Friday, April 20, 2007

Eva Braun Sings the Blues

Since Columbine (1999), Hitler's birthday has proven an extra dodgy teaching day. Frankly, I'm glad to be out of school for the weekend. As requested by administrators, at high noon I had my class join in the moment of silence for the Virginia Tech slain and wounded, quietly adding an extra moment for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afterwards, I ordered a stack of new library books. One that looks interesting is Angela Lambert's The Lost Life of Eva Braun (2007), about Ms. Braun -- who spent her last day on Earth as Eva Hitler.

From what little I know at this point, Eva Braun's adult life seems like a Grimm fairytale set in Hell. She first met Adolf Hitler while working for Nazi photographer Heinrich Hoffmann and still a teenager; Hitler (aka "Herr Wolff") was pushing forty. Other women were also intimately with Hitler about this time -- Maria "Mimi" Reiter, his "fiancée," who became so distressed she tried to hang herself; his niece Angela "Geli" Raubal, who either shot herself or was shot by Hitler, whom she'd called "Uncle Alf." While Braun and Hitler were going full steam, actress Renate Müller, another of Hitler's sunshine valentines, threw herself (or was pushed) out a window.

Not surprisingly given her strange role as Hitler's secret "friend," Eva Braun also suffered occasional bouts of depression and, like all the others, tried to kill herself. Hitler explained to her that it was better if the masses thought him single, sort of like the Pope -- after all, he especially didn't want to alienate the other women of the Third Reich. They would, he felt, be terribly disappointed to see a steady woman by his side at public outings.

Hitler kept her on behind the scene, though, through the Second World War. She was well-attended, had a driver and domestic help. He obviously liked her and probably even loved her in his own special way. In the final Berlin days in the Bunker in April 1945, the fussy Hitler permitted only her to smoke inside; everyone else had to brave Russian projectiles and smoke in the streets.

The final act of Eva Braun's little fairytale: near closing time, she and Adolf Hitler married and that's when she took his surname. The next day, April 30, 1945, with the Russians closing in, they both swallowed poison and he also shot himself. Not exactly living happily ever after, but there it is. The End.

Three of the most riveting films about the Third Reich from the inside:

Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph des Willens / Trimph of the Will (1935). Don't try reenacting this indoors.

Luchino Visconti, La caduta degli dei / The Damned (1969). Adults only.

Oliver Hirschbiegel, Der Untergang / Downfall (2004). Excellent attention to detail.

Today's Rune: Strength.

Birthdays: Muhammad(?), Napoleon III, Adolf Hitler, Joan Miró, Mother Angelica, Edie Sedgwick, Adolf Lu Hitler Marak.

What a world -- Bon Voyage!


JR's Thumbprints said...

Talk about standing by your man. I wonder, what choice did she have? I'm sure the book examines this, talks about her options.

Anonymous said...

I like the contrast in your work Erik. One fanatical regime and then another. Enjoy your posts. MW

Johnny Yen said...

I emailed my ex-wife Tammy on Thursday, April 19, which would have been our tenth anniversary. After our divorce, we were able to laugh at our choice-- we chose the anniversary of the Waco disaster and Oklahoma City bombing. Didn't portend for a good future to our marriage, which lasted a little under 4 months). We did congratulate ourselves on missing HItler's birthday by a day. April 20, 1997 was a Sunday, so city hall wasn't open.

Johnny Yen said...

I should add that we chose that date coincidentally, not by choice.

Kim and I, however, did choose December 30, because it is Patti Smith's birthday.