Braun in 1942
Eva Anna Paula Braun
6 February 1912
|Died||30 April 1945 (aged 33)|
|Cause of death||Suicide by cyanide poisoning|
|Other names||Eva Hitler|
|Occupation||Photographer; office and lab assistant at photography studio of Heinrich Hoffmann|
|Known for||Partner and wife of Adolf Hitler|
(m. 1945; d. 1945)
|Relatives||Ilse Braun (sister)|
Gretl Braun (sister)
Eva Anna Paula Hitler (née Braun; 6 February 1912 – 30 April 1945) was the longtime companion of Adolf Hitler and, for less than 40 hours, his wife. Braun met Hitler in Munich when she was a 17-year-old assistant and model for his personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. She began seeing Hitler often about two years later. She attempted suicide twice during their early relationship. By 1936, she was a part of his household at the Berghof near Berchtesgaden and lived a sheltered life throughout World War II. Braun was a photographer, and she took many of the surviving colour photographs and films of Hitler. She was a key figure within Hitler's inner social circle, but did not attend public events with him until mid-1944, when her sister Gretl married Hermann Fegelein, the SS liaison officer on his staff.
As Nazi Germany was collapsing towards the end of the war, Braun swore loyalty to Hitler and went to Berlin to be by his side in the heavily reinforced Führerbunker beneath the Reich Chancellery. As Red Army troops fought their way into the neighbourhood on 29 April 1945, she married Hitler during a brief civil ceremony; she was 33 and he was 56. Less than 40 hours later, they committed suicide together in a sitting room of the bunker, she by biting into a capsule of cyanide, and he by a gunshot to the head. The German public was unaware of Braun's relationship with Hitler until after their deaths.
Eva Braun was born in Munich and was the second daughter of school teacher Friedrich "Fritz" Braun (1879–1964) and Franziska "Fanny" Kronberger (1885–1976); her mother had worked as a seamstress before her marriage. She had an elder sister, Ilse (1909–1979), and a younger sister, Margarete (Gretl) (1915–1987). Braun's parents were divorced in April 1921, but remarried in November 1922, probably for financial reasons (hyperinflation was plaguing the German economy at the time). Braun was educated at a Catholic lyceum in Munich, and then for one year at a business school in the Convent of the English Sisters in Simbach am Inn, where she had average grades and a talent for athletics. At age 17, she took a job working for Heinrich Hoffmann, the official photographer for the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Initially employed as a shop assistant and sales clerk, she soon learned how to use a camera and develop photographs. She met Hitler, 23 years her senior, at Hoffmann's studio in Munich in October 1929. He had been introduced to her as "Herr Wolff". Eva's sister, Gretl, also worked for Hoffman from 1932 onward, and the women rented an apartment together for a time. Gretl accompanied her sister on her later trips with Hitler to the Obersalzberg.
Hitler lived with his half-niece, Geli Raubal, in an apartment at Prinzregentenplatz 16 in Munich from 1929 until her death. On 18 September 1931, Raubal was found dead in the apartment with a gunshot wound, an apparent suicide with Hitler's pistol. Hitler was in Nuremberg at the time. The relationship—likely the most intense of his life—had been important to him. Hitler began seeing more of Braun after Raubal's suicide.
Braun herself attempted suicide on 10 or 11 August 1932 by shooting herself in the chest with her father's pistol. Historians feel the attempt was not serious, but was a bid for Hitler's attention. After Braun's recovery, Hitler became more committed to her and by the end of 1932 they had become lovers. She often stayed overnight at his Munich apartment when he was in town. Beginning in 1933, Braun worked as a photographer for Hoffmann. This position enabled her to travel—accompanied by Hoffmann—with Hitler's entourage as a photographer for the Nazi Party. Later in her career, she worked for Hoffman's art press.
According to a fragment of her diary and the account of biographer Nerin Gun, Braun's second suicide attempt occurred in May 1935. She took an overdose of sleeping pills when Hitler failed to make time for her in his life. Hitler provided Eva and her sister with a three-bedroom apartment in Munich that August, and the next year the sisters were provided with a villa in Bogenhausen at Wasserburgerstr. 12 (now Delpstr. 12). By 1936, Braun was at Hitler's household at the Berghof near Berchtesgaden whenever he was in residence there, but she lived mostly in Munich. Braun also had her own apartment at the new Reich Chancellery in Berlin, completed to a design by Albert Speer.
Braun was a member of Hoffman's staff when she attended the Nuremberg Rally for the first time in 1935. Hitler's half-sister, Angela Raubal (the dead Geli's mother), took exception to her presence there, and was later dismissed from her position as housekeeper at his house in Berchtesgaden. Researchers are unable to ascertain if her dislike for Braun was the only reason for her departure, but other members of Hitler's entourage saw Braun as untouchable from then on.
Hitler wished to present himself in the image of a chaste hero; in the Nazi ideology, men were the political leaders and warriors, and women were homemakers. He believed that he was sexually attractive to women and wished to exploit this for political gain by remaining single, as he felt marriage would decrease his appeal. He and Braun never appeared as a couple in public; the only time they appeared together in a published news photo was when she sat near him at the 1936 Winter Olympics. The German people were unaware of Braun's relationship with Hitler until after the war. Braun had her own room adjoining Hitler's at the Berghof, in Hitler's Berlin residence, and in the Berlin bunker.
Biographer Heike Görtemaker wrote that women did not play a big role in the politics of Nazi Germany. Braun's political influence on Hitler was minimal; she was never allowed to stay in the room when business or political conversations took place and was sent out of the room when cabinet ministers or other dignitaries were present. She was not a member of the Nazi Party. In his post-war memoirs, Hoffmann characterized Braun's outlook as "inconsequential and feather-brained"; her main interests were sports, clothes, and the cinema. She led a sheltered and privileged existence and seemed uninterested in politics. One instance when she took an interest was in 1943, shortly after Germany had fully transitioned to a total war economy. Among other things, this meant a potential ban on women's cosmetics and luxuries. According to Speer's memoirs, Braun approached Hitler in "high indignation"; Hitler quietly instructed Speer, who was armaments minister at the time, to halt production of women's cosmetics and luxuries rather than instituting an outright ban. Speer later said, "Eva Braun will prove a great disappointment to historians."
Braun continued to work for Hoffmann after commencing her relationship with Hitler. She took many photographs and movies of members of the inner circle, and some of these were sold to Hoffmann for extremely high prices. She received money from Hoffmann's company as late as 1943, and also held the position of private secretary to Hitler. This guise meant she could enter and leave the Chancellery unremarked, though she used a side entrance and a rear staircase. Görtemaker notes that Braun and Hitler enjoyed a normal sex life. Braun's friends and relatives described Eva giggling over a 1938 photograph of Neville Chamberlain sitting on a sofa in Hitler's Munich flat with the remark: "If only he knew what goings-on that sofa has seen."
On 3 June 1944, Braun's sister Gretl Braun married SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein, who served as Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's liaison officer on Hitler's staff. Hitler used the marriage as an excuse to allow Braun to appear at official functions, as she could then be introduced as Fegelein's sister-in-law. When Fegelein was caught in the closing days of the war trying to escape to Sweden or Switzerland, Hitler ordered his execution. He was shot for desertion in the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April 1945.
In 1933, Hitler purchased a small holiday home on the mountain at Obersalzberg. Renovations began in 1934 and were completed by 1936. A large wing was added onto the original house and several additional buildings were constructed. The entire area was fenced off, and remaining houses on the mountain were purchased by the Nazi Party and demolished. Braun and the other members of the entourage were cut off from the outside world when in residence. Speer, Hermann Göring, and Martin Bormann had houses constructed inside the compound.
Hitler's valet, Heinz Linge, stated in his memoirs that Hitler and Braun had two bedrooms and two bathrooms with interconnecting doors at the Berghof, and Hitler would end most evenings alone with her in his study before they retired to bed. She would wear a "dressing gown or house-coat" and drink wine; Hitler would have tea. Public displays of affection or physical contact were nonexistent, even in the enclosed world of the Berghof. Braun took the role of hostess amongst the regular visitors, though she was not involved in running the household. She regularly invited friends and family members to accompany her during her stays, the only guest to do so.
When Henriette von Schirach suggested that Braun should go into hiding after the war, Braun replied, "Do you think I would let him die alone? I will stay with him up until the last moment ..." Hitler named Braun in his will, to receive 12,000 Reichsmarks yearly after his death. He was very fond of her, and worried when she participated in sports or was late returning for tea.
Braun was very fond of Negus and Stasi, her two Scottish Terrier dogs, and they appear in her home movies. She usually kept them away from Hitler's German Shepherd, Blondi. Blondi was killed by one of the entourage on 29 April 1945 when Hitler ordered that one of the cyanide capsules obtained for Braun and Hitler's suicide the next day be tested on the dog. Braun's dogs and Blondi's puppies were shot on 30 April by Hitler's dog handler, Fritz Tornow.
In early April 1945, Braun travelled from Munich to Berlin to be with Hitler at the Führerbunker. She refused to leave as the Red Army closed in on the capital. After midnight on the night of 28–29 April, Hitler and Braun were married in a small civil ceremony within the Führerbunker. The event was witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Thereafter, Hitler hosted a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife. When Braun married Hitler, her legal name changed to Eva Hitler. When she signed her marriage certificate, she wrote the letter B for her family name, then crossed this out and replaced it with Hitler.
After 1:00 pm on 30 April 1945, Braun and Hitler said their farewells to staff and members of the inner circle. Later that afternoon, at approximately 3:30 pm, several people reported hearing a loud gunshot. After waiting a few minutes, Hitler's valet, Heinz Linge, and Hitler's SS adjutant, Otto Günsche, entered the small study and found the lifeless bodies of Hitler and Braun on a small sofa. Braun had bitten into a cyanide capsule, and Hitler had shot himself in the right temple with his pistol. The corpses were carried up the stairs and through the bunker's emergency exit to the garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were burned. Braun was 33 years old when she died.
The charred remains were found by the Soviets. By 11 May, Hitler's dentist, Hugo Blaschke, dental assistant Käthe Heusermann and dental technician Fritz Echtmann confirmed that the dental remains belonged to Hitler and Braun. The Soviets secretly buried the remains at the SMERSH compound in Magdeburg, East Germany, along with the bodies of Joseph and Magda Goebbels and their six children. On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team with detailed burial charts secretly exhumed five wooden boxes of remains. The remains were thoroughly burned and crushed, after which the ashes were thrown into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.
The rest of Braun's family survived the war. Her mother, Franziska, died at age 96 in January 1976, having lived out her days in an old farmhouse in Ruhpolding, Bavaria. Her father, Fritz, died in 1964. Gretl gave birth to a daughter—whom she named Eva—on 5 May 1945. She later married Kurt Beringhoff, a businessman. She died in 1987. Braun's elder sister, Ilse, was not part of Hitler's inner circle. She married twice and died in 1979.