Gerda Zorn

Gerda Zorn was born in Berlin on 11th January, 1920. Her parents were members of the German Communist Party. According to Claudia Koonz, the author of Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (1987) after Adolf Hitler came to power "they felt helpless to act against the Nazis they hated and were terrified of arrest for the slightest protest." However, as a teenager she secretly joined the German Girls' League (BDM). She later recalled that she enjoyed the friendship, outings, and excitement "at working for a great cause". (1)

Zorn told a boy in the Hitler Youth that she wished she was a boy so she could play a more active role in the Nazi cause. He replied that "we need girls like you so we won't die out." When he told her that "girls have to remain morally pure, clean, serious, non-drinkers and non-smokers, and Germanic in appearance". She retorted: "I am a Berliner. I drink, smoke, love to dance - and I want to go along with the boys." (2)

After the Red Army arrived in Berlin she worked for the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) government. Gerda became a journalist and married Heinz Stern, a senior editor of the daily newspaper Die Welt. The couple were divorced in 1950. Gerda Zorn moved to Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and in 1974 she published Women against Hitler. (3)

Primary Sources

(1) Trude Mohr, speech (June, 1934)

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.


(2) 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.

(3) Melissa Muller, Traudl Junge (2002)

As in most of the youth groups of the Third Reich, there is hardly any discussion of politics in the Faith and Beauty organization. Its activities concentrate on doing graceful gymnastics and dancing, deliberately cultivating a "feminine line" so as to counter any "boyish" or "masculine" development. In fact this gymnastic dancing is also a way of making use of young women for the purposes of the Party and the state - not, of course, that anyone explicitly tells them so, and Traudl junge herself hears about it for the first time decades after the war. Their artistic commitment is intended to bring these young girls up to be "part of the community", and keep them from turning prematurely to the role of wife and mother; instead, they must continue to devote themselves to "the Fuhrer, the nation and the fatherland". Finally, Faith and Beauty will also qualify some of the rising generation of women for leadership; that is to say for posts in the BDM, the Nazi Women's Association or the Reich Labour Service.

Student Activities

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)


(1) Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (1987) page 194

(2) Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (1987) page 196

(3) Heide Kramer, Gerda Zorn (September 2012)