Hunting for truth in history

Writing a true account of history is no easy task. Bias and perceptions may influence the story and to some extent can change the historical record. Unfortunately this bias will sometimes be replicated and assume a place in history as fact. As a researcher I look for several references to an account of an event. I enjoy the hunt for information and often, finding new evidence to an event is always a relief.

Essentially, the information sought by a writer of history exists in landscapes, memories and literature. The difficult task is providing a fresh approach and using new information to inform a description of a historical event. In my experience of researching past events and people, the gathering of information can be an endless task. At some point the research stops and the hard work of writing up the findings begins. Importantly, a filing system of documents and notes gathered save precious time for reference as losing vital information to a sequence of work is frustrating and time consuming.

The activity of writing is the moment when all is revealed. In my case I have learned from experience the value of structure or a clear outline for a historical account of an event. In this instance I consider myself very fortunate to have a very erudite and experienced mentor, Daisy Coles who has impressed on me the importance of a progress spreadsheet and organiser to assist me in achieving my goals. The spreadsheet also works as a tool to help me focus on the manuscript’s content and what I need to do to achieve outcomes for each chapter. My sincere thanks to the Huia Publishing staff for this opportunity to write an important account of history featuring brave and courageous men and women.

The following is an account of World War II that threatened to change our society with devastating consequences worldwide. Essentially some events of World War II are constantly changing as new evidence is uncovered and old perceptions of World War II are interestingly challenged. I have chosen to share some of my research concerning the Nazi ideology of women. There is nothing new in my account as I used references to compile my evidence and thus gain an understanding of German women’s society in the 1930s.[1] [2]

During Adolf Hitler’s rise to political power in the 1930s and the increasing influence of the Nazi Party in German society, the aspirations and dreams of higher education and individuality in German women’s society were eroded away by the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women. In the 1930s German women were compelled to study domestic science. Physics, foreign languages and science were the subjects for men alone.

The women in Nazi Germany were encouraged to become childbearers, and to achieve this they were forced to maintain physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Hitler introduced incentives to produce babies by giving women public recognition in the form of honour and medals. Young couples were also given government money to start a family. The breeding program included a medical examination ensuring a clean bill of health for the woman and a system of selecting male breeding partners from Hitler’s military ranks, the Shutz Staffel (S.S.)[3] and generals. Hitler’s grand plan for Germany included increasing the German population, and underpinning the breeding program, was his desire to build a large army and thereby achieve world domination.[4]

A ban on cosmetics and nail polish was a restriction introduced to further suppress German women’s individuality. The Nazi government had adopted a campaign against cosmetics and make-up in World War I. This ban was extended to include French and United States women’s fashions.  Mothers in the S.S. were forbidden to wear make-up and nail polish and women who did so were publically ridiculed. The Nazi theory of the ideal woman was a peasant wife devoted to work on the land and caring for her family. Women in the Nazi Party were encouraged to devote their time to working for Hitler and the Party as helpmates. Hitler’s innate theory of men as leaders in management jobs and public affairs further confined Nazi women to the home and reduced their position in society as second-class citizens of the Third Reich.[5]

Hitler enjoyed public forums where he could speak to the multitudes and promote his ideals for a greater German society. On 8 September 1934 Hitler addressed the National Social Women’s League[6] convention informing the members present of his plan for women:

 “… the women must be a complement to man, so that they can prevail as real fighters before our Volk and for our Volk with our sights set on the future…the two sexes will traverse this life fighting together, hand in hand fulfilling Providence:… the blessing of the Almighty will rest upon their joint struggle for life”.

Whilst he acknowledged the leadership role of women in the National Socialist Movement he also reminded the women that “there were innumerable women who remained unshakeably loyal to the Movement and to me”[7].  Hitler’s determination to increase the population of Germany through childbearing was tantamount, and through his speech he exhorted the women to focus on his agenda and on a “single item and this is the child, this tiny creature who must come into being and flourish, who constitutes the sole purpose of the entire struggle for existence”.

It is probable that Hitler directly assisted in the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women, although he claimed that this stemmed from the concepts of Nature and Providence. Hitler placed importance and value on the idea that German women (who were of Nature) contributed to German society in helping the men (who were of Providence) achieve their objective. The differences between the sexes guided the roles that they played in society. In reality these ideals did nothing but take away the individuality and freedom of thought of German women and thus subordinate and demoralize them, condemning them to the tenet that by her nature the woman was home merely to the power of feelings and the power of the soul.[8]  In Hitler’s philosophy the man was home to the power of recognition, the power of toughness, of resolution and of fighting morale; man strove for heroic courage on the battlefield and woman was there to give eternally patient devotion, suffering and endurance. 

In effect, Hitler’s ideology of women reflected his inability to see women in diverse roles. It is probable that Hitler may have based his ideas on gender roles from the philosopher, Rousseau’s “But for her sex..” the Domestication of Sophie: which presented a model of “Emile”( man) as soldier, public office holder, and landowner and “Sophie” (woman) as protector of moral values and educational practices, confined to the home.[9]

Personally I have found that education is a perpetual learning experience. The human brain is like a microcosm of the universe that is forever growing and creating new stars of knowledge.

World War II and winning the war through the sacrifice of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives, has given us the freedom to shape our individual destinies – and let’s not forget the liberty that contemporary German women enjoy beside us.

 

 

 


[1] URL: www.educationforum.co.uk. Retrieved from the Internet, 16/8/10.

[2] Lawrence Rees, BAFTA-winning BBC TV series,  ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’, London: BBC Worldwide Limited, 1997.

[3] Shutz =defense Staffel = echelon: Hitler’s  SS were an elite private army and secret service. W.L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History Of Nazi Germany, England: Book Club Associates, 1960, p. 120-121.

[4] Martin Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War, London: Longman, 1995, p. 142, 143-144.

[5] Third Reich was Nazi Germany 1933-1945.

[6] Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft: W.L.Shirer, 1960, p. 120-121.

[7] M.Damarus, Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932-1945, London: I.B. Taurus, 1990, vol, 1.pp.531-535. [Bismarck readings 148-331], p.531.

[8] Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War, 1995, p. 136.

[9]  Excerpt from Jim MacAdam, Michael Neumann and Guy LaFrance (eds), Trent Rousseau Papers, 1 35- 45. “But for Her Sex …”: the Domestication of Sophie.

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