Wendy Lower’s stunning account of the role of German women on the World War II Nazi eastern front powerfully revises history, proving that we have ignored the reality of women’s participation in the Holocaust, including as brutal killers. Drawing on twenty years of research that included access to post-Soviet documents and interviews with German witnesses, Lower makes an incisive case for the massive complicity, and worse, of the 500,000 young German women she places, for the first time, directly in the killing fields of the expanding Reich.
Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Houghton Mifflin, 2013) builds a fascinating and convincing picture of a morally “lost generation” of young women, born into a defeated, tumultuous post–World War I Germany, and then swept up in the nationalistic fervor of the Nazi movement. These young women—nurses, teachers, secretaries, wives, and mistresses—saw the emerging Nazi empire as a kind of “wild east” of career and matrimonial opportunity, and yet could not have imagined what they would witness and do there. Lower presents overwhelming evidence that these women were more than “desk murderers” or comforters of murderous German men: that they went on “shopping sprees” for Jewish-owned goods and also brutalized Jews in the ghettos of Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus; that they were present at killing-field picnics, not only providing refreshment but also taking their turn at the mass shooting. And Lower uncovers the stories, perhaps most horrific, of SS wives with children of their own, whose female brutality is as chilling as any in history.
The 1939 Society Distinguished Lecture in Holocaust Studies
Wendy Lower is the John K. Roth Professor of History and Director of the Center for Human Rights Leadership at Claremont McKenna College. A former research associate at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and current member of the academic advisory board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, she has published several books and articles on the Holocaust focusing on Ukraine. Hitler’s Furies was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2013, and is being translated into more than fifteen languages.
Sponsored by the:
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies
Cosponsored by the:
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages
UCLA Department of Sociology