Hitler’s Mother’s Cross

Even Adolf Hitler had a mother and he must have loved her because it was in her honor that, in 1938, he started awarding German women what became known as “The Mother’s Cross.”  He bestowed the Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter — literally the “Cross of Honor of the German Mother” — every year on her birthday, this week on August 12.

And for what achievement was this honor conferred? Basically, for bearing children — but repeatedly.  The “Mother’s Cross,” Gold Medal version, went to Aryan German women who had seven or more children.  The Silver Medal went to German moms who had six kids, and the Bronze went to those who produced five.

As Hitler saw it, his German Reich needed a vigorous and ever increasing population to fill up the lebensraum (living space) he planned to create for them by invading and conquering the lands to Germany’s east, essentially most of Eastern Europe up to and including the Soviet Union.  Hitler had always envisioned Germany as having an agrarian based economy, which meant lots of farms and lots of farmhands.  That is why, for example, Nazi propaganda constantly extolled the virtues of motherhood, including giving cash awards for each new child produced.  There was even a special wing of the Hitler Youth, called the League of German Girls, who upon turning 18-years old became eligible for the Faith and Beauty branch, which provided training on becoming the ideal mother.

Yet another reason Hitler wanted lots of procreation in Germany was his need for lots of German soldiers for his armies. Hitler’s plan was to conquer and enslave the peoples in Eastern Europe, not cohabitate with them, so he knew he would need a strong military to keep order, especially since he envisioned his German Reich lasting for 1,000 years.

As an aside, when Hitler first dreamed up the Mother’s Cross he thought that many of the male children that resulted would be part of the military force he would need to create and maintain his European empire.  Hitler never intended to start a major war in 1940.  He figured that his blitzkrieg war strategy — in which he struck quickly, confused and cowered his victim into surrendering without much resistance, and then consolidated the fruits of each victory before striking again — would last at least until the late 1940s.  At that point he believed he would be too strong for anyone to stop him.

Instead, he not only blundered into all-out war in 1940, he later blundered into a two-front war he could not win.  As a result, many of the children born through the Mother’s Cross program never made it to the farm or the army — or even into their teens.