Susan Eischeid with Alison Owings - Mistress of Life and Death (Corte Madera Store)

Susan Eischeid
In conversation with Alison Owings 

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

Corte Madera Store
Mon., March 11th, 2024 • 6:00pm PT

This event is free to attend and will be hosted in-person at Book Passage's Corte Madera Store. Please contact with questions regarding events.


The first-ever biography of SS Overseer Maria Mandl, the highest-ranked woman in the Nazi killing machine and one of the few female perpetrators of the Holocaust.

With new details and previously unpublished photographs, this gripping, unflinching examination charts her transformation from engaging country girl to “The Beast” of Auschwitz.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


Susan J. Eischeid is a performer and teacher specializing in the music of the Holocaust. Professor of Oboe at Valdosta State University, she was drawn to the Maria Mandl story through her involvement with members of the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the course of twenty years devoted to her subject, she has been privileged to interview many survivors of the Holocaust, as well as dozens of persons with ties to Mandl including family members and perpetrators. Eischeid has also presented multiple recitals and lectures about music and musicians of the Holocaust period across the United States and in Europe. She can be reached at


Alison Owings launched her acclaimed book Frauen / German Women Recall the Third Reich (Rutgers) here at Book Passage. Following publication of Hey, Waitress! The USA from the Other Side of the Tray (California) and Indian Voices / Listening to Native Americans (Rutgers), this September she will introduce her latest work, Mayor of the Tenderloin / Del Seymour's Journey from Living on the Streets to Fighting Homelessness in San Francisco, which her publisher, Beacon Press, plans to nominate for an array of prestigious prizes, including the Pulitzer.  







“A masterful, deeply researched, and painstaking account of Maria Mandl’s life, her rise as head overseer of the women’s camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and her eventual descent as a war criminal. Eischeid has drawn an indelible and detailed portrait of a terrifying enigma, giving us a timely biography at a moment when modern history threatens to repeat itself.” —Gina Roitman, author of Don’t Ask; subject of the award-winning documentary film "My Mother, the Nazi Midwife, and Me"


 Susan J. Eischeid photo courtesy of the publisher. Alison Owings photo credit Judy Dater.


Book Passage Corte Madera
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz- Birkenau By Susan J. Eischeid Cover Image
ISBN: 9780806542850
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title for More Details
Published: Citadel - December 26th, 2023

Pre-Order Now Badge
Mayor of the Tenderloin: Del Seymour's Journey from Living on the Streets to Fighting Homelessness in San Francisco By Alison Owings Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807020579
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Beacon Press - September 10th, 2024