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