the women to his advantage while also degrading them at the same time.
Sax, Benjamin, and Dieter Kuntz. Inside Hitler’s Germany: A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich. D.C. Heath and Company, 1992. 264-265.