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 Mildred “Axis Sally” Gillars

Mildred “Axis Sally” Gillars

Original Name Sisk
Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, USA
Death 25 Jun 1988 (aged 87)
Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, USA
Burial Lockbourne, Franklin County, Ohio, USA
Plot Holy Family section, Random Selection; lot 570
Memorial ID 23000 · View Source
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World War II Anti-American German Radio Personality. As an American woman, she made propaganda broadcasts for Radio Berlin in Nazi Germany. She was born Mildred Elizabeth Sisk, but after her parents’ divorce, she assumed her stepfather’s surname, becoming Mildred Gillars. After graduating from high school in Conneaut, Ohio, she enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware; there she perused a degree in dramatic arts hoping to become an actress, but she did not earn her degree nor did not develop her acting career. Later, she attended Hunter College in New York before traveling to Paris in 1929 to be an artist model, to Algiers in 1933 to be a dressmaker, and in 1934, to Germany where she was a language teacher and later in 1940 a radio announcer. After Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 and United States entered World War II, she was advised to come back to the United States, but she stayed as she was in love. She had met a German man Paul Karlson; the couple became engaged to be married, but as a German soldier, he was killed in action on the Eastern front before the marriage Alone after his death and fearing that she would be put in a concentration camp or even killed, she was coerced to sign an oath of allegiance to Germany to protect herself, keep her job at the radio station and becoming homeless. Within a short time, Max Oscar Otto Koischwitz, the radio program director, convinced her to make broadcasts for Hitler; she knew him from Hunter College where he had been a professor, and soon they became a couple living together in Berlin. Her propaganda program was known as "Home Sweet Home" aired daily and heard all over Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the United States. She referred to herself as "Midge at the mike", however, GIs dubbed her "Axis Sally”. She would tease and taunt the American military about their wives and sweethearts being unfaithful back home, but most just listened to her broadcast to enjoy the American music she played. In 1944, Professor Koischwitz, died of tuberculosis and heart failure leaving her alone in country at war, yet at the same time, his death lifted the pressure off of her about the announcements. After the end of World War II with Germany's defeat, she changed her name to “Barbara Mome” in hope of escape occupied Germany, but she was arrested and held in detention for a year in Frankfort until it was decided she would face a trial in the United States. At that point, she was incarcerated in the Washington, D.C. District Jail, held without bond and charged with 10 counts of treason. The trial lasted for six hectic weeks. Finally, the jury found her guilty of one count of treason, sentencing her to 10 to 30 years in prison, a $10,000 fine and eligibility for parole after 10 years. She was transported to the Federal Women's Reformatory in Alderson, West Virginia; this was a prison without cell, bars or razor wire and well-known for famous inmates. Becoming eligible for parole in 1959, she waived the right, preferring prison life to the life she might have on the outside facing ridicule as a traitor. Two years later, she changed her mind and applied for parole, which was granted. At the age of sixty, she departed prison to begin a new life. While in prison, she had converted to the Roman Catholic faith and got support from the church after her parole. For a while, she taught in a Roman Catholic school for girls in Columbus, Ohio before returning to her old alma mater Ohio Wesleyan to receive a Bachelor's Degree in Speech in 1973; she was 73. She returned to Columbus staying at Our Lady of Bethlehem Convent and taught German, French and music at St Joseph Academy. She lived a quiet useful life until her death; her grave is unmarked.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 13 Jul 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 23000
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mildred “Axis Sally” Gillars (29 Nov 1900–25 Jun 1988), Find A Grave Memorial no. 23000, citing Saint Joseph Cemetery, Lockbourne, Franklin County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .