Ein Volk, Ein Reich: Nine Lives Under the Nazis

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Until , excluding women was an effective way to manipulate employment statistics. This was closely linked to the National Socialist belief in the biological function of women as mothers and housewives and was promoted by awarding loans with low interest to young married couples, on the condition that the wife would give up her job.

Due to the shortage of workers, the Nazi attitude changed but the measures for increasing female employment did not always have the desired effect. However, there was an increase in the proportion of women in the machine, mining and steel industries but at the same time the number women in the service industry increased by , The percentage of women in agriculture rose insufficiently which increased the burden of other workers. Many DAF reports stated that women in agricultural areas were overworked and were under great stress which sharply contrasted published propaganda.

In girls aged 16 and over were obliged to complete one year of compulsory labour as a housekeeper or in agriculture. On 1st January the measure was extended to all women under the age of These measures were controversial.

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It was often said that Germany did not sufficiently succeed in extracting the full benefit from female labour reserves in comparison to the UK and the USA. If Germany had succeeded in this, the country could have achieved much higher production numbers. Nazi ideology and the fear of demanding too much from the German public stood in the way. This theory was based on the fact that the absolute number of women labourers barely rose during the war, but it has since been refuted by several authors Herbert, Stephenson and Overy.

Germany already had a high rate of female labour at the end of the s and during the war there was a reorganisation of female labourers into military sectors. The first point is of particular importance. In , the number of employed women stood at They indeed thought that it was not ideal that women certainly married women were working outside of the home, however they put their ideology aside due to labour shortages and for the ultimate goal of winning the war.


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As explained before, there was a significant reorganisation of women labourers during the Second World War to benefit war production. The reorganisation had two parts. The first was a reorganisation within industry, an abandonment of goods for consumption and a turn towards war related sectors.

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The table below demonstrates this:. The second part of the reorganisation was less noticeable yet still of importance. A large number of women worked in agriculture. Female employment rose by , between and , while male employment fell by , During the war, women made up Due to the conscription of agricultural workers for military service in June , more than one million men , more and more women were obliged to manage the farms, sometimes with assistance from foreign workers or prisoners of war.

These women filled an important task since the agriculture sector was essential during the war. Furthermore, the extra help needed in busy periods such as during harvests was mostly provided by women. In the summer of , one million Germans were recruited as temporary or permanent agricultural workers. This included , women. Many of this part-time work did not appear in statistics because only full-time labour was recorded. The same phenomenon occurred in other sectors. In June , , men were recruited from the retail sector, and women were obliged to keep the cogs turning.

Women took over jobs from men as post deliverers, bus drivers and railway workers. For women in office work, this meant a move to other work, more related to the war effort. Due to the prevalence of women on the job market in pre-war Germany, it was difficult to achieve a further increase of employed females. However, one should not conclude that Germany failed to mobilise German women.

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The problem of such conclusions is that the work done by agricultural women, housekeepers, retail workers and so forth were not appreciated as being real work. Women received a lower wage and worked longer days than men. The effect was that in , there were already clear indications of failing standards of health among working women: exhaustion, increasing absences and hostility towards the wage gap.

A doctor wrote in his report for the local mayor on the health of working women that the amount of depression and nervous conditions was increasing and recommended slowing down production. Such considerations prevented a larger recruitment of women for the labour market, more so than ideological views. What we can see from the split between the Nazi ideas on the position of women on the one hand and the realisation of this in practice on the other, is that there was no unity in the Nazi system.

Her role was to look after her husband and children. Women had to produce children for their people and the nation. In agreement with the ideology, the Nazis removed women from the workplace up until , to make way for men. A lack of sufficient labour forced the Nazis to change their policy. From onwards, measures were taken to increase female employment. This went against their ideology but at that time other rules were applicable, those of a wartime economy.

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German women were put to work so the quotas for military production could be reached. Moral and ideological considerations did not play a role in the question of labour. The Nazis wanted to see as many people as possible working, male or female. After they had won the war, they would have returned to their ideals.

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