Thursday, April 30, 2015

He loves me so much

Seventy years ago today, Adolf and Eva Hitler - married just 40 hours earlier - committed suicide in the so-called Führerbunker, Berlin - Adolf by shooting himself and Eva by biting into a cyanide capsule. Hitler, himself, left behind no diaries, although 60 volumes, purportedly by Hitler but later established as fakes, emerged in 1983, creating a huge media furore - see The Diary Review. Eva, maiden name Braun, though, did leave behind some diary material - 22 pages of a journal kept in 1935. Although the authenticity of this document has been questioned, Braun’s biographers have generally used it as a key source.

Eva Braun was born in Munich in 1912, the middle daughter of three, to a school teacher and his seamstress wife. She was educated at a Catholic lyceum, and then, for a year, at a business school in a convent. Aged 17, she was employed by Heinrich Hoffmann, the official photographer for the Nazi Party, working as a shop assistant and sales clerk. In October 1929, Hitler visited Hoffman’s shop, and was introduced to the young Eva. Thereafter, a furtive love affair developed between the two.

However, Eva eventually came to find the liaison so difficult and frustrating that she attempted suicide (by gunshot) in the autumn of 1932. Heike B. Görtemaker, author of Eva Braun: Life with Hitler (Allen Lane, 2011, translated from the German original by Damion Searls), says ‘although precise details remain unknown, witnesses and historians agree that Eva Braun felt abandoned and calculatedly acted to make the perpetually absent Hitler notice her, and to tie him more closely to her.’ 
Görtemaker notes that Hitler’s step niece, Geli Raubal, with whom he was living at the time, had committed suicide just a year earlier. Braun undertook a further suicide attempt, this time with pills, in 1935, again because she felt Hitler was not paying her enough attention.

Although her relationship with Hitler remained secret beyond his inner circle, Braun continued to advance her status, in that Hitler provided various residences for her: an apartment, then a villa, in Munich, where Eva lived with her sisters, an apartment at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, and accommodation at Berghof, near Berchtesgaden, whenever Hitler was there. She attended the Nuremburg rally for the first time in 1935; and, increasingly, she took photographs and films of the inner circle which she was able to sell to Hoffman. In time, Braun was given the nominal role of Hitler’s private secretary which allowed her to visit the Chancellery without comment.

In early April 1945, Braun journeyed from Munich to Berlin, to join Hitler in the Führerbunker, an air-raid shelter and bunker complex near the Chancellery. By this time, the Soviet army was already making major advances on the city. On 22 April Hitler declared the war lost, and announced he would stay in Berlin until the end, and then kill himself. During the night of 28-29 April, he and Eva were married, as witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. During the morning of 30 April, Hitler was advised that their situation in Berlin was now hopeless - ammunition was running out, and the Soviets were closing in. At 3:30pm, witnesses heard a gunshot, and within a few minutes Mr and Mrs Hitler were found dead. Adolf had shot himself in the head, and Eva had bitten into a cyanide capsule. The bodies were burned, and, a few days later, the charred remains were found by the Russians and buried secretly in Magdeburg, along with the bodies of Goebbels and his wife and children.

Further information on Eva can be found at Wikipedia, a Danish fan site run by Louis Bülow, or in reviews of Görtemaker’s biography (at The New York Times, Der Speigel, or The Guardian). However, as Görtemaker notes, it is very difficult to reconstruct a full and accurate picture of Eva’s life and of her relationship with Hitler. This is partly because of the obsessive way Hitler kept the affair hidden, and partly because so few original sources - letters in particular - have survived. Görtemaker goes to some lengths, indeed, to describe the efforts that have been made to find letters that may or may not have been hidden/destroyed by Eva or her sister. In any case, 
Görtemaker explains that, in the context of so little information, ‘only’ a 22-page diary fragment in Eva Braun’s papers, written in old-style German handwriting, ‘sheds light on the character of their relationship’. Although she acknowledges that the document’s authorship remains controversial, she trusts it sufficiently to analyse and interpret its contents thoroughly.

The 22-page diary fragment is held by the National Archives, Washington D. C., with other Braun papers. I am not sure when it first appeared in English, though Nerin E. Gun includes it in his Eva Braun: Hitler’s Mistress, published in German in 1968, then in English in 1969 (Leslie Frewin). Several extracts can be found online at Bülow’s Eva Braun
website (from where the following extracts have been taken).

18 February 1935
‘Yesterday he came quite unexpectedly, and we had a delightful evening.

The nicest thing is that he is thinking of taking me from the shop and - but I had better not get excited about it yet - he may give me a little house. I simply must not let myself think about it. It would be marvelous. I wouldn’t have to open the door to our “beloved customers,” and go on being a shopgirl. Dear God, grant that this may really happen not in some far-off time, but soon. [. . .]

I am so infinitely happy that he loves me so much, and I pray that it will always be like this. It won’t be my fault if he ever stops loving me.

I am so terribly unhappy that I cannot write to him. These notes must serve as the receptacle of my lamentations.

He came on Saturday. Saturday evening there was the Town Ball. Frau Schwarz gave me a box, so I absolutely had to go after I had accepted. Well, I spent a few wonderfully delightful hours with him until 12 o’clock and then with his permission I spent two hours at the ball.

On Sunday he promised I could see him. I telephoned to the Osteria and left a message with Werlin to say that I was waiting to hear from him. He simply went off to Feldafing, and refused Hoffmann’s invitation to coffee and dinner. I suppose there are two sides to every question. Perhaps he wanted to be alone with Dr. G., who was here, but he should have let me know. At Hoffmann’s I felt I was sitting on hot coals, expecting him to arrive every moment.

In the end we went to the railroad station, as he suddenly decided he would have to go. We were just in time to see the last lights of the train disappearing. Once again Hoffmann left the house too late, and so I couldn’t even say good-bye to him. Perhaps I am taking too dark a view, I hope I am, but he is not coming again for another two weeks. Until then I’ll be miserable and restless. I don’t know why he should be angry with me. Perhaps it is because of the ball, but he did give his permission.

I am racking my brains to find out why he left without saying good-bye to me.

The Hoffmanns have given me a ticket for the Venetian Night this evening, but I am not going. I am much too miserable.’

28 May 1935
‘I have just sent him the crucial letter. Question: will he attach any importance to it?

We’ll see. If I don’t get an answer before this evening, I’ll take 25 pills and gently fall asleep into another world.

He has so often told me he is madly in love with me, but what does that mean when I haven’t had a good word from him in three months?

So he has had a head full of politics all this time, but surely it is time he relaxed a little. What happened last year? Didn’t Roehm and Italy give him a lot of problems, but in spite of all that he found time for me.

Maybe the present situation is incomparably more difficult for him, nevertheless a few kind words conveyed through the Hoffmanns would not have greatly distracted him.

I am afraid there is something behind it all. I am not to blame. Absolutely not.

Maybe it is another woman, not the Valkyrie - that would be hard to believe. But there are so many other women.

Is there any other explanation? I can’t find it.

God, I am afraid he won’t give me his answer today. If only somebody would help me - it is all so terribly depressing.

Perhaps my letter reached him at an inopportune moment. Perhaps I should not have written. Anyway, the uncertainty is more terrible than a sudden ending of it all.

I have made up my mind to take 35 pills this time, and it will be “dead certain.” If only he would let someone call.” ’

It is worth noting that as far back as 1949 a book appeared entitled The Diary of Eva Braun. This was edited by Alan F. Bartlett, and published by Aldus (republished by Spectrum in 2000). It was based on a typed manuscript, covering the years 1937-1944, that was given, apparently, by Eva Braun to Luis Trenker, a film-maker. Some discussion of this book can be found at the Axis History Forum. However, whereas biographers appear to take the 1935 diary fragment seriously, they rarely - if ever - mention the Bartlett book.

Finally, there is another - and major - diary source for information about Eva Braun - the published diaries of Joseph Goebbels. He committed suicide, with his wife, (after killing all six of his children), a day after the Hitlers, on 1 May 1945. Extracts from Goebbels’s diaries have already appeared in The Diary Review - see The Reichstag on fire - but more will follow tomorrow, on the 70th anniversary of his death.

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