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Johanna Maria Magdalena "Magda" Goebbels (11 November 1901 ‚Äď 1 May 1945) was the wife of Nazi Germany's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. A prominent member of the Nazi party, she was a close ally and political supporter of Adolf Hitler.

As Berlinmarker was being overrun by the Red Army at the end of World War II, she murdered her six children with Goebbels and then committed suicide.


Childhood and youth

Magda was born in 1901 in Berlin, Germanymarker to 22-year-old Auguste Behrend, the acknowledged daughter of engineer Oskar Rietschel (sometimes spelled 'Ritschel'). Rietschel and Behrend married later that year and divorced in 1904. Some sources, including Hans-Otto Meissner (son of Otto Meissner) suggest that the marriage took place before her birth, and that she was legitimate, but there is no particular evidence to support this.

When Magda was five, her mother sent her to stay with Rietschel in Cologne. Rietschel took her to Brusselsmarker, where she was enrolled at the Ursuline Conventmarker in Vilvoordemarker. At the convent, she was remembered as "an active and intelligent little girl".

Magda's mother Auguste married a Jewish manufacturer named Richard Friedländer and moved with him to Brusselsmarker in 1908. Richard Friedländer later died in Buchenwald concentration campmarker. They remained in Brussels, on cordial terms, until the outbreak of World War I, when all Germans were forced to leave Belgiummarker as refugees, to avoid repercussions from the Belgians after the German invasion.

They moved to Berlin where Magda attended the high school Kolmorgen Lycée. Auguste Behrend divorced the now impoverished Friedländer in 1914.

It was at this time that Magda met and became close to another refugee from Belgium, Lisa Arlosoroff. It is commonly claimed that she later dated Arlosoroff's brother Haim Arlosoroff. He was to become a prominent Zionist and was assassinated in Palestine in 1933.

In 1919, Magda was enrolled in the prestigious Holzhausen Ladies' College near Goslarmarker.

Marriage and son with G√ľnther Quandt

At the age of 17, while returning to school on a train, Magda met G√ľnther Quandt, a rich German industrialist twice her age, whose holdings later grew into VARTA batteries among other businesses. He also had large shareholdings in BMW and Daimler-Benz. It is claimed that although a physically unremarkable man, Quandt courted Magda at school by posing as a family friend and swept her off her feet with courtesy and grand gestures. He demanded that she change her name back to Rietschel (having borne the name of her mother and stepfather, Friedl√§nder, at her own request, for many years) while converting from Rietschel's nominal Catholicism to Protestantism. She and Quandt were married on 4 January 1921, and her first child, Harald, was born on 1 November 1921. Harald was her only child to survive the war.

Magda soon grew frustrated in her marriage, because Quandt spent little time with her, and at the age of 23 she became attracted to her 18-year-old stepson Helmut Quandt. However, he died of complications from appendicitis in 1927. She and G√ľnther Quandt then went on a six-month automobile tour of America, where she captured the attention of a nephew of the U.S. President Herbert Hoover. Later, after her divorce from Quandt, he travelled back from America to visit her and ask her to marry him, an episode that ended in a car crash in which Magda was seriously injured.

Their brief stay in the United States began when the RMS Berengaria (Cunard Line; previously, S.S. Imperator of the Hamburg America Line) entered the Port of New York, Friday morning, October 28, 1927. Gunther and Maria M. (Magda) Quandt boarded the steamship at the Port of Cherbourg, France, Saturday morning, October 22, 1927. Whereupon, RMS Berengaria departed for half-day visit at the Port of Southampton, England, and then departed that Saturday evening for the United States. Gunther and Maria M. Quandt were listed on the steamship's manifest list as (Gunther: age 46, male, factory owner, married, reads & writes German & English, born in Pritzwalk Germany, immigration visa no. 15556 issued in Berlin on September 16, 1927, last residence at Vanbabelsberg) and (Maria M.: 25, female, married, housewife, reads & writes German & English, born in Berlin Germany, immigration visa no. 15557 issued in Berlin on September 16, 1927, last residence at Vanbabelsberg Germany). Also, they listed their other details (Gunther: nearest friend or relative in Germany- brother W. Quandt Reyenburgarter of Pritzwalk Germany; height 5'11", fair complexion & hair, black eyes) and (Maria M.: nearest friend or relative in Germany- brother-in-law; height 5'4", fair complexion & hair, black eyes). Gunther last visited the United States for three months in 1924 visiting in Chicago Illinois. On this visit to the United States Gunther (with Maria M.) was traveling to conduct business with the H. Lloyd Electric Storage Battery Company, Allehenny Avenue, Philadelphia PA (practically every city in the United States at this time period had several electric storage battery companies). Gunther reported this business trip was to last two months.

Quandt hired detectives and divorced Magda in 1929, but was ultimately generous with the divorce settlement.

Marriage and family with Joseph Goebbels

Young, attractive, and with no need to work, on the advice of a friend, Magda attended a meeting of the Nazi Party, where she was impressed by one of the speakers, Joseph Goebbels, then the Gauleiter of Berlin. She joined the 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 and for a brief period became secretary to Hans Meinshausen, Goebbels' deputy, before being invited to take charge of Goebbels' own private archives.

Otto Wagener claims that Magda met and was attracted to Adolf Hitler, who was impressed by her, and that her marriage to Goebbels was somewhat arranged. Since Hitler intended to remain unmarried, it was suggested that as the wife of a leading and highly visible Nazi official she might eventually act as "first lady of the Third Reich". Magda's social connections and upper class bearing may have influenced Goebbels' own enthusiasm.

Meissner, on the contrary, makes no suggestion of this, claiming rather that Hitler (though undoubtedly impressed by Magda) was an exceptionally close friend of the couple in the earliest days, who would often arrive late at night and was as likely as Goebbels to sit with the baby Helga on his lap while they talked into the night. He also claims that after an abortive attempt to poison him at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin in January 1933, Hitler asked Magda to prepare all his meals.

Magda married Goebbels on 19 December 1931, at G√ľnther Quandt's farm in Mecklenburg, with Hitler as a witness.

Joseph and Magda Goebbels subsequently had six children :
  • Helga Susanne
  • Hildegard "Hilde" Traudel
  • Helmut Christian
  • Holdine "Holde" Kathrin
  • Hedwig "Hedda" Johanna
  • Heidrun "Heide" Elisabeth

Joseph Goebbels had many affairs with other women during his marriage to Magda. One of the most widely known was with the popular Czechmarker actress Lída Baarová. He was so smitten with Baarová that he even contemplated marrying her. Magda resorted to asking Hitler for permission to divorce Goebbels, and Baarová was eventually sent away, while Goebbels was in such disgrace that for a time it was rumored that he might be sent to Japanmarker as German ambassador. Magda was also rumored to have had affairs, including one with Goebbels's deputy Karl Hanke.

War years

Both Magda and Goebbels derived personal benefits and social status from their close association with Hitler. Joseph (as propaganda minister) and Magda remained loyal to Hitler and publicly supported him. Privately, Magda expressed doubts, especially after the war began to go badly on the eastern front. On 9 November 1942, during a gathering with friends listening to a speech by Hitler, she switched off the radio exclaiming, "My God, what a lot of rubbish". In 1944, she reportedly said of Hitler, "He no longer listens to voices of reason. Those who tell him what he wants to hear are the only ones he believes".

There is no evidence that Magda intervened to save her Jewish stepfather from the Holocaust. Though his fate has not been established, it is widely assumed that he perished in the camps, perhaps misnamed as 'Max Friedlander', a man known to have died in Sachsenhausenmarker. A plea from a Jewish school friend on behalf of her daughter seems to have also fallen on deaf ears. Asked about her husband's antisemitism, she answered: "The F√ľhrer wants it thus, and Joseph must obey".

At the beginning of the war Magda threw herself enthusiastically into her husband's propaganda machine. Her other official functions involved entertaining the wives of the foreign heads of state, supporting the troops and comforting war widows.

Magda's first son, Harald Quandt, became a Luftwaffe pilot and fought at the front, while, at home, Magda strove to live up to the image of a patriotic mother by training as a Red Crossmarker nurse and working with the electronics company Telefunken. She insisted on traveling to work on a bus, like her co-workers.

Towards the end of the war, Magda is known to have suddenly begun to suffer from trigeminal neuralgia. This condition affects a nerve in the face, and although usually harmless is considered to cause more intense pain than any other condition and can be notoriously hard to treat. This often left her bedridden and led to bouts of hospitalization as late as August 1944.


In late April 1945, the Soviet Red Army entered Berlin, and the Goebbels family moved into the F√ľhrerbunkermarker, beneath the bombed out Reich Chancellerymarker. One of the rooms they occupied had been recently vacated by Hitler's personal physician Theodor Morell. The only bathroom with a bath was Adolf Hitler's own, and he gladly made it available to Magda and her children. Meanwhile, reports of Sovietmarker troops looting and raping as they advanced were circulating in Berlin. Hitler and his bride Eva Braun committed suicide on the afternoon of 30 April.

Two days earlier, Magda wrote a farewell letter to her son Harald Quandt, who was in a POW camp in North Africa. This letter is her only handwritten bequest.

Joseph Goebbels' last will and testament, dictated to Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, directed that Magda and their children support him in his refusal to leave Berlin and his resolution to die in the bunker. He later qualified this by saying that the children would support the decision [to commit suicide] if they were old enough to speak for themselves.

The following day, on 1 May 1945, Magda and Joseph Goebbels drugged their six children with morphine and killed them by breaking cyanide capsules in their mouths. Accounts differ over how involved Magda Goebbels was in the killing of her children. Some accounts claimed that the SSmarker doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger crushed the cyanide capsules into the children's mouths, but as no witnesses to the event survived it is impossible to know this. O'Donnell concluded that although Stumpfegger was probably involved in drugging the children, Magda Goebbels killed them herself. O'Donnell suggested that witnesses blamed the deaths on Stumpfegger because he was a convenient target, having disappeared (and died, it was later learned) 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.

Meissner claims that Stumpfegger refused to take any part in the deaths of the children, and that a mysterious "country doctor from the enemy-occupied eastern region" appeared and "carried out the fearful task" before disappearing again.

Magda appears to have contemplated and talked about killing her children at least a month in advance. She also refused several offers from others, such as Albert Speer, to spirit the children out of Berlin. There was evidence, in the form of bruises, that the eldest child, 12-year-old Helga, had awakened and struggled before she was killed. 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.

The last survivor of Hitler's bunker, Rochus Misch, gave this eyewitness account of the events to the BBC:

After their children were dead, Magda and Joseph Goebbels walked upstairs to the bombed-out garden, avoiding the need for anyone to carry their bodies. By some accounts, she was shaking uncontrollably. The details of their suicides are uncertain. One SS officer later said they each took cyanide and were shot by an SS trooper. An early report said they were machine-gunned to death at their own request. According to another account, Joseph Goebbels shot Magda and then himself. This idea is presented in the film Downfall. Their bodies were doused in petrol, only partially burned and not buried. The charred corpses were found on the afternoon of 2 May 1945 by Russianmarker troops and a photograph of Goebbels' burned face was widely published. Their remains and those of their children were later secretly buried by the Soviets, and in April 1970 all were burned and the ashes scattered in the Elbe river.

In popular culture

Magda Goebbels has been portrayed by the following actresses in film and television productions.



  1. Magda Goebbels biography at Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
  2. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 13
  3. Arditti, Michael, Magda Goebbels by Anja Klabunde Literary Review, 22 May 2002
  4. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 16
  5. de Launay, Jaques, Hitler en Flandres, 1975
  6. Shindler, Colin, First Lady of the Third Reich, Jerusalem Post, 16 August 2002 confirmed by Highbeam Research
  7. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 29
  8. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 31
  9. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 61
  10. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 77
  11. List or Manifest of Alien Passengers For the United States Immigration Officer At the Port of Arrival (Form 500 U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration Service), pp 7 - 8, number on list 3 & 4, dated October 22 & 28, 1927.
  12. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p.82
  13. Wagener, Otto, Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant
  14. The Special Chest of Magda Goebbels: Provenance
  15. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 91
  16. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, pp. 97-99
  17. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, illustrations between pp. 240 and 241
  18. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 194
  19. Klabunde, Anja, Magda Goebbels, p.278
  20. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 219
  21. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 222
  22. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 127
  23. Klabunde, Anja, Magda Goebbels, p.302
  24. What is Trigeminal Neuralgia? TNA Website
  25. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, pp. 141, 228 & 234
  26. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, pp.260
  27. James O'Donnell: The Bunker (De Capo Press, 1978) ISBN 0-306-80958-3
  28. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 270
  29. Meissner, Hans Otto, Magda Goebbels, First Lady of the Third Reich, p. 242

Further reading

  • E. Ebermayer, Hans Roos: Gef√§hrtin des Teufels - Leben und Tod der Magda Goebbels (Hamburg, 1952)
  • Joseph Goebbels: Tageb√ľcher 1945 - Die letzten Aufzeichnungen (Hamburg, 1977) ISBN 3-404-01368-9
  • Anja Klabunde: Magda Goebbels - Ann√§herung an ein Leben (Munich, 1999) ISBN 3-570-00114-8
  • Hans-Otto Meissner: Magda Goebbels - Ein Lebensbild (Munich, 1978)
  • James O'Donnell: The Bunker (De Capo Press, 1978) ISBN 0-306-80958-3
  • Erich Schaake: Hitlers Frauen (Munich, 2000)
  • Wolfgang Schneider: Frauen unterm Hakenkreuz (Hamburg, 2001)
  • Anna Maria Sigmund: Die Frauen der Nazis Volume 1 (Vienna, 1998) ISBN 3-8000-3699-1
  • Der Spiegel No. 35/04 Hitlers Ende Spiegels (H. 35, 2004)
  • Robert Wistrich: Wer war Wer im dritten Reich (Frankfurt am Main, 1987)
  • Dieter Wunderlich: G√∂ring und Goebbels (Regensburg, 2002)

External links

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