10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler

Larry Holzwarth - May 3, 2018

More than seventy years after his death Adolf Hitler remains a subject of fascination, conjecture, speculation, and revulsion. Often called history’s most evil man, he has been accused of virtually every crime it is possible to commit, as if he needs to be made viler than he was. There are many who believe that he did not die with his long-time companion Eva Braun in the bunker under his Chancellery in Berlin, after marrying her only a day and a half before their supposed death. None of these escape conspiracy theorists deny that they married. At fifty-six, it was Hitler’s first marriage.

It was not, however, Hitler’s first relationship with a woman, and Eva Braun was not the only woman in Hitler’s life even at the time of their marriage. Hitler had several women in his inner circle, though their relationships were not romantic in nature. Several women had influence with the Fuhrer, and were loyally devoted to him up until the time of his death and beyond. Hitler also had friendships which may or may not have been sexual with other women before his relationship with Eva Braun. Hitler relied on the loyalty of these women even as he questioned the loyalty of his longtime supporters, including Goering and Himmler.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler offers congratulations to propagandist and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in 1934. Wikimedia

Here are ten women who were at one time or another part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Like many Germans after the war Leni Riefenstahl claimed not to have supported the Nazis. Her work did much to advance their agenda. Wikimedia

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl first met Adolf Hitler in 1932, when she was an upcoming actress and director. Leni was smitten with Hitler and although he spurned her attempts at a romantic relationship they remained on friendly terms for the remainder of Hitler’s life. Hitler appreciated her work and directed his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, to commission her to direct a documentary of the fifth Nuremberg rally in 1933. The film, entitled in English The Victory of Faith, was paid for by the Nazi Party, making Leni a de facto employee. After Hitler had Ernst Rohm killed during the Knight of the Long Knives he ordered the film destroyed since it included scenes where Hitler and Rohm interacted.

Nonetheless Hitler was impressed with her work and asked her to film Triumph of the Will at the Nuremberg rally of 1934. Riefenstahl later claimed that she resisted making another propaganda film, but she accepted the commission anyway, and the film became an acclaimed piece of propaganda. Riefenstahl was also asked by Hitler to film the 1936 Olympic Games, which she accepted and which gave the world most of the footage of US track star Jesse Owens which exists today. Although Riefenstahl later claimed that she thought the film had been commissioned by the Olympic Committee, evidence clearly shows that she knew it had been ordered by Hitler.

She made another propaganda film for the Nazis which was supportive of the German Army in 1935, after she was asked to give them a favorable presentation by the German High Command, approved by Hitler. In 1937 a reporter from the Detroit News asked her about Hitler, and she responded by calling him the “…greatest man who ever lived. He truly is without fault, so simple and at the same time so possessed of masculine strength”. When the news of the Kristallnacht broke in the United States while she was on a tour promoting her film of the Olympics, she unwaveringly defended and supported Hitler, calling the news Jewish propaganda.

Riefenstahl was with German troops in the early hours of the invasion of Poland, armed and in uniform. She witnessed the execution of civilians and later claimed that she attempted to intervene to stop the killings, but beyond her claim there is no evidence that she did. She later filmed, at Hitler’s request, the Nazi victory parade in Warsaw. When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940 she telegrammed the Fuhrer, and among her gushing praise included, “You exceed anything human imagination has the power to conceive, achieving deeds without parallel in the history of mankind. How can we ever thank you?” Riefenstahl later tried to explain her comments away as celebratory over the end of the war.

Riefenstahl’s work did much to sell the Nazi regime to the German people and gain it support among sympathizers around the world. She remained friendly with Hitler throughout the war, and under his order used Roma and Sinti prisoners from a concentration camp as extras in one of her films made. She later denied knowledge of the existence of the camps and the extermination of the Roma and Sinti peoples. Riefenstahl denied to her death that she had been a Nazi, claiming to have been naïve at the time, but no other individual presented Nazism and German militarism to the world in a more favorable light.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Joseph and Magda Goebbels and the six children they had together. Her son from her first marriage stands in uniform. Magda ensured the six younger children were dead before she committed suicide, or was shot by her husband. German Federal Archive

Magda Goebbels

Magda Goebbels was the divorced mother of a son when she first heard Joseph Goebbels, then Gauleiter of Berlin (Nazi Party Leader) speak publicly. By the autumn of 1930 she was serving as his personal secretary. In the spring of 1931 they were romantically involved and planning marriage, although Goebbels was concerned over her increasingly close relationship with Adolf Hitler. Goebbels and Magda were married in December 1931, with Hitler in attendance. Hitler had encouraged the marriage and intended Magda to serve as his official hostess, in effect being the First Lady of Nazi Germany, since it was his intention not to marry.

Hitler remained close with the Goebbels’ during the years leading up to the Second World War, often staying at their luxurious Berlin apartment. Eventually the Goebbels’ had six children together, along with Magda’s son by her first marriage. Hitler was fond of the children, relaxing by playing with them while visiting the apartment. Magda in turn remained close to Hitler and at his request served as the representative of the proper Aryan wife and mother, devoted to her children, submissive to her husband, and committed to the Nazi party and the Third Reich.

Joseph Goebbels was a womanizer and philanderer, entering into several affairs with actresses he encountered as part of his work making propaganda films. One such affair grew serious and Magda being aware of it discussed it with Hitler, who ordered Goebbels to end it in 1938. Although the Goebbels remained together and at least publicly appeared at peace with each other by the end of 1938 Hitler again intervened, refusing to allow the couple to consider divorce and arranging for photo sessions in which he posed with the couple and their children. Magda continued to solicit support for her marriage from the unmarried Hitler.

Magda too had extramarital affairs, which Hitler either didn’t know about or chose to ignore. She continued to be among his close female friends. When the war began Magda demonstrated the patriotic duty of German women by taking work in a war industry, using public transportation to commute in order to save fuel. Her son joined the Luftwaffe, a fact exploited by the propaganda machine run by his stepfather. The Goebbels continued to support Hitler wholeheartedly until 1942, when Magda began to privately express doubts about the situation with the Russians.

She remained within Hitler’s inner circle through to the end. By 1944 she was confiding to other friends that Hitler was no longer listening to anyone who spoke out against what the Fuhrer believed. Hitler considered only what he wanted to hear. Both Magda Goebbels and Joseph joined the Fuhrer in his bunker in 1945. The day following the deaths of Hitler and Eva Braun, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide, after Magda administered poison to their six children, killing them. Their partially burned bodies were found the next day, May 2 1945, by Soviet troops as they overran Berlin.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Julius Schreck became Hitler’s personal chauffeur after his predecessor, Emil Maurice, was fired for an affair with Hitler’s niece. Wikimedia

Geli Raubal

In 1929 Adolf Hitler’s publisher paid for him to live in a nine room apartment in Munich. After Hitler’s book Mein Kampf began generating royalties Hitler took over the payments on the apartment. Four years earlier Hitler had hired his half-sister Angela Raubal to serve as his housekeeper. Angela was a widow who brought her two daughters (Hitler’s half-nieces) to Munich, Geli and Friedl. When Hitler stayed at his villa, the Berghof, Angela went with him to perform her duties there. When Hitler moved into the Munich apartment he furnished it luxuriously, acquiring several paintings by German masters to cover its walls.

He also moved in then 20 year old Geli Raubal. She was said to be in Munich to attend Ludwig Maximilian University to study medicine. Hitler was nineteen years her senior and as he rose in power he kept his niece on a short leash. He had for several years prior to installing her in his Munich apartment controlled her affairs, going so far as to fire his personal chauffeur over his suspicions of a romantic affair between him and Geli. According to her mother Geli hoped to return to Austria to pursue a singing career, but Hitler forbade her. Geli also had known a man in Austria whom she hoped to marry, but Hitler forbade that too.

By 1930 Hitler refused to allow Geli to leave the apartment alone, requiring her to be accompanied with one of his friends or servants whenever she went shopping or to the movies. He escorted her to the theater and the opera himself on several occasions, on others he insisted that one of his associates be present whenever she went out in public. On September 18 1931, Hitler was preparing to depart for business in Nuremberg when Geli suggested that she be allowed to go to Vienna while he was away, leading to an argument after Hitler insisted that she remain in Munich.

The following day Hitler was informed that his niece had killed herself in the Munich apartment using his pistol, shot once in the chest, the bullet penetrating a lung. The sensational nature of her death led to immediate speculation as to their relationship, and Hitler’s political opponents seized the opportunity to exploit it. Rumors were spread which included physical abuse on the part of Hitler, sexual abuse, and even whispers that the 23 year old Geli had been murdered by the Nazis. Hitler himself refused to comment on the matter and to avoid publicity refused to attend the funeral. Instead he visited Geli’s grave privately two days later.

Whether or not Geli and Hitler were involved in a sexual relationship has never been determined definitively, and the nature of their relationship has been analyzed by historians as well as psychologists, psychiatrists, and forensic scientists. Hitler fell into a deep depression following the suicide of his niece and went into semi-seclusion for a few days, after which he returned to his work. Hitler kept portraits and photographs of his late niece in his retreat, the Berghof, and later in his Chancellery, and her room in the former was kept as it had been when she last stayed there. Hitler continued to live in the apartment in Munich until 1934, and retained it after for use as a meeting space.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering at Obersalzberg in the 1930s. German Federal Archives

Maria Reiter

Maria Reiter was, according to her own story, a 16 year old shopgirl in Obersalzberg when she met Adolf Hitler, who was then 37 years of age. After becoming friendly Hitler asked the girl out, and she accepted. Their first date was punctuated by clumsy advances from Hitler, but led to subsequent dates, and eventually Hitler told Maria that he wanted her to be his wife and the mother of his children, though his work was too important for him to consider marriage and family life at the time. Hitler promised marriage when the time was right and he could afford to concentrate less on what he called his duty;

By the late 1920s Hitler was largely ignoring the former object of his passion, and Maria became depressed. In 1928 she attempted to hang herself, but her brother in law intervened and saved her life. Shortly after the attempted suicide Maria married an innkeeper in Obersalzberg. In 1931 she left her husband after a message was delivered to her from Hitler. The messenger was Rudolph Hess, and he conveyed Hitler’s continued interest to her, prompting her to visit him in Munich. After spending the night together Hitler asked Maria to stay in Munich, and directed his lawyer to handle Maria’s divorce from her husband.

In 1934 Hitler again asked Reiter to join him, though he was by then living in Berlin, as well as seeing Eva Braun. Reiter reiterated her desire for marriage rather than just an illicit relationship. Hitler once more expressed his difficulties with marriage, since his work and his plans for the future required all of his time and concentration. This led to an argument between the two, and Reiter eventually said no to Hitler. In 1936 she married Georg Kubisch, an SS officer with the rank of Hauptsturmfuhrer, roughly equivalent to an army captain. Hitler was aware of the marriage and offered his congratulations to the SS officer.

In 1938, according to Reiter, she met with Hitler again and for the last time. During this meeting, Hitler complained of what he perceived to be problems in his relationship with Eva Braun, and intimated that there was still the possibility of a secret relationship between him and the married Maria. Maria turned him down. In May 1940, Maria became a widow when her husband was killed during the German thrust to the beaches at Dunkirk. Maria received condolences from the Fuhrer, accompanied with 100 roses, but there were no further claims of his affection, nor requests for a relationship.

Maria Reiter’s claims of a sexual relationship with Hitler are largely unconfirmed other than her own comments, and the support of Hitler’s sister Paula. Historians have unearthed two letters which were written by Maria to Hitler, but nothing in reply from him directed to her. During the time in which Reiter claimed to have been involved with Hitler, in the late 1920s and the early 1930s both his niece Geli (until her death) and his later companion Eva Braun, were on the scene. Maria Reiter gave her story to the German publication Stern in 1959, and died in 1992 at the age of 80.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Adolph Hitler with Unity Mitford in the 1930s. Daily Mail

Unity Mitford

Unity Mitford was a 20 year old former debutante when she arrived in Munich in 1934, intent on meeting Adolf Hitler. Unity was the fifth of seven children born to England’s Baron of Redesdale and his wife. In her teen years prior to her debut she developed a fascination with Nazism, partly in competition with one of her sisters with whom she shared a bedroom, who supported communism. In 1933 the sisters attended the Nuremberg Rally, and Unity saw Hitler for the first time and decided to relocate to Germany, enroll in a German language school, and join the Nazis.

During the 1930s Hitler’s movements about Munich were well known, and after learning his habits, including where he dined or had coffee during the day, Unity traced his movements until after nearly a year of pursuit she was invited to join his table. After meeting Hitler Unity wrote to her father, “For me he is the greatest man of all time.” Hitler and Mitford were soon close, a fact noticed by an increasingly jealous Eva Braun. Mitford was soon working with the Nazis in several areas, including writing and delivering anti-Semitic speeches and articles. She also published an open letter in Der Streicher in which she published her full name and concluded, “I am a Jew hater.”

For the next five years Unity was a member of Hitler’s inner circle of friends and advisors. Hitler had Mitford at his side when he announced the annexation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938. British intelligence reported her actions in Europe, which included the distribution of Nazi propaganda in Prague before the Munich agreement, as treasonous. Hitler provided her with an apartment in Munich, and she spent time with him at the Berghof. Mitford lobbied Hitler to make a peace arrangement with England, a position which placed her under suspicion from other Nazis, who were concerned that she was a British agent.

In 1939 Hitler warned Mitford (and her sister Diana, also in Germany at the time) that a confrontation with England was imminent, and that they should return to England if they were so inclined before war made it an impossibility. Diana returned to England while Unity chose to remain in Germany. When England declared war on Germany following the invasion of Poland, Unity finally realized that everything she had hoped to achieve, an ongoing alliance between England and Germany, was no longer a possibility, and that she would be arrested for treason if she attempted to return to England. Unity attempted to kill herself, shooting herself in the head with a pistol Hitler had given her.

She survived the attempt, at least for a time, and was hospitalized in Munich. In December 1939 she was relocated to a hospital in neutral Switzerland. Hitler personally paid her hospital bills. In 1940 she was returned to England, unable to walk. Eventually she recovered some of her faculties, but she developed meningitis, caused by swelling of her brain in the area of the never removed bullet she had fired into her head. She died in 1948. During the war she was suspected of spying for the Germans by interrogating British pilots which she attempted to seduce before her injuries caused by the bullet overwhelmed her.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Emma Goering with her daughter Edda and Adolf Hitler. World of Faces

Emmy Johanna Goering

Emma Sonnemann was descended from a wealthy Hamburg family, working as an actress when she met actor Karl Kostlin in Weimar. Both were working in the National Theater. Emma – known to her friends and family as Emmy – was married to Karl in Trieste in 1916, a few months before her 23rd birthday. The marriage was an unhappy one and they separated after just a few weeks of marriage, although they continued to work together onstage. In 1926 they finally divorced. Emmy continued to perform following the divorce and became a well-known German entertainer.

As the Nazi party rose in stature in Germany Hermann Goering quickly became second only to Adolf Hitler in wielding power. Goering was a fighter ace of the First World War and was one of the Nazis wounded in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, leading to his addiction to morphine. During the 1930s Goering amassed power and wealth through his party connections, bribes from German defense contractors, and confiscation of art and property from prominent Jews. An invitation to his estate, named Carinhall after his first wife, was a prized perquisite among Nazi supporters and other members of the German financial and industrial circles.

Goering’s first wife died of heart failure in 1931. In 1933 Goering built Carinhall, a hunting lodge and his main residence, erecting a shrine to his late wife. Goering considered himself a patron of the arts and soon met Emmy after one of her performances. They were married in 1935. By that time Goering was firmly ensconced as the number two man in all of Germany, and Emmy became the de facto First Lady of the Reich at social and political functions. At the time, though Hitler was seeing Eva Braun regularly and she often stayed at Berchtesgaden, she was largely kept secret from the German public.

Hitler wanted to present himself to the people as being married to the Reich, without time for the mundane details of a personal relationship. Emmy dutifully assumed her role as the Reich’s leading lady, but she offered a cold shoulder to Eva Braun and the hostility between the two women was obvious. Women, despite being in Hitler’s inner social circle, were not allowed to discuss politics openly, and when affairs of state required meetings in which to conduct business women were expected to remove themselves. Still, when Hitler learned of the treatment of Eva by Emmy, he angrily told Goering that Eva should be treated respectfully.

By late in the war both Goering’s and his wife’s stature with Hitler, and with the German people, had diminished. The failure of the Luftwaffe to defend Germany from allied bombers and the ascension of Eva Braun as Hitler’s most loyal companion pushed others to the side. Emmy was tried after the war for being a member of the Nazi party, which was awarded to by her husband’s direction in 1938, and was sentenced to one year in jail. She was also forbidden from returning to acting for five years. She wrote an autobiography which concentrated on the years of her marriage and her relationship with Hitler and Goering in 1972, dying the following year in Munich at the age of eighty.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Ilse Prohl’s husband, Rudolph Hess, sits next to Hermann Goering in the dock at Nuremberg after the war. National Archives

Ilse Prohl

Ilse Prohl was the daughter of a prominent physician and one of the first women enrolled at the University of Munich. In April 1920 Ilse met Rudolf Hess, a student at Munich studying geopolitics. Ilse pursued a relationship with the initially reluctant Hess, who was also a follower of the fledgling Nazi party. In July of 1920 Hess officially joined the Nazi Party and was jailed along with Adolf Hitler following the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. While they were incarcerated Hess assisted in the writing of Mein Kampf, and was a leading proponent of the idea of lebensraum for the German people. Hess was paroled in 1924, ten days after Hitler was released.

It was Ilse Prohl who first introduced Rudolf Hess to Adolf Hitler. Hitler liked to associate with women of means and had met Ilse several times socially. As Hess grew closer to Hitler, becoming his private secretary in April 1925, Prohl made her case for a relationship with him to Hitler, and Hitler urged Hess to consider marriage to the elegant physician’s daughter. Hess and Prohl were married in Munich in 1927. By then Hess was one of the very few people who could call on Hitler at any time, and the two were not only professional confidants but close friends. Ilse Prohl enjoyed similar access to Hitler as the Nazis consolidated their power.

After Hitler became Reich Chancellor in 1933 Hess was appointed Deputy Fuhrer. Hess was afforded considerable power over the civilian population in Nazi Germany, including the authority to review the sentences of individuals considered to be enemies of the Nazi Party. Hess could and did extend sentences indefinitely as well as order the execution of such parties. Ilse Prohl moved within the social circle of Hitler and his cronies both as a result of her husband’s political standing and Hitler’s own friendship with her. When the Hess’s had a son in 1937, Hitler stood as the child’s godfather.

After Hess made his failed “peace mission” to England in 1941 letters he had written to Ilse explaining his intentions and determination to see them through surfaced. As early as November 1940, Hess was informing Ilse of the purpose of his mission, and that initial feelers to British officials were being sent. This made Ilse an accessory to her husband’s plans and wary of the reaction of the top Nazi officials, many of whom had been jealous of Hess’s access to the Fuhrer, Ilse fled to the region of Hindelang in southern Bavaria. There she was monitored by the Nazis but was relatively unhindered. Hitler apparently wanted the entire episode kept as quiet as possible.

There is no indication that Ilse and Hitler ever saw each other again. Ilse was arrested after the war by the Allies, as the spouse of a prominent Nazi and war criminal, and was interned from 1947-1948. Ilse Prohl Hess never renounced Hitler or Nazism, instead she continued to defend both in her correspondence and interviews for the rest of her life. She also argued for the release of her husband, held in custody by the Allies following the war. Rudolf Hess died in Spandau Prison in 1987, reportedly a suicide. Ilse Prohl died in Lilienthal in 1995.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Winifred Wagner was a close personal friend of Hitler’s and defended him for the rest of her life. Wikimedia

Winifred Wagner

Siegfried Wagner was the son of composer and artist Richard Wagner, whose music Adolf Hitler very much admired. The Wagner family were the leading patrons of the Bayreuth Festival, an annual music festival, and after Richard’s death its ownership passed to Siegfried. Siegfried was a closet homosexual, and as the last of the Wagner line, the only possibility of the Festival remaining in Wagner hands was an arranged marriage, with the hope that Siegfried would be able to produce an heir. An arranged marriage between Siegfried and Winifred Williams Klindworth, and English born orphan of 17, took place in 1915. The couple eventually had four children together.

Hitler was a great fan of Wagner and he was introduced to Winifred in 1923. Immediately smitten, Winifred supported Hitler during his incarceration following the Beer Hall Putsch, sending him food, money, and when she learned of his work with Hess on what became Mein Kampf, paper and other writing necessities. The support developed into a close friendship between Hitler and Winifred, which continued to grow after his release. Winifred was a close friend of Hitler personally, but never joined the Nazi party nor espoused its beliefs. As early as 1933 whispers in Nazi social circles of an impending marriage between the two were surfacing (Siegfried, who was 28 years older than his bride when they married, died in 1930).

After the death of her husband Winifred took over the operation of the Bayreuth Festival, though the Festival itself remained in the hands of the Wagner family. As its director she received support from the German government in the form of direct grants and tax credits and exemptions. Hitler became a frequent guest at the Wagner family seat, Haus Wahnfried, a villa built by Richard Wagner. Wahnfried is a compound word formed from the German words for Peace and Delusion. Hitler also provided services and assistance for the four Wagner children.

In the late 1930s Winifred, who had been raised in both England and Germany, served as Hitler’s personal translator during negotiations with British officials seeking to prevent the outbreak of war. This entry into the innermost of Nazi party circles raised eyebrows among senior Nazis, and from their wives. It was especially noticed by Eva Braun, who was excluded from meetings in which official business of any kind was under discussion. Hitler’s level of trust in the English born Winifred was self-evident, and she often kept notes for the Fuhrer during such meetings. After the war broke out Winifred remained in Bayreuth, and continued to run the festival.

Winifred later claimed to have never joined the Nazi Party, and that she found the anti-Semitic policies of the party repugnant. Other than her claims there is little evidence to support her position. Her children and grand-children claimed that she remained an unrepentant supporter of Hitler for the rest of her life, and she used the code USA to refer to him in letters. USA was short for Unsere Seliger Adolf, German for Our Blessed Adolf. Following the war she was banned from the Bayreuth Festival and its control was transferred to her children. She remained friendly with and welcomed to her home Ilse Prohl, Emmy Goering, and other former Nazi wives, and corresponded with Unity Metford, always praising Adolf Hitler.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler, and some of their dogs at Berchtesgaden. Hitler’s dog Blondi was used to test the cyanide with which Braun was killed. Wikimedia

Eva Braun before the war

Adolf Hitler kept a personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, on call in Munich in 1929, in part because he liked to study his appearance while gesticulating during his delivery of speeches. While visiting his photographer’s shop one afternoon he met Eva Braun, then 17 years old. Braun was both a clerical assistant and model, and had a talent for photography herself. Two years later they began seeing each other socially, though at first it was a relationship known only to Hitler’s innermost circle. Their relationship began shortly after the death of Hitler’s niece Geli Raubal, and continued for the rest of their lives.

Less than a year after the suicide of Geli Raubal, Braun attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest. Hitler began paying more attention to her as she recovered and she began to be allowed to travel with Hitler’s entourage, albeit officially as part of Hoffmann’s staff. She also began to stay overnight occasionally at Hitler’s Munich apartment and was allowed to stay at the Berghof, again under the guise of working for Hoffmann. In 1935 she attempted to commit suicide a second time, according to diary entries because Hitler wasn’t paying her enough attention. This attempt was with an overdose of sleeping pills.

By the mid-1930s Braun and her sister Gretl were sharing a Munich apartment paid for by Hitler and she had her own rooms at Hitler’s retreat in Obersalzberg and in the Chancellery in Berlin. In 1935 Hitler’s longtime housekeeper and mother of his late niece was dismissed from his service after complaining of Braun’s presence in the Hitler household, a decision which solidified Braun’s relationship with Hitler in the eyes of the rest of the Nazi leadership. Braun was never photographed in a manner in which she appeared to be accompanying Hitler, and the rest of the inner circle did not acknowledge her before the press or cameras. She was a secret as far as the German people were concerned.

Braun was not allowed to be present when business was discussed, though whether Hitler sought her opinions on a personal basis will likely never be known. Braun expressed little interest in matters of state in any event, her interests were more in the line of entertainment, sports, and clothing. As war approached and the German economy began to shift to war production she expressed outrage over the resulting shortage of soap, cosmetics, and other items deemed important to her, but there is no indication that her concerns were of any interest to Hitler.

After Rudolph Hess flew to England Braun was officially designated as Hitler’s private secretary. She remained on Hoffmann’s official staff as well, positions which offered her unfettered access to the Chancellery and explained her presence as part of Hitler’s entourage. As Germany prepared for war Braun remained near Hitler no matter where he was, earning her the backbiting of other women of the inner circle and the unspoken but readily apparent contempt of senior Nazi’s wives. Hitler on several occasions spoke to his advisors regarding their wives behavior towards Eva, demanding that she be treated respectfully.

10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler
Winston Churchill visits the shattered Fuhrerbunker in Berlin in 1945, accompanied by Russian and British troops. Imperial War Museum

Eva Braun during the war

In June 1944, just days before the Allies invaded at Normandy and the Russians launched a new offensive, Gretl Braun married an SS officer who was a liaison between Hitler’s and Himmler’s staffs. This opened the door for Eva to attend some official functions as his sister-in-law (before Hitler died in 1945 he had Gretl’s husband shot for treason). As it was increasingly evident that the war would end badly for the Germans several of Eva’s friends suggested that she flee, which she refused, indicating that it was her desire to stay with Hitler until the end.

Hitler and Braun shared a love of dogs, though he preferred German Shepherds and she terriers. She kept her dogs out of the reach of Hitler’s favorite dog, named Blondi, when they were at Berchtesgaden. Blondi eventually became the test case for the potency of the cyanide capsules which both Hitler and Braun would take in the bunker. Braun’s terriers and puppies which Blondi had delivered not long before being fed the cyanide were shot after Hitler and Braun were dead.

Braun was in Munich at the beginning of April 1945, and as the Russian army closed on Berlin she traveled to the capital to join Hitler in the bunker under the Chancellery. Hitler made out his will, in which he left the sum of 12,000 Reichsmarks to Eva, to be paid annually. By the third week of April it was clear that the capture of the bunker was but a matter of days. Eva was offered the means of escaping to either the Americans or the British, both of which she refused. Sometime during the night of April 28-29 1945, she and Adolf Hitler were married and though she remains known to history as Eva Braun, she became officially Eva Hitler. She signed the marriage certificate in that name.

The next morning Braun and Hitler retired together, alone in their shared study in the bunker which separated their sleeping rooms. That afternoon the staff heard the sound of a single gunshot, and upon entering the room found both bodies. Braun had died of cyanide poisoning and Hitler had been shot in the temple. The bodies were removed to the chancellery garden and burned, but apparently only partially, since the Soviets claimed to have recovered the charred remains and identified Hitler through them. The claims have been disputed ever since.

Adolf Hitler claimed a strange hold over the German people, and his ability to mesmerize huge crowds evidently extended to individuals on a personal level as well. Several women under his spell committed or attempted to commit suicide either because of his attentions or his inattentions. Hitler’s hold over the women which were a part of his inner circle, both as a rising politician and as history’s greatest war criminal, is yet another mystery about him which remains to be solved. Even some aware of the monstrosity of the crimes committed in his name condemned the crimes, yet absolved the man.

 

Where do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Leni Riefenstahl: the Fallen Film Goddess”, by Glenn Infield, 1976

“Berlin: The Downfall, 1945”, by Antony Beevor, 2002

“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, by William L. Shirer, 1960

“Uneven Romance”, Time Magazine, June 29, 1959

“Did Unity Mitford have Adolf Hitler’s love child?”, by Fran Yeoman, The Times (London) May 18, 2008

“Eva Braun”, by N.E. Gun, 1968

“Hitler links: A Wagner and not proud of it”, by Michael Church, The Independent, April 8, 2008

“The Inmate of Spandau’s Last Wish”, by John Greenwald and Clive Freeman, Time Magazine, August 31, 1987

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