SHE WAS INNOCENT
Who was Eva Braun? A woman swept up by titanic historical forces, doomed to be in love with a tyrant of inconceivable proportions. The question is, should we blame her or pity her? The evidence overwhelmingly points us to the latter. Yes, she was devoted to Adolf Hitler. But Eva Braun was no Nazi.
Consider the circumstances in which they met. Eva was just a teenager, innocent but with a zest for life, and a passion for photography. Hitler was decades older, a seasoned politician with a domineering and feverishly driven personality. He wasn't so much a suitor as a trap into which Eva fell.
Eva occupied a paradoxical, maddening position in the dictator's life. She was his lover, but forever pushed out of his inner circle of advisors and confidantes. Hitler's crazed political ambitions always came first, and the young woman was driven to breaking point, attempting suicide first by shooting herself, and then - a few years later - by taking an overdose.
Hitler deliberately distanced himself from Eva in public, believing that his persona should be one of a chaste, pure visionary. The German public had no idea he was even romantically involved with her. Imagine how that must have felt to a girl who was in over her head, and whose interests lay in movies and art, rather than vicious, racially-fuelled politics.
She never joined the Nazi Party, and the sheer gulf between Eva and the monstrous events going on around her led top Nazi Albert Speer to remark that "Eva Braun will prove a great disappointment to historians." Another close friend of Hitler's, called Heinrich Hoffmann, described Eva as "inconsequential and feather-brained", almost entirely uninterested in politics.
In the words of Angela Lambert, author of The Lost Life of Eva Braun, "She was a decent, well-brought-up middle-class girl who was not anti-Semitic, never joined the Nazi Party, but had the misfortune to fall in love with a monster." It would be grossly unfair to tar her with the same brush as the Nazi leadership. As Angela Lambert puts it, "Goodness is as banal as evil and may exist in the most unlikely people: even Hitler's mistress."
SHE WAS COMPLICIT
"Her life should not be called lost or tragic. She wanted to be at Hitler's side, and fought very hard, with all means, to achieve that position." So says Heike Görtemaker, author of Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, and how can anyone disagree?
Forget all the sentimental guff about how poor little Eva didn't know what was going on. She was in a long, long relationship with a dictator and genocidal war-monger - are we really expected to believe she spent all that time watching films, reading fashion magazines and ignoring the calamities her beloved was unleashing upon the world?
Consider Braun's own words, written in her diary: "I am the mistress of the greatest man in Germany and in the world." And we're supposed to believe she was only interested in "Hitler the person" rather than Hitler the megalomaniac tyrant? The idea is all the more farcical when you remember how Hitler was notorious for endlessly droning on about his warped ideas to anyone within earshot.
As Görtemaker says, "She certainly was informed about the persecution of Jews and the deprivation of their rights. It is also clear that she supported this policy. Despite the fact that she did not appear in public, she was not a passive bystander."
She supported him to the bitter end. While others were fleeing a broken Berlin, Eva defiantly chose to stay in the bunker with her man, her devotion unflinching right until the moment they committed suicide together, closing a relationship that would have been the stuff of sentimental romance fiction - if it wasn't for the fact it blossomed against the backdrop of pure horror.