The League of German Girls The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel [BDM]) was the female section of the Hitler Youth, its role was to indoctrinate girls into the beliefs and ideals of the Nazi regime. The BDM focused on developing girls into women who were dedicated to Nazism, dutiful housewives, and whose role within in society was to become a mother. Girls were to grow-up with an unquestioning understanding of the intended role of women in the Third Reich. BDM members were required to have German parents, be in good health, and conform to Nazi racial ideals. Origins The BDM began in 1930, prior to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power as Chancellor, in 1933. Its roots follow the unsuccessful establishment of other girl’s groups in the early years of the National Socialist movement. The first of these localised groups were created by Gustav Adolf Lenk in the early 1920s, but maintained poor membership levels. The early groups focused on celebration of folklore, language, and history, teaching an anti-Semitic interpretation of these areas. With the establishment of the Hitler Youth by Kurt Gruber in 1926, a department was set up for women, led by Helene Kunold and Anna Bauer. Recruitment drives ran in an attempt to get more women into the regional groups. However, the groups were not especially successful and again had limited membership "Hille had to join the Hitler Youth and wear the brown uniform with the Swastika on the armband. We both felt uncomfortable and embarrassed about it. It was never talked about" Anne Kind OBE Holocaust Survivor; Quote from Survival. On July 7, 1932, Baldur Von Schirach and Gregor Strasser dissolved other Nazi girl’s groups, transferring all memberships to the BDM. By the end of 1932, membership was estimated between 10,000 to 15,000 girls. The movement increased momentum after the Nazi rise to power, with dissolution of non-Nazi girl’s groups. The BDM’s inclusion in the Nazi propaganda campaign and association with the Hitler Youth increased its popularity. In 1939, on the implementation of the Law on the Hitler Youth, it became mandatory for all young girls aged 10 to 14 to be in the Young Girls League (Jungmädelbund), and girls 14 to 18 to be in the League of German Girls. The indoctrination of young people into Nazi ideals was the purpose of the groups, with a focus on the role of young girls as future mothers of the Third Reich. The Belief and Beauty Society The Belief and Beauty Society was intended to link young women directly into the women’s wing of the Nazi Party. It was aimed at girls aged between 17 and 21. The group was voluntary and focused on cooking, sewing, education, and politics, in line with Nazi ideals. Members also carried out work in the areas of home help, store and office help, assistance within the health service, and troop support. It was headed by the BDM leader Jutta Rudiger from 1942, when she took over from Martha Mindendorf. Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, leader of the women’s wing of the Nazi Party, desired that all BDM members would eventually transfer over. Conformity By 1941, thousands of girls were part of the BDM, meaning the organisation had a large reach, and greater ability to indoctrinate girls into Nazi ideals. Girls who were not part of the movement began to be treated differently at school, often being shunned by the BDM members. The BDM strove to ensure members were in conformation with Nazi ideals. It was designed to produce girls who were dedicated to Nazism, Adolf Hitler, and the State. This included ensuring that all individuals they came into contact with, such as teachers and parents, were also conforming. Like the male members of the Hitler Youth, it was encouraged that members of the BDM would inform the authorities if their parents or neighbours were not acting in line with the regime. Members of the BDM were encouraged to choose an ‘appropriate’ partner with which to start a family. The girls were taught that good health and an acceptable racial background, in line with Nazi racial theory, were essential qualities. The intention was they should leave the movement with the ability to do practical work, have many children, and be devoted to their community. The intention was that former members of the BDM would raise their children in line with Nazi ideals, in order for their beliefs to become embedded in the minds of future generations. "…the teacher spoke very seriously to the girls… “At home I want you to keep your eyes and ears open and listen carefully to what your parents, their friends and your brothers and sisters are saying. If you hear them saying anything nasty or critical about our new system, you are to report it to me." Dorothy Fleming Holocaust Survivor; quote from Survival. Activities Activities were designed to further the aim of preparation of children for their futures in as the next generation of mothers. They supported and enhanced the curriculum taught in schools, where all lessons were moulded around the Nazi understanding of history, biology, and geography. Children were taught about the world in a manner which justified the actions of the Nazi regime, and promoted conformity and obedience in all aspects of life. Whilst part of the BDM, young women were encouraged to take part in household and agricultural activities. Initiatives such as the Girls Land Service scheme encouraged girls to spend a period of time working in agriculture. The Women’s Labour Service, which became mandatory in 1939, entailed a six month period working in agriculture or domestic services. Members also carried out charitable activities, such as collecting money. Alongside the male members of the Hitler Youth, BDM girls attended many Nazi Party political meetings and rallies, ranging from local meets to national events such as the Nuremberg rally. Music Music within the BDM focused on singing in choral groups as this was said to provide a sense of unity, and again promote conformity. Group singing was thought to encourage obedience and teamwork, qualities heavily favoured by the Nazi regime. Members were taught folk songs that presented the history of Germany in line with Nazi teachings, further indoctrinating the children. The girls sang at many festivals and occasions within the Third Reich, providing entertainment for the public at special events. During the Second World War, BDM choirs were taken to sing to injured troops to raise the morale of the men. Song books were created for this purpose, with patriotic songs designed to inspire the men. Sport Sport in the BDM was intended to create healthy, strong girls who were fit for child-bearing and produce multiple children to increase the population. The Nazi regime stressed the importance of physical activity in maintaining a healthy body, particularly as sports such as swimming, gymnastics and running. Girls in the BDM would play multiple sports, particularly focusing on athletics and gymnastics. Group activities such as these also worked towards the girls learning discipline and being competitive. Many sports undertaken by girls in the BDM were not considered appropriate for women at that time. Within the organisation of the BDM, and among the parents of girls, it became clear that not every individual valued sport as a key part in the training of young women. The balance between raising healthy young women fit for childbirth, and ‘masculinising’ them through too much sport was a problem for Nazi officials. Tension was created among the leaders of the BDM and the Third Reich as a whole, over the role that sport played in the lives of young women. Uniform Like other aspects of the BDM, the uniform was used to foster conformity and belonging through creating an atmosphere of oneness, and preventing any individual from appearing different. It was created to ensure conformity across the movement. The girls wore dark blue skirts, brown jackets, black neckerchiefs and a white blouse. Modifications to the uniform were not permitted, as the intention was to create unity across the movement. Make-up and other cosmetic modifications were deemed unacceptable as Nazi girls were intended to be natural beauties that did not rely on cosmetics. Some girls struggled to afford the uniform, and could find themselves singled out by other members if they were not able to conform. Particularly once membership to the movement became mandatory, it became clear that each girl must match in order to fit in with the specific ideals taught in the BDM. "Gradually the Aryan girls were joining their equivalent of the Hitler Youth – the Bund Deutscher Mädchen (League of German Girls) – and appeared in school in their new uniforms of navy blue skirts, white blouses, dark ties and white knee-length socks." Dorothy Fleming Holocaust Survivor; quote from Survival. During the Second World War During the Second World War the BDM carried out various roles within society. They ran camps for school girls evacuated from major cities for their protection from allied bombing raids, those in rural areas aided with the harvest, and those in urban areas helped those who had been bombed by the allies. The girls of the BDM also later aided members of the Hitler Youth with anti-aircraft barriers, with some even serving in the signal corps of the women’s section of the SS. Members of the BDM were also trained as volunteer nurses on the frontline, helped move injured soldiers back to their home towns, and volunteered as administrative staff in the local branches of Nazi offices. With Adolf Hitler having been in power from 1933 until 1945, and roots of the Nazi party and the Hitler Youth preceding this, many children had not known life before the Nazi regime. Some were young when the Nazis rose to power, and had experienced years of Nazi teachings and propaganda. Towards the end of the war, as the allies advanced on Berlin, members of the BDM, like boys in the Hitler Youth who did not know life beyond the Third Reich, were some of the most ardent supporters of the Nazi regime. Leadership In 1933, Baldur Von Schirach was appointed leader of the youth in the German Reich. This brought the Hitler Youth movement as a whole, including the BDM, under his control. In 1934, Trude Mohr was appointed national chairwoman of the BDM, and concentrated on the position of females in Nazi society. They would become responsible for raising the next generation of Nazis. After Mohr married in 1937, the BDM was taken over by Dr Jutta Rudiger, who had a close relationship with both Baldur Von Schirach and later, Artur Axmann. Jutta Rudiger was a deeply committed Nazi who continued to lead the BDM until its dissolution in 1945. The intention for the BDM was to have leaders who were young, and who could relate to the members of the movement that they were in charge of. Although this was true in the case of local units, national leaders were mostly older women. Leaders were expected to exemplify the Nazi ideals that they were teaching to the next generation. After the Second World War prominent Nazi officials and supporters were put on trial for their crimes. Baldur Von Schirach who had held multiple roles within the Nazi Party, including leader of the youth, was convicted of crimes against humanity. The direct leader of the BDM, Jutta Rudiger, was released without trial and lived the rest of her life working in Germany, she never renounced her commitment to National Socialism. Sources Epstein, Catherine (2015) Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths John Wiley and Sons: Chichester. Kater, M. (2006) Hitler Youth, Harvard University Press: Massachusetts. Music and the Holocaust (2016) Music amongst the Hitler Youth [online] available at: http://holocaustmusic.ort.org/politics-and-propaganda/third-reich/music-hitler-youth/ [accessed 08/02/16]. Pine, L. (2010) Education in Nazi Germany, Bloomsbury: London. Resse, D., (2006) Growing up female in Nazi Germany, University of Michigan Press: Michigan. Sandor, C. (2012) Through Innocent Eyes: the chosen girls of the Hitler Youth Balboa Press: Bloomington. Stephenson, J. (2001) Women in Nazi Germany, Routledge: London. Turino, T. (2008) Music as social life, University of Chicago Press: Illinois. United State Holocaust Memorial Museum (2016) Photograph [online] available at: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?MediaId=1778 [accessed 12/02/16].