Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BDM Girls


Chilling Nazi Indoctrination



BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com


One of the priorities of the Nazi regime was indoctrinating youth. The Hitler Youth organization has become a synonym for uncompromising indoctrination designed to produce robotic obedience from the earliest possible age.

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BDM girls at their local headquarters in the Berlin suburbs.

The BDM was an integral part of that indoctrination process.

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Julius Streicher, the Nazi "racial theorist," approves of this girl's blonde braids. She looks as if she is about to pass out from sheer joy.

Naturally, not every girl could join. That was just how the Nazi state operated. Not everybody could join the big club.

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But they didn't all have to look particularly Aryan.

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In this limited sense, the Hitler Youth organization was undeniably successful. It was an inclusive group, with girls from all over Germany. The BDM girls loved Naziism, even if they weren't all blonde with blue eyes. Though, of course, many were.

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Society inculcated Nazi values into wholesome girls and boys who otherwise did the usual things that kids do.

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It directed an entire generation to support Germany, Nazi Party goals and Adolf Hitler, not necessarily in that order. Hitler was kind of at the top of the food chain.

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Imagine being that little girl, the ultimate moment of her life. Then imagine being that little girl 20 years later....

"Ein Volk ein Reich ein Führer" was the Nazi party phrase. In the advertising, though, the "Führer" part always seemed to stick out.

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A typical BDM publication from 1940. This is Ilse Hirsch.

The League of German Girls aka Band of German Maidens (Bund Deutscher Mädel, or BDM) was part of the Hitler Youth.

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This was a popular postcard in Nazi Germany. Hitler must have loved this shot. That girl seriously is about to swoon.

When people think of the Hitler Youth they usually think of fanatical young boys. However, it was an umbrella organization for both boys and girls.

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The full name of the BDM, in fact, was Bund Deutscher Mädel in der Hitler-Jugend (League of German Girls within the Hitler Youth).

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German girls were enthusiastic supporters of the Reich and Fuhrer. "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer." That girl with Hitler's hand around her neck looks just like someone I went to school with. She wasn't a Nazi. Well, I don't think she was a Nazi, even if she had some Nazi tendencies. Come to think of it....

BDM girls were just like girls of any other time. They liked to have fun and so forth together, it was not a grim organization at all aside from its association with the Nazi state.

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The BDM originated in the late 1920s and at first was called the Sisterhood of the Hitler Youth (Mädchenschaften or Mädchengruppen, aka Schwesternschaften der Hitler-Jugend).

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Hitler posing with a BDM girl at the Berghof, apparently in the mid-30s. 

This changed to the BDM name when Hitler assumed power in January 1933 and Nazi organizations became state institutions.

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Having the children innocently holding flowers in pastoral settings was a recurring motif in Hitler Youth/BDM propaganda shots.

Baldur von Schirach, who can be (without any irony, please) called the "Father of the Hitler Youth," took office as 'Reichsjugendführer' on 17 June 1933.

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Baldur von Schirach addresses BDM girls.

Von Schirach made the BDM the only legal girl's organization permitted in Germany aside from some Catholic organizations. It basically did everything that a girl's organization could do aside from religious teachings.

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They had regular "sports days" where the girls would get together and perform team exercises.

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Signal, March 1941. Signal was a Nazi propaganda magazine published by the Wehrmacht with a layout similar to LIFE magazine, heavy on pictures and light on analysis or introspection. Signal promoted a cheerful view of fascist Germany and an anti-bolshevik, united Europe under Teutonic hegemony. Published for neutral, allied, and occupied countries, at one point Signal reached a circulation of 2.5 million in twenty-five editions, and it was published right to the end of the war.

Propaganda was careful to make the youth organizations look like tremendous fun.

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While this shot isn't specifically referenced as showing a group of BDM girls, it almost certainly does. Hitler liked to visit BDM gatherings to press the flesh like any other politician - he is turning on the charm here in major fashion. Hitler, incidentally, was known to date a BDM girl or two. These girls appear to have been off in the woods gathering berries and so forth for the others. Having the Fuhrer himself stop by had to be a major shock - the girls look  stunned (except the girl on the far right, who has recovered sufficiently to exhibit the usual Hitler-worship). The girl in the long white coat is probably the leader. This is a total photo op.

Joining the BDM was not compulsory, but it was "the thing to do." If you didn't join, there was something "different" about you.

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Leadership positions in the BDM were restricted to unmarried and childless women. Trude Mohr, a former postal worker, was appointed as the first BDM-Reichsreferentin, or National Speaker of the BDM. She left in 1938 when she had a child. The Nazis were very firm about rules.

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BDM girls (colorized, Ang, Federal Archive). 

There were different sections of the BDM:
  • Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old were members of the Young Girl's League (Jungmädelbund, JM);
  • Girls between the ages of 14 and 18 were members of the  BDM proper; 
  • In 1938, a third section was added, known as Faith and Beauty (Glaube und Schönheit), which was voluntary and open to girls between 17 and 21. 
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The "dress" BDM uniform was a full blue skirt, middy blouse and heavy marching shoes. Exercise clothes that had the appearance of uniforms were used for many activities.

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Members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, or Reich Labor Service.

The Reichsarbeitsdienst, or Reich Labor Service, became compulsory also for young women during the war. It was a strict service, and there were close inspections. Many young women became 'Blitzmädel' (Wehrmachthelferin or female combat soldiers) during World War II.

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With this one, I think they just should have gone with the original photo, she's very photogenic. The artist made her face fatter for some reason.

That was not too common, but not that exceptional, either. Women fought when times became desperate. However, that was not really encouraged.

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More typically, though, BDM girls served as auxiliaries for the Wehrmacht or performed labor duties behind the front.

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Ilse Hirsch was a leader within the BDM (a Captain) and joined the Werwolf organization, participating in Operation Carnival.

As the war years passed and boys assumed official duties within the Wehrmacht, the BDM girls took over many of their former duties. This included helping with the harvest. There indeed were some BDM girls who carried a weapon and fought, Germany needed everyone. Toward the end of the war, some girls even joined the embryonic Werwolf underground terrorist group that performed some clandestine missions before the end of the war (and perhaps after). Girls proved that they could be as fanatical as boys - and the boys in the Hitler Youth SS Division were quite fanatical.

The BDM terminated with the end of the war. The Allied Control Council officially outlawed it along with all other Nazi organizations with the Kontrollratsgesetz Nr. 2 of 10 October 1945.

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A Blitzmädel captured by the Allies, wearing the characteristic tag for prisoners.

Below are some random photos of BDM girls going about normal tasks. One of the perks of being in the organization was being eligible for vacations on the Baltic, either on cruise ships specially built for that purpose (such as the ill-fated MV Wilhelm Gustloff), or in resorts built along the beaches. Some of those buildings still stand and, long abandoned, are being re-purposed for resorts and the like - which was their original purpose.

BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com

BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com

BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com

BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com

BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com

BDM League German Maidens worldwartwo.filminspector.com

German Liner Wilhelm Gustloff. It was the first purpose-built cruise liner, designed by the "Strength through Joy" organization for Baltic cruises for German civilians such as the BDM girls, factory works and the like. During the war, it was converted into a barracks ship, then used for refugee transportation. The Gustloff was sunk by a Soviet submarine on 30 January 1945, resulting in the greatest maritime loss of life in history. (Augst, Federal Archive).


2016

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