The League of German Girls or Band of German Maidens (German: Bund Deutscher Mädel, abbreviated as BDM) was the girls' wing of the Nazi Party youth movement, the Hitler Youth. It was the only legal female youth organization in Nazi Germany.
At first, the League consisted of two sections: the Jungmädelbund ("Young Girls' League") for girls aged 10 to 14, and the League proper for girls aged 14 to 18. In 1938, a third section was introduced, the BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit ("Faith and Beauty Society"), which was voluntary and open to girls between the ages of 17 and 21.
With the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the organization de facto ceased to exist. On 10 October 1945, it was outlawed by the Allied Control Council along with other Nazi Party organizations. Under Section 86 of the German Criminal Code, the Hitler Youth is an "unconstitutional organization" and the distribution or public use of its symbols, except for educational or research purposes, is not permitted.
|League of German Girls|
Bund Deutscher Mädel
|Type||Female youth organization|
|Legal status||Defunct, illegal|
|Leader||Baldur von Schirach |
The Bund Deutscher Mädel had its origins as early as the 1920s, in the first Mädchenschaften or Mädchengruppen, also known as Schwesternschaften der Hitler-Jugend (Sisterhood of the Hitler Youth). In 1930, it was founded as the female branch of the Hitler Youth movement. The league of German Maidens was nicknamed "The League of German Mattresses", perhaps suggesting sexual promiscuity between the gender-separated groups. Its full title was Bund Deutscher Mädel in der Hitler-Jugend (League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth). In the final electioneering campaigns of 1932, Hitler inaugurated it with a mass meeting featuring the League; on election eve, the League and Hitler Youth staged "evening of entertainment." It did not attract a mass following until the Nazis came to power in January 1933.
Soon after taking office as Reichsjugendführer on 17 June 1933, Baldur von Schirach issued regulations that suspended or forbid existing youth organizations ('concurrence'). Those youth groups were compulsorily integrated into the BDM, which was declared to be the only legally permitted organization for girls in Germany. Many of the existing organizations closed down to avoid this. These Nazi activities were a part of the Gleichschaltung (Equalization) starting in 1933. The Reichskonkordat between the Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, signed on 20 July 1933, gave a certain shelter to the Catholic youth ministry, but they were the object of much bullying.
The Gesetz über die Hitlerjugend (law concerning the Hitler Youth) dated 1 December 1936, forced all eligible juveniles to be a member of HJ or BDM. They had to be ethnic Germans, German citizens and free of hereditary diseases. Girls had to be 10 years of age to enter this League.
The BDM was run directly by Schirach until 1934, when Trude Mohr, a former postal worker, was appointed to the position of BDM-Reichsreferentin, or National Speaker of the BDM, reporting directly to Schirach. After Mohr married in 1937, she was required to resign her position (the BDM required members to be unmarried and without children in order to remain in leadership positions), and was succeeded by Dr. Jutta Rüdiger, a doctor of psychology from Düsseldorf, who was a more assertive leader than Mohr but nevertheless a close ally of Schirach, and also of his successor from 1940 as HJ leader, Artur Axmann. She joined Schirach in resisting efforts by the head of the NS-Frauenschaft (Nazi Woman's League), Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, to gain control of the BDM. Rüdiger led the BDM until its dissolution in 1945.
As in the HJ, separate sections of the BDM existed, according to the age of participants. Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old were members of the Young Girl's League (Jungmädelbund, JM), and girls between the ages of 14 and 18 were members of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) proper. In 1938, a third section was added, known as Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schönheit), which was voluntary and open to girls between 17 and 21 and was intended to groom them for marriage, domestic life, and future career goals. Ideally, girls were to be married and have children once they were of age, but importance was also placed on job training and education.
At the beginning of World War II, the Reichsarbeitsdienst (National Labour Service; RAD) became compulsory also for young women. It lasted half a year. Many young women became Blitzmädel (Wehrmachthelferin or female armed forces helpers) during World War II.
While these ages are general guidelines, there were exceptions for members holding higher (salaried) leadership positions, starting at the organizational level of "Untergau". As regards lower (honorary) positions, even members of the JM could apply for them after two years of membership and would then obtain such a position typically at the age of 13. The higher leadership was recruited from members over 18 and was expected to maintain salaried office for no more than 10 years, and to leave the BDM by the age of 30. As a general rule, members had to leave when they married and especially when they had children.
The BDM uniform was a full blue skirt, middy blouse and heavy marching shoes. In 1939, a new uniform was introduced for regional and national leaders within the League of German Girls, and along with the new uniforms came new rank insignia for leaders. These new rank insignia took the form of a silver, and for higher ranks, gold bullion embroidered open-winged eagle on a black (white, on the summer tunic) shield with various types of borders to indicate grade. They were worn on the left chest of the tunic.
Our volk need a generation of girls which is healthy in body and mind, sure and decisive, proudly and confidently going forward, one which assumes its place in everyday life with poise and discernment, one free of sentimental and rapturous emotions, and which, for precisely this reason, in sharply defined feminity, would be the comrade of a man, because she does not regard him as some sort of idol but rather as a companion! Such girls will then, by necessity, carry the values of National Socialism into the next generation as the mental bulwark of our people.
Jutta Rüdiger (1910–2001) was a special case. She joined the BDM only in 1933, at the age of 23 and after having finished her doctorate in psychology. She obtained honorary positions instantly in 1933 and early 1934, was promoted to her first salaried position (leader of Untergau Ruhr-Lower Rhine) in June 1935 and was appointed Reichsreferentin for the BDM (head of the BDM) in November 1937 (aged 27), succeeding Mohr, who had vacated the position on her marriage, as Nazi policy required. She kept this position even until the German defeat, when she had reached the age of 34.
Clementine zu Castell-Rüdenhausen (b. 1912), a countess and member of the higher Franconian aristocracy, was appointed leader of Gau Unterfranken in 1933, at the age of 21, which also seems to have been the age when she joined the BDM, as no earlier date of membership nor any previous lower positions are recorded in her case. She was appointed head of "Faith and Beauty" in January 1938, a few days before her 26th birthday, and was discharged in September 1939 because of her marriage with Wilhelm "Utz" Utermann in October 1939. She was followed by an Austrian member, Annemarie Kaspar (b. 1917), who had been appointed Untergauführerin at the age of 20 in March 1938 and became head of B&B two weeks before her 22nd birthday. She too married and was discharged in May 1941, to be replaced in June 1941 by Martha Middendorf (b. 1914), who was 27 at the time of her appointment and was discharged already in February 1942, as she too had married. From this time on, Jutta Rüdiger, who was no candidate for marriage but living in lifelong partnership with Hedy Böhmer, took over to lead the B&B directly, thus holding both leadership positions until 1945.
The BDM used campfire romanticism, summer camps, folklorism, tradition, and sports to indoctrinate girls within the National Socialist belief system, and to train them for their roles in German society: wife, mother, and homemaker. Their home evenings revolved around domestic training, but Saturdays involved strenuous outdoor exercise and physical training. The purpose of these activities was to promote good health, which would enable them to serve their people and their country. The "home evenings"—ideally to be conducted in specially built homes—also included world view training, with instruction in history. This instruction would include learning the Horst Wessel song, the Nazi holidays, stories about Hitler Youth martyrs, and facts about their locality and German culture and history. Physical education included track and field sports like running and the long jump, gymnastics (e.g. somersaulting and tightrope walking), route-marching, and swimming. The importance of self-sacrifice for Germany was heavily emphasized; a Jewish woman, reflecting on her longing to join the League of German Girls, concluded that it had been the admonishment for self-sacrifice that had drawn her most. The League was particularly regarded as instructing girls to avoid Rassenschande or racial defilement, which was treated with particular importance for young females.
Holiday trips offered by HJ and BDM – i.e. skiing in winter and tent camps in summer – were affordable; children from poor families got subsidies. These offers were popular.
The League encouraged rebellion against parents. Der Giftpilz presented the propaganda of a German girl being ordered to visit a Jewish doctor by her mother; the girl protested on the grounds of what she had learned at BDM meetings, and while at the office, remembered the warnings in time to escape being molested by the doctor. This caused her mother to agree that the BDM had clearly been in the right.
Ilsa McKee noted that the lectures of Hitler Youth and the BDM on the need to produce more children produced several illegitimate children, which neither the mothers nor the possible fathers regarded as problematic. These and other behaviors taught led to parents complaining that their authority was being undermined. In 1944, a group of parents complained to the court that the leaders of the League were openly telling their daughters to have illegitimate children. Public opinion attributed a great deal of sexual laxity to the members. The preparation camps for the 'Landdienst' (land service) of girls and boys often lay adjacent to each other. 900 of the girls participating in the 1936 Reichsparteitag in Nürnberg became pregnant. In 1937, a prohibition came out saying that camping was forbidden to the BDM.
Before entering any occupation or advanced studies, the girls, like the boys in Hitler Youth, had to complete a year of land service ("Landfrauenjahr"). Although working on a farm was not the only approved form of service, it was a common one; the aim was to bring young people back from the cities, in the hope that they would then stay "on the land" in service of Nazi blood and soil beliefs. Another form of service was as a domestic work in a family with many children.
The 'Faith and Beauty' organizations offered groups where girls could receive further education and training in fields that interested them. Some of the works groups that were available were arts and sculpture, clothing design and sewing, general home economics, and music.
The outbreak of war altered the role of the BDM, though not as radically as it did the role of the boys in the HJ, who were to be fed into the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) when they turned 18. The BDM helped the war effort in many ways. Younger girls collected donations of money, as well as goods such as clothing or old newspapers for the Winter Relief and other Nazi charitable organizations. Many groups, particularly BDM choirs and musical groups, visited wounded soldiers at hospitals or sent care packages to the front. Girls knitted socks, grew gardens, and engaged in similar tasks.
The older girls volunteered as nurses' aides at hospitals, or to help at train stations where wounded soldiers or refugees needed a hand. After 1943, as Allied air attacks on German cities increased, many BDM girls went into paramilitary and military services (Wehrmachtshelferin), where they served as Flak Helpers, signals auxiliaries, searchlight operators, and office staff. Unlike male HJs, BDM girls took little part in the actual fighting or operation of weaponry, although some Flak Helferinnen operated anti-aircraft guns.
Many older girls, with Hitler Youth were sent to Poland as part of the Germanisation efforts. These girls, along with Hitler Youth, were first to oversee the eviction of Poles to make room for new settlers and ensure they did not take much from their homes, as furniture and the like were to be left there for the settlers. Their task were then to educate ethnic Germans, either living in Poland or resettled there from the Baltic states, according to German ways. This included instruction in the German language, as many spoke only Polish or Russian. They also had to organize the younger ones into the League. Because many Hitler Youth leaders were drafted into the military, the task of organizing the boys into Hitler Youth also fell heavily on the League. They were also to provide help on the farm and in the household. As the only contact with German authorities, they were often requested to help with the occupation authorities, and they put on various entertainments such as songfests to encourage the down-spirited new settlers. Some members were sent to the colony of Hegewald for such efforts even when they had to receive gas masks and soldier escorts.
By 1944, the drafting of boys resulted in most of the "land service" help with the harvest being performed by girls.
In the last days of the war, some BDM girls, just like some boys of the male Hitler Youth (although not nearly as many), joined with the Volkssturm (the last-ditch defense) in Berlin and other cities in fighting the invading Allied armies, especially the Soviets. Officially, this was not sanctioned by the BDM's leadership which opposed an armed use of its girls even though some BDM leaders had received training in the use of hand-held weapons (about 200 leaders went on a shooting course which was to be used for self-defense purposes). After the war, Dr. Jutta Rüdiger denied that she had approved BDM girls using weapons, and this appears to have been the truth.
Some BDM girls were recruited into the Werwolf groups which were intended to wage guerrilla war in Allied-occupied areas.
The comparative ranks of Nazi Germany contrasts the ranks of the German Wehrmacht to a number of national-socialist organisations in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 in a synoptic table. Nazi organisations used a hierarchal structure, according to the so-called Führerprinzip (leader principle), and were oriented in line with the rank order system of the Wehrmacht.Das Deutsche Mädel
Das Deutsche Mädel (German: [das ˈdɔʏtʃə ˈmɛːdl̩], The German Girl) was the Nazi propaganda magazine aimed at girls, particularly members of League of German Girls. In fact, it was the official origin of the League. The magazine was published on a monthly basis between 1933 and 1942.Unlike the adventure orientation of Der Pimpf, intended for Hitler Youth, Das deutsche Mädel urged hiking, tending the wounded, hard work in factories, and preparing for motherhood. On the other hand, in contrast to the woman's magazine with some propaganda, NS-Frauen-Warte, it lay far more emphasis on the strong and active German woman; health, education, service, and sports all featured, and famous women depicted included doctors, athletes, poets, and pilots.Articles in it included describing a speech by Jutta Rüdiger when she was appointed to lead The League of German Girls, telling the girls of their duties to Germany, and a story of how Young Girls had ensured that a dead father's promise to his son was fulfilled.Der Giftpilz
Der Giftpilz is a children's book published by Julius Streicher in 1938. The title is German for "the poisonous mushroom/toadstool". The book was intended as anti-Semitic propaganda. The text is by Ernst Hiemer, with illustrations by Philipp Rupprecht (also known as Fips); the title alludes to how, just as it is difficult to tell a poisonous mushroom from an edible mushroom, it is difficult to tell a Jew apart from a Gentile. The book wants to "warn" German children about the dangers allegedly posed by Jews to them personally, and to German society in general.
In some instances, it is implied that Jews will try to molest children; one little girl escapes a Jew offering her sweets only when her brother calls the police, and when Inge's mother sends her to a Jewish doctor, despite Inge's protests of what she learned in the League of German Girls, Inge barely escapes. Communism is portrayed as being led by Jews who wish to sacrifice Germany to Russia's good – this being put in the mouth of a former Communist, whose loyalty to Germany brought him to the Nazi party. Jews are portrayed as abusing their German servants. In addition, the book warns of Jews in various occupations – Jewish businessmen, lawyers, tradesmen, and kosher butchers, who, in one chapter, are described torturing an animal to death. The same chapter also accuses the Jews of kidnapping Christian children to use their blood in matzohs (a common variant of the blood libel). One of the final chapters blames the Jews for the death of Jesus, who is called the greatest enemy of the Jews of all time.Eidgenössische Sammlung
Eidgenössische Sammlung (German; literally "Confederate Collection") was a Swiss political party, founded in 1940 by Robert Tobler as a successor to the recently dissolved National Front.The party demanded an adjustment in Swiss policy to favour the Axis powers. This was particularly important as, after June 1940 the country was surrounded by fascist and Nazi states. It was open in its loyalty towards Nazi Germany.The Eidgenössiche Sammlung was closely supervised by the state because of its origins and so could not develop freely. In 1943 the police finally cracked down on the group and it was outlawed along with all of its sub-organisations as part of a wider government initiative against the National Front and its offshoots.Esoteric Nazism
Esoteric Nazism is any of a number of mystical interpretations and adaptations of Nazism in the post–World War II period. After 1945, esoteric elements of the Third Reich were adapted into new völkisch religions of white nationalism and neo-Nazism.Faith and Beauty Society
The BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit (German for BDM Faith and Beauty Society) was founded in 1938 to serve as a tie-in between the work of the League of German Girls (BDM) and that of the National Socialist Women's League. Membership was voluntary and open to girls aged 17 to 21.Front Deutscher Äpfel
The Front Deutscher Äpfel (short F.D.Ä.; German for Front of German Apples), also called Apfelfront (Apple Front) is a satirical organisation, founded in Leipzig in 2004. It satirizes right extremist parties, especially the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD). In the style of former and existing right extremist organisational structures it is subdivided into numerous sub-groups like the youth organisation Nationales Frischobst Deutschland (NFD; National Fresh Fruit of Germany), the women's organisation Bund weicher Birnen (B.W.B.; League of Soft Pears, compare League of German Girls; Birne, pear, is a German colloquial term for head, "eine weiche Birne haben" ("to have a soft pear"), is synonymous to "being very stupid") and many further local Gaue.Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth (German: Hitlerjugend , often abbreviated as HJ in German) was the youth organisation of the Nazi Party in Germany. Its origins dated back to 1922 and it received the name Hitler-Jugend, Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend ("Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth") in July 1926. From 1933 until 1945, it was the sole official youth organisation in Germany and was partially a paramilitary organisation; it was composed of the Hitler Youth proper for male youths aged 14 to 18, the German Youngsters in the Hitler Youth (Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitler Jugend or "DJ", also "DJV") for younger boys aged 10 to 14, and the League of German Girls (Bund Deutsche Mädel or "BDM").
With the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the organisation de facto ceased to exist. On 10 October 1945, the Hitler Youth and its subordinate units were outlawed by the Allied Control Council along with other Nazi Party organisations. Under Section 86 of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hitler Youth is an "unconstitutional organisation" and the distribution or public use of its symbols, except for educational or research purposes, is illegal.Irma Grese
Irma Ida Ilse Grese (7 October 1923 – 13 December 1945) was an SS guard at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Auschwitz, and served as warden of the women's section of Bergen-Belsen.Grese was convicted for crimes involving the ill-treatment and murder of prisoners committed at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, and sentenced to death at the Belsen trial. Executed at 22 years of age, Grese was the youngest woman to die judicially under British law in the 20th century. Auschwitz inmates nicknamed her the "Hyena of Auschwitz" (German: die Hyäne von Auschwitz).Jungmädelbund
The Jungmädelbund (German for "Young Girls' League") was the section of the Hitler Youth for girls between the ages of 10 and 14.
It was called the Jungmädelbund in German, and commonly abbreviated in period and contemporary historical writings as JM. Since this was a girls' organization, it fell under the League of German Girls (BDM), which was led by the BDM-Reichsreferentin (National Speaker of the BDM), who reported to the overall head of the Hitler Youth, Baldur von Schirach (who was later succeeded by Artur Axmann).Jutta Rüdiger
Dr Jutta Rüdiger (14 June 1910 – 13 March 2001), German psychologist, was head of the Nazi Party's female youth organisation, the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel, BDM) from 1937 to 1945.National Socialist Bloc
National Socialist Bloc (in Swedish: Nationalsocialistiska Blocket) was a Swedish national socialist political party formed in the end of 1933 by the merger of Nationalsocialistiska Samlingspartiet, Nationalsocialistiska Förbundet and local National Socialist units connected to the advocate Sven Hallström in Umeå. Later Svensk Nationalsocialistisk Samling merged into NSB.
The leader of the party was Colonel Martin Ekström. The party maintained several publications, Landet Fritt (Gothenburg), Vår Kamp (Gothenburg), Vår Front (Umeå), Nasisten (Malmö) and Riksposten.
NSB differentiated itself from other Swedish National Socialist groups due to its liaisons with the Swedish upper class. NSB was clearly smaller than the two main National Socialist parties in Sweden at the time, SNSP and NSAP. Gradually the party vanished.National Socialist Flyers Corps
The National Socialist Flyers Corps (German: Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps; NSFK) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that was founded 15 April 1937 as a successor to the German Air Sports Association; the latter had been active during the years when a German air force was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. The NSFK organization was based closely on the para-military organization of the Sturmabteilung (SA). A similar group was the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK).
During the early years of its existence, the NSFK conducted military aviation training in gliders and private airplanes. Friedrich Christiansen, originally a Generalleutnant then later a Luftwaffe General der Flieger, was NSFK Korpsführer from 15 April 1937 until 26 June 1943, followed by Generaloberst Alfred Keller until 8 May 1945.National Unity Party (Canada)
The Parti National Social Chrétien (English: National Social Christian Party) was a Canadian political party formed by Adrien Arcand in February 1934. The party identified with antisemitism, and German leader Adolf Hitler's Nazism. The party was later known, in English, as the Canadian National Socialist Unity Party or National Unity Party.Ossewabrandwag
The Ossewabrandwag (OB) (Ox-wagon Sentinel) was an anti-British and pro-German organisation in South Africa during World War II, which opposed South African participation in the war. It was formed in Bloemfontein on 4 February 1939 by pro-German Afrikaners.Otto Strasser
Otto Johann Maximilian Strasser (also German: Straßer, see ß; 10 September 1897 – 27 August 1974) was a German politician and an early member of the Nazi Party. Otto Strasser, together with his brother Gregor Strasser, was a leading member of the party's left-wing faction, and broke from the party due to disputes with the dominant "Hitlerite" faction. He formed the Black Front, a group intended to split the Nazi Party and take it from the grasp of Hitler. This group also functioned during his exile and World War II as a secret opposition group.
His brand of National Socialism is now known as Strasserism.Saxon Greeting
The Saxon Greeting, or Sachsengruss, is a gymnastic routine made famous by the Werk Glaube und Schönheit (Faith and Beauty Society), an organisation set up in Nazi Germany for young women aged between 17 and 21, and part of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls). The routine involved rhythmic dancing and knee bending exercises specifically designed to show off the female physique, and the dancers wore short white gymnastic outfits similar to those of the Women's League of Health and Beauty in the United Kingdom. In the years prior to the Second World War the society often toured outside Germany giving displays in other countries.The Sachsengruss, or Saroquette, is also a type of rose bred in Germany before the First World War.Strasserism
Strasserism (German: Strasserismus or Straßerismus) is a strand of Nazism that calls for a more radical, mass-action and worker-based form of Nazism—hostile to Jews not from a racial, ethnic, cultural or religious perspective, but from an anti-capitalist basis—to achieve a national rebirth. It derives its name from Gregor and Otto Strasser, the two Nazi brothers initially associated with this position.
Otto Strasser, opposed on strategic views to Adolf Hitler, was expelled from the Nazi Party in 1930 and went into exile in Czechoslovakia, while Gregor Strasser was murdered in Germany on 30 June 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives. Strasserism remains an active position within strands of neo-Nazism.The Immortals (neo-Nazis)
The Immortals (German Die Unsterblichen) was a neo-Nazi organization based in Germany that uses flash mobs to coordinate, gather and demonstrate. The members wear black clothing with white facial masks and carry torches when they march.