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By 1944 the Nazis had almost a half million women in uniform serving as support troops. The Luftwaffe assigned 100,000 of these female troops (along with an estimated 900,000 men) to anti-aircraft batteries.
Hanna Reitsch was the only woman in World War II to be awarded the German Iron Cross First Class. Although technically a civilian she tested military aircraft, including the earliest versions of jet planes, and piloted members of the German high command throughout the war.
Uniformed Nazi women also served as concentration camp guards and managed slave laborers in factories. Maria Mandel, an SS Supervisor at Auschwitz, was noted for her personal brutality. In December 1947 she was condemned as a war criminal by the Supreme People's Court in Krakow and executed.
In a marked departure from the early days of the war when German leaders proclaimed that Russia's use of women soldiers demonstrated they were a weak enemy who would easily be defeated by 1945 Hitler approved the formation of coed guerrilla units and all female battalions in the Volkstrum, (the People's Army). Gertrud Scholz-Klink, a Nazi leader, formed battalions of women to carry on the final defense of Germany. There were several newspaper accounts, including one in the "Petersburg Dijen", of female German combat troops fighting near Warsaw.
As the Allies closed on Berlin boys in the Hitler Youth and its "sister" organization the Bund Deutscher Madel were reportedly ordered to fight armed with nothing more than rocks and sticks. Eyewitness accounts confirm that at least some boys and girls were combatants during the fall of the city.