Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Almost ten years after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, I visited the eastern part of the city. The Brandenburg Gate was now the symbol of re-unification. Hectic reconstruction work had taken place at the end of the Unter de Linden. The Reichstag the seat of the German Parliament which had been damaged during the war, had now been beautifully reconstructed, with an impressive glass dome over the Plenary Hall. We could now visit the Bundestag, and even climb up to the dome.

Somewhere in this region there used to be the infamous Berlin bunker, where Adolf Hitler in his last desperate hour, decided to make an honest woman out of Eva Braun his mistress of sixteen years. As Soviet troops closed in on the Reichstag and Chancellery, Walter Wagner a minor official in the Propaganda Ministry, solemnized the marriage, in the presence of his associates Bormann and Goebells. It was April 29th 1945, just a few hours before their suicide. The marriage document that survived bore the proud signature of ‘Eva Hitler.’

Eva Braun was a Bavarian lass belonging to a lower middleclass family. She worked as an assistant to Hitler’s personal photographer Henrich Hoffman. In 1929, when Hitler visited the studio, this 17 year old girl fell madly in love with him. She was the one who initiated the affair through her love letters. She agreed to follow him to his mountain retreat in Obersalzburg, and become his mistress, much to the dismay of her parents.

But though her material needs were provided for, it was a life of isolation and loss of freedom. In a small wooden house near the Buchtesgaden (Hitler’s office), her only companions were his two secretaries and some peasants who spun linen for him. For most of the time they lived apart, as he was mostly preoccupied with his work. Even while at Obersalzburg he was kept busy, and used her only at his convenience. Eva was aware of her dubious position and kept her distance, especially when members of the Third Reich visited. During long periods of separation she wrote long loving letters to him. In turn his phone calls were full of endearments.

Eva was always well groomed, soft spoken and pretty in her own way. She spent her days reading, exercising and brooding around the house. She was prohibited from smoking, dancing or mingling with other men. She loved sports and was a good skier. Occasionally he would give her a week off to go skiing in Zurs with her friends, but she had to travel incognito. Eva kept a secret diary into which she poured out her feelings of neglect and humiliation.

Hitler thought nothing about belittling her before his friends. Once while she was sitting beside him he said, “A highly intelligent man should always choose a stupid woman. Imagine if on top of everything, I had a woman who interfered with my work! In my leisure time I want to have peace….”

But Eva was not a stupid woman. Her’s was a quiet dignity and inner strength that helped her survive. She was not interested in politics, but she would protest and bring to his notice, the abuses of mean men like Bormann. When Goebells wanted party members to eschew luxuries like cosmetics and perfumed hair in 1943, she demanded that the ban be scrapped. Another time when some stupid official forbade women from going into the mountains around Munich for skiing, she had the ban revoked. Without Hitler’s knowledge she helped many women like Mrs. Hess financially, so that they could escape Bormann’s cruelty.

In 1939, she was assigned a bedroom in Hitler’s Berlin residence, adjoining his room. It was literally a prison, with the limited view of a courtyard. She had to steal in and out by a side entrance, and had no access to the area where he entertained his guests. She was glad to go back to Obersalzburg.

Eric Kempka the chauffer was sure that Hitler loved her in his own way and could relax in her company. Hitler had said, “Fraulien Braun is too young to be the wife of an important leader of the Third Reich. But one day when I cease to be Fuhrer, I will retire to Linz and to a house managed by a small staff, and I will marry her.”

In 1945, when the war had tilted against the Germans, friends suggested that Eva leave Germany. But she stubbornly refused, and flew from Munich to the besieged city of Berlin, and drove straight to the Reich Chancellery. Hitler ordered her to go back but she stubbornly refused.
“Do you think I’ll let you die alone?” she asked.

After the marriage formality, the couple retired to their private room. Both bit into glass vials of cyanide. Eva lay on her bed, and looked as though she had fallen asleep. Hitler sat in his chair and shot himself in the head, making doubly sure he died.
According to his wishes, their bodies were wrapped up in blankets and ignited with gasoline flames in the garden of the Chancellery.

Was Eva Braun a sinner or a saint? Or was she just an immature girl who got caught up in a love trap with a megalomaniac?
What irony that Hitler the anti-Semitic Nazi leader who had put millions of Jews to death, was unaware that Eva Braun his mistress of many years whom he married prior to their suicide, had Jewish ancestry!  DNA samples recovered from Eva's hairbrush showed a sequence within the mitochrondrial DNA (through her maternal line) associated with Ashkenazi Jews. This was highlighted by a British TV documentary.

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