How have infertile women been treated throughout history

There is this small, deeply disturbing moment in the film "The Miracle of Bern", this post-war epic that interweaves the history of Germany, German football and that of a small family from the Ruhr area. In 1954 the father came home from years of imprisonment, he got off the train, the family waited eagerly on the platform. Then the man rushes up to his wife and hugs her. But the woman withdraws from him, frightened: the girl he takes to be his wife is his daughter. And the wife stands by - worn out, careworn, grayed out. As if under a magnifying glass, she sees what has become of her: an old woman who her husband does not recognize.

And he feels ashamed, like a stranger in a family that no longer needs him. The children are big, the woman got them through war and hardship alone. It wasn't he who protected the family, but them. Another person has even taken on the role of father, if only in the heart of the son: Helmut Rahn, the man who will make Germany the soccer world champion. And now this gray, weakened father comes home from Russia and complains about everything. The manners of the children, the parenting method of the mother. And when the woman makes tentative attempts in bed at night to win him back, he waves it away. It's been ten years since they last saw each other. Ten years and a whole life.

"Can I afford a man?" a newspaper asks its readers

So much had women longed for all the war and post-war years that their husbands would return home. That they were not missed, fallen or starved forever. That they would finally come home and help them struggle to survive. And then they came back and were - annoying.

"Can I afford a man?" asked that in 1948 Hamburger echo his readers. And the women answered frankly. A 32-year-old conductor and mother wrote: "At first he needed a lot of rest, I did everything I could to look after and help him." The men were weakened from captivity. After a brief surrender, however, the young woman began to have doubts. "It would be easier for me without a husband. I have to feed four people and my husband eats the most."

Not love but hunger was omnipresent at the end of the war. It was about food, survival, supporting the family. And this task was mainly left to the women. After all, only they were there.

More than five million German soldiers died in the war, and immediately after the war ended, 12 million soldiers were in captivity. There were mostly only the old, who could no longer be drafted, and the very young, who were almost children. Two thirds of the population were women. In Hamburg, for example, there were 160 women for every 100 men between the ages of 20 and 25.

These women sat in the cellars on the nights of bombing and comforted the children, they climbed upstairs and fetched the last of their belongings from the destroyed apartments. They had knocked stones, had driven into the country with heavy rucksacks to "hamster". They had traded their daughter's winter coat for a kilo of flour and begged the farmers to give them at least a few pounds of apples. They had called up what they had, sometimes their own bodies as well. They lived in barracks, so-called Nissen huts, where the lice attacked the children and they laboriously boiled the laundry. But: They survived. And they were the majority.

They worked wherever men used to work: as teachers, conductors, tram drivers, bricklayers, roofers, glaziers, carpenters. They packed the wagons full of rubble, they dragged the bricks. And then the men came back and wanted to have a lovely, cuddly female again.