Mädchen in Uniform

When talking about the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend; HJ), one usually think of blonde boys and teenagers in brown shirts and black shorts. The girls in the HJ are almost forgotten, but the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM; League of German Girls) developed alongside the male counterpart. As all non-Nazi youth organizations became banned and membership in the HJ was strongly recommended (and later compulsory), there were no alternatives for the girls who didn’t fancy Nazism. While the boys were prepared for military service, the girls were groomed for domestic life, where they were to become good housewives and mothers of good little Aryan children. Like the boys’ Jungvolk, there was the Jungmädelbund for the 10-14 years old, and the BDM proper for the 14-18 years old. There was also the Glaube und Schönheit, “Faith and Beauty”, for 17-21 years old women. It was voluntary, and further groomed its members for married life.

mädel

A young girl, either a member of the Jungmädelbund or just old enough for the BDM proper, in the white shirt and black scarf which together with a black skirt was the uniform of the BDM. Her Hitler Youth badge is pinned on her shirt.

With the start of WW2, the BDM members had to serve for six months in the Reichsarbeitsdienst. They could also apply for the Landjahr (Country Year; in fact just nine months), which was voluntary except for university students, who had to complete it before graduating. It usually consisted of agricultural work, but could also be work as a maid in a family. While the BDM wasn’t supposed to provide manpower for the armed forces, BDM girls assisted antiaircraft batteries as well as hospitals. One German woman I know had to help clearing out the bodies of hundreds of forced laborers killed in the 1943 attack on Peenemünde. She was 15 years old at the time. Young women could volunteer for service in the Wehrmacht, usually as office workers or in signals and communications (Blitzmädel).

The BDM girls were expected to not use makeup, not even lipstick. They were taught to avoid Rassenschande (“racial defilement”, or interaction or even getting children with non-Aryans), but sexual promiscuity wasn’t as frowned upon as one would expect from the rather prudish Nazi party, as long as the babies were racially pure. A rather ugly nickname for the BDM was “the League of German Mattresses”.

Like all other Nazi organizations, the BDM was banned after the fall of Hitler’s Reich.

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