Literally, the Union of German Lasses.
This was the girls’ equivalent of the Hitler Youth Movement. The German girls don’t mention it at all in their letters. This is puzzling at first because it was actually compulsory. Girls were expected to pay subs and to attend. However, it is highly likely that it was such a part of their life during the 1930s and the 1940s that they didn’t think to mention it.
It plays an important role in Hani’s thread and becomes paramilitary when the girls are asked to set Haus Lehrs on fire in the last desperate weeks of the war.
Girls attended between the ages of 14 and 17. Before that there was the Jungmädel, the Young Lasses (10-14) and afterwards the BDM-Werk Glaube und Schönheit Belief and Beauty (17-21).
Some of the activities were very similar to those of the Hitler Youth – summer camps for instance. It gave the girls some freedom form the parental home but was also used as a vehicle for Nazi indoctrination. The girls were also being trained for the roles as wives, mothers and homemakers.
Some of the leaders were older than the girls themselves and generally girls only left the movement, if they had become leaders, in order to marry and start a family. Gisela in our story is meant to be about three years older than Hani and Trudi.
As the war intensified, they became involved in charitable acts such as collecting clothing and firewood for the Winter Relief or singing in choirs to wounded soldiers in the hospitals. However, they were also pulled into the Volksstürm at the end of the war and were expected to fight allied troops. However, this had never been officially sanctioned by the BDM leadership.
It was a slightly less harsh regime than the Hitler Youth and girls on the whole tended to enjoy being members of the movement. Even our Hani managed to become a model member and none of the German girls complained.
The uniform was extremely smart: dark navy skirt, white shirt, black neckerchief and a khaki or dark blue greatcoat and flying jacket. One wonders how they managed to afford this in the impoverished time of the 1930s and 1940s. Then there were other uniforms for other occasions: sport, camping, working the land. The strict dress code helped to enforce the sense of camaraderie and this is something that the German girls speak about in their letters.The BDM also provided a useful platform for athletics events, sports and musical events.
Food for thought:Do you think you would have liked to join the BDM? Why or why not?
The uniform was very smart but when you look at old photographs sometimes the girls aren't wearing shoes that go well with their uniform. Why do you think this is?
Can you name some advantages of belonging to an organization like this?