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Braun, Eva (1912–1945)

Braun, Eva (1912–1945)

German mistress, and wife for one day, of Adolf Hitler. Born Eva Anna Paula Braun in Munich, Germany, on February 6, 1912; committed suicide with Hitler on April 30, 1945; daughter of Franziska Katharina (Kranburger) Braun and Fritz Braun; sister ofIlse Braun (b. 1909) andGretl Braun Fegelein (b. 1915); married Adolf Hitler, on April 29, 1945.

First met Hitler (1929); became Hitler's mistress (1932); lived in villa in Munich; attempted suicide (May 1935); moved to Hitler's house "Berghof," Obersalzberg (1936); followed Hitler into his Berlin bunker and married him (April 29, 1945); the next day, both committed suicide and their corpses were burned in the bunker's garden.

Eva Braun was unknown to the world until after her death in the final days of the battle of Berlin in April 1945. She was born in Munich, Germany, on February 6, 1912, and grew up in a solidly middle-class family. Her father Fritz Braun (1879–1964) was a tenured civil servant, and her mother Franziska Kranburger Braun (1885–1975) also came from solid circumstances as the daughter of a veterinarian. Eva had two sisters, Ilse, who was three years older than she, and Gretl, who was three years younger. Soon after Eva's birth, World War I broke out in August 1914, and Fritz Braun was called to the colors. He served as a lieutenant on the Western front, and was among those fortunate enough to survive the carnage and return home in 1918. Soon after his return, he joined an anti-revolutionary Freikorps unit that fought to free Munich from the rule of a short-lived Soviet Republic. In 1919, another war veteran, an obscure Austrian named Adolf Hitler, had just returned to Munich from the front to begin a fateful career in politics.

Uninterested in abstract ideas or ideals, Eva Braun led a happy, untroubled childhood and adolescence, delighting in friendships and the pleasures of youth. She was a good dancer, conscious of her attractive figure, and matured into an attractive young woman who enjoyed flirting with men. Without career ambitions, she accepted the conventional pattern of working an undemanding job so as to live life and "let things take their natural course." By the late 1920s, Munich had become a city dominated by the Nazi Party, a radically racist and nationalist movement led by Adolf Hitler. Braun had certainly heard of Hitler and may even have seen him prior to accepting employment with Heinrich Hoffmann, owner of a photography shop, who had worked for the Nazi Party as its official photographer since 1921. In 1929, Hitler had shown an interest in Hoffmann's daughter Henriette , but since she was already involved with another Nazi, the student leader Baldur von Schirach, Hoffmann pointed out to Hitler the pretty young woman he had recently hired. For the next two years, Hitler was seriously involved with another young woman, his niece Geli Raubal . The complex relationship between Hitler and Raubal ended in September 1931 with her suicide, an event that has never been adequately explained.

Although Hitler was devastated by Raubal's death, he was soon attracted to Eva Braun. By the time he was appointed chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, she had become his mistress. During the next 12 years, throughout the span of the Nazi dictatorship, the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun was a state secret. Never once did the German press or radio even hint at the fact that the führer, whose only bride was said to be the German Reich, was in fact in a permanent relationship with a conventional young woman of no particular distinction. Hitler, who paid no income taxes and was quite wealthy as a result of the vast sales of his book Mein Kampf, bought Braun a villa on Munich's Wasserburgerstrasse (now named Delpstrasse in honor of a victim of the Nazis), as well as a Mercedes and a personal chauffeur. Despite the luxury, Braun was often bored by her cocooned isolation. Hitler, busy consolidating his power, rarely had time to spend with his Bavarian inamorata, and Braun wrote in her diary: "He only needs me for certain purposes." Hitler's views on the role of women were brutally patriarchal, centering around the notion that their role was to keep house, bear children, and please men in all ways possible. As for himself, he noted to his associates that marriage would have been a "terrible burden" for him, and that having a mistress like Eva Braun gave him the freedom to rule Germany as he saw fit. Eva's mother, on the other hand, was sufficiently concerned about her daughter's future to write a letter to Hitler asking what his intentions were regarding Eva; the letter drew no response.

In May 1935, Braun tried to kill herself with sleeping pills. Hitler responded the next year by removing his half-sister Angela Raubal from the position of hostess and housekeeper at his mountain retreat, the Berghof, near Berchtesgaden, and Eva Braun became the woman of the house, though her existence remained known to only a handful of powerful people in Germany. With the start of World War II in September 1939, Hitler spent increasingly less time at the Berghof. Eva Braun was never permitted to accompany Hitler to his headquarters near the front. She spent her time watching movies (she and Hitler both loved to watch Gone With the Wind), doing calisthenics and skiing. Much of her life remained empty and boring, prompting Hitler's chauffeur to assert after the war that she had been "the unhappiest woman in Germany. She spent most of her life waiting for Hitler."

Her 33 photo albums, which survived the war and are now in the U.S. National Archives, document the trivial ways in which she filled her days with old Munich friends and the small Berghof circle.

Toward the end of the war, after her sister Gretl had married the ambitious SS General Hermann Fegelein, Heinrich Himmler's liaison officer to Hitler, it was easier for Braun to be seen at more functions at the Berghof since the appearance presented was of two sisters visiting each other. As battlefield disasters became commonplace, however, the opportunities for social events in the Bavarian alps dwindled. The more ominous the situation grew, the more loyal Braun became to Hitler. After Hitler survived an attempted assassination on July 20, 1944, she wrote to him in an emotion-laden letter: "From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere—even unto death—I live only for your love."

By early 1945, it was dawning on even the most fanatical Nazis that Germany had lost the war. Although she understood little or nothing of the strategic details of the conflict, Eva Braun knew that to remain with Adolf Hitler would probably mean the end of her life. On April 15, 1945, going against Hitler's stated wishes, Eva Braun accompanied the führer to his Berlin bunker for the last time. On April 29, 1945, with Soviet forces only blocks away, Hitler and Braun were married. The next day, they committed suicide, and their bodies were partially burned. Soviet forensic experts took the remains to Moscow, and they were returned to Germany where they were secretly buried. The ashes of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were finally disposed of only several decades later. Both of Eva's parents lived into old age, surviving their daughter by decades. Fritz Braun died on January 22, 1964, with his widow Franziska surviving him by more than a decade, dying on January 13, 1975.

sources:

"Eva Braun's Album," in Life. Vol. 23, no. 3. July 21, 1947, pp. 48, 53–54.

"Eva's Private Poses," in Life. Vol. 23, no. 3. January 20, 1947, pp. 36–37.

Frank, Johannes. Eva Braun: Ein ungewöhnliches Frauenschicksal in geschichtlich bewegter Zeit. Preussisch Oldendorf: Verlag K. W. Schütz, 1988.

Grunfeld, Frederic V. "Sunday Afternoons with a Monster," in Saturday Review of the Arts. Vol. 1, no. 3. March 3, 1973, pp. 42–46.

Gun, Nerin E. Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress. NY: Meredith, 1968.

"Hitler's Eva Braun … From Her Own Albums," in Look. Vol. 23, no. 23. November 10, 1959, pp. 85–90.

Honan, William H. "On the Trail of Hitler's Love Letters," in The New York Times. March 13, 1993, p. 16.

Infield, Glenn B. Eva and Adolf. NY: Grosset, 1974.

Koonz, Claudia. Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

Melchior, Ib. Eva. NY: Dodd, Mead, 1984.

"People," in Time. Vol. 97, no. 25. June 21, 1971, p. 34.

"Register," in Der Spiegel. Vol. 30, no. 4. January 19, 1976, p. 124.

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. NY: Avon Books, 1971.

Trevor-Roper, H.R. The Last Days of Hitler. London: Macmillan, 1947.

——. "The Story Behind the Eva Braun Enigma," in Look. Vol. 23, no. 23. November 10, 1959, pp. 92, 94, 96.

collections:

U.S. National Archives, Washington, D.C., Modern Military Records Branch, Eva Braun Photograph Albums.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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