By Heike Gortemaker
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95, 324 pages
Perhaps there’s a good reason biographers neglected Adolf Hitler’s mistress and wife, Eva Braun. Both committed suicide and had their personal papers destroyed, leaving just the recollections of others. Unfortunately for history, insiders had their own agendas post-World War II. They had to convince the conquering Allies that they were never Nazis and often minimized their role in Hitler’s and Braun’s lives. What is fact? What is wishful thinking? What is convenient amnesia?
“Officially Eva Braun was on the staff of the Berghoff as a private secretary. The German public learned only shortly before the end of the war that Hitler had lived with a woman and eventually married her, and many people at the time considered this report a mere ‘latrine rumor.'”
Indeed Eva Braun: Life with Hitler seems mislabeled. Even the most elite seemed to know little about Braun. A more accurate choice would have been The Inside Circle: Life with Hitler because the book is about the entire group of insiders surrounding Hitler. Not just Braun but also Nazi supporters, civilian friends, employees. Despite the broader focus, Eva Braun is a compelling dissection of life with Hitler. Author Heinke B. Gortemaker doesn’t just parrot the insiders’ stories but questions their claims. What could they have gained by this portrayal of Hitler and Braun? Why do these two insiders’ stories differ? When was the story told—before or after Nazi trials? This book provides an intriguing viewpoint and offers the question “How factual are memories?”
Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb