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Erich Hilgenfeldt

Erich Hilgenfeldt


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Erich Hilgenfeldt was born in Ottweiler on 2nd July 1897. He joined the German Army and served as a pilot with the German Army Air Service during the First World War. After military service he worked as the head of sales for a building business. He married Marie-Charlotte Köhler on 24th April 1922. The couple had two boys.

In 1928 he was employed by the Reich Statistical Office. The following year he joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). A talented administrator he was appointed NSDAP Kreisleiter (District Leader) in 1932. He also served as a NSDAP municipal councillor in Berlin.

Joseph Goebbels noticed Hilgenfeldt's talents and appointed him as the head of the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (National Socialist People's Welfare or the NSV) in 1933. Under Hilgenfeldt's leadership the organization was massively expanded and it was described by the Nazi government as "greatest social institution in the world." The NSV eventually became the second largest Nazi group organization, second only to the German Labour Front.

Richard Grunberger, the author of A Social History of the Third Reich (1971) has argued that the NSV became a very important organization in Nazi Germany: "Having taken over a well-functioning public health service, the regime thus disposed of additional resources to remedy deficiencies in the working of that service. If, for instance, a local health office found the establishment of welfare centres for babies too expensive in a thinly populated area, the local National Socialist People's Welfare branch might step into the breach and set up a mother-and-child voluntary centre, and the latter would officially order all mothers and children in the area to attend compulsory examinations for rickets."

Hilgenfeldt held ultimate responsibility for the direction, policy and activities of the women's organizations. One of the first statements he made after his appointment "was to leave all policy-making to men." Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, the head of the Nazi Women's League agreed. She had suggested that female members of the German Communist Party (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) had set a bad example in the Reichstag: "Anyone who has seen the Communist and Social Democratic women scream on the street and the parliament, realize that such an activity is not something which is done by a true woman". She claimed that for a woman to be involved in politics, she would either have to "become like a man", which would "shame her sex".

In 1937 Hilgenfeldt spoke at the Nuremberg Party Rally. The following year on 9th September 1937 he joined the Schutzstaffel (SS). He divorced his first wife, Marie-Charlotte Köhler, and married Leopoldine Statischek in 1940.

Erich Hilgenfeldt, along with his second wife, is believed to have committed suicide in Berlin in April 1945.

Possibly more important was the availability of certain Party organizations as an auxiliary health apparatus that could be activated when the occasion arose. Having taken over a well-functioning public health service, the regime thus disposed of additional resources to remedy deficiencies in the working of that service. If, for instance, a local health office found the establishment of welfare centres for babies too expensive in a thinly populated area, the local National Socialist People's Welfare branch might step into the breach and set up a mother-and-child voluntary centre, and the latter would officially order all mothers and children in the area to attend compulsory examinations for rickets.


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