4 Women Who Adored Hitler

From the sister of a great philosopher to the wife of a dark propaganda genius, these women hung on the Fuhrer’s every word.

Hitler

WINIFRED WAGNER

The epic, soaring works of composer Richard Wagner helped fuel Hitler's fantasies of establishing an Aryan super-race in Europe. To this day, the great operas are still tainted by association with the Nazi regime, despite Wagner himself dying long before the dictator's rise to power. One Wagner did become close with Hitler, though - the composer's daughter-in-law, Winifred, whose story is a strange one, straight out of some dark fairy tale.

Born in England, she lost her parents early and was adopted by distant German relatives. While still a teenager, she met and married Wagner's 45-year-old son, Siegfried. It was a marriage of convenience, mainly done to cover up the fact he was more interested in men. Winifred soon began running the family's musical empire, and became a close ally of Hitler's when the future dictator was still just an upstart rabble-rouser. Winifred called him by his nickname "Wolfie", and helped raise money for the Nazi cause, even acting as a go-between with the viciously anti-semitic automobile giant, Henry Ford.

Yet Winifred also showed some kindness towards Jews, and even pulled strings to help save some Jewish associates from the Holocaust. That said, she remained awe-struck by Adolf Hitler. As late as 1975, she said that "to have met him is an experience I would not have missed", and she would refer to the dead dictator as "our blessed Adolf".

LENI RIEFENSTAHL

Gutsy, charismatic Leni Riefenstahl was a genius. Nobody can dispute this. Arguably the greatest female film director of all time, she changed the medium of cinema with her trailblazing techniques. She would be a feminist icon if her legacy wasn't so toxic, because those same films were made in the service of Hitler.

Triumph of the Will, a long documentary showing the Fuhrer amid his minions and adoring crowds, helped establish the almost religious power of Nazism in people's minds. Meanwhile, her documentary Olympia, about the German Olympics of 1936 was a momentous piece of sports filmmaking which is still on many "greatest film" lists to this day, but made by a woman who once said "Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived... He truly is without fault."

And she didn't just feel this way before the dawn of war. In 1940, when France fell to Hitler, Riefenstahl wrote to Hitler: "With indescribable joy, deeply moved and filled with burning gratitude, we share with you, my Führer, your and Germany's greatest victory, the entry of German troops into Paris... How can we ever thank you?"

After the war, Riefenstahl tried to salvage her reputation. She almost succeeded, publishing books of photographs, taking portraits of celebrities like Mick Jagger, and being spoken of as a true genius by many critics. Yet her adoration of Hitler meant she would never become a force in cinema again, despite living to the age of 101.

MAGDA GOEBBELS

Who was the "first lady" of Nazi Germany? It certainly wasn't Eva Braun, Hitler's notorious mistress. Like a pop star afraid of alienating his female fans, Hitler refused to marry or indeed acknowledge Eva in public during his years in power. The woman who enjoyed the limelight was Magda, the wife of Nazi propaganda genius, Joseph Goebbels. Their relationship was thoroughly Nazified from the start. Goebbels wrote in his diary, "When we have conquered the Reich, we will become man and wife. I am very happy."

The happiness didn't last. They would both have affairs, and Goebbels was also sometimes concerned by Magda's deep affection for Hitler. Magda also had real influence on the party, becoming an agony aunt of sorts to women throughout Germany who would write to her for advice on everything from raising children to being good, dutiful wives.

Loyal to Hitler to the last, Magda killed her own children and committed suicide as Berlin fell to the Allies. A final twist in her story came in recent years, when evidence surfaced that her biological father may in fact have been Jewish.

ELISABETH FORSTER-NIETZSCHE

If the work of Friedrich Nietzsche is still helplessly and unfairly linked with Hitler, much of the blame rests with the philosopher's sister, Elisabeth. After his descent into insanity and death, Elisabeth edited and re-arranged his works to suit her own virulently anti-Semitic views, brazenly perverting his concepts about the "will to power" and the rise of the "superman".

Even before Hitler came along, Elisabeth was intimately connected with ultra-nationalist movements. Her husband, who called Jews a "parasite on the German body", actually founded a colony in Paraguay called "Nueva Germania", intended to be an Aryan utopia. It failed and he committed suicide, but Elisabeth's passion for the "cause" continued for decades afterwards.

She became friendly with Hitler, deliberately linking her esteemed family name to the Nazi regime, and Hitler even attended her funeral. As one writer later put it, "It was she who created the most destructive myth of all: Nietzsche as the godfather of fascism."