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Eva Braun
Cover of Eva Braun
Eva Braun
Life with Hitler
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In this groundbreaking biography of Eva Braun, German historian Heike B. Görtemaker delves into the startlingly neglected historical truth about Adolf Hitler's mistress. More than just the vapid blonde of popular cliché, Eva Braun was a capricious but uncompromising, fiercely loyal companion to Hitler; theirs was a relationship that flew in the face of the Führer's proclamations that Germany was his only bride. Görtemaker paints a portrait of Hitler and Braun's life together with unnerving quotidian detail—Braun chose the movies screened at their mountaintop retreat (propaganda, of course); he dreamed of retiring with her to Linz one day after relinquishing his leadership to a younger man—while weaving their personal relationship throughout the fabric of one of history's most devastating regimes. Though Braun gradually gained an unrivaled power within Hitler's inner circle, her identity was kept a secret during the Third Reich, until the final days of the war. Faithful to the end, Braun committed suicide with Hitler in 1945, two days after their marriage.

Through exhaustive research, newly discovered documentation, and anecdotal accounts, Görtemaker has meticulously built a surprising portrait of Hitler's bourgeois existence outside of the public eye. Though Eva Braun had no role in Hitler's policies, she was never as banal as she was previously painted; she was privy to his thoughts, ruled life within his entourage, and held his trust. As horrifying as it is astonishing, Eva Braun will undoubtedly be referenced in all future accounts of this period.
In this groundbreaking biography of Eva Braun, German historian Heike B. Görtemaker delves into the startlingly neglected historical truth about Adolf Hitler's mistress. More than just the vapid blonde of popular cliché, Eva Braun was a capricious but uncompromising, fiercely loyal companion to Hitler; theirs was a relationship that flew in the face of the Führer's proclamations that Germany was his only bride. Görtemaker paints a portrait of Hitler and Braun's life together with unnerving quotidian detail—Braun chose the movies screened at their mountaintop retreat (propaganda, of course); he dreamed of retiring with her to Linz one day after relinquishing his leadership to a younger man—while weaving their personal relationship throughout the fabric of one of history's most devastating regimes. Though Braun gradually gained an unrivaled power within Hitler's inner circle, her identity was kept a secret during the Third Reich, until the final days of the war. Faithful to the end, Braun committed suicide with Hitler in 1945, two days after their marriage.

Through exhaustive research, newly discovered documentation, and anecdotal accounts, Görtemaker has meticulously built a surprising portrait of Hitler's bourgeois existence outside of the public eye. Though Eva Braun had no role in Hitler's policies, she was never as banal as she was previously painted; she was privy to his thoughts, ruled life within his entourage, and held his trust. As horrifying as it is astonishing, Eva Braun will undoubtedly be referenced in all future accounts of this period.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Heinrich Hoffmann's Studio

    Almost sixteen years earlier, in October 1929, Hitler and Eva Braun met for the first time in the studio of photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. Hoffmann was a press photographer and portrait photographer well known in Munich after World War I, as well as a publisher and a National Socialist from the beginning. He ran a studio, called Photohaus Hoffmann, at 25 Amalienstrasse, near Odeon Square in central Munich. From there he supplied the Munich Illustrierte Presse (Illustrated Press) and domestic and foreign agencies with his pictures. Hoffmann's father was a photographer as well, and he had apparently forced his son to follow in his footsteps; Hoffmann had owned a business of his own in Munich since 1909. Even before 1914, Heinrich Hoffmann had made a name for himself with the public and in artistic circles with his photography service-the "Hoffmann Photoreport"-as well as by taking portrait photographs. Still, he owed his flourishing business to the NSDAP. After World War I, which he spent on the French front as a reservist in a replacement detachment of the air force, he put his talents at the service of the far-right nationalist movement that was rising to power.

    The Nazi Party's House Photographer

    It is no longer possible to reconstruct exactly when and in what circumstances Hoffmann met Hitler for the first time. Hoffmann's daughter, Henriette von Schirach, later claimed that the Populist poet and writer Dietrich Eckart had put her father in contact with Hitler; Hoffmann himself said in his memoir that their first encounter was for purely business reasons, after an American photo agency offered him one hundred dollars for a photograph of Hitler, on October 30, 1922. As early as 1947, in an unpublished written statement in his own defense, Hoffmann claimed that the "American press" had offered him "a large sum for the first picture of Hitler" at the time. In order to get this money, "under any circumstances," he contrived a seemingly chance encounter by suggesting that Hermann Esser, a good friend of Hitler's, hold the reception for his upcoming wedding in Hoffmann's house, on July 5, 1923. In this way, he planned to meet Hitler, who was to be one of the witnesses at the ceremony.

    In fact, Hoffmann had been a member of the German Workers' Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or DAP) since April 6, 1920-six months after Hitler had joined. Anton Drexler had founded the party in January of the previous year, in Munich, and it had recently changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or NSDAP). Hoffmann began to publish the weekly newspaper Auf gut deutsch (In Good German), edited by the radical nationalistic and anti-Semitic Dietrich Eckart, Hitler's friend, mentor, and father-figure. This failed poet used the paper to rail against the Weimar Republic, Bolshevism, and Judaism, under the motto "Germany, Awake!" There is much evidence to suggest that Hoffmann became friends with this circle of like-minded men, including Eckart, Hitler, and the journalist Hermann Esser, before he began to make himself useful to the NSDAP and especially to the man who became its leader starting on July 29, 1921: the aggressive "beer hall agitator" Adolf Hitler. Despite numerous requests, Hoffmann at first respected Hitler's wish not to be photographed. Hoffmann's first portrait of Hitler, in fact, appeared only after the failed Beer Hall Putsch of November 8-9, 1923, which made Hitler famous throughout Germany but also landed him in jail. (Hoffmann photographed him as a prisoner.) The following year, Hoffmann published a photo brochure titled (in German) "Germany's Awakening, in...

About the Author-
  • Heike B. Görtemaker, born in 1964, is a German historian and author. She studied history, economics, and German literature in Berlin and Bloomington, Indiana. In 2005, she published a biography of Margret Boveri, a prominent German journalist from the 1930s to the 1970s. Görtemaker lives with her husband near Berlin. She is currently working on a project dealing with the legacy of Hitler's inner circle in postwar Germany.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 8, 2011
    Known today primarily from a handful of personal photos with the Führer and the reminiscences of his closest aides, Eva Braun is often thought of as a stereotypically vapid dumb blond, in thrall to Hitler’s magnetism, but ignorant of and uninterested in the political tumult he caused. Braun, 23 years Hitler’s junior, was long thought to have been merely the leader’s arm candy, never having a truly intimate or emotional bond with the man who said the only bride he would consent to marry was Germany itself. Görtemaker challenges these assumptions in the first scholarly biography of Hitler’s mistress, originally published in German last year. Having painstakingly reviewed the archives for references to Braun’s relationship with Hitler, Görtemaker presents a portrait of an engaged and engaging young woman, fervently supportive of National Socialism and one of the few members of Hitler’s inner circle to never lose his trust or fall out of affection. Though a full account is hampered by the lack of revealing documents (a stash of hundreds of love letters that Braun ordered preserved just before her suicide has never been found and is presumed destroyed), this telling sheds more light on the central question in the narrative of Eva Braun: “Did she share the political positions and basic worldview of her lover or was she merely the ‘tragic slave,’ who nonetheless profited from Hitler’s power by enjoying the luxurious life that he offered her?” Photos.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from September 1, 2011

    A German historian coaxes from history's shadows the woman who for 14 years was the companion, lover and, near the end, wife of Adolf Hitler.

    Görtemaker doesn't spend much time with the childhood of Eva Anna Paula Braun (1912–1945), who began her life in middle-class obscurity and ended it in Hitler's Berlin bunker as the Soviet army swept through the city. Not much is known about her girlhood, but as a teenager she went to work in the Munich photography studio of the Nazis' official photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. Braun probably began as a shop clerk, then gradually learned the trade and became an active amateur. In 1929, it was through Hoffmann that she met Hitler, whose Munich background, dramatic rise and fall Görtemaker swiftly chronicles—only rarely allowing the larger story to eclipse the smaller one. Because of the lack of documentation, the author often has to qualify with words like "probably" and "likely," but she is a serious critic of others who have told Braun's story and manages to keep out even a dash of compassion for the young woman who vigorously supported her lover, accepted and shared his vicious anti-Semitism, believed in the imperialist goals of the Reich and partied hard while the party lasted. Görtemaker shows how Hitler, who wished to portray himself as the selfless image of the Reich, a man with no low animal needs, kept Braun well hidden, rarely appearing with her in public (never alone) or allowing her to travel with him or his inner circle. Braun emerges as bright but vapid, energetic but soulless.

    As thorough and clear a look of a monster's lover as we are likely to get.

     

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2011

    Eva Braun is notorious as Hitler's longtime mistress who died with him on April 30, 1945, after a brief wedding ceremony in the fuhrer's Berlin bunker during the final Soviet assault of World War II. Braun was little known then, and her role as his lover and wife came to light only in the postwar period. Recently, two major biographical studies have appeared: Angela Lambert's The Lost Life of Eva Braun and now this English translation of Gortemaker's 2010 Eva Braun: Leben mit Hitler. Both works are serviceable, but Gortemaker, a German historian, has investigated more archives and probably has a better overall feel for the era's cultural milieu. She also provides useful context with her discussion of the Nazi view of women and their role in the Reich. She believes that Braun probably played a larger role in Hitler's daily life than has been previously assumed by historians; nevertheless, Braun never acted outside of the rigid social and personal boundaries established by Hitler. VERDICT While Lambert's book is an easier read, this solidly researched, sophisticated, and well-written biography has greater insight into Nazi culture and is highly recommended for libraries that do not currently have either book.--Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2011
    Grtemaker attempts to probe beneath the two-dimensional portrait of Eva Braun presented by most historians and biographers. Although it is difficult, if not impossible, to whip up any sympathy for or to empathize with one of history's most notorious mistresses, Grtemaker does provide a more nuanced view of this marginalized woman by examining the pivotal role she played in Hitler's life and within his inner circle. Although, in and of herself, she was a relatively unremarkable individual, her life merits inspection and scrutiny because she was, in effect, an important piece of the always perplexing Hitler puzzle. Since she was a witness to and an active participant in the most heinous crimes of the century, it is surprising that her impact and her influence have been so consistently minimized. This breakout biography is a solid contribution to the ever-increasing body of Third Reich literature and scholarship.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • The Daily Beast

    "Easily the best biography of Eva Braun so far written."

  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "[A] riveting account...Braun may not have influenced Nazi policies, but thanks to Gortemaker's groundbreaking work, it is now clear how Braun catered to Hitler, fostering his reliance on cronies and lackeys and reinforcing his tendency to shut himself off from the awful reality of what was happening to Germany and to the world."
  • Wall Street Journal "While most historians view Braun as an apolitical appendage of Hitler's paltry private life, Ms. Gortemaker shows how she played the politics of personal loyalty and inspired others, like Albert Speer, to do the same. . . . Ms. Gortemaker finally gives Braun her place in the dark history of the Third Reich."
  • Chicago Sun-Times "Employing a detective's skill and a journalist's flair...[Görtemaker] reconstructs the life of Eva Braun from the petty bourgeois household of her schoolteacher father to the inner circle of the Nazi overlord."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "A serious study of personal relationships and power at Nazi Germany's pinnacle. [Eva Braun] deserves a broad readership, taking us as it does behind the scenes of history's most criminal regime."
  • Library Journal "[A] solidly researched, sophisticated, and well-written biography."
  • Historical Novels Review "This meticulously-researched and documented biography is far more than the story of Eva Braun . . . Gortemaker has sifted through photographs, diaries, letters, interviews, and previous research to provide a wider perspective on not only Eva, but also many others in Hitler's circle . . . Fascinating reading."
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch "A perceptive account of a woman loyal and complaisant to the end."
  • The Telegraph (UK) "An utterly compelling portrayal of the weird hidden life of the dictator...An instructively intimate peek at a man who, like some black star, destroyed all those he touched. Eva was only one of millions of his victims--but a willing one."
  • Daily Mail (UK) "A comprehensive biography...Görtemaker turns on their heads the preconceptions about Hitler and Eva."
  • Der Spiegel (Germany) "The first scientifically researched biography to correct the image of the dumb blonde at the side of the mass murderer."
  • Booklist "Although it is difficult, if not impossible, to whip up any sympathy for or to empathize with one of history's most notorious mistresses, Görtemaker does provide a more nuanced view of this marginalized woman by examining the pivotal role she played in Hitler's life and within his inner circle...This breakout biography is a solid contribution to the ever-increasing body of Third Reich literature and scholarship."
  • Kirkus (starred review) "Braun emerges as bright but vapid, energetic but soulless. As thorough and clear a look of a monster's lover as we are likely to get."
  • Publishers Weekly

    "Having painstakingly reviewed the archives for references to Eva Braun's relationship with Hitler, Görtemaker presents a portrait of an engaged and engaging young woman, fervently supportive of National Socialism and one of the few members of Hitler's inner circle to never lose his trust or fall out of affection. . .This telling sheds more light on the central question of the narrative of Eva Braun: 'Did she share the political positions and basic worldview of her lover or was she merely a tragic slave who nonetheless profited from Hitler's power?'"
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