American Woman Was Radio Broadcaster in Nazi Germany
On September 24, 1948, the American radio broadcaster Mildred Gillars pleaded innocent to the charge of treason because of her work for German State Radio (Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft) during World War II. Some dubbed her “Axis Sally,” as the Fuller and Lucas biographies attest.
Born in Portland, Maine, in 1900, she attended Ohio Wesleyan University, and in 1934 studied music in Dresden and taught English in Berlin. She became an announcer for German State Radio in 1940. Not long after, she fell in love with a German soldier, Paul Karlson. Their engagement was ended when he died in action on the Eastern Front.
Gillars then became involved with a former American professor from Hunter College in New York City, Max Otto Koischwitz, who was her superior at RRG. He put her in charge of a show “Home Sweet Home” which opened with a mournful train whistle. The show was meant to spike homesickness among American soldiers listening, something American broadcasts were doing as well. After D-Day, both Gillars and Koischwitz visited hospitals and detention facilities where wounded and captured US soldiers were interviewed.
The radio shows G. I.’s Letter-box and Medical Reports were broadcast in 1944. Shot-down B-17 pilot Raymond Kurtz was one of those Gillars interviewed in a German prison camp. After Kosischwitz wrote a radio play Vision of Invasion which was broacast the month before D-Day, Gillars played an Ohio mother whose son had died aboard a ship in the English Channel.
Her broadcasts tended to deal with American pop culture, focusing on nostalgic pictures of life back home. Like the poet Ezra Pound in Italy, the fact that she had chosen to stay and work in Germany was enough to convict her in American courts after the war.