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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
ANNE KAPPIUS 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.
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 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.
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.