The difference was the extent and depth to which Third Reich proponents pursued such policies. In addition to negative measures such as banning birth control, positive incentives went beyond the prestige of medals and social recognition for mothers of many children. For example, couples could subtract fifteen percent of their total gross income for each child before income tax was applied. “Marriage loans” of up to RM 1000 were instituted in 1933 for couples who could show “racial purity” for two generations, and in which the wife had worked or sought work but agreed to leave employment at marriage. Note that this law was aimed more at opening up jobs for the male population than for “breeding” purposes; the ban on a wife working was removed from the loan agreements in 1937. However, twenty five percent of the loan was remitted for each child born to the couple. And these and other subsidies were financed by new taxes of up to five percent of total income levied on unmarried people.
For less sensationalized, and more in-depth and up-to-date treatment of these issues than Bleuel’s book, see:
Renate Bridenthal, “Something Old, Something New: Women Between the Two World Wars,” in Becoming Visible: Women in European History.
Elizabeth Heineman, What Difference Does a Husband Make? Women and Marital Status in Nazi and Postwar Germany.
Claudia Koontz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics.
Claudia Koontz, “The Fascist Solution to the Woman Question in Italy and Germany,” in Becoming Visible: Women in European History.
Were Third Reich state policies effective in producing higher birth rates? Based on actual population statistics like the chart above, it seems doubtful to me that they were, to the desired extent. Here is one expert’s synopsis, which supports Mark’s and Witch-King’s opinions:
Claudia Koontz, Mothers in the Fatherland, pp. 186-7.For all the public pressure, the birthrate in the Third Reich did not ever equal the rates from the last years of the “decadent” 1920s. Although recipients of marriage loans bore 360,000 babies between 1933 and 1939, it is not clear that these births resulted directly from government rewards. Throughout the 1930s, abortion as a percentage of the total crime increased steadily, a trend that the authors of a governmental report considered “stunning!” given the strength of Nazi pro-family legislation and propaganda. Evaluating fertility statistics in a short period inevitably presents problems. In the case of Germany during the 1930s, we can tentatively conclude that the birthrate failed to increase as dramatically as social planners predicted, although, on the other hand, German fertility remained relatively high compared with other western European nations.
The most carefully thought-out pro-natalist program in any industrialized state did not significantly alter parents’ desire for children. Parents considered their aspirations for a higher standard of living, the atmosphere of Nazi Germany, the expense of raising children, and housing shortages, and they limited the number of children they bore. The trend toward small families proved intractable. Not even strict enforcement of antiabortion laws seems to have made a major impact. A staff officer in the SS estimated that in 1936 as many as 500,000 abortions had been performed. “The fact that many abortions are committed in the racially most valuable circles,” he reported, defied social planners. “If these abortions could be prevented, in twenty years we would have an additional two hundred regiments.” Little had changed by the late 1930s, when statisticians' estimates of abortions ranged from 500,000 to 1 million annually. Even the lower figure would suggest that abortions outnumbered children born to the Marriage Loan couples....