Marriage loans (German: Ehestandsdarlehen, German pronunciation: [ˈeːəʃtantsˌdaʁleːən]) were part of the promotion of the family in Nazi Germany. Instituted in 1933, they were offered to newlywed couples in the form of vouchers for household goods, initially on condition that the woman stopped working. Unless the husband's earnings were very low, interest rates on the loans continued to be lower if only he worked; and one quarter of the principal was forgiven for each child.
Marriage loans were created by the "Law for the Reduction of Unemployment" of June 1, 1933. Aryan newlyweds were eligible to receive an interest-free loan of 1,000 Reichsmarks, in the form of vouchers in the husband's name that could be redeemed for household goods such as furniture. The amount was approximately one fifth of average annual take-home pay; industrial workers earned 140 RM a month.
Initially, the loans required that the bride stop work immediately and not take another position during the life of the loan unless the husband was earning less than 125 RM per month. Planners hoped that the loan programme would cause 800,000 women to leave the workforce over the first four years, and there was an associated programme of subsidies for household goods manufacture intended to provide jobs for another 200,000 men. In November 1933, the Völkischer Beobachter featured as a "shining" example the mass wedding and subsequent resignations of 122 female employees of the Reemtsma cigarette factory in Berlin, who thereby freed jobs for unemployed men. By 1937, full employment had been achieved and women workers were needed, so the requirement was removed and the loan made available to all young people of documented Aryan ancestry and genetic fitness. This caused an increase in applications: by 1936 approximately one third of couples were receiving them; by 1939 this had risen to 42%. In July 1938, a special marriage loan programme for agricultural workers was added as part of the Decree on the Welfare of the Rural Population: couples were eligible if one partner had worked in agriculture or forestry for five years before they married, and the loan would be excused after a further ten years of such work. There was also a renewable 400 RM subsidy to farm workers for setting up a household.
Applying for the loans required demonstrating ancestral and medical "fitness," which could be onerous. However, a law of August 31, 1939 suspended the documentary requirements in anticipation of the effects of the war.
Couples who were both employed had to pay back the loan at the rate of 3% per month; if only the husband was employed, the repayment rate was 1% a month. In accordance with the Nazi policy of reversing the decline in the birth rate among Germans, one quarter of the loan was forgiven for each child, so that with the fourth child, no more was owed. This gave rise to the colloquialism abkindern (from ab, off, and Kind, child) for discharging the loan by producing offspring.
By the end of 1938, 1,121,000 marriage loans had been extended, 800,000 under the original conditions of requiring the bride to stop work, and a "baby boom" had resulted in the forgiveness of 980,000. The loan was then halved, to 500 RM. The 250 RM for each child remained a powerful incentive; other financial assistance, called Kindergeld, was also available to encourage families to have children. The loans were a particularly strong incentive to marry after extramarital pregnancy had occurred.
The loans were partially paid for by a tax on unmarried people called Ehestandshilfe (marriage assistance, fund for the aid of marriage). This was levied at a rate of 2–5% of gross annual income on those under 55 who were liable for income tax; under a law of October 16, 1934, it was incorporated into the income tax beginning in January 1935.
As a result of the marriage loan programme, furniture and home furnishings were amongst the few retail trade sectors to show expansion under the Third Reich; and this did not apply to department stores, which were specifically excluded.
The East German government forgave all outstanding marriage loans in 1950, and in 1972 instituted its own loan programme, the Ehekredit (marriage credit), which was strongly reminiscent of the Nazi marriage loan: newlyweds under 26 received an interest-free loan of 5,000 East German marks, which was progressively forgiven as they had children (in this case 3), again referred to as abkindern.
- Klaus-Jörg Ruhl, Brauner Alltag: 1933–1939 in Deutschland, Fotografierte Zeitgeschichte, Düsseldorf: Droste, 1981, ISBN 978-3-7700-0585-7, p. 63 (in German)
- Cornelia Schmitz-Berning, Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1998, ISBN 978-3-11-013379-0, p. 161 (in German)
- Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich, London: Weidenfeld, 1971, ISBN 9780297002949, p. 235.
- Matthew Stibbe, Women in the Third Reich, London: Arnold / New York: Oxford University, ISBN 978-0-340-76105-2, pp. 40–41.
- Stibbe, p. 40.
- Ruhl, p. 64.
- David Schoenbaum, Hitler's Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany 1933–1939, 1966, repr. New York/London: Norton, 1980, OCLC 173223624, p. 181.
- Stibbe, p. 41.
- Grunberger, p. 255.
- Ruhl, p. 75.
- Stibbe, p. 87.
- Stibbe, p. 44.
- Schoenbaum, p. 171.
- Stibbe, p. 54.
- Stibbe, p. 155.
- Ruhl, pp. 62–64.
- Christian Zentner and Friedemann Bedürftig, tr. Amy Hackett, The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, New York: Macmillan, 1991, ISBN 978-0-02-897500-9; repr. New York: Da Capo, 1997, ISBN 978-0-306-80793-0, pp. 1, 718.
- Grunberger, pp. 235, 254.
- Zentner and Bedürftig, p. 574.
- Shepard Bancroft Clough, Thomas Moodie and Carol Moodie, eds., Economic History of Europe: Twentieth Century, Documentary history of Western civilization, New York: Harper & Row, 1968, OCLC 463948695, p. 254.
- Schmitz-Berning, p. 122.
- Friedrich Hartmannsgruber, Die Regierung Hitler volume 3 1936, Munich: Oldenbourg, 2002, ISBN 978-3-7646-1839-1, p. 17 (in German)
- Schoenbaum, pp. 134, 143 and note 118.
- Heike Trappe, Emanzipation oder Zwang?: Frauen in der DDR zwischen Beruf, Familie und Sozialpolitik, Berlin: Akademie, 1995, ISBN 978-3-05-002808-8, p. 70 (in German)
- Michael Schwartz, "Emanzipation zur sozialen Nützlichkeit: Bedingungen und Grenzen von Frauenpolitik in der DDR" in Sozialstaatlichkeit in der DDR: Sozialpolitische Entwicklungen im Spannungsfeld von Diktatur und Gesellschaft 1945/49–1989, ed. Dierk Hoffmann and Michael Schwartz, Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Sondernummer, Munich: Oldenbourg, 2005, ISBN 978-3-486-57804-1, pp. 47–88, p. 70 (in German), also in Lieschen Müller wird politisch: Geschlecht, Staat und Partizipation im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Christine Hikel, Nicole Kramer and Elisabeth Zellmer, Zeitgeschichte im Gespräch 4, Munich: Oldenbourg, 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-58732-6, p. 39 (in German): "ein spezieller Ehekredit für junge Ehepaare, der mit der Möglichkeit des 'Abkinderns'—der schrittweisen Streichung der Kreditschuld bei Geburt von mehreren Kindern—stark an die 'Ehestandsdarlehen' des NS-Regimes erinnerte".
- Ulrike Eichborn. "Ehestandsdarlehen. Dem Mann der Arbeitsplatz, der Frau Heim, Herd und Kinder". In Annette Kuhn, ed. Frauenleben im NS-Alltag. Bonner Studien zur Frauengeschichte 2. Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, 1994. ISBN 978-3-89085-860-9. 48–64. (in German)
- Michelle Mouton. From Nurturing the Nation to Purifying the Volk: Weimar and Nazi Family Policy, 1918–1945. Publications of the German Historical Institute. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University, 2007. ISBN 9780521861847.