(Patrick’s moving musical tribute to the Goebbels children)
Of all the now remembered Nazi wives only Magda Goebbels seems to have found some sort of ill-famed notoriety that still lingers on today.
Both Frau, Hess, Himmler and Goering seemed to quickly disappear into post-war Germany. However, Magda seems to have decided her fate would not be in the new divided Germany and instead she sadly settled for suicide in the Berlin bunker, near to her family and with the newlyweds, Mr and Mrs Hitler next door.
In finally approaching the life of “monster Magda,” as some have unkindly named her, so much of her life remains a mystery, especially concerning the final hours in the bunker for herself and her precious children.
Of her fantasy, self-indulgence and a disturbing dangerous devotion to Hitler, much of it seems to have been concealed in her personality that few could explain and was there perhaps a father fixation towards older men who entered her life by 1931. Magda has been portrayed in fourteen films with six books featuring her life and times. Not bad for a woman who’s been dead 66 years is it.
Magda was referred to frequently as the “First Lady of the Reich,” a title I accept she revelled in hearing and calling herself. But where had it all started for her?
Born in 1901 in Berlin and after a disturbed childhood, her mother and father separated. It seems to have been decided later that Magda would go and live with her father (apparently when she was only four or five, she was placed upon a steam train with a name tag around her neck, to be later collected by her father after the end of the journey and can you believe it, he wasn’t there to meet his little girl at the station.)
From the convent school, she attended she became a Catholic. Later her mother would marry a Jewish entrepreneur. The marriage it seems would not survive the turmoil of pre-war Germany and they separated but it did offer Magda an insight into the Jewish faith of her stepfather and he seems to have treated the young girl well. Later In 1914, her mother divorced her husband and of his fate, it seems he would later perish in either Buchenwald or Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
As a young girl, Magda had become perhaps romantically involved with an ambitious Jewish Zionist named Victor Arlosoroff. It seems to have been an on-off relationship for both of them with eventually the relationship finally ending.
Later Arlosoroff was mysteriously gunned down on the beach of Tel Aviv in 1933 by two gunmen. Many rumours still point the finger of guilt at Magda’s husband, the powerful Minister of Propaganda of the Reich, Dr. Goebbeles. He would not want this previous relationship of his wife with a Jew being exposed in the German press or elsewhere. Nothing has ever been proved who was behind the shootings and today Arlossoroff is buried in Tel Aviv. I believe he would certainly have been an important figure in the creation of the fledgeling Jewish state in 1948.
In 1921 the 20-year-old Magda married a wealthy businessman, Gunter Quandt. Meeting him after a chance encounter on a train. He was a 39-year-old, recent widower, with two young boys to raise Helmut and Herbert. Interestingly. Both their names begin with the letter “H.”
Magda would later repeat this unusual twist by also naming her own six children in the same manner, naturally with the letter “H.” So was this perhaps a gesture to please Hitler. No one is sure. The marriage to Quandt did not survive (Quandt seems to have offered her everything except affection. Magda would certainly have wanted to be cherished for herself if nothing else.) They would eventually divorce in 1929 but Magda did, however, give Quandt another son, later named Harold.
However, during the divorce settlements, he seems to have offered her a financial settlement, which she for some reason did not find acceptable. As regards these proceedings I find some of its circumstances rather strange.
One of Magda’s biographers refers to the marriage ending in turbulence and Magda’s affairs seem to have been the cause. Now before the divorce settlement had been agreed, Magda had been banned from the family home by her husband and without money or security for her future. Magda I suspect must have been sick with worry as she faced up to her future prospects, which certainly looked bleak.
Some form of retaliation against her husband would now be needed. She must have quickly decided and it seems she knew just where to search for it. Because soon after her marriage she had stumbled across a cache of letters written by Quandt to it seems to some previous girlfriend. Whatever they revealed to her now caused her to store this information away to perhaps use in the future against him in a messy divorce.
But first, she had to retrieve them from the study of the house she was forbidden from entering. However fortunately for Magda, the maid allowed her in. Magda had always been able to listen to another’s point of view, especially the servants, a gift she now used to enter and retrieve the letters, which the following morning was placed on her lawyer’s desk.
This clutch of letters must have been damaging to him if revealed to the newspapers. Her action seems to have changed his mind dramatically because Magda would now be granted a generous financial settlement for herself and son Harold. My question has to be, did Magda discover something that would blacken his character in the society he socialized in and did business with. Indeed was it a crude form of blackmail that she would and could use against him rather successfully. I cannot believe it was anything political.
The Nazis were not then in power although they were on the coming political horizon in Germany. Rather I have to speculate it was something concerning his morals. It’s all very strange. And certainly, her husband quickly surrendered all his personal threats against Magda.
Why afterwards he even invited her out to dinner at the best Berlin restaurant at the time “Horchers,” later showering her with flowers as a sign of his appreciation or was it just relief perhaps in what she might have revealed of his past to his competitors.
Magda was now an independent and very rich woman. But events in Germany were changing. The political horizon for that country and Magda would find a new cause to immerse herself into and a new husband.
Magda Ritschel, Friedlander and Quandt would adopt through marriage the name that she would be forever associated with until her suicide in 1945: that of Mrs Magda Goebbels.
Marriage to him would offer her privilege and prosperity as well as pain and punishment.
One man who knew the couple well was Hitler’s piano player “Putzi.” He remembers her as “Looking most attractive and very un-nazi,” whatever that means. Putzi would also describe Goebbels as “a satanic gifted dwarf.” No love lost between these two it seems. He also was one of the few cliques outside of the family who witnessed Goebbels without his orthopaedic boot.
But now in marriage, Magda’s so-called free spirit would be confined into the nazi cage of violence and vituperation. She would be forever confined to a cage of her own design.
Her husband’s future promiscuity would force her many times towards a nervous breakdown, perhaps even suicide was contemplated. Poor Magda it seems now all she could do was grin and bear it and develop schoolgirl crushes on her husband’s junior officers. One wonders if her Buddhist books offered her any peace of mind. I have to say I doubt it.
Later into the marriage, Joseph Goebbels, through his propaganda film unit would promote the family’s role in the Reich. Today you can still watch some of these scenes of the exploitation of his children on YouTube. For example, the family are seen greeting “war hero” Rommel as he visits the Goebbels home (one of the 36 short newsreels of the time.) Naturally, Hitler adored the children (and who wouldn’t) and in a strange way, they seemed to take to him as well. Hitler seems for some reason to have had this effect on animals as well. For example Blondi his German Shepard must be the most famous canine ever after Lassie and Rin Tin Tin!
Of course, it would all end eventually in tears for both Blondi and her owner but that was all in the future. As the war progressed a feeling of euphoria for the allied leaders now gathering in Yalta was in the air, but all was not well at the court of King Adolph, where daily military briefings somehow allowed Hitler to argue that he could save the German people with phantom army divisions. (I have to suggest he was now in denial.) But Goebbels, ever the pragmatist, understood that much of the Third Reich was permanently lost forever. I suspect he also confided this depressing news to Magda but naturally never to Hitler. His wife must have been the last person who wanted to hear this tale of terror with her fragile state of mind. I also must speculate that she did learn about the death camps in the east, perhaps from her husband’s lecherous sarcastic lips, if not from elsewhere in his entourage.
How she managed to assimilate it all with her state of mind is not known. Maybe she was able to bury it at the back of her mind and convince herself she knew nothing about this tragedy or her husband’s role in it all.
In the spring of 1945, she prepared to relocate with the children to Berlin to finally seek sanctuary in the “old bunker.” Later she confided: “Obviously I shall remain with my husband, the path he chooses is also mine.” And there speaks Magda, wife, mother and future murderer of her precious children.
Now slowly in the ruins, she will morph from “First Lady of the Reich” to “Cruella DeVille” but this would be no Disney film with a happy ending but rather a tragedy that no one could or would prevent from happening.
Death would certainly not be taking a vacation in Berlin this year.
By the time the Goebbels family finally relocated to the bunker in Berlin Germany, as a nation was doomed and so too were the brief lives of the six Goebbels children with just weeks to live.
Albert Speer was more important in the final days of this nightmare witnessing that turmoil of what Hitler had brought his country too.
I suspect Speer also had a soft spot for Magda as well as Eva Braun. And in his memoirs, he recalled a conversation he had with Magda when divorce seemed the only option to her concerning her husband’s infidelities. She was trapped, she told him but “Goebbels used the children to blackmail me…the threat to take them away from me…what could I do I’m so unhappy.” Poor Magda. This would be one scenario she could not walk away from and for her death’s door was getting nearer and nearer.
Speer recalled just days before Goebbels suicide in the bunker that he had told him almost with pride in his voice that he hoped to end the children’s lives at this historic site. The ironic thing is that today, and for the last 40 years or so, this subterranean site is now just a car park. I know because my son and I have visited it some years ago. Nothing historic about it now.
At his last memorable meeting with Magda in her bedroom in the bunker and with her husband also there, Speer seems to have suspected that Magda had perhaps suffered a heart attack due to the strain of it all but for now she informed Speer her thoughts were with her son Harold Quandt, who after serving on the front, was now a prisoner of the British army. “How happy I am that at last Harold is alive.” She confided to Hitler’s Armaments Minister, himself soon to depart the berserk bunker for a few weeks of freedom. However, the terrible fate of the little ones was still in the balance, as they apparently played with Blondie’s puppies unaware of what was coming. If nothing else it must have taken their minds off the sounds of the heavy Russian artillery as it shelled Berlin into total submission.
So what of Magda’s religious faith in Buddhism for example. Did she perhaps acquire this creed from her father or as others have speculated from one of her children nannies? Mysticism for Magda had many meanings and all of them dangerous, especially for her children. But reading some extracts from her letters it seems clear to me that she had adopted eastern mysticism whole-heartedly. For example, she writes: “We will take them with us (her children) because they are too beautiful and good for the world that is coming…I believe in rebirth, they won’t die, none of us dies. We just go through an apparently dark portal into the next life.”
Nazism is paganism and she certainly adhered to some of those Nordic beliefs as well.
Now as a Christian ministry we must seek answers from a Biblical theological prospect. So much of what Magda believed is today classed as new age, a term unknown in the 1940s. Today the poor man’s manual would describe Buddhism as “what goes around comes around.”
But children as Psalm 127 rightly informs us states: “Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Magda certainly gave birth to them but she did not own their birthright or destiny, rather they were placed in her care to rise as the Bible commands and not through some fascist fantasy of Nazism that benefits no one. As regards the Buddhist devotion to exercise and especially yoga, I think it should be remembered what the apostle Paul said about this in 1 Timothy 4-8: “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”How true we say.
But of course, the diagnosis of a depressed mother (as she was) and a demented father could and would end sadly in the tragedy for these silent witnesses of her actions. Children are the most innocent and precious of God’s wonderful creation. Only later will they be corrupted by the world and its wicked ways.
So were the murders of these children pre-meditated or not. Well according to Hitler’s Secretary, Traudal Junge, they were because she said: “We knew that their parents were going to kill them. Of course, they didn’t know. Or did they perhaps sense something suspicious was about to happen to them? The eldest daughter Helga seems to have sensed something awful was about to happen to her and the others. And fear it is claimed knows no age group. But of course, others in the crumbling bunker certainly seem to have suspected that the Goebbels had reached a direful decision concerning the fate of their own children. They had also decided to terminate their own lives and would do so soon after Hitler’s own suicide with Eva.
In approaching this calculating crime against the Goebbels children caution must be used.
However, before the arranged killing of the children, Hitler did something almost out of character for him, because on 25th April, with the Russians gaining more of the Berlin ground, he offered Magda the opportunity to be flown out of Berlin with the children. If he did nothing else in this house of madness this one act of
consideration and concern for her and the children seem quite amazing to me.
Others also tried to persuade Magda to grasp this escape route quickly, including Albert Speer. But Magda was adamant, “My Fuhrer our decision is made. We stay here.” Mother had spoken for the children and herself. There would be no future in a world for these little ones that Hitler did not inhabit.
Poor children, they had no idea of what awaited them or did perhaps the eldest girl Helga realize something was about to happen, she seems to have been a girl wise for her age.
The other bizarre event in the Bunker concerned Hitler’s own gold party badge that he always displayed prominently on his tunic jacket. This he now later removed and fixed onto Magda’s tailored jacket as a token it seems of his admiration for her. She must have been emotional about this absurd gesture because in her last known letter written to her son Harold she mentions it to him: “Yesterday evening the Fuhrer took off his gold party badge and fastened it to my jacket. I am proud and happy.” And apparently, the badge with a gold cigarette case seems to have survived the cremation and was found amongst her charred bones by Russian soldiers when they arrived some days later.
This ministry is Christian inspired so we have to evaluate the awful act that was perpetrated upon the Goebbels children and by their own mother at that. But did you know that the Bible mentions children some 1,802 times? Isn’t that interesting. Of course the usual verses from Psalm 127 and of course: “suffer the little children,” are but two familiar and popular references known and loved by so many Christians.
However, there seem to be differing accounts of how the last act of this tragedy was performed and who the principal actors were in terminating this collective act of murder.
I’m inclined to examine an eyewitness account to what was developing in the dying days of the bunker from a source who is still very much alive today his name: Rochus Misch. He may not tick all of the boxes on accuracy but a clear picture does seem to emerge from events that ended the reign of the Third Reich.
On April 25th, Misch then a telephone operator in the bunker, observed sometime around 5 pm, Frau Goebbels, followed by her six children, pass him by and enter a ground floor room. (Little Heidi aged just 4 years smiles at him and sings, “Misch, Misch you’re a fish.” Misch was to say that he still hears her voice even now after all these years.) Later a warm jug of chocolate with six china cups is carried into the room by an orderly. Now some historians name this person as Dr. Helmut Kunz, an in-house SS dentist who it seems had done some professional work on Magda some years earlier. So she must have liked him and trusted him.
Kunz mixes a sleeping draught that is poured into the children’s chocolate drinks. However, Kunz for some reason when the little ones are asleep refuses to assist Magda in killing her own children. Somehow later he is able to escape the bunker, then it seems a search party is sent out to bring him back, apparently on the orders of Magda herself. Obviously, his refusal in being associated with the crime eventually forces Magda to search for another willing accomplish but then maybe the two doctors tossed a coin in deciding this hideous matter.
Now if Misch is correct in his recollections of the events then enter into the picture Hitler’s personal doctor, Ludwig Stumpfegger. It seems he put up no objections in assisting Magda and as far as we know does not decline the invitation given to him. Some even claim he was drunk at the time but who knows! Apparently, the Doctor had some recent experience in the method of cyanide poisoning and its preparation having used it successfully on Hitler’s beloved German Shepard, Blondi.
Unfortunately, this scenario is now blown out of the water by the entrance of another doctor, a country doctor in fact who is sheltering in the crowded bunker with other Berliners. This medic it seems is a refugee. “Though how or why he came to be there is not known. He is said to have carried out the fearful task and then disappeared straightaway among the crowd of strangers,” so records one of Magda’s biographers, Hans Otto Meissner. And Herr Meissner cannot be dismissed in what he learned in his research for his book, because at the time of its publication in 1978, many surviving witnesses concerning Magda and the last days in the bunker were alive and willing to share their memories with him.
However, I do find it inconceivable that any refugee would be granted permanent shelter or be permitted to enter into the bunkers fortified confines. Few then even knew of its existence then. So there has to be serious suspicions about this mysteries doctor if indeed he existed and his supposed role in the infanticide of the Goebbels children.
By now both the drugs of morphine or finodin have calmed the sleeping children who should be now unconscious. Then mother and doctor prepare their ritual of death on them. Precious minutes are passing away for the six Goebbels children on May 1st. Not only had Magda been an exploiter of the children’s charm she would later become their own executioner.
Now assuming that Dr. Stumpfegger is present (and perhaps drunk) in the children’s bedroom, standing with Magda when he quickly realizes that time is now precious to him, the Russians are advancing rapidly towards the bunker and more importantly the doctor has his own escape plans to perform. But I have to pause and wonder did Magda even hesitate in what she was about to inflict on to her own children or had she shunted any guilt to the back of her muddled mind.
But now Magda and the “good” doctor must proceed with the bedroom killings, perhaps devising their own simple method. Perhaps maybe beginning with the most vulnerable child in that room. Little Heidi. She was always the favourite of Rochus Misch when she would sing his name as a rhyme whenever he glimpsed her in the bunker. And now even 65 years later, Misch would reminisce wistfully, “I can still hear it now.” Memories can be hopeful as well as horrific.
Next to be dispatched to the twilight zone was perhaps Hedda, aged just seven and then her eight-year-old sister Holde, known as the “pretty one,” a loving child. But none of this seems to have deterred Magda from her murderous mission.
By now three of her children have been silently murdered as far as we know. But where was the father in all of this mayhem and why did this doctor allow his wife and another doctor to perform murder upon his own children. All very sickening. But how was this crime to be committed.
First: presuming the little ones had empty stomachs then the poison should take a minute or less to achieve its effect upon them. I like to speculate that she might perhaps have hummed Brahms beautiful lullaby to them as the poison flowed through their veins, but then maybe she wasn’t that sentimental. But then administering it into the mouth of the two eldest children seems to have caused a problem for both doctor and mother. One of them would have to hold the sleeping child whilst I suggest the doctor opens their mouths to place the pill onto the tongue for them to swallow or even maybe force it down the throat with a finger. Cyanide causes the body to be unable to use oxygen. The patient frighteningly cannot breath. For a child, this must have been horrific and especially in the case of the eldest one, Helga. “Mature beyond her years,” will perhaps suffer most of the six Goebbeles children that day in the bunker. Only earlier she had been heard to say to her mother with fear in her voice: “Mummy, Mummy can’t we get out of here? I don’t want to die. Are we really going to die.” Poor frightened perceptive Helga. Her fear must have been so opaque that even the other elder children must have sensed it emanating from her frightened eyes.
In examining the black and white photographs of the dead girl taken in a Russian hospital mortuary in Berlin just days after the war had finished, Helga now somehow looks older than her 12 years. Yet clear bruising is visible under her left eye, which is also puffy and blackened. Also seen were lacerations on her body as well. So I now have to speculate that somehow during the murder she awoke only to find herself being held down either by her mother or the doctor. Clearly terrified of what is happening to her she lashes before she realizes that her own mother also means to cause her harm. Her confusion and fear must have been terrible to behold. One can only hope the poison did its work quickly on this vulnerable girl.
So who assaulted her in the eye to perhaps silence her screams. In my opinion, it has to be the doctor yet Magda is also guilty by holding her down perhaps even kneeling on her chest. Poor Helga not only does she struggle with her mother but also the doctor as well and if ever a child needed a father’s help this was the time, but of course, Goebbels is absent, leaving the messy work to others in the killing of his own children.
Soon all of Magda’s children are dead. Murdered by their own mother and the intoxicated doctor. Remember: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the Nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).
And of the children’s eternal security, well my study of the Scripture leads me to believe that they are in Heaven. And amongst the Bible verses that confirm this to me are Matthew 19:13,14 15 and Psalm 27:10. I will let you the reader find these verses and many others in the Bible for your own confirmation.
Slowly leaving the bedroom, with the stench of death in the air, Magda seems to have aged it seems. She then finds comfort in a game of solitaire, perhaps a final American cigarette will be smoked never to be finished and perhaps a sip of warm champagne to be sipped. Then later her own appointment with death arrives and it will be ended by poison and a pistol shot delivered by the man who had brought her so much fame and so much pain, her notorious husband, Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
Soon after this Dr Stumpfegger will attempt an escape along with Martin Bornmann from the bunker. Both will be killed in the crossfire and both bodies would not be discovered or identified until 1972.
Finally, Russian troops will break through into the bunker on May 3rd and discover the gruesome remains of the children still dressed in their night garments. Later there will be autopsies carried out on the dead children. Perhaps the final degradation for them.
Later the Goebbels children will be cremated with their parents, the ashes secretly scattered.
Right up until the death of Rochus Mische he was still calling for a memorial plague for the children to be perhaps sited in a Berlin park. In this matter, I fully supported his personal request. The Goebbels children were as innocent as the children in the Warsaw Ghetto.
In the end, they too were as spotless as the victims of the holocaust.
“As it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment.”
The Quandt family’s tenuous links to the Nazi party and the use of slave labour during the war has been revealed in the German media. The BMW dynasty still has the majority of shares in the organization, so reports The Daily Mail, 27th September 2011.
P.S. In 1946 and before the war rumours had circulated from the wife of Hitler’s former Secretary of State and the Mother of Magda’s biographer, Hans-Otto Meissner, that Helmut Goebbels had been sired by Hitler. Apparently, the two them had spent a passionate week together in 1934. It does however seem unlikely from what we know of Hitler’s medical anatomy and perhaps just wishful thinking on Magda’s part I have to suggest.
Rochus Misch one of the last witnesses to the murder of the Goebbel’s children and of events in the doomed bunker, has died, aged 96-years-old in Berlin, it has been reported.
Hitler and Women, Sayer and Botting
Magda Goebbels, Anja Klabunde
Magda Goebbels: The first Lady of the Reich Hans, Otto Meissner
Berlin, Anthony Beevor
Inside the bunker, J.Fest
Nazi Women, Cate Haste
In the bunker with Hitler, Freytag, Von Loringhoven
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