The Waiting Wives of Spandau
What's it like to be the wife of a war criminal? This first-hand report takes you into the homes and hearts of the women-once the elite of Hitler's Germany-whose fight for their husbands' freedom has reached kings, presidents and even the Archbishop of Canterbury
A BONUS-LENGTH FEATURE
SINCE THE July day of 1947 when seven of the surviving Nazi war leaders entered the grim Spandau Prison in Berlin to begin their sentences for crimes against humanity their wives and families began to serve sentences of their own. The men—Deputy Führer Rudolf Hes Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, Hitler Youth Lead« Baldur von Schirach, Reichsbank Minister Walth Funk, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Minister War Production Albert Speer, and ex-Foreig Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath— ha gone behind bars in the maximum-security fo: tress for terms ranging from ten years to life. A their wives are still alive, although Von Schirach divorced him in 1950. With the devotion that expected of a German Hausfrau they immediate! set up the exclusive Spandau Club which has thrf simple rules:
To exchange all information on what is takin place in Spandau. ¡
To work politically to improve conditiof within the prison.
To secure the release of the seven men the as quickly as possible.
Frau Winifred von Mackensen, the daughter Baron von Neurath, is the undisputed leader ‘ the club, which includes six wives and eve Henriette, Von Schirach’s ex-wife. The only associate member is Heinrich Hoffmann junior, Von Schirach’s brother-in-law.
I traveled thousands of miles throughout Germany to meet these women, to hear from their own lip» what it’s like to be the wife of a convicted war criminal, to find out what progress they’re making toward the release of the world’s most closely guarded prisoners, to see if they cherish hopes of a return to the grandeur that was once theirs as members of the inner circle around Hitler.
I found that, guided by the shrewd diplomatic knowledge and connections of the once-powerful Von Neurath family, they are exploring every possible political or diplomatic avenue in trying to help their men.
“I won’t forget Spandau,” Dr. Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s Premier, assured Winifred von Mackensen before leaving for Washington early in 1953 to visit President Eisenhower. Nor did he. Spandau was one item discussed that did not appear on the official agenda.
Winifred von Mackensen and Luise Funk plead for leniency on humanitarian grounds. “Our men have been punished enough,” they say. “They can do no more harm.” Shrewdly, the justice of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal is never questioned.
Four of the Spandau wives have approached the Pope. Frau von Mackensen had a private audience with him; so did Inge Doenitz. Frau Doenitz also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to intercede on behalf of the men. Raeder’s wife hoped that her acquaintance with the Pope, whom she had known when he was Cardinal Pacelli, would be remembered by His Holiness. Frau Funk spent an hour and a quarter with Cologne’s famous Cardinal Frings, and during the audience offered to become a convert to Catholicism. Immediately afterward a personal interview was arranged with Adenauer. The result of all this pressure on Church and State alike led, for instance, to the prisoners being allowed to write home weekly instead of once a month.
THEIR :M~ BEHIND BARS, THE WOMEN PLAN AND PRAY
The United Nations was not forgotten and two petitions were sent to the then-Secretary General, Trygve Lie. The UN declined to take any action.
The three Allied high commissioners in Western Germany are being frequently petitioned. Winifred von Mackensen was very friendly with the late Sir Nevile Henderson, Britain’s Ambassador to Germany when war was declared. She was able to see Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, British High Commissioner and a former colleague of Henderson.
The interview on the Spandau situation was conducted with strict formality. “Couldn’t you try to speak in England or do something for my father?” asked Frau von Mackensen.
“Nothing can be done,” replied Sir Ivone, and the interview came to an end.
Baroness von Neurath appealed to her girlhood friend, the late Queen Mary, asking her to use her influence to get her husband into a sanatorium from Spandau. This letter was followed by yet another from the Von Neuraths’ close friend, the Countess of Stauffenberg, who had also known the Queen during her Württemberg days. The Kings of Sweden and Denmark, both of whom the Baroness von Neurath knew well, were asked to do whatever they could for Von Neurath.
When President. Truman was in office, Princess Ysenburg of Bavaria delivered a letter from the Von Neuraths. On Eisenhower being voted into the White House, he was asked to contact Malenkov with a view to securing the release of Von Neurath, Raeder and Doenitz, as it was thought that Russia, having granted an amnesty to war prisoners, might now be more amenable.
No possibility was overlooked by the relatives and friends of the living ghosts of Nuremberg to get them out before their legal time. To break the power of Spandau control, family lawyers proposed, at one time, that the prisoners should become the responsibility of the countries whose nationals had arrested them in the first place, but the idea was dropped when it was realized that Erich Raeder was captured by the Russians.
Yet another line of country was explored and it resulted in an attack on Spandau by newspapers plugging the theme of “Expensive War Criminals.” West Berlin’s late Lord Mayor, Dr. Ernst Reuter, fired the first shot by declaring that the prisoners in Spandau had fifty-two servants, received a special diet, and were costing his council one hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year. (The official estimated cost of maintaining Spandau in 1953 was just over sixty-six thousand dollars.) Reuter disclosed he had written to the three Allied commandants in West Berlin asking them to meet him to discuss “this intolerable burden in view of Berlin’s financial crisis.”
When the families learned that under no circumstances would the body of a prisoner who died in Spandau be | handed over they agitated for a relaxation of this rule and finally the three Western high commissioners yielded to pressure from the German government and proposed a modification of the procedure. On the ground that it vioüated the four-power agreement governing the custody of the prisoners, the Soviet refused to agree that the families should have the right to arrange a private burial, saying that it would pander to Nazi fanatics throughout the country.
While relatives continue to press their case, the seven men speculate on this grisly problem.
Luise Wants Her Mansion
At one time, Britain, the United States and France secretly indicated to Russia their willingness to reconsider the cases of the Spandau prisoners. “But,” -say many—“should anyone undo or reverse the sentences of the Nuremberg International Court?—a court that shouldered full world responsibility for meting out justice to the criminals of the Hitler war.”
The waiting wives of Spandau have done battle on another front in an attempt to salvage some of the great material assets they once controlled. State allowances, pensions and other sources of income keep the families on a reasonably comfortable keel, but for most of them their present mode of living is only temporary—-they hope. They believe they have a strong case in negotiations and manoeuvres now going on for the return of confiscated property and funds that will make them as rich and prosperous as they were formerly.
Frau Luise Funk, for instance, aims at recovering from the German government th% family estate at Hechenberg and the handsome residence that | stands on it called “Berghof.” The j Funks paid 400,000 marks (about one hundred and sixty thousand dollars) for the property when they bought it in 1941 and they added considerably to this outlay by extensive improvements. General George S. Patton, who lived in Berghof for awhile after it was confiscated, described it as the finest house he had seen in Germany.
Leaving nothing to chance, Luise Funk is also manoeuvring to recover her property and funds by offering to pay an agreed “fine” to the Bavarian government for her husband’s “misdeeds.”
In my journeying to meet the women of Spandau, I first traveled to Gailenberg, a remote Alpine hamlet in Upper Bavaria where Frau Ilse Hess has chosen to live. I was directed up a slippery grass slope to a sprawling wooden house that had for a close companion a great barn. It was difficult to find anyone, but a woman finally appeared and, in answer to my question, pointed to the door of the barn and said, “That is where Frau Hess lives.”
In the darkness of the barn I could make out cattle stalls filled with logs and there was a flight of steps whose door led to a landing and a couple of other entrances. I came across the woman whose directions I had tried to follow and it appeared that this part of the barn belonged to her. “The other door,” she said, and in the end I reached a door opened by Frau Hess, a tall, heavily built woman who smiled a greeting.
She took charge of my overcoat and I followed her into a room that served both as kitchen and bedroom. In a corner was a single box divan, covered by a chintz spread and cushions. On the wall above the divan hung a striking painting of a handsome boy of about ten, and, alongside it, a crude pencil drawing of a man descending by parachute watched by a solitary farmer gazing up at him from the fields below.
I stared at the drawing for an instant, and Frau Hess cut in with, “My husband drew that when he was a prisoner in England. He sent it to my son. He thought it would amuse him.”
A moment later we walked into another room that, in spite of being part of the barn, the top corner of it in fact, was surprisingly cosy. I settled down in a comfortable old armchair. Facing me, across a circular table, was Frau Hess. At her side was a smaller table and on it a portable typewriter that she uses. She is writing a book tentatively entitled, My Life With Rudolf Hess, and she had been working on it when I arrived. The room was full of pictures and photographs and piles of letters. On the wall too, was a striking head of Rudolf Hess in water color done by Professor Horn, Hitler’s favorite painter.
Frau Hess has always been described as the typical German Hausfrau. She’s a Hausfrau, of course, but there’s nothing typical about her; there’s much more to her than that, even if the mousy blond hair, straight cut and caught up at one side by a single clip, and the freckled and rosy complexion of a peasant she makes no attempt to hide with make-up, tend to discount this impression. She admits having put on considerable weight during the last few years, but she looks younger than her fifty-three years. The collar of a striped blouse peeped over a highnecked sweater; a plain black skirt, nylons and low-heeled walking shoes, silver buckled, completed her outfit. In her disciplined appearance there was
only one concession to femininity—the chunky silver bangles she wore on each wrist.
Ilse Hess is married to a looseleaf letter file she keeps on a table beside her, and that is all she possesses of a husband, or will ever possess, unless the Nuremberg sentences are modified. That is all, seemingly, but she has resources of strength and character that make her quite remarkable from other women.
She began to talk: “The last con-
versation I had with my husband was outside the nursery at our home in Munich on May the tenth, 1941. I asked him, ‘When will you be back?’ and he said he didn’t quite know and that it might be on the following day, but certainly not later than Monday evening. I replied, T don’t believe it. You won’t come back so quickly.’ I have never seen him since. We are not apart though.
“My husband and I are in constant telepathic contact. People frequently turn up here that I have not seen for years, and inevitably in Rudolf’s next letter there are questions about these very visitors. My husband and I receive and send to each other in this way.”
Rudy’s Aches And Pains
I wanted an explanation of Hess’ illnesses and Frau Hess was by no means unwilling to discuss her husband’s condition. “We frequently quarreled because I felt there was nothing wrong with him and this was proved by the many examinations he had. It was only his imagination and nerves, but nothing would convince him. During the first year and a half when he was a prisoner in England, he was always writing to me about his aches and pains. Then one day, the complaints suddenly ceased and 1 knew that at last he had accepted the fact that he was a prisoner and could do nothing about it. Only then did the anger and pain in his stomach and chest vanish.”
At our second meeting she talked to me about her fifteen-year-old son Wolf.
“The school our boy goes to at Berchtesgaden is co-educational and sometimes this worries me a little. Two of my son’s closest friends say it is very nice, but they wouldn’t like their own sister to go there.
“I was very much taken by my son’s former teacher. He was a brilliant man and I asked him to discuss my husband’s letters with the boy, which he did. He seemed to me to be a good influence and I was shocked when he was arrested on a charge of perverting some of his pupils and sent to prison. It is a tragedy. He was such a happily married man and the school no longer seems the same without him. Wolferl’s progress appears to have been slowed up and 1 am seriously thinking of taking him away.”
Although none of the boys at school ever tease Wolf about his father, he keeps a collection of photographs of him tucked away in a leather case. “Why should I have the pictures by mv bed and let the other boys stare at them all the time?” he says.
Back in her mountain home, Frau Hess reads the letters from her husband over and over again, smiling to herself as she relishes the flavor once more of a familiar passage, and editing the Nazi philosophies he deliberately injects into them for posterity, or rather future publication. They are meant to be a new Mein Kampf from the man who helped Adolf Hitler write the original.
As Ilse Hess takes up afresh the j writings from Spandau Prison, she ! must think of the night she sat in a j restaurant with Adolf Hitler and her boy friend Rudolf. She had just lost her job with a bookseller and was undecided whether to begin studying at Munich University or find work elsewhere.
Said Hitler, “My dear girl, has it never occurred to you to make a job of marrying this man here?” pointing to Rudolf. A few weeks later t hey were married.
Without any apparent financial support from her husband since early 1941 Frau Hess has managed to live and to send her son to a good-class Berchtesgaden boarding school.
“People say that you have at least a million pounds tucked away abroad, Frau Hess,” I fired at her during my visit.
She responded simply with a slow j smile, and said, “I have managed to i pay off all debts.” She added, “When ; my husband went offwithout not ice ! I had a large house on my hands with j j fifteen servants. I had only two thou| I sand marks in ready cash.”
Hess is reputed to be one of seven , of Hitler’s lieutenants which included Í Goering, Goebbels and Ribbentrop who j deposited between them an aggregate of about ten million dollars abroad. Hess’ share of this amounted to one ' and a half millions and, in addition, he is said to have taken out an insur: anee policy for nearly a million dollars on his own life and a further one for a quarter of a million on the life of i his wife.
Following her husband’s abortive flight to England, Ilse Hess, through the influence of a F iend, secured a state pension as-the wie of a high-ranking “prisoner of war.”
“1 make money from writing,” she claims—but she certainly doesn’t make enough from this to live on. Her main literary effort has been a book, published in Germany, entitled England. Nuremberg, Spandau which, though receiving the “approval” of ex-Nazis and their underground organizations, proved to be no money-spinner. There was too much Nazi propaganda in it for publication abroad. ButFra¿¿ Hess need never worry. Her husband’s “Men,” as he frequently refers to his Nazi comrades in his letters from Spandau, will look after her.
MY NEXT MEETING with another member of the Spandau Club took ! place in Munich where Henriette von j Schirach lives and works. At week ends j she returns to the village of Urfeld, ( where she owns a bungalow spacious ! enough to contain three large reception j rooms and several small bedrooms and bought with the money she earned as an assistant in her father’s photographic laboratories.
Eva Braun, before her friendship with Hitler, was also an assistant in the laboratories which made Henrietta's father, Heinrich Hoffmann, a millionaire as a result of the monopoly he was able to establish under the Nazi regime.
Slim and attractive, Henriette von Schirach, with only the grey tinge of her boyishly close-cropped hair as a telltale sign of the passing years, is the outcast of the Spandau Club. She is still a member, but, since her divorce from Baldur von Schirach, most of the other wives prefer to deal with Henrietta's brother Heinrich, who looks after his brother-in-law’s affairs.
“It may be hard for others to understand, but I did not desert my husband because he was in trouble,” Henriette asserts. “I was a ‘widow’ of the Nazi regime years before Spandau because Baldur was married to the Nazis and his Hitler Youth.”
She evidently felt that she needed to defend herself. As she spoke she became more excited as she recalled the relationship between herself and her husband and her disappointments.
“Baldur lives the life of a Tibetan monk and that is how he now thinks of himself. It began soon after his imprisonment in Nuremberg in 1945, and it precipitated the divorce. Not once during my visits to him in Nuremberg Prison, and certainly not in any of the letters I received from him until I divorced him, did he ever ask, ‘How do you and the children live?’ To find the money in order to smuggle a bottle of schnapps into his cell at Nuremberg I had to sell something. When my boys needed boots, my treasured collection of baby clothes went to the farmers who bought them. I sold bottles of Coca-Cola in the streets to earn a little or worked as an usherette in a cinema. My husband could only acknowledge my struggle by sending me idealistic out-of-this-world poems, and I couldn’t feed my children with his poems.
“Baldur would never face facts. We argued constantly about this. His sister Rosalinde was brought up in Britain and America and is a complete Anglophile. Baldur himself also naturally likes the Anglo-Saxons because he is himself of American extraction, yet he burned his boats frequently and in most extraordinary ways.
“On one occasion in 1943 I was listening to a BBC broadcast to Germany and heard that he had made a particularly silly speech at a Vienna rally, full of hatred against the British. I telephoned him from Munich at once and said, ‘What the devil do you think you are doing and saying with the war at such a dangerous stage?’
“He became furious and, cursing me, said, warningly, ‘Keep your mouth shut, even for Frau von Schirach there is a concentration camp.’
“I know that my husband was the victim of his upbringing,” she says in extenuation, “and that at the time of his arrest and trial he really wanted to make amends. He has always said that German youth could not be blamed for Auschwitz and the barbarities of other concentration camps, but because my husband was an idealistic ostrich who could never face the truth about himself or others he cannot escape his share of the guilt.”
Today, Henriette von Schirach works under an assumed name as a saleswoman for French films distributed in Germany. In addition she is the assistant editor of a television magazine and helps to produce television films. Although her children, Angelica (nineteen), Klaus (eighteen), Robert (fourteen) and Richard (ten) are wards of court, she looks after them with the help of her brother.
Since Von Schirach entered Spandau he and his sister Rosalinde have in-
herited a large American family fortune, but he has categorically refused to assign any of his share to Henriette. His sister Rosalinde and his brotherin-law Hoffmann help with some of the expense of bringing up the Von Schirach children. Henriette recently raised thirty thousand marks by disposing of a Van Gogh.
Throughout our conversation Henriette von Schirach made no attempt to defend her own association with the march of Nazism. “I am not entitled to any sympathy,” she said. “I was responsible for my own mistakes and in the end I finished in the gutter crawling for a living, while Baldur, in Spandau, kept his head in the clouds at a safe distance from reality.”
FOR TWENTY-FOUR desperate days during the month of May 1945, a silver-haired sharp-featured woman was the First Lady of what was left of Hitler’s Reich. Frau Inge Doenitz, wife of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, has never forgotten the experience and she lives and waits for the time when she and her husband—the man with the shortest sentence and biggest hopes in Spandau—will assume, as she says, “his rightful place at the head of the state.”
Frau Doenitz has a three-room apartment near Hamburg. Dominating the few pictures in the living room is a naval artist’s impression, drawn in 1941, of her husband’s massive U-boat pens under construction at Laurient.
On the Saturday we met, Frau Doenitz was off duty from her work as a nursing sister at the Hamburg Rautenberg Hospital, declared by the German government some time ago to be a centre of neo-Fascist activity. She lives on her salary as a nurse plus a state pension granted to her as a naval “widow.”
Dachau Wasn’t Comfortable
She had exchanged her hospital uniform for a plain but elegant woolen dress. She is tall and thin and her hair is worn in a bun. She is disciplined from head to toe and has a command over herself to be expected from the daughter of a family of four generations of professional soldiers.
Both her sons were killed in action. Peter, early in the war, and Klaus, who was drowned in an E-boat action. Only her daughter Ursula, married to former U-boat commander Gunter Hessler, survives.
“At the Nuremberg Tribunal, my husband learned about many terrible things which he was not aware of before,” she said. “He knew nothing of concentration camps, and nor did 1, although admittedly, I had heard of Dachau and other such places, and that it wasn’t very comfortable to be in any of them.
“When 1 occasionally mentioned the question of concentration camps to my husband he would reply, ‘A lady in your position should not associate herself with rumors.’ ”
Doenitz was apparently much more informed on the subject than his wife was aware of. It is undeniable that not only had Doenitz made mention of the use of concentration-camp labor at Hitler’s naval conferences, but on one occasion had made a personal request to the Führer for the release of a prisoner whose specialized technical skill was required.
Frau Doenitz’ conversation switched suddenly from the uncomfortable past to more pleasant thoughts of the future.
“We might move in with my daughter-in-law,” she volunteered, and then, with a slight smile, “but the day may come when demands will be made on my husband. If Heuss, the present head of the German State, were to die, influential people might decide to ask my husband to take over. Knowing his sense of duty, which is not prompted by vanity, as some appear to think, he would accept.”
Frau Doenitz paused and the only sign of tension was the way she gripped the cigarette holder in her hand. “My husband has the right to hold the first position in the land for two reasons. Firstly, because he was responsible for saving two and a half million Germans who were able to escape from the Russians during the time he was Head of State and played for their safety by delaying the armistice. Secondly, because he was nominated in Hitler’s will as his successor.”
“Are you suggesting in all seriousness that your husband is entitled to inherit : a right from a regime that had no power j to confer it, is no longer in office, and ! wholly discredited?” 1 asked.
She rapped back coldly and precisely: “Hitler was made Chancellor
1 when Hindenburg was President. The Reichstag then voted him absolute j power for four years, during which time Hindenburg died, and Hitler, j using his rightful authority, combined the positions of President and Reichs Chancellor into that of Staatsoberhaupt or Führer.
“Hitler threw out the old constitution, and in its place established his i own, by which, among other things, he gave himself the right to appoint his successor. This right is now a German law.”
I replied that a law established by such a regime and in such a way could be disposed of without any difficulty. Frau Doenitz seemed about to say something, but then the cigarette holder was lowered, and she replied quietly: “Mind you, my husband will not try to insist on this right, but would always be ready to take the wheel if the people desired it.”
ON A BEDROOM WALL in a tumbledown house high above the ruins of Heidelberg Castle I saw a strange pencil drawing in a simple wooden j frame. The drawing, little more than i a miniature, depicts a lonely woman in a black shawl seated beneath two massive broken Grecian pillars, the ruins of some lost architect. Towering in the background are a range of mountains.
In the right-hand corner of the drawing are the initials A. S.—the initials of Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect and Minister of Production. The'drawing was released to his family by the Spandau authorities as a special privilege.
To Speer’s family it brought a message of deep significance. The woman in the drawing is Speer’s mother, “widowed” and in mourning for her lost son. She is surrounded by ruins - his ambitions and hopes. The mountains symbolize Speer’s dream of freedom.
I stood in the bedroom gazing at this drawing with Speer’s wife Margarete. Until May last year, when they moved into a brand-new apartment house in the town of Heidelberg itself, the Speer family, Frau Speer and her six children, lived for years in an overcrowded outhouse in the grounds of her father-inlaw’s estate.
In spite of her big family, Margarete Speer managed to look smart and presentable in a simple white pleated blouse, long-sleeved beige cardigan and plain grey skirt, and she had the figure to fill them. Her hair was cut short into a neat back roll.
There are four Speer boys and t.»o girls. Eighteen-year-old cello-playing Albert wants to be an architect like his father and grandfather. He is at present apprenticed to a carpenter. His father directs his son’s career in letters from Spandau. “I agree, Albert, to your taking carpentry lessons as part of your training as an architect on condition that later on you work for a time as a bricklayer. This is necessary because you cannot ever give orders on a site without command of the trades, otherwise you feel stupid, and a decent fellow would even feel a little bit of a fraud.”
Fritz, at fifteen, is the scientist of the family. Natural science, chemistry, physics and geometry are his specialty.
“As for you, Fritz,” writes his father
from Spandau, “when 1 was as young as you are now, I too was a little irresponsible, and disinclined to work at school. Sometimes I was badtempered, which I now know was due to the natural growing pains of a boy. I know all about those complexes which often plague a boy, but they disappear as you grow older. And, because I know all this, 1 would dearly like to help you now. I took to rowing and thereby got rid of all harmful tendencies. I suggest you do the same.” “Then there is the shy one, Margaret, whom you saw when you ar-
rived,” said Frau Speer, counting her brood to me. “Margaret is fourteen and Arnold—he is a year younger —comes next. As far as school is concerned, he is the black sheep of the family. Ernest, the youngest, is nine, then there’s my eldest, Hilde.
“My husband lives only for his children now, but we have never allowed any of them to visit him in Spandau. I am against it. They would get a wrong impression of a father of whom they knew very little before because he was away so much during the war.
“I don’t want to argue the rights and wrongs of my husband’s case. He was tried at Nuremberg because he used foreign slave labor, although 1 do say he was not the one who actually employed them. But don’t you think he has already paid a big enough price with eight years of his life?” asked his wife.
Then, abruptly, Margarete Speer dropped the subject. She knows her husband is one of the few Nazi war criminals who admit their mistakes and the wrongs they have committed against humanity.
“The early years of our marriage were great fun,” she reminisced. “As soon as the sun appeared, in March or April, off we would go with skis and rucksack, traveling through the Alps from one Alpine Union hut to another, keeping wherever possible to the heights and not going down into the valleys. I remember how cross Albert was when, despite his physique, he could not make the last few meters of a lofty peak. Albert liked'getting what he wanted.
“Driving was my husband’s greatest joy. We always had a two-seater sports car and I was the spare driver. Albert never lost this enthusiasm and when he became Minister of Production he even learned to drive a tank.
“Rowing, flying a plane, and rugby were his other favorite pastimes, but our beautiful carefree days were gone after a few years, sacrificed for his career.”
Once There Was A Swimming Pool
Margarete Speer changed the subject once more. It was about her daughter, seventeen-year-old Hilde, she wanted to talk. Last summer Hilde changed her home in Heidelberg for another in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. She was chosen by the American Board of Re-education of the U. S. Information Services in Germany as one of a number of pupils to spend twelve months at an American school learning the democratic way of life. The identity of her father was an official secret and she lived with a Dr. Richard Day, a children’s doctor and psychologist.
Hilde shares the Day family’s home life, attends the local school with Day’s three daughters, and is a regular speaker at international youth discussion groups. The only people in the locality aware of her background are Day and his wife.
Albert Speer was a rich man—his Berlin home had extensive gardens and a swimming pool. During his years as Hitler’s architect he invested a fortune in shares. Since he was sentenced he has inherited considerable wealth from his mother. From all this Frau Speer is allowed about a hundred and ten dollars a month.
I MET ERIKA RAEDER, second wife of the Grand Admiral who built Hitler’s navy and is condemned for life, at the Hanover airport and we drove off to her home in Lippstadt, Westphalia, a three hours’ journey along the autobahn. On the way I realized how Frau Raeder can hate. With every word, this tall pallid-faced woman in her mid-sixties, and still wearing mourning for her thirty-year-old son Hans, pours out unqualified bitterness. It was anathema to her when Hitler replaced her husband as G.-in-C. of Germany’s navy with the “new boy” Doenitz. Her country’s defeat was yet another blow, and, in 1946, she vanished from Berlin; with her husband she was flown to Moscow.
The Russians returned her husband to Germany to stand trial at Nuremberg, but for four years she herself remained a prisoner behind the Iron Curtain, her whereabouts a Soviet secret. In Minsk, and in the Birnau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps in Eastern Germany, she savored the dregs of misery and the heaped-up indignities.
When Grand Admiral Raeder was convicted as a war criminal, the Russians were requested by the Nuremberg Tribunal to allow the wife a special visit to her husband; but she never appeared.
“They fed me on caviar in Moscow but let me go hungry in Minsk,” she says. “In Sachsenhausen I had to peel seven hundred potatoes a day, was interrogated all the time, and finally released without explanation.”
She left Sachsenhausen, a former Nazi death prison, exactly four years to the day she and her husband were captured by Russian troops when their home near Berlin was overrun.
“On my release, my orders were to stay in the Soviet zone, not to speak to others about the Russians, and to live in the Potsdam district.” But at the first opportunity, wearing a pair of men’s shoes and carrying a small rucksack, she took a train into the American sector of Berlin.
“1 never belonged to the Nazi Party j and yet I Mas punished,” she added j bitterly.
Everything Erika Raeder said was colored with venom:
“The International Court of Nuremberg had no legal right of existence and no legal powers. The accused never had a chance to produce any evidence or witnesses for their defense who might have helped them.
“We Germans always did everything to save crews of ships torpedoed by U-boats. One U-boat towed a shipwrecked crew all the way across the Atlantic to the Spanish coast.” (She omitted to mention it was the crew of another U-boat sunk by us.)
“British inhumanity in the conduct of the war was shown in many ways, including the use of JJ-boat traps.” (Apparently we should have left them to destroy our shipping unmolested.)
When we reached her modern apartment house she spoke acidly of the conditions at Spandau and said she thought relatives should be granted free air travel to the prison.
And then, amid the Goebbels-style outpourings of this embittered woman came: “In Churchill’s book, The Gathering Storm, he admitted his intention to invade Norway was only forestalled by Germany. Yet the invasion of neutral Norway was a charge on which my husband was convicted at Nuremberg . . .”
“The reason why the British detest us, and my husband in particular, is because his brave little ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the tiny German navy made the British look silly and proved themselves better fighters. There is no doubt that the little German navy was much better than the great British navy.”
-Of all the members of the Spandau Club, Frau Raeder was the most talkative and its worst propagandist. Like Inge Doenitz, she receives a “widow’s” pension and is also allowed to draw a percentage of her husband’s considerable bank assets.
WINIFRED VON MACKENSEN, daughter of an ambassador and the wife of one, is the diplomatic brains of the Spandau Club. If the prisoners n>-e ever released before their time, they will most certainly owe their freedom to this forty-nine-year-old London-born woman. Since the death of her husband in 1949, her only interests are lier father, Baron von Neurath, her mother, and the remains of the family estate in Württemberg, where Queen Mary spent her girlhood years.
In spite of her crown of white hair, wavy and silken, Baroness Von Neurath’s skin is smooth and firm. In a billowing dress, all blue and white, and wearing a straw hat that shades her face from the sun, she is no less graceful than when, as she often did, she attended the garden parties at Buckingham Palace.
With the seventy-nine-year-old Baroness, we took tea in her private drawing-room, a room that belongs to the long-forgotten past. Everywhere, on the papered walls, on the old oak writing desk, on occasional tables, are photographs, miniatures and paintings of branches of the Von Neurath family tree.
The Baroness served, and I could not but think how strikingly she resembled lier girlhood friend, the late Queen Mary. Her conversation, in perfect English only occasionally halted by a difficult phrase which found easier voice in German, was tea-table conversation of bygone days in England; of parties and the activities of the various diplomatic corps in London; of the Von Neurath estate, but not a word of Spandau.
Only when we had finished and the Baroness, seated for a moment at her desk, picked up her husband’s last lecter from prison and began to read it deliberately, and firmly, did emotion intrude. Then, suddenly, as if remembering she was the wife of a diplomat, she recovered herself and finished what she was reading, carefully folded the lester into its original creases, and slipped it back into its envelope.
“It would be nice if he could die here with me,” she said quietly. She got up and I took my leave. As the door closed behind us, Frau von Mackensen said, “We diplomats always learn to control our emotions.”
Hanging Would Be Better
As we started to descend the staircase the old world of Baron von Neurath, Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, butted in with the pointed horns of a stag mounted on wood, and inscribed, “Shot, November 1940, in Moravia”—Moravia, where thousands of men and women were also shot or died in concentration camps.
“It would have been better for my father,” Frau von Mackensen said, “to have been hanged at Nuremberg than to live as he does in Spandau. I am his daughter, I love him and I can say that knowing it to be true.
“I make no defense for him. He made a mistake and has been tried and found guilty and one doesn’t argue about it,” she says. “But he is so old and sick, that even had he once been dangerous, he can no longer do any harm. If he were allowed to return here, to his home, he could be placed under some form of restraint.
“His only wish is to be able to die in his home and to be near the wife to whom he has been married for fifty-two years. My father was never
a member of any party and that is officially admitted. He is a German.”
The Von Neuraths are another Spandau family to believe in telepathy. Often the Baroness will tell her daughter she knows the Baron had a bad heart attack during the night, and it is always confirmed in the next letter from him. And Frau von Mackensen walking in the garden sometimes, feels her father to be near. “A few days later he writes and mentions a particular tree I was looking at that day.”
Although both Von Neurath and his wife were always wealthy—her fortune, like Von Schirach’s, came from American family sources—the family’s main cash income is Winifred von Mackensen’s pension as the widow of an ambassador. In 1951, however, a “lost will” was found in the family archives that enabled Frau von Mackensen to prove her mother’s right to regain half of the Von Neurath estate. Hitler once made Von Neurath an outright gift of about a hundred thousand dollars but this money still lies in a Württemberg bank.
TO TELL THE STORY of Luise Funk, the final member of the Spandau Club, let us travel with her on her monthly pilgrimage to visit her husband. From her guest house retreat in Bavaria she usually flies to Berlin, sometimes via Munich and sometimes via Dusseldorf. “I don’t want the Russians to be certain of the route each time,” explains Frau Funk. “They don’t like the Funks and they may take it into their heads to attack my plane.”
At Templehof Aerodrome, Berlin, a waiting car takes her to the Hotel West-Pension, Kurfurstendam, in the British sector. This hotel, favorite Berlin home of Unity Mitford in the days when she was smitten by Hitler, is also popular with Spandau wives whenever they visit their husbands.
As she opened the door of her bedroom, Luise Funk looked for the large bunch of flowers she knew would be on the dressing table. There is always a bouquet of pink carnations awaiting her there, on the express orders of her husband and provided by Hans Rechenberg, a former colleague of Funk’s in the Economics Ministry.
Frau Funk immediately crosses to the telephone beside her bed and asks for a number, the secret number of Spandau Prison. Within a few seconds there is a click at the other end of the line and she announces herself, adding, “I am now in Berlin.”
“Ring again later,” is the answer.
In another three hours’ time Luise Funk makes the second call, and she is told, “At eleven o’clock tomorrow morning.” It is in this way that a visit to the prison is finally fixed. The routine is always the same.
It is the practice not to allow more than two of the prisoners to receive visits on the same day. On the eve of a visiting day all is excitement and this mood of expectancy and tension communicates itself to the other prisoners as well. When the medical officer sees them for their daily examination he can “diagnose” a pending visit without any difficulty. Von Schirach develops a migraine headache and desires a strong sedative; old Von Neurath just asks for “something that will make me sleep a little better tonight,” and the same goes for Speer and Funk. Only Doenitz and Raeder, steeped in service discipline, are able, almost invariably, to dispense with sedatives. Hess never sees any visitors.
At 10.30 on the morning of her visit, Luise Funk and Hans Rechenberg left their hotel in a hired car, which twentyfive minutes later drew up outside Spandau. Frau Funk got out and walked alone along a stone pathway to the main entrance of the prison and past the wooden signs, “No Entrance” and “Warning Danger—Do not approach this fence. Guards have orders to shoot. By Order.” She reached the massive iron-studded gate and knocked. Immediately a guard peered through a small window and asked:
“Are you Frau Funk?”
She replied that she was and then a small door opened in the gate and she stepped through. Waiting for her on the inside was round-faced paunchy Monsieur Darbois, the French director of the prison, who escorted lier to the guardroom, where she began to fill in the visitors’ hook. While Frau Funk was thus engaged the contents of her large black handbag were emptied onto a desk for examination. The bag itself also came under, observation and so, too, did the coat which the visitor had brought with lier. When the guards were satisfied the possessions were placed in a cupboard until the visit was over.
In the company of Darbois and an armed guard Luise Funk stepped out of the room and made her way up a flieht of stairs to the conference room
where, after a brief delay, she was taken into the visitors’ room next door. Overshadowing everything and splitting the room into two was the high partition of single close-wire mesh. This mesh used to be double until it was decided to modify the harrier to improve the view on each side and thus give prisoner and visitor a better look at each other.
Frau Funk sat down on a wooden stool in front of a long table facing the wire partition. The stool had been placed where it was so that a powerful spotlight could he directed on the face of the visitor to enable officials to watch every expression and signal. Close to her left sat Darbois, while on her right was the Russian director. There were two stenographers, one each side of the wire, ready to take down a full note of the conversation. Leaning against the wall behind her were the British and American directors.
Uproar In The Visitors’ Room
As Frau Funk waited, the Russian stenographer smiled suddenly and said in easy German, “ Noch nicht fertig mit Sontagskleide” (“He’s not yet ready with his Sunday clothes”).
A few moments later the room’s second door on the other side of the wire opened, and balding little Walther Funk shuffled nervously in ahead of a guard to seat himself on a stool opposite his wife. Both of them placed their hands on the table before them and the visit began.
The prisoner opened the conversation as he always does with, “Now I am happy again because I can see you,” and then enquired if his wife had had a good trip. As a former journalist Funk once was able to turn a good phrase, but he finds it extremely difficult to talk easily in the visiting room. Politics, prison routine and world events are subjects that must not be mentioned, and so he chatters mainly about his illnesses and his wife’s clothes. On this occasion he saw that she was wearing a new outfit.
“Stand up so that 1 can see your new suit,” he said. She did so and then he commanded, “Turn round and let me see how it looks from the back.” Frau Funk obliged.
“Did you buy it at the fashion salon where you used to shop?” He was pleased when his wife nodded, knowing it to be a very expensive place.
Luise Funk, never at a loss for conversation, talked about their friends, the farm tenants, and anything and everything she could think of. Then, driven by some impulse, she suddenly said, “I wish 1 could touch you.”
As if moved by the same thought both tried to push their little fingers through the mesh. At once the Russian director sprang from his stool and began to shout and storm at this breach of the regulations. Man and wife shrank back in terror at this outburst, but t he other directors intervened on their behalf and the conversation began again. Funk started to talk about his operation, nervously twisting a handkerchief throughout the interview, as always.
“Don’t put that on record,” the Russian director ordered the stenographers.
“Are they st ill shining lights in your eyes?” enquired Frau Funk.
As the prisoner nodded and said, “I have to cover my eyes with three handkerchiefs,” the Russian director again interrupted angrily.
“Such talk is forbidden here! Not here! Not here!”
This reprimand galvanized Funk, usually as timid as a rabbit, into an outburst of uncontrollable fury. Yelling and cursing he jumped up from his seat. “Is it a crime to speak? Is it
a crime?” he shouted at the top of his voice, raging and cuising at everyone.
His wife, terrified at the possible consequence of such behavior, suddenly sagged as if about to collapse, and the British and American directors, aware of her weak heart, hurried forward to prevent her from falling. She was carried out of the room, propped up on a sofa in the adjoining room and given a drink of water. Not until she had rested and was judged to have recovered from the slight heart attack was she allowed to return and assured that the time lost by the incident would not be counted.
Walther Funk was led in once more. Contrite, and wringing his hands, he apologized to his wife and explained, “It is because my nerves are frayed by the amount of drugs 1 have to take.”
The talk went on until the French director glanced at his watch, rapped on the table, called out, “Noch drei Minuten”—only three minutes to go. When the time signal was at last given, man and wife stood up, threw each other a kiss and then Luist: Funk walked out of the room and (he halfhour visit was over.
At the first opportunity the six who receive visitors talk excitedly together, but at night comes the reaction, often fearful. Then they need opiates more than ever, something powerful enough to dull frayed nerves and erase the memory of a lost world that once knew their ambitions—and their cruelty to humanity.
Walther Funk remembers the indictments and verdicts of Nuremberg in his own special way, for, whenever his wife leaves the main gate of Spandau after a visit, she is presented by the faithful Rechenberg with a second bunch of carnations from her husband. They are dark red—in memory of a future destroyed by the past. ★