They Loved Their Work
Although Rudyard Kipling told us in 1911 that “the female of the species is more deadly than the male,” and despite the fact that special forces are instructed to shoot female terrorists first in any hostage situation as women are far more likely to kill innocents, somehow women’s capacity for viciousness—especially against children—still has the capacity to shock. Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies is an examination of the behavior of German women stationed in what, since Timothy Snyder’s remarkable 2012 book, we have learned to call the “Bloodlands”—Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states, and the western USSR. In the course of her well-researched and well-written book—refreshingly free of the gender-studies jargon that sometimes infects tomes of this type—Lower offers up her thesis that “some of the worst killers” were the wives, girlfriends, and mothers of the Wehrmacht and SS soldiers, and that the Holocaust couldn’t have taken place without the logistical backup provided by many thousands of German women, who wholly approved of what they were doing, and indeed enjoyed it.
A professor at Claremont McKenna College and historical consultant for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Lower estimates that at least a half million German women were sent out to the Bloodlands during the Second World War as secretaries, radio operators, kindergarten teachers, drivers, nurses, stenographers, racial examiners, filing clerks, wire-tappers, “resettlement advisers,” and concentration-camp guards. Women did as many jobs as possible so that the Third Reich could maximize the number of men in the front lines.
About the Author
Andrew Roberts is the author, most recently, of the World War II history The Storm of War.