Behind a successful man there usually lies a woman, and although the degree of success was tainted, the main protagonists of the Nazi Party each had a woman, or women, behind them. This book sets out to flesh out these women, and explain how they fitted in with the Second World War ringleaders.
Nazi Wives by James Wyllie is a first class book published by The History Press in 2019. Naturally, the main theme of the book follows the rise of Nazism from its roots in the early 1930s up until the end of the debacle in 1945. The fortunes of the women folk pertinent to the leaders are followed through these years, and beyond the war’s end. The average person knows little of these women, other than the more spectacular events, but there is much to take on board in the book, most of the revelations make compulsive reading to the interested person.
Adolf Hitler explains his reluctance with regards to marriage by passing it off as an encumbrance to his otherwise total dedication to Germany. This, however, did not prevent his mother’s sister’s daughter, Geli Raubel, being infatuated by Hitler, who fast became a controlling influence on her life that only ended when she shot herself with his gun. Then a British girl, Unity Mitford, yet another infatuated female, also shot herself, and later died as a result. Finally, his marriage to Eva Braun, that lasted only a few hours before mutually committing suicide. Gruesome details are omitted largely, but enough detail to intrigue the reader, remain.
Magda Goebbels, the mother of Joseph Goebbels’s daughters, previously married and had a son also, suffered with a weak heart, but was once again enraptured by Hitler. Who knows what sinister thoughts lay behind the relationship, especially when the documented affairs of her husband became common knowledge, this greatly irritated Hitler. Magda also had various affairs that get mentioned, so maybe her reasoning was challenging when she murdered her own offspring, before she and her husband committed suicide.
Himmler’s wife, Margaret, who had medical experience in WWI, became the mother of a daughter, Gudrun, but suffered her absent husband as he had a relationship with his secretary, then tried promoting an ‘ménage-a-trois’ when the secretary, Hedwig, gave birth.
Martin Bormann’s philandering gets an airing, as does the strange relationship between Rudolph Hess and his wife Ilse. Then there is the hard-sounding woman Lina, who became Reinhard Heydrich’s wife, or even Hitler’s filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, and her Joseph Goebbels encounter in a cinema. There are others, Goering’s tortured first wife, and his subsequent re-marriage, and daughter.
The entire book is quite the eye-opener if ‘factual gossip’ is the readers bent. It sheds light on both the menfolk, and the womenfolk, and how they each coped with the breaches in the ‘marriage vows’, death, imprisonment, and continuation of existence after cessation of hostilities.
I engaged with the book rapidly. I appreciated the knowledge that I know a substantial amount of WWII fact, but this book certainly expanded my understanding of Teutonic snobbery, arrogance, selfishness, and downright roguishness. A superb, quality book for readers interested in WWII social history.
Reg Seward 5*
Nazi Wives by James Wyllie
The History Press 9780750991223 hbk Nov 2019