Student Research Projects

German Womanhood in Service to the Nazi State

Student Amanda Tonelli, ’12
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department History
Course HIST 353: European Women's History Since 1700


From 1933 to 1945, the Nazi Regime redefined womanhood by linking motherhood explicitly to serving the state. While at a first glance it seemed that women were returning to a traditional notion of femininity rooted in motherhood, Hitler radically re-envisioned gender roles to define womanhood as service to the state, including providing the state with loyal citizens who were ready to sacrifice their lives for their country. This notion of womanhood gave women new responsibilities, such as educating their children in accordance with Nazi ideology, training other women how to be good mothers, and aiding the less fortunate so they too could fulfill their duties the nation. Above all, the state put tremendous pressure on women to maintain the racial purity of the “Aryan” race, for the government asserted that the preservation of the race was essential to ensure Germany’s survival. To convince women to support this feminine ideal, the Nazi State awarded medals to prolific mothers, financial aid, and the title “mothers of the nation.” By contrast, those women who did not meet this feminine ideal were sometimes sterilized as a way of denying them their womanhood as well as a role in German society.