Women, throughout the world, participated in World War 2, however, German women did not play as large a role as did the women of other countries. Hitler did not want to upset the civilian population especially early in the war when victories came fast and easy. He failed to mobilize the German women as diligently as did the Americans and Russians where women were heavily used.
The German leader's views of women as inferior to men also played a role in their non-mobilization. It was a man's world at that time. The vast majority of German women during the war were not actively involved in the political movements. In Albert Speer's book, Inside the Third Reich, Speer made an observation about the wives of German leaders:
"In general, the wives of the regime's bigwigs resisted the temptation of power far more than their husbands. They did not lose themselves in the latter's fantasy world. They looked on at the often grotesque antics of their husbands and were not caught up in the political whirlwind."
Neglect of women in the war was a serious mistake since mobilization of them would have freed many men for military service. Several German women did play a role in war events, however, and their stories follow:
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Hitler's mistress from 1932 to 1945 and his wife for one day. Like most German women, Eva Braun cared little about politics or the war. She was involved only through her association with Hitler to whom she was completely devoted. In fact, when a significant event in the war occurred, her general response was, "How will this affect me....Adolf will have less time for me." She was a rather plain girl in appearance but Hitler chose her over the many beautiful German and foreign girls that could have been his for the asking.
When Hitler met Eva, she was working in Heinrich Hoffmann's photographic studio. (Heinrich Hoffmann was Hitler's personal photographer). Eva was a normal, good natured, healthy girl who loved exercising, photography, dancing, and smoking cigarettes. You could say she was typical of girls in the 1930's.
Shortly after Eva became Hitler's mistress, she fell into a spell of depression at his neglect due to his campaigning in an election for the presidency. She attempted to commit suicide with a pistol. Hitler rushed to her side. Later, a second suicide attempt was made when the fuehrer neglected her although there are some suspicions that both suicide attempts were really attempts to get Hitler's attention. Eventually, Hitler had her ensconced at the Berghof, his secret retreat in the mountains near Austria. There, many of her pastimes - dancing, smoking, etc - were forbidden, but she continually broke the rules when opportunity permitted.
The relationship of the two lovers was kept from the public as much as possible because Hitler did not want to upset the public's moral sensibility. Eva was also banished from Hitler's side when certain high level German officials, e.g., the Goerings, were visiting him. Despite the snubbing she was forced to endure from the "socially acceptable big wigs," Eva remained loyal to Hitler. And despite all his neglect and all the restrictions Hitler placed on Eva, he appeared to care deeply for her especially in the latter days of the war.
The much-repeated allied propaganda that Hitler was a sexual pervert who could not have normal sexual relations with women appears to have been a falsehood since the relationship of Hitler and Eva, according to intimates, appears to have been completely normal. Indeed, by today's standards of sexual normality, the relationship between the two would seem boring.
Near the end of the war, Eva showed up at the Bunker and said she was not leaving. Hitler put on a show of trying to get her to leave but she refused. Hitler was no doubt actually happy to see Eva, a person totally loyal to him even as others were turning against him as certain defeat approached.
Albert Speer had early developed a liking and sympathy for Eva and often joined her in her exiles from the top Nazi social circles. When Speer made his last trip to the Bunker, she met with him after Hitler had retired, provided champagne and chocolates and generally had a long, revealing conversation with him late that night only six days before the end of her life. Speer said she appeared to be the only person in the bunker who displayed any composure and humanity. The rest - Hitler, Goebbels, Bormann, etc - were becoming increasingly abnormal. During the conversation, she said, "Why do so many people have to be killed? And it is all for nothing!"
Six days later, she committed suicide with Hitler by taking cyanide poison.
Why did Magda Goebbels kill her 6 children?
Goebbels wife and a tragic figure of Shakespearian proportions who committed, at the apparent insistence of her husband, the unpardonable sin of murdering her six children. This incident rivals the scene in Sophie's Choice in which the unfortunate Sophie is forced by a sadistic Nazi concentration camp official to make the awful decision as to which one of her two beloved children would live. As with Eva Braun, Albert Speer had befriended Magda and had references to her in his books, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau : The Secret Diaries.
Magda Goebbels, born in 1901, was a beautiful, somewhat promiscuous woman. Early on, she had a Jewish boyfriend for whom she, on occasion, wore the Star of David. In 1921, she married a wealthy businessman, Gunther Quand, who was 20 years older than her. She grew bored and quickly took a young lover. This forced a divorce and more boredom. She discovered the Nazi Party and embraced it with passion. While working in party offices, she met the fanatical Joseph Goebbels and, through him, Hitler. Both men were attracted to her but Hitler withdrew when he found she was promised to his disciple Goebbels. ( Hitler had problems with the women he most cared for!)
Goebbels married Magda but Hitler remained very close to them as the Goebbels produced a family of six children. It was almost as if he were a member of this family which he regarded as a model German family and Magda was the model German women pumping out babies to serve the Third Reich. Magda thought so much of Hitler that she began the names of each of her six children with the letter "H." Since Hitler was not married, Magda served on many occasions as "first lady" of Germany.
Joseph Goebbels had always been a ladies man, and even though married to Magda, a very attractive women, he proceeded to become involved with a succession of other women. Finally, he took a Czech actress, Lida Baarova, as a serious lover. He wanted to marry her but Hitler would not hear of the breakup of "his family" and put an end to the affair by giving Goebbels a choice of his career or the actress. Goebbels chose his career. In the meantime, Magda, as she was prone to do, had retaliated to her husband's affair by falling in love with Karl Hanke, her husband's state secretary. Hanke also loved her and wanted to marry her. Albert Speer, who was in the middle of this soap opera because of his friendship with both Hanke and Magda, took Magda on a vacation out of the country along with his wife and a small group of others in an attempt to cool down the affair. Eventually the Magda - Hanke affair did end when Joseph Goebbels threatened to take the children away from Magda. The marriage continued but any remaining love was gone.
When Hitler withdrew to the Bunker, Joseph and Magda Goebbels and their six children followed him. Near the end, Joseph Goebbels made a decision that they would all die with Hitler. The children were to die because Joseph Goebbels felt the children would be used as propaganda against Joseph and the Nazi regime if captured. Magda was decimated by this decision but apparently did nothing to stop it although Hitler tried to convince her otherwise and Albert Speer also offered refuge for Magda and the children.
On Speer's last trip to the bunker, he met with Magda, who was in bed totally devastated by the coming death of her children. However, Joseph Goebbels did not leave the pair alone and Speer was unable to talk freely with her. Speer bitterly complained about this in Inside The Third Reich. However, it probably wouldn't have mattered since she seemed to have made up her mind that the children were to die.
The day after Hitler died, she allegedly fed the children cyanide poison-laced hot chocolate although one report is that they died via injection at Joseph Goebbel's orders. Then she and her husband had themselves shot and their corpses burned by soldiers.
One of the many horror stories of the war. There is little doubt that Magda could have saved the children with the all-powerful Hitler and the highly-placed Speer on her side - even in the insane environment that existed in the bunker. She just was not strong enough to stand up to the very intimidating and fanatical Joseph Goebbels who in the last days of the bunker had become very 'abnormal'. However, when the lives of six children are at stake, a mother has to develop the strength!
How could she have done it?
Magda's story is probably the most tragic tale of the German women of World War 2.
Leni Riefenstahl was, by far, the most talented German Women of the World War 2 era. She was very ambitious and well ahead of most professional women of that era.
Actress, director, and producer. After a career as ballet dancer and actress, Leni Riefenstahl formed her own film company in 1931 to produce the successful movie 'The Blue Light.' She was eventually appointed to produce films for the Nazi Party. Two of the better know films were 'Triumph of the Will,' a film on the Nuremberg rally, and another masterpiece 'Olympia.' Olympia presented the story of the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. Her films won many international awards.
It should be noted that her film Triumph of the Will is a highly acclaimed film considered by some to be of the same caliber as Citizen Kane and movies of that ilk. It is a masterpiece of both film making and of propaganda. Leni Riefenstahl sought to make "Triumph of the Will" against the strong objections of Goebbels who was miffed at not being in control of this project . The high ranking comes from present day viewers as well as old viewers. It has been said that the message regarding Germany's future aggression was evident in the film.
After the war, the tables were turned on Leni Riefenstahl who denied she had ever been a Nazi. (Riefenstahl had the strong personality to be a political figure, but actually seems to have been only a hard working professional woman with little personal interest in the Nazis). She spent four years in Allied prisons. Riefenstahl also denied any romantic involvement with Hitler although there is no doubt that they knew each other very well. None of her denials did any good. The castigation continued and she was never able to make another feature film. However, Riefenstahl was a women who was a street fighter with a tenacity rarely seen in man or woman. Late in life, she started a new career in making documentary films. For example, in her 60's she spent eight months in Africa filming the activities of the Nuba tribe. At the age of 70, she took a scuba diving course and undertook the filming of undersea documentary films. She completed hundreds of such documentary films.
In 2000, Riefenstahl was injured in a helicopter crash in Khartoum while at work at age 98. She recently died at age 101 while still going strong. Leni Riefenstahl may have been sympathetic or at least neutral to the Nazis, but one must admit she does have the good qualities of being extremely intelligent, not being lazy, and being unafraid to fight for her rights. She was a women who succeeded in a man's world.
Was Geli Raubal Hitler's only true love?
It has been often stated that Geli was Hitler's only true love. Hitler has stated that she was the only woman he would have ever married (although, he did marry Eva Braun on the last day of his life). Geli was his niece by his half sister, Angela. In 1925, when Angela became Hitler's housekeeper, the vivacious Geli went with her and Hitler fell in love with her. They became virtually inseparable and Hitler took her with him everywhere including to meetings of high Nazi bigwigs. Eventually, though, problems arose as Hitler's penchant for total control of every aspect of Geli's life became to take a toll on the relationship. Jealousy problems also arose from both parties. Rumors that Hitler was to marry Winifred Wagner upset Geli and her alleged affair with Hitler's body guard, Emile Maurice, disturbed Hitler. Finally, Geli revolted and began to talk of leaving for Vienna. Hitler ordered her not to go. He then left for Hamburg on September 17, 1931.
On September 18, Geli was found shot to death in her apartment. It was an apparent suicide but that supposition has never been proven for sure. Many theories have emerged about the death. One, of course, is that Hitler killed Geli in a fit of rage. Another is that Himmler had her killed because the relationship was damaging the Nazi party. The most likely theory is that she actually committed suicide.
Suicides, attempted suicides and rumors of suicide attempts plagued most German women (and foreign women) - Geli Raubal, Eva Braun, Magda Goebbels, Renata Mueller, Martha Dodd, Inge Ley, Unity Mitford - who were close to Hitler.
Some in the Third Reich who talked too much about the Hitler - Geli relationship and Geli's death lived to regret it. For example, Father Bernard Stempfle, a person who helped edit Hitler's Mein Kampf, talked too much about Hitler and Geli and was found with three bullets through the heart.
The cause of Geli Raubal's death is just another of the many mysteries that surround women who were close to Hitler.
Gertrud Junge. One of Hitler's three private secretaries who followed him to the Bunker. She was a 22 year old woman in 1942 when she won the secretarial position in open competition. The following year she married Hans Junge, Aide-de-Camp to the fuehrer. Hans was killed a year later while fighting in Normandy. Hitler and his staff, including Junge, moved to the Bunker in January 1945 and remained there to the last days. Gertrud Junge's most notable assignment was to type Hitler's last Will and Testament, a job that will forever make her name a footnote in history.
Hanna Reitsch, Most Fanatical of Women Close to Hitler. A fanatical follower of Hitler, she was also a stunt pilot and test pilot who won the Iron Cross in World War 2. When Hitler retreated to the Bunker, Reitsch made a hazardous flight to the Bunker area and Reitsch asked Hitler that she be allowed to stay at the Bunker so that she could die with him. Hitler refused. A wise choice by Hitler. If he was not already crazy, Reitsch would have soon driven him into madness with her heroics.
Winifred Wagner. Composer Richard Wagner's widowed daughter- in- law. Hitler was very fond of Richard Wagner's music and became friends with the family and with Winifred. There were rumors of Hitler and Winifred marrying but nothing came of it.
Rebata Mueller. Renata Mueller's name is thrown in here simply because of her alleged sadistic/masochist (S&M) relationship to Hitler. She was briefly a subject of Hitler's romantic interest. She claims that while visiting Hitler at the Chancellery, he threw himself on the floor and begged her to kick him and inflict pain. This item has been picked up as the 'truth' by writers and commentators and has spread through the literature. Whether it actually occurred is unknown. Shortly after the alleged incident occurred, Ms. Mueller was found unconscious on the sidewalk beneath her apartment apparently having jumped from her apartment window. Her sister denied that she committed suicide.
Unity Mitford, the Non-German Woman. One of six rebellious and gifted daughters of an British aristocrat. Unity Mitford was a beautiful blond who became a follower of and close friends with Hitler and fell in love with him. She reported that he did not seem very interested in sex although she would have slept with him if he had asked. In actuality, Unity may have never had a chance to become intimately involved with Hitler. Another friend of Hitler's, Leni Riefenstahl, asked Hitler what he thought of the beautiful British girl, Unity Mitford, who was obviously in love with Hitler. Hitler replied that Unity was a very attractive girl but that he could never have an intimate relationship with a foreign girl, no matter how beautiful she was. He said his feelings are so bound up with patriotism that he could only love a German woman.
Unity Mitford often discussed with Hitler the need for good relations between Germany and Britain. On September 3, 1939, when World War 2 began with Britain and France declaring war on Germany, she tried to kill herself with a pistol. When she recovered, Hitler sent her home to Britain.
Emma Sonnemann Goering. The second wife of Hermann Goering, the second ranking German leader. Of interest because, despite being the wife of a high-ranking Nazi, Emma intervened for Jews on a number of instances. It is even reported that Hermann Goering had to apologize to Hitler on several occasions because of Emma's interventions. It is also said that the fear of having to face Emma led Goering to personally intervene with Hitler to stop the slaughter that was occurring during the Night of the Long Knives.
Emma's activities shows that not everyone will go along with the crowd when the crowd is applauding heinous deeds being performed. Hooray for Emma! We could use a few like her in the US today.
The rumors about Hitler's alleged sex perversions have already been touched on above. Despite rumors to the contrary, Hitler was apparently normally sexed, was not a sex deviant, nor a homosexual, and led a fairly dull sexual life considering that many women threw themselves at him and some committed or attempted to commit suicide when rejected by him. Nordic beauty types were always available to him but he rejected them. Instead, he seemed to prefer (and felt comfortable with) "typical" German women such as the plain Eva Braun.
An exception to the plain look was his niece and the alleged love of his life, Geli Raubal, who was both a lively and good looking German woman. Another exception to the plain rule was the glamorous Magda Goebbels whom he seemed attracted to but he withdrew his attention from her because of his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, who also cared for Magda.
Hitler summed up his love life best when he told someone he had had many disappointments in his love affairs. It appeared that even when his love affairs were consummated, they seemed about as exciting as the love life of Ma and Pa Kettle.
Hitler was into power and not sex!
Other major German leaders were a mixed bag on sex. Goebbels and Bormann both chased anything wearing a skirt. Heydrich was a lover of beautiful women. Himmler also had a mistress.
Of the top leadership, only Speer and Goering appeared to be faithful-husband types. Goering obviously loved both his first wife who died young and his second wife. Despite his flamboyant nature, Goering, in regard to women, had human qualities far superior to most of the other Nazi leaders. Speer also seemed very sensitive to women and was friends of many of the wives of the top Nazi leaders. His friendships with Eva Braun and Magda Goebbels are well documented in his book "Inside the Third Reich."
However, after his release from Spandau Prison, Speer seemed to have had a relapse from being a faithful husband and apparently died of a heart attack while on a rendezvous with his mistress.
Few German Women played a major role in World War 2. But the German women that did were an interesting group and deserve to have their story told. German Women of World War 2
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