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Hitler’s kept woman
By ALEXANDER ZVIELLI
03/05/2012
How Eva Braun became the most important person in the Fuehrer’s entourage – and finally his wife.
 
Eva Braun wasn’t a dumb blonde who forced her way into history by accident, but a pretty, cold, calculating woman who knew exactly where she stood and what she wanted. She won her lifelong battle when Adolf Hitler married her, even if the bliss lasted only two days, and ended when he gave her a tablet of hydrocyanic acid, took one himself, and simultaneously shot himself in the right temple. They tried the poison on their dog first.

Hitler had agreed to marry Eva only after his proverbial bride – Germany – had betrayed his trust. He had already ordered Albert Speer, his chief engineer and architect, to complete his beloved country’s utter destruction. To Eva the marriage was a reward for years of living a lie, and a romantic entry into history.

It was an accident that she became an ardent Nazi, though she was never a party member, for her elder sister Ilse, who was the first to leave her parents’ home and had a university education, had for eight years worked as a receptionist for Martin Marx, a Jewish doctor. This bond ended in 1937, when he fled to US, before they were charged under the “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor.”

Eva, baptized Eva Paula Braun, was the second daughter of a middle-class vocational school teacher in Munich. Born on February 6, 1912, she graduated from an elementary school and a lyceum and spent a year learning bookkeeping and typing at the Catholic Institute of Blessed Mary, run by an order of Roman Catholic nuns.

She met Hitler for the first time in October 1929, while working at the studio of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal and the Nazi party’s official photographer.

Hoffmann was enlarging his business and put an ad in the local newspaper. Thus Braun, who got the job, entered instantly into the very heart of Nazi propaganda.

Munich, the Bavarian capital, was in those days a center of Nazism, culminating in the August 4, 1929, first gigantic show, soon followed by others. Braun, who worked behind the counter and in developing films, quickly learned from where her daily bread and incidental luxuries came from. An ambitious worker, she became a photographer herself.

In 1932, her younger sister, Margaret Berta (Gertl) joined her in what became “Hoffmann National Socialist Photographic Propaganda Division.” Both sisters became inseparable and shared a house that Hoffmann bought for them on Hitler’s instructions. Gertl later married Hermann Fegelein, Heinrich Himmler’s liaison officer.

Eventually Ilse also got a good job after Dr. Marx left for US. Still, the Hitler-Braun romance remained a closely guarded secret, known only to a chosen few.

THE AUTHOR, Heike B. Gortemaker, a historian and economist born in Germany in 1964, traces most diligently all available sources of Braun’s progress. We learn how an average, well-brought-up Catholic German girl agreed to live outside marriage, and agreed to all Hitler’s conditions of their secret relationship. We are left in no doubt that this sacrifice was well balanced by many comforts and a lot of excitement.

Braun had her moments of loneliness and frustration and once attempted suicide, but only to draw his attention. She had, however, the advantage of the example of the tragic death of Hitler’s step-niece and true love, the suicide of Angela “Geli” Maria Raubel on September 18, 1931.

Geli, born on June 4, 1908, lived with Hitler for two years before she shot herself in the lung with his Walther 6.35 caliber pistol. Rumors began to circulate that Hitler was responsible, but police ruled out foul play. It was explained that Geli had failed in university and was depressed. Her death was a heavy blow to Hitler’s ego.

Hoffman later commented that with her death the last piece of Hitler’s humanity died.

Was Geli’s suicide a protest against Hitler’s excessive egoism and absence of tenderness? He truly believed what Goebbels spread in his name, that Germany was his only bride and that he had no time for personal affairs. Throughout his life, and even more after he became the all-powerful Fuehrer, he was deeply concerned about hiding his personal life, which was now being discussed publicly.

From now on his private life was important only when it could be manipulated for his political benefit. Hitler and Goebbels had staged, both in the Party circles and before the public, a myth of solitude and isolation to make him personally unassailable.

They presented him as the savior of the German people, standing alone above everyone. There was no place for Braun in this equation.

But Braun learned from Geli’s tragedy and willingly submitted to a life in the shadows, even if he was a difficult and capricious lover. There were months that she saw him only from afar, one of his cheering women admirers. She was kept out of all his public activities and receptions.

He could arrive unexpected and leave abruptly without any explanation.

But to Braun he was the “Fuehrer,” and this was sufficient to cherish him and obey without question.

There were other important women within Hitler’s inner circle, all of them his enthusiastic admirers, and Braun learned from them as well. This was the price she had to pay for being financially independent, traveling abroad with unlimited foreign currency, and having a good life, while most Germans suffered and were required to live modestly.

Hitler became a chancellor, regained the Rhineland, joined Austria to Germany, won Czechoslovakia without a shot being fired, and Braun was happy when he promised her that once he achieved his ultimate goals, they would both retire to his beloved Linz, which he was slowly preparing for his retirement. This was their little secret.

BUT AS time passed, Braun succeeded in establishing herself at his inner court. Hitler took great care that she met and entertained within a strictly approved social circle, composed mostly of wives of his most trusted officials. Among the most influential women she entertained in the closed-to-outsiders fortress of Obersalzburg was Margarete Speer, wife of Albert, and Annie Brandt, wife of Karl, Hitler’s doctor. There was Maria von Below, daughter of a landowner, wife of Nicolaus von Below, a 29-year-old and Hitler’s favorite, a colonel in the Luftwaffe, who accompanied him to Vienna. Maria once wrote about her stay at Berghof: “How exciting it was for all of us! And how often we were happy there!”

Gortemaker asks: How are we to comprehend this attitude in light of the monstrous misdeeds of the Nazi regime? And she explains that all those happy ladies were remote and barely connected their lives with Hitler’s atrocities. They also preferred to close their eyes, enjoying themselves as long as his success lasted. Hitler did not win the loyalty of his subordinates by ordering genocide. His admirers and followers were easily persuaded that the German people could not live in peace under a constant threat of “Jewish bolshevism.”

However, the more difficult the German situation became, the more Braun had to say within his inner circle. She was the only one who dared to stop Hitler’s long, effusive talks at the table after the lunch. Eventually she became the most important – if not always pleasing to everybody – person in his entourage. During the period of general betrayal and suspicion, of an attempt on Hitler’s life, she continued to hold his trust and confidence. Her daily contact with Martin Bormann, Hitler’s administrator, who kindly dispersed some of the wealth stolen from Jews and others was most useful, and certainly helped her to accumulate some goods.

One reads with disgust about the daily life within Hitler’s inner circle; the numerous intrigues, vicious competition for his favor, the jealousies. We learn how he taught and exhorted others to conduct themselves, but did whatever he wanted, contrary to his own principles. He rewarded every German family with 10 children, but never had one of his own. He demanded modesty, yet granted Braun unlimited funds.

It was all sheer madness. Many people knew that Germany had already lost the war, and blamed Hitler’s political and military mistakes for the defeat. Millions of lives had already been lost, but millions could still be saved if the bloodshed could be stopped. But Hitler, who remembered 1918 well, wouldn’t even consider surrender. Braun, who now dominated his life, shared his madness in this badly staged Wagnerian drama.

But she was nobody’s fool, and already on October 26, 1944, at a time when Warsaw was liberated and Soviet troops were closing on Prussia, she had prepared her will, distributing her considerable wealth among friends and family. She was well aware that the end was near and she had already decided to share his fate. She took care that Hitler remembered in his will to leave something to her mother.

Hitler as we observe him at home appears to be a small, pathetic dictator, making us wonder how such a spiteful individual could ever gain so much power and do such world-wide damage.

Eva Braun was a typical, misled German housewife, so they well complemented each other. In her last letter to her sister Gretl, on April 23, 1945, Eva told her to burn all her letters from and to the Fuehrer, and above all not to forget to burn the copies of her accounts at Heisse’s, a well-known Berlin fashion designer.
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