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Letter To Hitler: A German Woman's Haunting Correspondence

Posted: Updated: 06/25/2012 10:48 am

Letters To Hitler

The following is an excerpt from "Letters to Hitler" [Polity, $25.00]:

For Christmas 1930, thirty-two-year-old Elsa Walter, from Karlsruhe in Baden, southwest Germany, sent Hitler a book. She had written and illustrated this clothbound book by hand. She had joined the Party on 1 November and was member number 358,061.

Elsa Walter was unmarried, her family belonged to the lower middle class and had lost its savings during the period of extreme inflation in the early 1920s. Walter had attended a grammar school for girls, was interested in politics, and apparently had extensive experience in housekeeping.

In this eighty-page text entitled "The German Woman," she sought to tell Hitler what motivated her. At the same time she assumed that many women thought the way she did. Her letter is written in fluent and clear handwriting, and points to an energetic woman with strong feelings. Sometimes the depth of these feelings clearly interfered with her punctuation. In the interest of clarity some of these grammatical mistakes have been corrected in the following extracts.

Walter began her text abruptly:

“What ails our dear Fatherland? In particular its women, and a woman is the soul of the house and of the country. That is why our people’s soul is hurting, since the greater part of the German women’s world has abandoned its divinely ordained place. Woman is man’s complement, his relaxation, in whose nature he can refresh and elevate his heart and mind after the struggles and efforts of everyday life, with innermost love and respect.

Woman should lean on man as her strong protector and guardian in the hard battle of life, [and should be] full of devotion as his spouse and the mother of his children. That is the divinely ordained calling of woman, and deviating from this path results in her forfeiting her most essential purpose. Countless women of ‘today’ regard their most essential task as out of date and cast it away with a negligent wave of the hand and a deprecating smile, and compete with men in all areas, blind to the fact that it is precisely the tender, vulnerable, gracious woman who is attractive to man.

Most women and girls of ‘today’ hustle and bustle about in blind madness, nervous and overexcited, instead of being a place of repose for the man who fights. The modern athletic girl must not remain the German model for women, woman’s strength must reside in the soul not in the muscles!”

About fifteen pages before concluding her letter to Hitler, Walter emphasized that she was now coming to the end, but still had a few things to say. She proceeded to give her opinions on a variety of social issues, including the minimum wage, retirement funds, and the effects of optimization in commerce and industry, that is, of department stores and assembly-line systems in production (‘the American system’):

“Now in concluding these pages I would like to highlight the deficiencies in the nation as seen by a German woman. I will not go into exhaustive detail, because fighting is a man’s affair, while love and care are a woman’s. But we may let men know how we see things. Today we hear a great deal about salary questions, and therefore it would be good to make it clear what a poor country can do in this regard. I believe a minimum wage and a maximum wage could be established that would correspond to current conditions, for example between 300 and 900 marks for a married government official, and half that for an unmarried official, this was possible in earlier times, in better and also more modest times, why not today, when the people is in need!... Now, about factories. As we are told by old, experienced foremen and workers, the introduction of the American system is one of the greatest evils. Working on an assembly line governed by the theoretician’s stopwatch; that is work without a soul, harried work without quality. Let’s eliminate the American system from our factories and do German quality work with soul, industriousness, joy – and do it with precision –, for again we are German and are producing wares that are presentable. It is good to use technology to help humanity, but it must not rule over them, or deprive many people, very many people, of bread, for then technology is no longer a blessing. It is in fact soulless.

Therefore craftwork above all, German quality work. Let that be the reputation of German work throughout the world. So far as concerns the poverty of the labour force today, it consists of precisely this excessive power of technology and the need of the unemployed, but Social Democracy, which calls itself first of all a working man’s party, has in twelve years found no solution to this problem of widespread unemployment.

Out with the American system, then a year of work service for the young, prohibit people from holding two jobs, give men priority for jobs, retirement at the age of sixty for workers or government officials, and then we’ll see how many unemployed people still remain.”

Click below to read her thoughts on 'The Jewish Question'

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Filed by Madeleine Crum  |