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To receive a breastfeeding premium, they had to prove that they were breastfeeding, and to demonstrate this, they had to feed the infant before the male staff present or bring the used diapers to the centre. Obviously, the approach was based on a widespread lack of knowledge of living conditions in the lower classes.

Even if the mothers approved of these new facilities and accepted the associated new values, they could not exploit their potential. For example, a visit to the centre demanded time, hardship and expense. The roads to the centres were long and could often be covered only by expensive public transport. When there were other children, these had to be left unattended at home or taken to the centre as well. In short, these approaches could not work too well, because they ignored the living conditions of the urban working-class family. Neither the budget nor the multiple burdens of a woman as supplementary income earner, housewife and mother were considered.

This discrepancy between theory and practice declined in the years of World War I and the Weimar Republic, when infant care was systematically expanded, and was additionally anchored on a state level. The effects of World War I on infant mortality are assessed in different ways [48,49]. On the one hand, families experienced difficult life circumstances, rationing and economic hardship, on the other hand the infant care has been strengthened, especially during the war years [].

Given wartime population losses and declining birth rates Arthur Schlossmann called on behalf of the Board of the German Society of Paediatrics DGfK on the national government to strengthen infant care: The heat wave in had claimed countless victims among infants, and this had been used as an argument to intensify efforts for the welfare of infants [54].

Similarly there was an impulse to intensify efforts once again after the outbreak of war had caused increasing infant mortality rates. A great many welfare measures thus were taken and the infant mortality rates actually decreased, especially in the cities in the years and , mostly because more mothers started breastfeeding their babies. Whereas the first few months of war had led to an initial decrease in breastfeeding frequency and an increase in recorded infant mortality, the ongoing war had caused food shortages and a collapse of the municipal milk supply, forcing mothers to start breastfeeding again [55,56].

This was supported by the introduction of the state maternity benefit. This payment was—unlike the municipal breastfeeding premiums—not hinged on any control visits. This strengthened the role of welfare centres because the breastfeeding premiums were distributed by them. This way, the visits to the counselling centres increased significantly and at the same time the mothers were bound to the institution over a longer period of time.

The work of the counselling was thus integrated into the public services. This caused an enormous expansion of infant care during World War I. Voluntary visits, which had been campaigned for in vain, had now been achieved by this simple combination of a legal payment with an observation by the counselling centre [57].

Elsewhere, she commented that the shortcomings during the war years caused such a substantial rise in breastfeeding rates which all their campaigning had not been able to achieve [58]. This development marked a significant change in the infant care, because now the state had engaged in substantial financial commitments.

Until then, the financial responsibility had always been left to the local authorities, private organisations and health insurance agencies. To complement the maternity benefit a weekly family help was introduced in the Reich Insurance Code RVO , and at the same time, the reimbursement for impecunious and uninsured mothers prevailed through the state.

Local contemporaries estimated the impact of these measures as positive. In Munich an investigation of the district association showed that about 70 percent of 30, infants were breastfed during the years [59].


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Even from an external perspective these changes were noticed. The English government, which followed with interest the trend of infant mortality rates in the German Empire during the war, expressed a somewhat reserved but generally impressed judgment. The report of the Intelligence Department stated that the breastfeeding rates had increased but—with a stand-offish tone—that the women after the three-month payments would promptly wean their infants Local Government Board, Even if this was the case, the overall situation that more mothers breastfed their infants and that the breastfeeding period was at least three months can be assessed quite positively regarding the situation before The war years showed, in fact, a substantial increase in breastfeeding rates and duration in the German cities with a subsequent drop in infant mortality Figure 1 , to which a combination of relatively cool summers and a sharp decrease in birth rates had contributed additionally.

While local and regional studies from the AngloSaxon countries showed that the breastfeeding rates in these countries were decreasing during the first third of the twentieth century [60,61], the developments in Germany seem to have been more complex—although such a statement is so far based on a few local data [62]. Thus, of pregnancies after a month 87 were breastfed, after three months 55 and after six months still 19 [63]. Given the fact that in Bavaria traditionally low breastfeeding rates prevailed, the development in Munich was even more impressive.

The statistics of the Bavarian State Statistical Office surveys carried out a poll regarding breastfeeding behaviour and duration from to simultaneously with the smallpox vaccinations. According to this survey about 41 percent of all mothers breastfed their children in , and 59 percent applied entirely artificial nutrition [64].

The statistics of the Bavarian Landesimpfanstalt state vaccination institute were continued during the post-war years. Corresponding data was compiled in Munich from the age cohorts from to for 38, infants. The percentage of artificially fed infants was significantly lower than at the beginning of the century, and amounted to 16 percent in with a downward trend in subsequent years up to 10 percent in Table 1. It shows a continuous increase of the number of infants who were breastfed over 1 - 3 months, and especially those of breastfed infants over 3 - 6 months, while the number of breastfed infants over six months declined.

Breastfeeding propaganda constituted a central element of the Nazi infant care, its importance ranked highly on the national health agenda, which was dominated by racial ideology.

I: Introduction

The overall enormous breastfeeding rates above 90 percent, however, have to be seen in relative terms, if in addition the duration of breastfeeding is considered—and actually amounted about 70 percent at the time of the first visit at the infant care centre [65]. At the same time the popularisation strategies reached a new dimension. The publisher supported a young female doctor specialist in pulmonary medicine,.

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Breastfeeding ratio in Munich, in Percent. In a more medical perspective, the content of the guide with its high prevalence on breastfeeding was quite in the tradition of guides from the Weimar Republic and the Empire, but written in a much more aggressive language. In the edition of , relevant passages about breastfeeding read: The emphasis on the first child also suggested that this experience and knowledge could be learned and adopted and were not exclusively natural, innate instincts—even though Haarer regarded the ability to breastfeed generally as hereditary.

In the Soviet zone of occupation in it was put on the list of banished books [71,72]. In the edition of this read: The argument remains rather imprecise and almost vague: Instead, a self-demand feeding concept developed in the USA during the s, was propagated and popularised. This programme promised benefits for both the infant and the mother and was already realised during the hospital stay by accommodation of mother and child in the same room rooming-in.

This diametrically opposed change quickly entered into the paediatric handand textbooks, as the nutritional physiology models could not be countered [75]. Conversely, the term of so-called breastfeeding fanatics and breastfeeding fanaticism came up, stressing that too much pressure on mothers who were physically unable to breastfeed which might evoke feelings of guilt or inadequacy. Simultaneously, the scientific research developed baby food into a high-tech product that large food companies globally promoted with sophisticated advertising campaigns.

Furthermore, as during the s and s progress and technology gained more importance in society, the propagation of an early change to artificial infant nutrition fell on fertile ground. In addition, in the context of the emerging environmental movement the potential toxic contamination of breast milk especially by DDT or dioxin became an issue. Only in the last decades of the twentieth century resistance increased to the sometimes even aggressive marketing methods of food companies for artificial feeding of infants, especially in developing countries where food companies tried to open up new markets, not least because of declining birth rates in industrialised nations.

Accordingly, the debates became internationalised. Members of the working group were sentenced only for the title of the publication and charged with a rather symbolic penance of Swiss Francs per person. In addition, the judge advised the company to rethink its marketing practices.

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In the media this was spread as a moral victory for the Third World group [77]. At the same time, the experts returned to classic views since the s and referred increasingly to the health benefits of breastfeeding and advocated almost unanimously a period of at least six months of breastfeeding.

As the infant mortality serves as an indicator of prosperity and advance of a society, the different levels of infant mortality in Eastern and Western Germany were used as an argument in the ideological conflicts of the Cold War propaganda Figure 4. West Germany interpreted the lower rates in the GDR during the late s and early s merely as related to newly introduced.

Infant mortality in Western and Eastern Germany, By contrast, in East Germany the lower rates were attributed to the local intensive prevention and care, which however, in the long run, was esteemed not to be able to keep up with the western high-tech medicine. This, in turn, was considered to be the explanation why infant mortality rates in the west declined below the rates in the east [79,80].

Traditionally, the infant mortality was used as an argument to convince the mothers of the benefits of breastfeeding. This indicates the geographical distance between the home and fighting fronts, between women and their dying male relatives. Schrag's design reflects men's omnipresence in women's minds despite the distance and points to women's longing to be at their men's side during their last moments. Women on the home front were usually completely unaware of the exact moment that their son, brother, or husband had been killed, and sought to gain detailed knowledge of the final moments of their deceased loved ones as a means of comprehending death and transcending grief.

These letters clearly provided some consolation but as the exact location, nature of wounds and level of pain were rarely communicated to mourning relatives, wartime death was rendered difficult to fully understand. From the female perspective, death on the battlefield thus remained a largely abstract phenomenon; it was the grief that came with death that was concrete and immediate.

Visual depictions of their anguish may therefore have been of particular relevance to women on the home front, who would generally neither have witnessed soldiers dying on the battlefields, nor actually touched the corpse of their dead loved ones. Both images, Heise's re-enacted burial scene and Schrag's imaginative reunification of the bereaved and their dead, represent visual attempts to overcome the constraints of wartime mourning.

The images served not to transcend grief, but to transcend the physical distance from the remains of the fallen. The expectation that women should bear loss gracefully and proudly support male sacrifice, as they were not giving their own lives on behalf of the nation, frequently featured in public discourse in wartime Germany.

Detailed commentary on the subject of dignified female mourning for heroic male death dates back to at least the middle of the eighteenth century. In Germany, the Wars of Liberation and Unification spread the image of heroic patriotic death and glorified military values. The social and gender identities of contemporaries were deeply shaped by these concepts. Pride in, and acknowledgement of, the deeds of the fallen dominated the national memorial culture. Research for the period of the First World War suggests that women generally endorsed heroic sacrifice and publicly demonstrated their pride as mothers of fallen heroes.

Loyalty to the fighting soldiers meant that a number of female writers knowingly and publicly accepted their fate as widows and bereaved mothers, and even embraced it. While the identity of the proud sacrificial mother and wife was undoubtedly a powerful wartime construct, and although many women may have embraced the concept of heroic motherhood in public, private responses to loss were often much more complex. They demonstrate little evidence of proud or willing sacrifice but instead highlight the pain of female loss.


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The linocut Grief Der Gram , produced by the artist Sella Hasse in , offers a very explicit visual testimony to the despair and disconsolation of wartime loss. It deals with the intense pain of bereavement and suggests that loss engendered not only emotional, but also physical suffering. Although the artist herself did not lose a close relative in the conflict, she was deeply affected by the forces of war. Her wartime sketchbooks reveal that she regularly visited a home for recovering soldiers in her hometown of Wismar, and visually captured the destruction of the war and its impact on the home front.

Large, dark-circled eyes and drawn lips emphasize her despair. The raw aesthetics of the piece match the emotion it depicts: Far removed from conventional artistic beauty, Hasse's linocut does not an attempt to aestheticize grief or mourning. One central part of the composition of the image is, however, marked by its absence: The atmosphere of death is further evoked by the presence of the raven, a black-plumed, carrion-eating bird whose claws scratch the woman's shoulder and whose beak appears to be aimed at her eyes, or possibly her heart.

Traditionally viewed as a bad omen, birds belonging to the crow family corvids had a well-established cultural significance in northern Europe in the early modern and modern periods. Ravens, for example, were seen as heralds, delivering the news of someone's passing. The image could therefore represent the traumatic receipt of the news of the death of a loved one at the front. Medieval Europeans believed that crows represented the souls of those who had been unjustly killed and had not been given the honour of proper Christian burial.

Another interpretation could cast the raven as the war itself, or the malevolent bringer of death. In Northern European folklore the raven acted as a type of vulture and was closely associated with war, a connection that was prevalent in many cultural references to ravens hovering above battlefields and following advancing armies. The woodcut conveys the initial shock and unbearable pain of loss by linking grief with self-harm.

The most striking element of the image is the gaping wound in the woman's chest through which she has torn out her own heart, indicating that the physical and emotional pain of grief and sorrow could be so intense as to be life-draining, and the impact of bereavement too much to bear. The woman's heart in the image is not simply broken, but has been cut out of her body, impacting on her will to live. Although visual references to grief were rarely this graphic in women's art, their existence nonetheless illustrates the self-destructive impulse that grief could engender.

As noted by Werner Fuchs in his study on death in modern society, bereavement often causes depression that reduces the mourner's interest in life. There is some evidence for such extreme forms of bereavement in wartime Germany. Tim Grady, in an article on the commemoration of German-Jewish solders, cites an example in which one couple committed suicide after losing their son in the war. The entry in question illustrates the degree to which the artist was perturbed by the extreme reaction.

Both incidents occurred in Berlin, and both women drowned themselves, one over the loss of her only son, and the other after her husband was killed at the front. The sculpture consists of two separate figures, representing the artist and her husband, kneeling at their son's grave. The artist had struggled for years to find an adequate artistic form to represent her loss and, like many of her contemporaries, was deeply conflicted over the ideals for which her son gave his life. A consistent theme in her diary and correspondence is the absence of a grave and the distance to his remains.

Placing a permanent representation of herself and her husband by her son's grave was an attempt finally to overcome the separation of the war years and unite the bereaved with the dead. Women's unfamiliarity with distant battlefields, combined with their physical separation from the final resting places of their beloved dead, fostered a sense of incomprehension that hindered closure and, as the example of Kollwitz illustrates, could last for years. The absence of bodies, in particular, intensified the depth of women's bereavement.

In Germany and elsewhere women responded by adapting private rituals of bereavement to wartime circumstances, a phenomenon expressed widely in German women's art. Through their work, female artists were able to profess the sort of profound grief and emotional distress that had no place in the public performance of proud bereavement in wartime society. Placed within the context of wartime cultures of mourning, the art produced by women during the First World War highlights the link between cultural representation and social rituals of bereavement.

German female artists used their work as a means of reimagining burial rites and reclaiming the dead for families and female relatives in wartime Germany. A number of studies have looked at the widespread need to mourn in response to the enormous human cost of the conflict, but have tended to locate the practice primarily in the collective forms of commemoration of the postwar period and focused on memorials, ceremonies, or pilgrimages.

Pre patterns of heroic wartime mourning and their historically gendered dimensions have been largely overlooked by historians, but they fed directly into the moral codes that governed wartime society and determined attitudes to both the war dead and the bereaved during the First World War. The manner in which the public expression of grief was politicized and moralized, and the degree to which this clashed with private emotional responses to wartime loss, were central to the experience of bereavement. The art produced by German women during the war reveals the level of emotional conflict and psychological distress suffered by the bereaved and thus represents a valuable body of sources that shed light on the emotional history of wartime mourning.

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Sign In or Create an Account. Close mobile search navigation Article navigation. Postwar and Wartime Bereavement. Art as a Source.

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The Burial of the Absent Soldier. Imagining the Absent Dead. Imagining the Absent Dead: Abstract Drawing on women's visual responses to the First World War, this article examines female mourning in wartime Germany. View large Download slide. Katharina Heise, Funeral Procession Trauerzug , lithograph, Sella Hasse, Grief Der Gram , linocut, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Understanding the Great War New York, , pp. Ereignis, Wirkung, Nachwirkung Munich, , pp. Paris, London, Berlin — Cambridge, , vol.

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Benjamin Ziemann, Front und Heimat. Freiburg — Cambridge, Oliver Janz, Das symbolische Kapital der Trauer. Grief and its Political Uses Cambridge, Mass. Western Societies and the Casualties of War Edinburgh, , p. Die Rekonstruktion des Kriegsalltags als Aufgabe der historischen Forschung und Friedenerziehung Stuttgart, , pp. Deutsche Feldpostbriefe in Kriegs- und Nachkriegszeit, — Essen, , pp. Grayzel, Women's Identities at War: Politik und Kriegskultur nach Essen, , pp.

Family, Work and Welfare in Europe, — Cambridge, , p. Holst-Warhaft, The Cue for Passion , pp. A survey of the over twenty First World War diaries held in the German Diary Archive in Emmendingen also indicated that women who suffered bereavement rarely dissected their emotional reactions in their personal writing. Bernd Roeck, Das historische Auge.


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