In 1930 the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth) was formed as the female branch of the Hitler Youth movement. It had a small membership until the election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in 1933. Traudl Junge was one of those who joined after the election: "In school and generally it was celebrated as a liberation, that Germany could have hope again. I felt great joy then. It was portrayed at school as a turning point in the fate of the Fatherland. There was a chance that German self-confidence could grow again. The words "Fatherland" and "German people" were big, meaningful words which you used carefully - something big and grand. Before, the national spirit was depressed, and it was renewed, rejuvenated, and people responded very positively."
The BDM was run directly by Hitler Youth leader, Baldur von Schirach. The historian Cate Haste has pointed out: "The leadership immediately set about organizing youth into a coherent body of loyal supporters. Under Baldur von Schirach, himself only twenty-five at the time, the organization was to net all young people from ages ten to eighteen to be schooled in Nazi ideology and trained to be the future valuable members of the Reich. From the start, the Nazis pitched their appeal as the party of youth, building a New Germany.... Hitler intended to inspire youth with a mission, appealing to their idealism and hope." Hedwig Ertl remembers. ""All the time you were kept busy and interested, and you really believed you had to change the world... As a young person, you were taken seriously. You did things which were important.. Your dependence on your parents was reduced, because all the time it was your work for the Hitler Youth that came first, and your parents came second."
In 1934, Trude Mohr, a former postal worker, was appointed as the leader of the Bund Deutscher Mädel. In a speech soon after taking control of the organisation she argued: "We 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."
Richard Grunberger, the author of A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) has argued: "The Bund Deutscher Mädel (German Girls' League) was the female counterpart of the Hitler Youth. Up to the age of fourteen girls were known as Young Girls (Jungmädel) and from seventeen to twenty-one they formed a special voluntary organization called Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schonheit). The duties demanded of Jungmädel were regular attendance at club premises and sports meetings, participation in journeys and camp life. The ideal German Girls' League type exemplified early nineteenth-century notions of what constituted the essence of maidenhood. Girls who infringed the code by perming their hair instead of wearing plaits or the 'Grechen' wreath of braids had it ceremoniously shaved off as punishment."
All girls in the Bund Deutscher Mädel were told to dedicate themselves to comradeship, service and physical fitness for motherhood. In parades they wore navy blue skirts, white blouses, brown jackets and twin pigtails. Isle McKee wrote about her experiences in the German Girls' League in her autobiography, Tomorrow the World (1960): "We were told from a very early age to prepare for motherhood, as the mother in the eyes of our beloved leader and the National Socialist Government was the most important person in the nation. We were Germany's hope in the future, and it was our duty to breed and rear the new generation of sons and daughter. These lessons soon bore fruit in the shape of quite a few illegitimate small sons and daughters for the Reich, brought forth by teenage members of the League of German Maidens. The girls felt they had done their duty and seemed remarkably unconcerned about the scandal."
The daughter of the American ambassador in Germany, Martha Dodd, explained how the system worked: "Young girls from the age of ten onward were taken into organizations where they were taught only two things: to take care of their bodies so they could bear as many children as the state needed and to be loyal to National Socialism. Though the Nazis have been forced to recognize, through the lack of men, that not all women can get married. Huge marriage loans are floated every year whereby the contracting parties can borrow substantial sums from the government to be repaid slowly or to be cancelled entirely upon the birth of enough children. Birth control information is frowned on and practically forbidden."
It has been argued by William L. Shirer that the sending of young women to work on farms caused certain problems: "At eighteen, several thousand of the girls in the Bund Deutscher Mädel (they remained in it until 21) did a year's service on the farms... Their task was to help both in the house and in the fields. The girls lived sometimes in the farmhouses and often in small camps in rural districts from which they were taken by truck early each morning to the farms. Moral problems soon arose. Actually, the more sincere Nazis did not consider them moral problems at all. On more than one occasion I listened to women leaders of the Bund Deutscher Mädel lecture their young charges on the moral and patriotic duty of bearing children for Hitler's Reich - within wedlock if possible, but without it if necessary." As Richard Grunberger pointed out: "The degree of parental supervision naturally diminished as young people went to camp and hostels for long periods of time. In 1936, when approximately 100,000 members of the Hitler Youth and the Girls' League attended the Nuremberg Rally, 900 girls between fifteen and eighteen returned home pregnant."
After Gertrud Scholtz-Klink 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. Rüdiger argued: "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 Fuhrer, and will instil that faith into the hearts of their children. Then National Socialism and thus Germany itself will last for ever."
Heinrich Himmler complained about the look of the Bund Deutscher Mädel and considered their uniforms too masculine. Himmler told Jutta Rüdiger: "I regard it as a catastrophe. If we continue to masculinize women in this way, it is only a matter of time before the difference between the genders, the polarity, completely disappears." A new uniform was designed and it was eventually approved by Adolf Hitler: "I have always told the Mercedes company that a good engine is not enough for a car, it needs a good body as well. But a good body is also not enough on its own." Rüdiger later recalled that she was "very proud that he had compared us to a Mercedes Benz car."
According to Jutta Rüdiger, her commanding officer, Baldur von Schirach always used to say, "You girls should be prettier.... When I sometimes watch women getting off a bus - old puffed-up women - then I think you should be prettier women. Every girl should be pretty. She doesn't have to be a false, cosmetic and made-up beauty. But we want the beauty of graceful movement." Joseph Goebbels also became concerned about what he called the "masculine vigour" of the BDM: "I certainly don't object to girls taking part in gymnastics or sport within reasonable limits. But why should a future mother go route-marching with a pack on her back? She should be healthy and vigorous, graceful and easy on the eye. Sensible physical exercise can help her to become so, but she shouldn't have knots of muscle on her arms and legs and a step like a grenadier. Anyway, I won't let them turn our Berlin girls into he-men."
Adolf Hitler argued that the BDM should play its role in persuading women to have more children. "Good men with strong character, physically and psychically healthy, are the ones who should reproduce extra generously... Our women's organizations must perform the necessary job of enlightenment.... They must get a regular motherhood cult going and in it there must be no difference between women who are married... and women who have children by a man to whom they are bound in friendship.... On special petition men should be able to enter a binding marital relationship not only with one woman, but also with another, who would then get his name without complications."
Richard Grunberger, the author of A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) has pointed out that B, the Minister of Education, reduced opportunities for girls: "Within the grammar-school population, the proportion of girls was reduced from 35 per cent to 30 per cent. In 1934 only 1,500 out of 10,000 girls who had taken the Abitur were allowed to proceed to university, and up to the outbreak of war the number of girls taking the school-leaving examination remained well below the pre-1933 average. When new boarding-schools for rearing a Nazi elite (the Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten or National Political Educational Establishments - "Napolas" for short) were set up, the allocation of places for girls was given such low priority that only two out of thirty-nine Napolas constructed before the outbreak of war catered for them."
During the Second World War there was an acute labour shortage. Jutta Rüdiger was at a meeting where Heinrich Himmler called for German women to have more children: "He (Himmler) said that in the war a lot of men would be killed and therefore the nation needed more children, and it wouldn't be such a bad idea if a man, in addition to his wife, had a girlfriend who would also bear his children. And I must say, all my leaders were sitting there with their hair standing on end. And it went further than that. A soldier wrote to me from the front telling me why I should propagate an illegitimate child." A deeply shocked Rüdiger replied: "What! I don't do that."
In 1942 Martin Bormann suggested that the BDM established women's battalions to defend Nazi Germany. Rüdiger replied: "That is out of the question. Our girls can go right up to the front and help them there, and they can go everywhere, but to have a women's battalion with weapons in their hands fighting on their own, that I do not support. It's out of the question. If the Wehrmacht can't win this war, then battalions of women won't help either." Baldur von Schirach said "Well, that's your responsibility". Rüdiger retorted: "Women should give life and not take it. That's why we were born." However, when the Red Army was advancing towards in Berlin in 1945 Rüdiger instructed BDM leaders to learn to use pistols for self-defence.