This interview was done with German Professor Maria E., regarding the image of the German soldier and the Third Reich in the minds of enemies and friends. Columbus, Ohio, 2001.

Professor, I met you at Columbus State while you were a guest lecturer in 1986, and since then we have often spoken about German history and culture. I would like to ask you some deep-rooted questions regarding the image of the Third Reich at large and in particular the German soldier. To start off, can you expound on why the image of the Third Reich is tarnished and presented to be so very ugly and hateful?

Maria: Yes, I will try to give you a glimpse of the views held and the counter views that still are around. As you already know the image of the Third Reich and Hitler have been molded mainly by the media of three main allied nations: America, Britain, and Russia. They alone have shaped the worldís image of Hitler. Now I could not have discussed these things before retiring as you know, and we must be grateful there is freedom of speech here. It allows for input of all ideas and beliefs, no matter how odd they may sound. This is something that in some nations today is not possible.

I saw many of the newsreels after the war was over and the message was always the same, Germany went mad and tried to conquer the world. They lump Germans into three camps; those who were Nazis and started it all; those who went along with it knowingly or unknowingly; and those who resisted. Of course those who resisted were a very tiny part of the population in spite of the efforts of some to make it look larger than it was. The vast majority of Germans fell under those who followed unknowingly of the crimes the regime was supposedly committing.

I do not like how our media encourages the term Nazi to describe any German who lived during the time. There were many who joined and supported the party, I read a figure of 20 million out of 80 million people joined. But that in no way means the whole nation should be labeled. As I have said, Hitler did some very good things for Germany and I never saw any of the bad things they say happened.

As I watched the TV shows here the theme is the same, the Third Reich was bent on securing world domination through invasion and threats. The ensuing war triggered genocide of ethnic peoples who did not fit in with the new order. The perception is that Germans lived in fear of that knock in the dark from the Gestapo or police.

You had to carefully watch what you said, even around your children as the state brainwashed them to tell on their parents if they stepped out of line. There is also a narrative that all guns were confiscated so that the population was disarmed, the first mass gun control. Concentration camps were built to hold anyone who challenged the regime, especially the Church. The tale today is both the Catholic and Protestant denominations were opposed to them, and countless went into the camps, never to be heard from again. The vilest crime of all was targeting the mentally weak and the sick, killing them in the name of a healthy society.

To defend anything the Third Reich did is to support all these crimes; critically thinking has been removed from this field of study. Those who have undertaken such a task, to challenge some of these accusations have been labeled Nazis, conspiracy theorists, or just plain deniers of history. A new term I have heard used is Holocaust denier, implying one denies a very well known fact. It is not an easy road to undertake to challenge some of these notions, so many Germans have learned to keep quiet, and tell no one their true thoughts. Those who lived through the hell of the war also do not wish to relive the memories, so if the Allies claim something that they know is not true, they have conditioned themselves to be quiet so they do not bring up a bad past.

This is what it has come down to, many will say to leave the past alone and do not bring up forgotten ghosts. I however admire young men like you who ask intelligent questions; seeking only to understand the answers you have been given. I applaud you for seeking out those who lived though the times, and actually got them to speak to you. I have only recently been interested in telling my story of what I witnessed and lived through. I have my thoughts on the war and why Germans today have mostly come to support the Allied version of the war. I feel it is somewhat time to tell someone, my family asks some questions, however I do not want anyone feeling hate or anger at what was done.

To make a simple statement on this topic, I can only say people only know what they have been taught. If the teaching was incorrect, then the student only knows how to spout incorrect information. This is how many of the historians of today plow through the wilderness of history. They have been told untrue events, and their minds are not the kind to immediately challenge the view.

I am a bit of a gun enthusiast, and I have seen the NRA stickers that claim Hitler started gun control and forbade Germans to own weapons. Was any of this true, did you see any of it?

Maria: I know this well, and while most Germans were not gun enthusiasts like people are here in America, there was no prohibition on owning them. My own father owned one, as did many of our neighbors around Konigsberg. I saw many men with rifles and pistols while doing my labor service. I understand that Hitler actually relaxed gun laws that had been put in place by the Weimar Republic. I should say that not everyone could own a gun; you did have to have a permit. You had to have a clean criminal record, be of sound mind, and be trained on how to use it. If you passed these things you could own whatever you liked.

My friendís father had quite a collection of target rifles and would take us shooting on their land at times. He was a forestry master and carried a gun all the time I remember. Germany had a common sense approach to this, anyone could own a weapon if you were the type of person who used it responsibly and safely. Here, the problem is anyone is allowed to own a gun, anyone. Criminals will always find ways to get them, so we should outlaw criminals to solve the problem. Mentally ill should never be allowed to own one, too many tragic instances of this already. I have seen this debated before and I am not sure what the solution is here, so much of the crime is from blacks who steal them. A professor back in the 60s said if all blacks went back to Africa, the crime here would disappear.

Something we have spoken of before and I would like to ask again, is why do you feel so many Germans who have written their memoirs have come out against Hitler and at times their own comrades?

Maria: The simple answer to that is human nature. As I said, I lived through these times, and while I was just a simple worker I was engaged in the topics of the time. It is true not everyone liked Hitler; many liked what he did for Germany, but not the loss of some freedoms. I can say I never saw any opposition to him, even in the last months of the war, and I was around academia. There were those who made plans for their life after the war, by the autumn of 1944 most all knew it was over, the war was lost. There was in a sense a breakdown of German efficiency. By December of 1944 food was hard to get, petrol was out of the question, and water and heat were scarce.

That is why you see so many Allied photos showing white sheets out widows, and people greeting the Allies, they were in dire need. They did what they had to do to survive even if it meant cooperating with the enemy. There was a family in Braunschweig I remember who had a son in the army, and they forbade him to return to the front in April of 1945. That was an offense that would have meant execution but they took that chance because they knew it was over. He was wounded and was sent home on leave to recover, and never returned to his unit. No one would blame them for saving their son.

For many Germans the war left a bad feeling about Hitler, largely because of the Allied efforts to cast him as a warlord and villain. To go against this grain paints you in a light that is easily mocked, slandered, and hated. When someone wants to write about the Third Reich or Hitler, you are already put under the microscope, so you better have the right mindset. I of course mean you must tell and support the Allied way of thinking, if you do not you will not be published. That, I believe is the main answer to your question. If you are likely to say something contrary to the accepted version, or to praise German soldiers, no one will take that risk. I know of a woman in Germany who wanted to write about her time in the BDM in glowing terms and not one publishing house would publish it. So these memoirs that are published, saying bad things about Hitler and his political ideas are likely made so that it does not rock the boat. It is the safe bet to take, you say bad things about Hitler, add in some Gestapo stories or such and you are golden.

I have glanced over some of the memoirs of his generals that came out years ago and thought they pass the blame off to him to hide their failures. I personally have met a few generals who privately said Hitler was right about many things during the war, but he listened to his generals too much. One told me Hitler wanted to drive south in Russia first and foremost but the old generals swayed him to take Moscow. He didnít want to attack Kursk, but he was swayed to do it. He was talked out of moving armor to Normandy as he believed the Allies would land there.

He was not a bad military leader in my limited opinion. My husband would say privately he was a genius in his ability to allow his generals to have free reign. He was always checking up on the new inventions, which while hoping they would win the war, he also wanted them to be used peacefully after. He had dreams of taking Germany to space, to cure diseases, and to build a great modern nation that benefited all.

For these men to say otherwise and slander him is just their way of deflecting from their mistakes. They also must not look like they hold any loyalty either so that is another reason. Something else that I think plays into why so many appear to come out against him is age. Many of us are getting up there, with the average now 70 or 80. The older you get, the less active your brain is so it is easy for someone to come along and get an older person to agree with something in the past. I have seen some of this in experiments. An elderly person can remember bits of their past, and be convinced that other untrue parts happened.

I fear this has happened to some of the people confronted about their time being on camp staffs. They have agreed with claims investigators make in front of them because they have been convinced they are agreeing to a truth which is loosely based on something they remember. Others I believe are coached to give a scripted reply to interviews. I have a feeling none of the stories that are being told and taught today are true regarding the camps. I will tell you a secret: we used some camp inmates where I worked, and they were all well feed and treated like any other worker.

The world of today has been built upon the story of the good Allies defeating a bad Germany; to disagree is suicide for any professional. One may have an interest in telling their story; however editors make sure that they say nothing that will go against the correct version as a general rule. For example I can share with you what a classmate of mine told me during a visit in 1943. He served as a radio person in an infantry regiment and was in the war from the beginning. I breached the subject of war crimes as the Allied radio was telling stories of what Germany's soldiers were doing in the east. I knew I could trust him as he was known as a very honest and forthright person.

He said it all started at the beginning of the Polish campaign, which he took part in. Polish soldiers invaded a part of Germany, and shelled a couple of towns killing civilians. When they retreated, civilians in another town greeted them thinking they were German soldiers, a few of the Poles fired on the civilians and then order was restored. This was on September 2nd I believe, only one day into the war. This in turn caused the army and police to seek out any Pole who had taken part in these crimes, and they were in turn shot. He said because of the early actions of the Poles, who today cry as the victim, there were German reprisals. He said he was part of a reprisal action in Poland and Russia, all against people who did unspeakable acts against civilians or soldiers. That made me understand that what the Allies were reporting was in fact misunderstood actions, which they seized as proof of war crimes.

He said during the invasion of the Soviet Union the same things happened mere days into the war, German prisoners were murdered by Soviet soldiers. Civilians came to the German soldiers and told of horrendous treatment they endured as well. His unit found civilians who had been shot down for protesting the burning of crops and farms. He told of the vast amount of people in Russia who welcomed Germans as liberators from a vile oppression. I even met a woman here who corroborated his story of this. She was from the Ukraine and told how German soldiers were welcomed as friends and liberators.

My friend was solemn as he told these stories, it was 1943 and the war was not going well. He said if we lose, these people will all be killed by the Soviets. He even spoke of the attacks that had occurred by the hands of the partisans. They were killing their own people who welcomed Germans or helped. She also agreed with this as well, saying it was very bad. She fled west as German forces retreated. So I have come to see the stories now being told about the east as pure fiction by the Russians. They keep building in the emotional ties. Like all war crime stories, they pull you in not with facts, but with emotion.

This is why so many Germans of today believe all the stories told by the winners of the war. They are fed emotional sentiments, devoid of any factual logic, and when you are hit with emotions, any counter argument is null as the person is only thinking emotionally not logically.

I know you donít like talking about the Jews, but can I just ask you what your thoughts are on many publishing houses being owned by Jewish families.

Maria: Yes, it is something that as I look back at my upbringing, we were told that one reason Hitler became popular is because he pointed these things out. As a tiny minority, Jews hold unusual influence in many fields, especially academia. They took control of these areas in Germany; banks; publishing houses; newspapers; and universities. They wanted to control the flow of information. The more love you lavish on them the better your outcome is, so no one who wants to keep a great career or job will ever criticize them, or allow it. I have said that most Jews are very good people, and I know many of them here. Even in Germany there were Jewish doctors who helped the war effort, I know that for a fact.

Even when the Jews were partly removed from Germany, those who had friends or high level skills were welcomed and protected. My husband had a Jewish professor who lived in Berlin the whole war, and survived. I do feel for them, and what happened at war's end, but I will never believe there was a state plan to kill them. My husband worked on rockets, and he told of seeing camp inmates being used to build parts for them. They seemed well-fed and treated, so the stories they tell today I feel are just revenge for being put in the camps. Instead of just being angry at that, they made the most absurd and unrealistic stories that could never be true.

When I say emotions, the whole Holocaust is one big emotional tale, and you dare not question that tale. I will not even breach it, I just acknowledge it was horrible, and we had no idea what was happening in the camps. Deep down I feel for the guards, nurses, and staff who are today hounded in such old age.

I know you are very religious; can I ask why the Church today distances itself from Hitler and acts as if they were persecuted? I understand that during the Third Reich the Churches supported Hitler and the National Socialist movement.

Maria: I donít know if I would say they supported the movement, which might be going too far. Some no doubt did, I know we had a Parish priest who was a fervent party man. I remember when the war on Stalin was launched he was ecstatic, and enlisted in the army. The society Hitler and his movement built up was absolute. In a BDM class we were told this movement was an all or nothing for Germany and Europe. No more would paltry parties be allowed to exist with fake men taking vital men and wealth from the true defenders of Germany. There would be no more multi-party rule as it was all a sham. The strongest party was elected, and that party then stopped the opposition from making false promises.

Germany was embarking on a crusade to awaken Europe to a very real danger that had been lurking for a long time, Jewish Bolshevism. Today we call it liberal thought, or tolerance, diversity, equality. It is a danger to our world, and Germany died trying to stop it. The Churches went along with Hitler as they knew he was right in what he was warning about. They knew what happened to Christians in Russia when the Jewish Bolsheviks unleashed their revolution, millions of Christians died. Hitler made sure the Church would not be allowed to support this destructive idea, and it was purged of any Marxist priests or ministers.

Religion was permitted to exist unhindered as long as it did not defend or introduce any Marxist logic that was proven counter to the health of the people and nation. Like I said, for the National Socialists it was an all or nothing time when war broke out. We were in it together to either win our future, or lose it. Some clergy did run into trouble during the war, the Allies emboldened those hidden enemies who then came out. One preached about how Germans should throw off Hitler and stop supporting the war. His congregation mostly walked out and reported him. Others spoke about the Jews and other groups who were silenced, as I say it was all or nothing. There was to be no rival opinions allowed during the war. These men could not see the danger this causes, and how it only aided the enemy. They were weaklings, pretending to be strong.

Just like the German veterans, the Church had to change its tune right after the war. Any Priest or minister who was known as a party man or supporter was removed and persecuted. The Allies cleansed the Church of anything Nationalist; it was a tit for tat. There was a shortage of clergy in Germany after the war, so many had died during the bombings. Others just disappeared never to be seen again, in the east it was worse, and most Churches were destroyed and never repaired. It was only in 1989 that some began to be rebuilt and restored.

Back to Interviews