Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Eva Braun: Life with Hitler - Heike B. Gortemaker

Eva Braun: Life with Hitler
If you have been around Read.Write.Repeat. for any length of time, you know how much I love history. I particularly enjoy reading about women throughout history. There stories are so often skimmed over in history classes but are just as rich and interesting as those of their male counterparts.

I have had this particular biography On Reserve for several years now. It was long overdue to make it into my hands.

Typically, WWII has not been an era of special interest for me. You should all know by know that my weak spots are British royal history and the Gilded Era, to name a few. This book fits in neither of those categories, yet the mystery surrounding this woman intrigues me. 

Nearly a century after his reign of terror, Adolf Hitler still lives in infamy as one of the most hated, horrible men ever to live. It can be hard to even view him as human. None of us wish to believe we could have anything in common with a man like him.

Yet, there was a woman who loved him. Eva Braun, his mistress of over a decade, his wife and suicide partner at the very end, continues to defy understand and fascinate historians. In truth, we know very little about this woman.

Heike B. Gortemaker, whose work has been translated into English so people like me can read it, attempts to flesh out the small amount we do know in this biography. She certainly has done her research. She pulls from a lot of memoirs written after WWII by others in Hitler's inner circle. Still, those sources cannot be taken at face value. Many were written in an attempt to save face after the fall of the Nazi regime.

Because there is so little information about Braun available, the book really becomes more about Hitler's inner circle than Braun specifically. Gortemaker spends a good deal of time talking about the personal relationships Hitler had with high-ranking Nazis, staff, and their families. Braun pops in occasionally as Gortemaker seemingly remembers who she wanted to write about in the first place.

The information available about Braun is interesting. The two met through Hitler's photographer; Braun worked in his shop as a secretary and photographer. Hitler allowed a good deal of access for photographs. Many of these eventually became propaganda pieces casting Hitler "as the 'father of the nation.'" Gortemaker mentions that Hitler and the Nazis were really on the forefront of using photography in newspapers and other publications. It fascinates me how Hitler used the latest technology to his advantage, much like politicians, etc. do now with social media and the internet. 

Braun's relationship with Hitler served as contradiction to much of the dogma he preached publicly. The pair were not married until just before their double suicide and they never had children. Hitler kept Braun behind the scenes for the most part. He believed a single leader was more appealing to the country and wanted to maintain the illusion that he was just that. 

Early in the releationship, Braun attempted suicide a couple of times. Whether this was out of actual depression or cries for attention from Hitler, she was never successful and Hitler strengthened his commitments to her after each attempt. Braun very obviously felt she could not live without him. As Gortemaker puts it, "A future without him apparently never entered her thoughts." The whole relationship, especially the planned suicide at the end, seemed almost cult-like to me. 

Learning about more about Braun only peaked my interest. There is so much we do not know, and will never know, about this woman. She is a historical enigma whose true motivations, beliefs, and knowledge of Hitler's actions will never be fully known. Gortemaker works well with the information available, but there are just so many missing pieces. 

Pages: 336
Date Completed: January 23, 2014

What historical figure would you like to learn more about? 

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