Thursday, December 31, 2015

Chuck Yeager, Ace in a Day

A Man With The Right Stuff

Chuck Yeager

American pilots of World War II tended not to get as much celebrity or notoriety as Luftwaffe pilots. There are several reasons for this, most notably that Americans were not in the war for its entire duration and thus could not amass the experience and scores that the top (and luckiest) Luftwaffe pilots did. German pilots also had far fewer restrictions on their time of service than did Allied pilots, and much of the Allied effort was devoted to night bombing which did not lend itself to celebrity.
Chuck Yeager
While there were indeed many extraordinarily competent Allied pilots, one that stands out is Chuck Yeager (born 13 February 1923). Much of Yeager's celebrity accrues from his post-war service, and that is beyond the scope of this article. However, Yeager's adventures during the war by themselves were enough for any military career and are illustrative of the career of a top Allied fighter pilot.
Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager (left) at RAF Leiston
Yeager was born in Myra, West Virginia, and spent two summers gaining exposure to the military at the Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces before Pearl Harbor, on 12 September 1941. He had phenomenally good eyesight and thus was accepted for flight training after beginning as a mechanic despite an indifferent educational background.
Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager in flight school, ca. 1943.
Yeager graduated from flight training on 10 March 1943, and he was assigned to the 357th Fighter Group at Tonopah, Nevada. Early on, he exhibited a daredevil attitude and earned an early reprimand for dangerous stunts. He was transferred with his Group to RAF Leiston on 23 November 1943.
Chuck Yeager
Capt. Charles E “Chuck” Yeager”, Hamlin, WV, 363rd Fighter Squadron, P-51D 44-13897 B6-Y “Glamorous Glen II”. 
Yeager's arrival coincided with the upgrading of the P-51D fighter into a war-winning aircraft that could escort bombers all the way to Berlin (the renewed bombing offensive against Berlin resumed on virtually the day he arrived in Europe). This forced the defending German fighters to battle Allied fighters during the daylight hours, giving Allied fighter pilots like Chuck Yeager greater opportunities.
Allied fighter range
In the latter half of 1943, the Allied fighter range grew tremendously and ultimately extended to Berlin.
However, Yeager got off to a rocky start with the high-performance aircraft (he had trained on the mediocre Bell P-39 Aircobra). After gaining one victory, he was shot down over France during his eighth mission while attacking a pair of Focke Wulf 190s. Making contact with French partisans after a harrowing night, he escaped to Spain and made his way back to England via Lisbon. That makes it sound simple and straightforward, but it wasn't: Yeager's escape required four days of climbing through knee-deep snow and freezing rain, and he and a companion were fired upon by a German patrol. After his return, he was officially grounded per regulations due to his knowledge of the French resistance (which he might reveal after another downing). Despite those regulations to the contrary, he later was allowed to resume flying over France after receiving the direct approval of General Eisenhower after D-Day.
Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager on or about October 14, 1947, when he became the first man to break the sound barrier, posing beside the plane in which he did it, the Bell X-1. He named his planes Glamorous Glennis after his wife, Glennis Dickhouse (married 26 February 1945). It was a common practice of fighter jockeys to name their craft after the girl they left behind and hoped to come back to (which didn't always happen for one reason or another).
It was at this point that Yeager fully asserted himself as a top ace. Captain Yeager earned the title "ace in a day" by downing five Messerschmitt Bf 109s on 12 October 1944. He was aided by the fact that one Messerschmitt that he was about to shoot down banked sharply right to evade his fire and collided with his own wingman, causing both aircraft to become Yeager's victims. Among other fascinating aspects to his performance that day, he had just been given command of his 49-plane group formation due to his skill and thus was able to position himself where the bad guys would be lurking. His Squadron, the 363rd, positioned itself 100 miles ahead of the bomber stream looking for defenders at the standard 28k feet. Spotting 22 Bf 109s, which were circling waiting for the bombers, he started picking them off from the rear of their flight. He hit his first kill that day in the cockpit and engine, the second suddenly exploded, the third he got with a deflection shot. The Germans likely were from III/JG 26, a premier Luftwaffe formation that had spent the earlier part of the war on the Channel coast.
Chuck Yeager
Yeager continued his string of successes thereafter, though pickings were lean due to the Luftwaffe's own difficulties. On 27 November, he shot down four FW 190s, gaining revenge for his own previous downing by the aircraft and showing that his previous big day was no fluke. He even gained an early victory over a jet fighter on 6 November 1944, following it and attacking while it was vulnerable as it was trying to land. It was a rare (and invigorating) Allied victory over the vaunted Messerschmitt 262. Yeager also was present during Operation Bodenplatte, the last-ditch mass Luftwaffe attack on 1 January 1945 in aid of their Ardennes Offensive. From a trench at his forward airfield in Belgium, Yeager carefully watched the Germans bomb and strafe his base. He observed that the German pilots were poorly trained and barely in control of their aircraft. This was conclusive evidence that Germany no longer had the resources to adequately train new crew. Despite Allied fears about new high-performance German aircraft, the Luftwaffe was in its death throes.
Chuck Yeager
Reflecting the Allied restrictions on its pilots, Yeager was sent back to the States soon after. He was assigned to Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio for the duration of the war, where he re-trained as a test pilot and later broke the sound barrier. This is important because once again it shows how Allied practices prevented top pilots from racking up higher combat scores. As it was, Yeager wound up with a kill score of 11.5, twice as many as were needed to be recognized as an ace (many credit him with an additional victory over a Ju 88 during a training flight over the North Sea while he was on "probation" after his escape from France and not officially reinstated, and that would make the total 12.5).
Chuck Yeager
One of the perks of being on the winning side: then-Colonel Yeager receives a welcome visit from Barbara Eden of "I Dream of Genie" in the '60s. Yeager guest-starred on the show during its first season in 1965.
Beyond his military successes, Yeager is an interesting World War II figure in another respect. He was quite open in later years about the murky morality of the Allied air effort. While the Allied bombing effort led by Arthur "Bomber" Harris was controversial before it even started (there were spirited debates about its morality in Parliament), Yeager added his own disgust about certain other practices that did not receive nearly as much attention.
Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager with Ava Gardner.
For instance, in his 1986 memoirs, Yeager recalled being instructed during the war to strafe civilians. Basically, that order made him a potential war criminal should events have turned out differently. That candid admission does not lessen the magnitude of German war crimes, but it does reflect reality. Such is the morality of war, and Chuck Yeager is to be commended for his contribution to the common understanding of what war is really all about.
Chuck Yeager
A trio of 363rd aces at Leiston, England, January 1945. Center: Captain Don Bochkay (13.75 victories); Right: Chuck Yeager (12.5 victories).
After retiring from the Air Force with the rank of Brigadier General, Yeager and his wife Glennis moved to California. He received numerous awards over the years for his service, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Glennis, after whom Yeager named all of his planes, passed away in 1990.

Chuck Yeager passed away peacefully on 7 December 2020 at the age of 97. He was survived by his wife, Victoria Scott D'Angelo, and three children (one, son Mickey, having predeceased him in 2011).
Chuck Yeager
Aviation Cadet Charles E. Yeager, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hitler's Women

Adolf Hitler Eva Braun

There are many rumors about the love life of Adolf Hitler, and very little proof. Either he was a homosexual, or he wasn't; he either cheated on Eva Braun, or he didn't; he seduced under-age girls; he was asexual; or he was just an avuncular supporter of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, or BDM, basically the fascist version of the Girl Scouts.

Hitler women
Typical fascist propaganda maiden, a postal girl.
The answers to Hitler's exact romantic activities will never be known. However, Hitler certainly associated with a string of very attractive females, many on the young side.

Hitler women

Quite young. And he had plenty from which to choose.

Hitler women
Hitler chatting with an unidentified woman, 1940, perhaps at the opera. Hitler maintained a military bearing around the ladies.
Hitler's relationships are of more than academic interest. His devotion to half-niece Geli Raubal, who shot herself, lingered to the end of his life. He constantly returned to that subject at times of stress during the war, such as the surrender of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad, when he ranted on and on about how his Generals did not measure up to his dear Geli. The psychological effects of his particular romances are impossible to pinpoint, but history is replete with seemingly minor or background facts affecting major decisions.

BDM girls
Hitler visiting with some BDM girls out in the field. I like this picture because it is difficult to find shots of random girls with Hitler who are not smiling. Now... there is that girl on the far right. However, otherwise, the girls are either too tired, too uneasy or too stupid to realize that they are supposed to be smiling in the presence of the Fuehrer. It's surprising that this picture survived.
There is no proof that Hitler ever even had sex. There has been recent speculation that Hitler's fanatical views about personal hygiene prevented any intimate touching, but that is mere supposition. Any weirdness can be ascribed to Hitler now because of politics and the lack of contrary proof. Saying that Hitler was asexual because he was a germophobe (which is a vast exaggeration) is kind of like saying that someone who grows a beard would refuse to touch a kitchen knife because of an aversion to cutting tools.

Lida Baarova
Hitler with Austrian/Czech actress Lída Baarová. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels openly paraded Baarova around as his consort in the mid-1930s (Goebbels controlled Reich cinema). This did not set well with Goebbels' wife, Magda, who retaliated by asking Hitler to grant them a divorce. Hitler demurred, denying the request because of how it would look, and told Goebbels to stop seeing Lida on 16 August 1938. Not only did this destroy Baarova's film career, some speculate that Goebbels initiated Kristallnacht with a speech on 9 November 1938 in order to redeem himself with Hitler. Baarova lived until 27 October 2000. 
It may be politically delicious to think that Hitler was freakishly bizarre in personal interactions, but all the evidence says otherwise. There is abundant testimony and circumstantial proof that Hitler did have some form of relations, that he preferred women, and that indeed he had a wandering eye regarding females. At the very least, he enjoyed the company of women, because he went well out of his way to be around them throughout his life. Certainly nobody at the time thought that Hitler was a sexual deviant in any way. In fact, he led a life of drama with women.

Eva Braun
Domenica del Corriere Magazine, No. 49, 1963.
Hitler's maid recalled fairly recently that she knew for a fact that Hitler and Eva engaged in "normal" relations. She stated that Eva would ask the doctor for pills to suppress her period when Hitler was around, and the maid would collect the evidence of her natural rhythms. There are also second-hand recollections from various people Eva confided in about her "times" with Adolf. It is not conclusive proof, but it would be much more fantastic given all this if they did not have any relations. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, fantastic claims require fantastic proof - and there is no evidence whatsoever that Hitler and Eva had anything but a male/female, normal relationship.

There does appear to be one thing unusual about Hitler in this regard: a medical record prepared after Hitler was put in prison following the failed Munich beer hall putsch in 1923. It says Hitler suffered from "right-side cryptorchidism" - a condition where the gonad fails to descend into the scrotum. That was kept quiet from the German public, though it was a common British insult to say that Hitler only had one ball.

Adolf Hilter Eva Braun
I believe that this (colorized) photo was taken at the Eagle's Nest on the occasion of the wedding of Eva's sister Gretl to Hermann Fegelein on 3 June 1944.
Berlin society gossiped endlessly about everything else, and that sort of tidbit could never have been kept quiet without a lot of effort - which the image-conscious Hitler no doubt knew. He would never have jeopardized his position by allowing himself to be talked about as a sexual freak. In fact, Hitler studiously portrayed himself as decidedly conservative in matters of romance and family, to the point that the best way to ruin someone in the Third Reich (like Minister of War Werner von Blomberg and Commander-in-Chief of the Army Werner von Fritsch) was to ascribe to them some sort of sexual scandal. Hitler could forgive a lot of things - even, now and then, someone being Jewish, such as his Jewish chauffeur Emil Maurice - but not sexual deviance.

One can speculate endlessly about how Hitler didn't want former lovers to talk about his "condition" and what he may have done to prevent that. Those in a position to know his intimate details somehow invariably fell out of windows or put guns to their heads or took cyanide after they lost their usefulness to him - even Eva Braun. It is a very long list.

Adolf Hitler Rudolf Hess
Hitler and Rudolf Hess with two unidentified women, apparently in the 1920s. Note that the women are dressed quite fashionably, Hitler was fond of being around upper-class women who did things like go to the opera.
Women were so important to Hitler that many men owed their high positions in the Third Reich to Hitler's friendship with their wives or sisters. The most notorious example is Hermann Fegelein, Eva Braun's brother-in-law, who was with them in the bunker but was shot on Hitler's orders for desertion in the last days of the Reich. Another example is Robert Ley, the corrupt labor boss - Hitler apparently had a thing for the stern-looking Aryan Inge Ley. Even Joseph Goebbels was rumored to have married his wife - Goebbels was a notorious womanizer - because Hitler wanted her around.

We are after the truth on this blog, take it or leave it, but some of this is speculation. Unfortunately, speculation is the only avenue for us in this topic, because proof of such affairs is non-existent.

What follows is a pictorial summary of Hitler's possible relationships, some quite speculative or tentative. Sometimes, the ladies in question later publicized their association with Hitler for reasons of their own, but many (an oddly large percentage) committed suicide before they could write the now-obligatory memoir. There is no proof that anything actually went on between them and Hitler - but, with at least some of them, something undoubtedly did.

Eva Braun

Adolf Hitler

Eva Braun eventually became Frau Hitler, so she has to top our list. Shortly after that, of course, she committed suicide with him when she easily could have left, as he suggested. Quite a honeymoon!

There's not much doubt that Eva was Hitler's main love after the death of Geli Raubal. She was a simple shopgirl in her late teens in Hitler's photographer's office when they met, and she is responsible for many of the (quite good) shots and films of Hitler at the Berghof and elsewhere. She solidified her position with Hitler by threatening suicide if he didn't pay her more attention - something Hitler was probably quite keen to avoid after the horrible Geli incident. That she was devoted to Hitler was obvious.

I have an entire page on Eva Braun, so go there for more pictures and a lot of videos about her.

Geli Raubal

Adolf Hitler
Geli Raubal.
Hitler began associating with Geli Raubal, the daughter of his half-sister Angela, in the mid- to late 1920s when she was still a teenager. They lived together in his apartment in Munich until her suicide there on 18 September 1931. Hitler and she had some kind of intimate relationship - he sketched her in the nude, that's more than just roommates.

Adolf Hitler
It would not surprise me at all if Hitler took this shot himself. Interesting that Geli is holding a camera, too. Don't know the date, ca. 1930?
There are some who believe that she was the love of Hitler's life, but there is some evidence that she had her own eye on someone else (strangely, he also was supposedly from Hitler's hometown of Linz, according to Angela). Josef Goebbels, also in this shot, reportedly wanted to date Geli, but backed way off when Hitler showed his interest. You can read more about Geli and see other photos here.

Stephanie Rabatsch née Isak

Stephanie Rabatsch Isak
Stephanie Rabatsch née Isak.
Before World War I, Hitler was an itinerant postcard painter in Vienna, and before that, he was one step above a homeless beggar in Linz, Austria. There, he spotted Stephanie Isak, with whom he reportedly fell in love. In those days, young women would parade through town - you know, "busy with other things" - with their mothers to get noticed. Hitler noticed her. Nothing ever came of it, and it is likely that they never even spoke, but Hitler was besotted for the better part of a decade.

This entire story is due to a biography later written by Hitler's crony at the time, August Kubizek. Hitler's attraction for the girl was probably exaggerated by Kubizek for effect, but it seems quite plausible that Hitler's teenage hormones went into overdrive for someone, who may as well have been Stephanie. There is some tangible evidence: Hitler went so far as to post an unsigned ad directed to her in the local paper - a clear sign of deep infatuation that came after she already was married to someone else. There also may have been an element of driftless youth "playing spy" when they had nothing better to do.

Kubizek's book came out while Hitler was the Fuhrer, and there is no indication of him denying anything in it. However, the fascists did censor the whole account heavily during the Third Reich. They probably felt that portraying the "great leader" as just a normal boy subject to normal amorous inclinations did not add to his image as a warlord.

Hitler apparently got over the whole thing during the war - World War I, that is. There may have been a subtle effect on things to come: based upon her name, Hitler may have assumed that this unrequited love that he never met was Jewish (she wasn't). Stephanie lived into the 1970s and the affair-that-wasn't haunted her to the end of her days, leaving her a bit mystified about the whole thing.

There is a tale of a Renaissance author/painter (name escapes me, but a well-known name like Dante Alighieri) who saw a girl only in passing one day on the street, and he never saw her again. However, she made such an impression that he never forgot her. This sounds like a similar case.

Baroness Sigrid von Laffert

Adolf Hitler
That definitely is the Baroness on the extreme right, next to Viktoria von Dirksen (I think). While this is a reasonably common and well-known photo (as these things go), it invariably is cropped to exclude the Baroness - apparently cropping her out was done routinely because, well, you know. This was taken in Munich in 1938, and the Baroness is referenced as being there at that time in the May 22, 1939 entry of the diary of Italian Count Galeazzo Ciano. Sigrid had to be "in good" to be hanging out with this crowd, which includes the Goebbels (Magda is a fright!). See if you can figure out the relevant figure who is prominent by her absence from this intimate gathering.
One of the more mysterious possible Hitler paramours is Baroness Sigrid von Laffert (born January 18, 1918). She was around for a while, and then she wasn't. It is very difficult to track down pictures of her either from before the war or after it.

Adolf Hitler
A woman usually identified as Eva Braun sitting with Hitler at the resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in April 1935, when Hitler was on a "break" from Eva. Hermann Goering sits with his hands on the table. Hitler seems very touchy with the girl, whoever she is. Several pictures were taken of Hitler there, and the girl invariably was cut out of them. (Tentative Credit: ullstein bild).
The picture directly above was taken in ski resort Garmisch Partenkirchen (later home to a major US military base) on 1 April 1935. It is part of a series of photos that were always cropped to exclude the girl on Hitler's right. Many claim it is Eva Braun, but Hitler and Eva were on the outs during this period. Others say it is the Baroness. Hermann Goering appears to be sitting with them.

Baroness Sigrid von Laffert was a relative of Viktoria von Dirksen, an early and very wealthy "motherly" supporter of Hitler. Vicktoria was a fixture of Berlin high society and the stepmother of Herbert von Dirksen, who among other diplomatic appointments was Ribbentrop's successor as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1938. During the 1920s and early '30s, Viktoria held weekly soirées at her fashionable townhouse in Margaretenstrasse that brought Hitler together with big donors - which the NSDAP badly needed at the time. Joachim Ribbentrop (before he bought his "von"), a champagne salesman, probably met Hitler at one of these gatherings, so these were important events. While Viktoria herself, around 50, was a bit out of Hitler's target age range, nubile young Sigrid, who would have shown up at the parties as well, was rapidly entering it.

Baroness Von Laffert was one of the most beautiful women seen in Hitler’s company at events. It is not just sheer conjecture that she was Hitler's lover: she was widely rumored to be his romantic companion during the time he neglected Eva Braun between early March and late May 1935.

Pictures of the Baroness are difficult to track down, and those that are available usually were cropped to exclude her before publication. She is not a well-known historical figure, and little is known about the Baroness after the early war years. That almost certainly is how she (and Hitler) wanted it. While she has an impressive title, she basically was just another BDM girl, daughter of one of his backers, who went by the name "Sigui." She wandered into Hitler's domain and he (allegedly) picked her up when she was around 17.

Adolf Hitler
The same scene as above from a slightly different angle and a few seconds earlier or later. For some reason, everyone was carefully posed to look shocked at something,  including the Baroness.
The picture at the top is unusual. There Sigui is, out in the open, and with Hitler's cronies. Hitler could flaunt it whenever he liked and then have his little strudel cropped out later by Heinrich Hoffmann.

Wild rumors spread about Sigrid. SS General Sepp Dietrich, part of Hitler's inner circle, later claimed that Hitler had found Sigrid in his bed, naked, in the Chancellery, waiting for him. Hitler, so the story goes, was "shocked" and told her to get dressed and get out. This was probably an absolute fabrication for image-building purposes, but it reveals the sort of locker-room atmosphere at the top of the hierarchy and reflects how she was viewed. Obviously, Sigrid was a lovely young lady.

Sigrid was a recent Bund Deutscher Mädel, or BDM, girl, and would have been in her teens when sitting in with Third Reich big shots. Basically, Hitler was relaxing with a Girl Scout. Hitler was always worried about his image, and being portrayed as a lecherous old man probably would not have helped him with his female followers. So, better to keep her out of the media except on formal occasions.

Hitler attended official events with Sigrid such as the opera until the war began, probably for convoluted image reasons, but pictures of the two at them are scarce. Sigrid played that role well. She never got into the newspapers, there were no scandals, she was the perfect little piece on the side. Sigrid may have remained the "backup girl" when Eva was "bad" or could not attend events for some reason - and Eva was known to pout.  If a note appeared in the society pages that Hitler had attended the opera with some "Baroness," that would not raise any eyebrows, whereas if he was linked with unknown Eva Braun, it would. Thousands of German girls at the time gladly would have changed places with Sigui if she was just a sort of fill-in for Eva.

Sometimes, you have to think outside the box. The Baroness was well-known in Hitler's inner circle, was present with Hitler's cronies as in the photo above, was distinctly high society, hung out with the Fuhrer, was rumored to "be after him" - and yet hardly any photos of her are known to exist and almost nothing is known about her. Nobody even seems to know when she passed away - if she has passed away. That is kind of odd... until you ponder the possible reasons why.

Leni Riefenstahl

Adolf Hitler
Leni Riefenstahl.
Leni Riefenstahl is a famous figure, renowned for her revolutionary documentaries of big Party rallies ("Triumph of the Will" (1935)) and the 1936 Olympics ("Olympia" (1938)). To be fair to her, she forever deserves a high place in cinema history, and nobody ever will take that away from her.

There is a tendency to think that such a historic personage had to be more than just some powerful guy's secret girlfriend, that it was her talent alone that propelled her career. It appears to be true in this case that Leni was damned good at what she did. There is no question that Leni was one of Hitler's professional favorites in the propaganda field. Whether or not they ever actually had any intimacy is purely speculative, but there were rumors - and she was a frequent visitor for tea at the Berghof.

It is worth observing that Leni, born in 1902, was just a tad shall we say mature for Hitler's usual tastes in females. But Hitler had artistic pretensions himself, and birds of a feather do flock together.

Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefstahl
Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl, apparently at the Berghof.
Let's allow Leni herself to have her say on this issue:
"I was never Hitler's mistress - although I was dazzled by him. These are nothing but lies.... I have never spoken a word about politics. It is all lies and forgeries.... I have never said that Hitler was handsome and intelligent. I am not an idiot. I have never seen mass executions and I have never seen a concentration camp."
Simply to play the Devil's Advocate, there are many who consider Leni, a brilliant professional woman, to have been not always the most truthful and forthcoming person when describing her past associations. Let's be kind and say that she tended to exaggerate and say "never" when she really meant "well, not often." That picture of them together above does sort of confirm one thing in my own mind: Leni was 100% accurate when she claimed that Hitler dazzled her. That is the look of a woman in love.

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni's career collapsed after the war, and essentially was over by the mid-1950s. It wasn't that she was bereft of talent, but her associations with fascism bedeviled her despite her fervent attempts to reject that philosophy. She was not a quitter, however. Leni resumed her craft after a very long break and performed unique studies of African tribes and underwater ecology that were groundbreaking and irreplaceable.

In a sense, Leni had the last laugh on her critics. She lived to be 101, married that same year, and had a final bow a year before her death with one final, well-received documentary about sea life.

Maria Reiter

Adolf Hitler
Hitler with Maria Reiter.
Hitler supposedly had a brief affair with Maria Reiter, a local Berchtesgaden girl. Maria fit the profile: young, lovely, the daughter of a local party functionary. Hitler met Maria in a hotel in Berchtesgaden, the Deutsches Haus, where he dictated the second volume of Mein Kampf in the summer of 1926. Maria Reiter worked in a shop on the ground floor of the hotel, and the two apparently met during another visit in autumn 1926.

Berchtesgaden was hardly a center of sophisticated life in those days, and before mass media such as television came along, people in such towns did not know much about worldly affairs. Maria likely was just an ordinary peasant girl, with no education and no talents (except for, well...). There's nothing wrong with that, but it put her at a severe disadvantage if she wanted to pursue a real relationship with Hitler.

Hitler ultimately (supposedly) dumped her because she was underage (though that didn't seem to bother him in other instances). More likely, and this is just a guess, he simply grew bored with her. While Hitler had his passions, he liked to associate with people who had similar interests and could converse about his favorite topics, opera and classical music. It is unlikely that Maria would have known who Verdi was, though she may have heard the name Mozart.

Maria Reiter
Maria Reiter tells all.
Reiter married others later. She claimed in the 3 June 1959 Daily Mirror that "I was Hitler's Secret Lover." She said that she had had a night of passion with Hitler when she was around 20 in roughly 1940.

Gertrud Deetz

Adolf Hitler
Gertrud Deetz with Hitler at the Berchtesgaden teahouse.
Gertrude Deetz was the wife of Albert Forster, Gauleiter of Danzig. She fit the profile of women that Hitler preferred: blonde, vivacious, politically connected. There is no evidence that they were more than acquaintances, but that doesn't really mean anything, because there isn't any hard evidence for anyone else, either. Maybe she and her husband were invited to Berchtesgaden because he found her attractive, and maybe more was going on than just professional visits to help her husband.

Inga Arvad

Adolf Hitler
Inga Arvad
Inga Arvad "got around." A Danish journalist, she was Hitler's companion at the 1936 Olympics, when she was 22. She later dated John F. Kennedy in 1940-41. Yes, this raised some eyebrows later, but she was cleared of any espionage suspicion. In the above picture, one can almost read Adolf's mind. It is clear from her job and fabulous mink that Inga was worldly and knew how to carry herself in polite society, very important factors to Hitler for continuing relationships. She no doubt gave him prestige with his cronies and the public just by appearing with him, and that truly was his top priority.

Elfriede Raubal

Adolf Hitler
Elfriede Raubal, right, with Geli and Hitler.
Geli Raubal's sister Elfriede Raubal is not on the list of "usual suspects" for Hitler's women. After all, she was Geli's... sister. In the picture above, she certainly seems to be enjoying her day with Hitler and Geli. No, there is no evidence of anything between them - but that is quite a look, and she is dressed to kill. While many don't like to contemplate such situations, there are many instances of sisters stepping in to console a bereaved boyfriend. Hitler and his own half-sister Angela, Elfriede's mother, became estranged a few years later, so there obviously was tension about something.

Magda Goebbels née Quandt

Adolf Hitler
Magda Goebbels née Quandt.
Magda Goebbels became notorious in history when she poisoned her six children in the Berlin bunker and then committed suicide along with Josef. If that isn't devotion, what is?

There is speculation that Hitler "liked" Magda and encouraged her marriage to Goebbels to keep her around his inner circle. Josef Goebbels was a notorious womanizer who, due to his position, had his pick of ingenues and Party girls, so something compelled him to settle down. There also is pure speculation that one or more of her children with Josef were in fact fathered by Hitler - which might help explain the incident in the bunker.

Gerda "Dara" Christian née Daranowski

Adolf Hitler
Gerda "Dara" Christian née Daranowski
Dara Daranowski was hired in 1938 when the work of Hitler's two other secretaries in Berchtesgaden became more than they could handle. She dated Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka, and later married an air force General. Undoubtedly thanks to her association with Hitler, her husband was later appointed Generalmajor and Chief of the Luftwaffe Command Staff at Hitler's request on 1 September 1944. However, her husband left the bunker on 22 April while she stayed 'til the end (and was captured by the Soviets), and she deeply resented it - she quickly divorced him in 1946.

For those looking for subtle references in popular media, the heroic young (alien) female fascist who is actually a resistance agent in the 1968 "Star Trek" episode "Patterns of Force" - which was full of obvious references to actual historical figures from the Hitler era - was named Daras. There are no coincidences, as Sigmund Freud said.

Dara was suspected of having a neo-fascist relationship in the mid-1950s, but never officially accused of anything. Dara worked at a hotel in Düsseldorf after the war and passed away in 1997, aged 83.

Hanna Reitsch

Adolf Hitler
Hanna Reitsch.
Hanna Reitsch was a top test-pilot in the Luftwaffe. She flew the first helicopter for Western journalists in 1938, and she flew the first jets and rocket-powered planes. There is no proof of any romantic relationship with Hitler. However, she made an extremely perilous flight to visit Hitler in the bunker in late April 1945 and begged him to fly out with her. There is speculation that, if, as some suspect, Hitler actually escaped the bunker, she flew him out. American interrogators were astounded at the depth of her fervor for Hitler after the war, as she described the bunker as the "altar of Germany."

Hanna never gave up her love for National Socialism. She gave an extended interview in 1976 during which she wore her old fascist uniform complete with decorations (of which she was extremely proud, especially the one given to her personally by Hitler in the picture above). There is speculation that Hanna's death in 1979 was not caused by a heart attack, as officially decided, but rather from a cyanide capsule given to her by Hitler.

I've written about Hanna Reitsch elsewhere, so I will leave it at that. Hanna Reitsch also had a dramatic appearance in later pop culture as the heroic female test pilot in "Operation Crossbow" (1965), which involved a fictional event involving a very real weapon.

Annie Brandt née Rebhorn

Adolf Hitler
Annie Brandt née Rebhorn.
Annie Brandt was a champion swimmer in the 1920s (as were her two siblings). This is significant because Eva Braun also loved to swim, and Hitler apparently had a thing for well-toned young women.

Annie was a frequent visitor at the Berghof and friends with Eva. She married Dr. Karl Brandt in 1934, and they shared with Hitler a love of classical music that bound them all together. Annie's relationship with Hitler no doubt helped her husband's career as one of Hitler's personal physicians.

Helene 'Hele' Bouhler née Majer

Adolf Hitler
Helene 'Hele' Bouhler née Majer.
Hele Bouhler was married to Philipp Bouhler, an SS Obergruppenführer and Reichsleiter. She was born in Lauingen on the 20th of April 1912 and she was known as "schönste Frau der Reichskanzlei" ("most beautiful girl in Hitler's circle"). She married Bouhler, a key figure in the euthanasia program, on the 18th August 1934. They were frequent guests at the Berghof, and since Eva was a confirmed shutterbug, there are many photos of her relaxing there in the sun and so forth.

Hele jumped to her death (in front of astonished American guards) at Hermann Goering's Fischhorn Castle on 19 May 1945 (well after Goering's own departure after his arrest). Her husband supposedly did as well, but there are rumors that he survived and lived out his days until the 1980s in anonymity nearby.

Inge Ley

Adolf Hitler
Inge Ley.
Inge Ley fits the profile of girls that Hitler preferred: blond, robust, attractive, reasonably young (born 1916, though she looked older), and politically connected. She quite possibly was the most attractive woman in Hitler's inner circle, with movie-star good looks.

Inge Ley
Inge Ley.
Inge was the wife of Robert Ley, Labor Front leader (in white uniform above). There were rumors of a romance between the Fuhrer and Inge Ley, but nothing solid. There were even stronger rumors that Inge had married Ley only so that she could be near the man that she really fancied. Who she is looking at in the above picture, and the below picture.

Inge Ley Robert Ley Adolf Hitler
Inge and Adolf, with Robert Ley in the background.
Inge was known to be a personal friend of Hitler, in some ways his closest. When Hitler was in his darkest moods and suffered doubts, Inge Ley could calm him down and restore his inner confidence with a few words. Inge was able to make Hitler consider secondary choices to decisions and to encourage his interaction with the populace. She was known to follow Hitler to the front despite his requests to the contrary, so committed was Inge to her Fuhrer. Hitler had an odd way of allowing his women to do as they pleased.

Inge Ley
Inge lived in the shadows of Hitler's love (1939). She was a tall lady but pulled it off well.
There was no doubt Hitler was captivated by Inge: the two were frequently photographed together in a relaxed atmosphere. She could look quite stern and forbidding, but in fact was a very attractive woman when relaxed and outside the presence of her husband. She just had an angular face and wore her hair in a severe fashion.

Inge Ley
If you were to pursue every possible avenue for the actual progeny of Adolf Hitler, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.
After admitting to several close friends that she lived only for the Fuhrer's love, Inge committed suicide in 1942.

Inge Ley

The causes are usually attributed to her alleged addiction to drugs and the burden of being married to the common Ley, who was a whirlwind of corruption as head of the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF).

Inge Ley

Supposedly, Inge shot herself after some kind of drunken altercation.

Inge Ley

Just like Hitler's actress-friend who threw herself out of a window as the SS men were coming to pay her a visit, or like Geli shooting herself, or like Unity Mitford shooting herself, or like...

Inge Ley
Inge and Robert Ley.
It is quite interesting how many women near Hitler committed suicide - none of them had to. Or did they.

Olga Chekhova

Olga Chekhova Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler with Russian actress Olga Chekhova, 1939.
Olga Chekhova is a footnote to World War II who could have been one of the most important figures of the war - if things had turned out differently and a theorized plot to kill Hitler had occurred. The above picture of Chekhova and Hitler almost turned history on its head, and therein lies a tale.

Olga Chekhova was born in Aleksandropol, Erivan Governorate, Russian Empire (now Gyumri, Armenia) on 14 April 1897. She eventually found her way to Germany, where she plied her trade as an actress (she was in a 1931 Alfred Hitchcock film). Since she was in her 40s during the height of Hitler's power, Olga was a bit old for him - he preferred girls in their teens and 20s. In fact, she was one of the mistresses (apparently, there is little proof of these things) of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who of course ran the German film industry and took full advantage of his power there with the ladies. Goebbels gave Olga the honor of referring to her in his diary as "ein charmante Frau" ("a charming lady") and gave her leading parts in many films during the 1930s. Olga also romanced Wehrmacht General Karl Heinrich von Stülpnagel (who actually did participate in a plot to kill Hitler, but that's another story) and probably other highly placed Germans. So, Olga was one of many ladies who mingled with the German hierarchy at operas and other social functions and would have come into contact with Hitler fairly frequently.

Anyway, the above photo was taken at a reception in 1939, and it obviously shows Hitler sitting next to Olga Chekhova. There is no indication that Hitler was involved with Olga - he had several mistresses at the time, including, of course, his primary squeeze, Eva Braun. However, the picture certainly makes Hitler and Olga Chekhova seem well acquainted, as Hitler didn't sit next to just anyone.

The reason this is worth reciting is that the Soviet intelligence agency reportedly (none of this is proven with ironclad certainty) saw the above picture (which likely was printed in German newspapers in the social columns). The Soviets drew an obvious conclusion - Olga was "with" Hitler in some fashion. In fact, Olga probably was at this particular function with Goebbels, or at least at his invite, but the picture alone certainly does not indicate that. Hitler also liked to squire women to social functions to hide his real relationship with Eva Braun, which he successfully kept secret from the public (Eva was happy to sit at home, apparently). So, using a colloquial term, Olga may have been a "beard" for Hitler at this particular event.

British author Roger Moorhouse, in his 2006 book "Killing Hitler," claims that the Soviets decided to try to take advantage of Olga's supposed relationship with Hitler. Moorhouse claims that Stalin and his security chief, Lavrentiy Beria, tried to coerce Olga into seducing Hitler and getting him to spill secrets. The book also claims that the Soviets wanted Olga to set Hitler up so that he could be killed by Soviet assassins (Stalin did this routinely with fellow Soviets such as Trotsky).

Well, as history shows, the Soviet plot (if there was one) never came to fruition. There is no indication that Hitler and Olga Chekhova had any more of a relationship than that shown in this one picture - sitting next to each other at this particular event. It also is unclear why the Soviets would have wanted to kill Hitler before the war, or how they would have been able to pressure Olga in Berlin during it, but Stalin had his ways. If Olga did get state secrets out of Hitler, they didn't prevent Stalin from being taken by surprise by the German invasion in June 1941.

Olga's career dwindled during the war (not unusual for an actress approaching her fifties), and she wound up in the Soviet sector of Berlin. She eventually managed to escape to the West, where Olga became a successful Munich business figure as the founder of a cosmetics company and was photographed at West German social events. Some folks just serenely glide over world events, with little matter such as World War II no more than minor annoyances. Olga Chekhova passed away on 9 March 1980, a "what might have been" in the annals of World War II.

Unity Mitford

Unity Mitford Adolf Hitler
Unity Mitford.
Unity Mitford was an upper-crust British socialite who (rather hysterically due to later events) had been conceived in Swastika, Ontario, Canada, where the family had business interests. The town name was just a coincidence, but it was quite appropriate.

Pre-war relations between German and British society were quite correct. In fact, there were many fascist sympathizers among the elite, including her brother-in-law Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. Accordingly, Unity went to Munich to study and learn the culture. She immediately decided to meet the most famous man there, Hitler, and after a long effort managed it at a local restaurant when she was 18 years old. Hitler was already involved with Eva Braun at the time, but he enjoyed Unity's attentions and perhaps saw her as a source of insight, or even diplomacy, with Britain.

Unity hung out with Hitler for a full five years, including at the 1936 Olympics, and remained an ardent fascist until the war was declared in 1939. She was one of his closest confidantes on matters of a purely personal nature, though her political judgment was a bit off. Then, she - you guessed it - attempted to commit suicide with a pistol given to her by Hitler. The attempt failed, the bullet lodged in her head. Hitler paid her bills and arranged her safe-conduct home despite the war. Unity died young in 1948 due to the lingering after-effects of the attempt.

Erna Hanfstaengl

Erna Hanfstaengl
Erna Hanfstaengl.
Erna Hanfstaengl was the elder sister of Ernst ("Putzi") Hanfstaengl, a local Bavarian businessman with international connections who was in Hitler's inner circle in the 1920s and early 1930s. However, Unity Mitford hated him for some reason, so he fell out of favor and defected to the United States, becoming acquainted with President Roosevelt.

Long before that, though, Hitler and Erna had had an affair that apparently was consummated shortly after the abortive 1923 Beer Hall Putsch while Hitler was hiding out in the countryside. She was sophisticated, attractive... and available.

Like her brother, though, Erna later fell out with Hitler, though she did not defect. She reportedly, while a shop-owner in Berlin, was involved in a 1943 plot to kill him, so the breakup may not have been amicable. Erna is notable because she does not fit the profile of Hitler's other reputed lovers, being dark and quite close in age to him. However, they were together when Hitler was in extremis, and things can happen at such times.

Traudl Junge

Traudl Junge
Traudl Junge at the Berghof.
Traudl Junge was Hitler's personal secretary. She began working for him in December 1942 and stayed with him through the end of the war. There is no evidence that Junge and Hitler had any kind of non-professional relationship. She later recalled that, during the final weeks in the Bunker, Hitler once remarked to her, "I would like to see you naked." However, there is no indication that anything of the sort ever happened.

On 1 May, after Hitler's suicide but before the final capitulation of the city, Junge left the Führerbunker with a party led by Waffen-SS general Wilhelm Mohnke. The group included Hitler's personal pilot Hans Baur, chief of Hitler's Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, secretary Gerda Christian, secretary Else Krüger, Hitler's dietician Constanze Manziarly and Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck. Successfully reaching the Elbe in a splinter group with Christian and Krüger, Junge laid low for a month, then returned to Berlin in hopes of finding a passage to the West. The Soviets arrested Junge on 9 July, and they held her until 1946. After being questioned by the Americans, Junge settled down in Bavaria.

Junge told her story several times during the postwar years, but interest accelerated over time. She wrote her memoir, "Until the Final Hour," which was published in 2002. As she learned more about the war, Junge came to regret her part in the regime and its systematic killing of people it did not like. Junge died from cancer in Munich on 10 February 2002 at the age of 81.

Charlotte Eudoxie Alida Lobjoie

Charlotte Eudoxie Alida Lobjoie
Charlotte Eudoxie Alida Lobjoie.
Charlotte Lobjoie was a young (a decade younger than Hitler) "dancer" in northern France during World War I. She just so happened to be in the vicinity of Corporal Adolf Hitler, and reportedly (according to her grandson) the two had a wartime affair when she was still a teenager. Not only did they "date," but they supposedly produced several offspring. All of this is based upon the recollections (and later book) by her son Philippe Loret.

Much, much doubt has been cast upon this story, and it may have involved some element of wishful thinking either by Loret or Lobjoie herself (until late in her life, she only referred to Loret's father as "a German soldier." However, there is some circumstantial evidence to support the tale, such as Hitler's mysterious visit to his old battlefield near Lobjoie's home in 1940 when (according to Loret) he disappeared for a day and briefly met with his old flame again.

Elsa Bruckmann

Elsa Bruckmann
Hitler, Hess, van Salomon and Elsa Bruckmann (bottom right).
The Third Reich hierarchy is sometimes described as having had Byzantine interactions and feuds. However, it had an actual Byzantine connection in the personage of Elsa Bruckmann.

Elsa, if born 500 years earlier, would have been an Eastern Roman Empire princess. In fact, she was born Princess Cantacuzène of Romania, daughter of Prince Theodor Cantacuzène, on 25 February 1865. Thus, she was much older than Adolf Hitler, and, as we have seen, he liked them young. So, odds of Elsa and Adolf actually having been an "item" are slim.

However, Elsa definitely had some things that Hitler wanted, namely, money and connections. As the wife of Hugo Bruckmann, Munich publisher of the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Elsa maintained a weekly salon which served as a way for Berlin high society to mingle and make acquaintance. She became quite a fan of the future Fuehrer as Hitler was beginning his rise to power in the 1920s and early 1930s. Not only did she introduce Hitler to such bon vivant as wine merchant Joachim Ribbentrop, but she also donated vast sums of money to the NSDAP. Many Jewish industrialists met Hitler through such salons, funding his activities in hopes of gaining influence. Hitler also met many female acquaintances this way. Though older than Hitler, Elsa outlived him, passing away on 7 June 1946.

Renate Müller

Renate Müller
Renate Müller.
Renate Müller was a famous singer and actress in 1920s/1930s Germany. Her most lasting work was the original "Viktor and Viktoria" (1933), later remade in the 1980s as "Victor/Victoria" with Julie Andrews.

As with Hitler's other female friends, there is no solid evidence that Hitler and Renate had any intimacy. However, she is known to have met Hitler whilst in her 20s, and after the war, there were rumors in Germany that the two had "dated." She was a known drug abuser and was known to have developed hard feelings toward the fascist regime toward the end of her brief life.

Perhaps the best evidence that there was more to the picture was her sudden and mysterious death during an October 1937 hospital stay that may have been... a suicide. She either jumped willingly from a window or was helped. Many think the Gestapo had something to do with it, either for reasons related to Hitler or her difficulties with the regime in general. One only has to look at Renate's photographs to see that she met the Hitler profile - young, vivacious, attractive and self-assured.

Adolf Hitler
Ordinary German women often had shrines in their homes to the Fuhrer.
All of these ladies were greatly envied for their access to the Fuhrer, whether it was romantic or not. Hitler received ardent fan letters from ordinary German women throughout his tenure. He was the biggest catch in fascist Germany. He knew it, and that is why he remained single until the last day of his life - to cultivate that possibility in every German lady.

Hitler women