Living in the shadow of one of history’s most reviled figures, Eva Braun was the long-term mistress and brief wife of Adolf Hitler, accompanying him through much of his time as Führer. While her name will irrevocably be linked to the Nazi Party and the Third Reich, Eva Braun’s actual story remains less well know.
A 17-year-old photographer’s assistant who rose to join Hitler’s inner circle, Braun chose to live and die by the Führer’s side, leaving history with one of the most valuable pieces of evidence into the personal lives of the Nazi Party leaders.
Enjoying a life away from the horrors of the Second World War, yet in the grip of one of its most heinous figures, here are 10 facts about Eva Braun:
1. She was born in Munich, Germany in 1912
Eva Braun was born in Munich on 6 February 1912 to Friedrich and Fanny Braun, the middle child alongside 2 sisters – Ilse and Gretl. Her parents were divorced in 1921, however they remarried in November 1922, likely for financial reasons through the gruelling years of hyperinflation in Germany.
2. She met Hitler at the age of 17 while working for an official Nazi Party photographer
At the age of 17, Eva was employed by Nazi Party official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. Initially a shop assistant, Braun soon learnt to use a camera and develop photographs, and in 1929 met ‘Herr Wolff’ at Hoffmann’s studio – known to many as Adolf Hitler, then 23 years her senior.
At that time, he appeared to have been in a relationship with his half-niece Geli Raubal, however following her suicide in 1931 he grew closer to Braun, who many said resembled Raubal.
The relationship was fraught with tension, and Braun herself attempted suicide on 2 occasions. Following her recovery from the first attempt in 1932 the pair seem to have become lovers, and she began staying at his Munich apartment overnight often.
3. Hitler refused to be seen with her in public
In order to appeal to his female voters, Hitler felt it imperative that he be presented as single to the German public. As such, his relationship with Braun remained a secret and the pair were very rarely seen out together, with the extent of their relationship only revealed after the war.
Working as a photographer under Hoffmann however, Braun was allowed to travel with Hitler’s entourage without arising suspicion. In 1944, she was also allowed to join official functions with greater ease, after her sister Gretl married high-ranking SS commander Hermann Fegelein, as she could be introduced as Fegelein’s sister-in-law.
4. She and Hitler had interconnecting rooms at the Berghof
The Berghof was Hitler’s fortified chalet in Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, where he could retreat with his inner circle away from the public eye.
There he and Braun had adjoining bedrooms and enjoyed a greater sense of freedom, spending most evenings together before retiring to bed. Playing hostess, Braun often invited friends and family to the Berghof, and reportedly designed the work clothes for the chambermaids there.
Away from the harsh realities of the Second World War, most historians believe Braun to have created an idyllic life amongst the Bavarian Alps, a factor that would show in her care-free home videos of Hitler and his inner circle of Nazi officials.
5. Her home videos provide a rare glimpse into the private lives of the Nazi leaders
Often behind a camera, Braun created a large collection of home videos of members of the Nazi Party at pleasure and play, which she named ‘The Colourful Film Show’. Largely filmed at the Berghof, the videos feature Hitler and a host of high-ranking Nazis, including Joseph Goebbels, Albert Speer, and Joachim von Ribbentrop.
They lounge on the chalet’s terrace, drink coffee, laugh, and relax with friends and family with an almost unnerving sense of normality. When these tapes were uncovered in 1972 by film historian Lutz Becker, they shattered the image of Hitler as the stern, cold, dictator his photographer Hoffmann had intended to depict him as. Here he was human, which to many audiences, made it all the more horrifying.
6. She was supposedly uninterested in politics
Despite being the long-term partner of one of Europe’s most powerful political players, Braun is said to have been uninterested in politics and was not even a member of the Nazi Party.
On one occasion in 1943, however, it is noted that she suddenly took an interest in the policies of Hitler’s total war economy – when it was suggested that the production of cosmetics and luxuries be banned. Braun is said to have approached Hitler in ‘high indignation’, prompting him to speak to Albert Speer, his Minister for Armaments. The production of cosmetics was instead halted, rather than being all-out banned.
Whether Braun truly was uninterested in politics or not, this depiction of her mirrors the Nazi ideology that women had no place in government – to them, men were leaders and women were homemakers.
7. She insisted on joining Hitler in the Führerbunker
By late 1944, both the Red Army and the Western Allies were advancing into Germany, and by 23 April 1945 the former had Berlin surrounded. When Hoffman’s eldest daughter Henriette suggested that Braun go into hiding after the war, she reportedly replied: “Do you think I would let him die alone? I will stay with him up until the last moment.”
She followed through with this assertion and joined Hitler at the Führerbunker in April 1945.
8. They were married for fewer than 40 hours
As shelling by the Red Army continued overhead, Hitler finally conceded to marry Eva Braun. With Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann present, Eva dressed in a sparkling sequin black dress, and Hitler in his usual uniform, the wedding ceremony was undertaken in the Führerbunker after midnight on 28/29 April 1945.
A modest wedding breakfast was held and the marriage certificate signed. With little practice in using her new name, Braun went to sign ‘Eva B’, before crossing out the ‘B’ and replacing it with ‘Hitler’.
9. The pair committed suicide together
At 1pm the next day the pair began saying goodbye to their staff, with Braun reportedly instructing Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge: “Please do try to get out. You may yet make your way through. And give Bavaria my love.”
At around 3pm a gunshot rang through the bunker, and when staff entered they found the bodies of Hitler and Braun lifeless. Rather than be captured by the Red Army, Hitler had shot himself through the temple and Braun had taken a cyanide pill. Their bodies were carried outside, placed in a shell hole, and burnt.
10. The rest of her family survived the war
Following Braun’s death, the rest of her immediate family lived long after the war had concluded, including both her parents and her sisters.
Her sister Gretl, too a member of Hitler’s inner circle, gave birth to a daughter just a month later, who was named Eva in her aunt’s honour. The coveter of her sister’s many documents, photographs, and video tapes, Gretl was later convinced to reveal their whereabouts to an undercover CIC agent of the American Third Army.
While identifying many of those in Hitler’s inner circle, these documents also uncovered much about the personal life of the dictator himself, and the woman who secretly lived in his shadow for over a decade – Eva Braun.