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.
- Nazi Supporters
- Anti-Nazi Activists
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
GERTRAUD (TRAUDL) JUNGE (1920-2002)
Born Gertraud Humps in Munich. For two years and four
months she was the youngest of Hitler's three secretaries. In late 1942,
she applied for a secretarial job in the German Chancellery in Berlin.
Soon she was short listed for a position as personal secretary to Hitler.
At the age of 22 she worked at Hitler's H/Q at Rastenburg in East Prussia.
In June 1943, she married Hans Junge, Aide-de -Camp to the Führer,
who was killed a year later when a Spitfire strafed his company on the
Normandy front. On Jan.15,1945, Hitler and his staff moved into the
underground bunker in the grounds of the Berlin Chancellery. Frau Junge
survived the last chaotic days in Berlin typing Hitler's last Will and
Testament. She was arrested by the Russians and then the Americans and
interrogated for hours. Back home in Munich, she worked as a secretary
and journalist for various publishing companies. Alone, unmarried and
childless,Traudl Junge died of cancer on February 10, 2002, in a hospital
in her native city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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".
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
Wife of Czech-born German industrialist, Oskar Schindler,
who, together with her husband, saved over 1,200 Jewish workers from
the Holocaust. 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.
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.
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
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 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.
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 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,
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.
Duncan's Women of the Third Reich