Home   Genealogy   Forums   Search   Contact
MHO Home
MHO Home
 17th Century
 18th Century
 19th Century
 American Civil War
 World War I
 World War II
 20th - 21st Century

 Write for MHO
 Search MHO
 Civil War Genealogy Database
 Privacy Policy

WWII Sections
MHO Home
 WWII Home

WWII Articles
USS North Carolina vs Bismarck
Operation Compass
Book Review: APc-48
Agent 110: An American Spymaster
Rudolf Hess/Tancred Borenius
Soviet Rifle Corps of WWII
The Morality of Okinawa
The First Class at RAF No. 31 Radio School
Operation Dragoon and Invasion of Southern France
Battle of Buna-Gona
The Silent Service and the Turkey Shoot
Published works on WWII OOB for land forces
Flying Tiger, Hidden Eagle
SAARF – Special Allied Airborne Recon Force
Force at la Difensa
Sabotaging Hitler’s Heavy Water
Soviet Offensive in the Arctic
The Failure of Strategic Bombing
Dutch Harbor: Unraveling of Japan’s Pacific Strategy
Ed Ramsey, 26th Cav Reg (Philippine Scouts)
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45: An Operational Overview
Strategic Culture of the IJN
Battles of Luneville: September 1944
Visual Guide to US Fleet Subs Pt 1
Lodge Act Soldier
The Fate of the Kido Butai
Air Recon in WWII
Turning East: Hitler's only option
Resupply Operations to Malta, 1942
WWII Veteran Interview
Why Arnhem?
Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan
The Battleship USS Oregon
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45 to '48
Jewish Resistance in WWII
Battle for Seaports
Banzai Attack on Attu
End of the Battle of the Java Sea
Texas National Guard in WWII
How Arnhem was Lost
Saga of Ormoc Bay
Silent Service of the Pacific
USS Wahoo
Polish Cavalry: A Military Myth Dispelled
Confucian Martial Culture
Operation Market Garden
Legacy of WWII Sub Veterans
Lausdell Crossroads
Kasserine Pass
Arnhem Startline
Bushido: Valor of Deceit
British Offensive Operations
Sir Winston Churchill
American Stubbornness at Rimling
The OSS in Greece
Strategy of Blitzkrieg
Breaking Seelow Heights
The Rape of Nanking
Small Battle: Big Implications
Harris Class APA's
Aerial Defense of East Indies
Why the Bulge Didn't Break
American Forces in WWII
Shadow Warriors
Battle of Surigao Strait
Panzer Brigades
Adolf Eichmann
Interview of a WWII Veteran
Failure and Destruction
Winter Warfare
Operation Rusty: The Gehlen-U.S. Army Connection
Was Hitler right to invade Russia?
Hitler, Germany's Worst General
Surface Actions of World War II
MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
Japan's Monster Sub
Popski's Private Army
The Soviet Formula for Success
Japan's TA Operation
Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Barbarossa: Strategic Miscalculation
The Story of a "Go Devil"
Long Range Desert Group
Island of Death
The Failure of Operation Barbarossa
The Liberation of Czechoslovakia 1945
Only the Admirals were Happy
Bicycle Blitzkrieg - Singapore
Good Grief Sir, We're in Trier!
Thermopylae, Balaklava and Kokoda
How Hitler Could Have Won
The Battle of Midway
Waffen SS - Birth of the Elite
Nomonhan and Okinawa
Der Bund Deutscher Mädel
Rulers of the World: Hitler Youth
Breakout From the Hedgerows
Memories of D-Day
Motivation of the Einsatzgruppen
Pearl Harbor and Midway
Amphibious Assaults during WWII
The 9th SS Panzer Division
The Warsaw Uprising
Sea Lion vs. Overlord
Maginot Line
Battle of Bastogne
Battle of the Barents Sea
Anzio: The Allies' Greatest Blunder
US Army in WWII
Battle of Mers-el-Kebir
Hitler's Ultra-Secret Adlerhorst
The Wilhelm Gustloff Disaster
The 88th Infantry in Italy

Recommended Reading

Hitler Youth

Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler's Shadow

Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

Visit Chris Ashby's page at:

Ads by Google

Der Bund Deutscher Mädel
Der Bund Deutscher Mädel
(League of German Girls)

by Chris Crawford

The Bund Deutscher Mädel, which was also known by its abbreviation of BDM, was the female branch of the overall German youth movement in the Third Reich, the Hitler Youth. Membership in the Hitler Youth was open to all German girls and boys who were at least ten years old or older. Membership requirements were simple: prospective members had to be Germans who were of no more than one-eight Jewish heritage, and had to be physically and mentally sound.

Once a girl reached 18 years of age she was expected to join the national labor service, the Reichsarbeitsdienst, but she was allowed to remain a member in the BDM until she either got married, had children, or decided to quit the BDM and go on to other pursuits. The majority of BDM leaders on the regional and national level, as well as the BDM's medical staff consisted of ladies with university degrees and job training who were in their late twenties or thirties.

In 1936, membership in the Hitler Youth officially became compulsory under the Hitler Youth Law.

However, this was often not enforced until after the outbreak of the war because the voluntary membership already included most eligible girls in Germany. The Hitler Youth Law mainly served to originally recognize the Hitler Youth as part of the German regime, which opened up the possibilities of monetary contributions from the government, without which a lot of the Hitler Youth's activities and programs might not have been possible.

Besides preparing the young women in the Bund Deutscher Mädel for what were meant to be their future tasks in the community, the BDM also offered a wide variety of other activities that were attractive to potential members and that were very similar to what is offered by youth organizations today. BDM members were able to get reduced rates at movie theaters, go on field trips, and attend camps that lasted anywhere from one day to several weeks. They were also able to compete at local, state-wide, and national sports festivals, and attend youth festivals with international participants.

Local BDM groups usually held two get-togethers each week, one of which was a sports afternoon, the other of which was called Heimatabend, or home evening. During the home evening, girls played music, learned and sang folk songs, played games, or did arts and crafts. After the outbreak of the war, they also used this time to write letters to soldiers at the front, or prepare care packages for them.

The BDM placed big importance on the girls' educations and expected that they would finish school and learn a trade, which was something that was often unheard of for women at that time, many of which worked as untrained helpers or secretaries. Many of the ladies who became regional and national leaders of the BDM were successful women who held degrees and doctorates, and served as a positive example to the girls they led. BDM leaders were always supposed to set a good example, and as such were discouraged from smoking or drinking in public.

The aspect of learning a trade appealed to many of the young women who joined the organization, and it made the BDM appear progressive and emancipating. In the Hitler Youth, girls were almost equal to their male counterparts, which was very unusual for its time. They were able to partake in many of the same activities such as traveling, sports, and regional and national vocational competitions. Only few activities, such as the motorized Hitler Youth, remained closed to girls, although the national youth leadership allowed groups to get additional programs started if interest and funds were available.

It was only until shortly before the outbreak of the war, that the BDM began including programs that were geared more toward the "traditional" roles of the women. The Glaube und Schönheit, or Belief and Beauty Society, was founded in 1939 and many of its courses were geared toward house-holding and child care, and "feminine" sports such as eurythmic dancing.

The Early Years

After the First World War, while Germany was suffering through a horrible depression and the strict sanctions imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles, the German Youth Movement went through a revival and many new youth groups were formed. Some of them were scouting groups while others were mainly nature or hiking clubs.

It comes as no surprise that even in the early days of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the NSDAP or Nazi Party, which was originally founded in 1920, youth groups played an integral role was well.

Although none of these groups were centrally organized within the Nazi party at first and started out with only a few members, they quickly gained popularity and their numbers grew.

Out of all these groups, the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung (Greater German Youth Movement), which was founded by 20-year-old law student Kurt Gruber, became active as early as 1923 and was eventually christened the Hitlerjugend at the 1926 party rally at Weimar. Although there was now a male youth organization, there was not yet an official female organization, but plenty of young women whose brothers were members of the Hitler Youth had begun forming their own groups which became known as Hitlerjugend Schwesternschaften, or Hitler Youth Sisterhoods.

The girls' groups still remained widely overlooked and it wasn't until 1930 that the actual Bund Deutscher Mädel was officially founded. Although the group was now official, membership was still much lower than in its male counterpart, and the BDM would never be able to reach quite the same numbers that the Hitler Youth had. By the end of 1932, directly before Hitler's takeover, the BDM was only about 25,000 members strong.

From the official inception of the Hitler Youth in 1926 throughout most of the existence of the Hitler Youth and the Bund Deutscher Mädel, Baldur von Schirach served as the head of the organization with the title of Reichsjugendführer, which literally translates to National Youth Leader. Von Schirach reported directly to Hitler. From the very beginning, the female part of the Nazi party, the Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft (NSF), tried to gain control of the female youth which it thought better taken care of under the heading of the female section of the party than the male leadership of the overall Hitler Youth, but Hitler himself decided otherwise.

The head of the BDM was the BDM Reichsreferentin, who reported to Baldur von Schirach, but who was in charge of the BDM without having to wait for "male" approval for their decisions. According to Jutta Rudiger, who held the rank of Reichsreferentin from November 1937 through the end of the war in 1945, both Baldur von Schirach and his late-war successor Artur Axmann, let the BDM leaders run their own organization and only offered advice and an open door if there ever were any concerns or problems.

The BDM's Work

While the male Hitler Youth's work consisted of mainly paramilitary training, the work of the Bund Deutscher Mädel consisted mostly of the very same things girl scouts enjoy today – sports, camping, orienteering, first aid, and arts and crafts. Some of the BDM's activities included the following:

Sports – Physical training didn't play as important a role as it did in the male Hitler Youth, but it was still an important part of their work. Each BDM group held one weekly sports afternoon that was instructed by older BDM girls, and sometimes Hitler Youth leaders. Sports generally included track and field events as well as gymnastics. Some regions also offered fencing, ice skating, or rowing clubs.

Organized trips– At a time where few people traveled on their vacation, organized trips and summer camps were an exciting opportunity for the girls of the BDM. Trips were organized to local events and sights, as well as to national, and even some international events. Other times, foreign youth groups visited BDM girls at home in Germany, which was a great opportunity for youth from many different countries to get to know each other.

Charity work – Similar to girl scouts today, BDM girls back then also helped with charitable work, such as collecting work for the Winterhilfswerk which supported poorer families by providing them with heating coal and warm clothing during the colder winter months, or collecting old clothing or old newspapers for new uses.

With the outbreak of World War II in fall of 1939, the Bund Deutscher Mädel found itself in a delicate position. On one hand, the Nazi party now wanted the girls to be educated more toward the traditional roles of women – to be mothers and homemakers -, but at the same time the war ironically placed women in the position of having to fill jobs formerly taken by men in both civilian life as well as in the armed forces. Women now became air raid wardens, military signals auxiliaries and stenographers, but they also served in more traditionally female wartime roles as nurses, troop supporters, or stayed home with the children.

For the BDM, the war also necessitated some changes to their schedule. When local groups met now they often spent time sending letters and postcards to soldiers at the front; knitting scarves, wool socks, or ear warmers for the troops; or making care packages.

Group choirs now often practiced songs that they would later perform for wounded soldiers at hospitals throughout Germany, and girls would wait for trains with soldiers to arrive to welcome them with flowers, sandwiches, or coffee.

"Train station services", in particular, became an important part of the work with the BDM Gesundheitsdienst, or health service, where girls – many of whom had little more than basic first aid training – would welcome injured soldiers and refugees at the train station and make sure they were taken care of. Most of the time, they provided hot drinks, hot soup, or sandwiches; helped people find their way around the station, and helped with some nursing care if it was needed. The girls of the Gesundheitsdienst wore white nurses' aprons with the Hitler Youth diamond insignia and a kerchief-style head covering with the insignia of the Gesundheitsdienst, a runic insignia shaped similar to the letter "Y".

Many of the older BDM girls also took job positions and placements that would be considered full-time jobs in addition to school, to help as nurse aides, substitute teachers, or factory workers. The BDM's own publication, Das Deutsche Mädel (The German Girl) magazine, featured ads for stenographers, and nurses once the war had started, and had articles about girls working as ticket agents on trains, or as nurses, that were meant to get them excited about "doing their part" as well.

Unlike the male Hitler Youth which took a very active part in the last-ditch defenses at the end of the war, the girls in the BDM generally did not take part in the fighting, although many helped to fortify towns or dig trenches to stall the advancing Allied troops. Although Martin Bormann had sent a letter to the regional leaders suggesting that women and girls should also be trained in the use of weapons for self-defense, many girls took up arms against the Allies, and those who did mainly did so against the Russian army in the East which, they were told, was raping and killing any women they came across.

The Hitler Youth and the Bund Deutscher Mädel, together once the largest youth organization in Europe – maybe the world – found itself in ruins and disbanded at the end of the war, just like the political party they'd originated from.

Glossary of German Terms

- BDM Reichsreferentin – literally, National Speaker of the BDM
- Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) - League of German Girls
- Gesundheitsdienst – Health Service
- Glaube und Schönheit – Belief and Beauty Society
- Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung – Greater German Youth Movement
- Heimatabend – home or folk evening
- Hitlerjugend – Hitler Youth
- Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) – National Socialist German Workers' Party
- Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft – National Socialist Women's Society
- Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) - National Labor Service
- Reichsjugendführer – National Youth Leader
- Winterhilfswerk – Winter Relief Society


Littlejohn, David. The Hitler Youth. Johnson Reference Books, 1989.

Rüdiger, Jutta. Ein Leben für die Jugend Der BDM – eine Richtigstellung.

Wartime publications, including "Das Deutsche Mädel" magazine.

- - -

Copyright © 2005 Chris Crawford

Written by Chris Crawford. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Chris Crawford at:

Visit Chris Crawford's page at:

Pictures are courtesy of Stephan Hansen.

Published online: 10/09/2005.

* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of MHO.
© 2018, LLC Contact Brian Williams at: