Monday, June 6, 2016

Book review: "Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields" by Wendy Lower

I, ironically, was reading this book on and around Mother's Day, and let me tell you - none of these women are going to be winning mother of the year.

Hitler's plan for German women was basically this: have a bunch of "racially superior" babies, raise them up as good Nazis and keep a good house for your loyal Nazi party member spouse. But that wasn't what happened to every woman. Some of the women in this book were husband-less and wanted a career and so found themselves working in hospitals or in offices of powerful men. Some of these women followed their husbands to their postings in the farther reaches of the Reich and did not stand idly by as they terrorized everyone around them.All of the women that are profiled in this book were stationed "in the east". In this case that means Poland, Estonia, Belarus, etc. One of the reasons that some of these women were more able to fit into "less traditionally female" roles was that they were so far from Berlin. 

This book is a little bit confusing because there are so many women mentioned (13) and their stories are all interlaced. It's a lot of names and I got a lot of people mixed up.But anyway. We find out what the women were doing before the war, how they ended up where they did, and what happened to them after the war.

Frankly, a lot of this stuff is hard to read because the things that some of the women did were incomprehensibly cruel. What makes it doubly cruel is that it was utterly unnecessary. The women who were wives of the men running the camps were not really expected to have anything to do with their operations. And yet some of them were down there every day torturing prisoners and being right in the middle of everything. 

I'm only going to give you two examples because they are representative of the things we are talking about.

-One woman would hold out a piece of candy to a child and when the child got close enough to take the candy she would shoot them in the head. And then just laugh uproariously like this was the best thing she'd ever seen.

-One of the camp wives (who also had children of her own, by the way) stumbled across 6 Jewish children who had escaped a transport. Her husband was away, so she brought them into her house and fed them a meal and told them they were safe. And then took them outside and shot them.

The nurses were charged with things like "painlessly" killing people who were "less desireable" - mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, etc. One thing that really surprised me was the some nurses in the east actually killed German soldiers. Men who had traumatic brain injuries, "mutilated" or were "not worth saving" got a quick injection of something lethal and died.

Almost none of these women spent serious time in prison after the war (though I believe the woman from the candy example above was executed) for multiple reasons. But some were able to be identified by survivors and imprisoned.

An interesting aspect of this book was the you could really see the research that the author did.There's also a couple of interesting pages about percentages of women who commit murder in peace times vs war times and the like.

I'm not going to rate this book because assigning a star rating to a book like this seems kind of gross. But, I will say that if you are looking for a thoughtful and well written book that shines light on people who literally, got away murder, I feel like by reading this book and seeing the names there is a little bit of justice served for the victims of these horrible people.


1 comment:

  1. This definitely sounds intense! It's a little scary to think there were people who could find amusement or joy in the awful things they did.


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