The female ideal in Nazi propaganda

During the Nazi regime (1933-1945) in Germany, led by Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), propaganda played an important role in spreading his ideology. In the book Mein Kampf (1925), Hitler also formulated his thoughts on the place of women in fascist society. Indeed, she fulfilled a special role within both Nazi ideology and propaganda. But what did this female ideal in Nazi propaganda look like?

Mother and wife

Hitler saw men and women as two sexes representing two different worlds. Women were supposed to operate in private spheres and devote themselves to their 'natural' duties of motherhood and housekeeping (see Figs. 1 and 2). Besides being a mother of the family, she was also this of the state. Her main task was to have and raise purebred children to keep the nation strong. As a result, she was considered '[...] the guardian of racial purity'. In Figure 1, the woman is surrounded by her husband and offspring. This is clearly an Aryan family; all the figures conform to the stereotype of the übermensch. In the background, an eagle can be seen wrapping its wings around the family. This gesture is to be understood symbolically: the eagle, in this case the embodiment of the NSDAP, represents Nazism's embrace of the family. Women were thus expected to put aside their own needs to act for the benefit of the collective.

NSDAP, c. 1940
Hilfswerk Mutter und Kind, 1935

The healthy athlete

The second ideal image propagated was that of the young, healthy athlete (see Fig. 3). The perfect Nazi woman was '[...] not weak and helpless, but strong, powerful, athletic and able to perform heavy physical work.' Sports were already recommended to young girls and were supposed to ensure that they later became healthy, strong wives and mothers. An important organisation working towards this was the Bund Deutscher Mädel (1926-1945). The aim of this organisation was to create a new image of the German woman. This ideal image may sound modern and progressive, but it served a conservative agenda. The main reason for promoting sports was that good health contributed to women's fertility. The young, healthy athletes eventually had to bear purebred children and be employable at all times during the war.

Frauen warte
Journal NS-Frauen-Warte, 1939
Saliger Dianas rust
Ivo Saliger, Diana's peace, 1940

The mythical-Aryan goddess

The third way the woman was represented was a combination of classical mythology and Aryan values. Hitler had a fondness for classical art, making mythologisation an important concept within Nazism. Through this art, he wanted to glorify the Aryan race. Incidentally, he argued that the Greeks and Romans were racially linked to the Germanic people and should therefore be seen as the cradle of '[...] true Aryan culture'. In the picture, the classically depicted women are 'Germanised' to meet the ideals of Nazism (see Fig. 4). This time not as mothers, but as sensual classical figures who, like the landscape in the background, are admittedly placed in German context. The nudity of the women here is not linked to the seamy side of society, as in Expressionism, but here must be associated with a healthy, natural state of being and the classical ideal of beauty.

To achieve the aims of Nazism, the role of women in society was indispensable. The importance of her biological role was paramount here, and we can see this in the propaganda of the time. But despite all those beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair, the superior empire proved unprotected against all those untermenschen.

This blog was written by Dewi Lenselink. She is an art historian and teacher specialising in the appearance of the woman in art

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