Adolf & Eva

Richard J. Evans

IN THE small hours of the morning of April 29, 1945, as the Red Army’s guns and tanks could be heard bombarding the center of Berlin, a curious event took place in Hitler’s bunker deep under the garden of the old Reich Chancellery. Witnessed by Reich propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery Martin Bormann, a local Berlin official formally conducted a ceremony of civil marriage between the German dictator Adolf Hitler and a thirty-three-year-old Bavarian woman, Eva Braun, some twenty-three years his junior. After the ceremony was over, the party was joined in Hitler’s living room by a small group of secretaries and leading Nazis for a glass of sparkling wine and, as one of those present later wrote, reminiscing “happily about the old days.”

It was a marriage solemnized in the shadow of death. Shortly before, Hitler had dictated his “political testament” to one of the secretaries in the bunker. In it he declared that since his life was now almost over, he had decided “to take as my wife the woman who, after many long years of loyal friendship, came to the already besieged city. . . . It is my wish that she go with me into death as my wife.” On the afternoon of April 30, the pair retired into Hitler’s private quarters, where Eva Hitler, as she now was, sat down on a sofa. She bit a cyanide capsule and died instantly. Hitler, wanting to make doubly certain of his own death, did the same, while simultaneously firing a bullet through his right temple. Upon hearing the noise, some of the others present in the bunker entered the room and organized the removal of the bodies to the garden, where, acting on instructions, they poured petrol over them and burned them until they were unrecognizable. The still-functioning Nazi propaganda machine issued a statement claiming Hitler had died fighting to the end. No mention was made of his new wife. She died as she had lived, invisible to all but a handful of the Führer’s intimates.

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Heike B. Görtemaker, Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, trans. Damion Searls(New York: Knopf, 2011), 336 pp., $27.95.

Image of Eva Braun: Life with HitlerEva Braun: Life with Hitler

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