06/21/2012 09:53 am ET Updated Jun 25, 2012

Letter To Hitler: A German Woman's Haunting Correspondence

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 Countless women of ‘today’ regard their most essential task as out of date and cast it away with a negligent wave of the hand and a deprecating smile, and compete with men in all areas, blind to the fact that it is precisely the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'

Worse was that the department stores of the American system were often run by Jews. ‘Now, what is a German woman’s attitude towards the Jewish question?’, asked Walter.

“Precisely in accord with her predisposition, down deep she does not feel hatred in the sense of the word battle, no. But she does have a pride that protects her from making a mistake of falling for the blandishments and flatteries addressed by a Jew to a Christian woman.

For example, I never felt hatred for Jews, but so far as love was concerned, even before the swastika existed, Jews never had any luck with me, though I was not crudely insulting, but once, to tell the truth, since there was no other way, I told one exactly what I thought of him. But if you were to ask me, Adolf Hitler, what my position with regard to the Jewish question is, I would tell you unhesitatingly, in a genuinely womanly way: I pity the Jews, who are undeservedly abused in moral and spiritual ways. But I would always be in favour of the growth of the Christian’s feeling of pride in being a Christian, with all honours. Not slaves to the Jews, not handmaids to the Jews, but simply Christians, proud of Christianity, and a sincere battle against the Jew’s predilection for Mammon in accord with his predisposition, by setting limits to it, to moderate it. Craftwork and not only commerce. Or emigration for anyone who does not want to earn his bread with his hands.

But as soon as their homeland, their old homeland, can be opened up for the Jews, then they, those without a homeland, can simply move there. We will rejoice with them because in their whole conception of life they do not fit into our country.

To every Christian girl and woman, however, I would like to say, stay away from this foreign race, because it desires from you hardly anything more than your body, not and never your foreign soul, because you are a Christian. And these Jews are so good at bewitching women, as if they had a poison that they try to instil into our blood. They are effusive in their love for women and their otherwise money-grubbing race spends huge amounts of money on its love and inclination for women. However the only women who fall victim to this drug are those who are no more than body! I am not disgusted by Jews, but I wouldn’t let one kiss me – my race and my natural feeling refuses to accept that.

But one other thing, before Jewish men leave German districts for once and for all, I have a request to make of German men: just look at their reverence for woman, their spouses, their parents, and the very old, because you can still learn something from them in this regard. A Jew really cares for his own, he cares that things go well for them. Of course he considers every means permissible, there is no question about that, but how beautiful it is to be loved and completely cared for as a woman.”

The following pages, which were actually the last ones, explained once again Walter’s deeply felt wishes – and the occasion and form of her letter:

“I have written these pages for you, Adolf Hitler, in order to inform you about the feelings and thoughts of a German woman, and also to say, let woman take part in your work, her part. The Social Democrats accuse the Nazi Party of wanting to exclude women completely from their work. That should not and must not be true. We used to have a National Mother who as a mother took care of the Fatherland in matters that concern only women, only the maternal. Woman can no more be excluded from the national economy than from the home.

But precisely the fact that the Social Democratic leadership found no substitute for this National Mother and her care, has in recent years brought hardships, both mental and moral, to all of us. Leader Adolf Hitler, do not forget that, because an army of women with an inner love of the Fatherland and energy stands behind you. Allow them to take part in your work for a new Fatherland!

I still have a great Christmas request in mind, look at the Cross on the roof. It is the order of the Knights Hospitaller, composed of two swastikas. Deep, deep meaning lies in this sign and its influence. It always appears in times of the greatest need. Give this sign of collaboration to German women as a New Year’s gift. For men, the battle, the swastika. For women the Cross, the sign of love and care. I once read in one of your speeches, Adolf Hitler, your answer to the question why you gave the swastika sign to the movement. We are not yet worthy, you said, of bearing the Christian Cross as a symbol. These words made a deep impression on me. What you said was only too right, but give German women the Cross nonetheless, this Cross composed of the two swastikas of battle. We want to put our all into love and care, in order to become worthy of this Cross. Heil!

However, I want to pray, because I believe our prayers are heard, that God, who has called you to lead a people out of the night into the light, might grant you strength, health, and wisdom in order to complete your work. Heil!

And now, Adolf Hitler, leader of the German freedom movement, if you are missing a woman in a place of action and care, you must call on me, I am ready. What do father, mother, the parents’ house matter when the Fatherland calls. I would have achieved my highest life goal and innermost wish if I were allowed to serve the so beloved Fatherland. Heil! Adolf Hitler Heil!”

Your Elsa Walter
born in Karlsruhe in Baden
6 September 1898
Christmas 1930

What kind of work Elsa Walter did during the first phase of the Nazi regime we do not know. In 1940 she became a high Party official in the Baden district. A little later she was recorded as working in Colmar in Alsace, an area annexed from France.

Her last recorded employment is indicated on her Nazi Party file card as a staff member of the district NS Women’s League in Posen, in the Wartheland district, which had been annexed to the German Reich from Poland.