Jutta Rüdiger

Jutta Rüdiger

Jutta Rüdiger, the daughter of an engineer, was born in Berlin on 14th June 1910. While a student in Würzburg she joined the youth wing of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).

After graduating she became an assistant psychologist at the Institute for Occupational Research in Düsseldorf. Rüdiger was also active in the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth).

In 1932 Jutta Rüdiger heard Adolf Hitler speak for the first time: "It was a huge hall and everyone was waiting for Hitler to arrive... I must say it was an electrifying atmosphere... Even before 1933 everybody was waiting for him as if he was a saviour. Then he went to the podium. I remember it all went quiet, and he started to speak in his serious voice. Calm, slow, and then he got more and more enthusiastic. I must admit, I can't remember exactly what he actually said. But my impression afterwards was: this is a man who does not want anything for himself, but only thinks about how he can help the German people."

In 1935 she became BDM Leader in the Ruhr-Lower Rhine region. 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."

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."

The leader of the BDM, Trude Mohr, was forced to resign after her marriage in November 1937 (the BDM required members to be unmarried and without children in order to remain in leadership positions). She was succeeded by Dr. Jutta Rüdiger. She was a close ally of Baldur von Schirach and joined him in resisting efforts by Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, the head of the Nazi Woman's League, to gain control of the BDM.

Jutta Rüdiger made a speech about her plans for the BDM on 24th November 1937: "At 14, the Jungmädel joins the BDM. Most enter the job market at the same time. As a result, the BDM’s educational activities are strengthened and deepened so that they are suited to employment and practical life. The Reich Youth Leader had established a merit badge for the BDM in bronze for athletic accomplishments that can be won by any girl with average abilities. This year, a sliver merit badge will also be awarded to especially capable girls 16 and older. Besides increased athletic requirements, its recipients must also achieve the first level of awarded by the German Lifesaving Federation. The girl must also be able to lead a girls’ sports session, and conduct a meeting on worldview matters. The girl must also have completed a BDM health course or joined the air raid association, and participated in a long hike."

Jutta Rüdiger
Dr. Jutta Rüdiger

Soon after taking power 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 instill 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, 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."

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.

Rüdiger was arrested by American forces in 1945, and spent two and a half years in detention. Rüdiger was not charged with any specific offense, and was never brought to trial. Upon her release, she resumed her career as a paediatric psychologist in Düsseldorf. She never renounced her belief in fascism.

Dr Jutta Rüdiger died in Bad Reichenhall on 13th March 2001.

Primary Sources

 

(1) Jutta Rüdiger, speech (24th November, 1937)


German parents! My comrades! Shortly after the Reichsjugendführer appointed me to head the BDM on 24 November 1937, a foreign press article reported that I intended to increase the military education of the girls in the BDM.

Those who are familiar with girls’ organizations abroad know that some of the girls still wear shoulder straps and carry sheath knives. In some girls’ organizations, they learn to shoot. Those who know this realize that German girls are among the few who receive no military training. Anyone who maintains the contrary only proves how little he knows about the nature of National Socialism.

The Hitler Youth is today the largest youth organization in the world, and the BDM is the largest girls’ organization. One can understand this only by realizing that our starting point is Adolf Hitler.

Boys are trained to be political soldiers, girls to be strong and brave women who will be the comrades of these political soldiers, and who will later, as wives and mothers, live out and form our National Socialist worldview in their families. They will then raise a new and proud generation.

The foundations of our educational work with girls are worldview and cultural education, athletic training, and social service. It is not enough to provide athletic skills and training in home economics. They should know why they are being trained, and what goals they are to strive for.

Athletic training should not only serve their health, but also be a school that trains the girls in discipline and mastery of their bodies. Even the Jungmädel should learn through play to put themselves second and place themselves in the service of the community. Each German girl is trained in the basics of sports. If she proves particularly capable, a girl may choose the sport for which she is gifted, and after completing her other duties, continue to develop her skills in the Reich Federation for Physical Fitness, under the leadership of the Hitler Youth.

We do not want to produce girls who are romantic dreamers, able only to paint, sing, and dance, or who have only a narrow view of life, but rather we want girls with a firm grasp of reality who are ready to make any sacrifice to serve their ideals. Our Jungmädel, together with their comrades in the Jungvolk, join in the battle against hunger and cold. As they stand for hours outside in the cold with their collecting tins, they demonstrate true socialism [Children were put to work collecting for the Nazi charity].

We also expect that, consistent with the wishes of the Reich Youth Leader, each BDM girl will receive training in home economics. That does not mean that we make the cooking pot the goal of education for girls. The politically aware girl knows that any work, whether in a factory or in the home, is of equal value.

We will continually deepen and strengthen our efforts.

Over time, we will establish worldview training and physical education by age groups. That does not mean that we intend to develop a strict school system, but rather that we wish to encourage spiritual and physical development in the youth in ways appropriate to their ages.

Each year on 20 April, the Führer’s birthday, 10-year-old girls become part of the community by joining the Hitler Youth.

At twelve, the Jungmädel must pass the Jungmädel athletic test, and besides some more physical standards, are to be familiar with organizations and structure of the party and the Hitler Youth. The Jungmädel receives a merit badge, but only when her whole Jungmädel group has passed the test. Through this, even the youngest girl will learn that the greatest goals can only be achieved by the community working together.

At 14, the Jungmädel joins the BDM. Most enter the job market at the same time. As a result, the BDM’s educational activities are strengthened and deepened so that they are suited to employment and practical life. The Reich Youth Leader had established a merit badge for the BDM in bronze for athletic accomplishments that can be won by any girl with average abilities.

This year, a sliver merit badge will also be awarded to especially capable girls 16 and older. Besides increased athletic requirements, its recipients must also achieve the first level of awarded by the German Lifesaving Federation. The girl must also be able to lead a girls’ sports session, and conduct a meeting on worldview matters. The girl must also have completed a BDM health course or joined the air raid association, and participated in a long hike.

At 17, the girl can take a course in health, or continue her work in the air raid association. Typical duties in the BDM include two hours a week: a meeting and athletics. Since many older girls are being trained for jobs, which takes more time, and since some girls would like to take additional courses to further their careers, as of 20 April 1938 girls between 18 and 21 will have only one hour of weekly meetings. Sport training will no longer be required, although girls can volunteer for the Reich Federation for Physical Fitness under the supervision of the Hitler Youth.

Those aged 18 to 21 will henceforth be under special guidelines. As of 20 April, 18-year-old girls will be in separate groups. There will be groups for health service, the air raid association, sports, gymnastics and dance, crafts, and theatre.

Girls with gifts in specific fields can join together in small groups for geographical studies.

The small groups for geographical study are primarily intended for girls with foreign language skills. They will focus on a particular foreign state and its people so that they will be able to serve as translators in youth exchange camps. Their first goal is to advance understanding. If the peoples understand each others’ nature and customs, which women have a decisive role in forming, knowing, and respecting, understanding will be promoted.

The special groups will meet once a month to consider political-worldview issues or cultural training, which will build on what they learned between 10 and 18. It will focus on current affairs. Cultural training will include hone and clothing matters. The special meetings will occur at the time scheduled for the standard meetings.

We hope that these special groups will take girls who have been through the basic BDM training and give them a specialized and deeper knowledge so that they will be able to teach younger girls, be it in health training or, for girls in the sport groups, as sport trainers, releasing where possible their younger comrades for other duties. The girls this year will be put to practical work, and depending on their age, will remain active in the youth movement.

In the future, these participants in the special groups will be the source of leaders, speakers, and trainers. In coming years, this will relieve the shortage of leaders that we still face today. The girls who have served in the Reich Federation for Physical Education over the past year have done so well that the Reich Youth Leader, in cooperation with the Reich Sport Leader, has assigned them to the special BDM sports groups.

(2) Cate Haste, Nazi Women (2001)


At all the parades in the Nazi calendar, girls were there in spotless uniform cheering, intoxicated by the atmosphere. For most, it was inspiring to feel part of a cause, a movement that appealed deliberately to their idealism. According to Inge Scholl, they were mesmerized by the 'mysterious power' of closed ranks of marching youths with banners waving, eyes fixed straight ahead, keeping time to drumbeat and song'. The sense of fellowship was "overpowering" for they "sensed that there was a role for them in a historic process, in a movement that was transforming the mass into a Volk".

In 1939... BDM membership became compulsory for all girls up to the age of eighteen. Around four-fifths of male and female youth - 7.3 million in all - were signed up to the Hitler Youth movement. A law in March 1939 conscripted all remaining eligible - that is, racially valuable and "worthy" - young people, amid warnings to parents that unless they enrolled, their children would be taken away and placed in orphanages. By then another organization, Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schbnheit), had been set up so that young women from the age of eighteen, when they left the BDM, to twenty-one, when they were expected to join the Women's Organization (Frauenschaft), could not slip through the net of Nazi control. Faith and Beauty elaborated on the "gracefulness" so admired by von Schirach and Jutta Rüdiger, deepening women's sense of duty and, it was hoped, developing women's individual interests and skills - but only in the areas of sport, gymnastics and hygiene, care of the body, and baby-care. They were also expected to develop their social skills - ballroom dancing, riding and playing tennis, in line with Goebbels's view that they should be healthy, graceful and "easy on the eye".

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