Book Review: Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

October 8, 2013

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower is a non-fiction book depicting the horrific and stunning roles women played in the Third Reich. Ms. Lower is an American historian who wrote several books about the Holocaust, she presented this new information in Yad Vashem , the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.

  • 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547863381

Book Review Hitlers Furies German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

My rat­ing for Hitler’s Furies 5

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“”[T]he consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies is that the systems that make mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society, and yet nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of those who populated that society, as if women’s history happens somewhere else.”

I always find books about the collective psychology of Germans during World War II fascinating. Why would anyone allow such genocide to happen? What were they thinking? How could they turn a blind eye to such cruelty? How could people, otherwise good and descent, can participate in mass murder?

In her excellent book, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields author Wendy Lower brings new evidence about the Holocaust as well as answering some of the questions above as well as shedding light on the role of women perpetrators. Ms. Lower tells disturbing tales of professional women (nurses, secretaries, etc.) who knew about, helped and or participated in killings as well as those who were there as part .

The Nazi propaganda machine not only conditioned women to accept and tolerate violence, but also to participate in it. The Third Reich not only insisted on women honoring the 3 Ks (Kinder, Küche, Kirche – children, kitchen, church), but also mobilized women to contribute to the terror at home and in the occupied German territories either via administrative work, moral support (it’s hard work killing hundreds a day and the murderers needed snacks, rest and psychological support) or active participation.

The author tells the stories of Nazi mothers who shot, point blank, at scared Jewish kids who happen to escape the train taking them to the gas chambers (but she fed them first) or a housewife of an SS officer who took pleasure in ramming Jews with her baby cart and bashing the heads of children in front of their parents. Women who simply using their slaves as target practice from balconies or ones who used to take pleasure at walking into a Jewish children’s hospital in the Ghetto and throwing out sick kids from the third floor balcony.

The Reich’s brainwashing of racial purity was so successful many didn’t question it. If you wanted a job or a promotion you “did your duty” even if that meant mass murder. However, this is not an excuse, in war time perception of “right” and “wrong” get muddied, but that usually occurs on an individual scale, not when it comes to the assist and/or participating in genocide or a bastardized form of euthanasia (killing your own soldiers who were left mentally or physically injured in battle).

The author writes about the crimes and murders these women committed. Those crimes are insane, luring hungry children over with the promise of candy only to shoot them in the mouth, bashing children’s heads in the wall (in front of their families), gaining trust by serving food and then a swift execution of scared, starving and exhausted kids or ripping off limbs.
It’s insane!

The author also asks important questions which negates the women’s claim that they “knew nothing”. Questions such as how did they miss the mass graves and smell of tens of thousands of corpses during their picnic outings? Who did they think the trainloads of clothes and jewelry belong to?

The book also touches the fact that violence is not a male dominated trait, we all have it but in women it comes out differently and the assumption that women won’t engage in mass murder is wrong. This is a dangerous assumption, as the author points out because “minimizing the violent behavior of women creates a false shield” by assuming that one half of the human race won’t murder the other. But given the opportunity, women participate and engaged in genocide just like their male counterparts.

The book ends on a somber note, after World War II the role of the women (half a million, according to the author) has been minimized and almost forgotten. Most of the women who assisted or participated in the Holocaust went on to live their lives, dying of old age with their family around.

Buy this book in paper, elec­tronic or audio format*

More Books by Wendy Lower

More Rec­om­mended World War II books on Man of la BookStore

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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  • Sharon HenningOctober 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    It’s important to see how in any culture such violence becomes culturally acceptable. I don’t think there is anything unique about the Germans. If society can learn to devalue life at one level, it can learn to devalue it at any level.

    A good movie to watch about this is Ben Stein’s “No Intelligence Allowed.” It’s a great documentary-filled with plenty of dry Stein humor- about the role eugenics plays in taking society down a path where first murder at the most basic level escalates into accepting the murder of anyone deemed-to use Hitler’s words- a “useless feeder.”

  • AnnaOctober 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Wow, this sounds like a fascinating and scary book. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

  • AshleyOctober 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Darn it…why are the books I want always so expensive? $12.99 for an eBook? Psh. I’ll watch it. This is definitely a book I want to read. Thanks again for always featuring good books!

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