Reviews

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Lower, a consultant for the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., sheds some much-needed light on an aspect of WWII history that has remained in the shadows for decades. The consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies, the author writes, is that the systems that make mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society, and yet nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of those who populated that society, as if women's history happens somewhere else. Based on two decades of research and interviews, the book looks at the role of women in Nazi Germany, in particular women who participated in the Nazi extermination of the Jews. Not merely subservient observers, some women the author dubs them Hitler's Furies, a reference to the mythological goddesses of vengeance actively took part in the murders of Jews and in looting and stealing from Jewish homes. Lower writes about horribly violent female concentration-camp guards; of young girls trained in the use of firearms; of brutality that would rival anything perpetrated by their male counterparts. Surprising and deeply unsettling, the book is a welcome addition to the literature on the Holocaust.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist


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(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Lower (history, Claremont McKenna Coll.) undertook extensive archival research in European, U.S., and Israeli archives to address the "puzzling omission" of German women in Holocaust history. In introducing readers to SS wives, Red Cross nurses, clerical workers, etc., who volunteered to head east to newly Nazi-occupied territories, she illustrates the significant role of women in perpetrating the Holocaust. Some may have found what they witnessed abhorrent but felt little power to stop it (one nurse kept detailed notes but encountered little later interest in prosecuting the crimes), while others ignored the horrors. Some, like one Liselotte Meier, participated with zeal, following her SS love interest to the east to engage both in office work and in murdering Jews. Johanna Altvater Zelle delighted in killing Jewish children, then blended back into the fabric of society in postwar Germany as a social worker responsible for children. These women made use of the maternal stereotype to gain the trust of children who became victims. VERDICT Lower shows that the Nazi killing fields were not merely the isolated concentration camps but the occupied territories as well and that women played a large role, one that was neither punished nor subsequently studied. Perhaps that will now change.-PM (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.