When Adolf Hitler came to power, he wanted to make sure that Nazi Germany would be the successor of Holy Roman Empire, Wilhelm’s German Empire, and the Third Reich, would live for 1000 years. Thus, the Hitler Youth was founded— an organization meant to indoctrinate the youth of Nazi and indoctrinate them with the ideals of Nazism. In their heads they were creating the German Superman perfected and pure in the ideology of Nazi German culture and trained as soldiers to defend it(They never bothered to ask themselves if the ideology was so pure and perfect why would anyone fight against it, right?) When we think of the Hitler Youth we picture school boys dressed as Nazis, but the truth is that it was organized, according to age and sex as well. There were girls in the Hitler Youth. It was called Bund Deutscher Mädel, or the Girls of the Third Reich.

Origins of BDM

The Bund DeutscherMädel, or BDM, started in 1930 before Hitler became a Chancellor in 1933. Prior to it, other localized girl groups had been created in the early years of the National Socialist movement founded by Gustav Adolf Lenk in the 192os. The group focused on celebrating language, history, and folklore and teaching those topics in anti-Semitic interpretations. It failed to attract many members, but you can see the linkage.  The new Nationalist Socialist Man would be soldier and a worker defending the high culture of Germany and the Reich, while the new Nazi Woman would be teachers of that language, history and mythical folklore to their children.

In 1926, Kurt Gruber established the Hitler Youth, and soon, a women’s department was created, led by Helene Kunold and Anna Bauer. They wanted to rack up the number of women joining the regional groups. Once again, only a few got interested.

Hitler given flowers by Hitler Youth. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

On July 7, 1932, Baldur Von Schirach and Gregor Strasser decided to dissolve all the other Nazi girls’ groups and transfer all of them instead to the BDM. By the end of 1932, about 10,000 to 15,000 girls were members of the movement, and even more when Nazism rose to power. The group was used in Nazi propaganda, with posters of girls with braided hair in brown uniforms with the Swastika on the armband. That and its association with the Hitler Youth further increased its popularity.

Not Voluntary

The voluntary membership changed in 1939 when the Law on the Hitler Youth was implemented, making it mandatory for all young girls from 10 to 14 to be part of the Jungmädelbund or Young Girls League, while girls from 14 to 18 would be under the Bund Deutscher Mädel or League of German Girls. As Dr. Jutta Rüdiger, a doctor of psychology who was once the head of the BDM in 1937, said,

The task of our League is to bring young women up to pass on the National Socialist faith and philosophy of life. Girls whose bodies, souls and minds are in harmony, whose physical health and well-balanced natures are incarnations of that beauty which shows that mankind is created by the Almighty… We want to train girls who are proud to think that one day they will choose to share their lives with fighting men. We want girls who believe unreservedly in Germany and the Führer, and will instill that faith into the hearts of their children. Then National Socialism and thus Germany itself will last forever.

Reich Sports Day of the B.D.M. Sept. 23, 1934. (Ludwig Hohlwein , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The group was derogatorily nicknamed by the anti-Nazis “The League of German Mattresses,” suggesting that sexual activities were happening between the sex-separated groups with a conservative facade.

That isn’t really far from the truth.  In the SS, Heinrich Himmler instituted a program of arranged marriages where women volunteered under an exacting standard of racial purity to be the wives of SS officers.

German conquests in the East mean that Germany would have millions of square miles to populate with German farmers and workers and an intense program to increase Germany’s population was undertaken called, the Lebensborn Program.  Pregnant German women were deemed “racially valuable” were encouraged to give birth to their children at Lebensborn homes where they would be paid and cared for. It didn’t matter if they were married or if the biological father wanted to be involved.  Germany needed Aryan babies.  The program went as far as so scour the conquered countries like Poland for children who had Aryan facial characteristics, like blond hair and blue eyes.  These children and infants would be taken from their parents(who would be sent to concentration camps themselves) and be placed with new German parents and given new German names and identities. Tens of thousands of children were taken this way and most grew up never knowing that their parents really weren’t their parents at all. The adoptive parents didn’t know either.  They were told they were adopting war orphans.

The societal pressure to have children was pretty intense in Germany,  The Nazis created a rewards system for having lots of kids. It was in honor of Hitler’s mother and was called the Mothers Cross Award. On her birthday Hitler would award gold medals to women with seven children, a silver to women with six, and a bronze to women with five.

Teaching the Nazi Ways

All the activities for the girls were designed with the goal of preparing the girls for the next generation of mothers of the Third Reich who would teach their children the Nazi ways. That meant that they “enhanced” the curriculum taught in schools to modify them around the Nazi interpretations of history, biology, and even geography. All lessons taught were molded to justify the actions of the Nazis and promoted conformity, anti-Semitism, and obedience.

The young women were also encouraged to do household and agricultural tasks, so schemes like the Girls Land Service were created where girls would spend some of their time doing agricultural stuff. There was also the mandatory Labour Service, effective in 1939, where they would work in agriculture and domestic services for six months. Together with the male members of the Hitler Youth, they attended Nazi Party rallies and political meetings, both locally and nationally.

When the war started to go badly against the German Army in the 1940s, the BDM girls were trained to fight and use weapons, maneuver in the trenches, and be excellent snipers. Young girls already knew how to throw grenades, sabotage, and set booby traps. When the war ended, the BDM was disbanded and declared illegal by the Allied Forces.