Sharon Ringel. Feminist Media Studies. Volume 20, Issue 2, 2020.
This research examines the German female as represented in the official National Socialist (Nazi) party’s magazine, NS FrauenWarte, published from 1934 to 1944, with a focus on the body, its physical features, clothing, activity, and context. Analysis of the images in NS FrauenWarte enables an examination of Nazi ideology as reflected in representations of the body. It also shed light on the ways in which German women were called upon to incorporate this ideology within their daily lives. It uncovers Nazi demands on women and the ways the magazine—as a formal Nazi party tool aimed at women—uses body representations to express those expectations, as well as inculcate the party’s values and beliefs. Furthermore, an examination of the images of women in the magazine continues a body of studies that demonstrates the role of the media as a propaganda tool for Nazi indoctrination (David Welch 2004).
The study is based on the assumption that the human body can be analyzed as a text encompassing different social meanings. The human body, and particularly the female one, conveys social, cultural, economic, and gendered meanings. The body enables self-expression. It creates, operates, and is shaped by different meanings in different cultures, portrayed by gestures, postures, and clothing, among other ways. The female body functions as an ongoing social and cultural battlefield, as well as a source of power and resistance (Anthony Synnott 1993; Kathleen Canning 1999; Peter E. S. Freund 1988). Therefore, it can be expected that the social, cultural and political landscape of the Nazi regime would be reflected in the representations of the women’s bodies, as visualized in the official woman’s magazine of the Nazi party.
In order to analyze these representations, I used the Bourdieurien concept of “habitus” (Pierre Bourdieu 1985) which refer to the human body, its creation and design. Habitus claims that, within social frameworks, the body conveys a complex set of assumptions, beliefs, practices, trends, and preferences, perceived by inhabitants of those frameworks as “natural” (Canning 1999). Habitus is not a voluntary act, but rather a social integration and assimilation of the body, characterized by the “symbolic violence” operating on it. Through asymmetric power relations, socialized individuals learn how to “bear” their own bodies—to walk, stand, sit, dress, eat, and so forth. Thus, social reality assimilates individuals to habitus, rooting it so deeply within them that it becomes self-evident (Bourdieu 1985). Habitus provides a way of understanding how individuals come to embody political identity, learning its gestures, habits, attitudes, and behaviors unconsciously and effortlessly at an early age. Habitus is thus a learning process of the mind that becomes an integral part of one’s consciousness (Canning 1999).
Representations of women’s physical appearance in Nazi Germany did not appear in a void. We might readily assume the Weimar’s “new woman” bore no resemblance to the ideal woman of the Third Reich. The Weimar’s woman was sexually and socially “liberated,” having left the privacy of her home and immersed herself in the public sphere, exercising her right to vote, go to work, and physically represent all the changes in her status, thus distinguishing herself from her earlier German progenitors (Mila Ganeva 2008; Jana Francesca Bruns 2009). However, careful analyses show Weimar representations of women clearly linked to images of the female body in the Third Reich.
Woman’s Body in Nazi ideology
Based on racist theories, Nazi ideology centered around and drew strength from body representation. A main concern of the Nazi party was to purify the body of the nation from non-Aryan citizens (Jill Stephenson 1975). This section will focus on the important role of the body, and particularly the female physique, in Nazi society, Nazi ideology and propaganda.
The Nazi rhetorical emphasis on “the body of the nation” and on “the nation as a body” composed of Aryan citizens, led to a genuine sense of collaboration between Aryan men and women (Boaz Neumann 2009). The Nazi corporeal body was always present, noticeable, and well-preserved. The Nazi party’s promise to establish order and power was manifest in exhibitions of large masses marching to a unified beat, dressed in intimidating, proud uniforms, eager for war (Christa Kamenetsky 1972).
While Nazism has greatly interested historians since its emergence, researchers did not begin to attend to the issue of women in the Third Reich until the 1980s, when studies began to raise questions regarding women’s role in German social history. Literature discussing Nazi women’s status and role in society reflect two conflicting approaches, as typified by the theoretical controversy between historian Gisela Bock (Gisela Bock and Pat Thane 1991) and Claudia Koonz (1987).
Bock argues that historians of Nazi Germany often ignore racism directed toward women. In researching the various minorities who suffered from the Nazi regime’s racist ideology and actions, historians tend to overlook the sexual oppression women experienced under the Nazis. Bock maintains it is impossible to examine the Nazi regime through feminist eyes without recognizing its totalitarian character, which also distinguishes women from men and deprives both of equal rights (Ralph Leck 2000). Koonz (1987) differs from Bock by refusing to accept the position of woman as a passive object, a notion she claims has led historians to fail to regard women in Nazi Germany as active historical subjects. In her book Mothers in the Fatherland, Koonz argues that women in the Third Reich voluntarily adopted and internalized the Nazi viewpoint. She examines women’s behavior in terms of responsibility, reasoning, and guilt, previously examined in men only (Koonz 1987).
Terri J. Gordon (2002) examines cultural representations of the Nazi female body. She claims that in Nazi society the body served as a “site” on which nationalistic political Nazi ideologies were inscribed, amounting to the regime’s invasion into private lives. A healthy body was seen as a microcosm of a healthy society, reflected in the ideal of the pure mother and wife. However, according to Gordon, we could also encounter sexual icons in Nazi cultural representations. Goebbels repeatedly claimed that Berlin during Weimar had been a “city of sin and corruption” (Gordon 2002, 171), overlooking the illicit behavior that continued under Nazi rule. For example, highly popular shows during the Nazi regime featured “Hitler’s Dancers” performing erotic sensual dances in the Fuhrer’s honor (Gordon 2002). In a similar way, this study examines representations of the female body as a site, reflecting the Nazi society demands and expectations form the Nazi women—as appeared at the party official woman’s magazine, NS FrauenWarte.
NS Frauenwarte Magazine
In January 1934, the Nazi Party recognized NS FrauenWarte magazine as the only women’s magazine of the Nazi Party (“Die Einzige parteiamtlich Frauenzeitschrift”). Beginning with its first issue in July 1932, NS Frauenschaft, the Nazi Party’s women’s organization, published the magazine biweekly until November 1943, when due to paper shortages, it released issues only once a month until the final 1945 issue. Some 80% of the magazine’s issues were sold through subscriptions and only 20% in post offices and shops (Kirsten Döhring and Renate Feldmann, 2004). By 1939 the magazine circulation across Germany alone was over 1.9 million copies every two weeks.
NS Frauenschaft was founded in 1931 as a Nazi party organization aimed at unifying all women’s organizations in Germany and addressing different types of “women’s matters” within the Reich. In February 1934, Rudolf Hess appointed Gertrude Scholz-Klink, a prominent figure in the cultural leadership of the Nazi Party, as chairwoman of the organization (Catharina Landström 1998). Throughout its existence, one of NS Frauenschaft’s primary goals was to spread Nazi ideology among women in the Reich, making it a primary tool for socializing women to Nazi ideology. As its primary publication, NS FrauenWarte was read by bourgeois women, housewives, and women members of the Nazi Party, yet also targeted women who were not politically involved (Döhring and Feldmann, 2004).
Non-Nazi women’s magazines such as Die Dame and Die Mode were published from the 1930s that time until early 1943, and covered what was perceived as women’s topics such as fashion, cooking and practical advice for German women. The magazine Mode und Wäsche focused on fashion, while other publications, also covered issues for women, rather they aimed at men and women, Nazi and non-Nazi. Among these publications are the Signal, Der Silberspiegel and Frankfurter Zeitung (Irene Guenther 2004). The NS FrauenWarte was defined as the “only official party magazine for women”.
Tanja Sadowski (2000) analyzed issues of NS FrauenWarte in its fourth and fifth years of publication. She discusses the ways the magazine highlighted different aspects of the Nazi party’s feminine ideal and the role women played in this model’s construction prior to the onset of World War II. Despite the central role the magazine held in spreading Nazi propaganda, Sadowski noted that the articles containing very little ideological text. It largely includes practical items, such as recipes, health recommendations, fashion tips, career advice, and other features of general interest to women. It also published biographical articles highlighting successful members of the National Socialist Women’s Organization, as well as a serial novel, advertisements, and thinking games and prizes. Every second or third issue contained a column titled “Political Retrospective” (“Politischer Rückblick”), which promoted official party decrees (Sadowski 2000).
This study is based on semiotic analysis of visual representations of the body as reflected in photographs and illustrations on the pages of NS FrauenWarte. Additionally, I analyzed images accompanying texts, which together produce the context in which the body is presented. I cluster-sampled the issues whereby each cluster includes all issues published within a single year. Within each cluster, I randomly sampled seven months and then selected a random issue from within each month for issues published during the years 1933–1944. In 1945, only three issues were published and were therefore excluded from the research corpus. I examined 77 issues in total, each with an average length of 32 pages.
The analysis draws on the theoretical approach developed by Roland Barthes (1985). It enables examination of visual and verbal representations on both basic (denotative) and secondary associative (connotative) levels. This method allows interpretation of representations at different levels by breaking down images into component parts and revealing cultural messages encrypted in an image or text. Exposing the connotative level of a text enables examination of a representation in correspondence with its cultural significance, which arises from the encounter between a text and its consumer (Barthes 1985).
I categorized all physical representations of women in the magazine according to the following criteria: the position in which the body is presented; background images; whether interacting with other bodies (men, women, children); whether interacting with landscapes or objects; whether at home or in public, how the body is clothed; and the textual context in which the body is displayed (e.g., if an article accompanies the image). After analyzing the images and texts on denotative and connotative levels, I classified the representations in categories. Some categories were apparent from the magazine’s own designations, such as mothers and family, or work and war, and others derived from literature expressing Nazi ideology. For example, the category dealing with “supreme race, natural beauty, Nordic body” is based on a treatise by a major race advocate of the time, Dr. Hans F. K. Günther (1970). This approach permitted a comparison between the magazine’s representations of the female body and expectations set for women by Nazi ideology.
My examination of physical representations appearing in the magazine revealed several contradictions among the various roles expected of the Nazi woman. Most notably, I found discrepancies between Nazi ideology and the magazine’s representations. Even though NS FrauenWarte functioned as a propaganda tool of the Nazi regime, it produced many messages seemingly in conflict with its ideology. The most striking distinctions appeared vis-à-vis the following ideologies: superior race; natural Beauty; Nordic Body; athletic body; sexual body; and work and war.
Findings and Discussion
Superior Race, Natural Beauty, Nordic Body
Nazi ideology was primarily based on racial-biological foundations derived from the idea of the supremacy of Aryan race. This ideology provided justification for territorial expansion and the subjugation of non-Aryans in the name of Aryan destiny (George L. Mosse 1985).
In his influential book, The Racial Elements of European History, Dr. Günther (1970) outlines basic premises of Nazi racial science. Günther maintains that even if race is not completely physically pure, it nevertheless consists of common characteristics. Hence, although not all Aryans are Nordic, they still share the same superior racial characteristics. Descriptions of the physical structure, physical appearance, and even mental qualities of the Nordic type came together in Günther’s model of the ideal Nord, which also incorporated visual standards originating in profiles from classical Greece. Günther describes the Nordic figure in great detail: “The ever-recurring phrase, ‘fair and tall,’ applied to men, women, and children…goes to show that only the tall Nordic fulfilled the conditions of the Hellenic ideal of beauty” (Günther 1970, 118). Women are appreciated for their lady-like grace and nobility, sublime courage, restraint, and generosity, while men should be masculine, eager to fight, self-restrained yet assertive, stoic, proud, courageous, and generous (Michelle Mouton 2007). These features undoubtedly served as key guidelines for representing women in NS FrauenWarte.
All women appearing in the magazine, whether in photos or illustrations, physically display these idealized features of Nordic women as formulated by Günther. The magazine depicts women invariably as proud, happy, and healthy. Often exhibited in groups, German women appear as competent and unified. They show confidence walking down the street and occupying public spaces. These images seem far from traditional representations of women in their homes, surrounded by children, and engaged in “feminine” chores and tasks. However, Nazi ideology, as appeared in the magazine, was not completely consistent.
On the one hand, the Nazi Party favored a particular style of dress called the “Gretchen type.” Young, fair-looking women, their hair in braided pigtails, wearing long modest dresses, highlighting feminine waists to emphasize fertility, signified this style. Gretchen type did not dress to demonstrate sexual power. On the contrary, they expressed feminine passivity alongside a colorfulness signifying an optimistic vision of life, such as by gathering flowers for their husbands and future children (Guenther 2004). Although the Gretchen type was disconnected from international couture, this style appeared on a number of occasions in the magazine. On the other hand, Hitler announced to the nation that his favorite fashion style is a traditional German one, known as “Tracht,” associated with rural costuming (Maria Makela 2000).
Both of these German traditional styles, Gretchen and Tracht, appear on the magazine’s pages. Notably, they accompany articles describing admiration for Hitler or emphasizing German tradition and national pride. On no occasion did I encounter these styles in the magazine’s fashion section. On the contrary, the fashion sections seem sophisticated, well-designed, and demonstrably displaying current European trends. The fashion articles give women advice on how to create the desired looks presented in the images.
Many articles in the magazine describe ideal and “natural” beauty in consonance with racial genetics. Nature not only determines women’s feelings, aspirations, and functions, but also their looks. Beauty is not considered an ideal that women can acquire through investment and attention. Therefore, attempts to improve their appearance were therefore considered inappropriate and not fitting for the Nordic woman’s status or race. A woman who was not “natural” was considered unattractive and all-natural Nordic women were considered beautiful and should be proud of their appearance and bodies. Whoever does not fully fit the natural Nordic ideal should only highlight those bodily characteristics aligning with the Nordic race standard.
Many articles in NS FrauenWarte thereby explain why women should not wear makeup and why they should emphasize their natural Nordic beauty. Yet, models do appear wearing makeup, especially in the fashion sections, but also accompanying many articles dealing with diverse issues. Nevertheless, all fashion and advertising images appear to attempt to fit the Nazi ideal of feminine beauty and to reproduce normative gender stereotypes of “femininity.” However, I also encounter representations of women who do not fit a stereotypically Western feminine beauty ideal, such as those of women performing sports activities and working in wartime factories.
The Athletic Body
In accordance with supreme Nazi values placed on sports and health, physical activity finds a valued place within NS FrauenWarte’s framework. A 1935 article titled “Allegiance and Beauty” describes feminine beauty primarily as an expression of health aesthetics, but also as an expression of Nordic nature: “We believe, feel and recognize that the body is a form of expression of our being.” The article’s writer stresses that every woman in the Reich must perform daily physical activity in order to maintain her natural, healthy, Aryan body. Sports were a way of life for women of all ages and statuses in Nazi society.
Many photos of female athletes appear in the magazine issue devoted to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. These representations tend to resemble those of men marching to war. A quotation by Gertrud Scholz-Klink accompanies the illustration from the magazine’s front cover: “We set our goal to educate the women and girls of our nation to be aware and rejoice in their power and strength. Exercise and sports are the ways to celebrate the power of this experience.”
This front cover image emphasizes the women’s Nordic features. Furthermore, an implied comparison between female athletes and female warriors cannot be ignored. The women seem ready for action as they confidentially march single file; the photograph is shot from a low-angle, which strengthens and glorifies their appearance. The women’s faces are determined, serious, and focused. The Nordic race’s “naturalness” is clearly reflected photographically, both in the general natural look of the women themselves and in the choice of natural scenery as they stride barefoot in a field. The pages inside this issue present professional women athletes, German and non-German, competing in Olympic sports such as long-distance jumping, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, and fencing. Some of the photographs accompanying the articles display very muscular, flat-chested, female athletes with rather masculine physiques.
It is not easy to ignore the similarities between the carefully staged photograph of the German champion presented in Image 3 and the Greek ideal of the athletic body. While a nearly masculine physique is apparent in images of professional female athletes, none of the magazine’s portrayals of women exercising for the purpose of maintaining their health and physique display such an appearance. Image 3 accompanies an interview with the gymnast pictured in the photograph, Gisela Mauermaner, German discus-throwing champion and holder of a world record. This article reveals a tension at times arising between visual representations and written texts in the magazine. In their article on Gisela Mauermaner, the writers note their satisfaction with coordination of her personal desires with her commitment to Aryan German nationalism. She is reported as seeing herself first and foremost as acting on behalf of national causes. The writers do not ignore Gisela’s external appearance, rather they claim it embodies pure German femininity. They go on to emphasize that despite her apparent confidence, Gisela is in fact very modest and shy. She is quoted as saying: “I’ve been written about too much….” Thus, alongside masculinephysical traits, the writers establish Gisela’s “feminine” traits such as modesty and shyness, in order to accentuate the value in Aryan women exhibiting ladylike, female-oriented attributes.
In sum, such physical representations appearing in NS FrauenWarte illustrate the importance granted to sports in Nazi society, even though they frequently fail to concur with the Nordic feminine ideal. Nevertheless, representations of women with muscular bodies, as well as those reflecting the beauty of the classical Greek male, can be found within the magazine’s pages.
The Sexual Body
An article published in a 1937 issue of NS FrauenWarte criticizes images displayed in other German magazines (not intended for women only) that show women wearing short skirts, revealing cleavage, and dancing in a cabaret. The article contrasts what the magazine considered to be inappropriate displays with representations showing “right” “and “proper” appearances for women, which fit the modesty standards of the National Socialist Party.
Spanning three pages, two of which accompany the photographs on the magazine’s centerfold as shown in Image 4, the article argues that women’s sexuality and their representation as objects of artificial desire identify with Jewish values and reveal the struggle of Nazi society. Additional images of “promiscuous” women appear on the page immediately prior, and include women dressed in erotic lingerie and posed sexual positions.
Among those women presented in sexual poses, their artificial looks present them as “cheap” and unbefitting the respect due to the Aryan race. Representations of “promiscuous” women are deliberately extreme in order to draw appropriate sexual boundaries. However, sexual imagery in the magazine is not always depicted negatively. The fashion sections frequently feature attractive women in seductive poses in illustrations accompanying articles and in advertisements. Yet, sexual representations never appear in visuals of mothers or working women.
Michel Foucault and Colin Gordon (1980) argues that normative discourse designates accepted sexual behavior and distances whoever does not “fit in.” Foucault views the body as a surface etched by events, produced through processes of discourses and mediated by social constructions. Sandra Lee Bartky (1988) applies Foucault’s conceptualization in order to explore the nature of those modern practices—diet, body language, postures—aimed at constructing femininity and disciplining women’s bodies to govern an “ideal” body size and figure. Indeed, the NS FrauenWarte explicitly demanded that German women adhere to the representations appearing in the magazine, particularly regarding the sexual female body. It is clear that sexuality had its place in the magazine, despite Nazi ideology rejection of such images (Dagmar Herzog 2005). And yet, the magazine clearly detached sexual representations from those of mothers, women exercising, women working, or women saluting the Führer. Sexual representations mainly appeared in fashion sections, advertisements, and in a small number of articles admonishing women in Nazi society on the proper way to present themselves.
Work and War
Frequent articles and visual representations in NS FrauenWarte assert motherhood as every woman’s desire. However, as the war advanced, representations of working women were increasingly shown in the magazine. Many of these images show women in professional jobs and leading political activities, despite women’s actual general exclusion from the public sphere.
We can understand the representation of women at work as largely reflecting economic conditions. A 1937 article calls on NS FrauenWarte’s readers to accept those women who work in paid jobs so long as they do not “harm their femininity.” The article maintains that only a few women are intellectually capable of professional learning, since women’s forte is emotional rather than rational. Moreover, learning and intellectual pursuit can damage and even destroy the “female mind.” It quotes Schultz-Klink as warning that a woman’s profession must not lead to the “stimulation of inappropriate forces that do not suit the female organism and mind.” It explains how the female mind can only engage in occupations that include emotion, cordiality, aesthetic taste, practical ability, care, and patience. For example, a woman can become a housekeeper, nurse, midwife, teacher, gardener, flower sales woman, seamstress, clothing designer, secretary, librarian, or medical assistant. Those professions most recommended fall within the domains of education and home economics, which extend the feminine ideal as a mother and housewife, allowing women’s “natural talents” to develop and find expression. Nevertheless, prior to the war, a woman’s job was depicted as secondary to her central and most important role as a mother.
As might be expected, as the war progressed, the magazine began showing women undergoing various training programs, such as female soldiers in masculine uniform, and women at work alongside men in artillery factories. Woman’s role as mother was pushed aside to some degree. Concurrently, NS FrauenWarte began featuring images of women and girls fighting for the Reich and fulfilling important roles in fields previously considered taboo for women.
A 1944 issue’s cover quote: “To believe, to work and to remain loyal. Because victory must be ours! Total war depends on the positioning of German women at work, so that no nation in the world can prevail.” Its accompanying image shows a working woman in a factory producing military equipment. She stands in the foreground in clear resolution, while men stand at some distance behind her. An article in this issue tells a story of women who take part on the battlefield. Photographs accompanying that article show women participating in military training. On another 1944 front cover women even appear as commanders in the Reich’s military. Women’s domestic, feminine, and factory work were no longer enough. The war, the party, and the magazine required them to advance to a new level.
In sum, physical representations of working women underwent changes over time under the Nazi regime. At first, NS FrauenWarte showed no representations of working women. By 1936, the magazine began presenting women working in “feminine” professions suiting the nature of Nordic women, such as those of nurse, midwife, and teacher. Beginning in 1941, at the height of the war, representations of women working in masculine jobs began appearing in the magazine, displayed in military uniforms to show their participation in the war effort.
In contrast to what we might expect of the official Nazi party’s women’s magazine, the findings of this study demonstrate a lack of congruence between Nazi ideology and the ways women are represented in the official National Socialist party’s magazine, NS FrauenWarte. This section attempts to address this tension.
The first contradiction arises in attempts to depict female beauty as “natural” beauty. On the one hand, representations match quintessential feminine stereotypes and practices that show the body as an object of display. Many women are portrayed as “ideal,” well-groomed, and well-maintained. On the other hand, Nazi ideology emphasizes the “naturalness” and unadulterated beauty of the female Aryan body. Ostensibly, the magazine does not present a clear expectation that women meet a certain standard. Nazi society does not expect women to look a certain way, rather it is nature that does. Women are expected to fall within a narrow beauty ideal, and yet beauty is considered natural and biological. Paradoxically, the “natural look” requires a good deal of effort, especially for those women who do not “naturally” meet the Nordic standard.
Alongside ideal feminine representations, which had previously existed and continues to be manifest in Western societies, NS FrauenWarte presents female bodies that do not fully meet these ideals, as in the case of the masculine-like female athletic body. It is important to add that the magazine displays this body among professional female athletes, not among women who exercise for the purposes of maintaining good health. The requirement of a fertile-looking feminine body, found in representations of motherhood and family, does not apply to competitive athletes. One possible explanation for this discrepancy may come from the sports women ambition to excel in athletic achievement for the honor of the Nazi regime. By recognizing the value to Nazi society of the athletic woman, NS FrauenWarte expands the Aryan ideal of femininity. Thus, the pure German female ideal presented may include “masculine” features and even women with “masculine appearances” so long as the women presented fulfill a valued role for their party and country.
Numerous images of women with their children also appear in the magazine and reinforce the preeminent role of women as mothers. Furthermore, prewar expectations of working women in Nazi society required maintaining a “feminine” character and engaging in work that consistent with “feminine” traits. However, by 1936, following the four-year program, a great demand for cheap labor arose. Given that women entering the workforce in greater numbers was necessary for improving the Reich’s economic situation as the war progressed, NS FrauenWarte presented images of working women that did not necessarily align with the “feminine ideal.” It is evident that there is a shift in the representations from the late 1930 to the war time. Women wearing military uniforms and working in war-related industries illustrated articles advocating that women fulfill the country’s needs.
My examination of visual representations in NS FrauenWarte raised another question. The only images of men found in the magazine are photographs of senior Nazi officials with their children. Curiously, these photographs rarely show their wives. In fact, hardly any depictions of traditional families of mother, father, and children were presented. Thus, NS FrauenWarte makes it appear as if the family institution was not sacred to the Nazi ideology.
The exclusion of fathers from the magazine’s pages may possibly derive from Alfred Rosenberg’s definition of the term “family.” In 1930, Rosenberg published his book, Der Mythus des 20 Jahrhunderts (The Myth of the Twentieth Century), which, along with Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, has been regarded as the most important and systematic Nazi philosophical treatise (Robert Cecil 1972). Rosenberg maintains that the family unit, albeit important, is not essential to Nazi ideology. While the family institution is important for any country’s survival, it does not form the central core of the country. Rather, the political and social contexts that form the community are paramount. Rosenberg offers a flexible vision of the family institution, amenable to change, thereby bestowing on Nazi women some freedom of choice.
In NS FrauenWarte, we also encounter visual representations of homogeneous communities of women which, in addition to bearing distinct race characteristics, prominently feature fellowship and solidarity. A genuine camaraderie seems apparent within communities of mothers, of working women, and of female athletes, as well as among the women of the party. Many portrayals of women appearing in NS FrauenWarte’s articles do not describe a German woman standing alone, but rather united in cooperative groups with other Aryan women. Women on the magazine’s pages support, teach, help, and work alongside each other. And they work together toward a common goal—the National Socialist state (Mouton 2007).
Researchers of Nazi Germany discuss expressions of male brotherhood and the Reich’s men’s, youth, and sports associations. Mosse (1985) studied the Reich’s bourgeois society, wherein a man was subject to rules of respectability, took part in national associations, and tailored his body and sexuality according to bourgeois society’s codes. He describes bourgeois male fellowship in detail as an essential part of national unity, yet does not address its counterpart of female fellowship, of “sisterhood.” And yet, NS FrauenWarte’s representations of women clearly reveal how valued was quintessential female camaraderie for German women of all ages, professions, and regions of the Reich.
NS FrauenWarte further includes many images depicting women’s empowerment, power, and leadership. These representations notably do not accentuate individual empowerment, but rather emphasize the power of teamwork and group effort for achieving collective goals. The images show female power as deriving from values such as sharing, unity, and friendship among Aryan women. NS FrauenWarte clearly aimed to impart a sense of community among the women of the Reich. In this sense, the magazine not only represented female solidarity, it generated both the possibility and the confirmation of its existence. Aryan women belonging to the “superior Aryan race” shared the same experience of reading NS FrauenWarte with other women in their community. This magazine reading ritual was one component, among others, working to strengthen the connection among the women of the Reich. Thus, it not only reflected Nazi ideology, but also produced it and enforced its adoption. NS FrauenWarte thereby functioned as a unification tool for the masses under the imaginary Nazi nationality. Its emphasis on collaboration among Aryan women embodied a concept presented by Benedict Anderson (1983), a sense of community was not only transmitted on the pages of the magazine and via the ritual of reading them, but through distinct representations of female unity, highly important to Nazi ideology.
Examining the official women’s Nazi Party magazine offers a unique view into the culture of women readers and writers in the Third Reich, as well as insight into propaganda mechanisms operating under the Nazi regime. NS FrauenWarte granted women the opportunity to be heard and voice their opinions, while exposing them to Nazi principles. The magazine intended to enable women to feel that they were an integral part of the Aryan women’s community with articles that guided them in proper behavior in Nazi society, as well as in the roles expected of them as women. However, as the findings of the study demonstrates, Nazi ideology was complex and dynamic and therefore there are different representations of women’s bodies—feminine, healthy, and maternal bodies suited for nurturing “Hitler’s children,” as well as sexual, athletic and worrier body images.
In attempting to address these contradictions between various representations appearing in the magazine and Nazi ideology, I argue that the representations of women’s body in the NS FrauenWarte, the official Nazi Party magazine for women, reflect the encounter of the Nazi ideology with reality and society needs. While articles emphasized the “natural” beauty of women belonging to the Nordic race, the fashion sections display images of models wearing makeup to fit the ideal Nazi feminine look. These representations of women continue to be manifested in Western societies to this day and are not unique to the NS FrauenWarte. The athletic body presented in the magazine—which often fails to counter the Nordic feminine ideal—illustrates the importance of sports in Nazi society. As of 1936, the magazine presented images of women working in wartime industries. These images do not align with Nazi feminine ideals. However, the reality of the wartime economy forced the Nazis to come to terms with necessity.
The magazine presents a sisterhood of women, working together to achieve collective goals. Furthermore, the images rarely depict families with the mother, father and children. Rather, they focus on the fellowship and solidarity of homogeneous communities of women. Women are seated together, working in companionship, helping each other, and laughing surrounded by children. In this way, the magazine can be seen as giving women a sense of power. Yet, the appearance of power, as constructed in the magazine, served as a tool of the Nazi regime to achieve its ambitions and goals.