The National Socialist Sisterhood: an instrument of National Socialist health policy


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Abstract

The National Socialist Sisterhood: an instrument of National Socialist health policyWhen Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) came to power in 1933, the new Nazi government focused the German health system on their priorities such as the creation of a racially homogeneous society and the preparation of war. One of the measures to bring nursing under their control was the foundation of a new sisterhood. In 1934, Erich Hilgenfeldt (1897-1945), the ambitious head of the National Socialist People's Welfare Association (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt), founded the National Socialist (NS) Sisterhood (Nationalsozialistische Schwesternschaft) to create an elite group that would work for the goals of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP). Hilgenfeldt proclaimed community nursing as a priority for NS Sisterhood nurses. Catholic and Protestant sisters, who were traditionally dedicated to community nursing, were to be gradually replaced. However, other competing priorities, such as hospital service for the training of junior nurses and work in conquered regions, as well as the lack of NS nursing personnel, hampered the expansion of community nursing. The paper also addresses areas for future research: everyday activities of NS nurses, the service of NS Sisterhood nurses for NSDAP organisations such as the elite racist paramilitary force SS (Schutzstaffel, Protective Squadron), and involvement in their crimes have hardly been investigated as yet.

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