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Shortwave radio enthusiast Lucas carefully chronicles the life of Mildred Gillars, known to American GIs during WWII as "Axis Sally," in this first full-length biography of the infamous radio propagandist for Nazi Germany. With the aid of declassified federal documents and a glut of newspaper coverage after the war, Lucas follows Gillars from her Ohio upbringing to a failed New York acting career to her transformation into the Axis Sally under the tutelage of her married German lover. Known for a voice that oozed "like honey out of a big wooden spoon," Gillars was mythologized by GIs as the personification of Nazi propaganda. In her prolific broadcasts she interviewed POWs, taunted American soldiers, and revealed secret locations of American troops. She was ultimately tried for treason, served a 12-year prison sentence, and spent the rest of her long life on parole. In this fascinating, well-researched account, Lucas attempts to isolate the people and events that may have led Gillars to assume her moniker, telling a story "of poverty and hunger." Gillars was "a woman who, like the Führer she served, wished to accomplish great artistic feats but instead wandered into history and infamy." Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Richard Lucas has written a biography of Mildred Gillars, an American woman, who was known as "Axis Sally", a nick-name she acquired from her broadcast days in Berlin during WW2. I closed the book feeling sorry for this pathetic woman, who searched all her life for fame, and instead found infamy.
Gillars, born of American-Canadian parentage, was a pretty woman with delusions of grandeur about her looks and her acting ability. She grew up nursing the fierce desire to act on the stage or in the movies. Unfortunately, her talent and personality did not allow her to achieve what she wanted. Dropping out of college in Ohio in the early 1920's, she headed for New York, looking for a lucky break. Instead, she got some journeymen roles and toured on road company shows. She stayed on the fringes of show business for the 1920's, and falling in love with a British Jewish man, went to Morocco with him. Eventually, in the early 1930's, she found herself jobless in Berlin. Just entering the Nazi-era, Gillars found work, again on the fringes of Berlin show-business. Falling in love again - and again unluckily - she stayed in Germany during the start of the war in 1939, through the American entry in December, 1941.
To support herself as an enemy-national, she went to work for the radio propaganda department. Putting her limited talents to work, broadcasting in English to the American home front and the overseas American troops, she became known as "Axis Sally". Actually, there was another "Axis Sally" - this one broadcasting from occupied Italy - just as there were several women broadcasting as "Tokyo Rose".Read more ›
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"Axis Sally" was the name given to several American women broadcasting for Germany and Italy during World War II. Their broadcasts were aimed at allied troops and were intended as propaganda to demoralize them. This book is about the Axis Sally who was the most-listened-to of those.
Mildred Gillars was an aspiring actress who, through a combination of bad luck and bad judgment, found herself the most hated American of the post-War period. How she got to that point is the subject of the first part of the book.
The last part of the book details what happened to Gillars after the war. She was accused by the U.S. government of treason, which carried the penalty of death. The story of how she was brought to trial and how the trial proceeded, with all the behind-the-scenes politics involved, is as riveting as Gillars' path from the American Midwest to Nazi Berlin.
Gillars is not a sympathetic character. She was apparently motivated by a huge desire for fame. Her anti-semitic radio rants seemed to be inspired by her true feelings as well as by living in Nazi Germany for over a decade. Her love affairs with influential men initially helped her rise in her career but always ended badly. Even after she was arrested by U.S. authorities, she continued to believe that she had done nothing wrong.
But she isn't a one-dimensionally evil character either. She became Axis Sally one seemingly innocent step at a time. It was the Depression and after having had limited success in finding acting jobs in New York, she went overseas where she found what seemed a secure job. When that fell through, she managed to get a job in radio. As an American in Berlin, she had to watch her step and just as she realized she should leave, her passport was confiscated.Read more ›
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You might know of Tokyo Rose, the female voice broadcasting to the Pacific to dishearten and entertain our troops approaching Japan in World War II. For some reason, less famous is her counterpart in Berlin, and chances are you never heard of Mildred Gillars. She identified herself on the air as "Midge," but the GIs who were her target audience had various nicknames for her, like Berlin Bitch, Berlin Babe, or Olga. The most famous of her nicknames is in the title of _Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany_ (Casemate) by Richard Lucas. It's a sad story not just of misplaced political views and stupid anti-Semitism, but of a striving woman with a little bit of talent who could not make it big except through the doors that the Third Reich, mostly by chance, opened for her. Lucas's book is definitive; Gillars did not leave a memoir or diary, but she did leave recordings and transcripts of her work, and the research into these and other wartime and postwar documents seems to have been exhaustive.
Gillars, born in 1900, quit her college theatrical studies so she could get on the stage. She worked hard at menial jobs during the day and rehearsals at night. She had one-night-stands in theaters, and joined a stock company, but she yearned for bigger roles. They never came. She fell in with a dashing Briton (who happened to be Jewish) and followed him to Algiers where the relationship cooled. She went to Europe, and went to Berlin in 1934, and lucked into a job reviewing German movies for _Variety_. The German propaganda machine had a niche to fill. A memo said that German radio needed "speakers who have a command of English with an American accent" because Americans were put off by British accents.Read more ›