It is a cliché of Holocaust history to remark on the jarring contrast between the domestic lives of Nazi perpetrators and their murderous deeds. Reinhard Heydrich, one of the key architects of the Holocaust, was also a gifted violinist. Even Hitler is said to have loved children and dogs.
But some of the cognitive dissonance may fade on closer inspection. James Wyllie’s gossipy group biography, “Nazi Wives,” makes clear that Hitler’s top lieutenants were not, for the most part, model husbands. While pursuing genocide, men such as Heydrich, Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels, SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Hitler’s private secretary Martin Bormann philandered prodigiously. Their wives – Lina, Magda, Margaret and Gerda, respectively – often countered with affairs of their own.
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