Emma Venables

Ice Queen? Emotional Wreck? Perpetrator? Victim?
Magda Goebbels in Fiction
26 March @ 6.00pm


‘We have only one goal left: loyalty to the Führer unto death, and that we may end our lives with him, is a blessing from fate that we would never have dared to expect.’ [1]
– Magda Goebbels in a letter to her eldest son, Harald Quandt, April 1945.

Magda Goebbels, wife of Nazi Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, is primarily remembered for killing her six children as Berlin fell to the Russians in 1945. In recent years, several novels about, or at least including, Magda Goebbels have been published. How do fiction writers deal with the moral complexities associated with representing one of the Third Reich’s most notorious figures? In particular, how do writers represent the woman who was lauded as the ideal German wife and mother in Nazi propaganda and, therefore, can be seen as an unreconstructed perpetrator unlike other women involved with the Nazi elite, such as Eva Braun (Hitler’s wife) and Traudl Junge (Hitler’s secretary)?

Most representations of Magda Goebbels sensationalize an already dramatic history, dabbling in rumours and hearsay. Others shy away from presenting Magda’s point of view, preferring to narrate from the perspective of Magda’s eldest daughter, Helga, whose status as a victim of the Third Reich cannot be denied, which coyly allows the writer to explore Magda as someone who was human, loved by her children and an entire nation. Drawing on my own practice, and published works by authors Jane Thynne, Emma Craigie, Tracey S. Rosenberg, and Meike Vierzogel, I will examine the ethical minefield involved in writing fiction about a figure such as Magda Goebbels.

Brief Bio
Emma Venables, originally from Staffordshire, studied for her BA and MA at Bangor University in North Wales, before starting her Creative Writing PhD at Royal Holloway. Her PhD examines fictional representations of women in Nazi Germany and the ways in which they aid/impede our understanding of the differing, and somewhat contradictory, roles of women under Nazi rule. She is currently writing a novel.

[1] Quote taken from: Klabunde, Anja, Magda Goebbels, trans. by Shaun Whiteside (London: Little, Brown, 2001), p.322.



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