Anna Marie Sigmund,
Women of the Third Reich
(Verlag Carl Ueberreuter, 1998;
NDE, 2000)

Despite all that is known about the men who were the movers and shakers in the Third Reich, there is not much published about the women who also believed in this vision of Germany. Anna Marie Sigmund has written a scholarly and detailed book about these women, letting the world learn about the other half and their influence on the Nazi regime.

It is difficult to write about the Germans in World War II because of the many atrocities committed. However, Sigmund writes about these women not in a sympathetic way, but more dispassionately, accepting that they are human beings with failings, frailties and love. The main thread that I found throughout these portraits was the deep and abiding love that these women had of an ideal Germany. This ideal was a romantic caricature, in many ways, of a Germany that was lost in World War I, and this led them to love and support men who they felt would bring about the return of this idealized country.

Goering's two wives, Carin and Emmy, were both helpmates to him, though in different ways. Carin was more of a domestic goddess, where Emmy was a former actress who was a social leader for Goering. Magda Goebbels epitomized the ideal of the German Mother, giving birth to six children with Goebbels, all of whom were poisoned during the final days of the Reich. Joseph and Magda Goebbels committed suicide.

Leini Refenstahl was a different sort of woman. As a talented filmmaker, she broke the rules of the National Socialists by being strong, independent and controversial. Her propaganda film of the Nazi Party Congress is considered one of the best of the genre. Despite her politics, she is still an influential force in filmmaking.

Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun, is perhaps the most famous -- or infamous -- woman associated with Nazi Germany. According to Sigmund, she cared little for politics, but primarily wanted to be with someone influential and wealthy. She worried about Hitler's health and was also a photographer in her own right.

Sigmund's writing is a bit dry, though she has used original sources and interviews. This is an interesting book for both the professional and armchair World War II scholar or historian. The pictures are interesting and portray these women (more than mentioned above) with family and loved ones. The author paints a picture that is complex, fully rounded, and out of the ordinary.

[ by Beth Derochea ]
Rambles: 21 September 2002

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