Marriage and family life were seen as very important aspects of life in Nazi Germany. The Nazi propaganda machine led by Joseph Goebbels constantly pushed about the importance of marriage and the raising of children to ensure the future of the Fatherland. However, for all the propaganda about marriage, the figures show that at best the number of marriages a year stayed about the same with the exception of 1934 and 1939. The 1934 blip may be explained by the overwhelming influence the Nazi state had in its infancy, when many were bought into the dream held by Nazi leaders. The 1939 figure may well reflect the time when war was a probability and many couples may well have married because of the potential dislocation that war would bring.
1933: 9.7 marriages per 1000 people
1934: 11.1 marriages per 1000
1935: 9.7 marriages per 1000
1936: 9.1 marriages per 1000
1937: 9.1 marriages per 1000
1938: 9.4 marriages per 1000 (including Austria and the Sudetenland)
1939: 11.1 marriages per 1000
The Nazi propaganda machine also wanted to portray family life as a strength of the regime. A strong marriage with the father working and the mother at home looking after the children was the stereotypical family image portrayed by the Nazis. However, the figures do not bear this out as divorce actually increased between 1933 and 1939, peeking ironically in 1939 when the number of marriages actually increased from the average figure from 1933 to 1939. To protect the image of family, marriage etc. it is said that Hitler refused to sanction a divorce between Goebbels and his wife, which the latter had asked for because of her husband’s frequent infidelities.
1933: divorces 29.7 per 10,000 marriages
1934: divorces 37 per 10,000 marriages
1935: divorces 33 per 10,000 marriages
1936: divorces 32.6 per 10,000 marriages
1937: divorces 29.8 per 10,000 marriages
1938: divorces 31.1 per 10,000 marriages
1939: divorces 38.3 per 10,000 marriages
Family was also a major propaganda issue in Nazi Germany with the party propaganda machine pushing the importance of a large family. The party set up an office that had specific responsibility to deal with mothers and their children – the Mother and Child Welfare Office. While the figures for marriage and divorce do not bear out the Nazi claim that family developed under the Nazi regime, the figures for the number of children born do. There was a steady increase in births after 1933. However, the state did all it could to support and encourage large families. In June 1933 the marriage load was introduced to help out newly married couples. The loan was RM 600, which equalled the income over four months for the average person. A quarter of the loan was cancelled for every child a couple had – so four children resulted in no payments being made. Another condition of the loan was that the wife had to give up work if she was employed at the time of marriage.
Young girls were educated to think in terms of marriage and children. Schools gave girls lessons about how to look after a baby, how to keep and maintain a good house etc.
1933: 14.7 births per 1000 marriages
1934: 18 births per 1000 marriages
1935: 18.9 births per 1000 marriages
1936: 18.8 births per 1000 marriages
1937: 19.6 births per 1000 marriages
1938: 20.3 births per 1000 marriages (including Austria and the Sudetenland)
In total the number of births was as follows:
1933: 971,174 births
1934: 1,198,350 births
1935: 1,263,976 births
1936: 1,277,052 births
1937: 1,277,046 births
1938: 1,348,534 births (including Austria and the Sudetenland)
1939: 1,407,490 births