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Novel set in Germany (a destructive Mother/Daughter relationship)

1st February 2014

Magda: Novel set in Germany.

“Magda is a portrayal of a destructive  mother-daughter relationship over three generations’ Meike Ziervogel.

Many of us will be familiar with Magda Goebbels’ story through history and through films such as Downfall (Untergang), and thus for many readers her destructive Lebensanschauung (life view) will be the stuff of terrifying legend.

1907773401.01.ZTZZZZZZMeike Ziervogel, in this novella, has combined fact and fiction to make a compelling story, evocatively set in Germany. Much of it takes place in the last few days of World War II, when the family was confined to Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin. The story however opens as the family is on the point of leaving their villa on the Schwanenwerder island, in the Havel River, a tributary of the Elbe River, where they have been living during the high times of Nazi rule.

Early on we meet Magda’s children Helga, Helmut, Holde, Hedda, Heide, Hilde and already one may wonder at the sagacity and mental stability of giving all your children names starting with the same letter, coincidentally the same letter as Hitler, and perhaps that was some kind of misguided tribute to him. Magda duly receives her medal for being an über-Mother, for producing six children with Joseph Goebbels for the good of the Reich.

Magda has by all accounts had a pretty difficult early life. She hears her Mother in flagranti and wrestles with what she is taught about conception and sex via her Catholic upbringing and what she observes at home, in all its explicit rawness. Not to mention Egon Müller’s son, who initiates her into male masturbation. Magda lifts herself from all the sexual depravity, and from her Mother’s lower class ways (she is given an uneducated voice in the novella) by adopting airs and graces, and a strong backbone which all serve to see her through her difficult adolescence – sadism at the convent school, her Mother’s abortion, her Mother’s marriage to Herr Ritschel and subsequent relationship with Herr Friedländer, who was Jewish.

Magda then meets Mr Quandt, 20 years her senior and has a child, Harald with him. But that relationship doesn’t work out, and she soon finds her calling, not only to the Nazi ethos but to Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister to the Third Reich. He is a compulsive philanderer, and it is Hitler who encourages Magda to stay with him because, he affirms, the German people need her as their role model.

The novella ends up in the Bunker where the tragic and dismal end of this dysfunctional family takes place. We may all have wondered ‘what if’ the family had survived, what would have become of them, and Meike Ziervogel briefly muses on how the family members might have fared after the war. Not a pretty sight, it has to be said.

This novella is a short synopsis of one woman’s deranged life. Events happen in and around her life – events that may or may not have predisposed her to mental instability and nihilistic tendencies – but the psychological impact of what Magda goes through in her early years is not really explored. Potential factors are described, and the outcomes are there for all to see, but what was missing for me was the emotional and psychological process, from event to conclusion. How did her psyche internalise and process all that she experienced, and how did the predisposing, maintaining and external factors that permeated her inner world produce such corrupted thought processes in this particular individual?

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