Rehabilitating Eva Braun

Illustration for article titled Rehabilitating Eva Braun

Was Hitler's mistress "more complex" than everyone thought? (And does it matter?)

Advertisement

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.


No Dumb Blonde: New Book Reveals The Other Side of Hitler's mistress Eva Braun [Daily Mail]

The Wife Of Hitler

DISCUSSION

baby-bell
BabyBell

I love Downfall. I first watched it when I was 13 and it left SUCH an impression on me.

I also did a paper a while back on Hitler's relationships with the various women in his life (like his niece, Geli Raubel, who died in seriously suspicious circumstances I think in his apartment, if I remember right). Eva Braun always struck me as being either innocent and enormously naive or seriously manipulated. She was besotted with Hitler and his power and either supported him wholeheartedly or ignored his enormous flaws because she loved him and had no one else - of course, she's never going to be anyone's favourite person, but she's not the only person in the world to have done so.

Better Eva Braun than Magda Goebbels - she never poisoned any children, did she?