German Society: Social Class

German nanny
Figure 1.--This 1903 cabinet portraitwas taken in 1903 by Fritz Kayser in Hannover. On the back it reads, "Hellmuth mit seine Anna, 1903". That meants "Helmuth wih his Anna, 1903." Many working-class girls at the time after finishing primary school at about age 13 would work in the home of an affluent family to help with the housework and take care of the children. The German term was Kindermädchen or Kinderfrau. You can tell that the girl here is a nanny because if the pinafore. Even wealthy girls might wear pinafores, but not with the long apron like this.

Not only were social conventions more formal, but there was a much more static social class structure. This was not just a matter of the still powerful aristoicracy in Imperial Germany, but prospects for working-class children were relatively limited. Most working-class children attended primary school, but relatively few went on to secondary schools. There were no formal restructions. But few working-class children had the money to afford further education. And as there parents were not well educated, their academic preparation was also lsacking as well as parental support for further education. We suspect that the greater informality in manners was at least partially affected by the increasingly aseriveness of the working class. Substantial changes occurred after World War I. The War largely invalidated the clame of Germany's ruling class of competency. (The same occurred in other Eiropean countries.) This War had been a factor in promoting informality in clothing. We suspect the same is true of social formalities as well. It also created a rising demand for political power and a losening of class barriers by the working class. In Britain and France the same process caused a rise of democratic parties demanding social change. In Germany and Italy it led to the rise of Fascism. Many arustocratsand conservatives turned to the NAZIs to preserve the old order, Ironically it was the NAZIs much more than the Socialists of the Weimar Republic that would put an end to the old order. Both the NAZIs and World War II undermined the old social order. It was finally ended by the Communisdts in East Germany who essentially did away with wealth and the West German Economic Miracle which significantly expanded the earmings of the working class.


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Created: 3:23 AM 6/8/2007
Last updated: 2:04 AM 8/28/2009