What did the Nazis have to do with him?

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Written By Maya Cantina

Opinions are divided on Mother’s Day: While storefronts are decorated with pink hearts and flowers, children in daycare centers are busy making small Mother’s Day gifts, and mothers beam with happiness in television commercials with funny slogans, others consider the day completely unnecessary. They argue: Mother’s Day only serves up clichés of old gender roles and is a consumer battle that retailers cash in on. Appreciation for mothers? You don’t need a single day for this, it should happen all year round.

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But many are also bothered by the historical legacy of Mother’s Day. It is often said to have been an invention of National Socialism. But is this true?

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500 cloves is the start

The origin of Mother’s Day goes back a long way – to ancient times. During their spring festivals, the ancient Greeks, for example, paid homage to Rhea, the goddess of earth and fertility. British historians refer to “Mother’s Day”, whose tradition, originally dedicated to the “Mother Church”, began in the Middle Ages. Later, on this spring day, children who worked for wealthy families were allowed to return to their mothers. As a small gift they brought them flowers they had picked along the way.

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The origins of Mother’s Day in its modern form can be found in the USA. In 1870, poet and women’s rights activist Julia Ward Howe called for a “Mother’s Day of Peace” in the face of war and slavery. Feminist Anna Jarvis took up this idea decades later. It is considered the “Mother’s Mother’s Day”. Then she had in mind to honor the political role of women in society once a year. Her role model was her mother, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, who founded the Mother’s Days Works Clubs, in which she campaigned against high infant mortality and to promote health. He died on May 9, 1905.

On the third anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her with a special memorial service. She handed out 500 red and white carnations, her mother’s favorite flowers, to all the mothers who attended the service at St. Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in West Virginia. The red carnations were intended to honor living mothers, the white ones to honor the memory of the deceased. Carnations are still a popular Mother’s Day gift today.

Anna Jarvis campaigned for years to make Mother’s Day a recognized national holiday. At the request of Congress, US President Woodrow Wilson finally established the second Sunday in May as a national day of honor in 1914. But it quickly became commercialized, something Jarvis fought hard but in vain. The fact that Mother’s Day had its roots in the women’s movement was forgotten.

National Socialist Award “Cross of Honor of the German Mother”

It didn’t take long for the idea of ​​Mother’s Day to spread to Europe – initially in England, Scandinavia and Switzerland. In Germany, the first Mother’s Day took place on May 13, 1923, at the initiative of the “Association of German Florists” for purely commercial interests. It was established as “Flower Wish Day”, which was advertised by posters with the inscription “Honor the Mother”.

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A few years later, the day of honor fell into the clutches of the National Socialists. Even if they didn’t invent it, at least they used it for propaganda purposes. In 1934 they declared Mother’s Day a national holiday and reduced women’s role in their ability to give birth. “With every child that the woman of the nation gives birth to, she gives her fight for the nation,” said Adolf Hitler.

On Mother’s Day 1939, three million women were awarded the “German Mother’s Cross of Honor” – a medal for special achievements in childbearing. From the fourth child onwards the award was given in bronze, from the sixth in silver and for eight or more children the award was given in gold. Provided that the women’s lifestyle was in line with the values ​​of the Nazi regime.

After World War II, Mother’s Day was initially abolished. But already in the early 1950s it experienced a comeback – at least in the Federal Republic. There he was mainly engaged in trade. In the GDR, where Mother’s Day was characterized as Western-reactionary, International Women’s Day on March 8 replaced it.

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Renaming Mother’s Day?

But even today, nearly a hundred years later, National Socialism is still attached to Mother’s Day. This is one of the reasons why there has been a demand to rename it to Parents’ Day.

“I believe that we need to redefine Mother’s Day as a Parent’s Day, otherwise we give the mother a responsibility that she cannot and does not realize on her own”, argues family and education researcher Vassiliou Fthenakis. Father’s Day could also be rededicated in this way. “Parents’ Day as a day of love, understanding, understanding and respect No society can exist without parents.” “We will not represent the whole diversity with one model, but the spirit behind it.”

RND/with material from dpa

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