Hitler's Furies: Book summary and reviews of Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lower

Hitler's Furies

German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

By Wendy Lower

Hitler's Furies
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

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. The long-held picture of German women holding down the home front during the war, as loyal wives and cheerleaders for the Führer, pales in comparison to Lower's 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 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—a twisted political awakening that turned to genocide. 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, drawing on twenty years of archival and field work on the Holocaust, access to post-Soviet documents, and interviews with German witnesses, 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.

Hitler's Furies will challenge our deepest beliefs: genocide is women's business too, and the evidence can be hidden for seventy years.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A virtuosic feat of scholarship, signaling a need for even more research." - Kirkus Reviews

"Lower oversells her material. There is vivid new detail here, but the broad outlines of this story have been around for a while. The role of women under the Nazis has been churned over for the past 30 years; nobody accepts that stuff about Kinder, Küche, Kirche (children, kitchen, church) any more. That women, as well as men, can abuse their fellow human beings, is hardly the novelty she claims." - The Guardian

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Wendy Lower is the John K. Roth Chair of History at Claremont McKenna College and research associate of the Ludwig Maximillians Universitat in Munich. A historical consultant for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, she has conducted archival research and field work on the Holocaust for twenty years. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, CA, and Munich, Germany.

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