This section of the website will showcase my collection of relics from the Second World War (and honestly probably other random cool stuff) and share some information about them for inquiring minds. Today’s edition: The Cross of Honour of the German Mother (Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter) or simply the Mother’s Cross for short.
I became curious about these at some point during my graduate career. This one is my newest acquisition – I was exploring an antique mall with my father and came across a booth that had a very small collection of war memorabilia, all reasonably priced. I snatched this one up immediately and put it on layaway, and then Dad surprised me for Christmas by paying it off completely!
Hitler’s plans to build a “master race” were not limited merely to Himmler’s breeding program within the SS. Indeed, Hitler encouraged German women on the home front to do their part as well and produce as many children as possible to further his future plans for the Reich. The Mother’s Cross was one of the inducements offered, and was considered a high honor that was only bestowed after a lengthy bureaucratic process which basically put a microscope to a woman’s morality via the lens of Nazism.
To receive the Mother’s Cross, the woman in question had to meet the following qualifications:
- Both parents, and all four grandparents, had to be of ethnic German blood.
- The woman had to be “worthy” morally and physically, i.e. no genetic “defects,” no history of mental illness or criminal record, no previous abortions, no record of prostitution, no previous interracial relationships, no history of promiscuity, etc. You get the idea.
- The children all had to be live births, healthy, and free from all genetic “defects,” and the parents had to be clearly willing to bring them up to be “useful” members of Nazi society.
Beyond all this there were of course stringent requirements for the family. The husband could not be an alcoholic nor a criminal, the family could not be a welfare burden, and the house needed to be reasonably orderly. Basically, these crosses only went to mothers who could be considered models of feminine German virtue – think the perfect mid-century TV family, only with more racism and the Gestapo waiting outside the front door.
Originally they were awarded once in year in May, but as the war progressed they came along with other major holidays.
The Mother’s Cross was available in three classes.
1st Class: Gold, awarded to eligible women bearing eight or more children.
2nd Class: Silver, awarded to eligible women bearing six or seven children.
3rd Class: Bronze, awarded to eligible women bearing four or five children.
Mine is an example of 2nd class, in silver. It’s hard to tell in the photograph, but the enamel work is in dark blue. Around the Swastika it reads: “Der Deutschen Mutter” (The German Mother). The back of both pins are inscribed “16 Dezember, 1938” and bear facsimile signatures of Hitler and the Minister of State Otto Meissner.
The smaller pin with bow was made available for all three classes and was approved for daily wear.
The reason why I love objects with history behind them so much is because of the questions they always raise. I wish I could hold these objects and just SEE, the good and the bad! Bloody hell, my entire novel was written based on this desire. What would this show us? Dreams and nightmares and wars and hopes and heartbreak and fear. I wonder who this mother was, and what happened to her and her family as the war progressed. In 1938 things must have looked pretty good to her, and she would have had no idea of the trouble Hitler was about to bring down upon the heads of her children. Did her husband survive? Did all of her children? Were any of her boys old enough to be drafted, and in the last days, as the Allies bore down on both sides, were even the youngest expected to fight in whatever way they could? Or did they merely huddle in a cellar somewhere and prey for mercy? How did this medal end up in American hands? Was it a trophy looted from a bombed-out apartment somewhere, or was it discarded or sold by children or grandchildren eager to be shed of all trappings of their Nazi roots?
We shall never know.
P.S. Before you ask, there’s no serial number or anything I could use to try and track this and an internet search revealed no such database of German mothers awarded this cross, so those avenues which might satisfy my academic curiosity are closed to me. If the paperwork had been preserved along with it, well. But alas, it has not! C’est la vie!
P.P.S If you, kind reader, know something I do not and can give me a way to research the provenance of this particular artifact, please please, drop it in the comments. If such a thing exists, I will update this blog on my research!