Monday, May 02, 2011

A Portrait Of Familial Bliss

This cozy family portrait, from 1938, depicts Magda Goebbels with Harald Quandt, Magda’s son by her first marriage, and five of her children with Joseph Goebbels (a sixth was to follow in 1940).

The photograph was pure propaganda. It was intended to portray Magda and her children as the embodiment of family ideals under National Socialism. Until May 1, 1945, on which date Magda and Goebbels murdered the six Goebbels children and afterward took their own lives, the Goebbels clan was a constant feature of German magazines and newsreels, invariably presented as the perfect German family.

Such depictions did not reflect reality. Goebbels, a perpetual philanderer, was anything but a family man. In fact, it was in 1938, the year the photograph was made, that Magda first pressed for a divorce from Goebbels, claiming that her husband’s many affairs made it impossible for her to continue the marriage.

Hitler forbade a divorce. Hitler wanted the façade of a happy, thriving Goebbels family to be maintained—and not solely for propaganda purposes.

It would, Hitler ruled, reflect poorly upon himself for one of his chief ministers—and his only minister with a large family—to be involved in a marital breakup.

Hitler’s decree that the Goebbels family remain together was accepted—and, to assuage Magda’s hurt feelings, the German leader saw to it that a Czech film actress with whom Goebbels had become deeply infatuated was escorted out of the country.

In the photograph, Magda’s smile looks forced—and the children appear to be profoundly unhappy if not outright miserable. Harald, only seventeen years old in 1938, looks old enough to be Magda’s father.

That Goebbels himself was not included in the photograph—and Goebbels indeed generally was included in such photographs—suggests that the sitting occurred during a period in which the Goebbels marital fortunes were at a particularly low ebb.

The deaths of everyone in the photograph except Harald occurred sixty-six years ago yesterday.

Had the Goebbels children been allowed to live normal life spans, most—perhaps all—would be alive today.


  1. I had always thought that Guenther, Harald's dad spelled the family surname "Quantd," not "Quantz." I must have read wrong.

    Or maybe my mind is just going.

  2. I mean "Quandt," not "Quantd." Yes, my mind IS going. Farewell, world.

  3. Thank you for noting the error.

    Of course, I should have typed “Quandt” instead of “Quantz”. My proofreading powers must have taken a holiday when I published this post.

    At least, for what it’s worth, I spelled the Quandt family name correctly in the post immediately preceding this one.

    Next thing you know, I will be publishing photographs of Joan Crawford and her children, and identifying the sitters as the Goebbels family.

  4. Another entertaining metaphor that "dangles," from a WND article critical of NYT journalist Janny Scott:

    "I had hoped Scott would explain why Ann's father, Stanley Dunham, would remain such good buddies with his reported son-in-law that the two would be pictured arm-in-arm and smiling at Obama's departure.

    "This was a man, after all, who is alleged to have impregnated Stanley's underage daughter and driven her to quit the island with baby in tow. Scott provides no explanation.

    "Like all mainstream scribes, Scott fails to ask hard questions about the orthodox nativity story of Barack Obama, the story on which Obama built his candidacy.

    "As Obama told America, this 'improbable love' story ended with his father's departure for Harvard when he 'was 2 years old'."


    Looks like you've made a new friend from the ranks of the Tanglewood Chorus.

  5. I meant to write,"dangling modifier" above, not "metaphor," unless the quotation in question - along with the author's own confusion about the English syntax rule of "sequence of tenses" - serves as a metaphor for decline of education standards in the US.

  6. Joan Crawford locked Christina in a closet every time Christina used a dangling modifier.

    And we all know how that sad story turned out, don't we?

    "No more dangling modifiers!"

    Excuse me, please, but I now must go outside and madly chop down any rose bushes I can find.