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Women of the Third Reich
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Women of the Third Reich
The following is a short biographical portrait of some forty women who either gave full support to Hitler, were sympathetic to the Nazi party, or were strongly anti-Nazi and played an active part in the anti-Hitler resistance movements. Many paid the supreme penalty for their actions. The vast majority of German women however were neither pro nor anti-Nazi but nevertheless went along with the system thus providing passive support.
EVA BRAUN (1912-1945)
At twenty-five minutes past two on the morning of February 7, 1912, Eva Anna Paula Braun was born in Munich. Later in life she was to become the mystery woman of Hitler's Third Reich. Wife of Hitler for one day and his mistress for twelve years, she first met Hitler in 1929 while she was assistant to the beer-loving Heinrich Hoffmann, the Third Reich's official photographer who had his shop at No.50 Schellingstrasse. He had already joined the Nazi party with party card number 427. Eva Braun committed suicide with Hitler on April 30, 1945 in his underground bunker in the Reich Chancellery gardens in Berlin. It was her third attempt, the first having been in November 1932 when she was found, with a bullet in her neck. On May 28, 1935, Eva, who often complained of Hitler's neglect, decided to take thirty-five sleeping pills just to 'make certain'. Late that night she was found unconscious by her sister Ilse who called a doctor just in time to save her life. It is interesting to note that Eva never became a Nazi Party member. Outside of Hitler's close circle of cronies she was completely unknown to the general public until after the war. Eva's mother, Franziska Braun, lived to the ripe old age of 96 and died in Ruhpolding, Bavaria in January,1976. Her father, Fritz Braun, died on January 22, 1964.
(1912-1945) Hitler's mistress from 1932 and his wife during the last few hours of his life, Eva Braun was born in Munich, the daughter of a school teacher. Of middle-class Catholic background, she first met Hitler in the studio of his photographer friend, Heinrich Hoffmann (q.v.), in 1929, describing him to her sister, Ilse, as "a gentleman of a certain age with a funny moustache and carrying a big felt hat."
At that time Eva Braun still worked for Hoffmann as an office assistant, later becoming a photo laboratory worker, helping to process pictures of Hitler. The blonde, fresh-faced, slim, photographer's assistant was an athletic girl, fond of skiing, mountain climbing and gymnastics as well as dancing.
After the death of Geli Raubal, Hitler's niece, she became his mistress, living in his Munich flat, in spite of the opposition of her father who disliked the association on political and personal grounds. In 1935, after an abortive suicide attempt, Hitler bought her a villa in a Munich suburb, near to his own home, providing her with a Mercedes and a chauffeur for personal use. In his first will of 2 May 1938 he put her at the top of his personal bequests - in the event of his death she was to receive the equivalent of £600 a year for the rest of her life.
In 1936 she moved to Hitler's Berghof at Berchtesgaden where she acted as his hostess. Reserved, indifferent to politics and keeping her distance from most of the Fuhrer's intimates, Eva Braun led a completely isolated life in the Fuhrer's Alpine retreat and later in Berlin. They rarely appeared in public together and few Germans even knew of her existence. Even the Fuhrer's closest associates were not certain of the exact nature of their relationship, since Hitler preferred to avoid suggestions of intimacy and was never wholly relaxed in her company.
Eva Braun spent most of her time exercising, brooding, reading cheap novelettes, watching romantic films or concerning herself with her own appearance. Her loyalty to Hitler never flagged. After he survived the July 1944 plot she wrote Hitler an emotional letter, ending: "From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere--even unto death--I live only for your love."
In April 1945 she joined Hitler in the Fuhrerbunker, as the Russians closed in on Berlin. She declined to leave in spite of his orders, claiming to others that she was the only person still loyal to him to the bitter end. "Better that ten thousand others die than he be lost to Germany," she would constantly repeat to friends.
On 29 April 1945 Hitler and Eva Braun were finally married. The next day she committed suicide by swallowing poison, two minutes before Hitler took his own life. On Hitler's orders, both bodies were cremated with petrol in the Reich Chancellery garden above the bunker. Her charred corpse was later discovered by the Russians.
The rest of Eva Braun's family survived the war. Her mother, Franziska, who lived in an old farmhouse in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, died at the age of ninety-six, in January 1976.
Youngest of the three daughters of Fritz and Franziska Braun, her real name was Margarethe and was born three years after Eva. They lived in an apartment on the second floor of No. 93 Hohenzollernstrasse (the house still stands).
An adventurous and carefree girl, Eva nicknamed her 'Mogerl' because she was often sulking. She spent considerable time with her sister at the Berghof, which Eva loved to call the Grand Hotel. She married Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein (37), a lieutenant general in the Waffen SS, on June 3, 1944 in the Salzburg town hall. The reception was held at the Berghof and later at Hitler's mountain retreat on the Kehlstein (The Eagles Nest), the only real party ever held there.
During the last days of the Third Reich, Fegelein tried to escape from Berlin but was discovered and arrested. Next day, Hitler ordered him shot. An effort was made by Eva Braun to save him but to no avail. Gretl survived the war and gave birth to a daughter, Eva, on May 5, 1945. The name Fegelein was never mentioned again in the Braun household.
The inner circle celebrates in the Berghof. This photo is usually labeled as showing Hitler's birthday in 1943 or even '44, but several details show it to have been taken much earlier than that, probably 1939 or 1940. Eva's appearance shows this to be an earlier photo; in addition, both Wilhelm Brückner and Max Wünsche had left the Führer's immediate service by the end of 1940. Front row, left-right - Wilhelm Brückner (Hitler's chief personal adjutant), Christa Schroeder (one of Hitler's secretaries), Eva, Hitler, Gretl, Adolf Wagner (Gauleiter of Munich), Otto Dietrich (Press Chief); 2nd Row, left-right - Gerda Daranowski (later Frau Christian, another of Hitler's secretaries), Margarete Speer, Martin Bormann (partially hidden), Dr. Karl Brandt, Heinrich Hoffmann; Remainder, left-right - Dr. Theo Morell (Hitler's personal physician), Hannelore (or Johanna) "Hanni" Morell, Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer (Hitler's naval adjutant), Gerda Bormann, Max Wünsche (one of Hitler's SS aides), Heinrich Heim (from Bormann's staff).
Born Winifred Williams in 1894 to an English father and German mother. In 1915 she married Siegfried Wagner, twenty-five years her senior, and son of composer Richard Wagner. She became entranced with Hitler and his Nazi movement in the early 20s. When Siegfried died in 1930, she became a close friend and staunch supporter of Adolf Hitler whom she first met in 1923.
It was rumored that a marriage between Adolf and Winifred was in the offing, but nothing came of it. Such an event would have solicited great support from the German people. The Führer himself entertained such thoughts believing that a union of the names Hitler and Wagner would ensure the adulation of the masses for time immemorial. In fact he once proposed marriage to her but on becoming Chancellor in January, 1933, he felt there was no need now for him to marry. He felt himself already 'married' to his adopted country, Deutschland.
A frequent visitor to her home, the 'Villa Wahnfried', where her three children knew him by the nickname 'Wolf', Hitler was often seen with her at various performances during the Bayreuth Festival, the last time in the late summer of 1940 when they attended a performance of 'Götterdämmerung'. Winifred Wagner died in Uberlingen on March 5, 1980, unrepentant of her relationship with Hitler.
Wagner's music has long been linked to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. Hitler loved Wagner and even as the tide of World War II began to turn against Germany, he kept the Bayreuth Festival running. When things got so bad that no one could afford to attend the Festival (or to even get to the town of Bayreuth), the House was packed with wounded German troops who were given free tickets by the government.
Hitler's connection to Bayreuth remained strong in part because of his personal friendship with Winifred Wagner. She was the British orphan who had come to adoptive parents in Germany. The elderly Klindworths were very involved in the world of Wagner and naturally Winifred fell under the spell of the music.
Just at the time Winifred reached young-womanhood, there was a desperate need for Richard Wagner's only son Siegfried to wed and thus deflect increasing rumours of his homosexuality. The attractive Winifred, many years Siegfried's junior, was set before him. They married and miraculously managed to produce four children despite stories of Siegfried's continuing same-sex dalliances.
The death of Cosima in 1930 finally paved the way for Siegfried to fully take the reins of the Bayreuth Festival but in an odd twist of fate he only survived his mother by a few months. On Siegfried's death, Winifred took over the running of the Festival with the support of the artistic staff and musicians, thus marginalizing Siegfried's sisters.
Hitler had visited Bayreuth in 1925 and Winifred had met him and stood with him before Richard Wagner's tomb (above). Later, when Hitler was in jail for fomenting political unrest, she sent him parcels of food. And writing paper - on which he is thought to have written MEIN KAMPF.
With Hitler's rise to power, his passion for Wagner and his view of Bayreuth as a world symbol of the superiority of German art assured that the Festival would to continue thru the war years. Winifred and Hitler were in frequent contact and spent much time together; he would come to Bayreuth and stay - whenever he could find the time - in a house (adjoining Wahnfried) known as the Fuhrer Haus. He loved to sit up late at Wahnfried before a blazing fire (even in summer) regaling the Wagners and their guests with long stories; his audience reportedly sometimes had trouble staying awake. Other times Hitler would suddenly call for Winifred and/or her sons Wieland and Wolfgang to come immediately to Berlin or to meet him at some other site. The Fuhrer's wish was their command. (The above photo is from the cover of Hamann's book).
As the war escalated, Hitler had less time for Winifred but kept up his interest in the Festival. When Winifred heard of instances of Nazi brutality and the enforcement of harsh anti-Jewish laws, she believed that Hitler's henchmen and goons were acting without his knowledge. She thought of Hitler as a warm and peace-loving man. Her sons called him Uncle Wolf.
As Germany teetered on the brink of defeat, supplies exhausted and services non-existent, Winifried clung to the hope that her Wolf had a secret plan up his sleeve to crush the enemies marching on the Fatherland. She was deluded. The book's description of the day the Allied forces entered Bayreuth (April 14, 1945) gives us an unusual perspective of what its like for the ordinary folk of a defeated country when wars end. [One fact the book reveals of which I'd previously been unaware was that there was a 'small' concentration camp right outside the town of Bayreuth; it was more of a way-station where people were held awaiting shipment to the large camps away in the East].
Then began Winifred's long de-Nazification process; at her trial the testimony of several Jews (and their family members) who she had helped get released from the camps via her connection to Hitler helped soften the punishment; she was not imprisoned or (as she dreaded) sent to a work camp, but she was stripped of her position as head of the Festival. Her sons managed to distance themselves from her and to down-play reports of their own involvements with Hitler. To emphasize the brothers' full breaking with the past, Wolfgang banned his mother from entering the Festspielhaus (above). The ban held nearly until her death.
Winifred claimed not to have known about the horrible atrocities committed by the Third Reich; she knew that Jews and homosexuals were impounded in camps but not of the gas chambers and the ovens and the mass graves. She viewed the Nazi era simply as a time of strong nationalism, and of pride in all things German - and especially of pride in the Master's music. Over the years she quietly kept contact with others who had passed thru the de-Nazification process. They maintained a coded link by referring to "USA" ("Unser selige Adolf" - "Our Beloved Adolf").
Winifred Wagner might simply have faded quietly out of the world's attention were it not for a filmed interview which took place in 1975. The filmmaker Hans-Jurgen Syberberg requested to interview her, supposedly for a documentary about the Festival and her role in it. His secret agenda seems to have been to talk to a legendary woman who had known Hitler personally and never repented of her friendship with him. Syberberg put Winifred at ease with his chattiness and she was delighted to have an audience for her recollections. He tricked her by leaving an audiotape machine running even when the cameras were off. Among her many reflections on the Nazi era and her friendship with Hitler, this quote caused a sensation:
"If Hitler were to walk in through that door now, for instance, I'd be as happy and glad to see and have him here as ever. And that whole dark side of him, I know it exists but it doesn't exist for me because I don't know that part of him. You see, the only thing that exists for me in a relationship with somebody is my personal experience."
In 1977, she was finally allowed back into the Festival Theatre where the controversial Patrice Chereau RING Cycle was being presented. She considered the production a desecration.
Winifred Wagner died in 1980 at the age of 83.
Born in 1896 in Hartfeld, Austria, younger sister of the German Führer and the fifth and last child of Alios and Klara Hitler. At one time she worked as a secretary for a group of doctors in a military hospital but kept her identity a secret. When she would see a small chapel when traveling in the mountains, she would go in and say a silent prayer for her brother.
Each year Hitler would send her a ticket to the impressive Nuremberg Rally. In March, 1941, Hitler was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna and it was here that Paula met him for the last time. It was always her opinion that it was a pity her brother had not become the architect he always wanted to be. Paula was seven years younger than her brother, but he never mentioned her in his writings because of his embarrassment at her weak mental state.
Until the last weeks of the war, Paula Hitler lived in Vienna where she worked in an arts and craft shop and when the war ended was interviewed by U.S. Intelligence officers in May, 1945. Reluctant to talk she said tearfully, "Please remember, he was my brother." She lived under the name of Frau Wolf (Hitler's nickname) a name he asked her to adopt after the Anschluss with Austria in 1938.
After the war, she lived unmarried in a two bedroom flat near Berchtesgaden, her main interest being the Catholic Church. She died on June 1, 1960, without ever being invited to the Berghof. Her grave is in the Bergfriedhof in Berchtesgaden.
Two historians yesterday acclaimed the discovery in Germany of a journal written by Adolf Hitler's sister, saying it offers remarkable insights into the dysfunctional nature of the Führer's family. Paula Hitler's journal, unearthed at an undisclosed location in Germany, reveals that her brother was a bully in his teens, and would beat her. Recounting the earliest memories of her childhood, when she was around eight and Adolf was 15, Paula wrote: "Once again I feel my brother's loose hand across my face."
The typewritten journal is among an assortment of documents which have been disclosed by historians Timothy Ryback and Florian Beierl. Dr Ryback is the head of Germany's Obersalzberg Institute of Contemporary History, which is dedicated to research into Hitler, while Mr Beierl has written several books about the Nazi party leader and Third Reich chancellor. They said that scientific tests had verified the documents' authenticity.
Other insights include the revelation that Paula, always thought of as the innocent bystander of the Hitler family, was engaged to one of the Holocaust's most notorious euthanasia doctors. Dr Ryback told the Guardian: "This is the first time that we have been able to get an insight into the Hitler family from a very young age. "Adolf was the older brother and father figure. He was very strict with Paula and slapped her around. But she justified it in a starry-eyed way, because she believed it was for the good of her education."
The two historians have also located a joint memoir by Hitler's half-brother, Alois, and half-sister, Angela. One excerpt describes the violence exercised by Hitler's father, also called Alois, and how Adolf's mother tried to protect her son from regular beatings. "Fearing that the father could no longer control himself in his unbridled rage, she [Adolf's mother] decides to put an end to the beating. "She goes up to the attic, covers Adolf who is lying on the floor, but cannot deflect the father's final blow. Without a sound she absorbs it."
Mr Beierl said: "This is a picture of a completely dysfunctional family that the public has never seen before. "The terror of the Third Reich was cultivated in Hitler's own home."
Mr Beierl's research also led him to Russian interrogation papers, which exposed the fact that Paula Hitler was engaged to Erwin Jekelius, responsible for gassing 4,000 people during the war. Mr Beierl said: "Until this point, Paula Hitler had a clean slate. But the portrayal of her being a poor little creature has suddenly shifted. "In my opinion, the fact that she was due to marry one of Austria's worst criminals means that she was also connected with death, horror and gas chambers." And Dr Ryback added: "To me, discovering that Paula was going to marry Jekelius is one of the most astonishing revelations of my career. "She bought into the whole thing - hook, line and sinker."
Paula, who later lived under the pseudonym Wolf, did not marry Jekelius, as the wedding was forbidden by her brother. Dr Ryback said: "It was like a scene from Monty Python. Jekelius goes to Berlin to ask Hitler for his sister's hand; he is met by the Gestapo, shipped off to the Eastern front, and snapped up by the Russians."
Other eye-opening documents that shed light on the Hitler household include a family account book. One entry mentions a loan of 900 Austrian crowns given to Hitler in the spring of 1908, enough for the teenager to live on for one year, and dispels the myth that he existed as a "starving artist" when in Vienna. The historians were asked to carry out their extensive research almost six years ago for the German television station ZDF. Their findings, due to be broadcast in a 45-minute documentary in Germany next week, also include interviews with two of Hitler's relatives.
Dr Ryback said: "This is the first time that these people have spoken publicly about living under the shadow of Hitler. They do not romanticise their past. They are very humble and have suffered their whole lives under the curse of Adolf. "It is an incredible closing of a loop: Hitler came from a family of poor farmers. After he rose and fell as a dictator, his family today is back where they started." Hitler's relatives requested to remain anonymous in the documentary and their faces are digitally altered.
1960-Paula Hitler, the younger sister of Adolf Hitler and the last child of Alois Hitler and his third wife, Klara, dies aged 64 in Berchtesgaden. Paula was the only full sibling of Adolf Hitler to survive into adulthood.
HANNA REITSCH (1912-1979)
Born in Hirschberg, Silesia, (now Jelenia Góra, Poland) she became Germany's leading woman stunt pilot and later chief test pilot for the Luftwaffe. She worshipped Hitler and the Nazi ideology and became the only woman to win the Iron Cross (first and second class). Hanna Reitsch spent three days in the Bunker just before Hitler's suicide on April 28, then flew out with the newly appointed Chief of the Luftwaffe, General Robert Ritter von Greim, who's orders were to mount a bombing attack on the Russian forces who were now approaching the Chancellery and the Führerbunker. Hanna Reitsch survived the war and died on August 24, 1979 in Frankfurt, from a heart attack. Von Greim was arrested and while awaiting trial committed suicide in a Salzburg hospital on the 24th of May, 1945.
LENI RIEFENSTAHL (1902-2003)
Born Leni Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl on August 22, 1902. Ballet dancer, actress, film director and producer, she was born in Berlin and founded her own film company in 1931 to produce 'The Blue Light'. She was appointed by Hitler to produce films for the Nazi Party such as 'The Triumph of the Will' and her masterpiece 'Olympia', the famous documentary of the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin.
She has always insisted that she was never a member of the Nazi party but neither was she an opponent of Hitler. Before the war her films received all the international awards but after the war Lenii was castigated because of it and spent almost four years in Allied prisons. Boycotted and despised, she has never been able to make another feature film. Editing the film she says, 'nearly ruined my health'.
In 1952 she was cleared of war-crimes charges by a German court. In 1962 she travelled to Africa and spent eight months living with the Nuba tribe. At the age of 70 she undertook an underwater scuba diving course and for the next 18 years filmed hundreds of undersea documentaries. At age 90, Leni Reifenstahl became a member of Greenpeace. She regrets ever having made 'Triumph of the Will'.
Propaganda and Indoctrination provided the population with the satisfaction of belonging to theVolksgemeinschaft. This identification excluded any solidarity, any expression of partiality with those targeted for persecution and murder. To the bitter end, the vast majority of Germans identified themselves with the Nazi Regime and their beloved Führer. “Das haben wir nicht gewußt!” “We knew nothing about it!” That was the widespread claim among the German population before and after 1945. As the German historian Wolfgang Benz states, 'What for many was self-protection turned into the greatest sham of a generation after the collapse of the Hitler state”
Leni Riefenstahl and Albert Speer helped to disseminate and cement historical lies and legends and, in so doing, provided many with a most welcome alibi: If Speer and Riefenstahl professed ignorance how could 'ordinary' people have known of the murder of Jews?
Within Joseph Goebbels' empire of propaganda and indoctrination Leni Riefenstahl emerged as the favourite filmmaker of the Nazi regime. She was a brilliant artist and skillful propagandist who, from the beginning, aroused considerable debate.
She began her career as dancer, actor and film director of the new genre of 'Mountain' films that attracted Hitler's admiration. After the 'seizure of power' in 1933, when her Jewish colleagues and friends were banned from the world of culture and forced into exile, she accepted Hitler’s offer to make films documenting the power, glory, and mission of Nazi Germany. She enjoyed the prestige, popularity and the prizes awarded to her for her films – both in Germany and abroad.
She operated in an industry dominated by men. Introducing pioneering camera techniques and using the latest production technologies she created masterpieces of film propaganda that became milestones in the history of cinematography. Some critics argue they are the best propaganda films ever made. Her black-and-white documentaries of the 1934 Nuremberg party rally ('Triumph of the Will') and of the 1936 Berlin Olympics brought her 'pre-war acclaim and post-war infamy'. 'Triumph of the Will’ captured the grandeur and orchestration of Nazi rallies and rituals. At its centre stood the deification of Adolf Hitler and – in all her works and throughout her life –fascination with the concepts and Fascist images of 'Youth', 'Body' and 'Beauty'.
After the war Leni Riefenstahl was categorised by a de-nazification tribunal as a Nazi 'sympathizer'. She retreated into a self-imposed exile in an attic of a Munich house. In the 1960's she reinvented herself and reemerged as a photographer who depicted the exotic life of the Nuba tribe in Sudan and then the colourful underwater world of barrier reefs.
Haunted by the past, accused of being a Nazi, seducer, liar, denier, anti-semite and mistress of Hitler, Goebbels and other Nazi leaders, she sought to clear her name and to defend her films. She defined her films as 'works of art' and claimed that they had nothing to do with Nazi politics and propaganda. She never offered an apology for her involvement with the Nazis. She insisted that she had never been a member of the Nazi party, let alone an anti-semite or mistress of Nazi leaders. Like many others, she maintained that she had known nothing about the slaughter of 6 million Jewish men, women and children.
In her final years she reappeared in public and social life mixing with celebrities of sports and culture including tennis player Boris Becker and actors Madonna and Jodi Foster. She enjoyed the reputation of “feminist pioneer”. Leni Riefenstahl died in Berlin in 2003, at the age of 101. Her death re-ignited the old controversy surrounding her 'Horrible and Beautiful Life'. There are signs that with the passage of time her life and works will be viewed in a more positive and forgiving light.The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Die Macht der Bilder) This award-winning documentary is a biographical account of the woman best known as Hitler’s official filmmaker and more recently as the controversial photographer of the Nuba tribe of East Africa. Confronted with Ray Müller’s questions about her career, Riefenstahl delivers an emotional defense of her relationship with Hitler and other Nazi leaders, splitting hairs over minute details. Analyzing many sequences from her films in a manner that is both passionate and sophisticated, she attempts to vindicate her infamous past.
Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens) Approved by Hitler as the official film record of the sixth Nazi-party Congress held in 1934 at Nuremberg, this infamous film provides a case study of cinema as a means of propaganda that, nonetheless, preserves its integrity as an art form. Defending her role in making this film, the director stated that she "faithfully photographed what existed in reality." Yet Riefenstahl’s camera uncovered the psychological truth of an autocratic society.
Conscripted into the Luftwaffe in 1939 and owing to her secretarial skills became personal secretary to Reich Marshal Göring for a period of five weeks during the closing stages of the war. She knew at that time that Göring's art treasures were stolen but was afraid to talk to anybody about it. While at Berchtesgaden she was issued with a pistol and a cyanide pill with instructions to shoot as many Russians as possible before taking the poison pill. (It was believed that the Red Army would reach Berchtesgaden before the Americans). Placed under house arrest by the Gestapo when they came to arrest Göring, she was then arrested again when the Americans arrived. All her belongings were taken from her and placed in a heap, doused with petrol and set alight. She was then interned in a POW camp for the next ten days from which, with the help of an American guard, she escaped and started out on the long walk of around 1,000 kms to her home on the shores of the Baltic Sea, a journey which took her seven weeks. Some years after the war, Lucie Wolf emigrated to Australia and became an Australian citizen.
Journalist with the Offenbacher Zeitung in Frankfurt. Because of her Jewish faith she was dismissed from her job in the mid 1930s. Taking up social work she became director of the Centre of German Jewish Children at the Frankfurt Jewish Congregation office. In this capacity she helped thousands of Jewish children to escape to England and other European countries during the Kindertransport period of 1938-39. Martha accompanied many of these transports to England. Back in Frankfurt she helped operate a soup kitchen and eight old peoples homes which cared for 570 elderly Jews. On June 10/11, 1942, a total of 1,042 Jews of Frankfurt and 450 from Wiesbaden were assembled in the Frankfurt Grossmarkthalle prior to boarding trains for deportation to the east. Martha Wertheimer was assigned by the Gestapo to take charge of this transport. A few weeks later, a postcard sent to a friend already in the Lodz ghetto, was the last the Jewish community ever heard of this courageous woman or of the victims on the train.
SOPHIE SCHOLL (1921-1943)
Martyr of the anti-Nazi movement at Munich University where she studied biology and philosophy. Arrested with her brother Hans, a medical student, both were sentenced to death by the People's Court, and on February 22, 1943, twenty-two year old Sophie and her brother Hans were beheaded by the guillotine. They were instrumental in organizing the resistance group known as the 'White Rose'. In one of their illegally printed pamphlets, she wrote 'Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie'. The graves of Hans and Sophie Scholl can be seen in the Perlach Forest Cemetery, outside Munich.
HILDE MONTE (MEISEL) (1914-1945)
Poet and writer for the Berlin paper 'Der Funke', representing the Socialist International. Living In England when Hitler became Chancellor, she joined the campaign of resistance against the Nazis. To carry on the struggle against Hitler she decided to return to her homeland and in 1944 had reached Switzerland via Lisbon. In Vienna, she established a secret intelligence chain with a group of anti-Nazi's. In attempting to cross the border into Germany she stumbled into an SS patrol. A shot was fired that shattered both her legs. As the SS rushed to arrest her, Hilde Monte (Meisel) bit hard into her suicide pill. She died instantly.
MARLENE von EXNER
In May, 1943, an electrocardiogram revealed no improvement in Hitler's heart condition. A stomach ailment also troubled him and he discussed this at a meeting with Romania's Marshal Antonescu who recommended to him a well known dietitian from Vienna, Frau Marlene von Exner. She took up her duties to cook exclusively for the Führer with an inducement of a 2,000 Reichsmark cash payment and a tax free salary of 800 marks a month. While serving at Hitler's headquarters she became engaged to an SS adjutant and it was through this that Hitler learned that her great grandmother was Jewish. Hitler had no option but to sack her immediately 'I cannot make one rule for myself and another for the rest' he explained.
ERIKA MANN (1905-1969)
Writer and daughter of Thomas Mann the novelist. Born in Munich, she fled Germany in 1933 in a car given to her by the Ford Motor Company after she won a 6,000 mile race through Europe. In 1935 she married the English poet W.H.Auden. This marriage of convenience was arranged to give her British nationality. She returned to Europe and continued to attack the Nazi regime in her writings. Her 1938 book 'School for Barbarians' described to the world the true nature of Nazism. This was followed by a series of lectures in America titled 'The Other Germany'. In 1950 she returned to Switzerland where she died in Kilchberg, near Zurich, on August 27, 1969 after surgery for a brain tumour.
ELIZABETH von THADDEN (1890-1944)
Teacher and activist in the anti-Hitler movement. Born in Mohrungen, East Prussia now Morag, Poland, she taught in a Protestant boarding school at Wieblingen Castle near Heidelberg which she founded in 1927. Forced to resign in 1941 by new state regulations, she started working for the Red Cross. She was reported to the Gestapo for things she said during a discussion on the regime at her home on September 10,1943. She was arrested, charged with defeatism and attempted treason and sentenced to death by the Peoples Court. On September 8, 1944, she was executed. Her half brother, Adolf von Thadden, survived the war and became a member of the Bundestag and later chairman of the National Democratic Party (NPD).
LAGI COUNTESS BALLESTREM-SOLF
Daughter of diplomat Dr.Wilhelm Solf, ex Ambassador to Japan. In 1940, she married Count Hubert Ballestrem, an officer in the German military. At her mother's house a group of anti-Nazi intellectuals met regularly to discuss ways to help Jews and political enemies of the regime. Many Jews were found hiding places by the Countess and her mother, Frau Solf. Documents and forged passports were obtained to help them emigrate to safety. At a birthday party given by their friend, Elizabeth von Thadden, a new member was introduced to the circle. It later turned out that the new member, Dr.Reckzeh, was a Gestapo agent and all members of the Solf Circle had to flee for their lives. The Countess and her mother went to Bavaria but the Gestapo soon caught up with them. Incarcerated in the Ravensbruck concentration camp the Countess only saw her husband once when he came on leave from the Russian front. In December, 1944, they were sent to the Moabit Remand Prison to await their trial before the People's Court. On February 3, 1945, Berlin was subjected to one of the heaviest air raids of the war. Next morning the word got around that the notorious Judge Freisler was killed in his own court-room by a falling beam during the raid. The trial was postponed to April 27 but a few days before, all prisoners were discharged as Judges and SS guards fled the city as the Soviet Army approached. Frau Solf went to England after the war and her daughter was reunited with her husband and lived in Berlin. All told, seventy-six friends and acquaintances of the Countess and her mother were killed during the last few months of the war. Countess Ballestrem-Solf died while in her mid forties through trauma caused by her husband's imprisonment by the Soviet authorities.
LILO GLOEDEN (1903-1944)
Elizabeth Charlotte Lilo Gloeden was a Berlin housewife, who, with her mother and husband, helped shelter those who were persecuted by the Nazis, by sheltering them for weeks at a time in their flat. Among those sheltered was Dr. Carl Goerdeler, resistance leader and Lord Mayor of Leipzig. Lilo Gloeden, her mother and husband, were all arrested by the Gestapo, and Lilo and her mother subjected to torture under interrogation. On November 30, 1944, all three were beheaded at two minute intervals by guillotine in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin.
LILO HERMANN (1909-1938)
German student who became involved in anti-Nazi activities. She was arrested and sentenced to death for high treason, becoming the first woman to be executed in Hitler's Third Reich.
CHARLOTTE SALOMON (1917-1943)
Born in Berlin, daughter of surgeon Professor Albert Solomon. In 1933, being Jewish, he was deprived of his right to practice medicine. Charlotte was admitted to the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in 1935 (some Jewish students were admitted whose fathers had fought in World War 1) After Kristallnacht, father and daughter were given permission to leave Germany. They settled in Villefranche in the South of France. After Italy signed the surrender, German troops marched into Villefranche and on 21 September, 1943, the Gestapo arrested Charlotte and her husband, Alexander Nagler. Deported by train to Auschwitz both were gassed on arrival. Professor Solomon survived the war and in 1971 presented to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam a total of 1,300 paintings done by Charlotte in the three years before her arrest.
Resident of Hamburg, married Captain Julius Wohlauf on June 29, 1942. Captain Wohlauf was the commanding officer of First Company, Police Battalion 101, at that time conducting mass executions of Jews in eastern Poland. After the first major killing action in the town of Józefów, Frau Wohlauf joined her husband for a delayed honeymoon. During the next few weeks, Vera Wohlauf, now pregnant, witnessed several killing operations at her husband's side. Accompanied by Frau Lucia Brandt, wife of Lieutenant Paul Brandt, also of Police Battalion 101, they were witnesses to the day-long massacre and deportation of the Jews in Miedzyrec on August 25. Other wives of officers were party to all this as were a group of Red Cross nurses. After the killings, the wives and their husbands sat outdoors at their billets, drinking, singing and laughing and discussing the day's activities. This was how Frau Vera Wohlauf spent her honeymoon.
Born in Manchester, England, and at age 26 married William Joyce, the leader of the British National Socialist League and became the League's assistant secretary. In August, 1939, she accompanied her husband to Germany and made her first broadcast from Berlin on November 10, 1940 under the name 'Lady Haw Haw' (Her husband was already well known as Lord Haw Haw) In 1942 she appeared under her real name with weekly talks about women's economic problems. Both were arrested on May 28, 1945 and taken to London for trial on charges of treason. William Joyce was found guilty and hanged in 1946. Margaret Joyce was spared a trial on the basis that she was a German citizen (her husband having become a naturalized German citizen in 1940). She was deported to Germany and interned as a security suspect for a short while. After her release she returned to London where she died in 1972.
ODETTE SANSOM (1912-1995)
Born Odette Marie Celine in Amiens, France, in 1912. She married Roy Sansom, an Englishman, to whom she had three daughters and made her home in England in 1932. When war broke out she joined the First Aid Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y) and was later recruited into the French Section of the SOE. (Special Operations Executive) Given the code name 'Lise' she was sent to France and joined up with a resistance circle headed by British agent Peter Churchill. Arrested by the Gestapo on April 16, 1943, Odette, posing as Peter Churchill's wife, was taken to Fresnes Prison near Paris. Tortured and badly treated during fourteen interrogations, she refused to give away her friends. She was then sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp north of Berlin on July 18, 1944 to be executed, but the camp commandant, Fritz Sühren, believing her to be a relation of Winston Churchill, used her as a hostage to reach the Allied lines to give himself up. On August 20, 1946, Odette Sansom was awarded the George Cross by the King and the Legion d'Honneur from France. When her first husband died she married Peter Churchill and in 1956 when that marriage was dissolved she later married wine importer Geoffrey Hallowes who had also served in the SOE in France. In 1994, the year before she died, she paid an emotional visit to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck (now a memorial site) her first visit since since she left the camp in 1945.
One of the most outstanding female German secret agents of the war. Born 1914 in Kiev to Jewish parents, and after the Bolshevik Revolution the family settled in Copenhagen. She trained as a dancer and took up night club work in Paris.We next hear of Vera in Hamburg, as the mistress of Major Hilmar Dierks, the naval intelligence expert of the Hamburg Abwehr (the counter-intelligence department of the German High Command). Recruited by Dierks into the Abwehr she soon made a name for herself as Germany's top female spy. In September, 1940, she and two other agents were landed on the north-east coast of Scotland (Operation Lena). Under her code-name Vera Erikson, she soon caught the attention of the Scottish police and she and her two companions were arrested at Portgordon as they tried to buy a train ticket to London. Her two companions, Karl Druegge and Werner Walti, were both hanged as spies in Wandsworth Prison but Vera was never brought to trial, she simply disappeared. It is assumed that she 'turned' and worked for British Intelligence until the end of the war. Military Intelligence (MI5) files on Vera Chalbur, or Chalburg, have still to be released.
CLARA ZETKIN (1857-1944)
Born Clara Eissner in Weiderau, Saxony in 1857. A strong campaigner for women's suffrage she married the marxist Ossip Zetkin. Clara became a member of the Reichstag from 1920 to 1933, she was leader of the political movement against the Nazi Party. An early member of the German Communist Party she visited Moscow in 1920. In 1932, after a slashing attack on Hitler and the National Socialists in the Reichstag, she was denounced as a Fascist menace. She died on the 20th of June, 1933, at age seventy-six, a few months after Hitler became Chancellor. Her ashes were laid to rest in the wall of the Kremlin.
IRMA GRESE (1921-1945)
Irma Ilse Ida Grese, twenty-one year old concentration camp guard, after initial training at Ravensbrück, served at Auschwitz and later at Belsen where she was arrested by the British. Condemned to death at the Belsen Trial, held at No.30 Lindenstrasse, Lüneberg, she was hanged at Hameln Goal on Friday the 13th of December, 1945, by the British executioner, Albert Perrepoint. As she stood composed on the gallows, she spoke one last word as the white hood was pulled down over her head, 'Schnell' (Quick) she whispered. Once when home on a short leave from Auschwitz, she was beaten and turned out of the house by her father for proudly wearing her SS uniform. A cruel sadist, she was said to have had love affairs with Dr.Josef Mengele and the Belsen camp commandant, Josef Kramer.
During World War II Irma Grese was the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals. She was born on October 7, 1923, to a agricultural family and left school in 1938 at the age of 15. She worked on a farm for six months, then in a shop and later for two years in a hospital. Then she was sent to work at the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.
She became a camp guard at the age of 19, and, in March 1943, she was transferred to Auschwitz. She rose to the rank of Senior SS-Supervisor in the autumn of 1943, in charge of approximately 30,000 women prisoners, mainly Polish and Hungarian Jews. This was the second highest rank that SS female concentration camp pesonnel could attain.
After the war, survivors provided extensive details of murders, tortures, cruelties and sexual excesses engaged in by Irma Grese during her years at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. They testified to her acts of pure sadism, beatings and arbitrary shooting of prisoners, savaging of prisoners by her trained and half starved dogs, to her selecting prisoners for the gas chambers.
She habitually wore heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol. She used both physical and emotional methods to torture the camp's inmates and enjoyed shooting prisoners in cold blood. She beat some of the women to death and whipped others mercilessly using a plaited whip.
The skins of three inmates that she had had made into lamp shades were found in her hut.
After the Kommandant of Bergen-Belsen, Josef Kramer, Irma Grese was the most notorious defendant in the Belsen Trial, held between September 17 and November 17, 1945. Grese was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. She was executed on December 13, 1945.
ILSE KOCH (1906-1967)
Called the "Bitch of Buchenwald' she was married to SS-Standartenführer Karl Koch, the camp commandant of Sachsenhausen and later of Buchenwald. Sentenced to life imprisonment the sentence was reduced to four years. On her release she was re-arrested in 1949 and tried by a German court, this time again sentenced to life. On September 1, 1967, when she was sixty one years old, she committed suicide by hanging herself in her cell in Aichach Prison in Bavaria. Her son, Uwe, born in prison in 1947, received her last letter, in it she wrote "I cannot do otherwise. Death is the only deliverance".
Ilse Koch was born in Dresden, Germany in 1906. A secretary by profession, Koch joined the Nazi party in 1932. Four years later, she married Karl Otto Koch (1897-1945), head of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, who in 1937 was assigned to build a new concentration camp in Buchenwald. Ilsa went with him and became a SS-Aufseherin (overseer) at the camp.
While Karl Otto was known for his personal greed in the camps he worked in, Ilse was known as the “Bitch of Buchenwald” for her bestial cruelty and sadistic behavior. She was especially fond of riding her horse through the camp, whipping any prisoner who attracted her attention. Her hobby was collecting lampshades, book covers, and gloves made from the skins of specially murdered concentration camp inmates, and shrunken human skulls.
Prisoners' Tattooed Skin
Ilse Koch would specially select prisoners with distinctive tattoos on her rides around the camp. These prisoners would be killed and their skin tanned and stored for later use by the SS guards.
Her taste for collecting lampshades made from the tattooed skins was described by a witness at The Nuremberg Trials after the war:
"The finished products (i.e. tattooed skin detached from corpses) were turned over to Koch's wife, who had them fashioned into lampshades and other ornamental household articles .."
In the book Sidelights on the Koch Affair by Stefan Heymann, the author pointed out that the fact that the Kochs had lamps made of human skin did not distinguish them from the other SS officers. They had the same artworks made for their family homes:
"It is more interesting that Frau Koch had a lady's handbag made out of the same material. She was just as proud of it as a South Sea island woman would have been about her cannibal trophies .. "
In 1942, the Kochs received a punative transfer to Majdanek. In August 1943, Karl Koch was arrested by the Gestapo at the request ofSS judge Josias Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont. Karl Otto was charged with the unauthorized murder of three prisoners, while Ilse was accused of the embezzlement of more than 700,000RM. Though Ilse was acquitted, Karl Otto was convicted and shot in April 1945.
At the end of the war, Koch was arrested and charged with "participating in a common criminal plan for encouraging, aiding, abetting and participating in the atrocities at Buchenwald." In 1947, an American military tribunal found Koch found guilty and sentenced her to life-imprisonment.
A German national, at one time married to a Russian and formally a teacher in Russia. In 1944, she was appointed to the post of matron at a newly established children's home in Velpke, a village near Helmstedt, Germany. She had no previous experience whatever in running a children's clinic. Assisted by four Polish and Russian girls, the health of the infants soon deteriorated to the extent that within months more than eighty children died through gross negligence. The infants had been forcibly removed from their Polish mothers (who were working on farms as slave labour) at four months old. At a British Military Court, held at Brunswick in March/April, 1946, Frau Valentina Bilien was found guilty of a war crime and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Female guard in various camps, and one-time supervisor of the Ravensbrück concentration camp and later served in the extermination camp of Maidanek in Poland. In 1949, she served three years in prison in Austria for infanticide. After her release she was granted an amnesty from further prosecution in that country. In 1959 she married an American engineer named Russell Ryan and settled in New York. Granted US citizenship in 1963, this was revoked in 1973 when a warrant for her arrest was issued in Dusseldorf. At her trial in Germany she was sentenced to life imprisonment, the first US citizen to be extradited for war crimes.
UNITY MITFORD (1914-1948)
'Bobo' to her friends, and one of seven children of the second Baron Redesdale (David Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford). She was introduced to Hitler in 1935 while studying art in Munich. This 21-year-old British aristocrat became his frequent companion and supporter and together with Eva Braun, often stayed at Winifred Wagner's house during the Bayreuth Festival. When Britain declared war on Germany, Unity's dreams were shattered and she tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head. Found severely wounded in the Englisher Garten, she was hospitalized on Hitler's orders and for months lay in a state of coma. Hitler visited her twice in room 202 in the Nussbaumstrasse Clinic but she showed no sign of recognition. On April 16,1940, she was sent back to England in a special railway carriage via Switzerland. Back in England she was subsequently operated on but nothing more was heard of Unity Valkyrie Mitford till the end of the war. She died on May 19, 1948, never having fully recovered from the wound. She is buried in the graveyard of St.Mary's Church in the village of Swinbrook. Unity's sister, Diana, married Brian Guiness of the Irish brewing family. When later they divorced, Diana studied fascism and joined the British Union of Fascists. There she met and married its leader, Sir Oswold Mosley.
ANNE FRANK (1929-1945)
German-Jewish girl who hid from the Gestapo in a loft in Amsterdam for two years. Born in Frankfurt on June 12, 1929, daughter of businessman Otto Frank. The Frank family, Otto, his wife, daughters Margot and Anne, left Frankfurt for Amsterdam in 1933. When the German army invaded Holland in May, 1940, they went into hiding until August 4, 1944 when their hiding place was betrayed by a friend. Anne and her family were arrested and imprisoned in Westerbork. On September 3, 1944, they embarked on a three day journey, along with 1,019 other Jews, to Auschwitz in Poland. On arrival, 549 of the deportees were immediately gassed. Some weeks later, Anne and her sister Margot were sent back to Germany to the Belsen concentration camp where Margot died of typus at the beginning of March 1945. Anne died a few days later. Anne's mother died in Auschwitz on January 6, 1945. Anne's diary was found a year later by her father, Otto Frank, who survived the war and when published, caused a sensation. Translated into thirty two languages it became a successful stage play and film. Today, the secret hiding place in the house at 263 Prinsengracht by the Prinsengracht Canal, is visited by thousands each year.
EDITH STEIN (1891-1942)
Born in Breslau, daughter of a Jewish timber merchant. She rejected Judaism and became a Catholic nun in 1922 and in 1932 she was appointed lecturer at the German Institute of Scientific Pedagogy, a post from which she was dismissed because of her Jewish parents. She then entered the Carmelite Convent in Cologne as Sister Teresa Benedicta. In the elections of 1933 she refused to vote and was prohibited from voting in the elections of 1938. Transferred to a convent in Holland, she was arrested by the Gestapo when Germany invaded that country. With many other Jews she was sent to Auschwitz where on August 9, 1942, she was put to death in the recently built gas chambers. Edith Stein was later proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul 11, an act which infuriated many Jews who think that she is not an appropriate representative of Jewish victims.
MILDRED ELIZABETH GILLARS (1901-1988)
An American citizen born in Portland, Maine, she studied music in Germany in the 1920s and taught English at the Berlitz Language School. During World War 11 she broadcast Nazi propaganda from a Berlin radio station. Aimed at American GIs, she was soon nicknamed 'Axis Sally' by the Allied troops. Arrested after the war by the US Counter-Intelligence Corps, she was sentenced to twelve years in prison in the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, West Virginia where she converted to Catholicism. Paroled in 1961, she started teaching German, French and Music in a Roman Catholic school in Columbus, Ohio. In 1973 she completed her bachelor's degree in speech at the age of seventy-two. Five years later she died of colon cancer.
MAGDA GOEBBELS (1901-1945)
First Lady of the Third Reich and wife of Propaganda Minister and Gauleiter of Berlin, Joseph Goebbels. In 1930 she divorced her first husband, millionaire Gunter Quandt, from whom she was granted the custody of their son, Harald, four thousand marks monthly allowance and fifty-thousand marks to purchase a house. She eventually leased a seven room luxury top floor apartment at No 2 Adolf Hitler Platz (now Theodore Heuss Platz) in Charlottenburg, West Berlin. She became secretary to Goebbels whom she married on December 12, 1931. In the Bunker with Hitler during the last days of the war, she poisoned her six children, Helga, Hilda, Helmut, Holde, Hedda and Heide. She and her husband then committed suicide in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. A great admirer of Hitler, she decided to name all her children with a name beginning with H. Earlier, Magda had confided to her trusted friend, her sister-in-law, Ello Quandt, "In the days to come Joseph will be regarded as one of the greatest criminals Germany has ever produced. The children will hear that daily, people would torment them, despise and humiliate them. We will take them with us, they are too good, too lovely for the world which lies ahead". Madga's stepfather, Richard Friedlaender, who her mother, Auguste Behrend, had divorced when she was young, was Jewish. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp where he died a year later, in 1939.
EMMY GÖRING (1893-1973)
Born in Hamburg as Emmy Sonneman she became a well known actress at the National Theatre in Weimar. She divorced her first husband, actor Karl Köstlin, and became Hermann Göring's second wife on April 10, 1935. Adolf Hitler acted as best man. In 1937 she gave birth to a daughter and named her Edda, believed to be after Mussolini's daughter, Countess Ciano, who had spent some time at their home Karinhall. In 1948, a German denazification court convicted her of being a Nazi and sentenced her to one year in jail. When she was released, thirty percent of her property was confiscated and she was banned from the stage for five years. She was unable to revive her acting career so she moved to Munich with her daughter Edda and lived in a small apartment until she died on June 8, 1973. Edda, believing that her father was wrongly judged by the Allies, became active in the Neo-Nazi movement and attends many of their reunions.
The Göring Wedding
Only Christians perform Christian weddings, and the Nazis were no exception.
Hermann Göring married Emmy Sonnemann, a famous Opera star.
Adolf Hitler stands in the front row as "Best Man" during the ceremony in the Cathedral by Reichbishop Müller.
EMILIE SCHINDLER (1907-2001)
Wife of Czech-born German industrialist, Oskar Schindler, who, together with her husband, saved over 1,200 Jewish workers from theHolocaust. Born in a German speaking village in what is now the Czech Republic, she married Oskar in 1928 and in 1942 moved to Krakow in Poland. There they established a factory producing domestic kitchen utensils and employing Jews who they planned to save. In 1949 they moved to Argentina where she was abandoned by her husband who returned to Germany with his mistress in 1957 and died there in 1974. Emilie returned to Germany in July, 2001, with the intention of settling down in a retirement home in Bavaria but suffered a stroke and died in a hospital near Berlin. She was 94 years old. In 1993, Emilie Schlinder was awarded the honour of 'Righteous Gentile' by the Yad Vashen Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
Born in the industrial town of Hamm in 1922 she joined the BDM at age sixteen and soon became one of its principle organizers in the town of Monschau. She trained at Hülchrath Castle for her part in 'Operation Carnival', the assassination of the American appointed Burgermeister of Aachen, the first German city to fall to the Allies. Dropped by parachute near the outskirts, the five man and one woman team made their way into the city guided by Hirsch who knew the area well. At No 251, Eupener Strasse, lived Franz Oppenhoff, a forty-one year old lawyer, his wife Irmgard and their three children. Oppenhoff had recently been appointed chief Burgomeister by the Americans and by accepting this appointment he had signed his own death warrant. Regarded as a traitor by the Nazi resistance movement, the so-called Werewolves, he was a prime candidate for assassination. Guided by Hirsch to the house, the actual murder was carried out by the leader of the team, SS Lt. Wenzel and their radio operator, Sepp Leitgeb, who fired the fatal shot as Oppenhoff stood on the steps of his residence. Ilse Hirsch took no part in the actual assassination but acted only as guide and lookout. Making their escape from the city, Hirsch caught her foot on a trip-wire attached to a buried mine which severely injured her knee and killed her companion, Sepp Leitgeb. Spending a long time in hospital she eventually returned to her home in Euskirchen. After the war, the survivors of the assassination team, with the exception of SS Lt. Wenzel, were tracked down and arrested. At the Aachen 'Werewolf Trial' in October, 1949, all were found guilty and sentenced to from one to four years in prison. Ilse and one other team member were set free. In 1972, Ilse Hirsch was happily married, the mother of two teenage boys and living only a score of miles from the scene of the most momentous event in her life.
KITTY SCHMIDT (1882-1945)
Owner of Berlin's top brothel the 'Pension Schmidt' located at No.11, Giesebrecht Strasse. It was later renamed 'Salon Kitty' when taken over by the S.D.(Secret Service). It became the very epitome of relaxation for high ranking officers and visiting diplomats. Fitted out with hidden microphones, this sophisticated surveillance system became the main source of Gestapo intelligence. Twenty women were specially trained for work in Salon Kitty. During a bombing raid in 1944, the 'Salon Kitty' was badly damaged and was moved down to the ground floor. Kitty Schmidt died in Berlin in 1954 at the age of seventy two. Next door, at No.12, was the apartment of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of the SD. (In 1988, the former 'Salon Kitty' was in use as a Guitar Studio!).
Wife of Martin Bormann, head of Party Chancellery. A fanatical adherent to Nazi ideology, she bore her husband ten children, the first being named Adolf, after his god-father. Of her husbands mistress, Manja Behrens, she wrote 'See to it that one year she has a child and next year I have a child, so that you will always have a wife who is serviceable'. After the war, the search for Gerda Borman ended when she was located in the village of Wolkenstein, twenty kilometres north east of Bolzano. With her were fourteen children, nine of her own and five who were kidnapped by her husband in order that his wife could travel posing as the director of a children's home. In her final days Gerda converted to the Catholic faith and when found was ill from cancer and was operated on in Bolzano Civil Hospital. She died in March 1946. The five kidnapped children were returned to their parents and her own children placed in Roman Catholic homes. Her husband, Martin Borman, committed suicide during his attempt to escape the bunker and his remains were discovered in 1972. His family refused to have anything to do with the bones so they lay in a cardboard box in the cellar of the District Prosecutor in Frankfurt for years. In 1999 the remains (still unclaimed) were cremated and scattered in the Baltic Sea outside German territorial limits. The cremation and burial cost the German Government $4,700.
GERTRUD von HEIMERDINGER
Daughter of a Prussian aristocrat, she was employed in the German Foreign Office as assistant Chief of the Diplomatic Courier Section. An anti-Nazi, she secretly arranged for special passes to enable diplomat Fritz Kolbe (the main Allied source of intelligence) to make frequent trips to Switzerland to pass on information to Allen Dulles, head of American O.S.S.
Trained in England as a secret agent, she travelled to Switzerland disguised as a Red Cross nurse to serve as a courier for her husband Jupp Kappius, a German national who worked for the American O.S.S. Anne travelled twice from Switzerland deep into the heart of the Reich to bring back valuable intelligence collected by her husband. They returned to Germany after the war to settle.
Wife of the Nazi Reichskommissar for Holland, Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart. She fled Holland on the 3rd.September, 1944, a day before her husband made it an offence for anyone to leave. She was last seen leaving The Hague with five suitcases, bound for Salzburg in Austria.
Born in Frankfurt-on-Main, a member of the Socialist Young Workers movement. In 1933 she helped many Jews and others to flee the Reich. In 1935, she aided those engaged in resistance work, from her home in Alsace. After the capitulation of France in 1940, she was arrested by the Vichy Government and handed over to the Gestapo. Brought before the People's Court in Berlin in 1943, she was sentenced to death, and on June 9, 1944, executed in Plötzensee Prison. In her last letter she wrote 'Be cheerful and brave, a better future lies before you'.
A shorthand typist with the Reich Egg Marketing Board, she married Hitler's Minister of War, Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg. The Fuhrer and Goering were witnesses at the wedding on January 12, 1938. When the police reported that Erna had worked as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic pictures, Hitler flew into a rage and sacked von Blomberg on the spot. The disgraced Field Marshal and his wife retired to the Bavarian village of Weissee where they lived out the war and where the Field Marshal now lies buried in the local cemetery.
A bookseller, she worked for the Schutze-Boysen-Harnack resistance group (The Red Orchestra) Arrested on October 10, 1942 for passing messages to French slave workers in factories. On February 3, 1943, she was sentenced to death by the People's Court and hanged in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, on August 5.
Daughter of a West Prussian landowner, blonde and blue eyed, Marga, as she was called, worked as a nurse in the first World War, then went to live in Berlin. There she met and married Heinrich Himmler on July 3, 1928 and set up a chicken farm at Waldtrudering, near Munich. Eight years older then Himmler, their marriage ran into financial problems and they started to live apart. They had one child, a daughter named Gudrun.
Attractive daughter of a Cologne businessman, she became secretary to Himmler and later his mistress when he lost all affection for Marga, his wife. In 1942, Hedwig gave birth to her first child, her second was born in 1944, another daughter. Himmler, not wishing the scandal of a divorce, borrowed 80,000 marks from the Party Chancellery and built a house for Hedwig at Schonau, near Berchtesgaden. They called it 'Haus Schneewinkellehen'. There she became friends with Bormann's wife Greda, who lived nearby.
A ravishing blonde and much admired by Hitler. Wife of the drunkard Robert Ley, head of the Arbeitsfront, with whom she was very unhappy. An actress and ballerina by profession, she once took refuge from her husband in the Obersalzberg. After writing a letter to Hitler, which left him very depressed, she attempted suicide in 1943 by jumping out of a window. On October 24, 1945, her husband committed suicide in his cell while awaiting trial at Nuremberg. His suicide note stated that he could "no longer bear the shame". The villa of Robert and Inge Ley still stands on the Mehringdamm in Berlin's suburb of Templehof.
Born in Aelsheim in 1902, married three times she bore eleven children. She became Leader of the Nazi Women's Group, responsible for directing all women's organizations during the Nazi era including the Frauenwerk (a federal organization of women), Women's League of the Red Cross and the Women's Labour Front. When she visited the United Kingdom in 1939, she was billed as the 'Perfect Nazi Woman'. Arrested in 1948 by the French, she served eighteen months in prison for working under an assumed name. In 1950 the German Government banned her from public office. Her book 'Women in the Third Reich' was published in 1978.
Daughter of physician Dr. Ludwig Mayer of Offenbach. In 1930, she became Germany's woman fencing champion. Soon after Hitler came to power, his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, portrayed Helena Mayer, now a national heroine, as the perfect specimen of German womanhood. Tall, blonde and blue eyed, she was described as the apotheosis of German racial purity. The campaign was abruptly abandoned when it was discovered that Helene had a Jewish father and grandparents. She went to the USA to study international law but was invited to take part in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where she won a silver medal. After the Olympics she settled in the US and became an American citizen winning the US Women's National Fencing Championship eight times. In 1952 she returned to Germany and married an engineer from Stuttgart. She died after a long illness on October 15, 1953.
Czech film actress, born Ludmila Babkova in Prague in 1910 and mistress to Goebbels during the late thirties. The affair ended in 1938 when his wife Magda demanded a divorce and Hitler ordered that he give up the actress. A reconciliation between Goebbels and Magda took place when Lida returned to Czechoslovakia under 'advice' from the Gestapo. In later years Lida lived in Salzburg, Austria, under the name Lida Lundwall. She died in Salzburg at the age of 86 on October 27, 2000, from Parkinson's disease. (for a 'then and now' photo of Lida go to..www.blesk.cz/9044/
Born in Berlin in 1905, this German novelist had her books banned by the Nazi's when she criticized them for their defamation of German womanhood. In 1933 her books were confiscated and burned and newspapers were forbidden to publish her short stories. Forced to emigrate to Holland so she could continue her writing, she again went back to Germany in secret when the Nazi's invaded the Netherlands. In Cologne she went underground and began writing again making no secret of her opposition to the Nazi's. After the war nothing was heard of her till 1976 when she was discovered living in poverty in an attic room in Bonn. She had spent six years in a Bonn hospital and four and a half months in the state hospital for alcoholism. In 1972 her books were republished and she died of a lung tumor on May 5, 1982.
A film actress and one of Hitler's earlier infatuations. The relationship did not last long. After spending an evening in the Chancellery where, as Renata confided to her director Adolf Zeissler, Hitler threw himself on the floor and begged her to kick him and inflict pain. Shortly after this experience, Renata Mueller was found unconscious on the pavement in front of her hotel, forty feet below the window of her room. Renate's sister, Gabriel, maintains that she did not commit suicide but that she died from complications following an operation to her leg at the Augsburger Strasse Clinic.
Wife of wealthy piano manufacturer Carl Bechstein. Hitler was often invited to their Berlin home where she lavished maternal affection on him. The Bechstein's donated large sums of money to the Party and to help Hitler's career by introducing him to influential people. It was Helene who introduced him to Berchtesgaden where they had a villa. It was always her expectation that Hitler would marry her daughter, Lotte.
MARIA (MITZI) REITER
Born in 1911, the youngest of four daughters of the co-founder of the Social Democratic Party in Berchtesgaden. She met Hitler while exercising her sister's dog in the Kurpark in 1926. She later visited him in his Munich apartment and the friendship developed. But in 1927, when she heard that Hitler was courting another girl, his niece Geli Raubal, blind jealousy drove her to attempt suicide. The attempt failed. In 1930, she married an innkeeper in Innsbruck and divorced him some years later. Her second marriage was to SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Georg Kubisch. In 1938 she met Hitler again, and when Kubisch was killed at Dunkirk during the French campaign, he sent her one hundred red roses. There was no further contact between them. After the war, Maria Reiter Kubisch lived for a while with Hitler's sister Paula, and found work as a maid in a hotel. In 1977 she was living in Munich.
Daughter of the US Ambassador in Berlin (1933-1937) Professor William E. Dodd. She was very much attracted to Hitler and was invited to have tea with him at the Kaiserhof Hotel on a number of occasions. She once declared that she was in love with him and wanted to organize a tour of the US for him. This did not meet with the approval of Goering, who spread the rumour that Martha was a Soviet agent. (she had visited Moscow and Leningrad July,1934) Hitler refused to see her again and banned her from all future diplomatic receptions. Soon after, reports circulated that Martha Eccles Dodd had attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. No details of this has survived, it is possible that the affair has been hushed up 'diplomatically'. In 1938 she married American millionaire investment broker, Alfred Kaufman Stern and became active in left wing politics working closely with Vassili Zubilin, second secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Attracting the attention of the McCarthy House un-American Activities Committee, the Sterns fled to Cuba and then to Prague, Czechoslovakia. Alfred Stern died in Prague in 1986 and Martha Dodd Stern died in August 1990 at the age of 82.
Born in Milwaukee, USA, on September 16th. 1902, daughter of merchant William Cooke Fish. In 1926, she married the German Rockefeller scholar Arvid Harnack whom she met while studying literature at Wisconsin University. She insisted on keeping her maiden name.
In 1929 she and her husband moved to Germany where she taught American literature history at the University of Berlin. In Berlin, she became friends with Martha Dodd and through this friendship, she and her husband were often invited to receptions at the American Embassy where she met many influential Germans.
When the war started, Arvid and Mildred supported the resistance movement against the Nazi regime through their friendship with Harro Schulze-Boysen and the spy ring the Nazis dubbed 'The Red Orchestra'. On September 7th, 1942, she and her husband were arrested while on a short vacation in Priel, a seaside town near Königsberg and taken to Gestapo headquarters at No. 8, Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. At their trial on December 15-19, 1942, Mildred was sentenced to six years in prison for 'helping to prepare high treason and espionage'. Arvid and eight others were given the death sentence and on December 22 Arvid and three others were hanged from meat hooks suspended from a T-bar across the ceiling of the execution chamber at Plötzensee Prison.
The others were beheaded by the guillotine. On December 21, Hitler reversed the sentence on Mildred and at her second trial on January13/16, 1943, she was given the ultimate penalty, death.
At 6.57 pm on February 16, 1943, Mildred Elizabeth Harnack nee Fish was beheaded by guillotine in Plötzensee, the only American woman to be executed for treason in World War 11. Her last words were reported to be "And I loved Germany so much". (By September, 1943, all fifty one members of the 'Red Orchestra' had died, two by suicide, eight by hanging and forty-one beheaded by guillotine).
In January, 1970, the Russians posthumously awarded Arvid Harnack the Order of the Red Banner, and Mildred, the Order of the Fatherland War, First Class, the highest civilian award. Sadly, in the US the Harnacks were forgotten.
Born Maria Magdalena Dietrich in the Schoneberg district of Berlin on December 27, 1901. Started a career in minor films, her big break came in October,1929 when she screen tested for the part of Lola in 'The Blue Angel'. The film premiered at the Gloria Palast in Berlin on April 1, 1930.
When Hitler came to power she was asked to broadcast Nazi propaganda. She refused and fled to the USA where on January 4, 1941, she became a naturalized American citizen. During WWII she spent much of her time entertaining US troops around the world and selling war bonds as well as doing anti-Nazi propaganda broadcasts aimed at German soldiers.
In 1960 she returned to Germany for a series of concerts, one at which she was pelted with rotted tomatoes and called a traitor. She vowed never to return. In her later years she moved to Paris and became a recluse.
She died on May 6, 1992, aged 90. Her last wish was to be buried beside her mother in Friedhof 111 at Friedenau, Berlin. She married Rudolpf 'Rudy' Seber in 1924, a marriage which lasted until her husband's death in 1979 and with whom she had a daughter, Maria Riva.
Born in Berlin in 1913, she became one of Hitler's secretaries from 1933 to 1945. She was married to General Eckard Christian, Chief of Staff to the Luftwaffe whom she divorced in 1946. Gerda was previously married to Erich Kempka, Hitler's private chauffeur. (Her maiden name was Daranowsky) After the war she settled in Düsseldorf but has remained noncommittal about her time in the court of the German Führer.
GERTRUD SEELE (1917-1945)
Nurse and social worker she was born in Berlin and served for a time in the Nazi Labour Corps. Arrested in 1944 for helping Jews to escape Nazi persecution, and for 'defeatist statements designed to undermine the moral of the people'. She was tried before the People's Court in Potsdam and executed in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, on January 12, 1945.
A Dutch national who, when hearing of the German threat to refuse permission for the refugee Children's Transports to cross the border into Holland, went to Vienna and confronted Adolf Eichmann, head of the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration. She persuaded him to issue a collective exit visa for 600 Austrian Jewish children. The children eventually arrived in England. In all, Gertrud Wijsmuller organized a total of forty-nine transports to Britain. Another transport she organized, her 50th, was from the port of Danzig on August 24, 1939. On September 1 Germany invaded Poland and occupied Danzig. Back in Holland, Gertrud continued to help in the transfer of Jewish children to England until May 10, 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands. After Kristallnacht, over 9,000 German, Austrian and Czech Jewish children were brought to Britain by these Kindertransports. The first transport arrived in Harwich on December 1, 1938.
Source: George Duncan's Women of the Third Reich
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink nee
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink nee
Treusch (February 9, 1902 -
March 24, 1999), fFervent Nazi
Party member and Reichs
Women's Leader, was the
opposite of the women
mentioned in this chapter. In
1948, she was sentenced by a
French military court to eighteen
months in prison. She died in
1999 still a nazi.
Women After the Fall of the Third Reich
After the collapse of the Third Reich, many German women nicknamed the Women of the Ruins participated in the rebuilding of Germany en déblayant les ruines issues des destructions dues à la guerre. In the Soviet occupation zone, more than two million women were victims of rape. One of them would publish a memoir recalling this experience: Eine Frau in Berlin (A Woman In Berlin).Herta Oberheuser at the trial for doctors, August 20, 1947. Inge Viermetz at the trial for RuSHA, January 28, 1948.
Although they were not judged as severely as the men driving the regime, some women were prosecuted after the war. Thus, Herta Oberheuser, a doctor who participated in Nazi medical experiments at the Ravensbrück camp from 1940 to 1943, was the only woman in the dock at the doctors' trial at Nuremberg. She was held responsible for infecting 86 women with viruses and killing children. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. For her part, Inge Viermetz, was acquitted at the RuSHA trial.
The denazification court was prohibited was prohibited from targeting Winifred Wagner of the Bayreuth Festival. Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl was brought to appear in court in 1948, accused of having not paid Roma and Sinti for participating in her film "Tiefland", and for having falsely promised to save them from camps, and is finally discharged.
Some German women interviewed long after the Third Reich, influential or not, confessed that they had not denied the Nazi regime, nor the person of Adolf Hitler, refusing, or not, to acknowledge the crimes committed during those years. Others, like Henriette von Schirach in her book "Der Preis der Herrlichkeit. Erfahren Zeitgeschichte", remained ambiguous, this last challenging a system that passed through "the triumph of vanity".German women, accountable? Debriefing of the Aufseherin of theBuchenwald concentration camp, Ilse Koch, after her arrest.
The question of the culpability of the German people in their support of Nazism has long overshadowed the women, who had little political power under the regime. Thus, as explained by the German historian Gisela Block, who was involved with the first historians to highlight this issue, by asking women at the time of the Third Reich. In 1984, in "When Biology Became Destiny, Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany", she wrote that women who are enslaved economically and morally, cannot exercise their freedom by being confined in the home and placed under the rule of their husbands. Thus, we associate studies on the subject during the 1980s mainly with perceptions that women were victims of "machismo" and a "misogynist" fascism.
However, the simplicity of this analysis tends to disappear with recent studies. In 1987, historian Claudia Koonz, in "Mothers in in Fatherland, Women, the Family and Nazi Politics" questioned this statement and acknowledged some guilt. Many women admired Adolf Hitler and in fact enabled his electoral successes in the early 1930s. She states as follows: "Far from being impressionable or innocent, women made possible State murder in the name of interests that they defined as maternal." For her, the containing of housewives just allowed them to assert themselves and grasp an identity, especially through women's associations led by Nazi Gertrud Scholtz-Klink. They therefore helped to stabilize the system. The women took pleasure in politics and eugenics of the state, which promised financial assistance if the birth rate was high, so they would help to stabilize the system.
by preserving the illusion of love in an environment of hate.
In addition, if Gisela Block denounced the work of her colleague as "anti-feminist", others asAdelheid von Saldern refuse to stop at a strict choice between complicity and oppression and are more interested in how the Third Reich included women in their project for Germany.[44Neo-Nazism
There are many militant neo-Nazis or defenders of former Nazis, such as the Germans Helene Elisabeth von Isenburg or Gudrun Himmler (daughter of Heinrich Himmler), who are active through the organization Stille Hilfe, and the French citizens Françoise Dior and Savitri Devi.
High Society and Circles of Power
Although under the Third Reich women did not have political power, a circle of influence did exist around Adolf Hitler. Within this circle, Hitler became acquainted with the British Unity Mitford and Magda Goebbels, wife of the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Magda Goebbels became known by the nickname "First Lady of the Third Reich": she represented the regime during State visits and official events. Her marriage to Goebbels on December 19, 1931 was considered a society event, where Leni Riefenstahl was a notable guest. She posed as the model German mother for Mothers Day. Eleonore Baur, a friend of Hitler since 1920 (she had participated in the Beer Hall putsch) was the only woman to receive the Blood Order; she also participated in official receptions and was close to Heinrich Himmler, who even named her a colonel of the SS and permitted her free access to the concentration camps, which she went to regularly, particularly Dachau. Hitler did not forget that he owed part of his political ascension to women integrated in the society world (aristocrats or industrialists), like Elsa Bruckmann.
Women were also able to distinguish themselves in certain domains, but they were the exceptions that proved the rule. Thus Leni Riefenstahlwas the official film director of the regime and was given enormous funding for her cinematic productions (Triumph of the Will, and Olympia (1938 film)). Winifred Wagner directed the highly publicized Bayreuth Festival, and soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was promoted as the "Nazi diva", as noted by an American newspaper. Hanna Reitsch, an aviator, distinguished herself with her handling of test aircraft and military projects of the regime, notably the V1 flying bomb.Gallery of wives and daughters of officials Wives
Eva Braun, companion and then wife of Adolf Hitler.
The Goebbels childrenwith Joseph and Magda Goebbels: Helga, Hildegard, Heldwig, Holdine and Heidrun.
The daughters of Heinrich Himmler, Margaret andGudrun Himmler.
Screenwriter Thea von Harbou.
Aviator Hanna Reitsch.
Opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
Women Against the Third Reich
In addition to the resistors forced into their commitment because of their risk of being deported and exterminated because of their race, some were also committed against the German Nazi regime. Women represented approximately 15% of the Resistance. Monique Moser-Verrey notes however:
If we can say that, among the persecuted minorities, women are more often spared than men, it is their low status in a society dominated by men that did not make them sizeable enemies of the regime, however, it is they who understood the need to hide or flee before their misled spouses, whose social inclusion was more complete.
The student Communist Liselotte Herrmann protested in 1933 against the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor and managed to get information to foreign governments about the rearmament of Germany. In 1935 she was arrested, sentenced to death two years later and executed in 1938. She was the first German mother to suffer the death penalty since the beginning of the regime. Twenty women from Düsseldorf, who saw their fathers, brothers and son deported to the campBörgermoor, managed to smuggle out the famous The Song of the deportees and make it known.Freya von Moltke, Mildred Harnack-Fish and Libertas Schulze-Boysen participated in theResistance group Kreisau Circle and Red Orchestra; the last two were arrested and executed. The 20 year old student Sophie Scholl, a member of The White Rose was executed February 22, 1943 with her brother Hans Scholl and Christopher Probst, for posting leaflets. The resistor Maria Terwielhelped to spread knowledge of the famous sermon condemning the mentally ill given by Clemens von Galen, Bishop of Munster, as well as helping Jews escape to abroad. She was executed on 5 August 1943. We can also note the successful protests of women, called the Rosenstraße, racially "Aryan" women married to Jews who, in February 1943, obtained the release of their husbands.
Women also fought for the Resistance from abroad, like Dora Schaul, a Communist who had left Germany in 1934 and involved from July 1942 with clandestine networks, Deutsch Arbeit (German Labour) and Deutsche-Feldpost (My German countryside), from the School of Military Health in Lyon. Hilde Meisel attempted in 1933 to galvanize British public opinion against the Nazi regime. She returned to Germany during the war but was executed at the bend of a road.
Female Members of Discriminated Minorities
Under the same threats as men who were Jews or Romani, women belonging to these communities were equally discriminated against, then deported and for some exterminated. In many concentration camps there were sections for female detainees (notably at Auschwitzand Bergen-Belsen) but the camp at Ravensbrück, opened in May 1939, distinguished itself as a camp solely for women, by 1945 numbering about 100,000 prisoners. The first women's concentration camp had been opened in 1933 in Moringen, before being transferred to Lichtenburg in 1938.
In concentration camps, considered more vulnerable than men, they were generally sent to the gas chambers more quickly, while the strength of men was used to work them to exhaustion. Some were subjected to medical experiments.
Some took the path of the Resistance, such as the Polish member Haïka Grosman, who participated in the organization for aid for the ghetto of Bia?ystok, during the night of August 15 to 16, 1943. On October 7, 1944, members of the Sonderkommando, 250 prisoners responsible for the bodies of persons after gassing, rose up ; they had procured explosives stolen by a Kommando of young Jewish women (Ella Gartner, Regina Safir, Estera Wajsblum andRoza Robota) who worked in the armament factories of the Union Werke. They succeeded in partially destroying Crematorium IV.
LESBIANS AND THE THIRD REICH
Although homosexual acts among men had traditionally been a criminal offense throughout much of Germany, lesbianism (homosexual acts among women) was not criminalized. This was true in large part because of the subordinate role of women in German state and society. Unlike malehomosexuals, lesbians were not generally regarded as a social or political threat. Even after the Nazi rise to power in 1933, most lesbians in Germany were able to live relatively quiet lives, generally undisturbed by the police.
Although they were hampered by the inferior roles ascribed to women in Imperial Germany, lesbians had been part of the homosexual emancipation movement in Germany since the 1890s. German law prohibited women from joining political organizations until 1908. Even after the easing of this restriction women were discouraged from political activity, so lesbians turned to more informal gatherings in bars and clubs. This trend coincided with a general easing of sexual morality in Germany after World War I. The Weimar Republic brought with it new social and political freedoms. For most homosexual men and lesbian women in Germany, the Weimar era was a time of relative openness.
Berlin and other major cities became centers of homosexual life in Germany. In Berlin, clubs like the "Dorian Gray" and "The Magic Flute Dance Palace" helped create a lesbian social network, making it easier for urban lesbians to live openly than for those in more rural areas of Germany. The easing of censorship restrictions led to a variety of lesbian literature including the journals Frauenliebe (Female Love) and Die Freundin (Girlfriend).
Traditional political and social conservatives harshly criticized this new openness for homosexuals in Germany. The resurgence of political conservatism in the later years of the Weimar Republic led to a new series of repressive measures against homosexuals. In 1928, for example, the police bannedDie Freundin and other lesbian literature based on the Protection of Youth from Obscene Publications Act. Many conservatives demanded the enactment of criminal statutes against lesbian sexual acts. Pamphleteers such as Erhard Eberhard wrote tracts against homosexuals, feminists, Republicans, and Jews, groups that were often linked by conservatives to a conspiracy to destroy Germany. In particular they denounced the movement for women's rights, claiming it was really a front for seducing German women into lesbianism.
With the rise of the Nazis to power in 1933, this conservative backlash was replaced with state repression. The Nazis believed women were not only inferior to men but also by nature dependent on them; therefore, they considered lesbians to be less threatening than male homosexuals. The Nazis regarded women as passive, especially in sexual matters, and in need of men to fulfill their lives and participate in sex. Many Nazis also worried that the more explicit social affection between individual women blurred the lines between friendship and lesbianism, making more difficult the task of ferreting out "true" lesbians. Finally, the Nazis dismissed lesbianism as a state and social problem because they believed lesbians could still carry out a German woman's primary role: to be a mother of as many "Aryan" babies as possible. Every woman, regardless of her sexuality, could serve the Nazi state as wife and mother.
The Nazis nonetheless persecuted lesbians, albeit less severely than they persecuted male homosexuals. Soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor, the police systematically raided and closed down homosexual meeting bars and clubs, forcing lesbians to meet in secret. The Nazis created a climate of fear by encouraging police raids and denunciations against lesbians. Many lesbians broke off contacts with their circles of friends, some moving to new cities where they would be unknown. Others even sought the protection of marriage, entering into marriages of convenience with male homosexual friends.
While the police regarded lesbians as "asocials"--people who did not conform to Nazi norms and therefore could be arrested or sent to concentration camps--few were imprisoned because of their sexuality alone. The Nazis did not classify lesbians as homosexual prisoners, and only male homosexual prisoners had to wear the pink triangle. Though police arrests of lesbians were comparatively rare, the threat of persecution made living openly as a lesbian dangerous.
Lesbians also suffered discrimination because of the Nazis' policy toward German women in general. Since the Nazis believed women should serve primarily as wives and mothers, they forced women out of prestigious careers. Paradoxically, labor demands brought on by rearmament and the war actually increased the number of working women, though they were relegated to work in low-paying jobs. The low wages set for women particularly affected lesbians, since lesbians were generally unmarried and could not rely on a husband's job for support. Economic hardships combined with ever-increasing social pressures and fear of arrest to make the lives of lesbians difficult even though sexual acts between females were not illegal in Nazi Germany.
Though many lesbians experienced hardships during the Third Reich, the Nazis did not systematically persecute them. Those who were willing to be discreet and inconspicuous, marry male friends, or otherwise seem to conform to the expectations of society were often left alone and survived.http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005478
LESBIANS AND THE THIRD REICH — PERSONAL HISTORY
Born: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
February 19, 1912
Henny's parents met soon after her father emigrated from Russia. Henny was the first of the Jewish couple's three children. Frankfurt was an important center of commerce, banking, industry and the arts.
1933-39: After the Nazis came to power, they began to persecute a large number of "undesirable" groups, including Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, the handicapped, and left-wing politicians. After 1938, as one way of identifying Jews, a Nazi ordinance decreed that "Sara" was to be added in official papers to the first name of all Jewish women. Twenty-four-year-old Henny was working as a shop assistant, and was living with her family in Frankfurt.
1940-44: In early 1940 Henny was arrested in Frankfurt and deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women. On the back of her prisoner photo was written: "Jenny (sic) Sara Schermann, born February 19, 1912, Frankfurt am Main. Unmarried shopgirl in Frankfurt am Main. Licentious lesbian, only visited such [lesbian] bars. Avoided the name 'Sara.' Stateless Jew."
Henny was among a number of Ravensbrueck prisoners selected for extermination. In 1942 Henny was gassed at the Bernburg killing facility.
Who Was Who at Hitler's Berghof
Hitler's Berghof was the scene of many visits, both formal and informal, and hundreds of photos were taken there. Heinrich Hoffmann made many photos to publish in his books and as postcards, and Eva Braun and her sister Gretl were avid amateur photographers. Walter Frentz, on the staff of the Nazi Press Organization, made many color photos. All of these photo sets have many shots showing visitors to the Berghof, along with the regulars of Hitler's inner circle. Unfortunately, most of these photos were not labeled, or their identifications were lost at the end of the war, and the identities of many of the people seen around the Berghof have been lost over time. In addition, several of these people have been misidentified as these photos have been published in numerous books since 1945, and these misidentifications tend to be perpetuated as more photo books are published.
This page corrects some of these misidentifications, based on photos in Eva and Gretl Braun's photo albums in the U.S. National Archives, and also the Heinrich Hoffmann photo archive copies in the same collection (National Archives, Record Groups 242-EB and 242-H, College Park, MD; 242-EB also contains copies of several photo albums belonging to Eva's friend Herta Schneider). Some other photos are presented here with identifications of some of the people who are regularly seen in these photos, but rarely identified in books. Some of my identifications are admittedly tentative, and I would be happy to receive documented corrections or any further info.
Click here to read a guide to Eva Braun's movies in the National Archives.
Most of the post-war misidentifications found in these photo groups involve Eva Braun and her sisters and friends. Eva and her younger sister Gretl (Margarethe) looked very much alike, and their older sister Ilse resembled both (although Ilse rarely visited the Berghof). Eva herself tended to change her appearance regularly (her hair, especially), and Eva can look quite different in photos taken at different times (so can Gretl). In fact, it can sometimes be very hard to tell Eva and Gretl apart. One misidentification that is quite common in modern books is the photo on the left above. This studio portrait is invariably labeled as showing Gretl and Eva, with Eva on the right (note Eva's brooch showing her personal monogram - see below). This photo is sometimes printed reversed, but I show it here as it appears in Eva's photo albums (Album 26, No. 7, NA RG 242-EB).
In fact, this is not Gretl at all, but Eva's best friend Herta Schneider. Eva and Herta had been friends from childhood, and even after Herta married (her maiden name was Ostermeyer), she and her children spent a great deal of time with Eva, living with her at the Berghof, because Herta's husband was away in military service. The photo on the right above shows Eva and Herta at the Königssee lake in July 1941, with one of Eva's Scottish terriers. Eva herself labeled the album page on which this photo appears, removing any doubt that this woman is Herta Schneider, not Gretl (NA RG 242-EB-27-39D; in addition, many photos in the albums that originally belonged to Frau Schneider confirm her identity in Eva's photos).
Eva Braun's personal monogram showed her initials forming a four-leaf clover (Kleeblatt), and was designed for her by Dr. Karl Brandt (this symbol is sometimes incorrectly identified as a butterfly). On the right are two examples of the EB Kleeblatt monogram, from some of her silver pieces. (See Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 574; Christa Schroeder, Er war mein Chef, p. 216; and Pierre Galante and Eugène Silianoff, Voices from the Bunker, p. 21)
Herta is often misidentified as Gretl in these photos as well. Herta is seated beside Eva in both photos. The photo on the left is often grouped with photos of Eva and Gretl taken at the Kehlsteinhaus (see below), but this photo was actually taken on the Berghof terrace. The photo on the right was taken at the side of the Berghof "wintergarten" sunroom. I have been unable to identify the woman on the right, who appears in many Berghof photos as well as Eva Braun's home movies (see more below). (NA RG 242-EB, Album 14)
The photo on the left above shows Herta and Eva on the side steps of the Berghof. On the right above, Eva plays with Herta's daughter "Uschi" (Ursula), who was one of Adolf Hitler's most welcomed guests. So many photos were taken of Eva and Hitler with Uschi, that many people in the post-war years thought this was their child. Two of the most common of these photos are shown below, when Uschi was a couple years older. (NA RG 242-EB)
These photos of Eva and Gretl were taken at the Kehlsteinhaus. Also seen is one of Eva's omnipresent dogs. She had two Scottish terriers, named Negus and Stasi (in her photo albums, the dogs are labeled Negus and Katuschka - perhaps "Stasi" was a nickname, or there were, in fact, three dogs (although no more than two are ever seen together). Although they looked very much alike, it seems clear that Eva is on the left, and Gretl on the right ... but compare to the two photos below. (NA RG 242-EB, Album 14, Nos. 17A and 17B)
These photos (and others taken at the same time) are almost always labeled in books as showing Eva Braun, but the details of the dress and hair show that this is really Gretl, taken on the same day as the photos above. (NA RG 242-EB, Album 14, Page 17)
The photo on the left is invariably labeled as Gretl and Eva on the Berghof terrace, but the woman on the right is not Eva. This woman appears in other Berghof photos and films taken on the same day (see below, and photo above, where Eva appears with her in a photo). The photo on the right is invariably labeled as Eva, but this photo appears in her albums on a page with two photos showing Gretl, and the page is labeled "Gretl - Greta." (NA RG 242-EB, Album 2, Page 43 - the Finding Aid in the National Archives says Album 2 actually belonged to Gretl)
The woman in the photo on the left (part of a larger photo) is sometimes labeled as Eva, but this is Gretl on her wedding day. On 3 June 1944, Gretl Braun married Hermann Fegelein, an SS-Obergruppenführer on the staff of SS chief Heinrich Himmler. The reception took place in the Berghof (see photo on right above - the group is in front of the fireplace in the Great Room), and a party followed at the Kehlsteinhaus. Gretl is dancing with SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt. Col.) Waldemar Fegelein, her new brother-in-law (see note below). On the right can be seen - 1st row, left-right - Fegelein, Gretl, Hitler, Eva, Fransiska "Fanny" Braun (Eva and Gretl's mother); 2nd-3rd rows - Georg Alexander, rest unknown to me (although the woman just behind Hitler's right shoulder may be Ilse Braun); 4th row - Himmler, unknown, Anni Brandt (?), Hanni Morell, Dr. Theo Morell (Hitler's personal physician, and a regular of the inner circle, along with his wife); Otto Dietrich (Press Chief - another Berghof regular); standing in the rear - Nicolaus von Below (Hitler's Luftwaffe adjutant), unknown. There are several other photos in this series, showing Fegelein, Gretl, and Eva in the Berghof and Kehlsteinhaus, celebrating the wedding. (NA RG 242-HL)
NOTE - When I first put this page up, I did not know the identity of the man with whom Gretl was dancing. My thanks to E. Reid for identifying him as Fegelein's brother Waldemar - see the Axis History Factbook Gallery, http://www.skalman.nu/third-reich/gallery-wss-persons.htm .
These photos and the following two were taken in the Berghof on the occasion of Hitler's 55th birthday, 20 April 1944. The woman in the center is often labeled as Eva, but Eva is third from the left. The woman in the center appears in many photos taken at the Berghof, but I have been unable to identify her (on her album page, Eva gave only the men's names). Left-right - Herta Schneider, Martin Bormann, Eva Braun, Otto Dietrich, unknown, Dr. Hans von Hasselbach, Gretl Braun, Dr. Karl Brandt (Hitler's personal surgeon, a regular in Berghof group photos), Anni Brandt. On the far right in the second photo is Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official photographer and resident Berghof "clown." (NA RG 242-EB)
The inner circle examines Hitler's birthday presents in the Berghof dining hall. On the left, Heinrich Hoffmann shows off a newly acquired painting for Hitler's art collection, as many of the same people in the photos above look on. The tall officer is Walter Frentz, a staff photographer (Frentz took most of the color photos now seen in Hitler photo collections). On the right, AH and EB look over the presents, with Herta Schneider in the background. (NA RG 242-EB)
The inner circle celebrates in the Berghof. This photo is usually labeled as showing Hitler's birthday in 1943 or even '44, but several details show it to have been taken much earlier than that, probably 1939 or 1940. Eva's appearance shows this to be an earlier photo; in addition, both Wilhelm Brückner and Max Wünsche had left the Führer's immediate service by the end of 1940. Front row, left-right - Wilhelm Brückner (Hitler's chief personal adjutant), Christa Schroeder (one of Hitler's secretaries), Eva, Hitler, Gretl, Adolf Wagner (Gauleiter of Munich), Otto Dietrich (Press Chief); 2nd Row, left-right - Gerda Daranowski (later Frau Christian, another of Hitler's secretaries), Margarete Speer, Martin Bormann (partially hidden), Dr. Karl Brandt, Heinrich Hoffmann; Remainder, left-right - Dr. Theo Morell (Hitler's personal physician), Hannelore (or Johanna) "Hanni" Morell, Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer (Hitler's naval adjutant), Gerda Bormann, Max Wünsche (one of Hitler's SS aides), Heinrich Heim (from Bormann's staff). (NA RG 242-EB, Album 8, No. 3A) NOTE: Warren Thompson's research indicates that the style of uniform Hitler is wearing is the one he assumed after the beginning of World War II. Therefore, and considering that uniforms were rare among Hitler's inner circle at the Berghof prior to WWII, I would suggest this photo was probably taken during New Years 1939/40. Other possible dates were Christmas 1939 and Hitler's birthday in 1940, but he was apparently not at the Berghof on either of those occasions. However, Dr. Karl Brandt's rank in this photo is SS-Sturmbannführer (Major), and he was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer in April 1939 ... so the 1940 date may be incorrect. (Thanks to Max History for the info on Dr. Brandt's dates of rank.) Then again ... Christa Schroeder's book "Er war mein Chef" says this photo was taken on New Year's Eve 1940.
Another of the well-known Berghof group photos, this one taken on New Years Eve 1938/39. Front row, left-right - Heinrich Hoffmann, Gretl Braun, Dr. Theo Morell, Frau Bouhler, Phillip Bouhler, Gerda Bormann, Hitler, Eva Braun, Martin Bormann, Anni Brandt; 2nd row - Christa Schroeder, Freda Kannenberg, Albert Speer, Margarete Speer, Hanni Morell, Frau Schmundt, Ilse Braun, Heinz Lorenz; 3rd row - Ludwig Bahls (SS Aide), Gerda Daranowski, Albert Bormann, Jacob Werlin (managing director of Daimler-Benz), Sofie Stork, Fritz Schönmann, Gen. Rudolf Schmundt (Hitler's Wehrmacht adjutant), Marianne Schönmann, Dr. Karl Brandt, Arthur ("Willi") Kannenberg. (NA RG 242-EB-6-7)
Marianne (Marion) Petzl (friend of Hitler, Eva, and the Hoffmanns) marries Fritz Schönmann, 7 August 1937, with the reception held afterwards in Munich (the photo above is sometimes identified as having been taken in the Berghof). Seated, left-right - Sofie Stork, Marianne and Fritz Schönmann, Gretl Braun. Standing - Heinrich Hoffmann, Hanni Morell, Erna Hoffmann, Eva Braun, Frau Diesbach, Dr. Morell, Herta Schneider, unknown, Dr. Helmut Scheiber, Hitler, unknown, Maria Almas-Dietrich. (NA RG 242-EB, Album 10, No. 93C)
This group was gathered at the Berghof on 20 April 1943, for Hitler's birthday celebration. Front row, left-right - Heinrich Hoffmann, Eva Braun, Hitler, Marianne Schönmann (?), Martin Bormann; 2nd row - Dr. Karl Brandt, Gerda Bormann, Anni Brandt, Herta Schneider; 3rd row - Albert and Margarete Speer, unknown, Hanni Morell, Gretl Braun, Gerhard Engel; top row - Walter Frentz, Dr. Theo Morell, Nicolaus von Below. (NA RG 242)
Albert Speer and his wife Margarete were frequent visitors at the Berghof ... they had their own house a short distance down the road to Berchtesgaden. On the left, the Speers and Gretl and Eva Braun (with Frau Engel between - wife of Hitler's Heer (Army) adjutant Gerhard Engel) relax on the lounge chairs outside the old Haus Wachenfeld part of the Berghof. On the right, Margarete Speer with four of her children, in the same location (the Berghof Adjutancy appears in the background). The Speer and Bormann children are frequently seen visiting "Uncle Führer" at the Berghof, in Eva Braun's photo albums and movies. (NA RG 242-EB-11-10B)
On the left, Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, the commander of Hitler's bodyguard unit the Leibstandarte-SS, visits the Berghof with Margarete Speer and Anni Brandt. On the right, Anni Brandt sits with Hitler's secretaries Johanna Wolf (center) and Traudl (Humps) Junge (right). Since Traudl Junge's first visit to the Berghof was in March 1943, these are wartime photos. (NA RG 242-EB, Album 13, Nos. 33b, 33a)
Although closely associated with Hitler's inner circle, Reichs Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach and his wife Henriette were infrequent visitors to the Berghof. Henriette was the daughter of photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, so she had known both Hitler and Eva Braun for years. However, in April 1943 the von Schirachs were forbidden to visit the Berghof again, after Henriette enraged Hitler by relating that she had witnessed Jewish women being deported from Amsterdam.
The photo on the left, taken at the side of Haus Wachenfeld, shows Hitler, Erna Hoffmann, Henriette von Schirach, Angela Raubal (Hitler's half-sister and housekeeper), and Baldur von Schirach. The photo on the right, taken on the Berghof terrace, shows Henriette and Baldur von Schirach, photographer Walter Frentz, and Heinrich Hoffmann. Left - U.S. National Archives, RG242HB; right - courtesy Harry von Gebhardt)
The couple on the left, seen in several of the photos above, are Dr. Theo Morell, Hitler's personal physician, and his wife Hannelore (or Johanna), called "Hanni." On the right, seen with Hitler on the Berghof steps, are Nazi Party Treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz and his wife - long time friends of Hitler and Eva Braun. (U.S. National Archives, RG242EB)
Who are the women pictured here? In the view on the left, Herta Schneider is seated at the right, and Gerda Bormann is in the middle (wearing the hobnailed Bavarian country shoes), but who is the woman on the left? She appears to be the woman shown on the Berghof terrace in a photo above, and she appears in other Berghof photos taken this same day (and also in Eva Braun's films - see photos below), but I have been unable to conclusively identify her (she is sometimes labeled as Ilse Braun in some of these photos, but she doesn't look like Ilse to me). The laughing lady in the photo on the right, seen in several photos with Hitler in the Mooslahnerkopf Teehaus, is sometimes labeled as Herta Schneider, sometimes as Maria "Mitzi" Reiter, and sometimes even as Eva Braun, but she was actually Gertrud Deetz, wife of Albert Forster, Gauleiter of Danzig. (NA RG 242-EB and 242-2512; thanks to Jason Bulkeley and Harry von Gebhardt for info.)
Here is the "mystery woman" posing on the Berghof terrace, as seen in Eva Braun's 16mm films. This film was taken on the same day as the photo shown just above, and others shown earlier on this page. Not Eva, not Gretl, but evidently a frequent Berghof guest ... but who was she? (NA RG 242.2, Reel 1)
Note: This woman somewhat resembles a woman photographed with Walter Hewel, Hitler's liaison to the Foreign Office, who may have become his wife. Her name has variously been given as Elizabeth Blanda or Blanda-Elizabeth Benteler (or Renteler - the latter was apparently her postwar name after she remarried). Called "Blondie," this woman was reportedly present at Berghof parties, and was a friend of Hermann Fegelein before his marriage to Gretl Braun. She married Hewel in late 1944. Such a person could certainly be a good candidate for this "mystery woman." (Thanks to Lyndon Crist for this info!)
She may also have been a woman named Erika Lehmann, who was an operative for Canaris and the Abwehr (code-name "Lorelei"). Her father was an old acquaintance of some of Hitler's inner circle; Erika became friends with Eva Braun and visited the Eagles Nest on occasion up until the summer of 1942. (Thanks to Mike Whicker for this info!)
Anyone having more info is invited to write the author at walden01(at)comcast.net.
Another member of the Berghof "inner circle," but not usually identified in post-war photo books, was an artist friend of Hitler's named Sofie Stork (she also appears in some of the group photos above). She was a friend of Hitler's adjutant Wilhelm Brückner, and since Hitler was a friend to artists she was introduced into his circle. Sofie Stork painted the scenes on the elaborate porcelainKachelofen heater in the living room of the Haus Wachenfeld part of the Berghof. In the photo on the left, she is seen sitting by the Kachelofen. Others not usually identified in photos were the house managers Wilhelm and Margarete "Gretl" Mitlstrasser. On the right, Frau Mitlstrasser appears with Hitler at the Great Room window. (NA RG 242-EB-3-14B)
Some members of the general public even became special visitors to Hitler's house. Hitler loved being photographed with children, and it seems that he genuinely enjoyed their company. One of his favorites among those who visited the Obersalzberg with their parents, hoping to see or even meet their Führer, was a young girl named Rosa Berneli (or Bernile) Nienau, from Munich. She visited on her birthday in the summer of 1933, and Hitler invited her out of the crowd and up to Haus Wachenfeld for strawberries and whipped cream. Hoffmann made maximum use of propaganda photos taken of the two together during this and other visits - the one seen here on the right below was published as a postcard with the caption "Thanks for the Birthday Invitation."
Unfortunately, some meddling member of Hitler's staff investigated Berneli's background and discovered that her ancestry was not 100 percent Aryan (her maternal grandmother was Jewish), and Martin Bormann eventually forbade her to visit again. (This story is related in Heinrich Hoffmann's books "Hitler Was My Friend" (London, 1955, pages 193-194) and "Jugend um Hitler," (Berlin, 1934, in the introduction by Reich Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach), also information from the Dokumentation Obersalzberg; photos from "Jugend um Hitler;" bottom right from a 1937-dated colorized postcard.)
These photos also appear to show Berneli/Bernile, but as a younger child (at least six different photos were taken on this day, as compared to at least seven taken of Berneli on the occasion shown above - this number of photos may also indicate this is Berneli). If this identification is correct, these photos were taken at an earlier date, and may show her first visit to Haus Wachenfeld. Records indicate that even though Hitler was aware of her ancestry, she was still allowed to visit until late 1938. ("Illustrierter Beobachter," Special Edition, "Adolf Hitler - Ein Mann und sein Volk," 1936; lower left - Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler in seinen Bergen," 1938)
These photos may also show Berneli - they certainly appear to show the same girl as those just above. At least seven photos of this girl, taken on two different occasions, are known. (Note: The Bavarian State Library guide to their Heinrich Hoffmann photo collection identifies this girl as Helga Goebbels, but I believe that identification is an error.) (above - from period postcards; below left - Hoffmann, "Jugend um Hitler;" below right and bottom - NA RG 242-EB)
Two more photos of the same girl, taken on two different occasions (but the same occasions as the four photos in the group above). On the left, the girl (Berneli?) visits with a group of BDM girls, as Hitler's adjutant Wilhelm Brückner looks on. The image on the left was taken at Haus Wachenfeld, while that on the right was taken at the Berghof. Does this mean that this girl is not Berneli, since the images of an obviously older Berneli, at the beginning of this section, were taken at Haus Wachenfeld? (period postcards)
Regularly seen in Berghof photos, but not always identified, is Hitler's SS aide Otto Günsche. On the left, Hitler shakes hands with SS-Leibstandarte commander Sepp Dietrich on the Berghof terrace, with SS-Untersturmführer (2nd Lt.) Günsche behind. On the right, Günsche has been promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (Capt.); he ended the war as an SS-Sturmbannführer (Major), and was one of the key personnel present during the last days in Hitler's Berlin bunker. Günsche and his comrades Max Wünsche, Hansgeorg Schultze ("Frettchen"), and Richard Schultze are often called Hitler's "Ordnance Officers," but this is a mistranslation of their title "Ordonnanzoffizier" - the term actually means orderly officer or aide-de-camp. All were later promoted to Adjutant, in which position they still functioned as aides. (autographed photos courtesy Herr Otto Günsche, author's collection)
(Click here to read a short biography of Otto Günsche, by someone who knew him.)
RIP Herr Otto Günsche - died 2 October 2003.
Some more of the many Berghof visitors ... on the left, officers of the 1st SS Panzer Corps visit the Berghof ca. April 1944. From left-right: SS-Brigadeführer Theodor "Teddy" Wisch (commander, 1st SS Panzer Division LSSAH), SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Wünsche (commander, SS-Panzerregiment 12), SS-Obergruppenführer Josef "Sepp" Dietrich (Corps commander), SS-Oberführer Fritz Witt (commander, 12th SS Panzer Division HJ) - all holders of the Ritterkreuz - Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. (NA RG 242-EB, 16-20A)
On the right, Eva clowns around with a man who looks like Gauleiter Adolf Wagner, and who appears to be holding something representing a mock "Hitler" mustache in front of Eva (Robert Payne's The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973) says this is Dr. Wilhelm Frick). (NA RG 242-EB, 30-10B)
The final photo shown here could serve as a commentary on Eva Braun's life as Hitler's mistress.
The man looking up to the left is Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and Italian Foreign Minister. Ciano is standing with Hitler's interpreter Paul Schmidt.
Eva admired Ciano's looks and dashing style, but she was forbidden to meet him. So she sometimes secretly photographed his visits from the upper windows of the Berghof. In this photo, apparently taken by Heinrich Hoffmann (many of the photos in Eva's albums were actually taken by others), Ciano appears to be glancing up at a window of one of the guest rooms above the Berghof dining hall.
Eva labeled this album page "Da oben gibt es Verbotenes zu sehen - mich!" (up there is something forbidden to see - me).
(NA RG 242-EB, Album 6, No. 30A)http://www.thirdreichruins.com/berghofvisitors.htm
Nazi Women Exposed
Nazi women exposed as every bit as bad as Hitler's deranged male followers
By ALLAN HALL
Portrayed in soft tones and pastels, their beatific gaze stared from billboards and freesheets across the land.
Blonde, fresh-faced and pure, these were the women of Hitler’s Third Reich.
They were prolific mothers, skilful homemakers, hard-working secretaries and dedicated auxiliaries.
They supported their men at war and devoted themselves to the cause of their Fuhrer.
And their Fuhrer treated them with all the delicacy of a courting lover.
When war began, Hitler forbade them to work in the munitions factories for fear they would lose their femininity under the stress of hard physical labour.
Family income benefits were dispensed for every new child, ‘childrich’ families were publicly honoured and the gold Cross of Honour of the German Mother was bestowed on women bearing four or more babies.
Hitler needed a docile and devoted female population to breed the supermen he needed to populate his dream of the 1,000-year Reich.
Even as Allied bombers turned Germany into brick dust, Hitler gave orders that industries which logically should have been transformed into armaments plants continue to pump out lipsticks, nylons and fashion accessories ‘for the gracious ladies’.
In Nazi art, films and magazines, women were always the fairer sex, defending the home-front as their menfolk fought on the battlefields.
Sinister: Female auxiliary guards at Auschwitz smile as they take a break
But what did Hitler get in return for his dutiful attentions?
Until recently, the role of the Nazi woman in the construction of the brutal state machinery of the Reich has never been truly revealed.
Now a new book in Germany called Perpetrators: Women Under National Socialism explodes the myth behind the propaganda.
In the first German post-war analysis of the role of women in the crimes of the Nazis, historian Kathrin Kompisch documents the shameful truth about her sex in the war, which until now has been a taboo subject in her homeland.
‘The participation of women in the crimes of the Nazis has been blended out of the collective conscious of the Germans for a long time,’ she writes.
The fairer sex venerated by the propaganda machine of Josef Goebbels was, according to Kompisch, every bit as eager to turn the thumbscrews on the victims held in Gestapo cellars across Europe; every bit as fanatical as the male when it came to crushing resistance to the state.
They became assistants to the doctors who first sterilised, and later murdered, the ‘useless’ handicapped.
They became head guards in the gulag of concentration camps — like Herta Bothe, known as the Sadist of Stutthof for her merciless beatings.
And they were handmaidens to the SS as they staffed the ‘baby farms’ where ‘supermen’ children were born. In these ghoulish clinics, women were the managers and nurses.
And, Kompisch points out: ‘One should never forget the legions of women who stood by their menfolk as they killed people by the tens of thousands in Russia, in Poland, in places like Auschwitz and Treblinka.’
This was the supreme corruption of the old maxim about a woman standing behind every successful man. In the Third Reich, it often meant a massmurderer being silently supported by a woman who would not dream of raising a hand to her child or kicking the family dog.
‘The history of National Socialism has long been reduced to one that blamed men for everything,’ says Kompisch. ‘The fact is women were involved at all levels of the Third Reich’s most infamous and brutal crimes . . . There were always choices, even within the Third Reich, and women often made their own choices as much as men.
‘They typed the statistics of the murdered victims of the SS Action Squads in the east, operated the radios which called up for more bullets, were invariably the secretaries — and sometimes much more — in all the Gestapo posts.
‘And at the end of the war these women tried to diminish their responsibility by saying they were just cogs in the all-male machine which gave the orders.’ Kompisch says women under Hitler — pushed though they were towards a cliched ideal of hearth and home — actually found opportunities for advancement in the regime that normal peacetime would have denied them. Just as the ‘ordinary Joe’ could become an extraordinary killer, so could the ‘weaker sex’ prove itself strong under the swastika.
Analysing pre and post-war statistics, Kompisch found there were more government, private sector and military jobs to be had for women under Hitler than in peacetime.
But those who who stayed at home — and had the babies the regime craved — also bloodied their hands.
Influential: Some women had very close access to the Fuhrer
After all, it was largely women who queued up at government warehouses to buy the furniture, jewels, household appliances and clothes of their Jewish neighbours who had disappeared in the night without a word.
The high-testosterone, all-male hierarchy of the Nazi state blocked out women from leadership positions from the very start — but the regime actively encouraged female participation in enforcing the Nazi terror at grassroots levels.
Most Blockwaerts — apartment house snoops who reported on un-Nazi activities to the party — were female. Women also made unofficial denunciations to the Gestapo of suspicious neighbours, Jews and other enemies of the state at a rate of three-to-one compared to men.
Women also undermined the sacredmarriage illusion which Nazism tried to promote, for they were avid denunciators of their spouses. The surviving files of the Gestapo in the city of Dusseldorf noted they ‘try to change the power balance of the household by denouncing their husbands as spies or Communists or anti-Nazis’.
Kompisch agrees: ‘The cliche of Gold Mother Cross-wearing women having 10 babies and baking bread was a myth. Women could and did advance themselves massively through the Third Reich.’
One only has to see old newsreels of women fainting, crying, screaming with adulation at the feet of Hitler to see what a Messianic effect he had on them in the days before Elvis and The Beatles. So what made the caring sex morph into servants of evil on such a massive scale?
On one level, the women who served helping the SS in the death camps — like Hermine Braunsteiner, the ‘Mare of Majdanek’, who killed her victims by stamping on them and Irma Grese, the ‘Angel of Death’ at Belsen and Auschwitz — were poorly educated, dysfunctional misfits who would have faced permanent rejection in ordinary society.
Some 3,200 women served in the concentration camps. Female guards were generally low-to-middle class and had little or no work experience, although SS records show some were matrons, hairdressers, tram conductors or retired teachers.
Dorothea Binz, head training overseer at the all-female camp of Ravensbruck after 1942, trained her female students in the finer points of ‘malicious pleasure’. One survivor stated after the war that the Germans brought a group of 50 women to the camp to undergo training. The women were then separated and brought before the inmates. Each woman was then told to beat a prisoner.
Of the 50 women, three had asked for a reason and only one had refused. She was later imprisoned.
Dr Eugen Kogan, a Nazi expert, wrote after 1945 in a report for the Allies about female guards: ‘They were quite simply attracted to the SS ideology as the mode of life that appealed to them and agreed with them . . . Here their “inner son of a bitch” could be projected to someone else and kicked with an enthusiasm that ranged all the way to sadism.’
But not all women were like Binz or Grese.
Cruel: Female SS guards after Belsen was liberated by Allied forces
Even fewer were like Ilsa Koch, the wife of the Buchenwald camp commandant who gave up her hobby of needlepoint for the ‘ entertainment’ of mounting the heads of executed prisoners on wooden blocks as mantelpiece ornaments.
Kompisch draws on several case histories of other more outwardly civilised woman to try to get to the core of the corruption of their sex by the Nazi regime.
Karin Magnussen, 20, born in 1908 in Bremen, was a brilliant biologist and physicist. Here was a woman venerated by her profession, unaffected by the financial and political upheavals that propelled Hitler to power — and who ended up using the eyeballs taken from still-living prisoners at Auschwitz by the demented Dr Josef Mengele for experiments on the pigmentation of the human iris.
She became a fanatical Nazi out of choice and belief, not for any advancement of social or fiscal standing that such a step offered the less intelligent or less fortunate in society. At the end of the war she was one of the legions who claimed to be ‘dragged along in things’.
‘I was a Nazi fellow traveller, that’s all,’ said Magnussen in 1945. She was allowed to teach for another 20 years before dying peacefully in her bed aged 89 in 1997.
Dr Ruth Kellermann, born in 1913, was another female intellectual who willingly joined the Nazi crusade.
A gifted scientist, she worked at the sinister Race Hygiene and Peoples’ Biology Research Institute in Berlin where she experimented on the cadavers of gipsies killed in Ravensbruck.
She moved to Hamburg, where she was ‘instrumental’ in the round-ups of local gipsies to extermination camps.
After the war, there was no longer any call for eugenics and she satisfied herself with a research job as a social historian.
Her past was forgotten until the 1980s, when one of her lectures at Hamburg University about the history of housekeeping turned into a melee as protestors stormed the building accusing her of war crimes.
‘You sent my family to Auschwitz!’ screamed one woman into her face.
After a lawsuit brought by Romany groups in 1986, a German court judged that ‘at the very least you must have known what you were doing would lead to the eventual extermination of the Roma and Sinti gipsies’.
A higher court later watered down the verdict, but it was immaterial; Kellermann never served any prison time and she never apologised.
Misfit: Irma Grese was known as the 'Angel of Death' at Belsen and Auschwitz
And take Dr Herta Oberheuser. Although happy, talented and a woman of independent means, she joined Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Oberheuser killed healthy children with injections made from oil, mixed with the barbiturate evipan, and then removed their limbs and vital organs.
The time from injection to death was around five minutes, with the person being fully conscious until the last moment.
Oberheuser also performed gruesome and painful medical experiments, focusing on deliberately inflicting wounds on the subjects.
In order to simulate the combat wounds of German soldiers fighting in the war and identify ready cures, Oberheuser rubbed foreign objects, such as wood, rusty nails, slivers of glass, dirt, or sawdust, into the wounds of prisoners.
Oberheuser was the only female defendant in the Nuremberg Medical Trial, where she was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
She was released in April 1952 for good behaviour and became a family doctor at Stocksee in Germany, only to lose her position in 1956 after a Ravensbruck survivor recognised her.
Her licence to practise medicine was revoked in 1958.
She said of her service: ‘Being a woman didn’t stop me being a good National Socialist. I think female National Socialists were every bit as valuable as men in keeping what we believed in alive.’
Kompisch’s compelling book shows that women were as drawn to, and degraded by, Nazism as all its male proponents. In contrast to the tenderhued posters of women serving hearth and home, it seems the docile feminine ideal propounded by Hitler concealed a truly deadly core.
Kompisch concludes: ‘The fact is that women allowed their female characteristics to be suppressed to bind themselves to the Nazi state and its agencies.
‘To say, as most did at the end of the war, that they knew nothing of the terror and torture is absolutely unbelievable. They supported and underwrote such terror and torture.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1142824/Nazi-women-exposed-bit-bad-Hitlers-deranged-male-followers.html#ixzz1ah7i8xlb
It is a big ,mistake to think that all German women fell for Hitler like ambitious
professionals Leni Riefenstahl, socialites like Winifred Wagner or nuts like Inge Ley
A lot who had deep Socialist convictions or simply refused to buy the Hitlerite crap tried in a way or in other to fight the Nazis. Many to lose their life in this combat, some to be totally forgotten by posterity. In a sense they were Hitler's femmes fatales. Here are some bios and portraits of the most notorious : Sophie Scholl, Erika Mann, Charlotte Salomon, Odette Samson, Eva-Marie Buch, Milfred Fosh-Harnack.
They all sacrificed their life to their ideas while others like Gertrud Scholtz-Klink
served their nazis masters for their greatest profit.
SOPHIE SCHOLL (1921-1943)
Martyr of the anti-Nazi movement at Munich University where she studied biology and
philosophy. Arrested with her brother Hans, a medical student, both were sentenced to
death by the People's Court, and on February 22, 1943, twenty-two year old Sophie and
her brother Hans were beheaded by the guillotine. They were instrumental in organizing
the resistance group known as the 'White Rose'. In one of their illegally printed
pamphlets, she wrote 'Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie'. The graves of
Hans and Sophie Scholl can be seen in the Perlach Forest Cemetery, outside Munich.
ELIZABETH von THADDEN (1890-1944)
Teacher and activist in the anti-Hitler movement. Born in Mohrungen, East Prussia now
Morag, Poland, she taught in a Protestant boarding school at Wieblingen Castle near
Heidelberg which she founded in 1927. Forced to resign in 1941 by new state
regulations, she started working for the Red Cross. She was reported to the Gestapo for
things she said during a discussion on the regime at her home on September 10,1943.
She was arrested, charged with defeatism and attempted treason and sentenced to
death by the Peoples Court. On September 8, 1944, she was executed. Her half brother,
Adolf von Thadden, survived the war and became a member of the Bundestag and later
chairman of the National Democratic Party (NPD).
Daughter of diplomat Dr.Wilhelm Solf, ex Ambassador to Japan. In 1940, she married
Count Hubert Ballestrem, an officer in the German military. At her mother's house a
group of anti-Nazi intellectuals met regularly to discuss ways to help Jews and political
enemies of the regime. Many Jews were found hiding places by the Countess and her
mother, Frau Solf. Documents and forged passports were obtained to help them
emigrate to safety. At a birthday party given by their friend, Elizabeth von Thadden, a new
member was introduced to the circle. It later turned out that the new member,
Dr.Reckzeh, was a Gestapo agent and all members of the Solf Circle had to flee for their
lives. The Countess and her mother went to Bavaria but the Gestapo soon caught up
with them. Incarcerated in the Ravensbruck concentration camp the Countess only saw
her husband once when he came on leave from the Russian front. In December, 1944,
they were sent to the Moabit Remand Prison to await their trial before the People's Court.
On February 3, 1945, Berlin was subjected to one of the heaviest air raids of the war.
Next morning the word got around that the notorious Judge Freisler was killed in his own
court-room by a falling beam during the raid. The trial was postponed to April 27 but a
few days before, all prisoners were discharged as Judges and SS guards fled the city as
the Soviet Army approached. Frau Solf went to England after the war and her daughter
was reunited with her husband and lived in Berlin. All told, seventy-six friends and
acquaintances of the Countess and her mother were killed during the last few months of
the war. Countess Ballestrem-Solf died while in her mid forties through trauma caused
by her husband's imprisonment by the Soviet authorities.
LILO GLOEDEN (1903-1944)
Elizabeth Charlotte Lilo Gloeden was a Berlin housewife, who, with her mother and
husband, helped shelter those who were persecuted by the Nazis, by sheltering them for
weeks at a time in their flat. Among those sheltered was Dr. Carl Goerdeler, resistance
leader and Lord Mayor of Leipzig. Lilo Gloeden, her mother and husband, were all
arrested by the Gestapo, and Lilo and her mother subjected to torture under
interrogation. On November 30, 1944, all three were beheaded at two minute intervals by
guillotine in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin.
LILO HERMANN (1909-1938)
German student who became involved in anti-Nazi activities. She was arrested and
sentenced to death for high treason, becoming the first woman to be executed in Hitler's
EDITH STEIN (1891-1942)
Born in Breslau, daughter of a Jewish timber merchant. She rejected Judaism and
became a Catholic nun in 1922 and in 1932 she was appointed lecturer at the German
Institute of Scientific Pedagogy, a post from which she was dismissed because of her
Jewish parents. She then entered the Carmelite Convent in Cologne as Sister Teresa
Benedicta. In the elections of 1933 she refused to vote and was prohibited from voting in
the elections of 1938. Transferred to a convent in Holland, she was arrested by the
Gestapo when Germany invaded that country. With many other Jews she was sent to
Auschwitz where on August 9, 1942, she was put to death in the recently built gas
chambers. Edith Stein was later proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul 11, an act which
infuriated many Jews who think that she is not an appropriate representative of Jewish
victims. So what ? She was a Catholic by choice and Pope had all right to make her a
Born in Frankfurt-on-Main, a member of the Socialist Young Workers movement. In 1933
she helped many Jews and others to flee the Reich. In 1935, she aided those engaged
in resistance work, from her home in Alsace. After the capitulation of France in 1940, she
was arrested by the Vichy Government and handed over to the Gestapo. Brought before
the People's Court in Berlin in 1943, she was sentenced to death, and on June 9, 1944,
executed in Plötzensee Prison. In her last letter she wrote 'Be cheerful and brave, a better
future lies before you'.
Born in Berlin in 1905, this German novelist had her books banned by the Nazi's when
she criticized them for their defamation of German womanhood. In 1933 her books were
confiscated and burned and newspapers were forbidden to publish her short stories.
Forced to emigrate to Holland so she could continue her writing, she again went back to
Germany in secret when the Nazi's invaded the Netherlands. In Cologne she went
underground and began writing again making no secret of her opposition to the Nazi's.
After the war nothing was heard of her till 1976 when she was discovered living in poverty
in an attic room in Bonn. She had spent six years in a Bonn hospital and four and a half
months in the state hospital for alcoholism. In 1972 her books were republished and
she died of a lung tumor on May 5, 1982.
Born in Milwaukee, USA, on September 16th. 1902, daughter of merchant William Cooke
Fish. In 1926, she married the German Rockefeller scholar Arvid Harnack whom she
met while studying literature at Wisconsin University. She insisted on keeping her
maiden name. In 1929 she and her husband moved to Germany where she taught
American literature history at the University of Berlin. In Berlin, she became friends with
Martha Dodd and through this friendship, she and her husband were often invited to
receptions at the American Embassy where she met many influential Germans. When
the war started, Arvid and Mildred supported the resistance movement against the Nazi
regime through their friendship with Harro Schulze-Boysen and the spy ring the Nazis
dubbed 'The Red Orchestra'.
On September 7th, 1942, she and her husband were arrested while on a short vacation
in Priel, a seaside town near Königsberg and taken to Gestapo headquarters at No. 8,
Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. At their trial on December 15-19, 1942, Mildred was sentenced to
six years in prison for 'helping to prepare high treason and espionage'. Arvid and eight
others were given the death sentence and on December 22 Arvid and three others were
hanged from meat hooks suspended from a T-bar across the ceiling of the execution
chamber at Plötzensee Prison. The others were beheaded by the guillotine. On
December 21, Hitler reversed the sentence on Mildred and at her second trial on January
13/16, 1943, she was given the ultimate penalty, death. At 6.57 pm on February 16, 1943,
Mildred Elizabeth Harnack nee Fish was beheaded by guillotine in Plötzensee, the only
American woman to be executed for treason in World War2. Her last words were
reported to be "And I loved Germany so much". (By September, 1943, all fifty one
members of the 'Red Orchestra' had died, two by suicide, eight by hanging and forty-one
beheaded by guillotine).
In January, 1970, the Russians posthumously awarded Arvid Harnack the Order of the
Red Banner, and Mildred, the Order of the Fatherland War, First Class, the highest
civilian award. Sadly, in the US the Harnacks were forgotten.
A Dutch national who, when hearing of the German threat to refuse permission for the
refugee Children's Transports to cross the border into Holland, went to Vienna and
confronted Adolf Eichmann, head of the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration. She
persuaded him to issue a collective exit visa for 600 Austrian Jewish children. The
children eventually arrived in England. In all, Gertrud Wijsmuller organized a total of
forty-nine transports to Britain. Another transport she organized, her 50th, was from the
port of Danzig on August 24, 1939. On September 1 Germany invaded Poland and
occupied Danzig. Back in Holland, Gertrud continued to help in the transfer of Jewish
children to England until May 10, 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands. After
Kristallnacht, over 9,000 German, Austrian and Czech Jewish children were brought to
Britain by these Kindertransports. The first transport arrived in Harwich on December 1,
CHARLOTTE SALOMON (1917-1943)
Born in Berlin, daughter of surgeon Professor Albert Solomon. In 1933, being Jewish, he
was deprived of his right to practice medicine. Charlotte was admitted to the Berlin
Academy of Fine Arts in 1935 (some Jewish students were admitted whose fathers had
fought in World War 1) After Kristallnacht, father and daughter were given permission to
leave Germany. They settled in Villefranche in the South of France. After Italy signed the
surrender, German troops marched into Villefranche and on 21 September, 1943, the
Gestapo arrested Charlotte and her husband, Alexander Nagler. Deported by train to
Auschwitz both were gassed on arrival. Professor Solomon survived the war and in 1971
presented to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam a total of 1,300 paintings
done by Charlotte in the three years before her arrest.
The closest woman that Hitler was ever emotionally attached to was his niece, Geli Raubal. Geli was an attractive young, blond woman with whom Hitler had the only true love affair of his life (Shirer 26). Hitler met Geli in 1928. After falling in love with her, he took her everywhere with him, to meetings and conferences, on long walks in the mountains and to cafés and theaters in Munich. It was probable that Hitler intended to marry Geli. It is unknown if she reciprocated his feelings, but they were both jealous of each other. When she decided to continue her voice studies and pursue an operatic career, Hitler forbade it. He wanted her for himself alone. It is unknown why, but the relationship began falling apart and they argued constantly. Again, she demanded to go to Vienna to study voice. It was overheard that Geli cried to her uncle, "Then you won't let me go to Vienna?" and he was heard to respond, "No!" The next morning Geli Raubal was found shot dead in her room. She had shot herself in the chest. Hitler was devastated. Gregor Strasser, a close friend of Hitler's, recounted that he had to remain for the following two days and nights at Hitler's side to prevent him from taking his own life (Shirer 186-7)
Perfect German Woman~German Mother
It is possible that Hitler's love, Geli, influenced his opinion of women. The description of a perfect German woman fits Geli's description. It is also not surprising that like Geli, Eva had suicidal feelings, but unlike Geli, Eva did not have a strong intelligence. Perhaps because of Geli's death and the constant arguments at the end that Hitler had with her, Hitler preferred a woman who was pretty but rarely thought. It is clear that Hitler had formed a repressed view of the perfect German woman.
In his Mein Kampf, Hitler states that "the German girl is a subject and only becomes a citizen when she marries. But the right of citizenship can also be granted to female German subjects active in economic life"(Hitler). Soon, women were trying to clone themselves to fit one image, that of the perfect German woman: a striking blonde with big hips and hair tied back at the nape of the neck or plaited on top of her head with no make-up (Henry and Hillel 35). According to Hitler, a woman's duty was to be "attractive and bear children for the Führer. They were to follow their dedication to Hitler with the hopes of giving him at least one child (Henry and Hillel 34).
According to the Nazis, women were only able to make decisions emotionally and were thus unqualified to hand down justice, among other things. At a time when German women had been given the vote and were struggling for liberation from male domination, the Nazi Party published in January 1921 a statement in which they undertook to exclude women permanently from all important positions in politics. In one fell swoop, the rights that women had fought for were abolished. Hitler in particular spoke of the emancipation of women as an "unnatural symptom like parliamentary democracy." According to party leaders, such tendencies were evidence of frustration due to inadequate functioning of the sex glands.
Hitler and his party immediately made use of the media to further their goals. "Aryan" women were exalted as childbearers and keepers of near-sacred hearths, well away from desks and decisions. "The German woman doesn't smoke." "The German woman brings children into the world" and other such messages appeared. Propaganda directed at women, though, of course, it varied according to circumstances, was always inspired by two distinct aims: numerical quantity and racial quality. The former led directly to the campaign on the "birthfront," to meet the growing population needs of the country; the latter was restricted to the élite of the German nation, the blonde blue-eyed Nordics, and led to what was later known as the SS human stud-farms, part of the Lebensborn project.
New marriage laws were under consideration, as well. Hitler put his trusted comrade, Himmler, in charge of the plans. Details included the ability to divorce if after five years a couple remained childless. Whether the couple was happy or not did not matter; the good of the Reich came before the happiness of individuals (Padfield 318). Sterile marriages led to the 1938 divorce law under which, among other things, a wife's sterility or refusal to have children became valid reasons for divorce. The results were not long in coming. Divorces leapt from 42,000 in 1932 to 62,000 in 1938.
There were many negative affects of the propaganda to become the perfect German woman. Make-up was not even left untouched by the effect of the Reich. Make-up was "un-German" and only for faces "marked by the eroticism of eastern females". In Berlin, women wearing make-up were insulted on buses; they were called whores, and sometimes even traitors. Slimness was also condemned. It was taken for granted that women who were too slim could not have many children, just as those excessively devoted to their dogs were robbing their future children of the love to which they were entitled. Amid the contradictions, Nazi Man somehow managed to put "Aryan" Woman on a pedestal, then surround her by attentive armed guards, much like the "protective custody" accorded enemies of the state. They were lucky they had wombs. Nuns, who didn't use theirs, were treated worse.
Another plan was to establish an Academy for Wisdom and Culture to educate women specially selected for intellect, quick wit, grace of body, complete political reliability and Germanic appearance. The plan was to make a school that was a cross between a finishing school and a training college for the diplomatic service, a training ground for "proper" wives of party leaders, second wives. The young women's intellect "would be honed by studying history, foreign languages and daily games of chess, their physical grace by sport, especially fencing, riding, swimming and pistol practice; they would also have special courses in cookery and housekeeping" (Padfield 319). Requirements to gain entrance to this elite school would be that the woman have blonde hair and blue eyes. Plans to allow brunettes were to be considered later, but the first goal was to raise the view of the Nordic woman. The women's primary duty afterwards, of course, was to marry Party and SS leaders. The problem, as Himmler saw it, was that too many of the top men in the Reich had married during the "time of struggle" and the women who had been perfectly appropriate to conditions then had failed to rise with their menfolk and fill their new station in life. On public occasions they made the wrong impression; the men took mistresses; scandal was the result. The "Chosen Women" on the other hand would set an example and be a permanent ideal for the whole nation. The present leaders' wives would be granted a respectable pension, he concluded. Later the word Domina was spoken of as a title for the first or senior wife. The Chosen Women would have the right of refusal to a chosen husband for her, provided that she chose a partner from the appropriate circle of rank and position within a given time limit; if she failed to do so within the time limit, the right of choice would revert to the men. Final decisions in marriage would rest with Himmler since the Führer had placed him in charge of the project. In the SS, promotion to the higher ranks would be made dependent on marriage to a "Chosen Woman," making the woman a trophy, or medal to be obtained.
As early as 1933, changes were made in school curricula with a view to preparing girls for home life instead of university. For German girls especially, the economic situation meant a lessening of even marginal educational possibilities. Free public education had ended after the equivalent of the fourth grade. Until the turn of the century, most German girls had been denied a good high school education, for few schools existed to teach them, particularly for free. And rich young women in private academies were taught "insipid pablum". German women could not even enroll in universities until 1908.
The Third Reich sought to influence the youth early, to train the children into their proper roles. One of these methods of raining was the Hitler Jugend. The feminine auxiliary of the Hitler Jugend, the Bund deutscher Mädel (BDM), was led by Elizabeth Grieff-Walden. The younger girls were placed in the group, the Jungmädel. The youth were so brainwashed that it was not unusual for young girls to come home pregnant from Hitler Jugend week-ends. If the parents complained, the response was that the girls had learned their lessons well, to provide a child for the Führer. Not all women enjoyed being pushed back into the kitchen. Margarete Fischer, a woman in her youth during the Third Reich, remembered that the extensive membership of the BDM, helped women stay out of the kitchen. For the first time, women's groups were being led by their female peers. She said:
That all really happened in spite of Hitler's wanting the woman to stay with her saucepan. That on the one hand they should return to what was thought feminine, but on the other hand, through this leadership of women by women, emancipation can be spoken of in the larger breadth.
Among other activities, the Bund deutscher Mädel created a sense of camaraderie by song, not just National Socialist songs, but folk songs, again raising the country's morale. Ursula Meyer, another former member of the BDM recounts that one of the things she enjoyed most about work camp, where girls were conscripted to labor, was that people from all classes bonded. The cohesion that formed was unlike anything she had experienced before. "We had girls from all levels of people, from teachers down to factory workers."
As has been shown before, German women's change in status was primarily to aide in the Reich's plan to re-populate Germany. The campaign against childlessness in which the Nazis engaged immediately after their accession to power was first concentrated on the emancipated woman. She was to be eliminated at all costs from public life, forced back into the home in accordance with the old principle of the three Ks ñ Küche, Kinder, Kirche ("kitchen, children, church"). In spite of all the discrimination and the attendant disadvantages, most women, surprisingly considered the maternity cult a good thing, a necessity in the national interest (Henry and Hillel 35). So great was the preoccupation with fertility that of the eighteen million German mothers who were expected to devote themselves exclusively to the bringing up of their children, not one was sent to a factory before 1943. Of sixteen million married women at the end of 1938, 22 percent were childless; in Berlin the percentage was 34.5. This was in spite of the "marriage loan" being offered. Each couple was lent 1000 marks, a quarter of which was converted into a gift from the State on the birth of a child. Thus, the birth of the fourth child wiped out the loan completely (Henry and Hillel 36).
Another influence to raise the position of "mother" was the establishment of a holiday. August 12, the birthday of Hitler's own mother, became the Day of the German Mother. Public ceremonies took place at which mothers of large families were decorated with the German Mother's Cross (bronze for four to six children, silver for six to eight, and gold for eight or more). Women in possession of this award were entitled to the public respect enjoyed by front-line soldiers. The official view of the matter was that the dangers to which a mother's health and life were exposed in thus serving her people and her country (in childbirth) were equivalent to those to which the soldier was exposed in battle (Henry and Hillel 36). By August 1939, three million German mothers had been decorated and belonged to what the man in the street called the "Order of the Rabbit" (Kaninchenorden). When wearing their decoration these women were entitled to the Hitler salute from members of the party youth organizations, as well as to all sorts of special allocations, allowances and other privileges. During the war these often took the unexpected form of entitlement to a housemaid chosen from the millions of girls and women from Eastern Europe who were sent to forced labor in Germany. Polish, Russian, Czech and other female deportees were distributed among deserving families "so that the fertility of the German mother should not be diminished by physical work." The party leaders never tired of reiterating that war was less harmful to a nation than a decline in the fertility of its women.
Even though women were urged to the kitchen, the female work force still flourished out of necessity. At first, married women doctors were deprived of their jobs "in view of the necessity of devoting themselves to childbearing." Women were expected to get married and then give up their profession. There was great unemployment when Hitler came, and it was often said that if the women married, they had to give up their career so that the men could get work first. This usually wasn't looked upon badly because of the high unemployment rate when Hitler came to power (Owings 58). However, women doctors returned to work when the shortage of male doctors made it necessary to re-employ them. (Henry and Hillel 34).
The mobilization of women for the war economy started as early as 1936. When war broke out, over eight million women worked in Germany, as compared with four million in 1933. For this reason, only few additional women, probably not more than half a million, had been added to the workforce since the outbreak of the first world war. Because of the economy of the middle thirties, nearly all women that could be considered employable were already at work. Women held positions as streetcar conductors, post office clerks, railway clerks, and in other types of work in which they were employed in the first world war (Ebenstein 289). The reserve of women for additional employment was very small. The increase of the compulsory labor service from six months to a year meant that every girl or woman had been subject to labor conscription for a year when she reached the age of eighteen. According to German statistics, 91% of their work had been in agriculture. These girls received only about fifteen cents a day, but the regular year of labor service was not only in the form of compulsory labor. There were many other types ordered from time to time. Thus, it had been decreed at the end of the spring semester in 1941 that all female students would be conscripted for work in munitions factories during their vacations (Ebenstein 289). As a result, women became self-sufficient because of the war and because of the women's groups that had been established. This even had repercussions after the war. When the men came home and tried to reestablish their authoritarian presence, if it didn't lead to divorce, it caused a heavy burden on the marriages.
Women had been restored to the ideal condition of wife and mother, unmarried mother or fiancée. However, just as the married, fertile women were honored, hatred fell upon those who were childless. Childless couples, sterile women and even women "too old for childbearing" were made a target of the Nazi breeding experts. There were special concentration camps for women. Many of the inmates were kept there not because of personal activities, but as punishment for alleged misdeeds of their husbands. For example, in the spring of 1934, Gerhart Seger, former member of the Reichstag, managed to escape to Czechoslovakia from the notorious Orenienburg concentration camp. His young wife and nineteen month old baby were at once seized and sent to a concentration camp. Women lost the right to vote. They were not allowed to join political organizations or labor unions, or to help run any aspect of government, or to be on equal legal footing with their husbands, brothers, or sons.
Over the years, especially in the 1940's, when the war did not proceed as Hitler wished, German women were encouraged to extend their hearthdoms after all, even to such sites as bomb factories. Hitler did not believe, however, that women should be drafted for such work any more than for the front lines.
As the Reich rolled on, democratic institutions like voting, a free press, fair trials, were so long gone that most younger women might not have known what they were missing. After a full shift making tank parts, standing in line to shop, cooking for and caring for one's children, and dragging them down to the bomb shelter several times a night, the climb back up above the chiseled letters of Motherhood must have been arduous. But the Führer always was there with a last helpful push, and an honorary Mother's Cross for the really procreative.
A putative majority of German women not only accepted the elevated imprisonment but clambered up the pedestal themselves. It looked safer than feminism. And the elevated attention, the first in their lives for some women, was flattering. The cynical homage disguised the truth. German women were treated with such misogynistic manipulation, such disregard for any mental acuity, for not even Nazi women were allowed in the Nazi "parliament" or at the top of their own organization, it is clear that if women were not childbearers they would not have been accorded even second-class status. After the second world war, German women would have to climb the arduous trek to gain their civil rights once again.
Hitler's mother's grave
Klara Hitler was a pious Catholic mother who raised Hitler according to her beliefs.
Hitler felt grief-stricken over his mother's death. She was buried alongside her husband in Linz, Austria. German soldiers here pay their respects to the grave in 1938.
Note the Christian cross on her monument.
Freya von Moltke Looks Back on the Kreisau Circle
bibliographic citation: Freudenburg, Rachel, et al. “‘You see it too simply:’ Freya von Moltke Looks Back on the Kreisau Circle.” Confront! Resistance in Nazi Germany. Ed. John Michalczyk. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. 127-149.
During the Third Reich, Freya and Helmuth von Moltke’s home in Kreisau served as a gathering place for a group of Germans who actively resisted Hitler. These friends, who later became known collectively as the Kreisau Circle, began making plans for a democratic German government to be put into place after Hitler’s demise. At the time of the group’s founding, however, the mere suggestion of the Führer’s downfall was considered an act of treason. On 17 March 2002, Andreas Thomas, Jenny Gesualdo, and I, Rachel Freudenburg, interviewed Freya von Moltke at her home in Four Wells, Vermont in order to learn more about the Kreisau Circle. Throughout the interview, Countess von Moltke returned again and again to the phrase, “you see it too simply,” a mantra that directed our attention to the incredible complexity of the materials—the lives, events, relationships, objects, governments, institutions, and places—that are the object of historians’ curiosity. Is not every historical summary, to some degree, an oversimplification? And must we not be wary of judging and interpreting the past through the ideals, values and beliefs of the present, even though these are, to be sure, our only means of approaching history?
Freya von Moltke was born in Cologne in 1911 to Ada and Carl Theodor Deichmann. Her father was the director of the Deichmann Bank until 1931, when the institution went under. She had two brothers, Carl and Hans Deichmann, who were “good anti-Nazis” just like their sister. In 1930, Freya passed the Abitur, the German university entrance exam, and began studying law. While vacationing in Austria, she met Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, a fellow law student and heir to Kreisau, the Moltke family estate in Silesia. In 1931, Freya and Helmuth married and, after spending some time in Berlin where she finished up her law degree (Dr. jur., 1935) at the Humboldt University, the newlyweds moved east to Kreisau.I had not much inkling of what was to come,” von Moltke explains.
By the end of 1945, the unimaginable had come to pass. Freya had joined the fight against Hitler, she had risked her own safety, had lost her husband, and had been evacuated from her home. Her postwar accomplishments are equally impressive: Freya von Moltke has authored several books on her life in Kreisau, the Kreisau Circle, and Helmuth James von Moltke. Von Moltke has received numerous awards for both her role in the resistance to Hitler and her important work as a chronicler of the Kreisau Circle. Today, through her involvement with the Kreisau Foundation, she continues to champion the cause of intercultural understanding in Europe. We did not know what to expect at her home, but the person who greeted us offered homemade applesauce and the best beet soup we had ever tasted. Was this grandmotherly figure the same woman who had stood up to Hitler and fought ferociously for her husband’s life? Or had we been seeing things too simply?
Freya von Moltke, whose encounter with Kreisau has lasted the better part of a lifetime, always describes the place with more than a hint of fondness in her voice: “Kreisau is a small village in Silesia which used to be East Germany, and as a consequence of the Second World War, is now Polish. It was what one used to call an estate of the family von Moltke, but it was also a beautiful, big, running farm.” She was immediately enchanted with the place, for reasons that had little to do with its landscape and innate charm: “Well, I was very much in love, and therefore I didn’t care where I was going. I wanted to be near that person, Helmuth James von Moltke, and anything that was around him and of importance to him was important to me. So my change-over from western Germany to eastern Germany was very quick—although the people in West Germany said, ‘Oh, that poor child is going so far East.’ It didn’t seem that way to me.” She adds that, “it was a different life because I was a city girl,” yet as she reflects upon the place and its beauty, one realizes that nothing suited this city girl more than the rural lifestyle.
The first few years of her marriage were spent in Berlin witnessing the events leading to the Third Reich and soon, “the political situation in Germany became very difficult. It was practically civil war before the Nazis came to power because there were not only the Nazis’ semi-military groups, but there were also military groups from the Left. It was generally really chaotic in Germany, and so we saw the rise, and we witnessed the ups and downs because the National Socialists won in the elections and also lost in the elections, and so it was a long, downward path that led to National Socialism.”
The von Moltkes often appear as some of the few upper-class people who, right from the start, opposed Nazism, with most active resisters only turning against the regime quite late in the war.According to Freya von Moltke, this is a much too heroic view of historical reality: “There were quite a lot of people who were opposed, but of course the methods of the Nazis pushed them into the underground, or killed them, or put them into concentration camps.” Indeed, the von Moltkes merely belonged to what remained of the opposition to Nazism after the Nazis were through murdering, imprisoning, torturing and ostracizing those who did not share their views. There was ample opportunity to leave Germany, but the von Moltkes chose to stay instead. Helmuth’s mother hailed from South Africa, and in 1934, Helmuth and Freya visited family there. “Actually we went to South Africa and of course there they said don’t go back but we wanted to go back. First of all because of the farm. Second because Helmuth was the eldest in a group of five and his parents had died or were dying. And last, and that was the most important reason, Helmuth went back as an opponent. He wanted to be an opponent of National Socialism in Germany.”
Even as opponents of German fascism, the von Moltkes were, at first, unprepared for what would eventually happen, “because we were not victims. We were actually treated extremely well because the Nazis honored very much one of the ancestors of my husband.” This ancestor was the Field Marshall von Moltke whose efforts on the battlefield during the Bismarck era (1866, 1867, 1870) had earned the family not only the right to use the titles “count” and “countess,” but also a prominent place in German history. “Helmuth was not a direct ancestor but we were the next in line to him [the field marshal], and he had won two wars for Germany, and the Nazis admired him greatly. My husband was the legal heir and therefore they treated us with respect. No doubt about it.” Partially as a result of his family’s heritage, Helmuth von Moltke was promoted into the Nazi government’s High Command—a position that he exploited as much as possible to undermine Nazi lawlessness.
One of the many paradoxes of the German resistance movement is that those who were most firmly established in the bureaucracy of the Third Reich were in the best position to dismantle it. As time went on, though, Helmuth von Moltke’s opportunities for on-the-job resistance diminished drastically. He was no longer able to assist Jewish colleagues or to work for Jewish clients, and his repeated attempts to urge the government to abide by the rule of law and humanitarian standards were, increasingly, an exercise in futility. When it became clear that clandestine activity was in order, Freya backed her husband unconditionally. “Well, he told me once that he was going to seriously involve himself and said more or less, ‘this you have to know, and I can only do it if you are with me.’ Of course I was with him, so I said, yes, I thought we should do it.” And so, in 1940, Helmuth and Peter von Yorck, another Count from the Eastern regions, began laying the groundwork for what was to become the Kreisau Circle. Carefully and cautiously, the two made contacts and found people who shared their vision of a non-fascist Germany.
The Kreisau Circle
Freya von Moltke describes the process of assembling what was to become the Kreisau Circle as nothing short of arduous. Peter von Yorck and Helmuth von Moltke carefully sought out “people who objected, who were opposed to National Socialism and were trying to envisage a better Germany beyond National Socialism, which at the time seemed completely impossible. It all started when Hitler had his greatest successes in France in 1940; it was a way of keeping one’s own integrity intact and finding something to oppose at this time of frustration and despair, because opposition—I have to make this quite clear—was absolutely illegal and impossible. There was nothing in Nazi Germany like free speech. […] To bring together such a group was in itself a big undertaking. It took a lot of time, but also a lot of confidence, a lot of trust. People who would go in for such things were in danger, and so it was a very demanding question to ask somebody to join.”
The Kreisau Circle’s agenda was to prepare for X-day, the day after Hitler’s complete military defeat, by having a plan for a new nation in place and ready to be implemented. Freya von Moltke explains: “the goal of the Kreisau Circle was to think through what a better Germany would have to be organized like. After all, the one attempt to practice democracy had failed. The Nazis had been able to overcome the Weimar Republic. So the big question was: ‘How can I make democrats out of Germans who had not been able, really, to run a democracy properly?’ And they had very diverse ideas, and some of these ideas, if you read what was written down, seem inappropriate today but the questions they asked were all the right questions. Questions such as how to build a new democracy that has many sides to it. How to build a new economy and whether it should be free or not free. What should the universities be like? There were thousands of questions, of course. And the group itself had to be like a democracy. It had to have opposing opponents. They were all opponents of National Socialism, but within the group itself, they had different political views. We had capitalists and socialists. We had Catholics and Protestants. We had younger people and older people. This was a carefully brought together group.” Even the group’s two main leaders, Peter von Yorck and Helmuth von Moltke, who were both members of the Eastern German aristocracy, were on opposite sides of the political spectrum: “Helmuth was interested in socialism, to put it mildly. And Peter von Yorckwas much more conservative and his friends were much more conservative. So the two between them brought really an interesting lot of people together.”
At the center were the von Moltkes, Helmuth and Freya, and the Yorck von Wartenburgs, Peter and Marion, but the group was actually a loosely connected network of friends, rather than an actual association with a set membership list. Even so, a review of its “members” does reflect the political diversity for which Yorck and von Moltke strove. Jesuit priests (Alfred Delp and Lothar König) were brought into dialogue with representatives from the Protestant Churches (Harald Poelchau and Eugen Gerstenmeier); Communists (Julius Leber) faced off with Nazis (Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg); members of the aristocracy (Hans-Bernd von Haeften and Adam von Trott zu Solz) worked with union organizers (Hermann Maass and Wilhelm Leuschner). The group also included individuals from several different areas of expertise including economists (Carl Dietrich von Trotha and Margrit von Trotha) and educators (Adolf Reichwein). Finally, a list of participants would be incomplete without the names Carlo Mierendorff, Theo Haubach, Gustav Dahrendorf, Paulus van Husen, and Theodor Steltzer.
Interestingly, the friends never called themselves the “Kreisau Circle.” The name, which came into use during the Nazis’ investigations into the groups’ activities, was derived from the three large meetings held at the Moltke family estate in 1941–1942. As with any label, “Kreisau Circle” both is and is not accurate. Freya von Moltke explains that prior to these three large gatherings, there were actually “hundreds of small meetings that took place in Berlin, and in Munich but mostly in Berlin, and mostly in the apartment of our friends the Yorcks.” Because of the dangers associated with their work, it was only possible to meet in twos and threes, and even then, fears of being discovered were incessant. Eventually, larger assemblies became necessary, for “it was important to have a chance to integrate what the different smaller circles had worked on. So these bigger meetings were organized in order to formulate what had been done and to get agreement on what had been done, and Kreisau was a very good place to do it because we people in the country were used to having big weekend visits and nobody much cared or paid attention. So when Helmuth said he wanted to have big weekends with his coworkers, it seemed quite natural. And so we had these three meetings, but only three. And it’s quite extraordinary that the group should have the name it does because it should really be named after the small house of the Yorcks in Berlin, but on the other hand these integrative meetings were important. And also the big driver in that group was always my husband, Helmuth. He could get them all to work, so to speak. He complained when there was no progress made in the smaller groups. He pushed them and got us all together in Kreisau.”
As early as the 1940s, the Kreisauers were criticized for being long on idealism and short on pragmatism; however, it must be kept in mind that there was very little one could actually accomplish as a resister in the Third Reich. As Hans Mommsen points out, a good measure of idealism and otherworldliness was perhaps an intellectual prerequisite for the decision to join the resistance.Today, historians speculate that ideological differences between the group’s members would have made taking any concrete step nearly impossible. Nevertheless, one admires the seriousness with which the Kreisau Circle, within a nation that sought to eradicate difference by the most violent means possible, thought about ways to include people of different backgrounds in governmental and social institutions.
Freya von Moltke explains that as time went on, the utopianism that inspired the members of the Kreisau Circle became more and more strongly rooted in European Christianity: “The majority of the people had not gone into this question of Christianity. One took it for granted, learned it in school, and went on with it into life. But the question became much more important with the fact that they really put everything of their lives into [the resistance] and had to face death and were thinking about why they were undertaking such an endeavor. The answers to all these questions brought them much closer to a Christianity they already sort of vaguely belonged to. Even the Socialists, who were the farthest away from thinking on Christian terms, became much more involved with Christianity while all this was going on. So the group decided that the past of Western Europe had been built on Christianity, and felt that the future should also be built on Christianity.”
Again, we should not interpret Christianity—a broad term if ever there was one—too simply. The connections between Germany’s Churches and the Nazi government have become notorious indeed. What did Christianity mean for the members of the Kreisau Circle? What was the link between their spiritual lives and the ideals that guided their plans for Germany’s future? One obvious connection is their agreement that religious freedom (including the “freedom” to be Jewish) should be protected by the state. Additionally, the Kreisau Circle based its plans for Germany’s future on principles such as individual liberty, the rule of law, and the state’s obligation to protect the individual’s rights to peace, property, family, work, and education. Interestingly, though, individual rights did not come without some duties. The members of the Kreisau circle believed that each person should be involved in political processes at the grass roots level. (If we fantasize, for a brief moment, that we live in a world where everyone is ensnared in the bickering and backbiting of local politics, it is not difficult to see why the group was often castigated for its social utopianism.) The government imagined by the Kreisau Circle featured strong centralization with numerous well-developed, smaller political units. Because of the failures of the Weimar Republic, the members of the Kreisau Circle were reluctant to embrace democracy wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, they did believe that people should be politically active and needed to be trained to think beyond their own immediate interests. Involvement in self-government, they proposed, was one way to achieve this end. They theorized that a government based on small, local groups would encourage the political integration of individuals into their communities. Perhaps the encouragement of a certain communal mentality, whereby persons are taught to empathize with and take responsibility for others without giving up their own individuality, reflects the Kreisau Circle’s version of Christianity.
Throughout the interview, we returned again and again to the theme of Christianity, and as we did so, the various meanings this word had for the people of the Kreisau Circle came into sharper focus. Interestingly, our conversation on Helmuth’s attitudes toward children fed into thoughts on the way he, and others, began to understand their activities as a specifically Christian pursuit. Freya von Moltke explained that Helmuth had not wanted any children, but that she had. In the end, she prevailed and had two sons, Helmuth Caspar, who was born in 1937, and Konrad, born in 1941. I had trouble imagining Helmuth being against the idea of children because in the photos that survive, he looks like such a doting father. “Oh, but you see it too simply,” Freya von Moltke began; “he loved children, but he found life a difficult thing and he didn’t want personally to be responsible for life on this earth. But he changed his mind on that, too, and that’s quite a good example to show you how the question of Christianity became important. He was not thinking in the same terms anymore; he no longer thought he was the one who did everything. So later on before he died he was very grateful and happy that he left me with two very nice little boys.” For Helmuth, coming closer to Christianity meant acknowledging individual limitations and accepting the idea that some higher power was perhaps in control. Paradoxically, the recognition of limitations enabled oppositional activity.
At other points, Mrs. von Moltke spoke of how her own political attitudes, and those of her friends, changed dramatically during the Third Reich. “We became more public-minded, so to speak, although we could not be public. But our interests became wider and more ambitious. We really wanted to change Germany and for that you needed to have many friends, of course.” The resisters of the Kreisau Circle saw themselves as friends first, and political activists second; their friendships were founded on the absolute trust that was necessary in the resistance, and their group was unified through their shared idealistic beliefs. Perhaps the analogy of a religious community is not entirely far-fetched.
Women in the Kreisau Circle
Although I had been seeing things too simply throughout most of our conversation, once we turned to the subject of women’s lives, I felt I had seen things in too complicated a fashion. Outfitted with the typical preconceptions of a middle-class, working woman at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I asked the Silesian Countess how she had managed, back in the 1930s and 1940s, to juggle her many different duties, roles, and obligations. After all, she had been a mother of two young children, a political activist, and the de facto manager of a farm with over 60 employees all at the same time. She answered, “Oh, that was very easy. You know there was a big background,” by which she meant a support staff that assisted in all aspects of her work in Kreisau. “My role was easily defined and quite easily filled,too. I had no difficulties whatsoever, since the context of Kreisau was a very peaceful one. We were busy producing food, and children were busy growing up, and visitors went and came and went, and it was just keeping all these friends together, which was a very female task. And now tasks for females have widened enormously but it's still a very attractive female task to be on the farm and, well, not entirely running it, by no means, there were people who understood much more, but to keep it all together somehow. And that's what I did, and I had no trouble; it was not difficult to do it, not even in the Nazi time.”
Accounts and opinions of the roles played by women in the German resistance as a whole vary greatly. In some retellings of history, women’s names are conspicuously absent, even from the indexes of books that are otherwise full to overflowing with detailed information. On the other extreme, feminist journalists and historians claim that the entire German resistance rested on the unique efforts of women. The truth, however, seems to contain much more variety than these two extremes might indicate. Vera Laska, in her book on Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust, points out that in many resistance groups, women operated on an equal footing with men, and even that some essential tasks were entrusted to women because it would have been impossible for men to carry them out. Intelligence missions, for example, were frequently performed by women because they aroused less suspicion. But this is a pattern that may not hold true for all resistance groups. Another way women participated was in their largely invisible work as supporters, as people who “kept the friends together,” as Freya von Moltke put it, or who made sure that the men of the resistance had food to eat during times of war and scarcity!
The degree of participation by women in the Kreisau Circle runs the gamut from actively contributing to the plans being laid for the future of Germany on the one hand, to the wife’s relatively apolitical role on the other. In general, Mrs. von Moltke sees the women of Kreisau as wives who “supported their husbands” but for the most part stayed out of the limelight. When asked whether she believed that the resistance could have existed without the contributions of women, Freya von Moltke responded, once again, “that is too simply put. I don't think [the men] could have done what they did without women supporting them, and the support from us was very good.” Her point is well taken: support should not necessarily be confused with actual political activity, though both were essential to the functioning of the resistance. “Most of the women, the wives, did not know what was going on; some of them were somewhere else. They were not together with their husbands at that time because of the war so they could not take part in [the resistance work]. And as far as they did take part, as Marion Yorck did, and as I myself did, they still could not do the planning. I myself felt completely incompetent. How could I dare to make statements about how parliament should work in the future Germany after the end of Nazism; these were questions that I was not able to answer.”
Von Moltke’s self-effacing demeanor causes her to undervalue her own accomplishments, but who can objectively judge him- or herself? Admirably, though, her sense of modesty does not prevent her from appreciating the achievements of other women resisters. She is one of the few chroniclers of the Kreisau Circle to list Margrit von Trotha, Irene Yorck von Wartenburg, and Marion Yorck von Wartenburg as members. She also mentioned von Trotha during the interview: “One of us, Margrit von Trotha, was a trained economist, and she actually did plan with her husband in the group, in one of the small get-togethers in Berlin, but she never came to Kreisau.” As these remarks show, it is difficult to make generalizations regarding women’s participation, even in a group as small as the Kreisau Circle. Indeed, most of the women associated with this circle were wives of its more active and more visible male members; however, even von Moltke must correct her initial conclusion that women were not involved in the planning by mentioning Margrit von Trotha, the economist. Additionally, Marion Yorck von Wartenburg’s memoirs demonstrate that she, too, was intimately involved in the Kreisau Circle’s planning at almost every level.
Today, some feminists seem frustrated with Freya von Moltke’s adherence to more traditional feminine roles, but can she really be faulted for choosing a life that was, for her, both exciting and fulfilling? However, it is not merely her obvious enthusiasm for her career as wife, mother, and farm manager that raises the hackles of today’s urban, career-oriented women. Alison Owings, for example, calls von Moltke “humble to the point of inaccuracy” (Owings 245). Indeed, perhaps Owings has a point: “He [Helmuth] was very wise in not telling me everything,” Freya remarks. “I didn’t know many details [while] living in Kreisau. I couldn’t know everything that was going on. Although if you read his letters, he did report very exactly whom he was meeting. But, also, maybe he did it because he himself wanted to keep a diary on what he was doing, and his diary was writing to me everyday. But I never interfered in the details of what he was doing in his anti-Nazi work.” Surely there is a significant difference between keeping a diary and desiring to share the details, the very fabric of one’s day-to-day existence, with the person one loves. Taken as a whole, the letters, written while Helmuth was working in Berlin and Freya was running operations in Kreisau, bear touching testimony to his deep commitment to her and to their marriage. Unfortunately, Freya only considered his letters worthy of being saved for posterity and did not preserve the missives she wrote to him.
On the other hand, perhaps this explanation, which attributes von Moltke’s modesty to the stereotypically feminine tendency to downplay one’s own accomplishments, is not entirely to the point. Perhaps Freya von Moltke’s “modesty” has more to do with her completely sobering view of history than anything else: “You have to realize how little the German resistance could do anyway,” Freya protests, “and that’s why it’s not recognized very much, neither in Germany nor anywhere else. You can’t ask me what women could do, because we women couldn’t do anything, and the men couldn’t really do very much either. That’s the trouble.”
The End of the Kreisau Circle?
On 19 January 1944, Hemluth von Moltke was arrested because he warned an acquaintance that he was on the Nazis’ wanted list. “Then the acquaintance was arrested (because getting away was very difficult in Germany), and he gave Helmuth’s name as the one who warned him; and so the Gestapo took Helmuth, too.” After this, Freya recalls, “I was cut out completely, that was of course absolutely necessary. I heard nothing anymore about what was going on. I didn’t know if anything was still going on because I was in much too dangerous a position, and I could be interrogated, and then how would I stand up to that? I heard, I knew nothing anymore.” She continued living at Kreisau, and she was allowed to visit Helmuth once a month and to write to him three times per week. Although this was not much, she recalls, “it seemed helpful to me. I said that I needed to talk about the farm and that we needed his advice and I would come with books to show him and to work. They gave us two hours to sit next to each other and I brought the books, but we never actually dealt with them. We talked of other things.”
Six months after Helmuth was arrested, on 20 July 1944, Colonel von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Hitler with a briefcase bomb, but failed. Freya von Moltke first learned about it “through the newspaper,” and recalls that her initial reaction was one of shock, “because I knew we were involved. I knew at once! There was the name of Peter von Yorck immediately, who was at the headquarters, and some [others] of our group were at the headquarters, too. So I knew we were involved. Then the question only was, how much did they find out? It took a while,” she explains, but eventually, the Nazis did find out that Helmuth “was very closely allied to [the conspiracy] and after that I heard nothing anymore, no more letters. So then I knew. Also Helmuth had, at the last meeting, said to me that he would let me know how bad the situation was by saying a certain piece of land should be ploughed one hundred percent, that would be very bad. Fifty percent would show the position and its seriousness. And then he wrote to me in a letter that three quarters should be ploughed. So I knew already it was very dangerous. And then the letters stopped entirely.”
Amidst all of this darkness, there were “wonderful miracles that happened during those times.” Freya and Helmuth were granted one such miracle when he was transferred to a new prison. Of all the penitentiaries in the Third Reich, Helmuth was placed in the one where Harald Poelchau, a member of the Kreisau Circle, was chaplain. “So he [Poelchau] started carrying our letters in and out, as if we were writing everyday. I spent most of those last months in Berlin, because again my background allowed this. My sister-in-law, Asta, looked after my children when I was gone, and of course we still had the cook. All those things were different, and so I could be away, and I spent all those months in Berlin.” During these months, she corresponded with Helmuth and worked tirelessly on his defense. One day, she went to Poelchau’s apartment to write to Helmuth, as she did practically every day. But this day was different, for at around three o’clock, Poelchau came home and told her that Helmuth was dead. The date was 23 January 1945. Five decades later, it is not necessarily easy for Freya von Moltke to talk about these events. “But, oh, that is so detailed,” she protests, when I encourage her to tell us more about this fateful day.
Helmuth was put to death for knowing the people who had attempted to assassinate Hitler. Since he was in jail while plans for the dictator’s elimination were being hatched, he himself was not directly involved. Throughout the early 1940s, his own position on the question—should Hitler be terminated?—was complicated. “Of course he wanted Hitler dead,” Freya explains, “but he also wanted him dead at the right time. He thought if he gets killed before the waris over then the same thing [as happened] at the end of the First World War might happen again. Back then, the Germans said, ‘we were never defeated. It was the politicians who did it, who put a dagger into the back of the troops. The military were all really mistreated by the politicians and we could have won the war.’ So he thought the only chance for the future of Germany was for Hitler to really destroy himself and for the Allies to win the war.” If theDolchstosslegende, or “Stab in the Back Legend,” were resurrected, Germany as a nation would not be inclined to reform itself and critique its fascist elements. Instead, it would more likely present itself as a nation that had been “right all along” in following the Nazis. Of course, this was only one of many considerations that had to be pondered carefully before any action could be taken. There were more practical matters, as well, and everyone feared that “they would probably not succeed, because they had to have somebody armed to do it and how do you get at Hitler? And the generals who could have done it were, as my husband called them, hopeless. They would never do it. And so it was actually [Stauffenberg], a colonel and a cousin of Peter von Yorck, who in the end did it.”
Even after the doomed assassination attempt, Helmuth’s position on the issue remained “difficult, and it stayed so to the end. In prison, where two or three of the group were together, they would talk about such matters on their daily walks in the courtyard. They still discussed this question: was it right to have tried it? Would it have been better to let the war run its course and wait for the very end? But [even before that] the group always discussed whether to get rid of him, and how to get rid of him. And they said, ‘the sooner we get him killed, the fewer have to die.’ And as matter of fact, most of the losses in human life came after the attempt on 20 July 1944; the greatest number of people had to die after July 1944 and throughout 1945. It was really all very tragic.”
Just as women participated in the resistance in many different capacities, they also experienced Nazi persecution and the demise of the Third Reich in a variety of ways. As Freya von Moltke explains, “the Communists suffered the most bloody persecution, and there also the women were killed.” After the attempt on Hitler’s life, many women of the Kreisau Circle lost their husbands and were imprisoned themselves. “Women were put into jail but were released after three, four months, and I think it had to do with the fact that it wasn't popular for these women to be in jail. They probably all were known as fairly normal creatures and why should they be made into criminals? It was toward the end of the war, and the Nazis could not risk that, so all came free.”
The story of women in the resistance is also often a story of widowhood, but as Mrs. von Moltke points out, “you have to realize that not only did the resisters die but millions of ordinary soldiers died. So the life of Germany after the end of the war was very much in the hands of single women; their predicament played a big role. In that respect we were no different from other women. Everybody had to try and make their way again. We were all challenged to lead more independent lives.”
Since the women of the Kreisau Circle survived the end of the Third Reich in greater numbers than did their male counterparts, they were entrusted with telling their group’s history, and their contributions in this area are impressive to say the least. Freya von Moltke, Rosemarie Reichwein, and Marion Yorck von Wartenburg all published their experiences of the resistance in memoir form, and have given historians valuable insights into the Kreisau Circle. In addition to these memoirs, Annedore Leber published a two-volume set of biographical portraits of resistance fighters from the Kreisau Circle and many other resistance groups. Finally, it was often women who had the foresight to preserve actual documents and letters that, today, bear witness to the extraordinary work accomplished by those who opposed Hitler. This was not always an easy task. Freya von Moltke, for example, moved Helmuth’s letters from one building to another during the war’s chaotic last weeks. At one point, they were even hidden in a beehive. “I got stung a little bit,” she admits, “but as every beekeeper knows, beehives have two compartments. The bees retire into one compartment during the winter. You hang up frames in the upper part and these are ready for them to use. Then they start building; they build comb up into them, and some are filled up with honey. But that’s all empty in the wintertime because they only use the lower part, so I could put Helmuth’s letters in the upper part.” Many years after they emerged from the beehive, von Moltke began the task of transcribing and publishing these letters. The resulting book,Briefe an Freya (Letters to Freya), was honored with the Geschwister-Scholl prize.
For those most intimately involved in resistance activities, it is difficult to name the date when it was all over; indeed for many, the resistance will never end. In one of his many essays on the topic, David Clay Large describes the resistance as an ongoing project that did not end, or even become unnecessary, after Germany’s defeat in 1945. Surely, for resisters who lived to see the summer of 1945, their involvement in the opposition during the Third Reich shaped their lives in the postwar era. Some members of the Kreisau Circle, such as Eugen Gerstenmaier, remained politically active and later ascended to top positions in government. Women, too, embarked on postwar careers: The lawyer Marion Yorck (a.k.a. Yorck von Wartenburg) became a judge in the Juvenile Court of Berlin after the war ended. Rosemarie Reichwein opened a physical therapy clinic in Germany where she treated children and trained a new generation of therapists. Both of these women brought the ideals of the Kreisau Circle—a belief in value of individual freedom and the respect for personal dignity—to bear in their professional lives after 1945.
None of the plans laid out by the Kreisau Circle was ever put into practice. In part, this had to do with the fact that “the Allies set up German democracy according to their own pattern, and maybe also some of the suggestions of the plans [of the Kreisau circle] wouldn’t have worked.” Still, one asks if the resisters were nothing more than suicidal idealists? Freya von Moltke responds: “I personally have always felt that what Helmuth did was worth doing, even though it was a complete failure. Of course, you don’t believe in the futility, you always have hope, or faith, or whatever you call it, in what you are doing. And I think this kind of activity—to object and then to stand for what you believe in—is one of the most important human activities to this day. It takes different shapes in different parts of society. In the Nazi times it took the shape of resistance, of wanting to do something because you couldn’t bear just doing nothing. After a while, my husband wasn’t even allowed to help Jewish people anymore. No, it was illegal to do that after a while. I mean, what you could do was so narrowly limited. But that you stand up, that is still as important as it ever was.”
Lest we interpret these remarks too simply, Mrs. von Moltke explained that this human quality, this “interest in more than oneself and this readiness to stand for what one believes in,” was not the exclusive possession of resistance fighters. It was also very much a part of the Nazi movement. “It’s a human quality and that human quality is distributed in very different quantities in different people, and wherever in the world it is, it will be put to work. It will always have results of some kind because it’s this human quality that really moves the world on, for better or for worse. Also history sometimes uses awful actions of human beings to further mankind. And I think mankind has to learn. I still believe that we can learn to live more peacefully together on this earth, although it seems completely hopeless, at times. And I think that’s what keeps us human beings going on.” Here, we begin to tread on discomfiting terrain where the lines dividing good from evil begin to vanish. Countess von Moltke touches on issues that can inspire both hope and despair. Her theory that human history can, in some instances, progress through “awful” actions was a mainstay of the Nazis’ own ideology—a fact that makes us, today, reluctant to embrace it uncritically in any context. On the other hand, where would we be without at least a scrap of hope for the betterment of humanity? And—more to the point—would there have been any resistance at all without the conviction that oppositional activity would bring some good into the world, even if it did not enjoy immediate success?
The fact that there was a resistance at all was not without future political consequences, even if, in the first few years after World War II, resisters were still considered traitors by many Germans. David Clay Large’s work explores how this attitude gradually changed and how postwar German governments eventually embraced the resistance, and even used it to shape a national past upon which a more sanguine German future could be built. The relationship between Germany’s ongoing process ofVergangenheitsbewältigung, or coming to terms with its past, and the German resistance is a complicated one. What position should the history of the German resistance occupy in Germany’s present national identity? One cannot condone a history that would falsify reality and present Germans in general as opponents to Hitler; factual evidence shows that, in every social class, active resisters comprised a small minority of the German population. However, it would also be a mistake for historians, and those who fashion Germany’s identity as a nation, to omit from the picture the small group of people who opposed Nazism.
Today, the history of the Kreisau Circle also contributes to the formation of European identity. After the Iron Curtain was drawn back, in the early 1990s, Freya von Moltke relinquished her ownership claims on Kreisau and on 10 July 1990, the “Kreisau Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe” was formed. Monetary contributions from Germany, Poland, and other countries paid for the transformation of the Freya’s former home into a conference center and international meeting place for young and old. Von Moltke is pleased with the remodeling: “Our farmyard was generously laid out with a field and around it the most attractive farm buildings. But that field was filled with untidiness when it was a farm yard. It had wagons and it had a silo and it had a huge dung heap, and the cows were in a building that had beautifully vaulted pillars so that we always said it’s such a pity to have the cows in this beautiful building. Well, that’s the cafeteria now.”
The mission statement of the new Kreisau clearly makes connections with the past: “The Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding is a Polish nongovernmental organization dedicated to raising the level of social and political understanding between people from different countries. The Foundation bases its work on the tradition of a German resistance movement against the Nazis, the Kreisau Circle.” Indeed, the members of the Kreisau Circle had always been anti-racist and internationally savvy: “I was very much opposed to racism. We had Jewish friends whom we cherished. We thought nationalism was much overdone. We did not like the imperialistic claims that Germany had,” Freya explains. “We were standing up for people, and for cooperation between nations. That’s what the Kreisau people did; we were completely European in our outlook.” When it was suggested that this internationalism was surely not viewed as patriotic during Hitler’s time, she answered, “well, patriotism was not to bepatriotic.”
Today, there is still much work to be done before Europe becomes comfortable with its multinational and multicultural identity. As Freya von Moltke points out, “the devil is in the details. To bring it [European integration] about is a very difficult thing. All the old differences between the European units are still there, and this makes Europe so attractive, but it also makes it hard for the Europeans to get together.” As Europe continues along this arduous path toward integration, the effects of the German resistance are finally being felt. Mrs. von Moltke explains that without knowing that there was a German resistance, “the Poles really could never have made friends with the people in Germany after all the dreadful things that the Germans did to the Poles.” Currently, all generations of the von Moltke family are dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Kreisau. In 1999, Mrs. von Moltke was distinguished for her efforts on behalf of German-Polish understanding with the “Bridge Prize of the city of Gölitz/Zgorzelec.” She and her sons and grandchildren are all still involved in running the Kreisau Center and preserving the legacy of the Kreisau Circle.
One of the most chilling lessons taught by the history of Nazism is that the desire and ability to resist, and to act independently, can be eliminated—or very nearly eliminated—from a vast population. But do the lessons learned here apply beyond Germany’s shifting borders? During the Historians’ Debate of the 1990s, the keepers of the past argued vehemently over the status of the Holocaust in global history. The debate’s central questions revolved around the use of the comparative and the superlative: was this the worst thing ever to have happened? And, were the Nazis really the worst people ever to have lived? Or were they just as evil as, less evil, or more evil than mass murderers from other times and places? Is it right, scholars asked themselves, to compare other genocides to the Holocaust? Is not every event unique, and is not this uniqueness lost as soon as comparisons are made? To grant the Nazis a special status would be to see the situation too simply, or would it?.
Throughout her life, Freya von Moltke has energetically devoted herself to educating others about the resistance, and the new Kreisau Center is an important component of her pedagogical mission. At the Kreisau Center, she explains, “we have an exhibition on resistance. It not only shows the Kreisau Circle, which is of course very well documented there, but it also shows resistance in the Eastern world, in Poland, in Russia, and in Czechoslovakia. All these countries have had resistance. Sometimes it was directed against the Russian occupation and not against their own administration, but of course it was also often against their own government, too. And people said, ‘how can you compare these resistances? They are completely different in content and in time.’ And so they are. How do you compare them? But you can very well compare them, you find out, in the way people resisted, and in why they resisted. Lots of people resisted, and the human element in it is everywhere the same. That is very gratifying, and it is something we are trying to show that to the young people who come to Kreisau, to see how necessary it was, and still is.”
Ravensbrück Concentration Camp
Ravensbrück Concentration Camp was the largest camp purpose-built for women in the Third Reich. Construction on the site began in 1938 at an area near Ravensbrück, fifty miles north of Berlin, by 500 male prisoners transferred from Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. From 1938 to 1945 over 132,000 women passed through its gates – of these, only 40,000 survived their experiences.
Inmates came from over thirty countries. The majority of prisoners came from Poland (30%), with significant numbers arriving from the Soviet Union (21%), Germany (18%), Hungary (8%) and France (6%). By 1942, its prisoner population had grown to roughly 10,000, as inmates were transferred from around the Reich and its conquered territories.
Inmates originated from varied social and political backgrounds, ranging from Jews, political inmates, ‘asocials’, Jehova’s Witnesses, criminals and the ‘work shy’. Significant numbers of children accompanied their mothers (mostly Jews and Roma Gypsies) to the camp, though almost all perished of starvation. The composition of these different groups varied wildly through the camp’s existence. In its early years, the majority of inmates were politicals and criminals, while in 1945 – when occupancy had swelled to 50,000 – Jews and asocials accounted for the bulk of the camp’s population. Famous inmates included Margarete Buber-Neumann, Wanda Poltawska, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Corrie ten Boom and Maria Skobtsova.
Camp life was very similar to most other concentration camps in the Third Reich. Inmates were routinely cramped into small shacks, starved to the point of famine and forced to perform physical labor under appalling conditions. Those too weak or chosen for other reasons were executed by gassing chambers and euthanasia programs, while doctors performed horrific human experiments on living subjects. While the camp administrators were largely men, the guards responsible for overseeing the inmates were almost exclusively female, and were no less sadistic and inhumane than their male counterparts at other camps.
As the Soviet Army approached in 1945, the SS released 7,000 prisoners - mostly political - to the Danish and Swedish Red Cross. Subsequently, the remaining 20,000 prisoners still fit enough to walk WERE FORCED TO TAKE a death march towards Mecklenburg, where many more were killed. Only a few thousand inmates who were far too weak for physical exercise were left behind in the camp. The camp was finally liberated on April 30th, 1945. Those who survived the death march were discovered by a Russian scout unit several hours after.
- ↑ United States Holocaust Museum (2010). “Ravensbruck”. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005180.
Margarete Buber-Neumann (21 October 1901 - 6 November 1989) was a prominent member of the German Communist Party who was imprisoned in both the Soviet Union and Nazi German during World War II. Though initially a devoted communist, her arrest during Stalin's purges significantly changed her political and social opinions. She survived both the Karlag Gulag and Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, and drew on her experiences in publishing her memoirs entitled Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler. Two of her most relevant observations are written in her autobiography: First, she compared the Nazi and Communist systems and denounced them equally. Secondly, she revealed that the social differences of inmates outside these complexes were still relevant and significantly influenced their interactions as prisoners.
Imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp of Ravensbrück from 1941 to 1945, Wanda Poltawska was one of the many female prisoners forced by German physicians to endure inhumane and criminal medical experiments. The strong-minded and unyielding Wanda Poltawska rose above her title of a mere “guinea pig” in the concentration camp system by becoming an ardent fighter for freedom and life within and beyond the bounds of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her memoir written in June and July of 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, reveals the triumph of the human spirit when faced with war and genocide. The memoir, which was eventually titled And I Am Afraid of My Dreams, was not published until 1961, as it originally served as Poltawska’s personal liberation from the nightmares she survived and relived in her dreams. As she states in her memoir, “But the point is not the actual experience so much as my own response to it. I need to sort it out and get a proper perspective on it.” In writing this personal diary of recollections, Wanda Poltawska was not focused on condemning or regretting the experiences she faced in Ravensbrück. By examining her struggle to survive, her resistance of mental destruction, and her quest for freedom, Poltawska also presented what she was able to gain and come to understand by living through such a dark time in human history. The experiences from World War II, particularly those in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, indisputably influenced and guided Wanda Poltawska in formulating her ideologies, values, and basis to life. Starting from her participation in the resistance movement and continuing with her efforts to survive jointly with others in the concentration camp system, Wanda Poltawska came to a much different reading of history as well as a varying outlook on gender roles than those commonly subscribed to by Western society. Unlike the gender competition offered by Western feminists, Wanda Poltawska used core values of Catholicism to formulate her vision on human solidarity and gender roles. Her first hand encounters with the loss of ethical norms as well as mass genocide during World War II motivated her to focus her attention on defending human rights, dignity, and life, with which she formulated her influential pro-life and pro-family agenda.Before Ravensbrück
Wanda Poltawska, the daughter of a post-office clerk in Lublin, Poland, was a teenager when World War II erupted in Europe. Before the start of World War II she was still in high school, planning to continue her study of Polish Language and Literature at a university in hopes of becoming a writer. Unfortunately, her normal teenage years drastically changed with the German invasion of Poland on the first of September 1939. Her educational goals were instantly destroyed in the now occupied Poland, in which formal education on all levels was prohibited. The Nazi occupiers saw no need for a higher education for Poles and other Slavs alike. According to their racial and political mentality, the people of Poland were to work for the Third Reich, therefore only trade schools were allowed to function. Underground education was considered a serious offense and therefore punishable with death. Although her education had been terminated by the outburst of the war, Wanda Poltawska dedicated her passions and focused her full attention to an equally crucial and growing cause, her Fatherland of Poland.
As a member of the Girl Guide, a youth organization similar to Girl Scouts, Wanda Poltawska began her active participation in the Polish war effort by assisting the wounded with first aid and other supplies. Polish women, just like women all over the war stricken world, took on an active role in the war effort, which often went outside their traditional gender expectations. Poltawska's involvement became that much more pronounced and serious by taking part in resistance activity, in which she completed the task of carrying various letters, documents, and orders for resistance groups. Although seemingly trivial, such an undertaking of carrying messages was not only vital to the progress of the movement but also considered a serious crime by the Nazi regime. In addition, women had an expanded role of extracting information directly from the Germans by transplanting themselves into the lives of the enemy by working as servants and in other cases becoming part of their social circle. Young girls and women were especially favored and used for these jobs due to a perceived gender advantage. Compared to men, women seemed to pose no real threat and were less suspicious to German soldiers. However, when discovered for their resistance efforts, women were in no way treated differently from men. Many were executed for their efforts while others were sent to camps as prisoners of war since the Germans recognized them as full members of the resistance groups and armed forces. Being only nineteen at the time yet fully aware of the grave consequences involved, the bold, persistent, and highly patriotic Poltawska did not shy away from the efforts. In February 1941, the Gestapo promptly arrested the young Wanda for her involvement in the resistance movement. Even when subjected to the Gestapo’s grueling interrogations and tortures, Poltawska’s loyalty and allegiance to the resistance effort relentlessly endured. Even though she disclosed no essential information to the Gestapo, Wanda was placed in the Lublin Castle prison for several months with prostitutes, murderers, and other criminals. Although suffering from the mental agony of being imprisoned and away from her family as well as from the various illnesses that ran rampant in the prison, Wanda Poltawska still took the time to focus on those around her. When sharing a cell with a young prostitute in the Lublin prison, Poltawska attempted to convince the young woman of her own self-worth and her ability to change herself and her eventual life outside the prison. Contact with such individuals during her imprisonment lead to her eventual and post-war focus on juvenile psychiatry. Wanda's motivation in studying psychiatry was to help the individual “become a mature person who is aware of his or her humanity”. As a psychiatric doctor following World War II, she continued her attempt to prevent young people, especially girls, from making wrong moral choices with regard to their sexuality. Poltawska's husband told an interviewer that since the time spent as a Nazi prisoner, his wife had been “fighting for human dignity”.Ravensbrück
Two years after the start of World War II, Wanda Poltawska entered the unknown, the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. Ravensbrück was truly a mysterious and unheard of place, deliberately built by the Nazi party in a secluded area with a relatively small population. The camp’s primary purpose was to incarcerate women for political affiliations or criminal activity, individuals who were deemed disruptive and against the established National Socialist German Workers' Party. With their meticulously planned campaign to destroy any political or spiritual loyalty other than to the race-nation, the Nazis hoped to “reeducate” all those that had fallen under their power. Therefore, no form of criticism and nonconformity was accepted as it would directly be against the Nazi vision of an unified racial collective world. Political prisoner, such as Communists, Social Democrats, and resistance group members, were equally dangerous to the Nazi vision of the world as criminal prisoners. Criminal prisoners as convicts were considered among society's “undesirables”, and therefore they needed to be separated and in some cases eliminated for the good of the Nazi nation. Similarly, homosexuals were seen as socially unacceptable while the spiritual adherence of the Jehovah's Witnesses posed a threat to the conformity of the Third Reich. In the concentration camp system, each group was identified with a colored badge. The specific identification of groups by color and shape can be found HERE).Barracks at Ravensbrück.
The camp initially consisted of twenty barracks, referred to by many as “Blocks”, although additional barracks were added when the original twenty proved inadequate for the growing prisoner population. As Poltawska comments in her memoir, “That mass of women…It seemed so impossibly overcrowded to us then; yet, before the camp had finished with us, there would be five times our present number crowded into a barracks of equal size.” Beside the outrageous overcrowding, prisoners were also subjected to extreme temperatures, constant filth from overflowing lavatory buckets, as well as to the rampant spread of various diseases within the “Blocks”. The cell building was a fundamental element in the concentration camp system, as it not only determined the daily life in the camp, but also enforced the ceaseless terror of punishment and the possibility of death. Ironically, the cell building also served as the prisoner’s safe haven, a place to escape from the watchful eyes of the overseers and SS administration, allowing prisoners some precious and much needed rest as their normal day was filled from morning till the evening with with a maximum amount of activity found in such tedious tasks as transporting boulders to a top of a hill or digging trenches and ditches in the sand. Even though the conditions of the barracks were far from comforting, the prisoners of Ravensburck looked forward to returning to their prescribed “home”. Inside their barrack, the women could freely talk amongst themselves, reminisce about their lives and families outside the camp, and share their hopes for the future. In addition, women could enjoy smuggled objects in the limited privacy of the barrack. For example, in her memoir Wanda recollects the nights the women spent reading a smuggled copy of Pan Tadeusz, Adam Mickiewicz's epic poem that is also considered the national epic of Poland.Arriving
A feeling of relief and hope marked the unexpected transport of Wanda Poltawska and other Polish political prisoners from the Lublin prison to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Unaware of the implications and conditions of the camp, Wanda believed that her entrance into the new environment was a release from her terrible prison days. However, she soon realized her entrance into the camp on September 23rd of 1941 was far from welcoming, as the reality of camp life was immediately made evident in the lifeless figures of the prisoners that moped slowly throughout the camp. Although Poltawska already understood that the camp was to be infinitely worse than the Lublin prison, she in no way let her realization devastate her as she relied on her strong religous faith in God in order to persevere the reality of the camp. She not only felt obligated to stay strong and firm for her own sake, but also in order to protect her innocent and younger friend Krysia. In a 2003 lecture, Wanda Poltawska revealed her thoughts on motherhood, a topic that was relevant to her relationship with Krysia. The essence of her life as a woman as well as her obedience toward God was found in her acceptance of motherhood. Although not taking care of her biological child in the case of Krysia, Poltawska believed she expressed her sense of motherhood by caring for those around her. The extent of this responsibility is illustrated as she notes, “Responsible. A powerful word… I felt responsible for ensuring that Krysia should one day return home. I don’t really know why. But I determined then, as I was to do so often in future years, that she, at least, must return.” This close-bound friendship became one of the most significant and defining points to Poltawska’s survival as it created an indestructible support system between the two young women while giving Poltawska an invaluable cause to fight for.A Sense of Unity
With the majority of the barracks categorized by nationality, national identity was naturally strengthened as women shared a common language, value system, and way of life. Throughout her memoir, Poltawska speaks of and illustrates the prevailing sense of union and interconnection particularly apparent among the Poles. Marked by the red triangle badge, all the Polish women in the Ravensbrück concentration camp were political prisoners sharing a deep sense of nationalism. Among all the nationalities present in the Ravensbrück camp, the Polish women came closest to reflecting a cross-section of their own society, an approach that allowed them to create an efficient and extraordinary system of mutual aid and protection for one another. As the majority of the Polish women were devout Catholics, Poltawska and her fellow prisoners were propelled to live with the values they had practiced outside of the camp. Their pull for order allowed the women to hold mass inside the barracks, create a network of families to give comfort to their members, as well as organize a vast assortment of educational programs. The Nazi oppressors had taken away almost everything they could from their prisoners. However, the women prisoners found substitutes and made adjustments to attain some level of normality, pleasure, and order in their lives. With such actions, the women were able to hold some level of control and independence from the restricting Nazi regime. Although obedient and submissive on the outside, the women prisoners found ways to secretly spite their perpetrators and their ideal Nazi world. The women prisoners were conscious of their ability to achieve more in life than just hard, forced labor. Any education efforts were severely punished even outside the camp system, yet in the concentration camp Poltawska discovered “the suicidal courage of people who could act as they chose because they knew that by tomorrow they could be dead”. Poltawska mentions the presence of a number of teachers and professors within the barrack, an arrangement that allowed her to receive private lessons in human anatomy in order to fulfill her promise of becoming a doctor if she survived Ravensbrück.
The Polish women of the Ravensbrück camp ultimately achieved an enviable level of power and importance in the camp, holding such positions as block senior and leader. These positions provided them with multiple key connections to goods and services. Only when the original Polish block ceased to exist by being divided among other blocks did the true level of interconnection and interdependence between the Polish women become apparent. Poltawska sorrowfully commented on the division of the barrack stating, “No longer were we in spotless Polish block, and we understood too late the mutual tolerance with which our girls had conducted their quarrels, the extraordinary refinement of their conversation.” Linked with their national traditions, common language, and ever-present Catholic faith, the Polish women found it more comforting to interact with one another than with the other prisoners. They not only had difficulty communicating with the other prisoners but also believed them to have a completely different mentality from their own. Reflections made by Wanda Poltawska throughout her memoir show her to be a proud Polish woman with virtues and prejudices common of many other Polish women of her generation. Throughout her memoirs, Wanda Poltawska describes the Polish prisoners and other Slavic prisoners as more courageous and nobler than the women prisoners from Western nations, specifically those from liberal France. Poltawska comments with distaste when describing the French women, who unlike the Slavic women, refused to wash and instead dedicated their time to painting their faces with beet juice. With the Polish barrack no longer existing, Poltawska was among the group of Polish women integrated into the block known as LL, the initials of lesbian love. Continually terrorized by the lesbians, Wanda Poltawska summarizes her experiences in block LL as Hell, a place only slightly less terrifying than the block where the medical experiments were performed. Poltawska believed in the importance of preserving the core values of Catholicism, especially under the extreme situations presented during the war. Therefore, lesbianism for Poltawska became “a hideous, inhumane reality” from which she was trying to protect her young and innocent friend Krysia. Forced to witness acts that destroyed her faith in innocence, Wanda Poltawska was constantly offered propositions to engage intimately with other women. Although Poltawska was openly disgusted by the homoerotic relationships within the barrack, lesbian relationships offered many women a source of affection that directly removed the overbearing feelings of loneliness. Within the camp system, many found these relationships natural, making some bonds between women permanent.Medical Experiments and Resistance
Roll call at sunrise, physically and mentally exhausting labor, and the constant pain of hunger became routine to Wanda Poltawska’s daily life in Ravensbrück. In July 1942, a new and unimaginable element of torture was added to her struggle for survival. Wanda Poltawska was one of the first six women chosen by SS medical doctors to undergo a series of experimental operations. Poltawska and her fellow prisoners were forced to sacrifice their limbs in order to test new medicines that were to benefit injured German soldiers fighting on the front. The German physicians found the medical experiments performed on these women a direct benefit for both the war effort and medical research. By the time Ravensbrück was liberated in 1945, the number of “human guinea pigs” totaled seventy-five. With the exception of one victim, all the women experimented on were Polish political prisoners, who were seen to be especially disruptive with their radical adherence and nationalism. Many of the Polish women used in the experiments were to be originally executed in the Lublin prison. Instead of an immediate execution, the Nazis sent some of the women political prisoners to Ravensbrück, with an already devised plan to use them later for medical experiments.
Being relatively healthy and strong, Wanda Poltawska was dumfounded to why she and others were being summoned to the camp’s hospital, the rewir. The overwhelming belief was that the rewir call was summoning the young women to their extermination. Instead, each prisoner was faced with a destructive leg operation, which involved injecting strains of bacteria into the leg, severing muscles, and even breaking bones. Other than the actual leg that was operated on, the German physicians deemed the prisoners subjected to the experiments worthless. Wanda Poltawska and her fellow prisoners were given little if any medical attention immediately following the operations, leaving them alone to face the agonizing effects of the deliberate operations. Crippled and hardly able to carry herself, Wanda Poltawska could not ignore the desperate cries of her fellow prisoners. Believing women to be protectors of life, Poltawska also found women capable of much greater love for others. As a woman she felt it was her prescribed role to take care of her fellow prisoners claiming that women had "nothing to gain from bringing themselves down to the level of men and trying to be like men". In her deplorable physical state, Poltawska ignored her own sufferings to attend and comfort those surrounding her. Even though she directly interacted and faced her medical perpetrators, Poltawska continued to believe that there was some good in every human being and was determined to prove it herself.
To Wanda, the experiments went beyond the physical pain. She had experienced something terribly new; a realization to the extent humanity can lose all sense of control and awareness. Although she had initially felt utterly powerless in having to endure the operations, the experiments awakened an uncontrollable persistence to survive. The Nazis had the power to control every aspect of Poltawska's existence in the constraints of the camp, yet knowledge pertaining to the state of her existence in the outside world would leave Poltawska and her fellow prisoners with the power. Wanda became insistent on countering her sense of helplessness by making sure the outside world was aware of what was happening. The Nazis, aware of the dangers found in information leaking into the outside world, became especially attentive on destroying the human evidence of their experimentation. Poltawska, being the living proof of the horrors of Ravensbrück, would not allow and accept elimination of her existence in passivity. Wanda states in her memoir, “We would find it easier to die if we could be certain that news of our deaths would reach the world outside.” Her humiliation and vulnerability were to be eliminated with her decisive proclamation: enough was enough.
As the medical experiments intensified and took the lives of several prisoners, the Polish women of barrack 15 were discovering a growing sense of their own power. When a list summoning new women to the rewir was issued, the women refused to comply and hid among the barracks of the camp. A group of representatives from the Polish barrack presented a petition directly to the commandment in order to protest the continuance of the experiments. Poltawska was completely aware of the possible consequences involved in signing the petition, but what mattered most to her was making a stand. She no longer was to be the submissive “guinea pig”. She still and always was a human being. As Poltawska explains in her memoir:“In a few brief sentences we stated that we, the undersigned political prisoners, wished to know whether the commandment was aware that experiments were being performed on completely healthy women in this camp- all of them political prisoners. We stated that these experiments had led to maiming and even death- here we gave the names of those who had died as a result of the experiments; the international law forbade experiments on human beings without their consent; and that we, the victims, hereby registered a formal protest against the research."
Wanda and her fellow prisoners even arranged for the transport of a camera with film into camp, which allowed them to take photographs of their mutilated legs in order to reveal the truth to the outside world. When another list summoning the “human guinea pigs” to their execution was presented, the living proofs of the evils performed within the camp were protected and even transported out of the camp through the efforts of the entire camp population. The women were strategically hid throughout various barracks in the camp, while roll call involved constant shuffling in order to hide the disfigured legs of the “human guinea pig". When it came to smuggling the women out of the camp, fellow prisoners collected the identification numbers of dead prisoners in order for the women to leave the camp undetected and with a new identification. Poltawska along with Krysia were among the saved “guinea pigs” transported to the small camp of Neustadt-Glewe, where they remained at till the end of the war. In the meticulously regulated and organized concentration camp, such a feat seemed unfeasible, yet the former resistance fighters used their past system of organization to divide tasks amongst themselves, secretively distribute information within the camp, and take advantage of every opportunity to successfully transport the women out of the camp while still acting relatively normal under the watchful eyes of the SS guards. In this way the women of Ravensbrück defeated the concentration camp system along with the helplessness it originally imposed.After Ravensbrück Wanda Poltawska with Pope John Paul II.
After the war, Wanda Poltawska returned to her hometown of Lublin. Although physically free from the bounds of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, mentally Poltawska remained tormented by her experiences, leaving her unable to sleep in order to avoid reliving the ordeal in her nightmares. Taking the advice of a trusted teacher, Wanda whole-heartedly wrote everything down in order to reclaim her priceless freedom, the freedom that the camp had so violently withheld from her for so long. In completing her memoir, Wanda recovered her sleep and rightfully regained her freedom. There was no notion of vulnerability as she was able to direct and handle her experiences rather than the occurrences tormenting her. Writing became Poltawska's self-therapy, an outlet to relieve her suppressed issues. Poltawska converted the images and emotions that tormented her into words, allowing her to construct a coherent narrative of her experiences. By writing her memoir, Poltawska was able to summarize, analyze, and assimilate the entire experience more efficiently, reducing the stress and torment associated with the traumatic happenings. Poltawska did acknowledge that sharing her problems with family members might have also helped her, but she did not want to burden her loved ones with the realities of the concentration camp. In her memoirs she reveals she wished she had a brother, then perhaps she could have talked about her experiences with a “strong man”. It was not uncommon for Polish women of Poltawska's generation to have such a frame of mind, as they were brought up in the tradition of idealizing strong men as protectors and defenders of women, their families, and their fatherland.
Wanda Poltawska’s experience as a Ravensbrück “human guinea pig” made her openly concerned about how human life and human dignity were seen and measured after the war. Poltawska confronted many of these issues by fulfilling her vow of becoming a doctor by qualifying as a physician in 1951. Believing psychiatry to be the most humane medicine, as it is devoted to helping individuals mature, Poltawska dedicated much of her time working with the younger population traumatized by the concentration camp system. In facing the complete perversion and manipulation of humanity in Ravensbrück, Poltawska was set on establishing and reaffirming the true beauty and potential of humans. Just as she had felt responsible in protecting Krysia, Poltawska felt equally obligated to guide the misunderstood and forgotten “Auschwitz children”. In conquering her own demons, Wanda Poltawska was able to relate to and comprehend the sufferings of these young adults, honestly providing them with the personal guidance and reassurance they longed for.
Poltawska deepened her call by focusing on the moral choices made by young adults with regard to their sexuality. In surviving Ravensbrück, Wanda Poltawska reaffirmed and defined her intense Catholic devotion by examining a number of these sensitive issues concerning sex and sexuality. In seeing the vast and unnecessary loss of life during the war, Poltawska became a strong opponent of contraception and abortion, believing that the processes only continued the mass murder of the innocent. For someone who was a victim of Nazi experimentation, it is not farfetched to conclude that contraception can undermine respect for life and possibly lead to greater abuses. Finding parallels to the Nazi experimentation in Ravensbrück, she warned against doctors who have once again been given “life-or-death powers over the human embryo” and who perform experiments on living embryos. She actively publicized in Poland the alleged harmful medical effects of artificial contraception, claiming it to be the first step to abortion. Believing women to be God-appointed protectors of life, Wanda Poltawska considered abortion the heaviest burden and disgrace for a woman.However, her claims that “the use of contraception leads to neurosis” have not been supported by any scientifically accepted proofs. Most of her articles have been published in publications put out by Church groups focusing on pro-life. Her featured articles mostly examine the topics of: idealism of youth, hysterical mothers forcing young women to get abortions, naivete of young girls, the suffering of women who miscarry, young people destroying their lives as a result of sexual promiscuity, and men seen as sexual predators.
Due to her religious and ethical stands on human sexuality, Wanda Poltawska became one of the closest advisers of Pope John Paul II. Wanda Poltawska became such a close friend of Pope John Paul II as they both viewed most of today's moral choices through their war experiences. Offering him continual advice that influenced his views and decisions on many key issues in the Roman Catholic Church, the little known Wanda Poltawska will have an ever-lasting presence in the generally patriarchal institution. Wojtyla's own statements and views on national character, human dignity, women, sexuality, and abortion are reflected in Poltawska's writings.
Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz
Joining the resistance just after the occupation of France in June 1940, she expanded the present information networks, in particular the group “Défense de la France”. Arrested by P. Bonny, of the 93rd Band of Rue Lauriston, on July 20, 1943, she was imprisoned in Fresnes and was later deported to the concentration camp of Ravensbrück on February 2, 1944. In October of that year, she was placed in isolation in the camp bunker. This decision was taken by Heinrich Himmler in order to keep her alive and use her as a possible exchange prisoner. She was released in April 1945 and married Bernard Anthonioz the following year, a fellow resistance member and art editor, with whom she had four children.
Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz wrote a book, fifty years after her release from Ravensbrück, speaking of her life in the concentration camp and the mutual help between the women. This book was called La Traversée de la nuit (literally, "The Crossing of the Night", translated to English as "The Dawn of Hope: A Memoir of Ravensbrück" [ISBN 1-55970-498-5] published by Arcade Publishing), and was published by Points. It was translated into English and published in 1998 as God Remained Outside - An Echo of Ravensbruck.
An active member and later president of the ADIR (Association of Deportées and Internées of the Résistance), she filed lawsuits against Nazi war criminals, then took part in the rise of the political movement launched by her uncle, the Rally of the French People.
In 1958, she worked with the cabinet of André Malraux when she met Father Joseph Wresinski, then chaplain of the town of Noisy-le-Grand. In the sufferings of the families she met there, it revived those of which she and other deportees had experienced. In 1987, she testified in the case of the Nazi Klaus Barbie.
Allied with the movement ATD Quart Monde, then a permanent volunteer, she was the president of the movement from 1964 to September 2001.
In 1988 she became a member of the French Economic and Social Council, and for ten years fought for the adoption of a law against great poverty. Deferred in 1997 due to dissolution of the French National Assembly, her law was voted in 1998.
Corrie ten Boom
Cornelia "Corrie" ten Boom (Amsterdam, April 15, 1892 – Orange, California, April 15, 1983) was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison where they were first held. A sister, brother and nephew were released, but Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruckconcentration camp, where only Corrie survived.
Ten Boom wrote numerous books and spoke frequently in the postwar years about her experiences. She aided Holocaust survivors. She wrote an autobiography, The Hiding Place(1971), about her experiences. It was adapted as a film of the same name two years later and starred Jeannette Clift as Corrie.World War II
In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Among their restrictions was banning a club which Corrie ten Boom had run for young girls. In 1942, she and her family had become very active in the Dutch underground, hiding refugees. They rescued many Jews from the Nazi SS. They had long been involved in charitable work, and ten Boom had worked with disabled children. They believed the Jews were God's chosen people.They provided kosher food for the Jewish refugees who stayed with them and honored the Jewish Sabbath.Harboring refugees
In May 1942, a well-dressed woman came to the Ten Boom door with a suitcase in hand. She told the Ten Booms that she was a Jew and that her husband had been arrested several months before, and her son had gone into hiding. As Occupation authorities had recently visited her, she was afraid to return home. Having heard that the Ten Booms had helped their Jewish neighbors, the Weils, she asked if she might stay with the family. Corrie ten Boom's father readily agreed. A devoted reader of the Old Testament, Casper ten Boom believed Jews were "the chosen." He told the woman, "In this household, God's people are always welcome."
Thus the ten Booms began "the hiding place", or "de schuilplaats", as it was known in Dutch (also known as "de Béjé", pronounced in Dutch as 'bayay', an abbreviation of the name of the street the house was in, the Barteljorisstraat). Ten Boom and her sister Betsie began taking in refugees, some of whom were Jews, others members of the resistance movement who were sought by the Gestapo and its Dutch counterpart. While they had extra rooms in the house, food was scarce for everyone due to wartime shortages. Every non-Jewish Dutch person had received a ration card which was required to obtain weekly coupons to buy food.
Thanks to her charitable work, Corrie knew many people in Haarlem, and remembered a couple who had a disabled daughter. For about twenty years, Corrie ten Boom had run a special church service program for such children. The father was a civil servant who by then was in charge of the local ration-card office. She went to his house one evening, and he seemed to know why. When he asked how many ration cards she needed, "I opened my mouth to say, 'Five,'" Ten Boom wrote in The Hiding Place. "But the number that unexpectedly and astonishingly came out instead was: 'One hundred.'" He gave them to her.The secret room
Because of the number of people using their house, the Ten Booms built a secret room in case a raid took place. They decided to build it in Corrie's bedroom, as it was in the highest part of the house. This would give people trying to hide the most time to avoid detection (as a search would start on the ground floor). A member of the Dutch resistance designed the hidden room behind a false wall. Gradually, family and supporters brought bricks and other building supplies into the house by hiding them in briefcases and rolled-up newspapers. When finished, the secret room was about 30 inches (76 cm) deep; the size of a medium wardrobe. A ventilation system allowed for breathing. To enter the secret room, a person had to open a sliding panel in a cupboard, and crawl in on their hands and knees. In addition, the family installed an electric buzzer for warning in a raid. When the Nazis raided the Ten Boom house in 1944, six people used the hiding place to evade detection.Arrest and detention
The Nazis arrested the entire Ten Boom family on February 28, 1944 at around 12:30, with the help of a Dutch informant. They were sent first to Scheveningen prison (where her father died ten days after his capture). Corrie's sister Nollie, brother Willem, and nephew Peter were all released. Later, Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to the Vught political concentration camp, and finally to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Corrie's sister Betsie died there on December 16, 1944. Before she died, she told Corrie, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still."
Corrie was released on New Year's Eve of December 1944. In the movie The Hiding Place, Ten Boom narrates the section on her release from camp, saying that she later learned that her release had been a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release. She said, "God does not have problems. Only plans."Post-war
After the war, Corrie ten Boom returned to the Netherlands to set up rehabilitation centres. The refuge houses consisted of concentration camp survivors and sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the occupation. She returned to Germany in 1946, and traveled the world as a public speaker, appearing in over sixty countries, during which time she wrote many books.
In 1977, Corrie ten Boom, then 85 years old, moved to a suburb of Orange County, California. Successive strokes in 1978 took away her powers of speech and left her an invalid for the last five years of her life. She died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983.
Maria Skobtsova (1891–1945), known as Mother Maria (Russian: ???? ?????), Saint Mary (or Mother Maria) of Paris, born Elizaveta Yurievna Pilenko (????????? ??????? ???????),Kuzmina-Karavayeva (????????-?????????) by her first marriage, Skobtsova (????????) by her second marriage, was a Russian noblewoman, poet, nun, and member of the French Resistanceduring World War II. She has been canonized a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Born to an aristocratic family in 1891 in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire. She was given the name Elizaveta Pilenko. Her father died when she was a teenager, and she embraced atheism. In 1906 her mother moved the family to St. Petersburg, where she became involved in radical intellectual circles. In 1910 she married an Old Bolshevik by the name ofDmitriy Kuz'min-Karavaev. During this period of her life she was actively involved in literary circles and wrote much poetry. Her first book, Scythian Shards (???????? ???????), was a collection of poetry from this period. By 1913 her marriage to Dimitriy had ended and the latter subsequently converted toCatholicism.
Through a look at the humanity of Christ — "He also died. He sweated blood. They struck his face" — she began to be drawn back into Christianity. She moved—now with her daughter, Gaiana—to the south of Russia where her religious devotion increased.
Furious at Leon Trotsky for closing the Socialist-Revolutionary Party Congress, she planned hisassassination, but was dissuaded by colleagues, who sent her to Anapa. In 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution, she was elected deputy mayor of Anapa in Southern Russia. When the anti-communist White Army took control of Anapa, the mayor fled and she became mayor of the town. The White Army put her on trial for being a Bolshevik. However, the judge was a former teacher of hers, Daniel Skobtsov, and she was acquitted. Soon the two fell in love and were married.
Soon, the political tide was turning again. In order to avoid danger, Elizaveta, Daniel, Gaiana, and Elizaveta's mother Sophia fled the country. Elizaveta was pregnant with her second child. They traveled first to Georgia (where her son Yuri was born) and then to Yugoslavia (where her daughter Anastasia was born). Finally they arrived in Paris in 1923. Soon Elizaveta was dedicating herself to theological studies and social work.
In 1926, Anastasia died of influenza. Gaiana was sent away to Belgium to boarding school. Soon, Daniel and Elizaveta's marriage was falling apart. Yuri ended up living with Daniel, and Elizaveta moved into central Paris to work more directly with those who were most in need.
Her bishop encouraged her to take vows as a nun, something she did only with the assurance that she would not have to live in a monastery, secluded from the world. In 1932, with Daniel Skobtov's permission, an ecclesiastical divorce was granted and she took monastic vows. In religion she took the name Maria. Her confessor was Father Sergei Bulgakov. Later, Fr. Dmitri Klepinin would be sent to be the chaplain of the house.
Mother Maria made a rented house in Paris her "convent." It was a place with an open door for refugees, the needy and the lonely. It also soon became a center for intellectual and theological discussion. In Mother Maria these two elements—service to the poor and theology—went hand-in-hand.Death
After the Fall of France in 1940, Jews began approaching the house asking for baptismal certificates, which Father Dimitri would provide them. Many Jews came to stay with them. They provided shelter and helped many to flee the country. Eventually the house was closed down. Mother Maria, Fr. Dimitri, Yuri, and Sophia were all arrested by the Gestapo. Fr. Dimitri and Yuri both died at the Dora concentration camp.
Mother Maria was glorified (canonized a saint) by act of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on January 16, 2004. The glorification of Mother Maria, together with Fr. Dimitri, Yuri, and Ilya Fondaminsky took place at the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Paris on May 1 and 2, 2004. Their feast day is July 20.
The Nazis and Abortion
The Nazis certainly were not "pro-Choice", but they were not "anti-abortion" either. The Nazis believed that a woman's body beloned to the State, and the State would decide what to do with it. The Nazis did not allow abortion for healthy "Aryan" German women, but demanded and forced abortion upon women deemed "unAryan" (i.e. Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, etc.) and "Aryan" German women who were thought to be feeble-minded, or have hereditary diseases. (Abortion in the New Europe, p.114)
The Nazis wanted to do everything to increase the number of "Aryan" types; including:
1) Setting up stud-farms called Liebensborn ("Fountain of Life") in which Aryan-type SS men would impregnate young "Aryan" German girls (including very young girls) in order to increase the amount of "pure Aryans" among Germans. Abortion for these young single girls (who usually never knew the men who impregnated them) was absolutely forbidden.
2) Stealing blong-haired and blue-eyed "Aryan" type children from Poland, the Baltics, Russia, and other conquered countries and raising them in Nazi-controlled orphanages as Germans.
3) Forcing non-Aryan women in the conquered countries to have abortions and sterilizations in order to keep their population down (this eventually led to out-and-out mass-killing).
4) Forcing even "Aryan" German women who were retarded or suspected of having "inferior genes" to have abortions or become sterilized.
VIABILITY AND THE HEALTH OF THE MOTHER
The first court to rule that "viability" and the "woman's health" were determinate factors in abortion was the Nazi Heredity Court of 1934, when it ruled that "...pregnancy may be terminated, with the concent of the woman concerned, uless the foetus is already capable of independent life, or unless the termination of the pregnancy entails a serious danger to either the life or health of the woman herself." (The Racial State, 1991, p.141).
In the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that abortion in the first two trimesters (up to 6 months) is permitted because the fetus is not "viable" (not capable of living outside of the womb "independently"). They ruled that abortion in the third trimester (after 6 months) was still illegal, unless the continued pregnancy posed a "serious threat" to the physical or mental health of the mother.
Who decides if the pregnancy poses such a threat?
The physician decides. Any physician; including a physician who works as an abortionist. If an abortionist decides that a pregnancy is a "threat" to the mental health of a woman, he can perform an abortion anytime in the third trimester. There is no "oversight" of these cases, and abortionists no longer even ask women who want third-trimester abortions if the pregnancy is "stressful" (what pregnancy is not stressful?). So, for all practical purposes, abortion in the U.S. is legal up until the moment of labor.
ABORTION FORBIDDEN FOR HEALTHY 'ARYAN' WOMEN
SS chief Heinrich Himmler wrote to Field-Marshal Willhilm Keitel the following in 1939:
"According to statistics there are 600,000 abortions a year in Germany. The fact that these happen among the best German racial types has been worrying me for years. The way I see it we cannot afford to lose these young people, hundreds and thousands of them. The aim of protecting this German blood is of the highest priority. If we manage to stop these abortions we will be able to have 200 more German regiments every year on the march. Another 500,000 or 600,000 people could produce millions of marks for the economy. The strength of these soldiers and workers will build the greater Germany. This is why I founded Lebensborn in 1936. It fights abortions in a positive way. Every woman can have her child in peace and quiet and devote her life to the betterment of the race." (Master Race: The Lebensborn Experiment in Nazi Germany, 1995, pp.66-7)
This is why abortion was forbidden for 'Aryan' women who were considered healthy and had no hereditary diseases. Abortion for young German women who were members of the Lebensborn ("Lifefountain" stud-farms) was absolutely forbidden; because the very pupose they were sent there was to have as many children as possible.
ABORTION PROMOTED FOR NON-ARYAN WOMEN
When the Nazis entered Poland (a Roman Catholic country) in 1939 abortion for any reason was illegal. The use of contraceptives was also illegal in Poland (because the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to abortion and to contraception as well). The Nazis conquered half the country (the other half went to the Russians), and they immediately did away with the anti-abortion laws. Hitler wanted to limit and reduce all non-Aryan populations. In late 1939 a decree was issued encouraging Polish women to seek abortions. The campaign was called "Auswahlfeiheit" ("Freedom of Choice").
Martin Bormann, the Head of the Nazi Party and personal secretary to Adolf Hitler, wrote the following letter to Alfred Rosenberg; the Nazi Party ideologist:
"The Slavs are to work for us. Insofar as we don't need them they may die. Therefore compulsory vaccination and education are superfluous. The fertility of Slavs is undesirable." (NCA II. Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality. Nazi Conspiracy and Agression, Volume II. 1946)
Hitler himself said:
They may use contraceptives or practice abortion--the more the better. In view of the large families of the native population, it could only suit us if girls and women there had as many abortions as possible. Active trade in contraceptives ought to be actually encouraged in the Eastern territories, as we could not possibly have the slightest interest in increasing the non-Germanic population." (Harvest of Hate, 1954, pp. 273-4 emphasis added)
Bormann personally wrote:
"When girls and women in the Occupied Territories of the East have abortions, we can only be in favor of it; in any case we should not oppose it. The Fuhrer belives that we should authorize the development in a thriving trade in contraceptives. We are not interested in seeing the non-German population multiply." (ibid, p.274)
On November 25 1939, the Reich Commission for the Strengthening of Germandom (RKFDV), an SS organization, issued this following decree in Poland:
"All measures which have the tendency to limit the births are to be tolerated or to be supported. Abortion in the remaining area of Poland must be declared free from punishment. the means for abortion and contraceptive means may be offered publicly without police restriction. Homosexuality [which was illegal under Polish law] is to be declared legal. The institutions and persons involved professionally in abortion practices are not to be interfered with by police." (Secret Nazi Plans for Eastern Europe, 1961, p.171)
The same pro-abortion order was established in all the territories that the Nazis occupied except where the population was considered "Aryan" (Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Flemish Belguim). On 27 April 1943 Prof. Erhard Wetzel, Racial Administrator for the Reich's Eastern Territories Ministry, wrote this memorandum:
"Every propaganda means, especially the press, radio, and movies, as well as pamphlets, booklets, and lectures, must be used to instill in the Russian population the idea that it is harmful to have several children. We must emphazise the expenses that children cause, the good things that people could have had with the money spent on them. We could also hint at the dangerous effect of child-bearing on a woman's health. Paralleling such propaganda, a large-scale campaign would be launched in favor of contraceptive devices. A contraceptive industry must be established. Neither the circulation and sale of contraceptives nor abortions must be prosecuted. It will even be necessary to open special institutions for abortion, and to train midwives and nurses for this purpose. The population will practice abortion all the more willingly if these institutions are competently operated." (Harvest of Hate, pp.272-3)
The diary of a Polish Jew living in the Shavli Ghetto named E. Yerushalmi has this entry for 13 July 1942:
"In accordance with the Order of the Security Police, births are permitted in the ghetto upon up to August 15, 1942. After this date it is forbidden to give birth to Jewish children either in the hospitals or in the homes of the pregnant women. it is pointed out, at the same time, that it is permitted to interrupt pregnancies by means of abortions. A great responsibility rests on the pregnant women. If they do not comply with this order, thiere is a danger that they will be executed, together with their families." (Pinkas Shavli, 1958, p.88)
During the Nuremburg Trials, almost all the Nazi defendents were accused of "crimes against humanity", and part of those 'crimes' were promotion of abortion.
MEDICAL EXPERIMENTSOne wonders how German physicians during WWII could have justified their use of human subjects in horrible experiments that killed or permanently maimed thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Before the Nazis came to power all German physicians had to take the Hippocratic Oath, which swore they would "do no harm" and not "give a pessary to a woman to cause abortion". Dr. Georg August Weltz, the Nazi physician who conducted the notorious "cold experiments" (Jews, Gypsies, criminals, and even children were thrown into pools of ice-water to see how fast they would die, or they were taken out in comas to see if they could be revived...all in the name of helping downed German fighter pilots who were saved from the cold sea), wrote:
"The Hippocratic Oath ... is an honorable historical document, which, however, does not altogether fit present times. *** Medicine based upon the principle of nil nocere ("do no harm") is a very impoverished medicine, and we are unfortunately not in a position to carry on medicine on that simple principle today." (Trials of the War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, Washington D.C., 1946-1954, IV:1,081-4)
The term "Freedom of Choice" in regards to abortion was invented by a Nazi SS propandist as a means to intice Polish women to have abortions and use contraceptions.
DR. ERNST RUDIN
The most outspoken spokesman for "abortion rights" in pre-Nazi Germany was the psychitrist and head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute: Dr. Ernst Rudin. After the Nazis came to power, they made Dr. Rudin the head of the Nazi Society for Racial HygieneIn April 1933, Dr. Rudin wrote an article for The American Birth Control Review; the official publication of Margaret Sanger'sAmerican Birth Control League (which changed its name to Planned Parenthood in 1942). Dr. Rudin's article was called "Eugenics Sterilization: An Urgent Need" (American Birth Control Review, April 1933).
One of Dr. Rudin's associates at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was Dr. Otmar Freiherr Von Versscheur, whose assistant at the Institute was Dr. Josef Mengele;who later became the director of medical experiments at Auschwitz death camp in Poland. He performed horrendous experiments; mostly on children. Many died or were scarred (emotionally and physically) for life.
A few of Mengele's 'experiments'
Dr. Mengele later became a Nazi fugitive, and was sought by many governments and the Israeli Mosad until his death was confirmed. Mengele was aided by Odessa (an organization of former Nazi SS officers) and others. Mengele made extra money in Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil by performing illegal abortions.
On his 65th birthday Dr. Frick, the Nazi Reichminister of the Interior wrote to Dr. Rudin:
"To the idefatigable champion of racial hygiene and meritorious pioneer of the racial hygienic measures of the Third Reich, I send my sincerest congradulations on his 65th birthday." (The Men Behind Hitler, pp.18-19)
Researcher Don Feder writes:
"With the outset of the war, the Nazis were no longer content simply to stop 'useless eaters' from procreating. Beginning in 1939, an estimated 275,000 Germans (insane, incurably ill, handicapped) were put to death under the Third Reich's euthanasia program. Killing their own people, Nazi doctors acquired the mortal skills later employed in the Final Solution."(Nazism and Abortion, p.2 online)
During the Nuremburg Trails (in which Nazi leaders were indicted for "crimes against humanity", 10 Nazi leaders were indicted for, among other crimes, "encouraging and compelling abortions" (ibid.). In his 1961 trial in Israel, the former Nazi SS major (in charge of transportation of Jews to concentration camps) Adolf Eichmann was charged, among other things, with "directing that pregnancies [be] interrupted [aborted] among Jewish women" in the Therseinstadt concentration camp. (ibid.)
Dr. Rudin's 'measures' led to mass forced sterilizations, mass forced abortions (on non-'Aryan' women as well as 'feebilminded' or 'inferior' German women), and euthanasia ("mercy killing") of tens of thousands of German men, women, and children deemed "life unworthy of life" by the Nazis.
Perhaps the most outspoken German critic of the Nazis was Dietrich Bonhoeffer; a German Luthern pastor and theologian.
Soon after the Nazis came to power in 1934 they tried to introduce "Aryan" philosophy into the Protestant churches. Pastor Martin Niemoller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others formed the "Pastors Emergency League" in order to oppose these Nazi influences. The League later became known as "The Confessing Church". Members of the Confessing Church were Evangelical Christians (i.e. "Fundamentalist" Christians") who objected to the mainline Lutheran church; its silence on Nazi atrosities, and its degradation of the Bible and Christian truth. One article on the Confessing Church reads:
"Members of the Confessing Church eventually helped approxiamately 2000 Jews escape to freedom, in addition they actively assisted political dissedents as well as fellow persecuted Christians. Bonhoeffer himself liasoned with members of the military resistance, some of whose members were involved in the famous bombing of the Wolf's Lair [the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler]. He helped draft memoranda on a future democratic government should the regime be toppled. Bonhoeffer also compiled information on SS crimes and coordinated contacts with foreigners abroad to gain support for various resistance cells.***Members of the Confessing Church actively protested the Nazi regime and its deadly anti-Semitic policies, in doing so, many lost their lives." (The Confessing Church, p.2 online)
Bonhoeffer was not only an Evangelical Christian pastor and theologian, but he was a pro-Life advocate as well. Bonhoeffer wrote:
"Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder." (Ethics, pp.175-6)
Bonhoeffer wrote this poem:
"They came from the Jews,
and I [Germany--Bonhoeffer did object] did not object, as I am not a Jew.
They came for the Catholics,
and I did not object,
as I was not a Catholic.
Finally, they came for me,
and there was no one left to object."
An expanded version of this poem was produced by Pastor Martin Niemoller; a fellow anti-Nazi and pro-Life advocate. He wrote the following prose that is now quoted by Feminists, civil-rights activists, gay-rights activists, and others worldwide:
"First they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out-
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out-
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out-
because I was not a trade unionist.
then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak for me.
On Sunday, April 9th, 1945, Bonhoeffer was taken from his concentration camp sell and hanged by Nazi guards.
Another common Pro-Choice myth is that white racists and white-supremacits are behind the Pro-Life Movement, and that the leaders of the Pro-Life Movement are either white-racists or working 'behind the scenes' with white-racists.
In truth, white-supremacists have a view toward abortion equal to that of the Nazis:
1) No abortion or little abortion among white Nordic (Aryan) women; unless they have genetic defects.
2) Free abortion and forced abortion among all other women.
Tom Metzger, the founder of W.A.R. (White Aryan Resistance) has written:
"Very little abortion should be tolerated, among our White race, while at the same time, abortion and birth control should be promoted as a powerful weapon, in the limitation of non-White birth. Over support of both non-White population and non-support of abortion for Whites, has the same desired effect.***
Covertly [secretly] invest into non-White areas, invest in ghetto abortion clincs. Help to raise money for free abortions, in primarily non-White areas. Perhaps abortion clinic syndicates thoughout North America, that primarily operate in non-White areas and receive tax support, should be promoted." (What We Believe As White Racists, p.2 online)
MARGARET SANGER AND THE NAZIS
Few people today know that Margaret Sanger, the founder of the Pro-Choice Movement, and the founder of Planned Parenthood, was an admirer of Dr. Rudin, and published several of his articles. Sanger had a white-racist, Lothrop Stoddard, on her Board of Directors. Stoddard was the author of several anti-Semitic and white-supremacist books. He was a well-known admirer of Adolf Hitler, and an open supporter of the Nazis. Sanger herself was a eugenicist and neo-Malthusian.
It is very possible that Sanger got the phrase "Freedom of Choice" from Dr. Ernst Rudin; the Nazi physician who was a contributor to her publications. (see Margaret Sanger and the Pro-Choice Movement online).
In conclusion, the Nazis were not anti-abortion. They converted entire hospitals to abortuaries. They were just selective on whoshould get an abortion and who should not.
The sadistic SS-Oberaufseherin Maria Mandel was born at Munzkirchen in Austria in January 1912, and joined the SS in 1938. From October 1938 to May 1939, she was Aufseherin at KZ Lichtenburg and then from May 1939 to October 1942, she was Aufseherin in KZ Ravensbruck. She was then transferred as an Oberaufseherin to KZ Auschwitz where she worked until November 30, 1944. She was moved to KZ Muhldorf where she continued until May 1945.
Her arrest came on August 10, 1945. She was reported to be highly intelligent and dedicated to her work. The prisoners however, referred to her as the beast, as she was noted for her brutality and enjoyment in selecting women and children for the gas chambers. Soon, she had become the feared chief-guard of Birkenau women’s camp.
She also had a passion for classical music and encouraged the women’s orchestra in Auschwitz. The women of the orchestra were kept busy playing at roll-calls, and they had to play when new arrivals were sent directly to the gas chambers. They also had to play during the selections when the less healthy and sick were separated from the healthier ones who were still capable to work yet another day.
An Auschwitz prisoner, Lucia Adelsberger, later described it in her book Auschwitz: Ein Tatsachenbericht:
“The women who came back from work exhausted had to march in time to the music. Music war ordered for all occasions, for the addresses of the Camp Commanders, for the transports and whenever anybody was hanged…”
The trial of the staff who had been captured took place at Crakow in Poland in the Autumn of 1947 and concluded on December 22 of that year. For her share in the selections for the gas chambers and medical experiments and for her torture of countless prisoners, Maria Mandel was condemned to death as a war criminal by the Supreme People’s Court in Crakow and executed.
Juana Bormann was a murderous SS woman, who served in the death camp Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. She was known as The Woman with the Dogs, who took sadistic pleasure in setting her wolf hounds on prisoners to tear them to pieces.
Juana Bormann joined the SS as a civilian employee on March 1, 1938, because – as she later said during the Belsen Trial – “I could earn more money…”
After World War II, Juana Bormann was found guilty and convicted of war crimes and the execution was set for December 13, 1945. In his book of memoirs, Executioner, the English hangman Albert Pierrepoint described Juana Bormann’s last hours. The afternoon before execution, each prisoner was weighed so the correct drop could be calculated for them:
“She limped down the corridor looking old and haggard. She was forty-two years old, only a little over five feet high…she was trembling as she was put on the scale. In German she said: I have my feelings…”
More Notorious Female SS Nazi Guards
Dorothea “Thea” Binz
Dorothea Binz has trained female guards who eventually becomes cruel and ruthless. There was an incident where she chopped a Polish prisoner with an axe. During her time at the Ravensbrück, she continuously slapped, beaten and physically abused the female inmate. In fact, Binz and her SS officer lover Brauning enjoyed watching females inmated being beaten and flogged.
Juana Bormann – The Wiesel
Despite her petite stature, Juana Bormann was notoriously cruel female guard in Auschwitz. A former kitchen staff, she decided to join the staff of the Lichtenburg because it gives better wages. Noted for her cruelty by unleashing her wolfhound upon the prisoners, beating the sick female inmates furiously for not working and also had the better dressed female inmates stripped off their clothing. Bormann prefers to use rubber and wooden sticks to beat the inmates all over their bodies. One witness recalled that Juana had punched her in the face which knocked two of her teeth off and then had let her vicious dog attacked her friend which left her seriously injured that she died few days afterwards.
Known as the overseer of hanging prisoners, she also took part in selecting prisoners for executions and sadistic cruelty. Not much is known about the life of Elisabeth Volkenrath aside from being a cruel SS Nazi supervisor in charge of selecting prisoners to the gas chambers.
Despite the fact that most SS Nazi female guards were young and in fit of health, Emma Zimmer was an exception. She was already 54 when stayed as female overseer at Ravensbrück. When it comes to cruelty towards prisoners, she’s certainly not lagging behind her equally cruel peers. One of her duties includeselecting prisoners for the gas chambers. It was not known what her were the grounds for her dismissal as January 1945 from her service as female nazi guard. It was either due to her old age or because of her alcoholism.
Wanda Klaff was just a common housewife before she joined the Stutthof’s subcamp. Due to her status as an overseer, she easily learned the pleasures of sadistic tortures and abuse toward’s prisoners. At her trial for Nazi war crimes, she was proud of her intelligence and enjoys her routine of beating at least two prisoners everyday.
Elizabeth Lupka used to be a laborer at an aircraft factory before she trained as SS Nazi camp guard at Ravensbrück. Later on she was reassigned to the Auchwitz-Birkenaue camp as an overseer. She was notorious for whipping and beating prisoners while selecting some of them to the gas chambers. Eventually she was one of the last people to stay at the camp until the evacuation from Auschwitz camp was completed. She even accompanied the death march before she went back to Ravensbrück and resumed her usual sadistic routine towards prisoners.
Ruth Elfriede Hildner
Ruth Hildner was one of the most feared SS Nazi guard stationed at the Helmbrechts. During the evacuation of camp, Hildner murdered several youngfemale inmates during the death march as well as maltreatment of other prisoners. Her weapon of choice was her rod.
Jenny-Wanda Barkmann – The Beautiful Spectre
Jenny Barkmann was known as “The Beautiful Spectre” for her cruel treatmenttowards prisoners, her savage beatings results to deaths of her inmates. Part of her tasks includes selecting women and children for the gas chambers. Even during her incanceration, her coquettish nature still prevails that even during her trial she was seen fixing her hair and flirting with the prison guards.
Despite being a protestant christian, Ewa Paradies unhesitantly commits depraved acts towards inmates and end up killing some of them. One witness recalls Paradies stripping the women inmates naked during winter, then she would pour ice cold water on them. If one of the inmates moved, she would viciously beat them .
Gerda Steinhoff was a cook before she joined the camp staff at Stutthof. She left behind her husband and child to work as a Blockleiterin or Nazi guard in Stutthof women’s camp. She was known as a ruthless and cruel guard and was in charge of selection prisoners to the gas chambers.
Margot Dreschel was described as bucked tooth, ugly, thin and vulgar woman by surviving inmates. She was notorious for brutal beatings on the inmates. Her tasks also includes selecting women and children to the gas chambers.
She was known as Ruth Closius before she got married. Her bloodthirsty ruthlessness has impressed her superiors that she was promptly promoted as an overseer. One of her most shocking act of brutality was that she cut an inmate’s throat with shovel. She did confessed to her crimes such as maltreatment of prisoners as well as cold blooded murders.
MI5 suspected young Briton was 'Nazi mistress'
Intelligence officers suspected a teenage daughter of a British brigadier was a German officer's mistress during World War II, National Archives files show.
Antonia Lyon-Smith was interned by the Germans in 1940 when she was 15 and living in France, but released due to her youth.
She was taken in by a Gestapo officer and another Nazi wanted to marry her.
MI5 suspected she had betrayed her knowledge of the Resistance.
The previously-secret files said Antonia was the daughter of Royal Artillery officer Brigadier Tristram Lyon-Smith and a Canadian mother.
A Nazi officer called Karl Gagel initially tried to claim there was no intimate relationship between the teenager and himself, but "there was nevertheless an understanding that when Germany and Britain ceased to be enemies they would become engaged," the file shows.
Antonia revealed in her 1982 autobiography Little Resistance: A Teenage English Girl's Adventures In Occupied France that she had kissed the officer but was never engaged to him.
She had tried unsuccessfully to flee France for Switzerland, but eventually gave up.
Ed Hampshire, from the National Archives: "She had various liaisons with Gestapo officers"
In December 1942, she had been asked to write a letter of introduction for a friend of Claude Spaak, the brother of the Belgian foreign minister.
She later told MI5 that she had no idea Mr Spaak was heavily involved in the Resistance.
The Nazis intercepted the letter, and she was interrogated in Paris by senior Gestapo officer Heinz Pannwitz.
She claimed she was held in Paris in solitary confinement from October 1943 until January 1944, when she was allowed to leave and stay with her cousin.
But her MI5 file includes a report from a Nazi source suggesting that she enjoyed "comparative freedom as a species of office girl" for Pannwitz.
It added that she "did little but make tea, sew and listen to radio", and even went on shopping expeditions with Gagel.
During interrogation by MI5 she did not disclose anything about her relationship with Gagel - which led the British intelligence officer to conclude that she was his mistress and "almost certainly" betrayed all her knowledge of a Resistance group to the Germans.Letter to father Continue reading the main story “Start Quote
Brig Tristram Lyon-Smith
Antonia has not the slightest intention of ever seeing Karl again if she can possibly avoid it”
Gagel's feelings for Antonia were discovered after her irate father received a letter from Gagel via his bank branch in East Sussex.
The former Gestapo officer wrote to the bank in October 1945: "I should be much obliged if you would kindly inform Miss Antonia Lyon-Smith that I shall be in Germany for some time to come, and that I should like to have news of her."
An MI5 officer who interviewed Brig Lyon-Smith about his daughter noted: "She was apparently 'befriended' by Karl Gagel, who ostensibly arranged that she should not be sent to Fresnes prison in return for her undertaking to marry him when the war was over.
"Antonia has not the slightest intention of ever seeing Karl again if she can possibly avoid it."
Her own account, given in 1946, of her time with the Gestapo was described as "rather disconnected" and "not satisfactory" by an MI5 officer.
At first the MI5 officer concluded: "It is clear to me that she was holding back on this matter [of Gagel], though whether simply because her association with him was a disreputable one or not, I cannot say."
But after further research, the officer wrote in April 1946: "My own view is that she certainly became Karl Gagel's mistress and almost certainly disclosed to the Germans all her knowledge of the Spaak organisation, which I believe to have been considerably greater than she admits."
He even raised concerns two months later about whether Miss Lyon-Smith was suitable to continue working for the Women's Royal Naval Service, but Royal Navy intelligence considered her not to be a risk as as she was about to marry.
Her autobiography, published under her name from her second marriage, Antonia Hunt, was released in 1982, more than two decades before her death. In it, she mentions a surprise visit from the comic author PG Wodehouse when she was seriously ill while in Gestapo custody in Paris.
National Archives have also released files about Wodehouse's activities while in an internment camp.
The documents show that MI5 doubted his account of how he came to make broadcasts for the Nazis in the summer of 1941.