The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children

Khalid Elhassan - July 21, 2019

As a general proposition, loyalty is a morally commendable trait. Unless, of course, it is loyalty to an evil person and cause. Few examples highlight that exception to the rule than the loyalty exhibited by Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda to Adolf Hitler and the tenets of his regime. The Nazi propaganda minister and his spouse were active enablers of and avid participants in the horrors of the Third Reich. When it all came crashing down in ignominious defeat, with the Red Army storming into Berlin, they chose to follow their beloved Fuhrer into death by committing suicide. Worse, they opted to take their offspring with them, and before killing themselves, they murdered their six children, ranging in age from four to twelve.

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children
Composite photo of Joseph and Magda Goebbels with their children, from left to right, front row, Helmut, Hedwig, Heidrun, Holdine, back row, Hiledegard, Harald Quandt, Helga. Bundesarchiv Bild

The Proud Parents

Despite his diminutive size and pronounced limp from a clubfoot – which he attributed to a WWI injury despite his never having seen action in that conflict – Joseph Goebbels was somewhat of a babe magnet. What he lacked in physical assets, he more than made up for with a quick wit, sense of humor, and an effortless ability to charm. Unlike most Nazi bigwigs, who were often hamfisted, hate-mongering buffoons, of average intellect and reliant more on brawn than brains, Goebbels was actually an intellectual, who understood nuance and finesse.

Goebbels’ natural talents would probably have taken him far as a Madison Avenue ad executive. Unfortunately, he came of age in the wrong country and era. Goebbels attained young manhood in a bitter Germany, dealing with the physical, economic, and psychological aftermath of defeat in WWI, and with wide swaths of its population casting about for culprits to blame for the disaster. He fell under the spell of an Austrian rabble-rouser who pinned the defeat squarely upon Jews, democrats, liberals, and other leftists. Joining the Nazi party, Goebbels swiftly rose in its ranks, and attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler, whose devoted acolyte he soon became.

In 1930, Goebbels was the chief Nazi in Berlin, tasked with growing the party in the German capital and throughout Prussia, when Magda Quandt joined his staff. In 1921, she had married a businessman, Gunther Quandt, with whom she had a son, Harald, before the couple divorced in 1929. The following year, Magda joined the Nazi party as a volunteer, and after a stint at her local branch, she was moved to party headquarters in Berlin. There, she was tasked with overseeing Joseph Goebbels private papers. It did not take long before the smooth talking Goebbels made his move, and by early 1931, he and Magda had started a relationship. They were married on December 19th of that year, with Hitler acting as best man.

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children
Ten year old Harald Quandt at his mother’s wedding to Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler, who acted as best man and witness, behind him in a hat. Wikimedia

Magda’s son from her previous marriage, Harald Quandt, was quickly won over by his new stepfather, and formed a strong attachment to Joseph Goebbels. When the Nazis took power in 1933, Goebbels used his influence as a Reich minister to lean on Harald’s father, to modify the terms of his 1929 divorce settlement with Magda. Gunther Quandt agreed to free his ex wife from her obligation to surrender custody of Harald if she ever remarried, and the kid ended up moving in permanently with his mother and stepfather.

As to Magda and Joseph, it was not long before the duo got started on producing a biological brood of their own. Their eldest, Helga, was born in September of 1932. Next came Hildegard, in April of 1934. She in turn was followed by Helmut, Magda and Joseph Goebbels’ only son, in October of 1935. He was followed by Holdine, in February of 1937. Next came Hedwig, in May of 1938, and finally, Heidrun arrived in October of 1940.

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children
Hitler walking with Helga Goebbels in 1936. Cervantes

Hitler’s Favorite Children

The quick succession of children pumped out by Magda did not signify steady bliss and tranquility in the Goebbels home. Indeed, the couple came close to divorcing because of Joseph Goebbels’ notorious womanizing, which reached a peak in the summer of 1938, when he fell head over heels for a Czech actress named Lida Baarova. The propaganda minister sought to abandon his family to be with Baarova, until Hitler, leery of the negative PR from a scandal involving one of his top henchmen, demanded that Goebbels end the relationship.

Goebbels kept backsliding, however, so Magda sought a divorce, and once again, Hitler personally intervened. The Fuhrer brokered a reconciliation by banishing Baarova. He demanded that the couple maintain at least the appearance of marital bliss in public, and agreed to let Magda get her divorce if, after a year’s separation in which he hoped the duo would cool off, she still wanted out of the marriage. Goebbels laid on the charm once more, and became the model of a solicitous and repentant husband. The couple eventually got back together, and their last child, Heidrun, was called their “reconciliation child”, because she was conceived after her parents had smoothed things over.

Hitler’s efforts to save the Goebbels’ marriage did not stem solely from his fears of public scandal tarnishing his regime. The Nazi leader saw the Goebbels’ as personal friends, and he was quite fond of their children. While Hitler was one of history’s most horrible figures, he did have some soft spots, and one of those was for children. Or, to be more accurate, he had a soft spot for the type of blond and blue eyed children featured on Nazi posters as ideal Aryan offspring. Children who did not meet those criterion, Hitler had no trouble condemning to their deaths by the million.

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children
Hitler standing with Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda, and their three eldest children, from left to right, Hilda, Helmut, and Helga. Daily Mail

The Goebbels’ children met Hitler’s criterion of the Germanic ideal, and their eldest, Helga, was always said to be Hitler’s favorite girl. During the twelve years of his rule, Hitler often visited the Goebbels home, where he played with and showed marked affection towards their children, or had them visit him in his office and residence. Helga Goebbels, in particular, was regularly seen and photographed with the Fuhrer, and he often sat her on his lap, while conducting meetings late into the night.

During the war, the Goebbels children were featured in dozens of newsreels as examples of ideal Germanic children, and film and photos of them with the Fuhrer were frequently displayed in the media. However, as the doom of Germany drew nearer, so did that of the Goebbels’ and their offspring. In April of 1945, with the Red Army massing outside Berlin, Joseph Goebbels moved his wife and children into Hitler’s bunker compound beneath the Reich Chancellery. The Fuhrer was determined to go out in an operatic manner worthy of Richard Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods. Goebbels was equally determined to follow his master into the great beyond – and to take his family with him.

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children
Hitler and two of the Goebbels girls. Rare Historical Photos

Horror and a Huge Break

Magda Goebbels, who was as much of a fanatical Nazi as her husband, was willing to accompany her husband and Hitler into death. To the Goebbels’ minds, dying with Hitler was not just an ultimate display of loyalty, but as a practical matter, would also spare them from humiliation and punishment at the hands of the victorious Allies. As to killing her children, Magda thought that their death was preferable to their growing up having to hear that their father was one of history’s greatest criminals. She also believed in reincarnation, and figured that by killing her children now, she would give them another chance at returning to life, perhaps in better circumstances.

Having convinced herself of the need, and even the desirability, of killing her kids, Magda Goebbels turned a deaf ear to all offers to smuggle her children to safety outside of Berlin. As to how she would go about killing her children, Magda decided upon knocking them out first with morphine, and then finishing them off by crushing cyanide capsules between their teeth. Accordingly, on May 1st, 1945, one day after Hitler’s suicide, Magda, with the help of an SS doctor, administered morphine to her kids, then killed them with cyanide. A few hours later, she and Joseph Goebbels committed suicide.

The most horrific of the Goebbels children’s death was that of Hitler’s favorite girl, Helga. It seems that the morphine she was given did not knock her out, or at least failed to keep her under for long. She became aware at some point that her siblings were being murdered by having cyanide capsules crushed between their teeth, and she resisted having the same done to her. Helga’s last moments were spent in a ferocious fight, as her mother and an SS member forced poison into her mouth. An autopsy conducted after the bunker was captured, and photographs taken of her face, showed heavy bruising. Her jaw also seems to have been broken during the struggle to force cyanide into her mouth.

The Sad Story of Hitler’s Favorite Children
Joseph Goebbels. Pintrest

However, not all of the Goebbels children died that day. Magda’s son from her previous marriage, who had been raised in the Goebbels household, was not in the bunker when his parents killed themselves and the rest of their children. Harald Quandt had come of age during the war, and joined the Luftwaffe. It would lead to the luckiest break of his life. While serving as a lieutenant in Italy, Harald was captured by the Allies in 1944, and he was thus safe and sound in a POW camp when his parents carried out their familial murder-suicide pact.

After his release in 1947, Harald went to work for his biological father. He helped rebuild Gunther Quandt’s businesses – a holding group of over 200 companies, including a 30% stake in BMW, and a 10% share of Daimler Benz. When his father passed away in 1954, Harald’s inheritance made him one of West Germany’s richest men. He proved himself a shrewd businessman, and when he died in a plane crash in 1967, he left his offspring a fortune of about 1.5 billion Deutsche Mark. Today, his children and heirs are worth an estimated U$ 6 billion.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

History of Sorts – The Murder of the Goebbels Children

Jerusalem Post, August 27th, 2017 – Nazi Goebbels’ Descendants Are Hidden Billionaires

Ranker – The Tragic Story of the Goebbels Children, Adolf Hitler’s Favorite Kids

Spiegel, October 9th, 2009 – Murder in Hitler’s Bunker: Who Really Poisoned the Goebbels Children

Sydney Morning Herald, October 10th, 2009 – Papers Reveal How Goebbels Children Were Killed

Telegraph, The, October 8th, 2009 – Court Papers Shed Light on Killing of Goebbels Children

Wikipedia – Goebbels Children