Mistress of Life and Death
Susan J. Eischeid
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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte
A masterful exploration of one of the Nazi regime’s darkest and most intriguing figures—and one of the few female perpetrators of the Holocaust—this vivid and thoughtful biography, with never-before-published details and photography, will appeal to readers of The Lilac Girls and history buffs alike.
By the time of her execution at thirty-six, Maria Mandl had achieved the highest rank possible for a woman in the Third Reich. As Head Overseer of the women’s camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she was personally responsible for the murders of thousands, and for the torture and suffering of countless more.
In this riveting biography, Susan J. Eischeid explores how Maria Mandl, regarded locally as “a nice girl from a good family,” came to embody the very worst of humanity. Born in 1912 in the scenic Austrian village of Münzkirchen, Maria enjoyed a happy childhood with loving parents—who later watched in anguish as their grown daughter rose through the Nazi system.
Mandl’s life mirrors the period in which she lived: turbulent, violent, and suffused with paradoxes. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, she founded the notable women’s orchestra and “adopted” several children from the transports—only to lead them to the gas chambers when her interest waned. After the war, Maria was arrested for crimes against humanity. Following a public trial attended by the international press, she was hanged in 1948.
For two decades, Eischeid has excavated the details of Mandl’s life story, drawing on archival testimonies, speaking to dozens of witnesses, and spending time with Mandl’s community of friends and neighbors who shared their memories as well as those handed down in their families. The result is a chilling and complex exploration of how easily an ordinary citizen chose the path of evil in a climate of hate and fear.
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