The Sad Story of Hitler's Favorite Children

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children

By Khalid Elhassan

As a general proposition, loyalty is a morally commendable trait. Unless, of course, it is loyalty to an evil person and cause. Few examples highlight that exception to the rule than the loyalty exhibited by Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda to Adolf Hitler and the tenets of his regime. The Nazi propaganda minister and his spouse were active enablers of and avid participants in the horrors of the Third Reich. When it all came crashing down in ignominious defeat, with the Red Army storming into Berlin, they chose to follow their beloved Fuhrer into death by committing suicide. Worse, they opted to take their offspring with them, and before killing themselves, they murdered their six children, ranging in age from four to twelve.

Composite photo of Joseph and Magda Goebbels with their children, from left to right, front row, Helmut, Hedwig, Heidrun, Holdine, back row, Hiledegard, Harald Quandt, Helga. Bundesarchiv Bild

The Proud Parents

Despite his diminutive size and pronounced limp from a clubfoot – which he attributed to a WWI injury despite his never having seen action in that conflict – Joseph Goebbels was somewhat of a babe magnet. What he lacked in physical assets, he more than made up for with a quick wit, sense of humor, and an effortless ability to charm. Unlike most Nazi bigwigs, who were often hamfisted, hate-mongering buffoons, of average intellect and reliant more on brawn than brains, Goebbels was actually an intellectual, who understood nuance and finesse.

Goebbels’ natural talents would probably have taken him far as a Madison Avenue ad executive. Unfortunately, he came of age in the wrong country and era. Goebbels attained young manhood in a bitter Germany, dealing with the physical, economic, and psychological aftermath of defeat in WWI, and with wide swaths of its population casting about for culprits to blame for the disaster. He fell under the spell of an Austrian rabble-rouser who pinned the defeat squarely upon Jews, democrats, liberals, and other leftists. Joining the Nazi party, Goebbels swiftly rose in its ranks, and attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler, whose devoted acolyte he soon became.

In 1930, Goebbels was the chief Nazi in Berlin, tasked with growing the party in the German capital and throughout Prussia, when Magda Quandt joined his staff. In 1921, she had married a businessman, Gunther Quandt, with whom she had a son, Harald, before the couple divorced in 1929. The following year, Magda joined the Nazi party as a volunteer, and after a stint at her local branch, she was moved to party headquarters in Berlin. There, she was tasked with overseeing Joseph Goebbels private papers. It did not take long before the smooth talking Goebbels made his move, and by early 1931, he and Magda had started a relationship. They were married on December 19th of that year, with Hitler acting as best man.

Ten year old Harald Quandt at his mother’s wedding to Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler, who acted as best man and witness, behind him in a hat. Wikimedia

Magda’s son from her previous marriage, Harald Quandt, was quickly won over by his new stepfather, and formed a strong attachment to Joseph Goebbels. When the Nazis took power in 1933, Goebbels used his influence as a Reich minister to lean on Harald’s father, to modify the terms of his 1929 divorce settlement with Magda. Gunther Quandt agreed to free his ex wife from her obligation to surrender custody of Harald if she ever remarried, and the kid ended up moving in permanently with his mother and stepfather.

As to Magda and Joseph, it was not long before the duo got started on producing a biological brood of their own. Their eldest, Helga, was born in September of 1932. Next came Hildegard, in April of 1934. She in turn was followed by Helmut, Magda and Joseph Goebbels’ only son, in October of 1935. He was followed by Holdine, in February of 1937. Next came Hedwig, in May of 1938, and finally, Heidrun arrived in October of 1940.