Friday, January 3, 2014

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

Hitler's Furies:  German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower - 288 pages

Following in the tradition of Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, Lower looks at the role of ordinary citizens in the Holocaust.  In this case it is the females, a often overlooked category.  While many were direct participants, most were never tried as war criminals.  The book follows approximately a dozen well-documented cases often using surviving Nazi records, war crimes trial transcripts, and memoirs of several of the women to demonstrate their participation.

Most women were in one of three categories: nurses, secretaries (and sometimes also lovers) of top Nazis, or wives of top Nazis.  As the book demonstrates, nurses often participated directly in euthanasia programs and at the gas chambers.  Secretaries often served as desk murders when writing and transmitting orders.  Other times they were observers who did nothing to help the victims.  Nazi wives, especially those with husbands in the SS, often directly killed Jews as sport.

At the book's end, besides completing each woman's story, Lower offered some psychological insights to why these women acted as they did both during and after the war (most denied involvement).  In all, reading this reminded me strongly of Browning's research on the men I read during a college-level Holocaust course and while this book is fresh in my mind I plan to reread that book.  Like Browning's work, I think Hitler's Furies is destined to become a classic of Holocaust scholarship.

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