German League of Girls (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: German League of Girls

Q1: Read the introduction and source 2 and explain how the German League of Girls (BDM) was organised.

A1: Girls from ten to fourteen girls were known as Young Girls (Jungmädel). At the age of fifteen they joined the senior section of the organisation. Between the ages of seventeen to twenty-one they formed a special voluntary organization called Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schonheit).

Q2: Study sources 1, 5, 8, 13, 17, 21 and 24. Describe the uniform of the BDM.

A2: These visual sources show that members of the BDM wore navy blue skirts, black scarfs, leather scarf holder, white blouses and brown jackets.

Q3: Use information from the sources to describe the kind of things that the members of the BDM did at meetings.

A3: List of things done at BDM meetings.

(a) Taught to have as many children as possible and not to use birth-control. (sources 4, 10, 11 and 23)

(b) Received information about Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Philosophy and how Germans were the "Master Race". (sources 4, 7, 9, 10, 20, 23, 25 and 27)

(c) Sung Nazi and old German folk songs. (sources 9, 10 and 27)

(d) Warned against smoking or wearing make-up. (sources 2 and 10)

(e) Received athletic training. (sources 10, 15, 16 and 25)

Q4: Read sources 6, 9, 18, 26 and 27 and explain why the BDM caused conflict between parents and children.

A4: Great pressure was put on girls in Nazi Germany to join the BDM. Many parents did not support the Nazi Party and feared that their daughters would be brainwashed at meetings. Ilse Koehn (source 9) describes how her father reacted when she asked if she could join the BDM. "Join an organization of those pigs? Listen it may be true that all they do is sing and play games. But their very songs and games are designed to teach you the Nazi philosophy. And you know that we do not believe in it. Young people are impressionable and the Nazis use their enthusiasm for their own ends. There are things that you are too young to understand."

Helga Schmidt (source 18) was also not allowed to join the BDM because of her father's dislike of Adolf Hitler. "Therefore, even though the school exerted a bit of pressure on us to join, I was among those who were not in the League of German Girls (BDM). And it was not pleasant for the older child to have to stand on the sidelines, because that is not one's inclination."

Most girls did join the BDM and this sometimes caused conflict with their anti-Nazi parents. Hedwig Ertl (source 26) points out: "As a young person, you were taken seriously. You did things which were important (in the BDM) ... 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... All the time you were kept busy and interested, and you really believed you had to change the world."

Renate Finckh (source 6) makes a similiar point: "At home no one really had time for me... at the BDM I finally found an emotional home, a safe refuge, and shortly thereafter also a space in which I was valued... I was filled with pride and joy that someone needed me for a higher purpose.... We Hitler girls belonged together, we formed an elite within the German Volk community."

Inge Scholl (source 27) was an ethusiastic member of the BDM. So was her brother and sister, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl. Her father, Robert Scholl, was totally opposed to Hitler. He told his children: "Don't believe them - they are wolves and deceivers, and they are misusing the German people shamefully." However, as she pointed out, "Father's words were spoken to the wind, and his attempts to restrain us were of no avail against our youthful enthusiasm." Later all three children joined the German resistance to Hitler and Hans and Sophie were captured and executed in 1943.

Q5: Girls in the BDM did a great deal of hiking and camping. Read sources 3, 7 and 25 and then explain if all the girls enjoyed these outdoor activities.

A5: Susanne von der Borch (source 25) liked these outdoor activities: "It fitted my personality because I had always been very sporty and I liked being with my friends... I always wanted to get out of the house. So this was the best excuse for me. I couldn't be at home, because there was always something happening... riding, or skating, or summer camp. I was never at home."

However, others, such as Christa Wolf (source 3) disliked the strict discipline of the camps: "In the Jungmädel camp, the leader or her deputies inspect the dormitory, the chests of drawers, the washrooms, every morning. One time the hairbrush of a squad leader was publicly displayed because it was full of long hairs." Elsbeth Emmerich (source 7) agreed: "We had to get up early each morning, standing to attention in the freezing cold and singing whilst the flag was being hoisted... My holiday was mainly doing what other people told you to all the time, like standing to attention and raising our arms for the Sieg Heil."

Q6: Sources 10 and 27 show that some girls were willing to question what BDM leaders told them. What questions did these girls raise and how were they dealt with?

A6: Members of the BDM were told that it was their duty to marry and have a lot of children. Marianne Gärtner (source 10) asked: "Why isn't the Führer married and a father himself?" Her team leader did not reply and instead "strafed me with a murderous look".

Inge Scholl (source 27) recalls that at one meeting one of the girls said: "Everything would be fine, but this thing about the Jews is something I just can't swallow." This time the women in charge did deal with the question: "The troop leader assured us that Hitler knew what he was doing and that for the sake of the greater good we would have to accept certain difficult and incomprehensible things."