Monday 16 March 2020


Title: Hitler's Housewives
Author: Tim Heath
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Genre: Non-Fiction, History, World War 2
Release Date: 28th February 2020

BLURB from Goodreads
The meteoric rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party cowed the masses into a sense of false utopia. During Hitler's 1932 election campaign over half those who voted for Hitler were women. Germany's women had witnessed the anarchy of the post-First World War years, and the chaos brought about by the rival political gangs brawling on their streets. When Hitler came to power there was at last a ray of hope that this man of the people would restore not only political stability to Germany but prosperity to its people.

As reforms were set in place, Hitler encouraged women to step aside from their jobs and allow men to take their place. As the guardian of the home, the women of Hitler's Germany were pinned as the very foundation for a future thousand-year Reich. Not every female in Nazi Germany readily embraced the principle of living in a society where two distinct worlds existed, however with the outbreak of the Second World War, Germany's women would soon find themselves on the frontline.

Ultimately Hitler's housewives experienced mixed fortunes throughout the years of the Second World War. Those whose loved ones went off to war never to return; those who lost children not only to the influences of the Hitler Youth but the Allied bombing; those who sought comfort in the arms of other young men and those who would serve above and beyond of exemplary on the German home front. Their stories form intimate and intricately woven tales of life, love, joy, fear and death. Hitler's Housewives: German Women on the Home Front is not only an essential document towards better understanding one of the twentieth century's greatest tragedies where the women became an inextricable link, but also the role played by Germany's women on the home front which ultimately became blurred within the horrors of total war.

This is their story, in their own words, told for the first time.


I recently read a fictional book called The Traitor by V.S. Alexander which was historical fiction based on real people and events and I found it so interesting reading about the normal German citizens and how Hitler affected the way they lived under his Nazis regime. It made me think about World War 2 from a different angle, that of the “normal” citizen and what was expected of them along with the consequences that could be doled out if they did not fully conform. When I saw this book, I knew I really wanted to read it to learn more. The title drew my eye, “Hitler’s Housewives”, the cover features a typical blonde hair blued eyed woman, the look of the “perfect race” according to Adolf Hitler. The cover also shows the strong image of young looking, female saluting Hitler which stands out from the bottom section of the cover that shows females looking carefree and happily reading newspapers/magazines. The cover fits the book really well as it covers the authoritarian aspects that were expected from the women yet, at the same time it represents the small pockets of life and fun within the book. The by-line of “German Women On The Homefront” also suits the book content well too. I have seen many books both factual and fictional of British Women on the Homefront but being totally honest this is the first factual one centred of German Women that I have come across.

As with British Housewives, Hitler’s Housewives experienced mixed fortunes with loved ones going off to war never to return. As the British had losses from German bombing attacks, Germany also suffered losses from the Allied bombing campaign too. Some women could also claim to have lost their children to the influences of the Hitler Youth. These women “left behind” struggled on alone, or on some occasions found comfort in another mans arms whilst their husband or boyfriend was away fighting. This book tells the story of the German home front and the many roles Germany’s women took to survive and help their war effort.
The author of this book, Tim Heath has used diaries written by the housewives of the time that have been shared with him either by the women themselves or their families.

The book explains “Mothers Crosses”, which was something I had never heard of prior to reading this book. Hitler wanted good strong Germans to marry and produce many children to strengthen Germany even more. The Official name was “The Cross Of Honour Of The German Mother” it was a civil state of decoration, something to be proud of gaining. The award had three classes, Bronze, Silver and the highest being Gold. A woman having 5 children received the bronze, a woman having 6 children recived Silver and a woman having 7 children would be awarded the Gold.

Families in Germany had their own version of “rationing”, Hitler encouraged all housewives to create a “one pot meal”, he was also vegetarian and encourage the German population to become vegetarian too. Which most ended up having to be partially vegetarian due to the shortages of meat. It was either that or to add meat to the fruits and vegetables in the one pot meals they would have to catch rabbits or other small animals. Another option was the “black market” but if found to be supplying or purchasing from the black market had severe consequences.

The Koerg family story that is shared in the book, could quite well seem pretty similar to a family living in England. Helena is 24 yrs old and married to Reinhardt, they have three daughters, Gertrud, Helga and Ilsa. Reinhardt works at a pharmacy and when the girls are all taken to school, Helena works at a local bakery. When Helena finishes work, she picks up her girls from school and rushes home to have her husband’s dinner ready for when he arrives home from his work.

When war breaks out Reinhardt, Helena and her family discuss the possibilities for the future. Reinhardt is not concerned about Germanys invasion of Poland, telling Helena its nothing to be worried about, that even if the English and France intervene it is not something to worry about. He thinks France can easily be defeated and if the need arises so can England. When Gertrud has her tenth birthday, which is the age youngsters expected to join the Jungvolk organisation. Gertrud is naturally excited to join as all her friends are and I guess she see’s it more as an “after school club” than anything political. However, Helena’s father really disagrees with any talk of allowing Gertrud to join, wear the uniform and take part in all it entails. Helena’s father is more outspoken about his displeasure, stating children should not be involved with politics or war. When Gertrud comes home from school one day saying a teacher has questioned her about why she has not yet joined the Jungmadelbund Reinhardt makes the decision to allow his daughter to join as the alternative would make them stand out as a family, and it is not a good time to be seen as non-conformists or to stand out in any way or to be seen to disagree with anything Hitler says or stands for. Reinhardt is of the opinion it will be good for Gertrud, even when Helena brings up the “politics” Reinhardt dismisses her worries saying if things work out for Germany, then educating the German youth against social pollution, minorities may be responsible for then so be it. He really doesn’t seem overly concerned at all. When once again Helena’s father disagrees, they have a falling out and don’t see or speak to each other for a few weeks.
To join the Jungmadelbund there are detailed forms to be filled in detailing ancestory to make sure there is no Jewish bloodline within Gertrud or her family. She also has to undergo a medical examination. Gertrud is accepted and becomes part of the Hitler Youth. When Gertrude’s Grandmother see’s her in the uniform of dark skirt, white blouse, black tie with leather ankle boots and a brown jacket with a diamond-shaped badge pinned to the left breast of the jacket she cries saying her grand-daughter looks like a soldier!
The war soon progresses and it is not long until Helena’s brother Peter is called for military training to serve in the Luftwaffe. Peter starts out a rather proud, boastful man setting out for training but by the latter parts of the war he is a changed man, more like a shell of his normal, original self. It isn’t long until Reinhardt also has to be sent off to war, leaving Helena and his girls behind to manage alone at home. Helena like a lot of other women have to take over the jobs vacated by the men who have gone to war so Gertrud has to “step up” and help more at home with chores and caring for her sisters.

The book reveals a story of Adolf Hitler visiting the home of Adaline Seidal who lived in a poor district of Kreuzberg. She remembers Hitler coming into her home, going upstairs to see her mother who was ill in bed. Then afterwards she remembers the week after Hitler’s visit seeing bundles of new clothes, shoes, coal and food they would never have been able to afford arriving. Adaline’s mother was also supplied with any necessary medicines and her health slowly improved. The other poor people of Kreuzbergs lives were also improved with supplies sent by Hitler.

As we see from Helena’s story when men went of to war, the women had to fill the jobs they left. The Nazi motto of “Children, Church and the Kitchen” was soon abandoned. Females were not born Nazis, they were created and nurtured. Due to the alternatives being severe punishments many were pressured to conform. Girls from the age of 10 were expected to join the “Jungmadelund” until the age of 16 when they progressed up to the “Bund Deutscher Madel”. The older girls were expected to help put out the fires and rescue people and give them first aid when the Allied Forces bombed the factories etc. As in England there were civilian losses in Germany too.

One such story told in this book is that of Adelaine Seider who was living in a Hitler Youth camp. Adelaine instantly knew something was wrong when she saw her aunt enter the camp, she sat her down and told her that her mother and father had been killed drugin an Allied bombing. They had been working in a factory, the early warning had sounded telling them enemy planes were on their way but rather than evacuate immediately as they were supposed to, Adelaine’s parents had stayed to finish what they were doing before running outside as the first bombs were falling. Sadly, they died in the bombing whilst hiding behind a wall.

To say I enjoyed this book seems the wrong thing to say, how can you “enjoy” reading about losses at war, losses of childhood and the hardships that the people in the book were place in. I felt like I read through this book much quicker than I expected to in comparison to the non-fiction one called Holocaust by Stephen Wynn, also by this publisher. I think the reason behind that is that though both books have facts and statistics within them and I found them both interesting, this book seems to be on a more personal level as it is taken from diary entries of the women that lived, worked and tried to survive in Germany under Hitler’s rule and at time the rule of the man of their household too. There are many similarities to be drawn from the Home Front in Germany and the Home Front in the UK. Women filled the jobs left empty by the men going to war. Men were conscripted and had to go to war whether they agreed with it or not. To voice any opposing opinion would at the very least result in peer pressure, never mind what else. I found the photographs at the end of this book were a great addition as it put faces to names and really drove home that these girls & women were just like 'you or me' in the UK.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that the book was both interesting and enlightening. This book reveals what life was like for the everyday, working class women in Germany under the rule of Hitler during the second world war.

I know I seem to find my self saying this about a lot of the non-fiction historical books I read, but I will say it again, these are the type of book that should be used in school history lessons. Perhaps then we will become a better society, that remembers errors of the past that should never be repeated. I found it interesting to learn how World War 2 and Hitler affected both those Germans that supported them, those that really did not, and those that had to be seen to support them even if deep down they had doubts or different opinions.
I hope you don’t feel I have revealed too much about the book, as there is lots more content and women’s stories contained in this book just waiting to be discovered and read. It was difficult to illustrate the book is about real, normal everyday women of all ages without using a couple of examples from the book in my review. There is much more within the book both in detail and other women’s stories.

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