GHDI logo

Speech by GDR Minister President Otto Grotewohl: "For the Happiness of Our Mothers and Children" (September 27, 1950)

In 1950, GDR Minister President Otto Grotewohl laid out the basic principles of gender and family policy in East Germany. The GDR constitution, as he explained, enshrined the full legal equality of men and women, and a new family law repealed any legal regulations to the contrary (e.g. portions of the Civil Code on family law). Additionally, Grotewohl also made it clear that the SED viewed social and economic equality as one and the same. From this, it followed indirectly that women were obliged to work. The East German government hoped to raise the proportion of working women (without whom the targets of the planned economy could not be reached) and to increase women’s participation in public life through educational programs and various forms of state support.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 4

[ . . . ]

Our population policy serves peace.

When the Nazis believed back then that they could fill the German living space [Lebensraum] with more than one hundred million people through their calamitous policy of external conquest, they not only turned the entire world into enemies of the German people, but they also marched directly into battle against their own population policy goals. The Fascist population policy was intimately connected with the theory of living space – that is, with the conquest of foreign lands – and it meant war. Behind every birth there was already death. Every one of us knows how the insidious hunger affected everyone, right down to the smallest children, when the cold and criminal phrase “canons instead of butter” [“Kanonen statt Butter”] became the slogan of rearmament. This stands in stark contrast to our peaceful economic plans, our peaceful rebuilding, and the demand for the continuous improvement of the nourishment of our people [Volk], and thus the nourishment of mothers and children, on our own soil and through our own effort.

When §1 of the law thus proclaims that state subsidies must be granted to improve the material condition of large families and to promote greater numbers of children, herein lies the fundamental difference. There is no comparison between the population policy of Hitler and that of the German Democratic Republic. The Fascist population policy served the war and the downfall, our population policy serves peace and prosperity.

As we today and in the future invest many billions in our national economy, in the development of our industry, in the development of our agriculture, in the establishment of scientific institutes and numerous pedagogical institutions, I can think of no better way to make this development a vibrant one than to provide extensive funds from our state budget for the very best that we have in our nation: for our mothers, for our children, and for our youth. They are the bearers of the life of the nation, they are our future, and everything we do shall be done for them, to preserve peace and increase human prosperity.

Workers for the Five-Year Plan

The Five-Year Plan sets the number of those employed in the national economy at 7.6 million. The total number of those gainfully employed must increase by 890,000 over the 1950 figures. The great need for workers makes it necessary to increase the percentage of working women. According to the Five-Year Plan, the percentage of working women in the overall national economy will be raised from 37 to 42 percent, and in state-owned industry from 33.3 to 42 percent. In my welcoming address to the third federal congress of the DFD [Demokratischer Frauenbund Deutschlands or Democratic Women’s League of Germany], I already declared, in principle, that all professions and jobs are open to women, and [I said] that when it comes to drawing up plans for the next generation of workers, there should be a stipulation about the preferential inclusion of women in skilled professions in the electronics industry, in optics and precision engineering, in machine building, in construction, in the graphics industry, and in the wood and furniture industry. This declaration was realized in §19 of the proposed bill. Likewise, the government, following my declaration at the third federal congress of the DFD, has created, in §20, the preconditions for allowing women to participate more strongly in the rebuilding and shaping of social life, also in the countryside. Today, building a new society is impossible without the active and thorough participation of broad segments of women.

The participation of women must become a matter of course in all areas of public life in the German Democratic Republic. Women must be trained not only for vocational participation in state-owned industry or in agriculture, but for all areas of governmental and administrative work.

first page < previous   |   next > last page