>> historian when the -- wendy lower discusses her soon-to-be published book "hitler's furies: german women in the nazi killing fields." she spoke to book tv at book expo america. we brought you several interviews over the past two weekends from the publishing industry's annual trade show and all of these can be viewed online at booktv.org. >> host: alan book tv a preview of professor wendy lower new book "'hitler's furies" -- "hitler's furies: german women in the nazi killing fields". professor, what is your book about? >> guest: it's about entire generations of german women. the world war one baby boomers. increased right after the first world war. about 1918, 1919 which coincided with german women getting the vote. you have a surge of the population coinciding with the
opening up of opportunities politically. the stories about this generation that came of age during the time of the nazi regime in the 30's it that opportunity that they did not have before to be part of the political system, part of the revolution, all very exciting, job opportunities, the first ways of getting out of the villages. many of these women wanted to get out. experience city life. it's about these women have come of age they coincide with the establishment of the criminal genocidal regime. so when the political awakening is part of this of the political system that they come of age in. so i ended up tracing these women to the eastern territories of the nazi regime when the
crimes of the holocaust occurred . the so-called blood lands and killing fields. eupepsia they come in the system and then there mobilize to participate in these campaigns. ahead the read any books before the placed women in large numbers in these fights. this of my stories about, how they get there, react to what they have seen, some of them rivet -- move into the role of accomplices. we often think of german perpetrators as camp guards. and in small numbers. about 3,500 based on some very sparse and agitation. the reality was women sent to the east as part of hestia -- hitlers colonial project. nurses and imperial kind of developers, colonizers.
and all these capacities. and they had to participate in the imperial projects which included the holocaust, these genocidal programs. i in understanding the magnitude of this, discovering the magnitude of this, i wanted to up make the book accessible to as many people as possible. i've been here for about 20 years working in archives around the world. i went to the ukraine initially in 1992 where i discovered some of the material and collecting stories. it took all these years of going to israel, spending a lot of time at the u.s. holocaust memorial. they have a fabulous collection there. going to the archives in germany, collecting material from survivors and the u.s. this massive collective effort of stories to place these women in these killing fields and concluded that there were at
least a half a million, 500,000 women who are mobilized. this is new, not only that we are putting them in the eastern territory, but in significant numbers in a variety of roles. and that figure is obviously quite a contrast to when we think of camp guards in closed encamps settings behind barbed wire, behind the wall, trained to be cool. the scene of women and all different kinds of capacities in the open air setting where mass shootings, have the victims of the holocaust by it, approximately half. forced marches through famine, starvation, so forth. it became communities of violence that started to develop. a very much included women in these roles. so with the large number -- i had to then kind of bring it
down to a individual faces. human faces on the perpetrators. in this tree book. it often very demonized and presented as freaks of nature or sadistic figures, even par graphically so. i wanted to present the reality that these women when they came of age were people we could relate to. there were actually likable figures. so you warm up to them and then kind of see how they have transformed by being moved to the east and witnessing this violence. then we see the different reactions to that behavior. this is really the main story. >> were women supportive of the nazi regime as it came to power in the early 30's? >> guest: they were, but there were involved in many different instances. the communist movement, often a number of kind of people's
movements, women's rights, wing movements, and moderate social democratic party fliers are represented. so they were really active in all. active in all these movements. and you cannot say, for instance , that women were responsible for the voting hitler into power. he was actually placed by a cobol of the leads. during the height. and 32 we look at the election results, july 32, for instance, made chancellor in january of 1943. we can see in certain regions where the nazi party was strongly represented in germany, team up participation in that and the participation in the movement as such. but we could not predict, for instance, 1933. that's part of the contention that these women would go completely 100 percent not see
cars rushed off to the east and become killers. it's a process, a transformation that and trying to a get into these biographies. >> host: whose picture is on the front? >> guest: that is well known, it is a very chilling photo. is still drabness startles me. the baby boomer born right after the first world war. the drop in a working-class family and bizarre land which was a protected territory, a border region where they're is a lot of national fanaticism with germany in the 30's. she worked at a chicken farm. she had the kind of grade school education. again, trying to get out and see the world, these ambitions that
are stirred, the excitement for women in particular. and trying to find their way. and what she does as she finds her way to a nazi newspaper office and is working as a typist there. she has the social skills. and she meets her husband there who is a real rabble-rousers', as street fighter. he's shy of his cars to her. she is somehow enchanted by that , by the brutality. and he is in the ss. and so you have a rising career. he will be part of the elite. and she attaches herself to him. that's from our marriage application. the ss marriage application filed. their marriage had to be approved by heinrich himmler. >> host: because he was s.s. >> guest: yes. a very thorough examination, very invasive to the women, gynecological examination, very invasive examination to pass the test if there were rachael to
cut not only their ancestry, but their biological features. so the rest of the application, a full body image of her. her husband is eventually made to be commander of one of the most notorious and biggest concentration camp in the ukraine. western ukraine. a site where hundreds of thousands of jews were transported to belgium to be gassed. many died in the camp as well as laborers. and they set up outside the camp perimeter. when she got there she said, well, i need a terrace, a balcony. labours and they had to lay all the tile and make it nice for her. and what did she do with her daughter? her three year-old daughter who was also there?
>> guest: i first came across her story in the testimony of a very, very important collection of essays by a survivor of the name of phillip creedman, a very pioneering scholar in his field who was from this region and heard about her during the war through other survivors. and he wrote about this, i think it was as early as the '50s.
and i was shocked by this, and he, you know, identified her and even quoted some survivors who had, were astounded by her violence. and that got me, you know, on the lead. that was the first indication that here's someone who's an outstanding figure. let me test out, you know, whether or not this is true. let me try to corroborate this particular testimony with other materials. and then i got into the primary german documentation and found, in fact, her marriage application and verified who she was and what her own biography was and that she was, in fact, sent there and she was a real person, and she was there with her daughter. we could see that in the german document station. and then continued to collect more testimony about her. and it was related to primary sources in this case. other cases in my book, biographies where i identify
people through memoirs. they came out, you know, had kind the a audacity to write their own memoirs and leave out some of this history, and i used that as a starting point and started to dig and made phone calls, wrote letters and did all that. >> host: where did these women go after the war? what happened to them? >> guest: most of them went back to west germany and austria. i have women from vienna who were in the gestapo, secretaries in the gestapo there. they went back to vienna, women who went back to their towns in west germany. one couple in particular from what became east germany, and that figure, that particular woman figures very prominently in this book. she was responsible for in this plantation she and her husband were running a farm and estate -- and, again, this actually is another case in the
ukraine -- and they were jews that were trying to flee from the railway transports, the boxcars would end up trying to find refuge. and this couple would hunt them down, and they had a special site on their farm, an actual killing site. and this figure, you know, she was on her balcony serving coffee and cake and overhead the men talking about what should be be done with the jews. and it's even detailed how they should be killed, what would be the proper method. so one day some jewish boys, six boys, she found them along the side of the road, brought them back to the house, calmed them down, fed them, you know, something to eat, and they kind of gained her trust. and then she escorted them out to this killing site and shot them in the back of the neck.
that was a, that's a pretty detailed story because -- and i can tell you that story because she was arrested by the east germans and was subjected to some pretty harsh interrogation in 1960-'61 with her husband. any to these crimes, and i, you know, have since corroborated her confession with other testimony and gone to the site and matched up what she said with the actual layout of the place and talked to local witnesses there. her husband was guillotined, he was given the death penalty, and she was given a life sentence. so when these women went back to these different places during now the context of the cold war, their faith varied quite a bit. i mean, erna petri got a life sentence. this is not what happened in another case of a secretary who with her boss was