Strength from Love and Faith:
German Women and the Führer’s Birthday
Background: The Frauen Warte was the Nazi Party’s illustrated magazine for women. Originally a biweekly, by this stage of the war it appeared every three weeks. This article appeared shortly after Goebbels’ Total War Speech on 18 February 1943, an attempt to encourage the German population to greater efforts to win the war. This article reinforces that message. It also appeared just before Hitler’s birthday on April 20.
The source: Kurt Maßmann, “Kraft aus Liebe und Glauben,” NS Frauen Warte, (11), #14 (April, 1943), p. 185.
The Text: Parsing, headings and bold lettering are all my additions.
The Depths of Faith
“Is not the strength of heart that comes from the depths of faith, and all the strength of spirit, that have always brought about the world’s greatest miracles — is it any wonder that these things are found deep in the hearts of women, waiting for an awakening cry?”
Love and Hate
“All of life is filled with polar tensions. Light and darkness, good and evil, god and the devil, hate and love, these are the poles. All that is good is light and godly, and everything great comes from love, however much it may seem threatened by evil. And is it not true that the Führer’s mission and his labors in the last analysis come from the limitless love he has for his people, and is it not also true that the dreadful danger that this war brings us stems from boundless hate, from the world hatred of the eternal Jew, and from the dull hatred from the eastern steppes, a hatred directed against everything that is clear and noble, as is evident in our people?”
Bombs over playgrounds
“We all know, and each German woman and mother knows it above all, how thankful the Führer would have been if fate had allowed him to build playgrounds instead of the shells and bombs of this war, to build homes instead of heavy guns or tanks, things that would help a new generation to grow up in light and sunshine under a friendly sky! Truly the Führer is such a great statesman that he has no need of the bloody laurel wreaths of war, and he is such a great and good man that the happy laughter of children, for whom his work is preparing a better future, is sufficient thanks.”
Finding the Power to Hate through Love
“That is why we do not become faint-hearted and weak when we think of the peace and joy that the Führer would have given his people with his full heart, if only it had been possible. Rather, we become stronger, ever stronger, wanting to do every last thing that the unforgiving laws of the war may demand of us, though neither the Führer nor Germans wanted war, or carelessly began it. Indeed, for the first time in our history we are learning to hate — to hate the Jewish-led world conspiracy that took us from our peaceful path to face a terrible danger to our very lives, and which threatens our children with the bloody Moloch whose frightening lust for revenge threatens to fall upon them in a new and terrible attack by Genghis Khan! We have found the power to hate from the love, the unconditional love we have for our people and its life, and from the love we have for our children. This hate will make us as hard and pitiless as the war requires us to be!”
The Joyous Land of Happy Mothers and Laughing Children
“We follow him on this path through the raging fire of war, for he is the one and only way to a better German future, a future that leads to the eternal life of the people and to a joyous land of happy mothers and laughing children.”
[Page copyright © 2003 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]
By Kate Daley-Bailey…The invocation of Providence, holy passion, and the depths of faith in a tract featured in the Nazi Party’s illustrated magazine for women (Frauen Warte) may cause readers to, rightly, feel a type of moral dissonance. The tract calls for German women, especially German mothers, to look deep into the recesses of their hearts, those storehouses of strength, faith, and loyalty, in order to find the love, … yes, the love to hate ‘the enemy’ to death. That this unconditional love which German women had for their children and life was being exploited to make them as “hard and pitiless as the war” ‘required’ them to be, is more than disturbing. In the excerpts above, one can easily hone in on the rhetoric used to vindicate Hitler and blame the cruelties of war on an abstract and amorphous thing called ‘war’ and the so called Jewish led conspiracy meant to undermine all that is good and noble in the world. Note, too, the invocation of a paradisial German future, filled with playgrounds not tanks, full of laughing children not threatened by vengeful “Moloch” and “a new and terrible attack by Genghis Khan.”
Reading through Nazi literature is not for the faint of heart. It is often, not surprisingly, jingoistic, xenophobic, and blatantly self-aggrandizing. Through my research I have found that the literature rarely fits neatly into prevailing American narratives about the Nazi ethic and about the various degrees of culpability Americans have assigned to the German people (that the population was not aware of the atrocities of Dachau and Treblinka, that the naïve German populous was beguiled by Hitler’s charisma and devious sophistry, and/or that the German people must have been inherently evil and inhumane to have participated in these acts). Rather these tracts are filled with steadfast affirmations that the speakers know the ‘truth’ (of a Jewish led conspiracy for world domination) and they consistently reframe the German military effort as a purely defensive act and necessitates that no mercy be shown.
It is not surprising that the Nazi government shored up the war effort by employing propaganda which motivated the German population to view themselves as the noble sufferers of injustice whose very children and future were the target of the war. The existence of such propaganda makes sense, strategically speaking. However, what is curious to me are the narratives (the trope of the unknowing masses, the image of the easily duped German, and the ‘evil’ and inhumane German) generated by the Allies (primarily Americans) to explain the behavior of the German population which still prove salient today. While these depictions of the German population circa World War II are hardly complementary, they seem to serve a crucial ideological purpose. And even though these representations (innocent, tricked, evil) conflict with one another, often they are deployed together in mass. But why are these narratives deployed at all?
Oddly, the narratives do not serve the German psyche, as many Germans after the war generally only deployed the ‘unknowing masses’ narrative in their defense. Nazi perpetrators often affirmed their own innocence or exclaimed that they were merely following orders. In the article God’s Love and Women’s Love: Prison Chaplains Counsel the Wives of Nazi Perpetrators, Katharina von Kellenbach looks at over fifty letters between ministers and the wives of Nazi perpetrators and only one wife alluded to her husband’s need for repentance. Many wives denied the allegations against their husbands. Some minimalized or justified their husbands’ actions. There is a consistent reluctance to accept any type of guilt from the Nazi perpetrators or their wives. Many perpetrators died unrepentant like Adolf Eichmann who wrote to a Christian minister who tried to counsel him, “I have nothing to confess, I have not sinned. I am clear with God. I did not do it. I did nothing wrong” (18).
If these narratives (unknowing masses, duped masses, evil masses) were not often employed by the German population and very rarely by accused Nazi perpetrators, by whom and to whose end are they employed? So what type of ideological work are these narratives doing today? They function on numerous levels, utilized not just to exculpate the German people but also to preserve the integrity of metanarratives of the dominant storytellers (namely the American Allied soldiers unknowingly who walked into Nazi death camps). So, how do these narratives serve the sanity of those that perpetuate them? If not the Nazi worldview, what view of the world is being preserved via these narratives?
Whose World View?
Perhaps these narratives are not invoked to exculpate the German consciousness but rather are being utilized to do even more crucial ideological heavy lifting, to preserve what it means to be ‘human’ in the aftermath of the destruction of World War II? The narratives of ‘unknowing’ and ‘naïveté’ preserve the ideology that humans would never knowingly and willingly submit other human beings to such horror and humiliation. The image of the Enlightenment rational self is greatly damaged by these two narratives but it is not completely obliterated. The third choice, that the Germans, were just ‘plain evil’ decimates the Enlightenment model of the rational self and at the same time resurrects a religious justification for man’s cruelty to man. All three narratives are attempting to recover some type of meaning from the wreckage but said meanings come with a cost. The first two narratives seem to pretend these events did not take place and the third narrative leaves us with no explanation beyond the theological. So while seemingly just another instance a rhetorical manipulation, such Nazi tracts give us insight into how Nazis justified their actions, no matter how terrible and illogical we view them, and how understood themselves, no matter how disingenuous we find their justifications. Sometimes it is important to note that ‘our’ narratives are often not ‘their’ narratives.