The NAZIs upon coming to power were greatly concerned not only about racial purity, but also about overall population trends. We have noted a variety of sttisticak data. Some of the various estimates vary. The trends, however, are quite stark. The German birth rate declined very significantly. Declines were noted in the birth rates of many other industrial countries, but in no other industrial county did the birth rate decline as sharply as it did in Germany. We are not sure what the caue of falling birth rates were in Germany. The NAZIs gave great emphasis on encouraging German women to have more babies. The results of these efforts, however, were minimal.
Table 1.--Births in the German Reich
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|Births per 1,000|| || || || || || || || |
Source: Reinhard Müller, Deutschland. Sechster Teil (München and Berlin: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1943).
For the NAZIs, obsessed with race, the birthrate was a very serious matter. It not only had military consequences, but in the perceived race war, a decling birth rate meant that NAZI Aryans would be operating under an increasingly numerical disadvantage with other countries and races. As Hitler was planning war and the repopulation of large sathes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with Germans, the birth rate was of emense importance.
Germany had a rapidly falling Geburtenstatistik (birth rate). We note a substantial decline at the turn-of the 20th century. This followed a rapid period of industria; expansion in the second half of the 19th century. The rate began another steep decline after World War I (1914-18). Since World War I, the German birthrate had rapidly fallen from 894,978 in 1920 to only on 516,793 in 1932. [Statistisches Jahrbuch nur das Deutsche Reich 1941/42, S. 66.] Other data shows that the German birth rate had been falling since the 1880s (table 1). The birth rate by 1930 had reached extremely low levels. While the actual numbers vary, the trends are very clear. The birthrate had not fallen so drastically in any other important industrial country. The NAZIs worked hard to increase the birt rate and by 1938 just before World War II, we note a small increase over 1930, but it was still well below 1920 levels.
In no other industrialized country was there such a break-down in the birth rate. The falling rate since the 1880s probably reflects understandable long-term trends as the German like other European countries evolved from agicultural to industrial societies. Germany as the most heavily industrialized country in the continent, experienced this shift to a greater extent than its neighbors. The especially severe decline in the 1910s-30s probably reflects the combined impact of World War I, the political and economic turmoil following the War, the Allied mandated War reparations. The Depression was another factor in the earlys 1930s.
HBC has developed several pages on German families. The falling birth rate indeed can be seen in an increasing number of small families after World War I. We see several families with one single child. The HBC pages focuses primarily on the clothing trends. The portraits ans snapshots, however, comvey a great deal of information about German families in general. It is not clear to us the impact of the NAZIs on the German family. The NAZIs wanted to raise the death rate, but in many ways undermined the family structure. The Hitler Youth movement was used to undermine many important German institutions, including the schools, churches, and family. Many conservative Germans supported the NAZIs because they saw ther traditional lives threatened. Few undrstood just how radical the NAZIs wre and the revolutionarty che thadin mnd for
Hitler demanded action to increase the German birth rate. Propaganda and programs aimed at convincing German women to become mothers followed. The NAZIs set out as part of this effort not only to convince married women have children, but to change the social status of unwed mothers. This given the strong social stigma against unwedmothers. This had to be done discretely as it could damage the NAZI Party's effort to become respectable.
Girls were told it was their patriotic duty to give birth to as many Aryan children as possible. This would have been done through the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) which was made manditory for all Aryan girls beginning age 10 years (1936). The girls were reprtedly told that should have children whether or not they were married. We are not sure just how this issue as addressed and at what age.
The Germans banned contraception and abortions (with some exceptions). Some claim that the NAZIs promoted free love, but to the extent they did it was descrete. This was one of the things that the NAZIs could not do openly. Most NAZI Pary members had aughters and sisters and would have found this objectionable. This is why the SS operated Lebensborn nurseries where carefully veted unwed mother meeting racial standards could have their babies in private. The numbers, however, were relatively small and had no impact on the birth rate. Rumors about NAZI activities in this area seem to be more pornographic fantasy than fact. I don't think Jews were procecuted for contraceptive violations, but do not yet have details. At the same time there were sterilizations ordered for the handicapped and mentally retarded. The Governent began handing out Mother’s Cross medals, the name chosen to mimic the revered military Iron Cross. Incentives were adopted for new mothers. New Laws fined levyied penalties on childless couples. Proganda Minister Joseph Goebbels ordered the production of magazines, posters, and soft porn films promoting 'healthy eroticism', something previous governmnts would have found horrifying. The NAZIs achieved some success. Birth rates increased to 19.2 per thousand (1938), an incease over pre-NAZI War 1930, but this was still well below earlier eras (table 1). Himmler was aware of the numbers and thus after Hiter layunched the War, the Lebsenorn program took a new and horific turn. Seeing that raising the birth rate would require a monumental effort, Himmler chose a faster way od increasing the population -- mass kidnapping of blond, blue eyed children in occupied countries. The birth rate was one of the many victims of Hitler's war. It is had to have children when the men are away at the front, dead or in POW camps. And if that was not bad enough, the bombs started following and the rations had to be cut. Young Germen women, worn out from factory work and children at home were not excited about more children. One author claims that women began seeking illegal abortions in larger numbers.
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