Monday, December 02, 2013
Reading Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, Wendy Lower
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 8, 2013)
258 pages, $28.00
I don't even know where to begin on this. Amazing in a horrifying way. Talk about brain-washing an entire country. "The Final Solution"=how to even put this into words?
A few thoughts:
We all hear about the atrocities committed by the men, but none of the women. Until now. Women, wives, nurses, teachers, ranking officials were just as bad as the men if not more. Society has this idea that women can do no wrong. "...nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of those who populated that society, as if a women's history happened somewhere else."
What really got me (among other things)-women shooting children, luring them with candy; random shooting sprees from balconies, and in the case of one woman, picking up a toddler and smashing it against the wall repeatedly until it was dead. And then going on to have tea or something. No remorse, no feeling. Truly horrifying that people could be that dead, that unfeeling.
Also, women thinking going East (Poland, Ukraine, etc.) would be an "adventure"! An opportunity to travel. Bright-eyed and eager. Then finding not at all how they thought it would be. The desensitization of living under such a regime.
The sudden "memory lapses" of women (and men) during trials. Terms like "racial hygiene" (maternity care!-as in keeping the Aryan race "clean"); "SS Race and Resettlement Office", which is a thin cover-up for rounding up the Jewish and wither moving them to the Ghettos, the fire or just plain-out shooting them dead. Young women were trained in the League of German Girls to fire in formation with air rifles. In their quest for finding a husband they were told to ask "What is your racial background?" Women-mothers-were revered in Nazi Germany. Hitler even proclaimed "In my state the mother is the most important citizen." yes...to propagate the Aryan race. Mothers were awarded the Cross of Honor for having more than four children. Labor requirement was an essential duty to both men and women-preparation for war, essentially.
Hitler was impressed with the American way of Manifest Destiny and applied it in his quest to move east. Also, "...Treaty of Versaille, The Locarno Treaty, anti-aggression pacts-these were all just scraps of paper to Hitler." Sounds a lot like "the U.S. constitution is just a piece of paper." Uttered by the Bush, Jr. administration. Nuremberg Laws. Marriage had to be approved by the nation-state with documentation of Aryan ancestry back to 1750 or earlier. "Acceptable facial features" was another requirement. Women were given gynecological exams, tested on their domestic skills and maternal instincts.
Hard book to read, but very necessary. The book was also short-listed for the National Book Award in NF 2013.
You can read more of my reviews at Goodreads.