Hitler’s sui­cide blonde

As the Fuhrer’s First Lady, Eva Braun lived in lav­ish splen­dour. Yet as a com­pelling new book re­veals, be­hind the scenes she was so lonely and mis­er­able she TWICE tried to kill her­self be­fore the fi­nal reck­on­ing in the bunker

Scottish Daily Mail - - Daily Mail Campaign - HITLER’S LOVER EVA BRAUN by James Wyllie

HITLER gave his pri­vate sec­re­tary a task in 1930 that re­quired se­crecy and dis­cre­tion — check­ing out the an­ces­try of a 17-year-old girl he had met at a pho­to­graphic stu­dio in Mu­nich, where she was work­ing as an as­sis­tant.

Was she from good Aryan stock? Af­ter com­plet­ing a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Mar­tin Bor­mann was able to con­firm that Eva Braun did not pos­sess a sin­gle drop of Jewish blood.

From then on, Hitler reg­u­larly dropped in on her at the stu­dio, tak­ing her out to din­ner or a film.

He prob­a­bly started sleep­ing with her in early 1932. In some re­spects, Eva didn’t fit the mould of Nazi wom­an­hood: she smoked, fol­lowed the lat­est Amer­i­can dance crazes, read fash­ion mag­a­zines and wore make-up.

Yet in other ways, she em­bod­ied Hitler’s ideal: she was ath­letic and sporty, a true blonde and had al­most no in­ter­est in pol­i­tics.

Best of all, she was emo­tion­ally im­ma­ture and easy to ma­nip­u­late.

Af­ter al­low­ing Hitler to se­duce her, how­ever, Eva be­came dis­traught, imag­in­ing her­self aban­doned be­cause she hardly ever saw him.

One day, in de­spair, she scrib­bled a farewell note and shot her­self.

The bul­let lodged in her neck, just miss­ing the artery. Bleed­ing pro­fusely, she man­aged to call a doc­tor, who had her carted off to hos­pi­tal. Hitler was shocked, vow­ing to see her more of­ten. And he did for a few years.

Then, in 1935, for weeks on end, he failed to call. When Eva fi­nally got to see him for two hours, he re­turned to Ber­lin without say­ing good­bye.

For the next two months, her moods fluc­tu­ated wildly, reach­ing a near-hys­ter­i­cal peak that May — when she took an over­dose of sleep­ing pills. Her younger sis­ter found her in time.

At this point, Hitler re­alised it was time to bring Eva out into the open.

Tak­ing her to the Nazi party rally in Nurem­berg, he in­tro­duced her to the far brighter Magda Goebbels.

The wife of the Nazis’ pro­pa­ganda chief was ‘com­pletely shocked’ by ‘this capri­cious and dis­sat­is­fied-look­ing girl sit­ting on the VIP ros­trum’.

When some of Magda’s neg­a­tive re­marks got back to Hitler, he was so fu­ri­ous that he re­fused to see her for more than six months.

In 1936, he moved Eva to the Berghof, his Alpine re­treat near Ber­cht­es­gaden. But he didn’t want his girl­friend around when he was re­ceiv­ing VIPs or for­eign states­men. On a reg­u­lar ba­sis, she was ban­ished to her room, or back to her Mu­nich villa, or told to dis­ap­pear for a few hours.

Yet it was largely down to Eva’s quiet in­flu­ence that Joseph and Magda Goebbels were never en­cour­aged to have a prop­erty in the area.

One day, Magda — then heav­ily preg­nant — asked Eva if she wouldn’t mind ty­ing her shoelace as she found it dif­fi­cult to bend over. Eva calmly rang a bell and got her maid to do it.

Life at the Berghof was staid. Most days, Hitler and Eva would have tea and cake at 4pm and he would some­times fall asleep in his chair.

Most even­ings cul­mi­nated in ei­ther the screen­ing of a movie or one of Hitler’s end­less mono­logues, through which his au­di­ence strug­gled to stay awake.

Eva be­gan to as­sert her­self more dur­ing the war years. When the Nazis banned cos­met­ics, she made sure she was ex­empted. She also in­sisted on san­i­tary tow­els when or­di­nary women had to come up with home­made al­ter­na­tives.

The ra­tioning of cloth­ing had no im­pact on her, ei­ther. Eva con­tin­ued to wear three new dresses a day — one for lunch, one for tea and one for din­ner — many from French and Ital­ian fash­ion houses.

When it be­came clear that Ger­many was los­ing the war, she in­sisted on join­ing Hitler at his bunker in Ber­lin.

‘I have come be­cause I owe the Boss for ev­ery­thing won­der­ful in my life,’ she told his sec­re­tary.

The at­mos­phere at Hitler’s birth­day party on April 20, 1945, was more down­beat than usual.

That morn­ing, Soviet ar­tillery had started shelling the city cen­tre.

Hitler re­tired early to bed. Eva, how­ever, was de­ter­mined to have some fun. Ac­cord­ing to one of Hitler’s young sec­re­taries, ‘a rest­less fire burned in her eyes’; Eva wanted ‘to dance, to drink, to for­get’. Sweep­ing up Mar­tin Bor­mann and a few oth­ers, she cracked open some cham­pagne and played one record over and over again, wartime hit Blood Red Roses Speak Of Hap­pi­ness To You.

On April 29 Eva and Hitler be­came hus­band and wife. In the hours be­fore the wed­ding, Hitler had writ­ten in his last will and tes­ta­ment: ‘I have now, be­fore end­ing this earthly ex­is­tence, de­cided to take as my wife the girl who, af­ter years of loyal friend­ship, has vol­un­tar­ily re­turned to the al­most be­sieged city to share her fate with mine. It is her wish to join me in death as my wife.’

At the cer­e­mony, which was at­tended by Bor­mann and the Goebbels, Eva wore a silk taffeta dress and her finest jew­ellery.

Al­though the bunker was be­ing rocked by shell­fire, the mood was ‘fes­tive’, ac­cord­ing to Hitler’s chauf­feur. There was cham­pagne and sand­wiches, and they all ‘re­flected with nos­tal­gia on the past’.

The next day, at 3.15pm, Hitler and Eva re­treated into their shared quar­ters. His valet and Bor­mann waited out­side the door for a while be­fore en­ter­ing.

When Bor­mann saw the two corpses on the sofa, he ‘turned white as chalk’. Hitler had taken poi­son — hy­dro­gen cyanide — then shot him­self in the tem­ple with his 7.65mm pis­tol, which lay on the floor near his feet. Eva, dressed in black, was slumped next to him. Ac­cord­ing to the valet, the poi­son had left its mark, con­tort­ing her pretty face. She was 33.

HESS’S WIFE ILSE

A FA­NAT­I­cAL Nazi, Hess was deputy Fuhrer to Hitler from 1933 to 1941. He gave the christ­mas ra­dio ad­dress ev­ery year, spoke at nu­mer­ous fas­cist ral­lies and signed into law the leg­is­la­tion that stripped all Ger­man Jews of their rights.

Aged 20, Ilse Prohl was liv­ing in a Mu­nich stu­dent hos­tel when she ran into a fel­low lodger. He was wear­ing a tat­tered uni­form and she was struck by his gaunt ap­pear­ance: thick eye­brows that al­most met in the mid­dle, sunken eyes and a haunted ex­pres­sion.

The man in­tro­duced him­self as Ru­dolf Hess. For Ilse, a doc­tor’s

daugh­ter, it was an in­stant attraction — though, as she was later to dis­cover, the vir­ginal Hess had no in­ter­est in sex.

Lack­ing a phys­i­cal di­men­sion, their re­la­tion­ship owed much to their shared ad­mi­ra­tion for Hitler. Here was the man, they thought back in 1920, who was des­tined to set Ger­many on the road to glory.

Hess, a 26-year-old World War I vet­eran, was soon in­volved in the fre­quent brawls be­tween Nazi sup­port­ers and their Left-wing op­po­nents, while Ilse spent most of her spare time de­liv­er­ing Nazi leaflets, putting up posters and help­ing out with the party news­pa­per. Their re­ward was spend­ing time with their hero.

Ilse later de­scribed how Hitler en­joyed do­ing im­pres­sions and liked noth­ing bet­ter than lis­ten­ing to a well-told funny story — as long as it wasn’t about him.

A mea­sure of how much he trusted her is that she helped edit his book, Mein Kampf, while Hess be­came his sec­re­tary and one of the few men who could see Hitler when­ever he wished.

Af­ter seven sex­less years, how­ever, Ilse be­gan los­ing pa­tience with her boyfriend. It was Hitler who set­tled the mat­ter while the three of them were in a cafe.

Tak­ing her hand, he placed it in Hess’s and asked her if she’d ‘ever thought about mar­ry­ing this man?’. Un­able to deny Hitler’s wishes, Hess stopped pro­cras­ti­nat­ing and mar­ried Ilse in 1927.

Not that her sex life ap­peared to im­prove much af­ter that. She com­plained to a friend that she ‘felt like a con­vent girl’.

The Hesses set­tled in a mod­est villa, tak­ing reg­u­lar hik­ing and ski­ing hol­i­days. They liked to think of them­selves as art pa­trons, and col­lected Ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ings by Ge­org Schrimpf, later de­nounced by the Nazis as de­gen­er­ate art.

When Hitler — who had al­ways hated Schrimpf’s work — vis­ited Ilse and her hus­band in 1934, he was dis­turbed to see such ‘abom­i­na­tions’ on their walls.

Up to that point, Hess had seemed the log­i­cal choice to suc­ceed the Fuhrer; he was now head of the party and had been at the Nazi leader’s side for more than a decade.

But af­ter that evening, Hitler changed his mind, telling his press sec­re­tary that he could not pos­si­bly al­low some­body with ‘such a lack of feel­ing for art and cul­ture’ to be his sec­ond-in­com­mand. Hitler wasn’t the only prom­i­nent Nazi who found fault with the Hesses.

Magda, the wife of pro­pa­ganda chief Joseph Goebbels, claimed that ‘par­ties at the Hess home’ were ‘so bor­ing that most peo­ple re­fused in­vi­ta­tions’. No­body was al­lowed to smoke, no al­co­hol was served and ‘the con­ver­sa­tion was as thin and dull as the drinks’.

Ilse did her best to com­pen­sate for her hus­band’s re­luc­tance to have fun but it was an up­hill strug­gle. When the film di­rec­tor Leni Riefen­stahl dropped by for tea, for in­stance, Hess just sat there, not ut­ter­ing a word.

Still, al­though the cou­ple were mocked by lead­ing Nazis, their fa­nati­cism never waned.

Ev­ery year, Ilse sat in the front rows on the podium dur­ing the Nurem­berg party rally, a week­long homage to Hitler that grew more ex­trav­a­gant with ev­ery pass­ing year. Nei­ther she nor her hus­band — both com­mit­ted an­tiSemites — raised any ob­jec­tions to the con­cen­tra­tion camps.

Yet some­how, Ilse rubbed Hitler up the wrong way. Pri­vately, he fre­quently crit­i­cised ‘her am­bi­tion’ and com­plained that she tried ‘to dom­i­nate men and there­fore al­most [lost] her own fem­i­nin­ity’.

He thought it was wrong for women to have po­lit­i­cal opin­ions, and if they did, they should keep their mouths shut.

Al­though a vege­tar­ian him­self, he was also ir­ri­tated when Ilse and Hess fol­lowed suit.

When Hitler in­vited Hess to lunch, he brought along his own lunch­box, ex­plain­ing that ‘his meals had to be of a spe­cial bio­dy­namic ori­gin’. Hitler sug­gested that he eat at home in fu­ture, and rarely in­vited him out again.

Mean­while, the Hesses were grow­ing in­creas­ingly dis­tressed at their in­abil­ity to have a child. Given their self-im­age as the

torch-bear­ers of the Nazi move­ment, it felt shame­ful not to have added one of their own to the ranks. Hess worked hard to over­come his aver­sion to sex, and even­tu­ally started tak­ing a hor­mone-based po­tion to boost his viril­ity.

Their ef­forts were re­warded: Ilse be­came preg­nant in 1937. Ea­ger for a boy, Hess searched for favourable omens by trap­ping wasps in honey jars and then count­ing them. Ac­cord­ing to folk­lore, if a larger than av­er­age num­ber of wasps ap­peared dur­ing the sum­mer, you could ex­pect a higher per­cent­age of male births.

Wolf, their only child, was born that year. Ac­cord­ing to the Goebbels, Hess ‘danced with joy’ in a man­ner that re­sem­bled ‘South Amer­i­can In­di­ans’. He then is­sued an or­der to all the re­gional party bosses to send ‘bags of Ger­man soil’ to ‘spread un­der a spe­cially built cra­dle’ so that his son could be­gin life ‘sym­bol­i­cally’ on soil from ev­ery corner of the Fa­ther­land.

Goebbels found the re­quest highly amus­ing, and dis­patched a sealed pack­age of ma­nure from his gar­den.

Four years later, Ilse no­ticed her hus­band was un­usu­ally tense. She was con­vinced he was plan­ning some­thing se­cretly. He was. On May 10, 1941, the cou­ple had tea at 2.30pm. Be­fore leav­ing, she re­called, ‘he kissed my hand and stood at the door of the nurs­ery, grown sud­denly very grave, with the air of one in deep thought’.

Un­known to her, he then climbed into a plane and flew him­self to Scot­land on a solo mis­sion to bring about peace be­tween Bri­tain and Ger­many. He ap­pears to have been fired up by a brief meet­ing at the Olympic Games with the Duke of Hamil­ton — who was in favour of peace on Ger­man terms.

WHAT Hess hoped to do was per­suade the British to aban­don the war — thus leav­ing Hitler free to con­cen­trate on con­quer­ing Rus­sia. Ilse started to worry when he didn’t re­turn home that night: ‘The next two days, we knew ab­so­lutely noth­ing of what had hap­pened.’ She would not see her hus­band again for 28 years. Hitler re­acted to her hus­band’s es­capade with fury and in­com­pre­hen­sion. He im­me­di­ately had all of Hess’s pri­vate staff ar­rested, some of whom lan­guished in camps un­til 1944.

As for Ilse, she was given a thor­ough grilling by his pri­vate sec­re­tary Mar­tin

Bor­mann, who then asked her to list which items in the Hess flat be­longed to the state and which be­longed to her. It turned out that only the car­pets were hers, while ev­ery­thing else was gov­ern­ment prop­erty.

One of her few sup­port­ers was Hitler’s girl­friend, Eva Braun, who told Ilse: ‘I like you and your hus­band best of all. Please tell me if things be­come un­bear­able, be­cause I can speak to the Fuhrer without Bor­mann know­ing any­thing about it.’

There is some ev­i­dence that Eva per­suaded Hitler not to have Ilse ar­rested, and to give her a monthly pen­sion. None of which stopped Hess’s wife from be­com­ing a pariah with an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

Hess dis­cov­ered that the British gov­ern­ment had no in­ten­tion of com­ing to terms with Hitler. They locked up the deputy Fuhrer for the rest of the war. He twice at­tempted to kill him­self — once by drop­ping 25 ft from a land­ing and once by cut­ting his chest with a bread knife.

Af­ter some months, Hitler agreed to let Ilse write to Hess — let­ters that took eight months to ar­rive. In one re­ply, her hus­band said he was ‘happy to see’ that she re­mained loyal to the Fuhrer.

A few weeks af­ter the war ended, he wrote to his wife that the time they had shared with Hitler had been ‘full of the most won­der­ful hu­man ex­pe­ri­ences’ and it had been a priv­i­lege to have par­tic­i­pated ‘from the very be­gin­ning in the growth of a unique per­son­al­ity’.

In Oc­to­ber 1945 he was trans­ferred to Nurem­berg, put on trial at the In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Tri­bunal and sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment. In the dock, he cut a bizarre fig­ure, read­ing nov­els, mut­ter­ing to him­self and sleep­ing, while in his cell he threw vi­o­lent tantrums. Of­fered the chance to see his wife, he re­fused.

In July 1947, he was trans­ferred to Span­dau prison in Ber­lin. He and Ilse con­tin­ued to cor­re­spond. By 1955, she’d opened a guest­house high in the Bavar­ian Alps, with a room re­served for her hus­band’s re­turn. She cam­paigned for the rest of her life for his re­lease.

In 1957, Hess again tried to kill him­self — this time by slash­ing his wrists with a piece of glass. Then, 12 years later, he came close to death with a per­fo­rated ul­cer.

At that point, he fi­nally asked to see Ilse and Wolf again. They weren’t al­lowed to touch and Wolf could tell his mother was ‘on the edge of tears’.

Af­ter Hess re­cov­ered, Bri­tain, France and the U.S. agreed it was time to re­lease him. The Sovi­ets re­fused. His so-called peace mis­sion, they said, had been un­der­taken only to make it eas­ier for Hitler to crush the Soviet Union.

They also pointed out that he re­mained an un­re­con­structed Nazi, whose writ­ings in prison were both anti-Semitic and full of con­tempt for lib­eral democ­racy. But they agreed he could re­ceive one vis­i­tor a month.

In 1977, Hess tried to sever an artery with a knife. Ilse saw him for the last time in Oc­to­ber 1981, by which time he had pleurisy and a dodgy heart. Wolf con­tin­ued with can­dlelit vig­ils out­side Span­dau. But in the end, Hess took mat­ters into his own hands: in 1987, at the age of 93, he hanged him­self with an ex­ten­sion ca­ble.

Ilse died in a nurs­ing home in 1995 aged 95. Through ev­ery­thing, she had held on to her warped prin­ci­ples.

Nazi Wives by James Wyllie is pub­lished by The His­tory Press, £20. © James Wyllie 2019. To or­der a copy for £16, call 01603 648155 or go to mail­shop.co.uk. FREE de­liv­ery on all or­ders. Of­fer valid un­til De­cem­ber 6, 2019.

Sex­less mar­riage: Ilse and Ru­dolf Hess at the 1936 Ber­lin Olympics

De­ter­mined to have fun: Eva Braun in Ber­cht­es­gaden in 1940

In de­spair: Eva — here at the Berghof with Hitler in 1942 — was of­ten ig­nored by him

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