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Interesting but rather superficial
on 24 October 2002
Ms Klabunde's book is, as far as I know, the only full length biography of Magda Goebbels currently available in English. As such, it is a required reading for those of us with an interest in key personalities of the Third Reich. Having seen David Irving's vast "Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich" (which Ms Klabunde doesn't include in her biography, surely mistakenly for it is very well researched in spite of some well-known biases which are fairly easy to factor out) I was aware of many of the basics. Magda was born an illegitimate child, although her rich father would figure more or less prominently in her life. Interestingly, her mother would marry a Jew who would care for young Magda as a father, only to disappear during the Third Reich, probably at Joseph Goebbel's behest). Magda herself was good-looking (although the pictures included in the book don't seem to do her justice, probably because most of them date from her final years, when she was reckoned to have aged disproportionately), very smart (she was a good pupil, good with languages and a competent pianist) and unusually open to new sensations. She had a romance with Victor Chaim Arlosoroff, an important Zionist figure who would be a key figure in the creation of what would become the state of Israel, and later married a rich industrialist (Guenther Quandt) with whom he had a son. She divorced Quandt because she was bored with the life of an haute-bourgeoise hausfrau and eventually fell in with the Nazis. She was struck by the remarkably rodent-like Joseph Goebbels (there's no accounting for sexual attraction, of course) and eventually married him and bore him 6 children, whose names all started with the letter "H". She was victimised by his relentless philandering and eventually had to submit to being an official mother figure for the State rather than her husband's lawful wife. Hitler was very fond of her, which gave her a status not shared by the wives of other Nazi bigwigs. As the end approached she decided to commit suicide with the Fuehrer and her husband and to kill her children as well (with the exception of Harold Quandt, her son with Guenther, who was a prisoner of war of the British, fortunately enough), in spite of offers by Speer and others to spirit them away from Berlin in Reich's twilight.
The book succeeds specially in its earlier chapters, perhaps because the reader is less familiar with the story. When she becomes Goebbels' wife and especially after 30 January 1933 when Hitler comes to power the story travels on well-trod tracks, and it is obviously more difficult to convey new information (also comparisons are likely to be more denigrating to what after all is a volume of popular biography). But I was nonetheless annoyed to see references to a nephew of US President Herbert Hoover who supposedly proposed marriage to Magda. However, a name is not given in the text, and I assume it would not have been difficult to find for the biographer (this person appears in the Index as "Hoover, nephew of" which is just shoddy). Further, given the prominence of the Quandt family in the post-war period (according to Forbes, in 2002 Johanna Quandt and family were worth about $18.4 Billion, making them the second richest family in Germany) it would have been useful if Ms Klabunde had given a brief description of Herbert and Harold Quandt's lives after 1945. So, not a bad read, but not a brilliant one, either.