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. (Oct.)
Eva Braun is notorious as Hitler's longtime mistress who died with him on April 30, 1945, after a brief wedding ceremony in the führer'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 Görtemaker's 2010 Eva Braun: Leben mit Hitler. Both works are serviceable, but Görtemaker, 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
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.
In this first full-scale biography of Eva Braun, the German historian Heike B. Görtemaker examines the known sources for Braun's life and emerges with a highly readable and consistent portrait of an ordinary woman who loved sports, fashion and jazz; and who was, without a doubt, utterly devoted to the man history has seen as "evil incarnate."
The New York Times Book Review
“Easily the best biography of Eva Braun so far written.”
—The Daily Beast
“Hitler could not have wished for a better girlfriend. . . . A highly readable and consistent portrait of an ordinary woman who was, without a doubt, utterly devoted to the man history has seen as ‘evil incarnate.’”
—The New York Times
“Heike B. Görtemaker seeks answers from a close reading of memoirs and postwar interrogations of Germans who knew them, ranging from senior Nazi figures to Hitler’s military adjutants and secretaries. The result, Eva Braun: Life With Hitler, is less gossip than a serious study of personal relationships and power at Nazi Germany’s pinnacle. . . . The book deserves a broad readership, taking us as it does behind the scenes of history’s most criminal regime.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Ms. Görtemaker finally gives Braun her place in the dark history of the Third Reich.”
—Wall Street Journal
“[A] careful reading of Görtemaker’s riveting account of the characters surrounding Hitler reveals that he spent more time with Eva Braun—especially after 1935—than he did with even the highest ranking Nazis, such as Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, and Heinrich Himmler. Braun may not have influenced Nazi policies, but thanks to Görtemaker’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.”
“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.”
“Solidly researched, sophisticated, and well-written biography.”
“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.”
“A perceptive account of a woman loyal and complaisant to the end.”
“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.”
—The Telegraph (UK)
“A comprehensive biography . . . Görtemaker turns on their heads the preconceptions about Hitler and Eva.”
—Daily Mail (UK)
“The first scientifically researched biography to correct the image of the dumb blonde at the side of the mass murderer.”
—Der Spiegel (Germany)
“This meticulously-researched and documented biography is far more than the story of Eva Braun . . . Görtemaker 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.”
—Historical Novels 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.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“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?’”