Was Hitler's mistress "more complex" than everyone thought? (And does it matter?)
If you've seen Downfall (you've at least seen one of the numerous YouTube parodies, in which Hitler is dubbed into ranting about NBC/the Cardinals/Obama etc.) you're familiar with the standard portrayal of Eva Braun: a rather simple-minded figure with an unquestioning loyalty to her monstrous, somewhat indifferent lover. Maybe you've seen her romping in home movies, mid-Holocaust. In some ways, maybe our dismissal is generous: if Braun's intellect has suffered in our vague common portrayal, it at least frees her of some conscious responsibility. Better, after all, to be an idiot than a knowing accomplice, even if the outcome is the same. But as Germany's Spiegel puts it, a new book is "the first scientifically researched biography to correct the image of the dumb blonde at the side of the mass murderer".
Eva Braun: Life With Hitler, by German historian Heike B. Goertemaker, in the Daily Mail's words, presents the eventual Mrs. Hitler "not as an air-head besotted by a dominant man, but a fiercely loyal, independent thinker at odds with Hitler's public proclamations about 'the fairer sex'." Of course, whether this is a good thing is an open question: "Far from being merely 'arm candy', Eva shared Hitler's passions for architecture and Goertemaker writes how she was deeply involved with his plans to turn his native Linz into the artistic capital of the Reich." Laudable, I guess - especially given Hitler's dubious artistic tastes (see The Rape of Europa.) Whatever her character, there are plenty of accounts to suggest that Braun, whose existence Hitler kept secret (Germany being his bride, and all), didn't have much autonomy: his chauffeur apparently said that Braun was "the unhappiest woman in Germany. She spent most of her time waiting for Hitler." (Well, some of us might suggest that there were any number of women considerably less happy in Germany during this period.) This wouldn't be much of a legacy even were the man in question not among the most notorious mass-murderers in history. And however more complex posterity finds her to be, does this do anything but make her life of luxury and privilege anything but more repellent? The question, was she a naiive fool who was obsessively devoted to Hitler, or a passionate and intelligent woman who was obsessively devoted to Hitler, doesn't really have a right answer. It's not like any of this is going to exactly spin his image. And here's the thing: the woman who chose to commit suicide with her husband of 40 hours, might not have minded a shadowed portrayal quite as much as most. She famously wrote to Hitler that, "you know my whole life is loving you." And posterity-wise, that's about right.