. . . I have promised myself to follow you wherever you go, even unto death.
—Eva Braun [July 1944, excerpt from letter to Hitler]
Many times people may look at a particularly mismatched couple—an extremely obese woman with a rail thin man or a very tall man with a very short woman—and ask themselves how such a pairing can not only be possible, mismatched as the couple is, but how such a relationship can be sustained.

In any case of clear gold-digging behaviors, such as former stripper and bleach-blond bombshell Anna Nicole Smith’s marriage to 89-year-old oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall II (who died only 14 months after the marriage) or any of the barely-legal blonds associated with octogenarian Playboy magazine creator and publisher Hugh Hefner, it is easily understood why such women are with these broken-down, albeit fabulously wealthy, men. 

The mysteries develop when there is no such clear-cut “reason” for a beauty to be with a beast.  In recent decades the metaphor held in many modern relationships.  Gorgeous actress Drew Barrymore married the goofy-looking (and goofy-acting) Canadian “funny” man, Tom Green (who, with chutzpah beyond imagining divorced her shortly after their marriage).  Comedienne Sarah Silverman maintained a long-term relationship with TV personality, the Flintstonian jughead, Jimmy Kimmel.  Julia Roberts was married to the cosmetically-challenged, horse-faced (but extremely talented) musician, Lyle Lovett, for many years. 

The only conclusions to be drawn from such odd pairings are: 1) the woman is psychologically off-center and thus unable to “see” the imbalance issues between them, or 2) perhaps the “beast” in the relationship is truly a person good for that womancaring, nurturing, and loving.Eva Braun (c. 1940, semi-nude behind umbrella)Credit:

Arguably, the most reviled person to ever draw breath in humanity’s entire history was psychopathic despot Adolf Hitler.  His smug attachment to an ideal human kind, the Aryan Race—blond, blue-eyed, white Nordic people—led him to systematically attempt to eliminate what he called “mud” people or “dog” people from the planet.  Mostly this meant those who were Jews or of Jewish ancestry; however, his disdain also extended to homosexuals and people of color.  He turned his “Final Solution” problem over to minions for implementation.  As a result, millions of European Jews and other “dissidents” and “subversives” were put to death in gas chambers disguised as communal showers in several Nazi-run death camps.

And yet, despite his misanthropic megalomania, Adolf Hitler had a long-time girlfriend who was absolutely and unconditionally devoted to him.  This woman, on the last day of hers and Hitler’s lives, finally was married to the madman in a bunker besieged by Allied bombs.  They died togethershe from cyanide ingestion, and he by a bullet to the brain. 

The incongruity of this relationship is not understood to this day.  But Eva Braun was indeed the woman who found something good in the most evil man history ever saw.

Kinder und Liebchin
Eva Anna Paula Braun was born into a working class family in Munich, Germany, on February 6, 1912.  Her father was a schoolteacher; her mother was a hausfrau, though she’d been a seamstress before marrying.  Eva was a middle child, sandwiched between her older sister, Ilse (b: 1909), and her younger, Magarethe Gretl (called “Gretl” by the family, born in 1915).  Eva was given a solid Catholic school education.  Though an average student, she excelled in sports and was physically energetic throughout her life.

World War I ruined Germany, and the country had to pay reparations by international Allied decree stemming from The Treaty of Versailles. The total global war cost about $200 billion then (equivalent to over $3 trillion in 2013 dollars).  Germany had to cede all its colonial possessions per the treaty and was assessed a reparations tab of $32 billion (about $480 billion today).  [Of this, over irregular periods, Germany paid $6 billion.  Payments ended in 1931, and no further international efforts were made to collect the debt due to its impracticality.] 

The German economy was devastated by this burden, felt most by its middle class.  Hyperinflationwherein a man might sit down to a meal in a restaurant and, during the time it took to eat, its price went up 300% – raged out of control.  Comestibles such as bread sold for hundreds of thousands of Reich marks a loaf.  [And at that, much of the bread available was adulterated, containing a substance euphemistically called “non-nutritive cellulose”sawdustto help stretch the flour and to fill bellies.]

The Braun household was as affected by this as any other German family.  Eva’s mother divorced her father in April 1921; the couple remarried in November 1922, however.  It is likely this was only a remarriage of convenience to help maintain a household more cost-effectively thanks to the hyperinflation issue.

Eva Braun (from baby to teenager)When Eva reached her late teens, she attended a business school appended to a convent near the Inn River in southeastern German Bavaria, not too many miles from Munich.  Afterward, she looked for a job.  She was hired by Heinrich Hoffmann, the Nazi Party’s official photographer, when she was 17 (though working for it, Eva never joined the Nazi Party).  Hoffmann kept a studio in Munich.  Her early duties included only the tasks of a shop clerk and occasional photographic model.  She did, however, learn to use a camera, and she also picked up the mechanics of dark room technique.  [Amateur photography as an avocation stayed with Eva for the rest of her life; she later took many candid shots of one of history’s darkest figures, Adolf Hitler.] Eva Braun (holding bunny, year unknown)Credit:

One day, a stranger came to Hoffmann’s work space in October 1929.  Eva, only recently employed there, was introduced to the intense man with the small bristle-broom mustache.  Hoffmann brought Eva to the man’s attention and told her the stranger’s name was “Herr Wolff”. 

Eva later wrote of this encounter to her younger sister, Gretl:

“I had stayed after closing time to straighten up several things and was standing on the ladder putting something away on the top shelf. Then I heard the door open and saw the boss come in with a somewhat older man, a gentleman of a certain age with a funny moustache, a light-colored English overcoat, and carrying a big felt hat in his hand. I tried to watch them without their noticing . . .

When I came down off the ladder the boss introduced us.  He said, Mr. Wolff, this is our little Miss Eva. Then Hoffmann sent me out to get some beer and sausages from the corner pub.”

“Herr Wolff” was 23 years older than Eva Braun.  And according to the teenage Eva Braun, from the time he showed his face in the shop, she was totally in love with him.

Der Fuehrer’s Face
While having no power or political influence of merit at the time he met Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler had aspirations.

He was born in Braunau-am-Inn (a hamlet on the Inn River in northwest Austria that abutted Germany’s Bavarian backwater) in 1889, later calling nearby Linz-am-Donau (“Linz on the Danube River”) his “home town”.  He had a half-sister named Angela Raubal (her daughter, Geli, would play a major role in Hitler’s later life; Angela would become his housekeeper for some time, ending in 1935 when he fired her).  He wanted nothing more than to be a great artist as he grew older.  His studies brought him some success for his architectural and landscape drawings and paintings – his clean line work and eye for detail made him a great graphic artist.

Eva Braun (portrait)Credit: Adolf Hitler, year unknownHitler’s downfall in the world of fine art, however, was the human face.

To gain progress as an artist and to also prove his merit for entry into a desired art school, he needed to be able to competently do portraiture.  He could nothis attempts at human life drawing were ridiculed by peers and a review board.  He simply had no talent for such organic structures (though his drawings of bridges and other manmade features were beyond reproach).  He was rejected twice during 1907-1908.  [And Hitler’s lack of talent in executing the complexities of the human face is painfully evident in his almost comically demonic pencil drawing of a broad-shouldered, neckless Eva.] 

His mother supported him out of a small pension she received, but her death in 1908 left him bereft and broke.  He scraped by on odd jobs and painted cheap postcards that a friend sold to tourists.  Finally, disaffected, disheartened, and impoverished, he left Vienna and moved to Munich in 1913. In Munich, he eked out a pitiful living designing commercial posters.

[Hitler’s rejection by the Viennese art school left him embittered; he later claimed great knowledge of what was, and wasn’t, art.  And while the Nazis plundered the finest art of Europe during World War II for the glory of Germany, Hitler also ordered equally great works destroyed because, to him, they represented images he was neither capable of executing or understanding.  His justification for such destruction was certain works were decadent and did not serve the purposes of the State.]

Germany enacted conscription for its war with the world, and Hitler became a soldier in the German army.  He attained the rank of corporal, sustained battle injuries, and was also gassed in 1918, for which he was hospitalized and discharged. [The aftereffects of nerve gas according to some may have exaggerated his mental predisposition toward megalomania.] He earned an Iron Cross medal for personal bravery

Germany’s defeat in World War I, while humiliating on the world stage, was nothing compared to the onerous terms of The Treaty of Versailles.  No Germans attended the conference that determined their fate.  The peace terms, especially the reparations issue, stuck in the craw of the German people.  And with the lack of food thanks to a lackadaisical humanitarian relief effort that was supposed to be coordinated by the Allied victors, many tens of thousands of Germans died of starvation.  Combined with the hyperinflation, Germany was ripe for change, and not necessarily changes for the better.

Hitler, as a disaffected idealist, though not German (he was Austrian) joined the German Workers’ Party in Munich in 1919.  The group was renamed the National Socialist Party, or the Nazi Party, and in 1920 he became its head of propaganda.  His tenacity insured that he ended up at the party leader in 1921.  In an incident in September 1921, he and some of his new guard, the “Brown Shirts”, disrupted a meeting of a competing Bavarian Nationalist group.  There specifically to assault that group’s leader, the Nazis who participated were arrested as a result. Hitler was sentenced to three months in jailhe only served a bit over a month, though (the other two months suspended pending future good behavior).

Hitler’s knack for propagandizing was relentless, and he used it as a goad and a bludgeon to instigate a mass nationalist movement.  In 1923, his group staged what history calls the “Beer Hall Putsch”.  The Weimar Republica right-wing government formed in the wake of the Great Warwas considered weak by the Nazis.  On November 8, Hitler and his men, aided by 600 armed militiamen, crashed a mass right-wing rally in a Munich beer hall.  After much shouting down, Hitler convinced the leaders thereat gunpointthat they and their members should join the Nazis in taking the “revolution” to Berlin.

The word spread quickly in the city of the trouble.  Early the next day some 3,000 Nazis marched on Munich’s government center.  These were met by state police and soldiers.  Gunfire erupted, and Hitler, along with others, was injured (four state police and 16 Nazis were killed in the conflict).  Marienplatz in Munich during the Beer Hall Putsch (Nov 9, 1923)Credit: German Federal ArchiveTwo days after the failed “revolution” Hitler was arrested.  Tried for high treason he was sentenced to five years in prison.  In court, he advised that the Beer Hall Putsch was the first time he was inspired to call himself by a title—Führer (or Anglicized, “Fuehrer”, a word that merely means “leader”). 

The prison he was assigned, though, was predicated on his sentencing under German law—he received the cushiest treatment available at the time.  There was no forced labor, his cell was comfortable, and he was allowed visitors almost daily for hours at a stretch.  He only served eight months of his five-year bit, though, getting time off “for good behavior”. 

During his imprisonment he started writing his vitriolic—and misleading and self-serving—autobiography, Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”).  It was here he formalized his belief that inequality between human kind’s racial groups was part of the natural order.  He exalted the “Aryan race” (a group that, ironically, he was not qualified to be part of with his short stature, dark hair, and—at least within the past few generations before his birth – having a Jewish ancestor).  He propounded anti-Semitism, anti-Communism, and extreme German nationalism.

The inflationary scourge of the early 1920s had abated somewhat, but another economic slump in the late 1920s led to even greater dissatisfaction among the German people.  Hitler, taking advantage of the desire of Germany’s citizens to see it strong again, gained greater power in what was first purported to be a populist front, the Nazi Party. Adolf Hitler (younger)Credit:

Hitler shared an apartment with his half-niece, Geli Raubal, in Munich starting in 1925, and she was the only female presence in his life.  As his political power waxed, though, on a personal level Hitler was desperately lonely by the time he met Eva Braun in Hoffmann’s photo studio. The 5’4” strawberry blond girl with the curves appealed mightily to the dumpy older man with the funny Chaplin-esque mustache. He soon began showing her attentions, giving her little gifts or doing small favors for her.  

Eva, once their relationship developed, found her parents did not approve of his attentions to their impressionable daughter.   However, living in a country with many small deprivations, Eva relished his gift-giving and no doubt encouraged him.  She was swept off her feet by the attentions from him, too.  And she expressed her gratitude for these attentions (from a 1931 letter to him):

“Dear Mr. Hitler, I would like to thank you for the pleasant evening at the theater. It was unforgettable. I shall always be grateful for your friendship. I count the hours until the moment when we shall meet again . . .”

Meanwhile, in September 1931, Hitler’s roommate, confidante, and nearest relative in Munich killed herself with his gun. He sought solace in Eva’s company, spending more time with her in the wake of his half-niece’s death than he had before.  [It has been suggested Geli killed herself because she was distraught over Hitler’s relationship with Eva.  Eva, however, did not know Geli was a rival for Hitler’s affections until after she killed herself.  Others speculate Hitler killed her (unlikely, as he was in Nuremberg when it happened) or had her murdered.]  

Secret Love
For many women and men in the public eyepoliticians, actors and actresses, authors, and musiciansimplied sexual availability is a key, and cultivated, part of the figure’s public image.

Current examples are actors whose wives are never seen, female singers whose husbands or boyfriends lurk in the dark shadows off-stage, or politicians whose mistresses are never with them in public. It is the air of keeping the carefully groomed personaat least on-screen or in the presence of the massesfixed in the culture as an “available” package to the average person.

Great examples of this tantalizing “availability” were illustrated when John F. Kennedy, Jr. (deceased son of the assassinated US President), got married.  “John John” (as he was called in the press) was a long-time bachelor, and women all around the world secretly harbored fantasies of marrying him.  His engagement devastated many – the press blew up with agonized stories of the heartbroken that carried torches for him, ordinary women expressing their disappointment at his nuptials.  Never mind that not a single one of those women ever stood a chance of getting with him —shattering the fiction of his “availability” made the blow real enough.  Similarly, when sex-symbol actress Salma Hayek married a choad—a French industrialist billionaire many years older than she—men of the world collectively groaned in disappointment as well.  Her “sexual availability” (and, thus, a part of her attraction for many men) had been destroyed.

Historically, attractive and desirable women have attached themselves to unassuming or otherwise unattractive men who were, however, powerfully placed.  Power is an aphrodisiac for many women, and Adolf Hitler knew this (as any thinking man does, and for all his flaws Hitler was a thinking man). And while Hitler harbored no delusions about being a “sex symbol” he needed to maintain an air of “sexual availability” for two reasons.  The first, and most obvious, was to keep his countrywomen interested in him.  But Hitler’s pretense of “sexual availability” also worked with German men.  By cultivating that image, Hitler assured the proles that he was not frittering away his time in dalliances with the fairer sex; instead, he was working diligently around the clock to insure the greatness of Germany.

The need to maintain this façade is why Hitler never made his intimate relationship with Eva Braun public (in fact, the German people did not learn of it until after his death). The pair never went out as a couple, and they were never photographed together for press releases (except for one instance during the 1936 Olympics when a photo was published showing Eva sitting near Hitler at the Games).  Exceptions were private pictures taken by inner circle Nazi members or by Hitler or Eva using a camera with a timer. 

Eva’s baby sister, Gretl (now 17), also found work at Hoffmann’s studio with Eva, starting in 1932.  The sisters rented an apartment, living together for a time.  Hitler visited there, but did not stay over.  [Gretl later went on little pleasure trips with her sister to Obersalzberg, a Bavarian tourist destination in the Bavarian Alps.  Hitler later lived in a chateau in the area he called “the Berghof”, and spent most of his off-time there.] 

As Eva and Gretl set up independent housekeeping Hitler ran for president under the Nazi Party flag (the second-largest political party in Germany starting in 1930).  He lost the election.  Following his determination to remain publicly “available” he continued seeing Eva discreetly (their relationship had not become sexual yet).  Though initially titillated by the cloak-and-dagger aspects of their “affair”, Eva bridled at their amour’s continued clandestine nature.

Finally, in what was clearly a bid for more attention from Hitler, Eva attempted suicide in early August 1932 (either August 10 or August 11, the date is uncertain).  She shot herself in the chest near her neck with a handgun owned by her father.  Hitler was panicked by thishe recalled the devastation he felt when his adored half-niece had killed herself.  Losing Eva would have been traumatic on top of that. 

She took some time to recover from her wound.  Hitler maintained as much in the way of a vigil as possible considering his political machinations at the time took up much of his days. 

Eva Braun (relaxing as Hitler views her portfolio)When she finally recovered, his devotion to her was sealed to her satisfaction.  The pair became sexually intimate for the first time in late 1932.  Loosening his convictionsbut still cautious about prying eyesHitler let Eva stay overnight with him in his apartment many times when he was in Munich.  [Negative propaganda during World War IIbecause Hitler was unmarried and never seen with a paramourled to spreading rumors that he was homosexual.  Another piece of scurrilous “fact” passed around was that he only had one testicleas “half a man”, the Allied soldiers and leaders alike snickered that he couldn’t even perform sexually with a woman.  Neither of these allegations was true.  Eva recorded much of their liaisons in letters to her sisters and in a journal, parts of which were found after the war, all which clearly indicate the pair had a vigorous sex life with no deformities on his part.]  

Eva was promoted, in 1933, by Hoffmann into the more attractive job of photographer for the Nazi Party.  This let her travel about freelywith Hoffmann and others of Hitler’s inner circle in tow she was rarely away from Hitler, though public acknowledgment of their intimacy was never discussed nor displayed. 

Also in 1933, the world shifted on its axis when Adolf Hitler, the failed artist from Austria, secured the stepping stone that led to his totalitarian rule over Germany.

Darkening Days
Hitler’s wheedling had thrust him into the purview of the country’s President, Paul von Hindenburg.  On January 30, 1933 von Hindenburg, through recommendations of his advisers, made the supreme mistake of elevating Hitler to Germany’s chancellorship.  A purge followed on June 30, 1934, wherein hundreds of Hitler’s friends and early followers were murdered, removing possible dissidents.  The Nazis carried many seats in the parliamentvon Hindenburg was unable to control that party’s increasing influence, and he lived in semi-retirement until his death in his late 80s in 1934.

Hitler, meanwhile, had formally adopted his 1923 dreamed-up moniker, “Führer”.  He finagled dictatorial powers by legislative act.  Suppression of all opposition was done with help from long-time crony, Heinrich Himmler.  Himmler commanded 600,000 SchutzstaffelElite Guards or SS (in 1936 he was made head of the Reich’s police).  Along with the Party’s secret police arm, the Gestapo, terror reigned among any potential subversives or opponents.  Hitler also began to enact anti-Jewish measures: the requirement of wearing identifying “Stars of David” on their clothing, then segregation into Jewish ghettos, and finally corralling them into concentration camps (leading to the Holocaust).

Eva Braun almost certainly knew all of this.  And she chose to live with that knowledge rather than interfere or protest or lose her gifts from him.

Glory Days
In her diary, dated February 11, 1935 (five days after her 23rd birthday), Eva wrote:

“He came to see me, but nary a sign of a dog or a chest of drawers.  He did not even ask me what I wanted for my birthday.  So I bought some jewelry for myself.  A necklace, earrings, and a matching ring, all for 50 marks.  All very pretty, and I hope he likes it.  If he doesn’t, then he should choose something for me himself.”

Eva Braun (1935)Credit: jewishvirtuallibrary.orgStill not content with Hitler’s hit-or-miss relationship with her, and tired of being ignored much of the time with his new position as the country’s dictator, Eva tried suicide again in May 1935.  This time she took what she thought would be an overdose of sleeping pills. Her diary entry for May 28, 1935, sets the scene:

“I have just sent him the crucial letter.  Question: will he attach any importance to it?

We’ll see.  If I don’t get an answer before this evening, I'll take 25 pills and gently fall asleep into another world.

He has so often told me he is madly in love with me, but what does that mean when I haven’t had a good word from him in three months?

So he has had a head full of politics all this time, but surely it is time he relaxed a little.  What happened last year?  Didn’t Röhm and Italy give him a lot of problems, but in spite of all that he found time for me?

Maybe the present situation is incomparably more difficult for him, nevertheless a few kind words conveyed through the Hoffmanns would not have greatly distracted him.

I am afraid there is something behind it all.  I am not to blame.  Absolutely not.

Maybe it is another woman, not the Valkyriethat would be hard to believe.  But there are so many other women.

Is there any other explanation?  I can’t find it.

God, I am afraid he won’t give me his answer today.  If only somebody would help meit is all so terribly depressing.

Perhaps my letter reached him at an inopportune moment.  Perhaps I should not have written.  Anyway, the uncertainty is more terrible than a sudden ending of it all.

I have made up my mind to take 35 pills this time, and it will be ‘dead certain’.  If only he would let someone call.”

[The “Valkyrie” to which Eva refers was the codename of an assassination plot against Hitlerconfirmed years later but already suspected at the time by Nazi officials.  They were already working to ferret out the details of this suspected conspiracy.  This is also clear proof that Eva Braun was an insider with respect to Nazi intrigues. 

The reference to “Röhm” concerns Ernst Röhm.  He was a known homosexualat least, known to Hitlerand was close to him.  Hitler seemed not to have objected to Röhm’s homosexuality.  This flew in the face of his own policy of ridding Germany of such “deviants” until it came to light in the ranks.  Hitler then disavowed Röhm, citing his “immoral sexual behavior”.]

Taking advantage of access to the country’s money, Eva and Gretl were put up by Hitler in a three-bedroom apartment in Munich that August.  The following year, they were installed in an Alpine villa.  She later also had her own apartment in Berlin, designed to suit her.  By 1936, Eva spent much of her timein isolationat Hitler’s resort-area household (the Berghof) when he was there.   Hitler’s closest friend, Albert Speer (who survived him), recalled:

“Hitler kept his Eva like a puppet in a doll’s house.  She was a part of the ambience, like the canary cage, the rubber tree  . . . and the kitschy wooden clocks.

. . . Eva Braun was allowed to be present during visits from old party associates.  She was banished as soon as other dignitaries of the Reich, such as cabinet ministers, appeared at the table . . . Hitler obviously regarded her as socially acceptable only within strict limits.

Sometimes I kept her company in her exile, a room next to Hitler’s bedroom.  She was so intimidated that she did not dare leave the house for a walk.  Out of sympathy for her predicament I soon began to feel a liking for this unhappy woman, who was so deeply attached to Hitler.”

She parlayed her closeness to Hitler’s inner circle into a somewhat lucrative trade in film and photographs of the Nazi Party’s elite.  Some of the movies and pictures she took, she sold to Hoffmann at very high prices.  She assumed the role of private secretary to Hitlerthis served to explain her presence near him in public.  She was free to come and go from his Chancellery offices, though she used a side entrance and a rear staircase to enter and exit.

Eva Braun (1936)Eva led a very sheltered, privileged life in the Fuehrer’s shadow.  Most of his close associates regarded Eva with almost paternal tolerance and a quiet disdain.  She had almost no influence on her lover’s political life.  She was frankly not terribly interested in the machinations of politics, only in sports, clothes, reading novelettes, and the cinema.  She also enjoyed nude sunbathing and being photographed while doing so.  This infuriated Hitler, but he was helpless to stop her antics.

Her diary was filled with complaints about Hitler’s neglect and perceived humiliation of her: she was forbidden to smoke, dance, or enjoy the company of other men.  She and he argued over her overuse of cosmetics, particularly lipstick.  His strict vegetarianism was another bone of contention – she refused to share in his vegetarian diet regimen, saying, “I can’t eat that stuff.”  [Hitler’s disdain for cosmetics on women stemmed not from vestigial Victorian prudery, but because he knew lipstick contained animal fat, verboten for a vegetarian.] 

Otherwise, Eva’s time was her own when she was away from Hitler in Munich, and she got around his prohibitions.  With Hitler’s mind elsewhere Eva Braun joined the party circuit of the decadent age in Munich. Eva Braun (partying in Munich, 1938)

End of Days
Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night” or “Night of Broken Glass” so called from the broken glass left in its aftermath) was a night of extreme violence driven by Hitler’s anti-Semitism.  Instigated and coördinated by Joseph Goebbels, the night of November 9-10, 1938, found Nazi Party members rioting through the streets against Jews and Jewish businesses.  When all was over, 91 Jews were dead, hundreds had been seriously injured (from beatings and thrown bricks), 177 synagogues had been destroyed, and about 7500 Jewish businesses were gutted.  A further 30,000 wealthy Jews were arrested by the Gestapo; their release was offered if they agreed to emigrate and consign their assets over to the Nazis.  [This incident marked a major escalation in the Nazi program of Jewish persecution.]

Hitler’s plans included annexing an insignificant territory in what is now the Czech Republic called the Sudetenland.  Formerly part of Austria, after World War I this region was incorporated into Czech lands.  It was Hitler’s desire to “repatriate” the land and its people, occupied mostly by German-speakers and people of German descent.  Understanding Hitler’s aggression, British Prime Minister met with him in 1938 to discuss the Sudeten issue. 

During that conference (which led to a disastrous “appeasement” of Hitler by giving him the area he wanted), Chamberlain had occasion to be photographed.  In the picture, he sat on a particular sofa in Hitler’s Munich apartment.  Eva’s friends and relatives recall Eva’s delight when she saw a print of this image; she commented, “If only he knew what goings-on that sofa has seen!”

Regardless of any appeasement concessions, Hitler allied with Benito Mussolini. He also aligned himself in a pact with Japan.  Despite 1939’s German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, Hitler invaded Poland, precipitating World War II.  As the war took hold, Hitler’s armies had to fight on two fronts: in the West subduing France, and soon in the East invading Russia (starting in 1941 with 3 million German soldiers).  [In perhaps one of the lesser known of Hitler’s atrocities, also in 1939, he instituted a program of “mercy killings” throughout Germany.  The insane, cripples, the mentally deficient, and old people were murdered by doctors and nurses.  This “cleansing” lasted until August 1941 when public outrage forced him to put an end to the program.]

For the first couple of years, World War II was strictly a European problem, just as its global predecessor had been.  That changed on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, crippling the US Naval fleet in port there.  The United States declared war on Japanbecause of his pact with the Japanese, Hitler had no choice but to declare war on the United States in turn.

Eva and Adolf with their dogs (1942)Credit: undesarchiv B 145 Bild F051673-0059Germany, as did every country involved, turned toward a total war economy.  That meant any consumer goods not of immediate value to the individual for preservation of life and home were to be used for material support for troops, supplies, and weaponry.  “Shortages” of rubber, copper, plastics, and many foodstuffs were created (diverted to the war machine).  Production of many luxury items ceased.  [In the US, silk was so valuable for parachutes and other military applications that women’s silk stockings were not to be had.  Women took to spraying their legs with a tanning solution and drawing a penciled “seam” on the backs of their calves to simulate the appearance of wearing silk stockings. Other women went barelegged.  The development of nylona synthetic materialinto a ubiquitous women’s hosiery item came from this period.]

rare images of Eva & Hitler together (not in public)Eva Braun was not above petty vanities, even during those most trying times when all should sacrifice.  Not used to doing without anything since she met Hitler, she was indignant when he called a moratorium on cosmetics’ manufacture.  He also issued a total ban on women’s make-up in the country.   In the sole case of Eva’s recollected interest in German politics, she confronted Hitler about the make-up ban.  He modified his position in the face of her outrage – he called his friend and Armaments Minister, Albert Speer, into a meeting.  He advised Speer to see that, while production of those unnecessary items stopped, there was to be no ban of them.  This meant women could keep what make-up products they had; more could be obtained on the black market where needed, but none was made in Germany.

Leisure moments for Eva Braun

Till Death Us Do Part
Eva’s baby sister Gretl married SS Group Leader Hermann Fegelein June 3, 1944.  He was Himmler’s liaison officer, and Hitler was grateful for Gretl’s marriage to this man.  It gave him the necessary excuse to let Eva Braun attend official functions; she could be truthfully introduced as Fegelein’s sister-in-law with no one suspecting anything untoward otherwise. The Braun Sisters (c 1940: Ilse, Margarethe Gretl, & Eva)Disasters in the East and bumbling in the West meant Hitler’s early war successes were undermined by consecutive later failures.  He often ignored his generals.  Dissension in the military, particularly with Hitler’s seeming lack of interest in his military advisers’ recommendations, led to a failed assassination attempt on July 20, 1944.

Hitler was in conference in his East Prussian headquarters.  He and some others sat at a large conference table.  An assassin successfully placed a briefcase bomb under the table at Hitler’s feet.  A colonel standing near Hitler nudged the unassuming case with his foot behind one of the table’s legs (creating a deflection barrier) as it was in his waythis simple act most likely saved Hitler’s life.  When the bomb detonated a few minutes later, the colonel lost his leg (and his life from that injury). 

Though four others died of injuries as well, Hitler was relatively unharmed.  His pants were flash-burned and torn, and one of his eardrums was perforated.  The backlash in the wake of this conspiracy to kill Hitler, codenamed “Valkyrie”, was massive: over 7,000 people were arrested by the Gestapo, and over 4900 of those were executed.  One conspirator was given the option of execution or killing himselfhe chose suicide.  [Valkyrie was not the first assassination attempt, but the first to actually touch him.  Four others were madeall failed or were discovered before any harm could be done.]

Eva, typical of their relationship, was not with Hitler when it happened.  She received written word from him two days after the attack.  He also sent her the battered uniform he had worn that day as proof that “Providence has protected me and that we have nothing more to fear from our enemies”.  Part of her reply expressed the genuine fear she felt over losing him:

Geliebter [“beloved”],

I am beside myself.  I am dying of anxiety now that I know you are in danger.  Come back as soon as possible.  I feel as if I am going insane.

The weather is beautiful here and everything seems so peaceful that I am ashamed of myself . . . You know I have always told you that I would die if anything happened to you . . . You know that I live only for your love.”

Defeat for Germany grew imminent in 1945 (though suspected by many within the inner circle as inevitable as early as 1943).  The Soviet Army, allied with the United States, moved toward Germany.  In early April, a panicked Eva left Munich for Berlin where Hitler was entrenched in his specially-built bunker (30 small rooms spread out over two levels, ranging from 28 to 37 feet below ground).  As the Red Army surged toward Germany’s capital, and a resolution to World War II, she chose to stay with her man though he tried wheedling her into leaving.  

Sensing perhaps the end was nigh, Hitler decided to wrap up some loose ends.  During these last days of the war, SS Group Leader, Hermann Fegelein (Eva’s brother-in-law, married to her sister Gretl), was caught trying to escape to Sweden or Switzerland.  Hitler ordered his execution, and Fegelein was shot for desertion in the garden of the Reich Chancellery on April 28, 1945.

Having said he would never marry as it would have interfered with his political ambitions, Hitler finally gave Eva Braun what she had yearned for since they met: a vow of marriage.  As the night of April 28 turned into the early morning of April 29, Hitler and Eva were wed in a civil ceremony within the confines of his bunker.  Walther Wagner, a minor officer in the Reich’s Propaganda Ministry, officiated.  The joining was witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann.  Eva, still perhaps not believing her luck, started to sign her last name on the marriage certificate as “Braun”she crossed out the “B” she started writing and signed her surname as “Hitler”. 

At 4:00 AM, Hitler made out a Last Will & Testament:

“As I did not consider that I could take responsibility, during the years of struggle, of contracting a marriage, I have now decided, before the closing of my earthly career, to take as my wife that girl who, after many years of faithful friendship, entered, of her own free will, the practically besieged town in order to share her destiny with me.  At her own desire she goes as my wife with me into death.  It will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people.

What I possess belongsin so far as it has any valueto the Party.  Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary.

My pictures, in the collections which I have bought in the course of years, have never been collected for private purposes, but only for the extension of a gallery in my home town of Linz on Donau.

It is my most sincere wish that this bequest may be duly executed.

I nominate as my Executor my most faithful Party comrade, Martin Bormann.  He is given full legal authority to make all decisions.  He is permitted to take out everything that has a sentimental value or is necessary for the maintenance of a modest simple life, for my brothers and sisters, also above all for the mother of my wife and my faithful co-workers who are well known to him, principally my old Secretaries Frau Winter etc. who have for many years aided me by their work.

I myself and my wifein order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulationchoose death.  It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years' service to my people.”

Light of Day
In the aftermath of the fall of Berlin, US troops and others uncovered the secret relationship between Eva Braun and Hitler.  The German public was shocked to learn Hitler (who had been with Eva for about 15 years before his death) had managed to keep her a secret from them. 

Parts of her diary were found that survived the traumas of bombing.  Many photos and films were taken away and cached in US archives. 

During the weeks of siege in the bunker in Berlin, Eva still wrote letters.  An excerpt from one to a friend read, “I can’t understand how all this could happen.  It’s enough to make one lose one’s faith in God!” Any casual historian or merely curious party could apply the same sentiment to Eva’s relationship with Hitler: “I can’t understand how all this could happen.” 

The simple truth is that this girl was caught by a very charismatic man who (by all accounts from associates and inner circle members later) truly adored her and loved her.  She tried his patience many times, as he did hers.  Hitler spoiled Eva as one would a doted upon child.  She was denied almost nothing except his time, and as the war progressed and he saw the change in the tide against Germany, he found more and more that her company was the only peace in his life.

Eva, for her part, was a flighty girl in many ways, but as she grew older, she matured and settled into the resigned life of mistress to the most powerful man in Germany.  She traveled extensively in her role of official Nazi Party photographer, seeing the country.  She knew of the persecutions of Jews and others.  She knew of the concentration camps.  She knew of the Gestapo death squads squelching dissidents and opposition to the Nazis.Eva Braun: Pretty in Color

At a time when millions of Germans starved, Eva Braun dined well.  At a time when sacrificing and impoverished Germans could neither afford nor obtain life’s little luxuries, she was showered in gifts.  She wore pretty dresses and had fine jewelry.  She had her little Scottish Terriers.  She dyed her hair a lighter shade of blond.  She spent much leisure time at Hitler’s chateau in the beautiful Bavarian Alps (sometimes unhappily in isolation, but most often not – Hitler never controlled her movements, and she was free to roam as she wished except when banished during important Nazi business). 

And while all of this points to a gold-digger’s mindset, it must be recalled that Eva met Hitler in 1929 when he had nothing except a desire.  She elected to hitch her wagon to this man then.  She never tried to leave him, never broke up with him, their sex life was satisfactory, and they were mentally connected in a long-term relationship. They also formed a suicide pact from which neither reneged.

In other words, Eva Braun loved Adolf Hitler. And that’s “how all this could happen”.


Author’s Note: All of Eva’s immediate family survived the war.  Her father died in 1964.  Her mother died (at the age of 96) in a Bavarian farmhouse she lived in.  Ilse, Eva’s older sister, was never part of Eva’s “inner circle” world, and she never attended any parties or events as Eva’s guest.  She never joined the Nazi Party, either.  She married a couple of times and died in 1979.

Gretl, the baby sister Eva seemed most close to, gave birth to a girl on May 5, 1945.  This was one week after her husband had been executed for desertion on Hitler’s orders; it was also five days after Eva committed suicide.  Gretl named the girl “Eva”.  She married a businessman later in her life, and died in 1987.

Eva Braun: Life with Hitler
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