Eva Anna Paula Braun Hitler (6 February 1912 – 30 April 1945) is one of the most notorious women in history.
|Eva at the Berghof, looking in the general direction of the Eagle's Nest.|
Eva was a professional photographer, an invaluable skill for someone in her position. Many of these pictures undoubtedly were taken by Eva or at least posed by her.
|Eva Braun relaxing in the mid-1930s. Who wears short shorts?|
Eva also was quite toothsome, and not afraid to show it.
|This is a nice portrait of Eva. The soft focus really isn't necessary, she was a very attractive young woman. This makes her look older than she was, which perhaps was intentional being that Hitler was much older.|
Let's be real: Eva Braun has a very bad reputation in many quarters. To some extent, it is guilt by association, though Eva herself did some things that virtually anyone, at least in the 21st Century, would consider improper (such as posing in blackface). It is not that Eva Braun personally did anything terrible, but that she was the devoted consort of one Adolf Hitler, and he did terrible things.
|Eva enjoyed prancing about in peasant costumes. Hitler did at times, too, at least for some publicity shots.|
Eva Braun was a closely guarded state secret, but she was just an ordinary girl. While we know all about her, ordinary Germans during World War II - and people outside the Reich's borders - would not have recognized the name. This is a clear case of something being obvious to us now that only became known after the war.
|Eva Braun in a surprisingly modern-looking outfit. She loved to take pictures of herself and Adolf playing with local animals. I can't make out what she is holding in her left hand.|
Eva was from Munich. Her family was of middle class means.
|Eva Braun’s parents, Fritz and Franziska, Christmas 1940.|
Her parents sent her to a convent in Simbach in the 1920s. She left the convent in mid-1929 and secured a job as 'girl Friday' to photographer Heinrich Hoffman.
Eva did secretarial work, and eventually learned how to use a camera and develop film. She was quite athletic and kept herself in great shape for the times. Eva was quite happy swimming or bicycling or working out on the parallel bars.
In 1929, at 17 years old, Eva was working at the studio as usual when she met a customer who introduced himself as 'Herr Wolff.' It was Adolf Hitler. Eva later told her sister Ilse:
“I’d stayed on after closing time to file some papers and I’d climbed up a ladder to fetch the files kept on the top shelves of the cupboard. At that moment the boss came in accompanied by a man of uncertain age with a funny moustache, a light-coloured, English-style overcoat and a big felt hat in his hand."
|Eva and her animals....|
Hoffmann sent her out to buy beer and sausages, and then invited Eva to join them. She recalled in her diary:
“The elderly gentleman (Hitler) was paying me compliments. We talked about music and a play at the Staatstheater, as I remember, with him devouring me with his eyes all the time."
Apparently, Eva wrote Hitler a note at this first meeting. She stuffed it in his pocket. Whatever it said, it was something fresh. After looking at it, Hitler asked if she was joking. She said no, she really liked him. This was the start of their relationship.
Eva later recalled in a letter to Adolf Hitler:
"From our first meeting on, I have promised myself to follow you wherever you go, even to death. You know that I live only for your love."Hitler liked Eva from the start. It probably did not hurt that Eva was in the photography business, and he was one of the most photographed men of his time who used pictures to create mass appeal. Eva's special skills matched Hitler's needs.... Adolf began calling upon Eva.
|Eva with actress Else von Möllendorff|
Hitler was living with Geli Raubal, his niece, at the time. It is widely assumed that it was a romantic relationship. Geli and Hitler had a violent quarrel one day, 18 September 1931 - Geli wanted something that he refused to give her, perhaps, who knows, marriage or her freedom? - and shot herself after he left.
|Hitler and Geli|
Hitler went into a deep depression. Eva looked a bit like Geli, though thinner and more athletic, and was very comforting. After that, Hitler began to associate more with Eva. But that didn't mean that Hitler associated only with Eva.
At first, Hitler had several mistresses alongside Eva - that may have been one of his issues with Geli, too. During the early months of 1932, though, Eva became Hitler's permanent mistress, part of his permanent stable.
|Eva at the Konigsee lake.|
Hitler neglected Eva at times after that. During the spring of 1935, they had some issues and Hitler reportedly saw other women. She would write angry entries in her diary about how mean he was to her, how Hitler took her for granted, how she just wanted to live a normal life with her man, and the like. However, Hitler always came back to her.
|Eva in 1935.|
Eva attempted suicide in November 1932, and again in May 1935. Apparently, she thought Hitler was seeing other women - which he apparently was. Even in later years, Hitler at times would squire other women to the opera and so forth. That doesn't mean they were on the outs, though - it more likely was to keep Eva out of the society pages.
|Eva's favorite exercise spot at a nearby lake today.|
After the second attempt, Hitler bought Eva a house in Munich. He made her his 'private secretary' so she could come and go without too much fuss. She would travel with him at times, too, at least to nearby events, and stay hidden away in nearby rooms.
|Perhaps this is how Eva amused herself while waiting for Adolf to finish his boring speech before 100,000 people.|
It was all very cozy and private. Hitler wanted to appear "available" to his female fans - some of his most fanatical and devoted supporters - and so Eva almost literally was kept in the closet.
Hitler’s pilot, Hans Baur, later told author John Toland that he routinely flew Eva to visit Hitler. He would bring Eva around to Hitler's rooms, and there they would all visit. All very prim and proper. At some point, Baur would tactfully leave. As he told Toland, “who it was who escorted Eva back to her room, I don’t know, nor do I know how long her visits lasted.” Three's a crowd in such situations.
|Eva Braun with Hitler in Berchtesgaden ca. 1944. Credit AP, photo from “Eva Braun: Life With Hitler” by Heike B. Görtemaker.|
Insiders revealed later that Eva and Hitler were virtually inseparable and vacationed together - even if Eva was cloistered away somewhere out of the spotlight. When separated, Hitler would randomly ring Eva, just like any other boyfriend.
On New Year's Eve in 1936, Hitler held a huge diplomatic reception. It was a very formal occasion, and Eva's presence - largely unknown to the public - would not have been appropriate. However, she was on his mind.
|Hitler wishing his guests a happy new year on New Year's Eve 1936. Not exactly showing a lot of warmth without Eva around. He went back inside and called her.|
Hitler eventually got rid of his guests with a "Hitler Salute," above, and then set aside time to ring up Eva and wish her a happy New Year. She handed the phone to her sister Gretl and her boyfriend, with whom they were celebrating, saying “Hey, it’s time to wish your Fuehrer a Happy New Year!”
Eva began visiting Berchtesgaden, and at first stayed at the Hotel Berchtesgadener Hof (a Party hotel frequented by Hitler himself before he took over the Berghof). Eva soon had her own quarters at his place. Eventually, Eva took over and Hitler kicked Geli Raubal's mother Angela (his own half sister) out of the mountain retreat in the late 1930s. Angela had run the household for years (they had numerous servants, all unsophisticated local girls who did not even know who Hitler was). Two hens in the henhouse is one too many, and inevitably the two crossed swords. After Angela's departure, Eva had free reign. Nobody dared to cross her after that. With Hitler usually in Berlin, Eva had the run of the mansion with its spectacular views. Everybody who went to the Berghof knew about Eva, but nobody talked about her in public.
Hitler bought Eva jewelry from 1939-1944, though she is not usually shown wearing much. He did it in a clandestine manner. Martin Bormann would bring over some choices, and Hitler would grab something. Hitler simply could not go out and pick up fancy jewelry like “a normal and inconspicuous person,” as he put it. Word soon gets around if the Fuehrer of Greater Germany is seen buying diamond rings and necklaces and the like.
|Eva Braun in 1940, showing a little leg.|
Hitler and Eva also corresponded regularly. Hitler spent a lot of time in Berlin, while Eva spent the vast majority of her time at Berchtesgaden. She rarely visited Berlin (or the rougher military headquarters where Hitler spent extended periods of time, such as in the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia and the Ukraine). Braun family friend Nerin E. Gun wrote Eva Braun-Hitler: Leben und Schicksal (New York and Bruchsal/Baden, 1968). It included a few previously unknown letters (and many Eva diary entries), but there apparently were many more that Gun did not have.. In "The Psychopathic God," Robert Waite renders a letter Adolf Hitler wrote to Eva Braun shortly after the attempt on his life in July 1944:
"Mein Liebes Tschapperl ("My sweet little girl"),
Don't worry about me. I'm fine though perhaps a little tired. I hope to come home soon and then I can rest in your arms. I have a great longing for rest, but my duty to the German people comes before everything else. Don't forget that the dangers I encounter don't compare with those of our soldiers at the Front. I thank you for the proof of your affection and ask you also to thank your esteemed father and your most gracious mother for their greetings and good wishes. I am very proud of the honor - please tell them that - to possess the love of girl who comes from such a distinguished family. I have sent to you the uniform I was wearing during the unfortunate day. It is proof that Providence has protected me and that we have nothing more to fear from our enemies.
From my whole heart, your A.H."
"Tschapperl" is a word in an Austrian dialect that doesn't have a good translation. It is something along the lines of "My sweet little cupcake" or "Honeybunny." No matter how you translate it, someone will disagree and have a "better" translation. Let's just say that Hitler would not have used it with any of his generals.
|Part of Hitler's uniform from "the unfortunate day."|
Since Eva's film survived at Berchtesgaden, it is possible Hitler's letters to her did as well - but they are lost. Perhaps a GI picked them up and mailed them home with his kit and they are sitting in someone's attic in Dallas or Atlanta or Shreveport. However, they also simply could have been left where they were or destroyed in the bomb blast that destroyed the Berghof. It would have been dangerous for any locals to go up there and bring stuff out.
Eva took good care of Adolf's dogs.|
|This was likely taken at the Konigsee.|
I won't explain any further, because there may be children reading. But one theory is that Adolf's peculiar fascination with his two German Shepherds Bella and Blondi may have had something to do with Eva's, you know, predilections. Dr. Miletski argues that women who are into that sort of scene are more interested in the relationship aspects of it than with more, um, mechanical aspects.... Hitler, as mentioned, was gone a lot. Having a canine companion is not unusual for anyone, of course. Eva had quite a few at the Berghof. Just because one loves dogs doesn't necessarily mean anything.
|Eva and her sister Gretl (married to the infamous Fegelein) at the Berghof in 1943, along with a furry friend.|
I know, you're "outraged" that this "scurrilous defamation" by Eva's and Adolf's "political enemies" should be repeated. Look, I'm only the messenger, take it up with Dr. Miletski. But notice the absence of cats..... Okay, after that, I have to give you a rare picture of Eva with a cat - and yes, it was difficult to find.
|This picture of a youthful Eva with a cat looks as though it was taken ca. 1930. It likely was one of her earliest selfies. Meow!|
Ok, getting back on track....
|Else von Möllendorff. Shot probably taken by Eva.|
Eva retained her interest in film and photography throughout her days at Berchtesgaden. Many of the behind-the-scenes photographs at the Berghof and elsewhere were taken by Eva, including extensive and sometimes elaborate movies (with title cards, fancy editing and the works). Altogether, the Library of Congress has four and a half hours of Eva's home movies, many in color.
Eva went on some excursions without Hitler: to Denmark on the cruise ship Robert Ley in 1939, to Italy in 1941 with a film crew, to local lakes, and up to the Eagle's Nest. She apparently was fun-loving and guileless. Take that as you will, Eva Braun certainly is not admired by everyone.
On 15 April 1945, Eva left Berchtesgaden - against Hitler's orders - and flew to Berlin on one of the last Lufthansa flights of the war. She stayed in the bunker until the end.
Eva Braun and Albert Speer
|Eva Braun and Albert Speer.|
Albert Speer had a lot to say about Eva Braun, and is one of our few primary sources. Speer is a special case, because he was one of the very few from the inner circle who survived the war, was interrogated immediately after it, and then spent decades reminiscing about it and elaborating on his earlier characterizations. The public image of Speer is of someone who to one extent or another rehabilitated himself by being properly repentant, making various noises about rejecting Hitler during the last days of the Third Reich, and uttering socially conscious statements after entering the book-peddling circuit of the 1960s and 1970s.
|Joseph Goebbels, Eva Braun, Johanna Wolf, Albert Speer and another man at the Berghof. Goebbels was quite a flirt with the ladies, but Speer had reservations about Eva Braun.|
This article is not about Speer, so I won't go further into the twists and turns of his life here. However, it is important for historians to remember that the picture painted by our sources reflects not just on the people being talked about, but the speaker himself, and Speer did not have a consistent view of Eva Braun over time. That said, Speer's recollections remain of value, however nuanced, because Speer at least knew both Hitler and Eva Braun and lived to tell about it.
|Speer and Hitler at the Wolfschanze during the war.|
Speer was interrogated - it was more of a debriefing, interrogating sounds a lot more intimidating than it apparently was - on 1 August 1945. The questions, at least about Eva Braun, were exceedingly general, such as "Who was Fraulein BRAUN and what was her influence?" and "What were his [Hitler's] relations with women?" One must recall that Braun was shielded from public view, and even those in the German government outside the top tiers likely never heard about her aside from perhaps some idle gossip. So, one must give credit to the American questions for even thinking to ask about her at all.
|Hitler apparently giving Speer some kind of award, March/June 1943 (Heinrich Hoffmann, Federal Archives).|
Speer, without much prompting, gave a fairly generous portrayal of Braun (who already was assumed to be dead at this point). He called her a "modest woman" who did not "exploit" her position nor try to influence Hitler. The quote everyone uses is this:
For all writers of history she is going to be a disappointment.He goes on to say that she was very athletic (as can be seen in her self-made films). He does shade her slightly:
Outwardly she often appeared conceited and haughty. That, however, was due to her inferiority complex; for her social position at OBERSALZBERG was not clearly defined [emphasis in original].Then he quickly cleans that up with another quote that is widely bandied about:
Of all those who during the last weeks lived together in the BERLIN shelter, she was one of the bravest, and probably also the most intelligent. She wanted to stay in BERLIN and die with HITLER [emphasis in original].He emphasized that there was genuine feelings of love between the two. After noting that Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had acted as a procurer of women for him during the 1930s, Speer notes:
He [Hitler] appears, however, to have always remained true to the woman he loved, Fraulein EVA BRAUN. Her love was very significant for him; he spoke of her with great respect and deep reverence. He knew that he could have had any number of women; this he rejected, for, as he jokingly said, he did not know whether they would prefer him as "Reich Chancellor" or as ADOLF HITLER [emphasis in original].
I noted above that characterizations by our first-hand witnesses reflect upon the speaker as much as the spoken-of. This is the case with Speer. He had 20 years in Spandau Prison to mull everything over and figure out what nuances in his characterizations would best match the current Zeitgest. His books written during that stay and afterwards - he famously smuggled out writings written on toilet paper and the like - such as "Inside the Third Reich" and "Spandau: The Secret Diaries" tell a much different tale. Here is a quote from a 12 April 1976 interview with Speer published in People Magazine, when his latest book was riding high on the sales charts. The question posed was, "Was Hitler’s marriage to Eva Braun just before his suicide merely for the record, related to his concern with his place in posterity?":
It could have been. On the other hand, it could also have been because he was really touched that she, against his wishes, came to join him in Berlin at the end. It would be wrong to assume that Hitler was a man without the ability to show and experience sentimental feelings. Nevertheless, his relationship to Eva Braun was abominable. He always treated her like a fifth-rate person. I pitied her.
|Speer was an intelligent, calculating fellow. We always must remember that when discussing his later writings and interviews.|
Such talk about treating Eva like a "fifth-rate person" and pitying her is a much different picture than Speer gave in his 1945 interrogation, where, without prodding, he mentions Hitler's "great respect and deep reverence" for Eva Braun. By 1976, Speer basically makes it sound as if Eva was one step from being sent to a concentration camp. Of course, this latter characterization perfectly matched the stereotypes of the time (and to some extent today) of Hitler as a pure monster with no capacity for love or any real emotions or affection (but note how Speer cleverly denies the stereotype before leaping into it with both feet). The quote also hints at Eva as a victim - a quality which would help redeem virtually anyone in the 1970s, when victimhood was next to saintliness. In effect, with Germany marching Leftward, Speer has drawn the measure of his audience and tailored his message to it. Speer's 1945 portrayal, however, more closely matches other sources. Draw your own conclusions, but personally I trust statements made closer in time to events being described as opposed to those made 30 years later, when the world has changed and attributing any positive qualities whatsoever to Hitler might impact book sales and invitations to fancy soirées.
Anyway, let's get back to Eva Braun.
The Final Days
|Happier times for Eva at the Berghof.|
After arriving in the bunker on April 15, 1945, Eva at first was hopeful. This actually was in line with prevailing sentiment in the bunker, because the final Soviet assault on Berlin which began on 16 April appeared to be stalling out. In fact, the Wehrmacht defenses on the Oder were engaged in a death struggle which gave the German high command hope for several days. General Keitel, for instance, claimed that if an attack could be contained for three days, it had failed, and the 19th was the fourth day of the Soviet offensive.
|Herta Schneider and Eva Braun. An author who claims to have seen private documents asserts that Eva wrote at least two final letters from the bunker to Herta, who survived the war.|
Anna Maria Sigmund, in "The Women of the Nazis," claims to have seen letters typed by Eva (or perhaps by Hitler's secretaries for Eva) to friend Herta Schneider. The Schneider estate kept the letters before auctioning them off to a private collector sometime around the turn of the 21st Century. How Schneider got the letters in the Reich's final days is a bit of a mystery, but Hitler still held complete control over everything still under German control and could get things such as mail delivery done. In a letter dated 19 April, 1945, Eva writes to Schneider in an optimistic vein:
We already hear the artillery fire from the eastern front and bombs fall from attack planes every day.... I'm very happy right now to be close to [Hitler].... I am convinced that everything will turn out alright in the end and [Hitler] is hopeful as he seldom is.The optimism did not last. It is generally accepted that the German front around Berlin finally caved in the very next day, Hitler's birthday, 20 April 1945. A couple of days later, Hitler had his famous breakdown in which he finally accepted that the war was lost. That day, 22 April 1945, Eva wrote another letter to Schneider (apparently her last):
We are fighting here until the last but I'm afraid the end is threatening closer and closer.... I cannot tell friends what I personally suffer from the Fuhrer.... I cannot understand how everything could be so, but one cannot believe in a God!... Greetings to my friends, I'm dying how I've lived. It's not difficult for me. You know that.It's interesting that Eva refers to her man in this final letter as "the Fuhrer," not by his name. Formalities were retained up to the last.
There were some final visits by various officials and the local military commanders as the Soviets approached, but the die was cast. The situation in the bunker deteriorated further after Albert Speer left on the 24th, with no military or diplomatic relief possible. Everyone understood the situation, apparently Hitler most of all, which no doubt accounts for his sour mood to which Eva obliquely refers in her letters to Schneider. Speer noted that even by the 24th:
[S]he [Eva Braun] had detached herself from life. She was calm and determined and, at this time, one of the few who were faithful to ADOLF HITLER - perhaps the only one. Earlier, HITLER had already asserted with resignation that he had only one friend who would remain loyal to the end in his decisive hour, and that was EVA BRAUN [emphasis in original].As the days dwindled, Hitler had Eva's brother-in-law Hermann Fegelein shot for being a nuisance ("desertion," supposedly). It was a last gasp of tyranny. Test pilot Hanna Reitsch made an extremely risky flight into Berlin with Luftwaffe General Greim, but Hitler refused to leave and Reitsch flew back out again only with Greim. The end was inevitable, and Hitler better than anyone else in the world knew how little time remained. He decided on 28 April 1945 that there was no longer any need for pretense. He asked his people to find someone to marry them. Goebbels recalled that he himself had been married by one Walter Wagner, a Berlin Justice of the Peace, so someone was sent out to find him. Somewhat incredibly (during the final days in the bunker with the Soviets literally down the block!), Wagner was located in a Volkssturm detachment defending the vicinity. Wagner came in, married Hitler and Eva on the afternoon of the 29th, and then left to return to obscurity.
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler held his final staff conference and was informed that the Russians now were only a few blocks away. He had lunch as usual at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with his two secretaries and his cook. He then made systematic preparations to commit suicide. Hitler perhaps could have waited another day, but that was May Day, and he did not wish to commit suicide on a day of celebration for the Soviet Union.
Hitler first supervised the poisoning of his beloved dog Blondi (this may have taken place the day before) and her pups. Shortly after 3 p.m. on 30 April, Hitler and Eva Braun bade farewell to the staff assembled in the bunker, then retired to their private room to meet their joint fate.
They bit into thin glass vials of cyanide - as he did so, Hitler also shot himself in the head with a 7.65 mm Walther pistol.
Heinz Linge, Hitler’s personal valet, recalled how he entered Hitler’s suite and saw Hitler almost upright in a sitting position on a blood-soaked sofa. Eva Braun lay on the sofa beside him, but she had made no use of the revolver at her side, preferring to rely on the poison instead. A small hole showed on his right temple and a trickle of blood ran slowly down over his check. The pistol lay on the floor where it had dropped from his right hand.
SS Staff Sgt. Rochus Misch also was in the bunker, but did not witness the suicides.
|Eva in black face.|
Eva Braun’s face looked perfectly normal: “It was as though she had fallen asleep…” Linge recalled. Eva was 33.
The official story from Soviet records is that the bodies of Hitler and Eva were carried out into the yard outside the bunker and burned with gasoline. The Soviets found the charred remains and moved them to East Germany for examination. Ultimately, the remains were pulverized and thrown into a tributary of the Elbe on 4 April 1970. That is the Soviet account, and there is no hard evidence to either support it or undermine it. Not a trace remains.
|Adolf Hitler and Eva with Ursula “Uschi” Schneider.|
An oddly intimate photo of Hitler with another woman whilst Eva was his main squeeze. As pointed out by a helpful commenter, it was taken in ski resort Garmisch Partenkirchen (later home to a major US military base). The lady may be Eva - doesn't look like her to me, but perhaps - or may be Baroness Sigrid von Laffert. The day was 1 April 1935. I do not know whose hands those are to the left, but a guess based on the ring and watch is Hermann Goering. SS General Sepp Dietrich claimed that Hitler had found Sigrid in his bed, naked, in the Chancellery; but Hitler had told her to get dressed and get out (this was probably a fabrication for image-building purposes). Sigrid was a recent Bund Deutscher Mädel, or BDM, girl, and would have been 17 at the time of this shot. Basically, Hitler was relaxing with a girl scout, thus this is an astonishing picture, especially given the possessive placement of Hitler's right hand. This is one of a sequence of pictures of Hitler sitting there gazing out the window etc., most with Sigrid cropped out. Hitler attended official events with Sigrid until the war began, probably for convoluted image reasons. She may have been the "backup girl" when Eva was "bad." Little is known about her otherwise (Tentative Credit: ullstein bild).|
|Apparently Eva after a swim. Compare the pictures directly above, which apparently was taken before she got wet.|
Below is home movie footage shot by Eva Braun. It is in color, which is quite unusual for the time period. Color footage required many times the cost of black and white film, but no cost was too great for the Fuhrer's mistress. Because of that, we have exceptional footage of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, the cruise and other vacations that Eva went on, and Eva practicing on the parallel bars and going swimming and everything else that she liked to do. She rather ostentatiously creates title cards, but unfortunately there is no sound to these films. Seriously, these films look like they were only shot ten or twenty years ago, not at a time when virtually all Hollywood films were shown in black and white. Some scenes are also in slow motion, which did not become a television network staple until the 1970s.
Incidentally, if you are looking for more pictures of Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler, you might like to visit Putschgirl's site on Tumblr. I have no connection to that site, but whoever runs it has an uncanny way of uncovering obscure photos of the Third Reich, and some photos here are duplicates of what is on there.