At the end of World War One, Germany was in bad shape. The so-called “Spirit of 1914” had been killed off by the time of the severe food shortages of 1916-1917’s “Turnip Winter,” and in November 1918-January 1919 the sailors and workers had a massive strike, and toppled the Kaiser. Germany had surrendered unconditionally to the Allied forces. Humiliated and near-starved, the Germans were forced to accept heavy disarmament, pay harsh reparations towards the victors, and cede several territories of German-speaking people to the Allies. The new German government, established in the town of Weimar, was considered weak and unable to cope with crisis.
Where a decade previously, a woman might stay home and raise three or four children, under these circumstances women entered the workforce sooner and stayed in the workforce, even after marriage. They had one or two children instead. In the years following World War One the population remained around the same level — a little over 60 million people.
When the Nazis rose to power in January-March of 1933, one of their strongest policies was population control. They wanted not only more Germans born, they wanted to ensure that it was the right Germans. They went about enforcing this policy three way: encouraging women to stay home and raise children; to separate the unwanted members of society, most notably the Jewish population; and to simply kill those they didn’t like.
This is an excerpt of a speech given by Adolf Hitler, in which he gives his opinion on women’s involvement in politics, the military, and society. He expresses the view that a mother who properly educates her children does more for society than a working woman. The largest and therefore most-used word is obviously “woman”, followed by “want” and “children”. The word “mother” is smaller than I would have expected, while the word “work” is a lot larger. This implies that the speech focuses on the idea of motherhood as work.
The focus was to keep women in the home, not by making it difficult for her work outside the home, but to make it easy for her to stay at home. Women with children, whether married or not, received tax benefits and stipends from the government so she could focus on the children.
But even while they worked to get true German children born and properly raised, they worked to get rid of the Jews, with their International Jewry and their outsider Jewishness. If you look at the first chart above, you can see how many Jews were actually in German society; their population amount is the blue line along the very bottom. About 12,000 Jewish men died for the German cause in World War One, and their overall population remained in the lower-mid 500,000s throughout the Weimar government years. Obviously they hoped to overwhelm true Germans through sheer numbers.
In the early years of Nazi campaigning, with their posters and through Adolf Hitler’s speeches, the Nazis made their anti-Semitic viewpoints clear. With Hitler’s appointment to Chancellorship in January 1933, 37,000 simply saw the writing on the wall and simply left.
The Nazis first singled out the Jews in society. They claimed that all Jews had large noses and oddly-shaped left ears, so Jews had to keep their left ears exposed. They had to wear a yellow Star of David on the breast of all of their clothes, with the word JUDE stamped in the middle.
In September of 1935, the Nazis enacted a series of marriage laws, stipulating who could and could not marry each other. A person’s race was determined by their grandparents. If you had three or more Jewish grandparents, then you were Jewish. If you had two Jewish grandparents, you were half-Jewish. If you had one Jewish grandparent, you were full German, or Aryan, with a few clauses. If none of your grandparents were Jewish, you were full Germans and did not have to worry.
A full-blooded Aryan man could marry a full-blooded Aryan woman. If you were half-Jewish, you could only marry a full-blooded Aryan, and your marriage had to receive special dispensation from the state (if the woman was the half-Jew then there was less concern). If one of your grandparents was Jewish, then you could only marry a full-blooded Aryan with no Jewish ancestry, in the interest of ensuring that you assimilate fully into German society.
These laws also affected domestic workers. An Aryan woman under the age of 60 could not work in a Jewish household, and a Jewish woman could not find work in an Aryan household at all.
The Nazis also enacted a series of boycotts of Jewish stores and businesses in the early parts of the regime. These went either unnoticed by the general population, or caused more business for the Jewish businesses, as gentiles tried to show support for their Jewish neighbors. On August 9, 1938, a Jewish youth named Herschel Grynszpan assassinated a low-ranking German diplomat named Ernst von Rath. That night, Nazi Stormtroopers, dressed in civilian clothing, attacked Jewish businesses and synagogues all over greater Germany, breaking glass, looting, burning, and arresting any Jews or civilians who protested. They threw children out windows, and arrested business owners for the damage wrought to their own storefronts. The ferocity of the attacks became known as Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass. 30,000 Jews were arrested, most of them with some sort of prior record, even if the record was a simple traffic ticket.
On January 20, 1942, Nazi officials came up with their own Final Solution to the Jewish Question. They had already forced the remaining Jews to live in ghettos, walled off from the rest of the country. They had executed thousands of Jews already, leading them to the countryside, forcing them to dig pits, then having them strip completely naked and then turned machine guns on the prisoners. This did not have the effect they wanted; this was a huge waste of time and money, and it turns out that Jews, when forced to dig their own graves, strip naked, and face their own deaths, tend to look like miserable, starved human beings attempting to die with dignity, or just simply cried. Mothers would cradle their children, men would comfort their family, little old ladies would comfort the young ones.
And so the Nazis created death camps. They did not tell the Jews where they were going; they simply told the Jewish leaders that they were going away, and the Jews themselves decided that they were going to a forced labor camp, and told their fellow Jews to pack accordingly. The map above shows all of the concentration and execution camps in the immediate German area, as well as the famous Auschwitz-Birkenau near Krakow, Poland, and a camp in Belgium. Other than the camp in Belgium, you’ll notice that all of the camps are towards the eastern side of Germany. Eastern Germany had less people overall, and was a more rural, agricultural area. There were certainly towns and people living near these facilities, but the fact that these camps were kept away from most of the population of Germany certainly tells a story on its own.
Jews were certainly the largest population persecuted by the Nazis, but there were others in the 6,000,000 eventually executed. Political prisoners made up a large population of the prisons. Gypsies, or Roma, were round up and executed, around 250,000 in all. It’s difficult to say how much of an effect this had on the overall Roma population, as their nomadic lifestyle prevented a true census from taking place. Around 50,000 homosexual males were also executed. Because they refused to have sex with a woman, they could not be fathers, and therefore had no place in Nazi society. Homosexual women were not persecuted, as they were still capable of bearing children and raising them.
Were the Nazis successful in their attempts to control the population? Yes. Starting from Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933, to the start of the Soviet counter-invasion in the fall of 1943, the general German population rose from the flat 60 million to 80 million people — that’s a rise of 2 million people each year. In that same time period, the Jewish population dropped from 523,000 to 20,000 people. By April 1945, as Soviet tanks rolled in and American planes fired into Berlin daily, as Adolf Hitler swore that the German people had failed him and that they were going to die with him, the population of Germany had fallen again to around 65 million people. The population, their numbers and hopes, had risen with Hitler; and now they were going to fall again.
In 2010 the population of Germany had risen again to around 81 million people, with 119,000 of them being Jewish. Hitler, and the rest of the Nazis, were wrong about the German people failing without them. The Germans and the Jews live on.