The Reich Bride School, known as Reichsbräuteschule, initially only accepted women engaged to members of the SS. The young women were barred from enrolment if they had Jewish or gypsy heritage, physical disability or mental illness. However within a few years the academies were welcoming any bride-to-be, SS or otherwise, as long as they had the necessary racial prerequisites.
A curriculum was recently unearthed in the German National Archive. As Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, leader of the NS-Frauenschaft and the highest-ranking woman in the Third Reich, said in a speech to the party congress in 1935: Women must be the spiritual caregivers and the secret queens of our people, called upon by fate for this special task! To become those queens, the future hearth goddesses of the Rhine were to spend preferably two months before their wedding day in bridal camp to recuperate spiritually and physically, to forget the daily worries associated with their previous professions, to find the way and to feel the joy for their new lives as wives.
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink (left) with course participants, c1937
Photo credit: Die Welt
Fit young women would be healthier mothers
Photo credit: Die Welt
What the Age article does not say is that the faded photos and texts are reminiscent of scenes of rural life in the C19th: surviving off the land, communal living, hard work and simple, wholesome pleasures. In fact, they give a rare glimpse inside a Reichsbräuteschule. The first of the bride schools, a vast villa designed to look like a model household, was built in 1937 on Schwanenwerder Island, on Berlin’s beautiful Wannsee Lake. And Gertrud Scholtz-Klink was the ideal woman to head up the Reichsbräuteschules. She was married, had six children and by 1929 had became leader of the women's section of the Nazi Party in Berlin. In 1933, Hitler appointed Scholtz-Klink as Reich's Women's Führerin and head of the Nazi Women's League. In July 1936, Scholtz-Klink became head of the Woman's Bureau in the German Labour Front.
Once the first bride school was established in 1937, others followed and by 1940 there were at least 9 in Berlin, and others in Oldenburg and Tübingen. Some of these schools were still operating as late as May 1944. The bride school photographs themselves took pride of place in the Nazis’ official biweekly magazine for women, NS-Frauen Warte.
I have deleted all the snippy comments from the Age article, yet this still raises a new question in my mind: Did not every nation try to train its young women to be good wives, mothers and house keepers, according to its own value system? Other nations may not have poured the same amount of money into bridal school architecture and staffing as the Germans did, but which female high school student from the 1950s and 1960s has forgotten cooking classes, lectures on health and hygiene, and baby welfare training? Not me. I remember every single class!
Read excerpts from an American 1950s home economics textbook written for high school girls:
1. Plan ahead to have a delicious meal — on time. This is a way of letting your husband know that you have been thinking about him, and are concerned about his needs.
apparently published in Housekeeping Monthly, 13 May, 1955.
2. Prepare yourself: Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking.
3. Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables.
4. Prepare the children: Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces if they are small, comb their hair and change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.
5. Minimise noise: Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
6. Don't complain if your husband is late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.
7. Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
8. Listen to him: Let him talk first.
9. Make the evening his: Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner. Try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.
In the Nine Commandments for the Workers’ Struggle laid down by Herman Goering, Hitler’s deputy, it was little surprise that marriage, child rearing and good house keeping featured so prominently in the Nazi vision of the ideal family. But that was EXACTLY the same for me and for the other girls in high school in 1963. I rest my case.