Brunhilde Pomsel is 105 years old. Besides a long life she has another small claim to fame. During World War Two she was one of six secretaries to Nazi propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels.

‘It was rare for us to see him in the mornings,” she remembers of the Nazi leader “He’d walk up the steps from his little palace near the Brandenburg Gate, on to which his huge propaganda ministry was attached. He’d trip up the steps like a little duke, through his library into his beautiful office on Unter den Linden.”


Brunhilde Pomsel at 105 years old

Pomsel remembers the Goebbels children who were very polite and would curtsy and shake the secretaries hands. She remembers how elegant the furniture was, the carefree atmosphere with five other secretaries, how the minister’s nails were always neatly manicured.

When the flat she shared with her parents was destroyed by Allied bombs, Goebbels’ wife, Magda, gave her a silk-lined suit of blue Cheviot wool. “I’ve never possessed anything as chic as that before or since,” she says. “They were both very nice to me.”


Nazi Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels

She remembers Goebbels as “short but well kept”, of a “gentlemanly countenance”, with “suits of the best cloth, and always had a light tan. He had well-groomed hands – he probably had a manicure every day,” she says.

She saw nothing to criticize about him. She felt sorry for him because of the limp “which he made up for by being a bit arrogant”. Only occasionally did she saw part of the man that hid beneath. She was terrified to see him on stage at Berlin’s sportpalast giving his “total war” speech in February 1943, shortly after the battle of Stalingrad. “No actor could have been any better at the transformation from a civilized, serious person into a ranting, rowdy man … 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.” She said.

Having lost her sight last year, Pomsel is one of the last people alive to have seen the inner circle of the Nazi regime. “In the little time that’s left to me – and I hope it will be months rather than years – I just cling to the hope that the world doesn’t turn upside down again as it did then, though there have been some ghastly developments, haven’t there? I’m relieved I never had any children that I have to worry about.”

Pomsel says she has nothing weighing down her conscience. She sees her work for the propaganda ministry which included lowering statistics about fallen soldiers and exaggerating the number of rapes of German women by the Red Army, she claims she saw it as “just another job”.

A documentary film called “A German Life” was made from 30 hours of conversation with her and was recently released at the Munich film festival.

Pomsel during WWII

Pomsel during WWII

Looking at the film Pomsel says “It is important for me, when I watch the film, to recognize that mirror image in which I can understand everything I’ve done wrong,” she says. “But really, I didn’t do anything other than type in Goebbels’ office.”

Pomsel sees herself as having acted as any other German. “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.” After the rise of the Nazi party, “the whole country was as if under a kind of a spell,” she insists. “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.”

There were young people who stood up to the Nazi regime. Pomsel recalls being handed the case file of the anti-Nazi activist and student Sophie Scholl, a member of the White Rose resistance movement. Scholl was executed in February 1943 for distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich. Pomsel was told by one of Goebbels’ special advisers to put it in the safe, and not to look at it. She did not and was pleased with herself that Goebbels trusted her.

She was 31 and working for the state broadcaster secretary, a job she got once she joined the Nazi Party. In 1942 she was recommended for the Ministry of Propaganda. “Only an infectious disease would have stopped me. I was flattered, because it was a reward for being the fastest typist at the radio station.”

She remembers her pay slip, on which a range of tax-free allowances was listed, and the 275-mark salary, high pay compared to her friends.

She remembers how life for her Jewish friend, a woman named Eva Löwenthal, became difficult after Adolf Hitler came to power. She was also shocked by the arrest of a popular radio announcer who was sent to a concentration camp for being gay. But she says she remained in a bubble, unaware of the crimes and violence being carried out by the Nazis.

“I know no one ever believes us nowadays – everyone thinks we knew everything. We knew nothing, it was all kept well secret.” She said she believed that the Jews who had  “disappeared” had been sent to villages in the Sudetenland to repopulate it. “We believed it – we swallowed it – it seemed entirely plausible,” Pomsel says.

60 years after the end of the war Pomsel wanted to know what happened to her Jewish schoolfriend, Eva. When the Holocaust memorial was unveiled in 2005, Pomsel went from her home in Munich to see it. “I went into the information center and told them I myself was missing someone, an Eva Löwenthal.” Pomsel learned her friend had been sent to Auschwitz in 1943 and been killed.

“The list of names on the machine on which we found her just kept on rolling non-stop down the screen,” she remembers.

Her days as a Nazi secretary came to an end the day after Hitler’s birthday in 1945. Goebbels and his entourage were ordered to join Hitler in the Führerbunker . “It felt as if something inside me had died,” says Pomsel. “We tried to make sure we didn’t run out of alcohol. That was urgently needed in order to retain the numbness.” She remembers Goebbels’ assistant Günther Schwägermann coming with the news that Hitler had killed himself, followed a day later by Goebbels. She was shocked to learn of the Goebbel’s death and that of his wife and kids.

She and other secretaries cut up white food sacks to make a large white flag. She was sentenced to five years’ incarceration in various Russian prison camps around Berlin.

She found work as a secretary at the state broadcaster once again, working her way up to become the executive secretary to its director of programs before retiring in 1971 at 60.

For Related Articles See:


  • Bill Getz says:

    When the war ended it was impossible to find a Nazi in Germany, or as the comedian in “Stalag 17 who portrayed a guard said, “I know nothing!” Just about everyone in Germany over the age of 15 in 1938 knew exactly what was happening as they saw all their shopkeepers being led away in every village. They “knew nothing.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Past and Present WWII History Posts