A German Life

What the Story of Goebbels’ Secretary Can Teach Us Today

»We didn't know,« says Brunhilde Pomsel, former secretary to Nazi minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Brunhilde Pomsel worked for one of the greatest criminals in history. From 1942 to 1945, she was a stenographer in Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda. In the documentary film 'A German Life', widely acclaimed at film festivals in Munich, Jerusalem and San Francisco in autumn 2016, she gives us an insight into the banality of evil. Pomsel was an apolitical hanger-on, and she freely acknowledges this. Her main priorities were her job, her sense of duty and her desire to belong. Not until the war was over did she realise the full extent of the atrocities that had been committed.
Her life story and her compelling honesty confront us with the question – so urgently relevant in today’s world – of our own personal responsibility for political events and the consequences of resurgent nationalism and populism. Somewhere down the line, will we be the ones saying, like Brunhilde Pomsel, »We didn’t want to know«?

At a time when rightist populism is on the rise globally, this account as book and film, by one of the last living eyewitnesses to the inner workings of the Nazi regime, serves as a reminder that the threat of fascism is ever-present.

Reviews

»Not only one of the most important contributions to analyses of the Holocaust, but in light of today's political situation, it is a long overdue, timeless warning to today's generation and those yet to come.«

»Frighteningly topical in asking for the responsibility of the individual on political current events.«

»Political scientist Thore D. Hansen puts Pomsel's narration into a historical context and shows in a passionate plea for political engagement in a democracy where careerism, an unreflecting sense of duty and political lack of interest can lead us. A warning in particular with regard to Syria, Turkey and Trump's USA where we are seeing similar opportunistic blindness happening again.«

»The coexistence of the seemingly irreconcilable is the most eerie of it all. And we all know what that is like.«


Thore D. Hansen

Thore D. Hansen, born in 1969, is a political journalist and communications consultant. A sought-after media expert for international politics and secret service he has decided to fully concentrate on exploring unsolved aspects of contemporary history - to then turn them into fiction.

Brunhilde Pomsel

Brunhilde Pomsel (1911 - 2017) was a former secretary to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of the Nazi power apparatus. The only daughter among four children of strict Prussian parents, she became a stenographer for a Jewish lawyer and a typist for a right-wing nationalist. In 1933, she started working in the news department of the state radio station in Berlin. In 1942 she was transferred to the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, where she worked as Goebbels' secretary until the end of the war. After the fall of Berlin in 1945, she was imprisoned by the Russians until 1950. She returned to broadcasting, working for national broadcasters in West Germany until reaching retirement. She never married or had children and spent most of her life after World War II living in relative obscurity until a German newspaper published an interview with her in 2011. The feature prompted a great deal of interest in one of the last surviving members of the Nazi leadership's inner circle, eventually leading to the production of the documentary on her life.