Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields
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In a surprising account that powerfully revises history, Wendy Lower uncovers the role of German women on the Nazi eastern front—not only as plunderers and direct witnesses, but as actual killers. Lower, drawing on twenty years of archival research and fieldwork, presents startling evidence that these women were more than “desk murderers” or comforters of murderous German men: they went on “shopping sprees” and romantic outings to the Jewish ghettos; they were present at killing-field picnics, not only providing refreshment but also shooting Jews. And Lower uncovers the stories of SS wives with children of their own whose brutality is as chilling as any in history.
Hitler’s Furies challenges our deepest beliefs: women can be as brutal as men, and the evidence can be hidden for seventy years.
“Disquieting . . . Earlier books about the Holocaust have offered up poster girls of brutality and atrocity . . . [Lower’s] insight is to track more mundane lives, and to argue for a vastly wider complicity.” —New York Times
“An unsettling but significant contribution to our understanding of how nationalism, and specifically conceptions of loyalty, are normalized, reinforced, and regulated.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
BAB, BStU 000050–57; USHMMA, RG 14.068, fiche 566. Also see Wendy Lower, “Male and Female Holocaust Perpetrators and the East German Approach to Justice, 1949–1963,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 24, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 56–84, where some of this material on Erna Petri was published. I thank Oxford University Press and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for permission to use passages (in altered form) from that article. [>] “bloodthirsty camp commandant”: Recollection of Stepan Yakimovich
Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience (Vintage, 1983), p. 353. To hide from investigators in Austria and Germany, Landau took on another identity, that of Rudolf Jaschke, claiming that he was a Sudeten ethnic German refugee; in fact, Landau was born in Vienna in 1910. (Preliminary investigation of Landau, and records of the Staatsanwaltschaft Stuttgart, 11 208 AR-Z 60a/1959, BAL/3380.) In 1958 Landau sought to obtain a marriage license in Stuttgart. When he applied for his marriage
absolutely secret,” she later stated. Her boss simply told the local police chief and office staff when and where the pits were to be dug. Meier kept the coveted office stamp in her desk drawer; that meant that she could sign on behalf of the commissar. The official stamp and special forms, such as the worker’s identification card (the so-called Gold Card), were potentially lifesaving bureaucratic tools. For a Jewish person, the only way to escape the shooting pits, other than flight and
and perpetrators featured here are based on research in wartime German documents, Soviet war-crimes investigations, East German secret police files and trial records, West German and Austrian investigative and trial records, documentation from Simon Wiesenthal’s archive in Vienna, published memoirs, private wartime correspondence and diaries, and interviews with witnesses in Germany and Ukraine. The official wartime documentation—the SS marriage applications, personnel records of the civil
contact with other women, so that in the course of this time I became more hardened, desensitized. I did not want to stand behind the SS men. I wanted to show them that I, as a woman, could conduct myself like a man. So I shot 4 Jews and 6 Jewish children. I wanted to prove myself to the men. Besides, in those days in this region, everywhere one heard that Jewish persons and children were being shot, which also caused me to kill them. If Erna stressed her role as an SS wife, should it not