Born 6 February 1912, Eva Braun first met her future husband, Adolf Hitler, while working as an assistant and model to Hitler’s official photographer, Heinrich Hoffman. It was 1929 and she was 17, Hitler 40.
At the time Hitler had taken upon himself the responsibility of looking after his 21-year-old niece, Geli Raubal. The exact relationship between uncle and niece has never been properly ascertained except that Hitler was overly-possessive and jealous of the company she kept. On 18 September 1931, Raubal committed suicide by shooting herself with Hitler’s pistol.
Hitler’s relationship with Eva Braun began soon after Raubal’s death and possibly before. Raubal’s jealousy of Braun has been mooted as a possible cause of her suicide.
The Invisible Woman
Germany, as a nation, never knew of Braun’s existence as Hitler went to great lengths to keep her hidden from view. He was, as he often remarked, primarily wedded to the German people and wanted to maintain his popularity amongst German women, whose adoration for Hitler sometimes contained a sexual dimension.
Thus the relationship proved difficult for Braun who was devoted to the Fuhrer. Twice she tried to commit suicide, once by shooting herself, the second time by poison. Neither occasion could be regarded as a serious attempt at ending her life but a desperate cry for attention. Concerned, Hitler amply provided for her so that materially at least Braun was very comfortable. But still she remained marginalised. She spent much of her time with Hitler in his mountain retreat, the Berchtesgaden, but was only reluctantly accepted by the wives of other senior Nazis. When visitors and dignities arrived Braun had to make herself scarce.
She had no interest in politics and spent time with her friends or, if alone, reading romantic novels and watching films. Braun liked to wear make-up, smoke and sunbathe nude – all of which Hitler thoroughly disproved of but, surprisingly, lacked the assertiveness to stop. Albert Speer later described Braun at the Berchtesgaden as ‘silent and miserable’.
Even unto death
But she remained devoted. In 1944 Braun wrote to Hitler, ‘From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere even unto death.’ True to her word, in 1945 she joined Hitler in the bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery in Berlin and despite many opportunities to evacuate remained at his side.
On 28 April 1945, Hitler finally married Braun. Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann stood as witnesses as the hastily-found registrar asked the marrying couple whether they were of pure Aryan descent and free of any hereditary diseases. The reception was brief and awkward.
The following day. Hitler dictated his personal will and testament. In it, he wrote,
‘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’.
Forty hours after becoming husband and wife, with the Soviet Red Army only metres away, the couple committed suicide – Hitler by shooting himself through the temple. The pistol he used was the same as his niece had used almost 14 years before. Braun bit into a cyanide capsule. She was 33.
The bodies, covered in blankets, were carried out into the Chancellery garden. There, with artillery exploding around them and neighbouring buildings ablaze, Hitler’s wishes were honoured – benzene was poured on the corpses and set alight. With the bodies blazing, the entourage gave one final Hitler salute before scampering back into the bunker.
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