Sisterhood of Suns

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Nazi Germany


Contrary to popular belief, women also directly served in the German war effort. While many  functioned in traditional Auxiliary roles or as Concetration Camp gaurds, there were exceptions. Despite the fact that the NSDAP wanted women to focus on more traditional roles as mothers and wives, when men became scarce, women took up some of their places. In addition to working as air raid wardens and firefighters, some worked for the Luftwaffe as radio operators and observers (Luftwaffe Helferin), while others served on Anti-Aircraft Guns and in spotlight crews. Later still, some participated in the Volkssturm (the German Militia organization). While not well known or terribly common, some of these women actually engaged in combat with their enemies, although whether by default or intention varied on circumstance. In one instance, and according to the autobiography of a former member of the Hitler Youth, the author claimed to have encoutnered a pair of teenage girls manning a machine gun and intending to fend off a column of  American armor with it. Although they entreated him to stay and help them, he left, and it is presumed that they died, or were captured. Another exception, and also at the very end of the war, concerned what has become referred to as the German underground movement, the Werewolf organization. Numbering only about 5,000, 500 of them were actually women, and they participated right along with their male counterparts in acts of terror and sabotage against the Allied forces and their appointees.


(Images, left to right: Two Luftwaffe Helferin, Ilse Hirsch, A Volkssturm volunteer being instructed in the Panzerfaust Anti-Tank weapon) 

Spotlight: Ilse Hirsch

Born in Hamm, Germany in 1922, Hirsch joined the League of German Women (BDM) at the age of 16 and became one of its leaders in Monschalu. She later joined the Werewolf organization and was trained for a mission to assassinate Franz Openhoff, who had been appointed mayor of Aachen by the Allies. Her job was to act as a guide for five men, and her team was parachuted into the area. They managed to kill Oppenhof, but Hirsh was badly injured when she tripped a mine, killing one of her teammates. Surprisingly, she was not suspected of having any involvement in the murder, and was allowed to return home to recover. However, in 1949, she and several of the other perpetrators were charged and put on trial. Found guilty, they were sentenced to terms of one to four years, but Hirsch and one other team member were set free. By 1972, Ilse Hirsch had married, and had become mother of two teenage boys. Ironically, her residence was only a few miles from Aachen and the scene of the Openhoff's murder.


The Bund Deutscher Madel (BDM):

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