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From the Memorandum by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs on "The Reasons for Our Declining Birth Rate" (1957)

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F. An excess of women:
The great human losses of two World Wars represent another crucial cause for the decline in the birth rate. As a result, today there are 820,000 more women than men just in the age cohorts of thirty to fifty year-olds. All told, one can say that around 1 million women are being denied the opportunity for marriage and children because of this.

G. Frequency of divorce:
The divorce rate, the causes of which cannot be addressed here, is 85 divorces per 100,000 inhabitants. In 1910, there were only 23 divorces per 100,000, in 1937 there were 69 per 100,000. Of particular interest in this context is the fact that, according to private surveys, 12% of all marriages of returning prisoners of war ended in divorce, while the average rate for other marriages was 0.36%. [ . . . ]

H. Ethical aspects and conclusions:
The current magnitude of the decline in the birth rate poses serious problems. We are dealing here with decisions in the absolutely private sphere of human life, decisions that depend largely on the ethical attitude of the individual. Determining that attitude cannot be a matter of the state. The task here lies with the forces of the free ethical-cultural realm, especially with the churches. Surely the ethical side of the problem is even more important than economic-material questions. Economic measures can only have a sustained effect if the ethical preconditions (suppression of an excessively materialistic way of thinking) are given.

It is likewise beyond doubt that the predominant desire for (more) children is broadly opposed by very serious external obstacles (the economic situation of families with numerous children, the housing shortage). This calls the responsible persons in the state and society onto the scene. It is necessary to counteract a development in which largely “the isolated individual became the partner and building block for the constructs of society, especially the state and political life” (Schelsky) [ . . . ]

Source: From the Memorandum by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs on “The Reasons for Our Declining Birth Rate” (1957), pp. 4f., 7ff, 10f. DGB/Bestand Familienfragen/Familiendenkschriften; reprinted in Klaus-Jörg Ruhl, ed., Frauen in der Nachkriegszeit 1945-1963 [Women in the Postwar Era, 1945-1963]. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, 1988, pp. 130-34.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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