This book goes a long way toward elucidating the role a number of German women played as "agents of death" in the Nazi Holocaust.
Before coming to thiThis book goes a long way toward elucidating the role a number of German women played as "agents of death" in the Nazi Holocaust.
Before coming to this book, I had thought that the only German women who had willingly taken part in killing Jews and other peoples regarded as "undesirables" by the Nazis were the SS auxiliaries in the concentration camps like Ravensbruck and Bergen Belsen, who acquired a reputation for brutality. But in "Hitler's Furies", the reader learns that there were also German women working in areas as diverse as nursing, teaching, and secretarial work in the East following both the conquest of Poland and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union who were witnesses to the killings of Jews. Indeed, some, such as Erna Petri and Gertrude Segel, crossed the line and gladly engaged in murder on several occasions.
What is remarkable about this story is how the role of these murderous women in the service of the Third Reich was largely hidden or ignored for close to 70 years after the Second World War. The author explains why this was allowed to happen and endeavors to inform and educate the reader about the role of women in the Third Reich, the Nazis' attitudes about women, and the postwar lives of the women who had chosen to kill in support of the Hitler regime. I'm glad to have read this book, for it gives the reader an added insight into how the Holocaust made some women willing executioners of the Final Solution. ...more
I first became aware of Traudl Junge through the TV series "The World at War" during the 1970s. She spoke of her time with Hitler in the FuehrerbunkerI first became aware of Traudl Junge through the TV series "The World at War" during the 1970s. She spoke of her time with Hitler in the Fuehrerbunker in Berlin during the final days of the war. What she said in those interviews conveyed to me a heightened atmosphere that was surreal and veering on ghoulishness.
Several years later, I had the chance to see the German film, "The Bunker", which brought Frau Junge back to mind. So, when I learned that she had written a book about her time as one of Hitler's secretaries, I bought it and found it an interesting book. For anyone with an interest in the history of life in Germany during the Third Reich, this is the book to read. ...more
Earlier in the year, I attended a book reading by Anne Jacobsen about this subject, which was complete with a rather impressive slide presentation. WhEarlier in the year, I attended a book reading by Anne Jacobsen about this subject, which was complete with a rather impressive slide presentation. What she said about Operation Paperclip that day not only induced me to buy this book later that week. But more importantly, it forever altered my previous view of Operation Paperclip, which, from the time I first became aware of it sometime in the 1980s, I had regarded as a wholly noble effort on the part of the U.S. government to locate, retrieve, and resettle in the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War a remarkable group of talented German scientists, whose managerial and technical expertise played no small part in helping the U.S. forge ahead of the Soviet Union in the space race. In this regard, Wernher von Braun came to mind. As someone with memories of the Apollo space program, I admired him greatly.
Now, having read this rather weighty book, I will never see von Braun in the same light again. Not only had he been a member of the Nazi Party, he had also joined the SS sometime before the Second World War and had risen to the rank of Sturmbannführer (Major), heading the Mittelbau-Dora Planning Office (which was instrumental in the development and building --- with the use of slave labor from the concentration camps --- of the V2 rockets that Hitler unleashed against the Allies in 1944 and 1945). These facts were not only known by the U.S. government, but had either been downplayed by it or classified so that they would never come to light during von Braun's lifetime.
What's more: Operation Paperclip also had its extensions in Germany itself through "feeder programs" such as Artichoke in places like Camp King, where captured Soviet spies were interrogated. A significant number of the scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians who figured prominently in Operation Paperclip had engaged in wartime activities that, by the standards set at Nuremberg, were war crimes. For example, live medical experiments (whose grisly details I won't go into here) carried out at Auschwitz, Dachau, and the women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück. Whenever possible, the U.S. government availed themselves of the services of these Germans, provided it (i.e. the U.S. government) could help them elude or survive any adverse publicity about their pasts that sometimes surfaced after the war. Cold War pressures and imperatives made these scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians indispensable to U.S. security interests.
"For Operation Paperclip, moving a scientist from military custody to immigrant status required elaborate and devious preparation, but in the end the procedure proved to be infallible. Scientists in the southwestern or western United States, accompanied by military escort, were driven in an unmarked army jeep out of the country into Mexico either at Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juárez, or Tijuana. With him, each scientist carried two forms from the State Department, I-55 and I-255, each bearing a signature from the chief of the visa division and a proviso from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Section 42.323 of Title 22, signifying that the visa holder was 'a person whose admission is highly desirable in the national interest.' The scientist also had with him a photograph of himself and a blood test warranting that the did not have any infectious diseases. After consulate approval, the scientist was then let back into the United States, no longer under military guard but as a legal U.S. immigrant in possession of a legal visa. The pathway toward citizenship had begun. If the scientist lived closer to the East Coast than the West Coast, he went through the same protocols, except that he would exit the United States into Canada instead of Mexico and reeenter through the consulate at Niagara Falls."
Reading this book wasn't easy because it demands that the reader make him/herself fully attentive to its contents. Nevertheless, it's well-worth the effort. ...more
While many books abound about the experiences of Americans in Paris and London during the 1920s and 1930s, there are correspondingly few books availabWhile many books abound about the experiences of Americans in Paris and London during the 1920s and 1930s, there are correspondingly few books available about the experiences of those Americans who spent time in Germany from the 1920s to the early 1940s. This particular book stimulated my curiosity about some of these Americans --- journalists, military officers, writers, scholars, and diplomats --- one of whom first became aware as early as 1922 of a then insignificant nationalist, right wing political party and its leader Adolf Hitler, and observed the subsequent growth of the Nazi Party and Hitler's ascension to power in Germany in 1933.
One of the most interesting tidbits I was surprised to learn from reading this book was that the Nazis allowed Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, the foremost African American intellectual and historian of his generation, to spend time in Germany on a fellowship from 1935 to 1936. His observations about the Berlin Olympics were fascinating. Indeed, "Hitlerland" is the book I would recommend to anyone who wants an insight into the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of Americans who served in Germany as witnesses to the growth and consolidation of Nazism and the Third Reich. ...more
I first became aware of Reinhard Heydrich in 1975 when I (still in grade school) read Gunter Peis' book "The True Story of the Man Who Started the WarI first became aware of Reinhard Heydrich in 1975 when I (still in grade school) read Gunter Peis' book "The True Story of the Man Who Started the War." In it, Heydrich, as one of the luminaries in the SS, was the boss of Alfred Naujocks (upon whom the book was focussed) who was tasked with staging an "incident" along the German-Polish border, which Hitler would use as a pretext for invading Poland in September 1939. Even then, Heydrich struck me as a sinister figure. But it would take years of self-study of the Third Reich and the Second World War before I could begin to grasp the enormity of the crimes this man committed for "Führer und Vaterland".
This is perhaps likely to be the most comprehensive biography of Reinhard Heydrich. It has an 88-page bibliography, which attests to the author's diligence in gathering a complete portrait of a man who became for the Nazis one of its 'patron saints' after his death in June 1942 from an assasination attempt.
Heydrich was born in Halle in 1904, the son of a composer of operas who enjoyed some measure of acclaim in Wilhelmine Germany. His father founded the Halle Music Conservatory, where Reinhard's mother taught piano. The Heydrichs were Catholic (a minority group in Halle) and enjoyed a comfortable, bourgeois existence prior to the First World War. Young Reinhard learned to play the violin with some skill. Shortly after the war, he joined a Freikorps unit in Halle (one of the many right-wing paramilitary units formed in the immediate postwar period to stamp out the spread of Communism in Germany), Later, he joined the "Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund (The National German Protection and Shelter League)", which was an anti-Jewish organization.
Like many Germans in the early postwar years, the Heydrichs suffered materially from the ravages of hyperinflation during the early 1920s. Reinhard gained admittance as a cadet in the Navy in 1922 and threw himself into a military career. Politics at that time seemed not to figure in his life. But as he advanced in rank, Reinhard acquired a reputation for arrogance and engaging in numerous affairs. This proved to be his undoing. Prior to meeting his future wife, Lina von Osten (who was a virulent anti-Semite and fervent Nazi) in 1930, Reinhard had been engaged to another woman and broke it in haste. Soon thereafter, he became engaged to Lina. The Navy, however, looked askance at Reinhard's cavalier behavior. Reinhard refused to apologize for his conduct, and was dismissed from the Navy in April 1931 for "conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman."
Now without a career and prospects, Reinhard was devastated. But he went on to marry Lina, who later prodded him to join the SS, which at the time when Reinhard applied to join it in the summer of 1931 was the smallest organization in the National Socialist movement. (The SA or "Brownshirts" were Hitler's defacto army, with a membership larger than the 100,000 man Reichswehr, the Garman Army in the Weimar Republic.) He was personally interviewed by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, who was impressed with him and immediately offered him a job.
In little more than a year, Heydrich developed an intelligence-gathering and a network of spies and informers to ferret out any "traitors" in the Nazi Party and keep tabs on its external enemies throughout Germany. At this time, rumors were spread about Heydrich's alleged Jewish blood and as a result, he was subjected to an extensive search into his family tree. Exonorated and declared a "true Aryan", Heydrich felt chastened and became more committed to the Nazis and their anti-Jewish philosophy. Indeed, "by the mid-1930s, Heyrich had successfully reinvented himself as one of the most radical proponents of Nazi ideology and its implementation through rigid and increasingly extensive policies of persecution."
Upon the outbreak of war, Heydrich created the Einsatzgruppen, militarized units of SS men who closely followed the German Army as it proceeded into Poland. There, the Einsatzgruppen rounded up as many Polish intelligensia and Jews they could find, and executed them in large numbers. The same modus operandi would be carried out on a much larger scale (with help from local auxiliaries) in the immediate wake of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
All the while persecution against the Jews (and other perceived enemies of the Reich) proceeded apace in Germany and the countries (e.g. Austria) it either subsumed into the nation proper or conquered between 1939 and 1942, there hadn't been a concerted plan for a Jew-free Europe via genocide. The expectation until Germany suffered its first serious setback on the Eastern Front in December 1941 was that most of Europe's Jews could be settled in Madagascar under SS management. And at the same time, the areas in the East under German control would be cleared of its people who did not meet the Nazi criteria for acceptability and replaced with Germans and ethnic Germans. What Heydrich regarded as "Germanization." But as the European War became a full-fledged world war with the entry of the United States into the conflict, the Germans re-evaluated its policies against the Jews to date. Heydrich convened a conference at Wannsee in Berlin, in January 1942 to hssh out ideas and develop a workable, comprehensive plan for "the Final Solution to the Jewish Question."
Heydrich, unlike most of his Nazi contemporaries, proved to be a zealous and tenacious practioner of Nazi policies in his exercise of power within the police and security apparatus he controlled with an iron hand. That is why he was marked for death by the British, who sent in a couple of Czech parachutists into the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (Heydrich was appointed by Hitler as its administrator in September 1941) to assasinate him, and thus breathe new life into the Czech resistance, which had been a feeble force in 1941 and early 1942, relative to the other anti-German resistance groups in Occupied Europe.
Simply put, Reinhard Heydrich became the personification of the "face of evil" in the Third Reich, a functionary, who, without the slightest compunction or remorse, carried out Hitler's genocidal policies.