Eva Braun (1912-1945)
Hitler's mistress from 1932 and his wife during the last few hours of his life, Eva Braun was born in Munich, the daughter of a school teacher. Of middle-class Catholic background, she first met Hitler in the studio of his photographer friend, Heinrich Hoffmann (q.v.), in 1929, describing him to her sister, Ilse, as "a gentleman of a certain age with a funny moustache and carrying a big felt hat." At that time Eva Braun still worked for Hoffmann as an office assistant, later becoming a photo laboratory worker, helping to process pictures of Hitler. The blonde, fresh-faced, slim, photographer's assistant was an athletic girl, fond of skiing, mountain climbing and gymnastics as well as dancing.
After the death of Geli Raubal, Hitler's niece, she became his mistress, living in his Munich flat, in spite of the opposition of her father who disliked the association on political and personal grounds. In 1935, after an abortive suicide attempt, Hitler bought her a villa in a Munich suburb, near to his own home, providing her with a Mercedes and a chauffeur for personal use. In his first will of 2 May 1938 he put her at the top of his personal bequests - in the event of his death she was to receive the equivalent of £600 a year for the rest of her life.
In 1936 she moved to Hitler's Berghof at Berchtesgaden where she acted as his hostess. Reserved, indifferent to politics and keeping her distance from most of the Fuhrer's intimates, Eva Braun led a completely isolated life in the Fuhrer's Alpine retreat and later in Berlin. They rarely appeared in public together and few Germans even knew of her existence. Even the Fuhrer's closest associates were not certain of the exact nature of their relationship, since Hitler preferred to avoid suggestions of intimacy and was never wholly relaxed in her company.
Eva Braun spent most of her time exercising, brooding, reading cheap novelettes, watching romantic films or concerning herself with her own appearance. Her loyalty to Hitler never flagged. After he survived the July 1944 plot she wrote Hitler an emotional letter, ending: "From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere--even unto death--I live only for your love."
In April 1945 she joined Hitler in the Fuhrerbunker, as the Russians closed in on Berlin. She declined to leave in spite of his orders, claiming to others that she was the only person still loyal to him to the bitter end. "Better that ten thousand others die than he be lost to Germany," she would constantly repeat to friends.
On 29 April 1945 Hitler and Eva Braun were finally married. The next day she committed suicide by swallowing poison, two minutes before Hitler took his own life. On Hitler's orders, both bodies were cremated with petrol in the Reich Chancellery garden above the bunker. Her charred corpse was later discovered by the Russians.
The rest of Eva Braun's family survived the war. Her mother, Franziska, who lived in an old farmhouse in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, died at the age of ninety-six, in January 1976.