The Goebbels children: repressed souls

To Helga, Hilde, Helmut, Holde, Hedda, Heide, and all the innocent victims of war…

Written interview with the mysterious and passionate Frida

Today, Monday July 6th 2020, let’s have a trip to the past, and a landing into a dark, complex, and staged German family.

Sunday, April 29

Extract of the Codicil to Adolf Hitler’s testament added by Joseph Goebbels, regarding his children, on April 29, 1945 at 5:30.

“…Along with my wife and in the name of my children, who are too young to be able to declare themselves, but who if they had the age enough would join us in our decision without reservations, I express my irrevocable resolution of not abandoning the Reich’s capital even if it falls, and to end with the Führer a life which personally has no value if I can’t put it to the Fuhrer’s service and beside him.”

-Erna Flegel: “You have to understand that we were living outside normal reality. I wanted her to at least take one or two children out of Berlin. But Frau Goebbels told me: ‘The children belong to me. Everything belongs to me.'” 

On May 1st 1945, the lives of six beautiful and innocent siblings were taken away by their parents in a time of horror for the world. Helga Susanne was twelve, Hildegard Traudel was eleven, Helmut Christian was nine, Holdine Kathrin was eight, Hedwig Johanna was six, and Heidrun Elisabeth was four. These children were denied the right to live and have a voice against their will, but they will never be forgotten. Reading this today makes you one more person aware of these children’s fate, and the awareness of one is every time a little more recognition and dignity added to the floating memory of these children, and all the innovent victims of war. 

World War II is the period I am the most fascinated and horrified by. It is impossible for me to imagine that during an era I admire for its artistic achievements, people would be willing to sacrifice innocent souls at another level. A while ago, I had vaguely heard of the poisoning of the Goebbels children, but it is circa early 2020 that I discovered that a generous unknown soul on the Internet had decided to dedicate her time and work to their memory. 

Frida’s three-part website and YouTube channel  

Thank you very much for accepting the interview Frida! It is going to be a pleasure to know more about you! To begin with, how old are you, and what are your professional and personal interests in life? 

Thank you for interviewing me. It is the first time someone contacts me for this, and I am very happy to talk about my website and my research in Goebbels’ children. I’m 26 years old. I’m a teacher and I have always been interested in childhood, history and Victorian royalty. I like reading romantic novels and watching love films with a happy ending. 

When, why, and how did that interest for the Goebbels children start? 

I remember perfectly well the first time I ever heard of Goebbels children. I was 15 years old and my history teacher was talking about WWII. She mentioned Hitler’s propaganda minister and how his wife poisoned their “very blonde and very beautiful” children. After hearing that, I wrote down Goebbels’ surname on my agenda, but as I misspelled it, I couldn’t find anything about it on the internet. Some time later, I found my old agenda and when I read Goebbels surname I had wrongly written years before, I tried searching on the internet again and I finally found what I wanted. This was the first picture I ever saw of them…

I instantly fell in love with the kids and I wanted to know more about them. I found their Wikipedia webpage, but I felt it was not enough. I needed to know more and see more pictures of them.

World War II is a fascinating period. There were countless tragedies, and so many children who have had such tragic destinies. What drove you to honor the Goebbels children in particular more than any other children?

I don’t think there is one particular reason, but many of them. Whether we like it or not, these children were victims of World War II too. It is true they had a privileged life and didn’t suffer a long death compared to kids who died in concentration camps. However, while most children who perished in War or under Nazism have associations, foundations, museums, websites, memorials and monuments that remember them, Goebbels’ children have absolutely nothing. They are seen as outcast. Their parents and the regime they represented were extremely evil, but these kids were victims of it, manipulated during their whole life and used as a propaganda tool. I thought someone should do them some justice, as apparently no one had done it before. 

I know that you wish to remain anonymous, however, why do you think people around you wouldn’t be able to understand that you can have an interest in the Goebbels children from a historical perspective, especially since they were simply kids? What scared you when you started documenting their lives?

Most people can’t differentiate the fine line between history and politics. Nazism is such a cruel and horrific period in human history, and these kids represented its ideals for some time… Moreover, I work as a teacher and I know none of my relatives or workmates would understand this interest of mine without judging me. 

I love the fact that you took the time to read as many books as you could to make the content of your website as accurate as possible, and that you are very serious about your work. Is there a book you have enjoyed reading in particular, and if so, why?

There are 3 books I really enjoyed for very different reasons.

1. Die Kinder des Reichsministers: Erinnerungen einer Erzieherin an die Familie Goebbels – 1943 bis 1945. This book is such a treasure! It is based on the memories of Goebbels’ 3 eldest children’s nanny’s memories. It was the first book I ever bought on this subject and even I don’t understand German at all and I haven’t read it fully, it changed me. It includes short handwritten letters by Goebbels children and personal photographs from their nanny’s collection never seen elsewhere. Moreover, the anecdotes and the descriptions that are included are so loving and touching! This book is a really intimate glimpse into their last years and their private life.

2. Joseph Goebbels diaries. No matter the year, Goebbels diaries are a very interesting and detailed source to follow his children’s evolution and growth. However, I must admit his diaries give me mixed feelings, as it is very hard to read how he passes from sweet words about his kids to write about terrible events with inhuman coldness. 

3. Magda Goebbels: The First Lady of the Third Reich by Hans-Otto Meissner. This book was really eye opening for me and I think any person willing to know Magda should read. Magda Goebbels has always been a very complex and contradictory person for me. Before reading the book, I didn’t like her at all. However, after reading it, my opinion on her changed. I would never justify what she did during her life, but I think she was such a lost and empty young woman with no reason to live. When she found Nazism, she embraced the cause and turned it into the centre of her life. She was really dependent on the men around her during her life: stepfather, husbands, Hitler… Moreover, the author had personal contact with people who were close to Goebbels family and the information included is interesting and first-hand.

What was your initial goal when you discovered the Goebbels children? What did you want to achieve? 

My initial goal was to know more about them. At first, I didn’t want to achieve anything. In fact, at the very beginning, I created the website just for me and it was private. I just wanted to have a place where I could keep safe all the information and pictures I was progressively finding.

Why did you decide to create specifically a three-part website, and a YouTube channel, and not, for example, a book, or a Facebook page? 

At the beginning, I created the website for me and I chose that format because I found it the most appropriate to have their biographies and albums well organised. At first, it was a two-part-website: one for the biographies and the 1945 part, and the other one for the albums. However, as I kept researching more and more, I didn’t have enough space and I needed to expand it. At the same time, I started finding documentaries and footage depicting the children, and I thought Youtube would be a good option to keep all those clips saved, to make the website more interactive and to keep track of the websites’ updates. I don’t find the book format suitable because I keep finding more and more new information and pictures regarding the kids and I want the format to be constantly renewed and updated. And I don’t like the facebook/instagram/vk formats because I find them too informal.

To continue on that note, I have noticed on your website that you had fixed some of the photographs on which Hitler appears to cut him off. Just like you, I do not relate to politics in any way, and I feel horrified every time I read about what his dictatorship has done to the world, but I am passionate about History, with the best and the worst. Why would you cut Hitler off historical photographs, and not the Goebbels couple for example? If we’re going about it this way, they were just as responsible as Hitler for that sinister period.

It’s a personal choice. I find Hitler’s figure extremely creepy and monstrous. He was the face of Nazism and holocaust and I just can’t stand seeing his face together with Goebbels’ children. 

The photographs and movie clips you have been collecting depict these children in such an innocent and happy way! That story is so incredibly sad! I agree with you on the fact that they were war victims, and should be remembered as such. You have also created a beautiful and touching video yourself to honor them in which one could feel the uniqueness of each child! Is there one or more of them you feel more attached to, and if so, why?

I feel attached to all of them for different reasons. I think they were all special and unique on their own way, and they were very different from each other. I feel attached to Helga because, according to all testimonies, she was very clever and brave for her age. An the fact that she seemed to know what was happening during her last days and that she fought for her life against her killer just at the age of 12, makes me admire her with all my heart. I have always felt sorry for Hilde. I think Helga always overshadowed her. According to all accounts, Hilde was very good-natured, sweet and shy. I think adults always chose Helga over her and Hilde accepted it with resignation. Regarding Helmut, the fact that while being the only boy and his father’s hope, he was sensitive, girlish and a dreamer, just makes me feel deeply touched by how misunderstood and understated he was. I have always found Holde the most beautiful of the children. And I think that, if she had been given the chance to live, she would have been a great beauty. Moreover, I have always felt sorry for everything that has been written about her regarding her siblings’ rejection. While Helga and Hilde had each other and Hedda and Heide were very close, Holde was a bit out of place. Hedda might be the child I feel less attached to, although she seems to have been very creative amusing and such a character. And Heide, with her doll-like look and her mischievous smile, I just find extremely cute.

You have done a very good and exhaustive work by collecting clips from documentaries as well, and many people have actually watched them and commented on them, and continue to do so when you post things daily on the community section of your YouTube channel! I was surprised to see that many people still care about History like that nowadays, and the Internet, for that matter, is just like a huge free library of the world! It is amazing that some people like you, and people from all over the world, can reunite around a particular subject like that, and use the Internet as a tool for such interesting documentation! Most comments I have read so far come from people who feel much sadness for these children, while congratulating you on your work as well. Have you received any pejorative or very specific comments that you would like to talk about? Have you lived any particular experiences that you would like to share?

Regarding the first question, yes, I have received comments insulting or offending me, but I don’t care at all. I simply don’t pay attention to them. The comments I find most offensive are the ones that insult the kids or laugh at their death, and the ones that praise Hitler or Nazism. These ones I directly delete. One of the best experiences I lived in YouTube was some years ago, when a Russian user borrowed from the German archives a 25 minute film depicting Goebbels children during summer 1943/1944 and privately shared it with me. I cried while watching it. However, she asked me not to share it for copyright reasons so I can’t make it public. But that action from that person I had never met really made a difference for me.

To end this interview, what are your plans for the future with the work you have done Frida, and what would you like people to remember about you, your work, and of course, the Goebbels children? 

I have been thinking about this question for a long time, and I don’t know what to answer. I’m going to keep working with my website and my channel as I have been doing up to now. I would like Youtube not to delete my videos and I would like my website to be a source to which people turn when they want to know more about these children and their story. I want people to remember them as individuals and as victims, not as Goebbels’ descendants or as a symbol of Nazism. 

Thank you Frida!

Despite its bad reputation for certain things, the Internet today may be the only place where one can freely and constantly add the virtual remains of those one will never talk about again in real life, while reaching the entire world at the same time!

I believe in fate, except for when I write.

Catch you next week for another story!


Author / Interviewer / Collage: Margaux Soumoy