Childhood & Early Life
Magda was born on November 11, 1901, in Berlin, Germany, to Auguste Behrend and Oskar Ritschel. She was born out of wedlock. She was initially named Johanna Maria Magdalena Behrendt and later came to be known as Magda Goebbels.
Magda’s mother, Auguste, was a housemaid, and her father, Oskar, was a building contractor. The couple married after Magda’s birth but divorced by 1904. Magda was only 3 years old when her parents got divorced.
At the age of 5, Magda was sent to Brussels, Belgium, where she attended the ‘Ursuline Convent.’
Soon, her mother got married to a Jewish businessman named Richard Friedlander. The couple then moved to Brussels in 1908.
Magda was adopted by her stepfather, and the family continued to live together in Brussels till the outbreak of the First World War.
Due to the German invasion of Belgium in the First World War, the Germans living in Belgium, fearing the wrath of the Belgian people, were compelled to move out of the country. Magda’s family was forced to leave Brussels, too. Thus, they moved back to Berlin.
After moving to Berlin, Magda attended the ‘Kolmorgen Lycée High School.’ In 1919, she enrolled at the ‘Holzhausen Ladies’ College.’
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First Marriage & Pre-Nazi Life
Magda met a wealthy industrialist named Günther Quandt while they were on a train in 1920. She was charmed by the rich, old businessman. Thus, despite the large age gap, they got married on January 4, 1921.
Their marriage produced a son, Harald Quandt, in November 1921.
A young and free woman who wanted to enjoy life, Magda started to feel stifled in her married life. Quandt was primarily focused on his business and gave very little time to Magda. Thus, Magda’s life revolved around her home and taking care of her six children: their son, Harald; two children from Quandt’s previous marriage; and three children from a friend who had died.
Magda started to despise her marriage and longed for an independent life. She wished for a life she could enjoy as a free woman without any responsibility.
She ended up having an affair with a young Jewish student named Victor Chaim Arlosoroff. When Quandt discovered this clandestine relationship, he got furious and separated from Magda. The couple divorced in 1929.
Becoming the First Lady of the Third Reich
After her divorce from Quandt, Magda received a generous alimony. Thus, she did not have to worry about her finances and could lead a lavish lifestyle.
Magda was enjoying her new life of parties, balls, and the company of charming men. Soon, she attended a ‘Nazi’ meeting in Berlin. She was captivated by the charismatic speaker Joseph Goebbels, who was the party leader in Berlin. That day changed her life forever.
Magda joined the ‘Nazi Party’ in 1930, beginning as a volunteer. She later worked as a secretary to the deputy of Joseph. Shortly after this, she was moved to work for Joseph.
Joseph was a senior ‘Nazi’ member and a close aide of Hitler. He had the skill to appeal to the masses with his aggressive, provocative, and gripping speeches.
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Magda found Joseph extremely attractive and charming, and the duo started dating shortly. She got married to Joseph on December 19, 1931, with Hitler as a witness, thus becoming Magda Goebbels.
Joseph became the minister of propaganda under the ‘Nazi’ regime. A close confidant of Hitler, he was one of the most powerful men in Germany at the time. Since Hitler was intent on remaining unmarried, Magda, as Joseph’s wife, came to be known as the First Lady of The Third Reich.
As the First Lady of the Third Reich, Magda was an unofficial representative of the ‘Nazi Party.’ She proactively participated in the party functions and quickly became the most prominent lady of the party. She received letters from women across the country about domestic issues, family life, and personal problems. Magda insinuated herself into the clique of Hitler, and the Goebbels’ house became the safe haven for top ‘Nazi’ officials.
Magda and Joseph had six children: Helga, Hildegard, Helmut, Holdine, Hedwig, and Heidrun. The Goebbels family was very close to Hitler, who was often seen visiting their home and playing with the children. Hitler not only became extremely fond of Magda but he also treated her children with love and care.
The Goebbels family was projected to the countrymen as an ideal German family. Joseph was shown as a hardworking and patriotic nationalist, a loving husband, and a caring father, and Magda was projected as the epitome of an ideal housewife, always taking care of the family with a smile on her face. However, this was all part of the propaganda the ‘Nazis’ wanted to spread, and behind this visage, the story was completely different.
Joseph was a pathological womanizer, and with art, culture, and media under his ministry, he had developed a certain fondness for the young actors of his time. Meanwhile, Magda, too, had a series of extramarital affairs, one involving the deputy of Joseph. The pain of this relationship reached a saturation point when Magda caught Joseph with his lover in her own bed. She was so devastated that she decided to end the relationship and went to Hitler to file for divorce. Hitler could not have let this happen, as it would have destroyed the image of the party. Thus, he advised Joseph to end his affair. Though Joseph’s lover was sent out of Germany, there was no change in his old habits. The couple went on to live a life of pretense, flaunting their “happy” life to the world. However, they were depressed and pathetic in reality.
Joseph, along with other ‘Nazis,’ committed many atrocities, and Magda had also become part of this dark, murderous regime and its crimes against humanity. Millions of Jews were tortured, humiliated, and killed in specially designed centers called concentration camps. Magda’s Jewish stepfather, who had raised her, was also sent to one such concentration camp. The Goebbels did not do anything to help him, and the poor man died a horrific death.
When the Second World War broke out, Magda played an important role back home. She spent her time helping at hospitals, consoling widows, and taking care of orphans. However, by 1945, it had become clear that nothing would save the ‘Nazis’ and that they would have to pay for the ‘Holocaust,’ the most horrifying event the world had ever seen.
Berlin, the proud capital of the Reich, was in ruins, and the German forces were retreating. Germany had lost the war, the ‘Allied’ forces were closing in on Berlin, and the city was about to fall completely. The Goebbels family, along with Hitler and other top ‘Nazi’ officials, went into hiding in the ‘Führerbunker.’ On April 30, 1945, with death and humiliation knocking on his door, Hitler shot himself. The following day, it was the Goebbels’ turn.
On May 1, 1945, Magda dressed her six children in white, gave them poison, and put them to sleep. Once the children were dead, she came out of the room and wrote a farewell letter to Harald, her son from her first marriage.
In the mail, she mentioned how she had been holed up in the ‘Führerbunker’ for 6 days for the sake of saving the lives of her and her family. She also mentioned that she was taking the children with her because the world after the Führer was not going to be worth living in. She ended by stating that she had just one goal left: “loyalty to the Führer even in death.”
In the evening of May 1, 1945, Magda and Joseph Goebbels, the first couple of the Third Reich, committed suicide in the garden of the ‘Chancellery.’ Their bodies were burnt by ‘SS’ soldiers.
Their remains were discovered by the ‘Soviet Army’ on May 2, 1945. The couple’s corpses were unrecognizable, and the children were found lying dead on their bed.