by Chris William
From the earliest years of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.D.A.P. — Nazi party), women became active members of the organization by assuming the customary roles of caregivers for those injured in street brawls, and clerical workers for the administration of the party. The more fanatical of these women gave speeches and participated in the street fighting between the Nazis and their rivals during the turbulent times of political struggle.
In 1931, loose-knit women’s groups such as the Deutscher Frauenorden (German Women’s Order), the Arbeitsgemienschaft Voelkisch Gesinnter Frauen (Association of Racialist Women), and the Rotes Hakenkreuz (Red Swastika) were combined by Adolf Hitler into one nationally recognized Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft (NSF — Nazi Women’s League). Gertrude Scholz-Klink became the head of the NSF in 1934 and remained its leader until the war’s end in 1945. During the six years of war, NSF members helped German servicemen by providing refreshments to troops in transit, distributing food at markets in times of shortages, and working as guardians for women employed on military bases.
To become a member of the NSF, young females between the ages of 18 and 35 had to demonstrate that they were of racial purity according to prescribed guidelines. They also had to bestrong advocates of the principles of the Nazi Party.
About 3,000 professional leaders were in the organization with the remaining members being volunteers. Leaders were trained in one of two Reich-level schools, while selected volunteers attended one of forty-one Gau-level schools. These schools instructed the potential leaders in the core values of National Socialism: racial superiority, self-sacrifice for the State, anti-religious views, proper marriage manners, maternity care, child rearing, music, physical fitness, social graces, home economics, the use of only German-manufactured goods, and advanced agricultural techniques.
These young women channeled the technological and political information they had learned to the other NSF members, their families and peers. In addition, they acted as listening posts for the central Naziparty, relaying information about the public back to the governmental authorities.
Ranking levels of the professional members began with the Reichsfrauenführerin, a rank held only by Scholz-Klink. Subsequent ranks followed with 40 Gaufrauenschaftsführerinne (district heads), 800 Kreisfrauenschaftsführerinnin” (county heads), and 28,000 Ortsfrauenschaftsführerinnen (local leaders).
The career women’s uniforms consisted of dark blue jackets (having bullion eagle patches on the left arm with oak leaves and swastikas) and skirts worn with white blouses. Volunteers wore no uniforms, but were identified by wearing NSF arm patches (bearing the likeness of a membership badge sewn to their working or sporting clothes)and the Abzeichen fur Mitglieder der N.S. Frauenschaft (Badge of the Nazi Women’s League) worn on the left breast of a member’s blouse or coat.
The first NSF membership pins (introduced and used in 1933 only) resembled the standard NSDAP enamel membership badge. It consisted of a 23.5mm-diameter red circle surrounding a white center and black, canted swastika. “Frauenschaft-NSDAP” circled within the outside border. The reverse pin back was marked with “ges gesch” (patent pending) and the manufacturer’s name.
The second, 1934-version badge, was in a triangular shape, measuring 27.0 mm high by 25.5 mm wide. It had a white enamel cross in the center over a black background. The white top border featured the words “Nat Soz Frauenschaft” while the cross’ center contained a red swastika. On each of the cross sides and lower arm were the letters “G, H, and L” that stood for “Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe” (faith, hope, and love). Leadership ranks were designated by different colored outer borders ofblue for Orts (local), black, or later, white for Kreis (district), red for Gau (region), and yellow for Reich (nation).
The final series of NFS badges were issued in 1939. While they resemble the 1934-version, this seriesno longer featured a cross in the center of the badge. Rather, the badges had either a rounded sun wheel swastika for basic members or a silver eagle with wreath and swastika for upper levels over a silver German “life” rune and black enamel background. The top silver bar contained the words “N.S. Frauenschaft.” In addition to borders of different colors, silver oak leaves wereadded to designate higher ranks. The reverses of both the 1934 and 1939 badges were marked with RZM and “M” manufacturers’ code numbers.
NSF members carried identity pamphlets. These folded pamphlets contained personal information about the member recorded in the front. Monthly dues stamps were placed in subsequent pages.
In 1936, entrance to the NSF was closed to the general population. Most new potentialmembers were encouraged to join the less political Deutsches Frauenwerk (DFW — German Women’s Work). This was a subsidiary organization started in 1934. DFW members took the places of men and women who had devoted their time to the future war industry. They helped with farming, nursing, domestic jobs and other activities. DFW members did not wear uniforms. Instead, they added membership pins or patches to their work clothing.
The Abzeichen des Deutschen Frauenwerkes (Badge of German Women’s Work) was similar to the 1939 NSF badge, but had the words “Deutsches Frauenwerk” written in red lettering across the top border. A cloth DFW emblem could also be worn on blouses and sports vests to signify a woman’s membership.
Because the Third Reich had viewed German women in traditional terms of “wife and mother,” the Allies really didn’t consider the concept of a female group being of any concern. When it became apparent that Hitler and the Nazi party were going to lose the war in Europe, however, the Allies began looking at what were the more perilous elements of the Third Reich. Once identified, the Allies determined the best ways to eradicate them in order to rebuild Germany into a free and democratic state.
In one such US government-sanctioned study titled, “Studies of Migration and Settlement” (July 25, 1944), the following summation was made concerning the NSF women’s groups:
The NS Frauenschaft and the Deutsches Frauenwerk should be abolished at the earliest possible moment. The higher officers above the rank of Kreisfrauenschaftsführerin and all career NS women officers – about 3,000-4,000 – should be regarded as dangerous to public safety ... Steps should be taken for the annihilation of the sections of the NS Frauenschaft still existing in neutral countries.