Reviews

Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Focusing on the role of German women in the Nazi genocide, Lower (Claremont McKenna College) draws on years of archival research, interviews, and fieldwork across Europe, the US, and Israel to demolish the myth of German women holding down the home front as Germany embarked on its ideological objective of conquering the Slavic peoples of the east and murdering Jews. The author notes that more than a half-million German women witnessed and contributed to the genocidal war in the east as the Wehrmacht and the murderous Einsatzgruppen death squads hunted down and murdered Jewish men, women, and children in their determination to fulfill Hitler's prophecy of annihilating European Jewry. Dividing her chapters to describe the role of female witnesses, accomplices, and perpetrators of the Holocaust, Lower provides case studies of nurses who murdered children through lethal injections; secretaries who compiled lists of Jews targeted for murder; perpetrators who joined their male counterparts in the destruction process by euthanizing the disabled, resettling abducted children, and plundering Jewish property; and wives of SS officers who looted and shot Jews in the ghettos of Ukraine and used whips to brutalize helpless Jews. Must reading on a virtually ignored aspect of the Holocaust. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. J. Fischel emeritus, Messiah College


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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


Library Journal
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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.