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Memo Regarding Maria-Elisabeth Koch

Memo regarding Marie-Elisabeth Koch
Bundesarchiv Berlin

Beginning in the 1930s, the Nazi Party attempted to redefine the roles of men and women in German society. While they restricted women to primarily maternal and domestic roles, Nazi policies opened up opportunities for women willing to embrace an ideal of Nazi womanhood.1 This combination of limitation and opportunity was clearly illustrated in the occupied territories of eastern Europe.2 Young German women were recruited as "missionaries of Germandom" and assigned to serve as laborers and advocates of the "New Germany."3 Some female students embraced what was advertised as an adventure along the borderlands of the German Reich.

The featured source is a memo written in November 1941 by Gertrud Delmas, leader of a district office for the Student Labor Service in the Warthegau, a region of western Poland annexed by Nazi Germany. The memo documents suspicion surrounding Maria-Elisabeth Koch, a student at Munich University, during her time as a laborer at a farm in the district of Grabica. The details of Koch's apparent "offenses" are not known, but Delmas released her from service and withheld her pay. Koch's motivations are unclear, but other letters and memos from her local office for student deployment describe students' attempts to avoid service in the region. Such cases were rarely punished in any significant way, although Germans who had sexual relations with Poles were often brutally disciplined.4

Nazi women's organizations such as the League of German Girls and the Women's Labor Service taught young girls to regard service in eastern Europe as especially important for Germany's project of racial domination.5 For those committed to this ideology, work in occupied Poland was portrayed as particularly patriotic and courageous. For many women, this kind of deployment provided spaces for experiencing the world outside the confines of the wartime domestic household.

One scholar has described Nazism as "an overtly misogynist movement." See Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (New York: Routledge, 2012), 5. For more on familial roles during the Nazi period, see the related Experiencing History collection Family Life During the Holocaust.

Elizabeth Harvey, Women and the Nazi East: Agents and Witnesses of Germanization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 11.

Ibid, 57.

Maren Röger, "The Sexual Policies and Sexual Realities of the German Occupiers in Poland in the Second World War," Contemporary European History, vol. 21, no. 1 (2014): 1–21. See also the related source in Experiencing History: Public Humliation of a Young Couple.

For an account of women who participated in the Nazi genocide of Jews in Eastern Europe, see Wendy Lower, Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

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File memo

The student Maria-Elisabeth Koch, who worked as an aide during her Agricultural Service-Support Service deployment in Kreis Lask in the community of Grabica, left this deployment on September 27, 1941, with my permission (because her mother had fallen ill) and at my instigation (because her behavior during deployment was harmful to the reputation of the female students).

Instead of attending the stipulated Kreis conference, she traveled to Litzmannstadt with a male acquaintance.

As the woman who owned the country estate where she [Koch] was living told the head of the task force and the Kreis advisor (however, in the belief that both of them were accurately informed, because she was otherwise very reticent in these matters), the lifestyle of the student was such that she had caused disconcertment and was not at all a good example for someone who was deployed.

For these reasons, the scheduled savings funds will not be paid out to the student Maria-Elisabeth Koch.

Litzmannstadt, November 18, 1941

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv Berlin
Accession Number NS38/1490
Date Created
November 1941
Author / Creator
Gertrud Delmas
Litzmannstadt, Germany
Reference Location
Łódź, Poland
Document Type Report
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