This is an interview with BDM regional leader and Flakhelferin, Inge v. Witzleben Mckean. As the original interviewer said, she is 'my tante [a title of respect for his aunt] and the inspiration for these interviews'.


[Above: The Bund Deutscher Mädel, or BDM for short (League of German Girls), was the female wing of the National Socialist youth movement.]

'I noticed many foreign soldiers coming into the city;
I believed they were Russian and Polish. They put up a very big fight with the Americans;
we were advised to flee since there were many girls in my battery.
We even had a girl who was black with us; she wore the party badge,
which might surprise you, NS was not the system of hate you are taught.'

-Inge v. Witzleben Mckean

You served in the League of German Girls, how did you like it and what attracted you join?

Inge: My family was a very religious Bavarian family who wanted me to be around other girls who would be a good influence. The BDM stressed that all that was good in German womanhood would be promoted and we would live that example. They liked this and actually signed me up without me knowing, my mom surprised me with my uniform. I was overjoyed to wear it to school for the first time.

This was in 1937; I was 11 then, and liked rowing and running. Being in the BDM kept us busy, we were meeting twice a week, and for two weeks in the summer we went to a camp which could be anywhere in the Reich. These were fun, but were more of an education in life skills. We were up early, and learned everything from surviving in the wild, making clothes, to cooking for the family to give mom a rest.

I liked being in the BDM, it gave girls the skills they needed that perhaps their parents could not or did not have time to teach. One young girl started her period and was scared to death, her mom never told her what to expect, the BDM leader took her to clean off and used it as a teaching tool that all girls must go through this and why. It took the sting of embarrassment away from her. My unit was in Nuremberg and we had very good leaders.

The highlight of my time in the BDM was attending the 1938 party rally; it was in my backyard so to speak. My unit hosted girls from all over the world who came here, from America, South America, and even Germans who lived in Africa. It was a great time, with lots of campfires, and comradeship. We saw the BDM head leader, and the Führer.

I want you to know that not all girls belonged to the BDM, and it is a lie that all German youth had to belong. These groups were exactly like your boy and girl scouts, it is expected you will join, but not required. The BDM and HJ were the same way. I do not understand how some Germans have the position they were forced. I think so many wanted to impress upon the Allies they were not Nazis that they made up stories to build up their saint hood. Many Germans were traumatized by the war that they went out of their way to give the Allies what they wanted for fear of being denied a future in their own nation.

We spoke about the Time Life series where they claimed German girls were used as baby makers for the SS and Hitler youth, you laughed at that?

Inge: Yes of course I did, it is salacious slander and has no basis for fact. It was started even before the war by the author William Shirer, who some claim was a secret Jew even though he claimed to be Protestant, was a Marxist sympathizer so he hated National Socialism. He was allowed in our midst, all the while reporting from a not-so-honest point of view, and always disparaging our leaders. German women have always been taught to not be ashamed of their bodies, it comes from God. We would go topless in the sun, and some Americans found this un-godly. There is nothing wrong with the human body; it is a work of art from our creator, only Jews can poison this.

They figured since Germans went around half-naked that there must be a lot of fooling around and the NS regime was preaching immoral behavior. The truth is quite the opposite, during the Weimar republic; women were seen as sex toys and nothing more. Hitler and the NS party brought back a sense of honor. When I was older we were in close proximity with the boys of the HJ many times, but our leaders watched closely that lust did not get the better of anyone. We were always kept separate, and I must say that in my time, you never thought about sex, love with a handsome boy yes, but thoughts of sex were not what it is today. Love was the watchword, not lust.

The story of 900 pregnancies after the Nuremberg rally is a complete falsehood. Our enemies went to great lengths to make Germany look like an immoral, ungodly, and backwards nation under Hitler. I do not know of any German girls who bore a child during my time in the BDM. During the war, I heard that a couple young women, who had boyfriends in the service, became pregnant, but they were 18 or over.

The communists loved to make us out as sluts and desperate to bear children for the Führer. They were the ones who had immoral children who were so bored by their worthless lives that all they could do is breed, mostly with the lowest form of humans. Many of their daughters were the ones in the hospitals giving birth to bastard children, not us. We had been instilled with strict values, and the BDM put those values into action, by promoting Church, family time, and time alone to reflect on our lives.

You are friends with Gudrun Himmler, how did you meet?

Inge: In 1940, the Nurnberg girls were sent to Tegernsee for a rowing competition, I was quite good at age 14 and strong for a slender girl. Tegernsee was a small lake that some people used as a vacation spot, and some well off people retired. We were hanging around the dock, when Gudrun and her mother came up to say hello as they lived nearby. I had brought a few apples to share; I jumped up and asked if Gudrun wanted one. She accepted and her mother left her with us to go speak to our leader.

We hit it off right away, I took her down to the water to show her our shell and she got in to sit. Her mother came over and asked me to get her out; she did not want her falling in. She then invited us to their house for some lemonade. We had much in common and we exchanged addresses, her mom asked who my parents were and said I could come visit again if it was OK with them. After we finished drinking, we cleaned up and one of my comrades said that was the Reichsführer’s daughter and wife. I wrote to her soon after and received a letter back within a few days, we have been friends ever since. We became even closer when she went to school after the war, as I did too to finish my certification.

You mentioned you were a candy striper in Nuremberg, and then served in a flak unit in 1945?

Inge: Yes I did, it is a long story. When the war started, our lives were not impacted much. It was not until January 1943, when total war went into effect, that the youth were utilized to fill adult roles. We lived close to the hospital I showed you with the big eagles still in place on the walls, minus the swastikas. They had openings for young girls to help out, and to train as nurses aids, I applied and got the job. Many of our girls did their voluntary Landjahr service [HJ boys and BDM girls did 8 months service on farms which was called Landjahr - editor], which took them to farms to work.

Nuremberg had been bombed as early as 1940, but they mainly tried to hit the railyards, but had very bad aim, with many homes being destroyed as a result. When I started it was pretty calm, we had many wounded soldiers, and the usual sick patients. I worked in a ward to help mothers who were in labor or had already given birth. We had Jews in the wards too, they were treated just like everyone else, and they even had rabbis come in to circumcise the babies. They do not tell you that today.

I had it very good during the time here, I do remember it was a pain when the air raid sirens went off; we had to help move the beds away from windows and into shelters. Lucky for us the Allies did not come very often. I was able to learn a lot about hospitals and medicine, all while keeping up my studies, my father was drafted to the front in 1944 and it was a sad day that I will never forget. He never came home. In 1955, a returning comrade told me he was shot by the soviets after surrendering.

Nuremberg was spared serious destruction by the bombing raids until 1944, and then they started hitting anything, not just war production. It was the raid of March ‘44 that brought in more injured than we could help, it overwhelmed us. They had to go to other hospitals. The main one I remember was in January of ‘45. I remember it well as it claimed my mother.

It was dark and cold. I had just finished a shift and was tired. Our heat was working sporadically as our building had been damaged and only rudimentary repairs made by one of the many foreign workers who came to fill the void of our fathers being gone. We had many who were in Furth and Nuremberg to help clean up; some were Russian prisoners who were trusted. I was called back to the hospital as I lived only a five-minute walk, my boss said an air raid could be happening soon so to hurry.

No sooner did I get to work than the sirens went off, this call saved my life. My mom went to the shelter, but never made it. She was caught outside when the bombs fell and died. I found out the next day, and saw our home and block was burned out. My BDM leader and a few girls came when they heard and gave me comfort. The head nurse took me home with her to stay and gave me a shoulder to cry on.

My comrades came to visit me again the next day, we were in shock at what our home had been turned into, and we felt the inhumanity of the Allied barbarians at this moment. I was able to bury my mother, it was a mass for many victims. The party stepped in to be there as well, our Blockleiter [from 1933 this was the title of a lower National Socialist Party political rank responsible for the political supervision of a neighborhood-editor] made sure he found some flowers, and the NS women’s league came, which she belonged to, they gave her a final greeting.

I then found out my father was missing in the east, so I was left with no one. My BDM leader and the hospital made sure I had a place to stay, and plenty of food. I was 18 now and considered an adult. I was made a leader in my unit, as ours was recruited to serve in the NS women’s league to help the vast amount of homeless. I was promoted again to the staff of the Nuremberg BDM, I had a big position.

I had my girls to lean on, but by March of ‘45, the war seemed lost, and I felt very alone. I also had a strong sense of anger at what the Allies had done to my nation and me. I had the chance to join the flak units of the Luftwaffe in Nuremberg, so I became a Flakhelper. My training was very fast, and by the next raid in the middle of March, I was working with sound detection equipment that hunted bombers.

My battery was located on the southern outskirts of the city and was credited with downing three bombers, which should have given us the flak battle badge I was told, but due to the war situation it could not be given. Our lieutenant left us to go to the front, so we had no leader, and it was suggested we escape the siege and coming battle. We did and joined the mass of refugees in mid-April.

What was the end of the war like, and how did you meet Uncle Ellsworth?

Inge: I stayed with my flak battery until April I think it was the 15 when the last bombing raid happened. The Americans were on the outskirts of the north end. I noticed many foreign soldiers coming into the city; I believed they were Russian and Polish. They put up a very big fight with the Americans; we were advised to flee since there were many girls in my battery. We even had a girl who was black with us; she wore the party badge, which might surprise you, NS was not the system of hate you are taught.

I left the city with a big group of people; it had to be in the hundreds. We were moving to Regensburg, but were stopped by people who said the Americans already had control of the area. I was with some girls who decided to go back to Nuremberg. By now, it was the end of April; we were sleeping in barns or open fields, looking for food and water, the BDM training kept me alive.

When we came into the city, American soldiers herded us into stockades to sort us out. I was treated like a criminal because I could not produce any papers. I threw them away on the suggestion of a comrade. Finally, after a couple of weeks I was released. I was looking for food when I met your Uncle; he was one of the few soldiers not asking if I would trade sex for food. He asked if I needed anything, and I replied I needed to eat without being harassed or threatened.

He felt ashamed for what he saw his army do to us, he offered me plenty of food, and got me a place to stay with refugees from the east. Here I met someone who knew an old friend of mine from school. She gave me the bad news that Russians had raped her, and she drowned herself, as she could not bear the shame. This was an all too common fate for many German women and girls at wars end.

By August, I was put to work helping to clear all the rubble from the bombings. This was very hard work, yet women and young girls did most all of it. I kept running into Ellsworth, and he seemed like a very nice person. I was afraid of being seen as a traitor but since he was kind, and offered food with no catches, we became friends. Years later it just made sense to settle down and marry, and he had been loyal to me.

I went back to school and was close to Gudrun, so we often talked, as she lost her father to the Allies as well. We had and have much in common, I was able to work with her and former SS men to help returning German soldiers find work and help, when the nation was told to turn our backs on them. We have worked well ever since, and this is why I know the many former soldiers that you have met.

Silent Help worked with Otto Skorzeny for a short time to help young boys escape Allied kangaroo courts and communist demands of extradition. This saved many a life, as they were able to flee to Spain, South America, or the Middle East. Gudrun had many good contacts and was given a ideal position, but was soon targeted by enemies and had to stop. Fighting for the rights of former soldiers became our main efforts. Getting SS men benefits has been the hardest part; the nation has turned its back on them.


Back to Interviews