“We snooped around in the beds,” Herbert Döhring, the manager of the Berghof, Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps, confessed to a television team decades later. But they found nothing, leading Döhring, a member of the Waffen-SS, to conclude that the relationship between the dictator and Braun, 23 years his junior, must have been platonic.
In the Third Reich, Döhring was one of only a small group of people who knew about Braun’s close relationship with Hitler. It wasn’t until after the war that the public learned that the dictator had spent many years in the company of an attractive blonde from Munich, who he married hours before the couple committed suicide, on April 30, 1945, in the Führer’s bunker in Berlin.
Braun allegedly complained, in the Führer bunker, about her constant arguments with Adolf about meals. Hitler, an adamant vegetarian, allegedly demanded that she eat only gruel and mushroom dip, which she found disgusting (”I can’t eat this stuff”).
According to another story, told by one of the dictator’s secretaries, Braun would secretly kick Hitler’s German shepherd Blondie, supposedly because she was jealous of the dog. She is said to have gloated over Blondie’s howls after abusing the dog (”Adolf is surprised at the animal’s strange behavior. That’s my revenge.”).
The couple had a normal, intimate relationship, as Braun’s friends and relatives would later report. According to those accounts, when Braun saw a photo depicting British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sitting on the sofa in Hitler’s Munich apartment in 1938, she giggled and said: “If he only knew the history of that sofa!”
Propaganda minister and Hitler confidant Joseph Goebbels noted several times how much the dictator appreciated his mistress (”A clever girl, who means a lot to the Führer”).
There is credible evidence that Braun was more to Hitler than an “attractive young thing” in whom the dictator “found, despite or perhaps because of her unassuming and insipid appearance, the sort of relaxation and calm he was seeking,” as Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann later claimed.
If Hitler had had his way, Braun would also have survived the demise of the German Reich. He repeatedly asked her to leave Berlin in the final days of the war and fly to Bavaria. But Braun refused. Until the very end, Hitler spoke of her “with great respect and inner devotion,” Albert Speer, Hitler’s crown prince, said in his first statements to the Allies in 1945.
Even the beginnings of the affair are relatively murky. Hitler apparently met Braun in 1929, when she was 17, at the “NSDAP Photohaus Hoffmann,” a photography shop, on Amalienstrasse in Munich. The young woman, who looks mischievous in pictures, had previously attended a girls’ school for home economics and office management, and was now working in the photography shop. Her boss Heinrich Hoffmann, who was chosen as Hitler’s official photographer, was one of the early members of the Nazi Party.
The party leader charmed the teenager with snide Viennese charm: “May I invite you to the opera, Miss Eva? You see, I am always surrounded by men, and so I can appreciate my good fortune when I find myself in the company of a woman.”
When he was with women, the mass murderer’s manners were refined, and he never showed the slightest inclination toward womanizing. The naïve Braun, who fantasized about the world of films and loved fashion magazines, succumbed to the strong suggestive powers that even neutral observers ascribed to Hitler. Soon after meeting Braun, the Nazi leader apparently issued orders to look into whether the Braun family had any Jewish ancestors.
No one knows when the banter turned into a relationship. In 1932, Braun tried to commit suicide with her father’s gun, which some contemporaries suspected was an attempt to pressure Hitler to pay more attention to her. The Nazi leader had his eye on the chancellorship, and it would have been the second suicide by a young woman that could have been tied to Hitler. His niece, Geli Rauball, shot herself to death, presumably to escape the attentions of her jealous uncle.
In 1935, Braun attempted suicide again, this time with sleeping pills, and there are some indications that the relationship only became more intimate after that. Hitler paid for her apartment and later installed her in her own house, so that she could finally move out of her parents’ house. She grew into the role of hostess at the Berghof, where Hitler would often spend weeks at a time, even during the war. Her official title was “private secretary.” But at some point Hitler and Braun became more familiar with each other around other people.
Braun had a strong interest in photography and making films, and she also liked to be photographed. The photo albums and films of her that have survived depict her as a carefree, athletic and extroverted woman, who sometimes posed in her bathing suit and even filmed her sister when she went swimming in the nude. After the war, a former member of the SS complained that she did not conform to the “ideal of a German girl.”
The Loyal Lover
Braun was faithful unto death, and it was this unconditional loyalty that Hitler presumably valued in her above all else. “Only Miss Braun and my German Shepherd are loyal to me and belong to me,” he is believed to have said near the end of the war, when Europe was in ruins and the murder of European Jews was already largely a fait accompli.
At that point, Braun had already decided to remain with the Führer. She even had someone teach her how to use a pistol when the Red Army had already advanced into Berlin. “We are fighting to the end here,” she wrote from the Führer’s bunker to her closest friend on April 22. “I will die as I have lived. It will not be difficult for me.”
Geli Raubal, shared his bed while her mother kept house for him. Not only was this an incestuous relationship, but when Geli tried to escape by taking other lovers, Hitler suffocated her with his jealousy. It was a revolting tale of beauty and the beast.
In 1931, when Geli realised that Hitler would neither marry her nor let her marry anybody else, she shot herself. Foul play was suspected, but nothing was ever proved. His grief seems to have been genuine: her room remained a shrine to the end of his life.