Interview with Dr. Susan Eischeid

Dr Susan Eischeid Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Dr Susan Eischeid

author of "Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau"
Michael Carter

Michael Carter


Dr Susan Eischeid, author of "Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau"

Dr Susan Eischeid's Website

Dr Susan Eischeid currently holds the positions of Principal Oboe with the Valdosta Symphony and Professor of Music at Valdosta State University where she teaches oboe, chamber music, and music history. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in oboe from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and her Master of Music degree from the Philadelphia University of the Arts. Dr. Eischeid played for several years with the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra. She is an active solo recitalist and clinician, both nationally and internationally, and has performed with multiple orchestras across the country.

Dr. Eischeid is a long-time member of the Eastern Festival Orchestra and serves on the oboe faculty of the summer Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC. Her major teachers include Robert Bloom, James Gorton, and Sara Lambert Bloom. In 2004 she was awarded the Excellence in Professional Activity Award from the College of the Arts at VSU and in 2017 was recipient of the VSU Presidential Excellence Award in Research.

Dr. Eischeid commissioned and appeared as soloist in the world premiere of the second oboe concerto by noted Hungarian composer Frigyes Hidas. She has commercially released her first album, Mystic Chords of Genocide, on the ACA Digital label. She has also appeared as soloist with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, most recently in performances of the Bellini Concerto and the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante.

Dr. Eischeid is also an author, publishing her book titled “The Truth about Fania Fenelon and the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz-Birkenau” in July of 2016. As an outgrowth of her research into music of the Holocaust, she has presented lectures and recitals in over twenty cities in the United States and in Europe and received multiple grants. Between 2005-2014 she was featured in performances in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. In March of 2010, as part of the Old First Concerts Artist’s Series in San Francisco, CA, she commissioned and premiered a new work for oboe, piano and men’s voices by noted German composer Stefan Heucke under the aegis of The Pink Triangle Project. In 2020 she completed her second book, a biography of Maria Mandl – the highest-ranking female officer at Auschwitz-Birkenau and founder of the women’s orchestra in that camp.

The Book: "Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau"

ISBN: 0806542853

Get the book

A gripping, unflinching biography of SS Overseer Maria Mandl, one of the most notorious and contradictory figures at the heart of the Nazi regime, and her transformation from harmless small-town girl to hardened killer.

With new details and previously unpublished photographs, this gripping, unflinching examination charts her transformation from engaging country girl to “The Beast” of Auschwitz.

By the time of her execution at thirty-six, Maria Mandl had achieved the highest rank possible for a woman in the Third Reich. As Head Overseer of the women’s camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she was personally responsible for the murders of thousands, and for the torture and suffering of countless more.

In this riveting biography, Susan J. Eischeid explores how Maria Mandl, regarded locally as “a nice girl from a good family,” came to embody the very worst of humanity. Born in 1912 in the scenic Austrian village of Münzkirchen, Maria enjoyed a happy childhood with loving parents—who later watched in anguish as their grown daughter rose through the Nazi system.

Mandl’s life mirrors the period in which she lived: turbulent, violent, and suffused with paradoxes. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, she founded the notable women’s orchestra and “adopted” several children from the transports—only to lead them to the gas chambers when her interest waned. After the war, Maria was arrested for crimes against humanity. Following a public trial attended by the international press, she was hanged in 1948.

For two decades, Eischeid has excavated the details of Mandl’s life story, drawing on archival testimonies, speaking to dozens of witnesses, and spending time with Mandl’s community of friends and neighbors who shared their memories as well as those handed down in their families. The result is a chilling and complex exploration of how easily an ordinary citizen chose the path of evil in a climate of hate and fear.

Michael Carter, Co-Host

Michael Carter's Website