Tag Archives: Joseph Goebbels

“The German Midwife: A Novel,” by Mandy Robotham

  • Avon. 352 pages. Trade paperback $15.99.

This story, narrated from behind Axis lines, captures the enduring strength of women.

Originally published in the U.K. as A Woman of War, the instant bestseller The German Midwife offers astonishing portraits of several women caught up in Hitler’s nightmarish aspirations. The circumstances that threaten the lives of these women (and of countless others) make this story at once an historical novel, a thriller, and a romance.

The narrator, a young nurse and midwife named Anke Hoff, finds herself in a Nazi work camp where she is essentially a prisoner. Though the timeline of the story starts in 1944, italicized flashbacks begin two years earlier, establishing an historical, professional, and familial context for understanding Anke. These sections also illuminate the deteriorating situation for people living under the Reich, whether they be citizens, despised minorities, or resistance sympathizers.

Anke is imprisoned for having provided birthing services for Jewish women despite a Nazi policy to end Jewish reproduction. Inside the camp, she shows leadership, compassion, and disdain for her country’s moral decline.

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Nonetheless, because she is the most skilled midwife available, she is selected — actually, ordered — to protect the Fuhrer’s child incubating in the womb of Fraulein Eva Braun. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda, will make sure that Anke performs her duties properly, as will the staff attending to Hitler’s mountain estate and headquarters. This child, especially if a boy, will insure the future of Hitler’s genetic line and racial vision.

Anke develops a liking for Eva, whom she considers an innocent young woman slavishly enamored of the devil. She develops much more than a liking for a handsome and considerate Nazi officer, Captain Deiter Stenz, who carries out important duties at the headquarters. She is perplexed by how a man she respects can be part of the Nazi mission. Readers will be similarly puzzled.

Suspense — and there is plenty of it — in this carefully developed narrative arises primarily from the ups and downs in Eva’s high-stakes pregnancy, the risks of Anke’s romantic dalliance, and the shadowy references to the progress of the war. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the Washington Independent Review of Books, click here: German Midwife

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German luxury liner becomes the main character in a stunning Holocaust narrative

The Nazi Titanic, by Robert P. Watson. Da Capo Press. 292 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

An award-winning historian and professor at Florida’s Lynn University, Boca Raton resident Watson has sunk his scholarly teach into a fascinating subject. His story involves the several careers of the German luxury passenger ship, the “Cap Arcona,” built in 1927 as a symbol of Germany’s return to prominence after crushing defeat in World War I. The ocean liner ran routes to and from South America for many years, until the great Depression lessened demand.  NaziTitanicCover

Prof. Watson introduces the first career of the estimable floating grand hotel by backgrounding its design, presenting engaging information about the company that built it, and the premier cruise line that owned it. Whenever possible, the author gives us capsule biographies of those who a hand in the planning, construction, and operation of the ship. Indeed, his portraits of the major players in the ship’s checkered history bring life and personality to his otherwise inanimate subject.

Taken out of service and essentially mothballed through much of the 1930s, the later roles of the “Cap Arcona” are imbedded in Holocaust history.

To contextualize the ship’s wartime career, Prof. Watson offers a well-rounded treatment of the rise of Hitler’s Nazi regime, with its unparalleled publicity machine run by Goebbels that rationalized the persecution and destruction of Europe’s Jews. Goebbels initiated a monumental propaganda film that would symbolically attach the Third Reich’s destiny to the sinking of the “Titanic.” Indeed, Goebbels had by now become obsessed with filmmaking and had learned a lesson about subtle styles of propaganda by studying America’s wartime patriotic cinema.

With an enormous and ever-expanding budget, a prominent director and screenwriter, and strong support from Hitler, the project moved forward but finally collapsed under its own weight. The film debut of “Cap Arcona” as the title character “Titanic” revived the ship through restorative maintenance, a facelift, and refurnishing. However, it was not officially released; few got to see the old girl’s performance. Prof. Watson provides a glimpse of maniacal Goebbels (Hitler’s propaganda minister), as well as of other players in the Nazi regime.

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After its show business fiasco, “Cap Arcona” became a transport vessel – essentially a part of the German navy. It moved German soldiers and civilians from Baltic ports away from the onslaught of the Red Army. As Allied forces pressed upon the Nazis in 1945, Hitler’s stooges sought to hide evidence of the concentration and death camps, forcing tens of thousands of half-dead prisoners, mostly Jews, onto floating concentrations camps – several ships in the Baltic Sea port at Lübeck Bay. Many of these prisoners came from the notorious Neuengamme concentration camp. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 7, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 8 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Watson

 

Robert P. Watson will appear at a Collier County Jewish Book Festival event at Beth Tikvah synagogue on Monday, January 23 at 1:00pm. For more information, see www.jewishbookfestival.org. Also on the program will be Josh Aronson, author of Orchestra of Exiles.

 

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“Goebbels: A Biography” by Peter Longerich

Translated by Alan Bance, Jeremy Noakes, and Lesley Sharpe. Random House. 992 pages. Hardcover $40.00.

A stunning, encyclopedic study of Hitler’s propaganda minister

Joseph Goebbels’ life was certainly history-making, but it’s a piece of history noted for its grotesque notions of nationalism, democracy, and leadership. For many years the Nazi regime’s Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels refined the art of mass psychological manipulation, over and over again rallying a despondent and pride-hungry people into becoming more and more the fervent worshippers of a mad genius and a mad vision of national and racial destiny.

Peter Longerich, who first published this book in Germany in 2010, conceives of three major phases in his subject’s life.

First, he portrays an insecure fellow whose compensatory delusions predict greatness of some sort. This young man needed large doses of positive feedback, beginning with mother love which eventually developed into an addiction to Führer love. His doctorate in German letters did not open doors for his aspirations as a literary and cultural shaper. Once Goebbels turned his attention to political action, he made the right moves to advance quickly through party ranks.  Goebbels cover

The second phase concerns his activities as pre-war propaganda minister, hammering an imaginary political and cultural consensus into place through skillful manipulation of news and entertainment media and through staged demonstrations. He was adept at building Hitler’s image as a demi-god (demagogue?) and in building a strong personal relationship with his mentor and hero.

Finally, he beat the drums for war, wartime sacrifices, and the ever-out-of-reach peace that would arrive with the continental dominance of a never-realized superstate.

For all this, Longerich insists that Goebbels was not a true insider but was often surprised by actions set in motion by Hitler during meetings to which Goebbels was not invited.

Of particular interest is Goebbels’ role in developing the political uses of anti-Semitism. Even as any remaining Jewish civil rights were demolished, even as mass executions began, even as Jews were fleeing or being relocated out of headquarters Berlin, Goebbels found ways of making the Jews responsible for all of Germany’s problems. It’s hard to say what he truly believed about Jews, so overwhelming was his commitment to using anti-Semitism as a political instrument.

Longerich’s primary source is his subject’s diaries. Indeed, they are important historical documents that give unparalleled coverage of hundreds of events. They also provide unintentional clues to Goebbels’ anxieties and nonstop posturing. Longerich points out instance after instance in which narcissistic Goebbels interprets an event’s outcome to his advantage. In the author’s capable hands, we discover how the diaries reveal just what Goebbels would not want them to reveal. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the Washington Independent Review of Books, click here:  Goebbels: A Biography | Washington Independent Review of Books

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