Alison Owings: Frauen

Resistance by Women
in Germany

by Nicole Bronstein

December 7, 2005

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Holocaust

UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2005
(course homepage, web projects index page,
Women in Resistance project index page)

Frey, Muller, Moltke
About the
Page Author
Women in Camps and Ghettos
Gender Role Resistance
Women in Resistance project main page

Introduction (back to top)

Alison Owings' book Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich is composed of twenty-eight accounts made by women living in Germany prior and during World War II. The stories vary from women who were pro-Hitler and pro-Nazism to women who attempted to assassinate Hitler. The following examines case studies of three German women to show the range of behaviors that constitute the resistance within Germany.

Examples (back to top)

We did Love our Fuhrer, Really!

Frau Ellen Frey was raised in an anti-Semitic household in Berlin, Germany during the reign of the Third Reich. Though she went to school with Jewish children and had Jewish friends, she distinctly remembers her parents telling her that Jews always had the highest paying jobs and that Jews had pushed the Germans aside and took the best jobs. Thus, although her parents were not Nazis, they explained that Hitlerís action of pushing the Jews out of Germany was good because it would give the Germans an opportunity to excel in these positions.

In her later years, Frey married an SS man. Though her husbandís job forced her to be pro-Hitler, she was unsure of her true feelings and what she really believed. She was not educated and, therefore, had difficulty forming an opinion. She claims that she was not against Hitler, yet she cannot explain why she felt this way. Contrary to this statement, however, she also says that she was hoping for the 1944 assassination of Hitler to succeed. She also confides that Kristallnact was a terrible event and that it should have been conducted in a more pleasant way. Furthermore, although her childhood experiences taught her to hate Jews, she wrote to a Jewish, childhood friend, Viktor, who was fighting in war.

Though Freyís anti-Semitic beliefs and marriage to an SS contradicted her resistance, she was a passive resistor who wrote letters to a Jewish friend and favored Hitlerís assassination attempts. Her form of resistance did not save any lives, and thus, could be contested, however, it is clear that she did not support the Nazi regime. Because the Nazis wanted support from every single person residing in Germany, not conforming to Nazism could be viewed as a form of resistance. Thus, Frau Ellen Frey can be considered a German woman resistor.

Solidarity and Survival (back to top)

Frau Charlotte (Lotte) Muller was a Communist living in Berlin during Hitlerís reign. When she lost her job as a cashier for saying to an SS guard Ďgood day to youí rather than ĎHeil Hitler,í she began doing illegal work for the Communist Party. In 1936, she was arrested for not having her identity card, so the police sent her to Belgium. In Belgium she continued working illegally; however, here she specifically worked against Hitler. One of her jobs was writing for an illegal newspaper known as The Red Flag. Unfortunately, on October 27, 1940, Muller was caught and arrested for her involvement with the Communist Party. She was sentenced to two and a fourth years in prison. When she was released, however, she was handcuffed in the hallway of the building and sent to Ravensbruck Ė an all women concentration camp.

In the concentration camp, Muller found solidarity with other Communist political prisoners. She was able to survive the 1,095 days she spent in the camp because of her skill as a plumber. Her rare talent was on high demand, thus the guards did not want to kill her. When she was released from the camp on April 28, 1945, she moved back to Berlin. After truth about the concentration camps became public, a trial of former Ravensbruck guards was held. She was asked to testify as a witness of the camp. The result was all the SS guards on trial were sentenced to death and were hanged.

Mullerís resistance is not only seen during Hitlerís time, but also after. During Hitlerís reign, she resisted by publicly writing Communist ideas and questioning Hitlerís plans. After Hitlerís reign, she resisted by punishing SS guards who participated in the cruelty of the Holocaust. Though her actions did not save lives, she actively tried to gain support against Hitler. Furthermore, her resistance could have persuaded others to act against Hitler and resist his demands. Thus, Frau Charlotte Mullerís role could have influenced others to participate on the side of the resistors and help those in need.

A Modest Woman of the Resistance (back to top)

Mrs. Freya von Moltke lived in the rural village of Kreisau, which was known for its anti-Nazi resistance during the Third Reich. She was married to Helmuth von Moltke, the leader and creator of a resistance group. The resistance group began in 1940 and included Socialists, capitalists, Protestants, and Catholics who opposed the Nazi regime. The group worked on highly treasonous tasks of planning in an attempt to destroy Hitler and establish a new government. Though the group called for extreme measures, they began their resistance by spreading any known information to English and American journalists. In 1944 the group attempted to assassinate Hitler. The attempt failed and von Moltkeís husband was arrested. This did not, however, stop her from actively resisting the Nazi regime. She visited her husband in prison and smuggled in new information to him. Their dangerous actions did not, unfortunately, benefit them in any way. Instead, von Moltkeís husband was hanged in early 1945. Papers describing the resistance group of Kreisau did surface after the end of the Third Reich. The Nazis named this group the "Kreisau Circle."

Freya von Moltke actively resisted against the Nazis. She spread secret information and helped plan an assassination. Alongside her husband, she devoted her life during this time to destroying Hitler and his regime. Though her resistance did not save any one person, it might have possibly if the assassination attempt had been successful.

Conclusion (back to top)

All three of the womenís stories exhibit their resistance to the Nazi regime and their love for Germany. They describe their connection to their homeland and their feelings of pride to be a German. None of these women, however, mention their concern for the Jews or the people being persecuted. These women were primarily focusing on their country rather than their people. Frey simply did not support Hitler; Muller wrote against Hitlerís ideas, and von Moltke was involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. It is apparent that these women were more interested in resisting Nazism and destroying Hitler than saving lives.

About the author (back to top)

Nicole Bronstein
As a sophomore at the University of California at Santa Barbara, this was my first opportunity to take a class that specifically focused on the Holocaust. I have always been intrigued by the events that occurred during the Third Reich, mainly because I had family that lived and experienced the disastrous times. Two of my great grandmothers left Germany before Hitler rose to power, but unfortunately, both of them lost their parents and siblings in the concentration camps. The Nazis murdered over fifteen of my relatives. Thus, learning about the Holocaust not only furthers my education on the topic, but it also contains personal meaning.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on12/7/05; last updated: 12/14/05
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