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Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  4,395 ratings  ·  656 reviews
History has it that the role of women in Nazi Germany was to be the perfect Hausfrau, produce the next Aryan generation and be a loyal cheerleader for the Führer. Then they became the Trümmerfrauen, or Rubble Women, as they cleared and tidied their ruined country to get it back on its feet. They were Germany's heroines. The few women tried and convicted after the war were ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Chatto Windus (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Bill Kerwin
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history

Mention “Nazi women" and “Holocaust,” and minds will fixate—at least, my mind will fixate—on the image of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS: a buxom blonde camp guard sporting decolletage, high boots and improbable jodhpurs.

Wendy Lower wishes to replace that fantasy with a reality less titillating but more frightening: “Hitler's Furies” were teachers, nurses, and secretaries who dutifully carried out the day-to-day business of genocide—often with reluctance, occasionally with enthusiasm—conscious that t
Gil Rosenberg
Nov 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
Based on the NYT's blog interview with Wendy it is clear that she, her agent and publisher sacrificed the integrity of a serious subject in rder to publish a commercial book that does not prove its marketing claims. After decades of research Wendy had a theory she sought to prove -that countless thousands of young German women participated in the the killing fields in the East.

The problem is that she only has little bits and fragments of information on twelve women in the book and one full forc
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower is described as a revelatory new history of the role of German women in the Holocaust, not only as plunderers and direct witnesses, but as actual killers on the eastern front during World War II. The book claims to powerfully revise history and proves that we have ignored the reality of women as brutal killers during the Holocaust. While Lower does provide statements and references that depict women as active participants in the Holocaust rather than supportive wiv ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I recently read a historical novel that amongst other things referred to the role of women in Nazi crimes in Eastern Europe, so I wanted to read a history book on the subject. This book, through the stories of some of these women and other sources, gives us an insight into this involvement, attempting to provide a psychological explanation for their actions and for the reasons that most were not punished after the war. It may not offer anything comprehensive but it certainly does provide a usefu ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have many issues with this book. Where is the research??

She focuses on a few (maybe a dozen) women and draws these overarching and unsubstantiated ideas.

For example, she'll say something like, "Terrible things happened in X city in Poland. How can we believe women weren't there? They were there and must have done terrible things." What?? This logic makes no sense.

She'll also say, "She claims that she had no part in any terrible things but she lied." Where is the proof she lied?? Maybe she di

This book has taken me a tremendously long amount of time to finish; not because it is badly written or long-winded, but because it overwhelms the reader’s emotions to such a point that you need to put it down and walk away. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, and can only be digested in small, not so easily swallowed mouthfuls.

In writing this book the Author pulls on her
Diane S ☔
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
2.5 I loved the beginning of this book, found it very informative, appalling but informative. The author asserts that over half a million women were either involved or consciously looked way, during the Holocaust. I must be extremely naive because I had no idea the figures were that high. Than I think, how would I have reacted during this situation, when not going along could get one killed. One thing I know for sure is that I would not have picnicked on the site of a mass burial.

The beginning
Jill Hutchinson
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwi-wwii
I'm sorry to say that this book did not resonate with me. The premise was to prove that German women were more involved in the Holocaust than history tells us. I don't feel that the author proved that at all. Certainly there were some women who actively participated in the atrocities of the death camps and several were brought to trial after the war. The author includes them in her narrative but does not provide conclusive information about other women that she mentions or German women in genera ...more
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
There have been many books, case studies and articles about the Holocaust and many of them have had a special focus but this is the first time I recall seeing an in-depth look at the roles of German women in the Nazi regime. This was a rather ambitious project, with a specific focus and I thought it was compelling.

First of all, let me say that this is a tough book to read without feeling sick to your stomach. That has nothing to do with the abilities of the author of course; I didn't expect thi
Mike (the Paladin)
This is an interesting book that (again) takes us back to the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s taking a look at "what happened". One of the most absorbing topics to come out of WW2 is the question of how entire populations could have bought into the genocide and terror of the period. The faulty science, history and religion/folklore preached by the Third Reich was accepted and indeed adopted by the majority of the population of Germany and the so called German states.

Here we look at the women who
Maine Colonial
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii, history
Even though I've read hundreds of novels and history books about the Holocaust, Wendy Lower's study was a revelation. In a way, it shouldn't have been. Having read a lot about the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads who murdered Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and others in the east, to make room for Germany's intended rural paradise), euthanasia programs, Gestapo offices, occupation bureaucracies and other elements of the Nazi operations, I knew that there were many nurses, secretaries and wives who wer ...more
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 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 Germa
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
It's very unfortunate that this book is so badly organized and repetitive, because Lower's research into female German participation in the Holocaust on the Eastern Front is in many ways highly valuable. Reviewers here complain that Lower's research sample of some thirteen German women enablers/accomplices/perpetrators is too small to be statistically significant or even remotely representative, but as Lower points out (at the very end of the book, when such an observation would have been so muc ...more
Aug 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
Enlightening, but Incomplete …

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

Considering almost every facet of the Nazi era has been examined to some degree, there is a disappointing void in divulging female accountability when it comes to Nazi atrocities. With HITLER’S FURIES, Wendy Lower sheds the “hausfrau” persona so commonly associated with German women of the time and reveals the disturbing fact that many of these women actively contr
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
"In many ways, this book is about how we fail to reckon with the past, not so much as a historical reconstruction or morality tale, but as evidence of a recurring problem in which we all share responsibility. What are the blind spots and taboos that persist in our retelling of events, in individual accounts, memoirs, and national histories? Why does this history continue to haunt us, several generations and many miles removed [...]?" (p. 200).

In Hitler's Furies, author Wendy Lower follows variou
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
This book raises an interesting issue with regards women and history. Too often women have been written out of history altogether, or otherwise relegated to the category of 'women's history' as though the doings and deeds of women were somehow completely unrelated to the mainstream of 'regular' history. HIStory, indeed. But as Wendy Lower points out, in the case of women in Nazi Germany in particular, this patriarchal attitude has led to the whitewashing of women's roles in history and has allow ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When we look back to the atrocities committed by the Germans against the Jews and others during World War 2, the focus is generally on men. We know that there were women camp guards who were as sadistic and cruel as their male counterparts, but on the whole the role of women has remained hidden. In this ground-breaking and deeply chilling book, Wendy Lower demonstrates that ordinary women as well were often only too complicit in the Holocaust.
Lower’s extensive research reveals that half a milli
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Read Gil Rosenberg's review for more detail. I have no doubt that Professor Lower is an expert in this area and this book definitely piqued my interest in reading more about the Eastern Front and the post-war trials. That said, either the book was much longer and was poorly edited (as Rosenberg suggests) or Professor Lower just did a lousy job of cutting and pasting her own research into a 200-page book that would be accessible to the lay reader.

There is a tremendous amount of repetition and lot
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-star
An exceptionally well written and researched document detailing how women were swept up into the Nazi propaganda machine; from ordinary housewives and mothers to professionals and skilled workers.

Initially I expected much of the book to focus on female camp guards, in reality the author only touched upon this and instead drew attention to the lesser known female perpetrators of war crimes and mass genocide. There are some truly horrific eyewitness accounts of cruelty towards the sick, mentally
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is so hard to rate these type of books. It is a horrifying subject but ignoring history leaves us very open to repeating it. I knew going in this was not going to be a warm fuzzy feel good holiday read. BUT dang!
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Hitler's Furies: Ger­man Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower is a non-fiction book depict­ing the hor­rific and stun­ning roles women played in the Third Reich. Ms. Lower is an Amer­i­can his­to­rian who wrote sev­eral books about the Holo­caust, she pre­sented this new infor­ma­tion in Yad Vashem , the Holo­caust Mar­tyrs’ and Heroes’ Remem­brance Author­ity in Jerusalem.

“"[T]he con­sen­sus in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies is that the sys­tems that make mass mur­der pos­si­ble
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I remember when I first read about this book, and got very excited to get my hands on a copy because 1) German history, and 2) women. It's a good take on a subject you rarely see anything written about; it's like women weren't part of history, like they did absolutely nothing during WWII. Especially when it comes to crimes and such. I liked that the author chose to focus on a few women in particular instead of making it a more and possibly vague study. The book shows how these women knew what wa ...more
Katherine Addison
[donated to library]

Wow, this is an excellent book. It's about women's place in the genocidal machinery of Hitler's empire in eastern Europe, and how that place is almost impossible to recover, because it's the history of support staff, to whom--of course--nobody pays attention. (The audiobook reader is also excellent.)

Lower tracks individual nurses, secretaries, teachers, and wives, uncovering evidence of their roles as witnesses, accomplices, and perpetrators. Concentration camp guards are not
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Countless German women actively participated in the Holocaust but returned to civilian life and melted into the populace- never held accountable for their crimes against humanity. This well researched book attempts to explain why. Many who were brought to trial were acquitted. Even though courts admitted these women had committed the crimes,the social climate, Nazi culture, and pressure of the times were cited as excuses for their behavior. The climate of the post war period explains the relucta ...more
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
In my effort to read more non-fiction novels I reached for this one. I'm very happy I did. Although the topic is horrifying and incredibly graphic at times, it is a part of history and it's something we must learn from. The women in this novel were heartless, unimaginable monsters, yet somehow a vast majority were left unscathed. I've never specifically studied the women during the Third Reich, so this was interesting. I enjoyed this, but the last 50 pages really lagged for me, however I would r ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wendy Lower is a Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College and a consultant for the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is published in Holocaust books and articles. Her short bio on the book's cover mentions her fieldwork conducted throughout Europe. It was on a field trip to the Ukraine several decades ago that the inspiration occurred to push her to search for information on the role of Nazi women, especially in relation to the extensive genocidal killing that took place in Germany's v ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is truly groundbreaking.

Twenty years ago the claim that the German Wehrmacht was innocent of crimes in the East was shattered. Professor Lower has shown in this book that many ordinary women sent East were guilty of participation in genocide. The book stays away from the usual focus of the Holocaust, the female camp guards and instead looks at nurses, secretaries and wives of officials that, through their own choice, participated in murder. The evidence is quite chilling.

Professor Lowe
Ghost of the Library
Well this was a disappointment..what a blah book!

Don´t get me wrong, information on the Holocaust must always be available, read, spread as far and wide as possible, to better understand what happened and how not so impossible it is to see history repeat itself...i just wish it had been done in a more precise, better structured, less vague manner than in this one.
I have lost count of the number of books, movies, documentaries i read/watched over the years regarding WW2 and Nazi Germany - and i a
In college, I was taught that drawing baseless conclusions about facts as a historian or researcher is the best way to get your readers to distrust you. I had this experience with Hitler's Furies.

It came at the moment when Lower describes a young boy walking past the corpse of a Jewish woman in the street two days in a row. When he tells his mother (who is not one of the known awful women profiled in this book, and for all intents and purposes, completely random) on the second day of seeing the
Jan 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
This seemed to be a promising book, written by a scholar and based on original documentation, on an important and interesting topic: the likely participation of a significant number of German women in inhumane Nazi efforts. However, it reads like a poorly edited series of stand-alone essays, with each chapter re-using the same argument again and again. Lower also makes the cardinal error of introducing over a dozen largely undifferentiated historical figures in one chapter and then referring bac ...more
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WENDY LOWER, Ph.D. is the John K. Roth Chair of History at Claremont McKenna College and research associate of the Ludwig Maximillians Universität in Munich, Germany. A historical consultant for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, she has conducted archival research and field work on the Holocaust for twenty years.
She lives with her family in Los Angeles, CA, and Munich, Germany.

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16 likes · 1 comments
“The consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies is that the systems that make mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society, and yet nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of those who populated that society, as if women’s history happens somewhere else. It is an illogical approach and puzzling omission. The dramatic stories of these women reveal the darkest side of female activism. They show what can happen when women of varied backgrounds and professions are mobilized for war and acquiesce in genocide.” 3 likes
“Goebbels famously remarked that “men organize life: women are their support and implement their decisions.” 3 likes
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