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Posted Monday, February 4, 2002


The Sunday Telegraph
June 18, 2002

[Images added by this website from the Irving collection]


Eva waited days for Hitler to call


by Stefanie Marsh

SUICIDE in the Berlin bunker was a tragic end to an unhappy life but Eva Braun was never a Nazi, Gertraud Weisker tells our correspondent

WHAT do we know about Eva Braun? She was blonde, she was pretty and she was Hitler's lover. They committed suicide together in Hitler's Berlin bunker. That made her name -- nobody really knew she existed until then, concealed as she had been from his adoring public. She liked clothes too. We know that, but otherwise her healthy farmgirl's face, framed by its blonde curls, conjures up something of a blank: a woman dancing merrily on the surface of life.

Gertraud Weisker knows differently. At 78, she is Eva Braun's last living relative -- her cousin and the woman who spent the best part of the last year of Braun's life with her in the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat in Obersalzberg.

Eva BraunWeisker last saw Braun in January 1945 and, until three years ago, kept her past, and her fading photo-albums, hidden from the world. But shortly after her husband's death Weisker told her story. No use going to the grave with all those secrets, she thought. And she wanted to restore her cousin's good name.

Yes, Eva was self-preoccupied and silly. But, claims Weisker, the historians have got it wrong. Eva was not a Nazi. She was a victim, an unhappy, caged and desperate victim who suffered from lack of confidence and depression. The Nazi wives shunned her, she was alone; who in her position would not have acted as she did? The cousins had known each other since they were small. Their mothers were sisters and the families holidayed together in Munich. As an only child, Weisker was susceptible to the charms of her three older cousins: Ilse, Eva and Gretel [sic. Gretl]. When in 1944, at 20, she was invited to join the 32-year-old Braun in Munich, she defied her anti- Nazi parents' wishes and took a train from her home town of Jena. Her decision to go had nothing to do with the lure of the Führer, she insists. "I wanted to be with Eva. That's it."

Weisker remembers Eva at 17, the year she met Hitler while working as an apprentice for his official photographer. Already she was a woman dedicated to her appearance -- not vain, but conscious of the effect her "dreamy beauty" had on others.

When Weisker was in her mid-teens, Braun gave her a satin bra, having first relieved her of the chest brace, a painful, breast-squashing device. "Eva was like my older sister. Of course I had to go to see her," says Weisker. Only Braun was not there to meet her cousin in Munich. Instead, two SS officers drove Weisker to the Berghof. Braun was lonely and Hitler had allowed her to invite a guest.

Weisker, a shy, bookish physics student, was a perfect candidate.

Nor was Braun there to meet her when Weisker reached the Berghof. She had gone for a dip in the Königssee, a pastime which, along with watching films, smoking cigarettes, trying on clothes and eating food from Hitler's gourmet kitchen, was to make up their languid existence for six months. As Hitler never returned to the Berghof after July 14, 1944, Weisker never met him.

Eva BraunAnd what did young German women talk about in the 1940s while Hitler was, variously, recovering from an assassination attempt, digesting the shock of the D-Day landings and pondering the fate of the Jews in Auschwitz? Politics? "No," says Weisker. "We did not talk about that. We were always surrounded by two or three SS men. We couldn't." Boyfriends, then? "Never. Definitely not. One just didn't. I never talked to Eva about Hitler."

What about Braun's two failed suicide attempts? "No. No. It was a different time. Eva always lived in a dream world. When the reality was not good, she pushed it away. Politically, she was not aware of anything. In that sense she never really became an adult, she was a child: she was mad about sport, she liked to take pictures and she was interested in clothes and fashion. That was her world. We never once had a profound conversation."

But there were little acts of insubordination. Smoking, for example. Women in the Third Reich were not supposed to smoke, drink or wear make-up. Braun and Weisker did all three. You can picture the two cousins applying their lipsticks in their surreal paradise. Harder to imagine is Weisker's claim that they never talked. "I cannot make up things she didn't say," Weisker insists. Braun would change her clothes as often as seven times a day. When her cousin arrived at the Berghof, Braun told her to remove her shoes. A servant appeared with a basket full of Braun's more fashionable, albeit smaller, versions.

Presumably she and Braun had an inkling about the persecution of Jews? "Well we did not know about the concentration camps. No. But I knew there was something, because we had a lot of Jewish friends who were moving to America. And Der Stürmer the Nazi newspaper was on every street corner although my parents forbade me from looking at it.

"I had a neighbour, Frau Jacobi. She used to bake us biscuits but one day she said: 'Gertraud, you mustn't talk to me any more.' A few nights later she gassed herself." Weisker shakes her head.

At times the guilt must have been intolerable: sealed off from the terror endured by the rest of the population. "Guilt?" says Weisker. "What do I have to feel guilty for?" Weisker has become something of a celebrity in Germany: she has appeared on chat shows, given many interviews and had a novel based around her experiences at Obersalzberg.

This is not the first time the guilt issue has come up and yet her affronted surprise suggests the opposite. "No," she says firmly. "I was an onlooker, a bystander, never a Nazi. I was never a member of the party, nor was Eva.

Braun was a young woman who happened to fall in love. She was unpolitical and I think she would have loved him whoever he was. Right from the beginning she probably said to herself, 'I have chosen this path and I will follow it'.

What amazes me is Hitler's popularity among women -- he must have had this magnetism." And these women, were they Nazis? "No I don't think so, they just worshipped him, like young people today worship Michael Jackson. But I don't think Eva belonged to those people. She knew him on a different level."

Weisker points out again that it was never her intention to end up at the Berghof. "For me that world was oppressive. And I felt oppressed by my challenge -- to get her out of that lethargy. That is why I stayed. I wanted to get behind what it was that bound her to this man, I wanted to support her.

"But she was very depressed and I was not a therapist -- I realised that she was completely lost. She was the unhappiest woman I have ever met."

Her cousin had been a cheerful teenager, says Weisker, but by 1944 her once natural exuberance seemed forced. Hitler would call Braun regularly every two days. If the phone call came late, it would plunge Braun into anxiety: "I could have said anything at those times but I knew she was not listening. She just sat there waiting, straining for that call as if it was the most important thing in her life." In December 1944, Weisker and her cousin found themselves sheltering beneath Braun's home in Munich -- the one given to her by Hitler after her second suicide attempt. The air raid was an uncomfortable conclusion to what had started out as a shopping trip. Frightened by the bombing, Braun gave Weisker some jewellery, thinking that she would no longer be needing it. A few months earlier, Weisker had discovered a radio in Hitler's tea house from which she picked up BBC broadcasts in German -- it was a crime punishable by death but it enabled her to relay Germany's deteriorating position to her cousin, now visibly struggling with the situation and hungry for information, but terrified of bad news. Weisker believes that her dispatches prepared Braun for what was to come. "She became quieter and less cheerful. She was less of a dreamer. It was as if she had suddenly woken up to reality, a reality that she did not recognise. It has only recently become clear to me that, had I not gone home, she might not have gone to Berlin."

Three months after Weisker went back to Jena, Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler, or the Hitlers as they became for the last 36 hours of their lives, committed suicide together in a Berlin bunker. The news reached Weisker in early summer 1945. She was sad but not shocked.

"It was a suitable conclusion. She had nothing. He ripped her out of her job and damned her to loneliness in the mountains. It was an unavoidable end and the logical result of everything that had gone before."

It has taken Gertraud Weisker an hour and a half to tell her story and the strain is showing. There are inconsistencies in her story -- "contradictions are what life is all about," she explains. "There is so much that I cannot remember. It was more than 50 years ago. This is where the chapter ends. No more. I don't want to talk any more."

Eva's Cousin by Sibylle Knauss is published by Doubleday, £12.99


Relevant items on this website:

More photographs of Eva Braun, who married and died with Adolf Hitler
Eva Braun's cousin (same person, different name) breaks her silence about her times with Hitler's mistress
David Irving dossier on Robert Gutierrez, the US CIC agent who secured Eva's diaries and correspondence with Hitler in 1945
Gitta Sereny: "Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary from 1943, says the Führer she knew was kind, paternal and fond of gossip"
"Respected German historian" alleges Hitler was a closet homosexual? | I doubt it, says David Irving | Observer, Oct 7, 2001: Hitler was gay - and killed to hide it, book says | October 1999 story: Hitler secretly gay --historian (Joachim Fest) | David Irving's comments on this allegation
David Irving: Hitler's War. Free download of the new Milllennium edition

Hitler in conference

Illustration from David Irving: Hitler's War. [Buy this picture as a 2' x 3' Focal Point poster]

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