Thursday, 13 August 2020

The role of the BDM



a sample BDM magazine

Structure

The BDM, Bund Deutscher Mädel, was the girl’s version of the Hitler Youth. It was compulsory for girls aged 14-18, though girls could join the organisation for younger girls Jungmädelbund, from the age of 10. At 18 they could go on to the organisation for older girls Glaube und Schönheit - Faith and Beauty.  
Curiously, although it was compulsory, in order to join girls had to meet three criteria. They had to:
Be of racial/ethnic German heritage
Be a German citizen
Be free of hereditary diseases

Activities

There was some camping and hiking and in fact their magazine looks very similar to any scouting or guiding magazine. However, as the years pass by, it changes subtly and is full of pro-Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitism. They read the Giftpilz – The Poisonous Mushroom  which is vehemently anti-Semitic. The magazine also recommends other reading and contains serialised stories that also have an anti-Semitic agenda.   

The girls became good at housekeeping and homemaking. They were in effect being trained to become good wives and mothers. The emphasis was on comradeship, service and physical fitness for motherhood. Indeed, in the letters that inspired this cycle of novels the words “comradeship” and “duty” occur frequently.  

There were residential camps, where they lived in tents or in specially built centres- many of these later became some of the splendid youth clubs that can now be found in Germany. Parents did have to pay for the camps but there were subsidies for poorer families.
There were sports competitions.
You can read some first-had accounts here.

War activities

Some BDM girls would help out on farms, visit the wounded in hospital or collect clothing for the Winter Relief and paper that could be made into fuel.    

A really smart uniform

The uniform was elegant: calf-length slightly flared navy blue skirt, black neckerchief, crisp white blouse and beige flying-jacket. Wealthier girls might also wear the smart great-coat in the winter. If you Google BDM girl, Germany, and look at the images you will see that sometimes the footwear let them down. Note also occasionally the flying-jacket is replaced with hand-knitted cardigan.     

Morale boosting

These young women had lived a hard life until now.  They were born just after the hyperinflation in Germany ended. The Depression hit Germany very hard, especially as it had substantial debts left over from the Great War. Of course the girls wanted to help to make Germany great again. The BDM also enable them to challenge some of their parents’ long-held beliefs. Membership could also help them to get university places and jobs.
And of course there was that wonderful uniform.
Hence the title of the third book in the Schellberg Cycle.       
   
  

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