"Axis Sally"

Charleston Daily Mail
July 10, 1961

'Axis Sally' Out After 11 Years

Sister Takes GI Siren

By Jack Davis, Associated Press Bureau Chief

ALDERSON, W. Va. (AP) - Mildred Gillars, the "Axis Sally" of World War II, strode out of prison today with the flourish of an actress. She had spent 11 years in the federal reformatory for women here on a treason conviction.

Her face showed every one of her 60 years. But she was nattily dressed and she gestured and ranged through changes of facial expression as if the reformatory gate were stage center.

She had always wanted to be a dramatic actress. It showed.

A reported asked for a statement on her first rection, Miss Gillars replied:

"Well after some 15 years in prison, what am I supposed to say?"

Although she said 15 years, she actually has been in the reformatory only since 1950.

That's as far as she would go. She was hustled into the car of a sister, Mrs. E. E. Nieminen of Ashtabula, Ohio, and was driven off.

Miss Gillars was convicted of treason in March 1949 and was sentenced to from 10 to 30 years. She was released on parole today.

As Axis Sally, she conducted propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis during World War II beamed to American troops overseas and Americans at home. She played sentimental recordings and wondered aloud to the GIs what their girls back home were doing. Her broadcasts also were aimed at raising the prestige of the German Army.

Enjoys Attention

She was brought to the main gate of the U. S. Women's Reformatory here by Lt. Helen England. For more than a minute she gestured and talked with her escort while a group of newsmen waited impatiently outside the gate.

She seemed to enjoy the center stage immensely.

Finally, her sister and brother-in-law rushed through newsmen and opened the car door. Miss Gillars immediately threw her arms around her sister in a long and fond embrace.

Mrs. Nieminen quickly steered her toward their waiting car some 25 yards away.

The newsmen had little chance to get in a word. Her stride was fast and determined. She parried questions with a "what?" or with a wide smile.

She said she could not say whether she was going into a convent as has been reported.

Yes, she said, I am going north to Ashtabula.

She was wearing a pert, black half hat that covered her yellowish white hair in front of a large bun. She wore black shoes, a dark jacket and a light tan suit. She swirled a blue shawl around her throat several times in the brief exposure.

Many Remember Voice

Axis Sally's low, throaty voice was a familiar sound to the American fighting man in World War II.

"Hellow [sic] gang," she would begin. "Throw down those little old guns and toddle off home...There's no getting the Germans down."

At her trial in Washington D. C. in 1949 she blamed love for her troubles. Frustration played a part, too.

Born in Maine on Thanksgiving day, 1900, she grew up dreaming of acclaim on the Broadway stage. She went to New York, took a Greenwich Village apartment and worked at her career.

But success never came, and she went abroad. North Africa, Italy, France, Hungary, then Germany. This was just before Hitler's troops started their march down what was to be a road to destruction.

It was in Dresden, Germany, that she met an officer in the German foreign service who had once been a teacher at Hunter College in New York City. She fell in love, she said.

Miss Gillars testified at her trial that the man - the late Max Otto Koischowitz - convinced her she should make the broadcasts. She claimed he wrote and directed the scripts that she read over the radio.

She steadfastly maintained at her trial that she hadn't intended to betray the United States. The Germans had taken her passport, she said, and she couldn't return home when Americans were evacuated from the Rhineland.

Miss Nina Kinsella, who retired July 1 as reformatory warden, recently described her as a cooperative prisoner - one who was "helpful and had a very good attitude toward our rehabilitation program."

Prison officials say Axis Sally now wants to teach music in a convent.

Military and Wartime