German girls in WWII.

05-12-2018

The majority of German girls were members of League of German Girls (BDM). The BDM helped the war effort in many ways.

On the eve of war 14.6 million German women were working, with 51% of women of working age (16–60 years old) in the workforce.  Nearly six million were doing farm work, as Germany’s agricultural economy was dominated by small family farms. 2.7 million worked in industry.  When the German economy was mobilized for war it paradoxically led to a drop in female work participation, reaching a low of 41% before gradually climbing back to over 50% again. This still compares favorably with the UK and the US, both playing catchup, with Britain achieving a participation rate of 41% of women of working age in 1944. However, in terms of women employed in war work, British and German female participation rates were nearly equal by 1944, with the United States still lagging. The difficulties the Third Reich faced in increasing the size of the work force was mitigated by reallocating labor to work that supported the war effort. High wages in war industries attracted hundreds of thousands, freeing up men for military duties. Prisoners of war were also employed as farmhands, freeing up women for other work.

The Third Reich had many roles for women. The SS-Helferinnen   were regarded as part of the SS if they had undergone training at a Reichsschule SS but all other female workers were regarded as being contracted to the SS  and chosen largely from Nazi concentration camps. 3,700 of women auxiliaries (Aufseherin) served for the SS in the camps, the majority of which were at Ravensbrück. 

Women also served in auxiliary units in the navy (Kriegshelferinnen),  air force (Luftnachrichtenhelferinnen)  and army (Nachrichtenhelferin)  During the war more than 500,000 women were volunteer uniformed auxiliaries in the German armed forces (Wehrmacht). About the same number served in civil aerial defense, 400,000 volunteered as nurses,  and many more replaced drafted men in the wartime economy. In the Luftwaffe they served in auxiliary roles helping to operate the anti-aircraft systems that shot down Allied bombers on the German home front. By 1945, German women were holding 85% of the billets as clericals, accountants, interpreters, laboratory workers, and administrative workers, together with half of the clerical and junior administrative posts in high-level field headquarters.

Germany had a very large and well organized nursing service, with four main organizations, one for Catholics, one for Protestants, the secular DRK (Red Cross)  and the “Brown Nurses”, for committed Nazi women. Military nursing was primarily handled by the DRK, which came under partial Nazi control. Front line medical services were provided by male medics and doctors. Red Cross nurses  served widely within the military medical services, staffing the hospitals that perforce were close to the front lines and at risk of bombing attacks. Two dozen were awarded the Iron Cross for heroism under fire. In contrast, the brief historiography Nurses in Nazi Germany by Bronwyn Rebekah McFarland-Icke (1999)  focuses on the dilemmas of German nurses forced to look the other way while their incapacitated patients were murdered

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