Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany

James Wyllie. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-27156-3
Historian Wyllie (coauthor, Codebreakers) delivers a chilling and richly detailed group portrait of the women who married Third Reich leaders Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Reinhard Heydrich, and Heinrich Himmler. In 1920, Ilse Pröhl met decorated WWI veteran Hess at a student hostel near Munich, where their “platonic affair” became an “unbreakable bond” rooted in mutual admiration for Hitler. Gerda Buch was raised by “a rabidly Nazi father” before marrying Bormann, while Goering’s first wife, Swedish countess Carin von Foch, considered Hitler a “mythical superhero from a Norse legend.” Though the virtues of motherhood and family life were lauded by the women and the Nazi regime, Wyllie details plenty of internecine rivalries and scandals. Bormann, who “possessed a relentless and unrestrained libido,” put Ilse Hess under surveillance after her husband flew to Scotland to try to negotiate peace; a “wild rumor” swirled that Mussolini was the true father of Goering’s only child; and Lina Heydrich sabotaged Margaret Himmler’s tea parties. The wives who survived the war, Wyllie notes, sought to “bury the past” or salvage their husbands’ legacies by blaming others. Wyllie sets a brisk pace through colorful material drawn from primary and secondary sources, though it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the large cast. Still, this is an evenhanded and comprehensive account of an underexamined aspect of Nazi Germany. Agent: Sonia Land, Sheil Land Assoc. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/25/2020
Release date: 11/03/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-250-81596-5
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