Translated from the Third Reich original. Brief portrayal of the evolution from prehistory onward of the Germanic social structure. Includes: family, clan, tribe, province, empire, role of women, foreigner, servant, freeman, noble, king.
Just as father and mother are bound in the family, so do they belong close together as house-master and house-mistress in the management of the estate. That, too, is already Indo-Germanic legacy, as the naming among the various individual Indo-Germanic folks makes recognizable. From this, the position of honor of the married woman is especially clear. Subordinate to her were the children and the domestic servants; often she will have managed the whole farmstead, when the husband at the Thing assembly was absent for days or even away at war. What did such a Germanic family look like? Among us today in metropolitan conditions, it is, after all, so that the son makes himself independent as soon as possible and starts his own household. We want such a kind of family that consists of parents and children, called, in short, a “small-family” [“Kleinfamilie’]. Aside from that, however, there existed a family long past down in peasant conditions and that goes back to indo-Germanic prehistory, in which even the married sons, leastwise some of them, still remained in the farmstead and who were all subservient to the house-father and house-master. That is the “large-family” [Grossfamilie]. It is informative that precisely the oldest ancient Germanic kinship names that have been passed down in the Germanic vocabulary extent to the large-family. They extend from the grandparents to the grandchildren. The names are still familiar to us today, even though some are only seldom applied with the fine differentiation that one observed earlier (See “Oheim” – Nephew.) In the present language form, let us here mention: “Ahn” (grandfather), “Ahne (grandmother), father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, “Schnur” (daughter-in-law), “Schwäger” (wife’s father-in-law), “Schwieger” (wife’s mother-in-law), grandchild. Our old German word for son-in-law, “Eidam”, is more recent than those other examples and no longer ancient Germanic, rather a special construction of Western Germanic man. Living together, these degrees of kinship had to be carefully kept apart. In the large-family, the oldest male, hence the father or grandfather, was the chief of the whole family, the mother or grandmother his right hand. The cohesion of such a family with various married couples naturally required a good measure of prestige, dignity and power, and so it comes about that, for example, among the Indo-Germanic Greeks, the word for house-master has finally become the term for self-master: “Despot” originally meant, as linguistics teaches, nothing other than house-master. The farmstead hence had to correspondingly provide the possibility for the lodging of numerous family members and also domestic servants. But domestic servants unrelated to the family did not play a significant role with the free peasant who possessed a farmstead of common size. Generally, the family members served the house-master. Accordingly, it was not a disgrace to, say, work on the farm of the older brother, conditions that we sometimes still encounter even today. A large family, at any rate, was necessary for the farmstead and the clan. In this connection, we must again speak about the Germanic marriage. Under these orderly agrarian conditions, there was naturally only room for monogamy. Polygamy, as Tacitus relates, existed among rulers, who took a second wife for political reasons in order to establish friendly ties with other folks. Symptoms of the decay of marriage may be noted later here and there in times of turmoil. But the peasant family remained healthy in marriage, too, with its passed down traditions valid to this day.