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on 3 May 2015
This is another example of the injustice that followed the defeat of Nazi Germany. With few exceptions, only the really big names in the Nazi party were tried and punished for their crimes. Most everyone else was exonerated. Some of the women Lower speaks about did horrible things, yet because they were women, they got away with it. Whether it was because they blamed their husbands, or used pregnancy as a scapegoat, or just outright lied, most courts did not want to believe that women could be so cruel and inhuman. And this book proves further that it wasn't just "Nazis" that committed the Holocaust. Ordinary people, and in this case, ordinary women, collaborated, in the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

There are a couple of little issues I have with the book. First, on page 20 she states the Hitler was not democratically elected. This, though, is not quite true. Although he was not elected to the Chancellorship directly (the Chancellor was appointed by the President, according to the Weimar Republic), the Nazi party was one of, if not the, largest party in the Reichstag. So German women did vote for the Nazi party, even if they didn't vote for Hitler himself. But given that he was clearly head of the party, it must be understood that when they voted for the Nazi party, they were voting for him.

Secondly, there is some confusion in her book. Not all the ideas she presents are clearly spelled out. For example, on pages 160-161 when writing about male Nazi perpetrators, she quotes one psychologist as saying that the head of Einsatzgruppe D was "a sadist, a pervert, or a lunatic," yet she quotes another as saying that Nazi leaders were neither "sick or unusual, in fact they are like any other people we might encounter in other countries of the earth." Yet this is all that is said. Not attempt is made to clarify this discrepancy. She immediately goes on to say that women were not tested by psychologists at all and she continues on from there. I found that quite a bit of the "science" behind this book was lacking.

That said, I think this book definitely begins to open up a new study in Holocaust research and as Lower quotes in her book, "Minimising women's culpability to a few thousand brainwashed and misguided camp guards does not accurately represent the reality of the Holocaust."
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on 3 December 2014
Wendy Lower's book Hitler's Furies examines women's roles in the Third Reich. While Himmler, Goebbels, Goring and Speer always get center stage, she presents the case of the woman behind the men. Not the wives or socialites, but the secretaries and nurses. The "little" people who kept the cogs of the Third Reich well oiled and moving easily. The Nazi party was founded on the principles of Kinde, Kucher, and Kirch, or Children, Kitchen and Church. It was expected for a good German woman to help build a super race by keeping herself pure and totally Aryan. She describes a dozen or so females and their role in the final solution ranging from apathy to sociopath. Some enjoyed their roles, actively joining in the bloodlust, others observe in a detached manner that perhaps if the Jews overwhelmed their murderers they could flee to safety. Right? Where could they run? By placing the blame on the passive population of Jews, it absolved them of any wrong doing. Most embraced the new regime, seeing the Nazi government as a ticket to importance and a job. Closing their eyes to the stench, blood and proof of the wicked deeds, they lived in splendid denial, picnicking on the unmarked graves of their victims. Either way, it was hard reading, from their cold observations to the mindless brutality, justified by racial superiority and greed. A horrible chapter in human history, it proves that evil can come in all sizes, shapes, and genders and apathy is the biggest crime of them all. A well rewritten and researched book.
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This book raises an interesting issue with regards women and history. Too often women have been written out of history altogether, or otherwise relegated to the category of 'women's history' as though the doings and deeds of women were somehow completely unrelated to the mainstream of 'regular' history. HIStory, indeed. But as Wendy Lower points out, in the case of women in Nazi Germany in particular, this patriarchal attitude has led to the whitewashing of women's roles in history and has allowed the negative aspects of women's actions to go as unrecorded as the positive.

When one thinks of the Holocaust, one thinks of the SS, the concentration camps, the camp commandants, the Einsatzgruppen. When one thinks of the Holocaust, one rarely thinks of it also being perpetrated by women. And yet thousands upon thousands of women played roles through the Nazi Party: secretaries managing paperwork that condemned Jews to the gas chambers; personal assistants who accompanied their bosses on Aktions and took part in the shooting; nurses who administered lethal injections to those deemed unworthy of life; teachers posted to the conquered East to instil Nazi doctrine in ethnic German children; welfare officers tasked with kidnapping children with Aryan features or blood; SS wives accompanying their husbands to Poland and Latvia, the Ukraine, Russia, shooting labourers from villa balconies. The standard response after the war was that these women knew nothing of the Holocaust, that they were just minor functionaries, paper-pushers, or they were manipulated and forced by their brutal husbands.

In this revealing and frequently shocking book, Lower exposes the hollowness of these claims through a number of named examples - many were indicted after the war but few were convicted of murder or war crimes. Gender stereotypes worked in these women's favour - few of the largely male investigators and judges could imagine women acting in such a way, and the judicial insistence on relying on documentary evidence over eyewitness testimony meant that there was little 'concrete' proof against these women, since most of their roles were outside of the political and military structure that generated much of this paperwork. There was little understanding at the time of how circumstances and culture can affect behaviour in both men and women (enlightening experiments like the Stanford Prison Experiment were still decades in the future) and it was deemed unthinkable that women could act in such aggressive and brutal ways, therefore these claims could not be true.

As a women, I'd like to say I find it surprisingly that we have waited so long for such a study as this one, since every other aspect of the Holocaust and the Third Reich seems to have been investigated and analysed to death - but in many ways our society is just as patriarchal now as it was in the 1940s, and these issues are still sadly neglected. One hopes Wendy Lower's book opens to the door to more studies on the role of women in Nazi Germany - true sexual equality means taking the bad with the good, after all.
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on 17 August 2014
The subject matter of this book was shocking regarding how easily several German woman pursued their perceived duty regarding service as Nurse's, Teachers, Wives, and political bureaucrats in Eastern Europe. The shocking part was how the morals of the woman broke down and they unhesitatingly participated in atrocities. There was no justification for their actions yet they seemed to embrace their roles as murderers with a passion often unequaled by the men. They literally got away with murder at the end of the war and their crimes, for the most part, went unpunished and not even investigated. The book indicated that the German courts and investigative services just weren't interested in pursuing the crimes and bringing the criminals to trial. I would not read this book again as it was difficult to read the first time. The author did an excellent job of providing details, facts, and openly portraying what these woman under the pretext of their professions and roles did in the way of war crimes. The epilogue was particularly interesting as the author detailed how little was done in the way of bringing the woman to justice.Her visit to the crime scenes showed quickly the passage of time erased memories of the events. The STASI in the DDR was a little more aggressive in pursuit of the criminals; however, even their efforts fell short of investigating the thousands of war crimes. It is a tough book to read, but necessary to be aware of what occurred and how zealous woman could actually become under circumstances that were beyond human understanding.
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on 27 May 2014
Hitler's Furies can only be an initial exploration of the role of 'ordinary' women in the perverse world of the Third Reich... because the subject has been woefully overlooked until recently. Lower explores personal stories of a few women from a wide range of backgrounds and with a diversity of responses to the violence around them. Some are witnesses. Some are murderers. Most of the women studied barely acknowledge their guilt or involvement. These stories are deftly set in the wider context of National Socialist policies. This is no titillating account of extreme monstrosity. It is far more important. It is a highly readable account of a complex era in history, and it is a wake up call for more research about female perpetrator psychology.
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on 19 November 2013
Bought this for my wife, she read it in one sitting.
I am currently reading on her recommendation.
The horror of the acts of these women carried out is beyond belief, but this mixed with details of their lives growing up under Hiltlers brainwashing really shows what humans are capable of in the right conditions.
I hesitate to say this is a good read given the subject matter, but this is very well written and will stop you in your tracks and make you think how quickly society can turn against "undesirables" for the greater good
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on 23 September 2015
this book is more of a quick read a handfull of examples but interesting in how nazi doctrine poisoned teaching and nursing professions.shocking how weak investigations were after the easy humans can be corrupted with power
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on 22 November 2013
Excellently researched and argued,using ,lucid and succinct prose,it was a pleasure to read this book
from cover to cover.Furthermore it tackles a subject that has too long been taboo and which helps
Explain the German character ,at least in modern times
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on 20 September 2014
As a woman it doesn't really surprise me that women are capable of such deeds, women are just people, and motherhood is a biological function, most women are born with that physical capability, yet our pasts are littered with emotionally and physically abusive upbringings at the hands of mothers. More recently the horrors of the Magdalene laundries in Ireland have shown us that in certain conditions and contexts women are capable of anything towards other women within a formal cult-like organisation usually headed by a man, down to followers of murderous deluded psychotics. As far as I can see, powerless unstable people with issues and mental health problems, which can linger undiagnosed or dormant for years, will exploit such an opportunity to act out their personal problems, presumably to do with "the mother" if primarily aimed at women. The account in this book sticks to historical facts and is a bit dry in that regard, to the point where I wondered what the point of it was. Personally I would want to know more about the kinds of upbringings these women perpetrators had, what sort of psychology was fostered by the Nazi regime, what this did to gender relationships, and what was the cultural background. I know that in medieval times during the "witch" (aka "women") persecutions the most "witches" were burnt in Germany. I've noticed a difference between generations of older and younger Germans also, there definetely seems to be a problem among some older German women towards women especially in the so- called "caring" professions, such as social work, psychotherapy, etc. presumably as these are quite cloistered environments often with little political awareness, somewhere to take refuge....Apart from that, it just seems to me that the Nazi regime was just another opportunity for mentally unstable men and women with a cultural inheritance I don't yet understand, to unite and vent their spleen on their unfortunate victims, much like in the Magadalen laundries. It didn't surprise me too much that it was nurses that were at the forefront of some of the genocide, as that is where close contact can be formally attained.
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on 20 February 2015
I read this in Greek and I thought it is a quite intresting read, jaw-dropping and scary at several points... Not for the faint-hearted...
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