Goebbels children

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The Goebbels family in 1942: (back row) Hildegard, Harald Quandt, Helga; (front row) Helmut, Hedwig, Magda, Heidrun, Joseph and Holdine. (In this well-known manipulated image, the visage of the uniformed Harald, who was away on military duties when the photo was taken, was inserted and retouched.)

The Goebbels children were the five daughters and one son born to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda Goebbels. The children, born between 1932 and 1940, were murdered by their parents in Berlin on 1 May 1945, the day both parents committed suicide.

Magda Goebbels had an older son, Harald Quandt, from a previous marriage to Günther Quandt. He was not present when his half-siblings of this family were killed.

Naming[edit]

Some writers have contended that their names all began with "H" as a tribute to Adolf Hitler, but there is no evidence to support this; rather, it supports that Magda's "H" naming was the idea of her first husband, Günther Quandt who named his other two children after his first wife beginning with "H".

This claim is supported by Magda's mother, Auguste Behrend, who stated that the family made an innocent hobby of searching for new baby names beginning with "H" for each successive child.[1]

Children[edit]

Harald[edit]

10-year-old Harald Quandt (in DJ-uniform) at his mother's wedding with Joseph Goebbels. Hitler, who acted as best man, can be seen in the background
Main article: Harald Quandt

Magda and Günther Quandt were married on 4 January 1921, and her first child, Harald Quandt, was born on 1 November 1921.[2] Magda and Günther Quandt's marriage ended in divorce in 1929.[3] Madga joined the Nazi Party on 1 September 1930, and did some volunteer work, although she has not been characterized as politically active. From the local branch, Magda moved to the party headquarters in Berlin and was invited to take charge of Goebbels' own private papers.[4] She and Goebbels first became romantically involved while on a short trip with friends to Weimar in February 1931.[3] Thereafter, the couple were married on 19 December 1931, with Hitler as a witness.[5]

Harald not only attended his mother's wedding to Goebbels, but also formed quite an attachment with him; sometimes accompanying him to gatherings, standing on the platform near to "Uncle Joseph," wearing his Hitler Youth uniform.[6] After his appointment as Minister, Goebbels demanded that Harald's father release Magda from her obligation under their divorce settlement, to send Harald to live with him in the event of her remarriage and by 1934, Harald moved completely to the Goebbels' household.[7] He was therefore a half-brother to the six children of Joseph and Magda Goebbels.

He would later serve as a lieutenant in the Luftwaffe. Harald was Magda's only child to survive the Second World War.[2] He went on to become a leading West German industrialist during the 1950s and 1960s. Harald died in 1967, when his personal aircraft crashed over Italy. He was survived by his wife and five children.

Helga Susanne[edit]

Magda and Joseph Goebbels with their children: Hilde (left), Helmut (center), and Helga (right)

Born 1 September 1932. Goebbels was proud of his eldest daughter and would go straight to her cot as soon as he returned from his office, to take her on his lap. Helga was a "daddy's girl" who preferred her father to her mother. She was reported to have been a lovely baby who never cried and just sat listening uncomprehendingly to the Nazi officials with "her blue eyes sparkling". It was not unusual for Hitler, who was fond of children, to take her on to his own lap while he talked late into the night.[6] She was photographed with Hilde presenting Hitler with flowers on his birthday 20 April 1936.[8]

Helga was 12 years old when she died.[9] Bruises found on her body postmortem (mostly on her face) led to wide speculation that she had struggled against receiving a cyanide capsule, which was used to kill her by crushing it between her teeth.[10]

Hildegard Traudel[edit]

Born 13 April 1934, Hildegard was commonly called "Hilde". In a 1941 diary entry, Joseph referred to her as "a little mouse". She was photographed with Helga presenting Hitler with flowers on his birthday, 20 April 1936. Hilde was eleven years old at the time of her death.[9]

Helmut Christian[edit]

Magda and Joseph Goebbels with their children, Hilde (left), Helmut (center), and Helga (right), visit Hitler on the Obersalzberg, Kehlstein House, 1938.

Born 2 October 1935, Helmut was considered sensitive and something of a dreamer.[11] In his diary, Goebbels called him a "clown." When his teacher at the Lanke primary school reported, to his father's dismay, that his promotion to a higher form was doubtful, he responded so well to intense tutoring from his mother and his governess that he not only achieved promotion, but also excellent marks.[11] He wore braces on his teeth.

On 26 April 1945, Helmut read aloud his father's birthday speech to Hitler, and responded to Helga's protests that he was copying their father by arguing that no, their father had copied him.[12][page needed]

Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge stated that while the family were in the Führerbunker on 30 April 1945, they heard the sound of the Hitler's self inflicted gunshot. Upon hearing Hitler's gunshot, Helmut, who mistakenly took it for the sound of a mortar landing nearby shouted, "That was a bullseye!". Helmut was nine years old at the time of his death.[9]

Holdine Kathrin[edit]

Born 19 February 1937. It is claimed that Holde got her name when the doctor who delivered her, Stoeckel, bent over her and exclaimed "Das ist eine Holde!" ("that's a pretty one!")[13] Meissner claims that Holde was the "least lively" of the children and was somewhat "pushed aside" by the others to her considerable distress. He claims Goebbels responded to this by making her something of a favorite, to which she responded with devotion.[14] She was eight years old at the time of her death.[9]

Hedwig Johanna[edit]

Born 5 May 1938, she was commonly called "Hedda". She had insisted, in 1944, that when she grew up she was going to marry SS Adjutant Günther Schwägermann, having been captivated by the fact he had a fake eye. She was six years old, four days shy of her seventh birthday, at the time of her death.[9]

Heidrun Elisabeth[edit]

Born 29 October 1940, Heidrun shared a birthday with her father. Rochus Misch described her as a "little flirt" and said she frequently joked with him in the bunker. "Heide" was four years old at the time of her death.[9]

Temperaments[edit]

Magda once described the temperaments of five of her children to her sister-in-law Eleanore (Ello) Quandt by describing how each would react to learning they had been deceived by their spouse:[14]

  • Helga – Would seize a revolver and shoot the unfaithful husband out of hand, or at least try to.
  • Hilde – Would collapse altogether, sobbing and weeping, but would soon appear to be reconciled if her husband expressed remorse and swore to be faithful in the future.
  • Helmut – Would never believe that his wife would deceive him.
  • Holde – Would never quite get over the infidelity, but would be too proud to reproach her husband. Finally, through the breach of confidence on the part of her husband she would go to pieces altogether.
  • Hedda – On the other hand, would give a peal of laughter and say, "Come here you rascal and give me a kiss".

Family life[edit]

In 1934, in search of privacy for himself and his family, Goebbels bought an imposing house in its own grounds on Schwanenwerder, an island in the River Havel. He also bought a motor Yacht Baldur for use on the river. Harald had his own nursery on the first floor while Helga and Hilde shared another. The children not only had ponies, but also a little carriage to ride around the gardens in. Two years later he purchased a neighboring property and extended the park, and included a private "citadel" as his own personal retreat.[14]

Later, the City of Berlin placed a second lakeside house at his disposal, a small castle, Lanke am Bogensee, as an official residence, which was only really large enough for the family to use as a weekend retreat, though Goebbels later added a large modern house on the opposite shore of the Bogensee.[14]

The marriage reached crisis point in the late summer of 1938 over Goebbels´ affair with Czech actress Lída Baarová. Hitler intervened as he was unwilling to put up with a scandal involving one of his top ministers and demanded that Goebbels break off the relationship.[15] Thereafter, Joseph and Magda seemed to reach a truce until the end of September.[16] The couple had another falling out at that point, and once again Hitler became involved, insisting the couple stay together.[17] Hitler negotiated an agreement whereby the actress would be banished and the couple would keep up public appearances subject to any reasonable conditions Magda might make.[18][19] One of her conditions was that Goebbels would only be able to visit Schwanenwerder and see the children with her expressed permission. If, after that year, Magda still wanted a divorce, Hitler would allow it, with Goebbels as the guilty party, and she would retain Schwanenwerder, custody of the children, and a considerable income.[19] Goebbels abided scrupulously by the agreement, always calling for permission before visiting and expressing his regret at missing Magda if she was not there, or taking his place, amiably, with his family at the tea table, if she was. It is claimed that the children at no time seemed to be aware that their parents were living separately at this time.[19]

In the media[edit]

Joseph Goebbels with his daughters, Hilde (center) and Helga (right), at a Christmas celebration in the Saalbau (Hall) Friedrichshain, Berlin, 1937, during the singing of the national anthems.

In 1937, Helga and Hilde were photographed with their father at the Berlin Frühjahrsregatta.[20]

The public reconciliation agreement in August 1938 was cemented by the appearance of Helga, Hilde and Helmut with their parents in front of the cameras of UFA, as a cinematic image of domestic reconciliation.[21]

In 1939, Goebbels used a concealed camera to film his children as a "healthy" contrast to the handicapped children in a propaganda film intended to promote the euthanasia of handicapped children.[21]

During 1942, the children appeared 34 times in the weekly newsreels, going about their lives, helping their mother, playing in the garden or singing to their father on his 45th birthday.[21] That October, as a gift from the German Newsreel Company, Goebbels was presented with a film of his children playing.[22]

On 18 February 1943, Helga and Hilde were photographed along with Magda at one of Joseph's best-known events, the total war speech.[8]

Towards the end of 1944, Goebbels sent Magda and his two eldest daughters into a military hospital to be filmed for the weekly newsreels, but abandoned the project on realising that seeing the terrible injuries of the soldiers was too traumatic for his daughters.[21]

Last days[edit]

Floor plan of their Vorbunker room.

As the Red Army moved closer at the end of January 1945, Goebbels ordered his family be moved from the Lanke Castle estate to the relative safety of Schwanenwerder. From there the children could soon hear the rumble of artillery in the east and wondered why rain never followed the "thunder."[11]

By 22 April 1945, the day before the Red Army entered the outskirts of Berlin, the Goebbels' moved their children into the Vorbunker, connected to the lower Führerbunker under the Reich Chancellery garden in central Berlin.[23] Adolf Hitler and a few personnel were staying in the Führerbunker to direct the final defence of Berlin. German Red Cross leader SS-Gruppenführer Karl Gebhardt wanted to take the children out of the city with him, but was dismissed.[24]

General Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven later described the children as "sad" but nurse Erna Flegel, with whom they had much contact in the bunker, characterised them as "charming" and "absolutely delightful".[25][11]

Hitler was very fond of the children, and even in the last week of his life still took great pleasure in sharing chocolate with them as well as giving them the use of his bathroom, it being the only one with a bathtub.[26]

They are reported to have played with Hitler's dog Blondi during their time in the bunker complex, [27] where they slept in a single room. While many reports suggest there were three separate bunk beds, secretary Traudl Junge insisted there were only two. The children are said to have sung in unison while in the bunker, performing for both Hitler and the injured Robert Ritter von Greim, as well as having been conducted in play-song by pilot Hanna Reitsch. Junge said she was with the children on the afternoon April 30 when Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves.

Death[edit]

Stories of brutality and rape by the advancing Soviet troops were circulating in Berlin, and there was much discussion in the Führerbunker about suicide as a means to escape humiliation or punishment from the Soviets. Joseph Goebbels added a postscript to Hitler's last will and testament stating that he would disobey the order to leave Berlin: "For reasons of humanity and personal loyalty" he had to stay.[28] Further, his wife and their children supported his refusal to leave Berlin and his resolution to die in the bunker. He later qualified this by stating that the children would support the decision [to commit suicide] if they were old enough to speak for themselves.[28] Both pilot Hanna Reitsch (who had left the bunker on 29 April) and Junge (who left on 1 May) carried letters to the outside world from those remaining. Included was a letter from Magda to Harald who was in an Allied POW camp.[27]

On the following day, Magda and Joseph Goebbels arranged for an SS dentist, Helmut Kunz, to inject their six children with morphine so that when they were unconscious, an ampule of cyanide could be then crushed in each of their mouths.[10] According to Kunz's later testimony, he gave the children morphine injections but it was Magda and SS-Obersturmbannführer Ludwig Stumpfegger, Hitler's personal doctor, who administered the cyanide.[10]

Rochus Misch the bunker telephone/radio operator, stated that Werner Naumann told him that he had seen Hitler's personal physician, Dr Stumpfegger give the children something "sweetened" to drink.[29] Another account says that the children were told they would be leaving for Berchtesgaden in the morning, and Stumpfegger was said to have provided Magda with morphine to sedate the children. Erna Flegel claims that Magda reassured the children about the morphine by telling them that they needed inoculations because they would be staying in the bunker for a long time.[26] Author James P. O'Donnell concluded that although Stumpfegger was probably involved in drugging the children, Magda killed them herself. He surmised that witnesses blamed the deaths on Stumpfegger who was a convenient target, having died the following day. Moreover, as O'Donnell recorded, Stumpfegger may have been too intoxicated at the time of the deaths to have played a reliable role.[30]

Magda appears to have contemplated and talked about killing her children at least a month in advance. After the war, Günther Quandt's sister-in-law Eleanore recalled Magda saying she did not want her children to grow up hearing that their father had been one of the century's foremost criminals and that reincarnation might grant her children a better future life.[31] Reitsch, who stayed in the bunker after flying Luftwaffe General von Greim in to meet with Hitler, said Magda asked her in the last days to help ensure she did not back away from killing the children if it came to that.

She refused several offers from others, such as Albert Speer, to take the children out of Berlin. The children seemed unaware of the impending danger, but the eldest child, Helga, seemed to sense that the adults were lying to her about the outcome of the war and asked what would happen to them.[32] Misch was among the last to see the children alive. They were seated around a table in his work area as their mother combed their hair and kissed them, all wearing nightgowns as it was close to their bedtime. Heide, the youngest, had scrambled up onto the table. Helga, whom Misch called the brightest of the children, was "crying softly" just before bedtime on that final night and wore a glum expression. Misch felt Helga had little fondness for her mother. Magda had to push Helga towards the stairs that led up to the Vorbunker. Four-year-old Heide, who had tonsilitis and wore a scarf around her neck, turned back to look at Misch, giggling, and teasingly said, "Misch, Misch, du bist ein Fisch," or "Misch, Misch, you are a fish", just before her mother led her and her siblings upstairs. Misch recalled later that he suspected what was about to happen and would always regret not intervening.[33] The children's bodies, in nightclothes, with ribbons tied in the girls' hair, were found in the two-tiered bunk beds where they were killed, when Soviet troops entered the bunker a day later. A Soviet autopsy on Helga's body noted "several black and blue bruises", indicating that she probably woke up and struggled with her killer.[34] A photograph taken during the autopsy showed heavy bruising on the dead child's face. The injuries were apparently caused when a cyanide capsule was forced into her mouth.[10][35]

Aftermath[edit]

On 3 May 1945, the day after Soviet troops led by Lt. Col. Ivan Klimenko had discovered the burned bodies of their parents in the courtyard above, they found the children down in the Vorbunker dressed in their nightclothes, with ribbons tied in the girls' hair.[36]

Vice Admiral Hans Voss was brought to the Chancellery garden to identify the bodies, as was Hans Fritzsche, a leading German radio commentator who had answered directly to Goebbels. Their bodies were brought to the Buchau Cemetery in Berlin for autopsy and inquest by Soviet doctors. In spite of repeated attempts, even Frau Behrend, the children's grandmother, never learned what became of the bodies. Thereafter, the remains of the Goebbels family, Hitler, Eva Braun, General Krebs, and Hitler's dogs were repeatedly buried and exhumed.[37] The last burial was at the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg on 21 February 1946. In 1970, KGB director Yuri Andropov authorised an operation to destroy the remains.[38] On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team used detailed burial charts to exhume five wooden boxes at the Magdeburg SMERSH facility. The remains from the boxes were burned, crushed, and scattered into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.[39]

Rochus Misch attracted controversy in 2005 when he called for a memorial plaque to be installed in honour of the six Goebbels children. Critics felt it would taint the memory of Holocaust victims to honor the children of the Nazi leader. Despite their parents' crimes, Misch argued that the children themselves were innocent, that to treat them as criminals like their parents was wrong and that they were murdered just as other victims during the war were murdered.[40]

Popular culture[edit]

The film also presented the theory that Magda Goebbels was directly responsible for the poisonings, crushing cyanide capsules in their mouths after Ludwig Stumpfegger had given each of them an oral solution to put them to sleep (in contrast to the morphine injections they were said to have received). In the film, the eldest child, Helga, is shown being forced to drink the oral solution by her mother and Stumpfegger, while the other children drink it willingly.
  • In the 2005 documentary The Goebbels Experiment, directed by Lutz Hachmeister and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, the archive footage was shown at the beginning and end of the film.[41]
  • The 2010 historical fiction novel Chocolate Cake with Hitler by Emma Craige tells the story of the children's last days in the bunker through the eyes of Helga Goebbels.
  • The 2011 historical fiction young adult novel The Girl in the Bunker by Tracey Rosenberg is narrated by Helga Susanne, and tells the story of the children's final days in the bunker.

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Behrend, Auguste. "My daughter Magda Goebbels", Schwaebische Illustrierte, 26 April 1952
  2. ^ a b Thacker 2010, p. 149.
  3. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 152.
  4. ^ Meissner 1980, p. 82.
  5. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 167.
  6. ^ a b Meissner 1980, pp. 95–105.
  7. ^ Meissner 1980, p. 125.
  8. ^ a b Klabunde, Anja, Magda. Goebbels, illustrations between pp. 182–183
  9. ^ a b c d e f Meissner 1980, pp. 240, 241.
  10. ^ a b c d Beevor 2002, pp. 380, 381.
  11. ^ a b c d Meissner 1980, pp. 242–249.
  12. ^ Galante, Pierre and Eugene Silianoff (1989). Voices from the Bunker.
  13. ^ Klabunde, Anja. Magda Goebbels.
  14. ^ a b c d Meissner 1980, pp. 134–144.
  15. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 170.
  16. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 392.
  17. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 392–395.
  18. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 391–395.
  19. ^ a b c Meissner 1980, pp. 195–205.
  20. ^ Photo, Helga, Hilde and Goebbels, 1937 Berlin Frühjahrsregatta
  21. ^ a b c d Joseph Goebbels: Bio Nationalsozialismus.de Rechercheportal für Schule, Studium und Wissenschaft
  22. ^ Home movies of Magda and her children, summer 1942(The original title is Goebbels's birthday, "To 29 October 1942")
  23. ^ Thacker 2010, p. 298.
  24. ^ Le Tissier 1999, p. 62.
  25. ^ Harding, Luke, Interview: Erna Flegel, Guardian Unlimited 2 May 2005
  26. ^ a b Statement of Erna Flegel RN. Red Cross Nurse from the training school "Markisches Haus" Scharnhorststrasse 3, Born 1911. Made to the CIA 23 November 1945
  27. ^ a b Meissner 1980, pp. 260–271.
  28. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 686.
  29. ^ Misch 2014, p. 177.
  30. ^ O'Donnell 2001.
  31. ^ Meissner 1980, p. 242.
  32. ^ Craigie, Emma (8 April 2010). "Last days of Hitler's favourite little girl". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  33. ^ Best, Nicholas. (2012) Five Days That Shocked The World, Thomas Dunne Books, pp. 212–213. ISBN 978-0312614928
  34. ^ O'Donnell 2001, pp. 258–261.
  35. ^ Books (8 April 2010). "Last days of Hitler's favourite little girl". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  36. ^ Beevor 2002, p. 398.
  37. ^ Vinogradov 2005, pp. 111, 333.
  38. ^ Vinogradov 2005, p. 333.
  39. ^ Vinogradov 2005, pp. 335, 336.
  40. ^ interview 2005 Salon interview
  41. ^ The Goebbels Experiment

Bibliography

Further reading[edit]

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