Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary is finally opening up about her time spent working for the Nazi propaganda kingpin — and insists she knew nothing about Hitler’s final solution.
Brunhilde Pomsel, one of the last survivors of the Nazi’s inner circle, told the Guardian that while working as a shorthand typist for Goebbels she “knew nothing” about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“It was all kept well secret,” Pomsel said, noting that she believed reports stating that Jews had been sent to villages in Sudetenland to help with repopulation. “We believed it. We swallowed it. It seemed entirely plausible.”
The then 31-year-old was working as a secretary for the state broadcaster when she was transferred to the ministry of propaganda thanks to her fast typing skills.
Pay was sizable for the time, with a 275-mark salary and tax-free allowance. Her duties included fibbing the number of casualties of German soldiers and padding the number of rapes on the part of the Red Army. When case files crossed Pomsel’s desk, including that of anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl who would later be executed, Pomsel said she never snuck a peek.
“I…was quite pleased with myself that he trusted me, and that my keenness to honor that trust was stronger than my curiosity to open that file.” she said.
Pomsel recalled Goebbels affectionately, calling him “well kept” with “gentlemanly countenance.” He was a bit arrogant, she conceded, but added she felt bad for him because he had a limp.
Only during his now infamous speech declaring “total war” on Germany’s enemies did Pomsel see a different side to her boss.
“No actor could have been any better at the transformation from a civilized, serious person into a ranting, rowdy man.” she said. “In the office he had a kind of noble elegance, and then to see him there like a raging midget…you just can’t imagine a greater contrast.”
While Pomsel said she would only learn the full details of the Holocaust after the war, she pushed back against the idea that anyone living in her time would have tried to fight back, whether they knew what was happening or not.
“Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have.” she said. “I could open myself up to the accusations that I wasn’t interested in politics but the truth is, the idealism of youth might easily have led to you having your neck broken.”