Gretl Braun on Hitler
Interview with Gretl Braun on January 6th 1974, Steingaden, West Germany by John Toland with a translator, Eugen Stammel. Gretl Braun (1915-1987), was the younger sister of Eva Braun. Info she gave relating details of her childhood and her life after World War II is not included below.
Eva and Gretl Braun
JT: Can you remember when you first met Adolf Hitler?
GB: I was very young, it must have been 1931.
JT: What were the circumstances of this meeting?
GB: I first saw him getting into his car on the Weinstraße, purely by chance. I noticed him, I knew who he was because he was very up-and-coming. People in Munich talked a lot about him. But I couldn’t have told you his politics, he could have been a Communist for all I knew.
JT: Was Eva Braun with you at this encounter?
GB: No she wasn’t, and it wasn’t an ‘encounter.’ I just saw him without speaking to him.
JT: Did you know at this time of his relationship with your sister?
GB: I don’t think it was a relationship at that point, not yet at least. I knew Eva was acquainted with him, I knew they went out together sometimes, but it was nothing serious at that time. I knew he was a client of Hoffmann, where Eva worked, that’s really all I knew.
JT: When did you first meet Adolf Hitler? Or when did you first speak to him?
GB: This I recall very definitely. It was in the alcove of the Osteria Italiana, but then it was called the Osteria Bavaria, it’s an Italian place for locals. It was Hoffmann that introduced us, Eva was not there.
JT: What were you doing in there by yourself?
GB: I was fetching some wine and rolls for some friends. I had been in there before, it was a quiet, nice Italian place. It was Hitler’s favorite place to go in Munich for many years.
JT: What impression did Hitler make on you?
GB: He was friendly and polite. He knew I was Eva’s sister, Hoffmann mentioned it. Hitler looked at me and said, 'I see the resemblance.’ That really was all. He smiled, bowed a little bit. He did not kiss my hand.
JT: Did he ask you to join him?
GB: Heavens no, he wouldn’t have done that, I was a silly girl, only 16 years old. He was proper and polite, he didn’t make this overwhelming impression on me. The men he was sitting with were all a little rough looking, it was intimidating.
Hitler at a restaurant in 1931
JT: During this time, what did your sister talk to you about concerning Hitler?
GB: You have to recall this was very early days. Hitler’s niece (Geli Raubal) was still living and he was very busy, travelling, away a lot. He lived in Munich but this was a tumultuous period, he was not around all the time.
JT: Eva never discussed him with you?
GB: Well yes, she did, but there was not a love affair between them yet. That developed very slowly, Hitler was very circumspect and private. He used to tell me in later years, “I am a private man in Munich, I want to be able to live as normally as I can.” He always regarded Munich as his home, even more so than the Berghof.
JT: What was the catalyst that propelled your sister into a relationship with him?
GB: The death of his niece. There was certainly never a romance between them until the niece shot and killed herself. That was an enormous scandal, all of Munich were talking about it. Even my father mentioned it, my friends at school, things like that.
JT: Was your sister already in love with Hitler when Geli died?
GB: That is hard to say, Eva was never effusive about her feelings. She was very much different than me in that respect. I could never could have kept my mouth closed about a romantic affair, but she could and she did. It was a big determining factor in Hitler settling down with her. She could keep his confidence and she wasn’t a blabbermouth. He valued that tremendously.
JT: When did you know she was in love with him?
GB: Again, it’s hard for me to answer that definitively. I started to know she was romantically involved with a man shortly after the niece’s death. I knew because she would be gone from our parents apartment at night. Sometimes she didn’t come home until long after midnight. She got her own private telephone line and would hide under her covers when she spoke to this mysterious man.
JT: And then what happened?
GB: Nothing, Eva was stealthy and quiet. She would blandly lie to our parents, saying she was working late or helping Herr Hoffmann. We shared a bedroom, so I knew of her comings and goings.
JT: So your sister would sneak away to see Hitler and you knew about it?
GB: I finally asked her if she was seeing Hitler. At first she was reluctant to answer, but then told me she was indeed seeing him. She was very attached to him and this happened from their first private meetings. She fell very hard for him from the get go.
Hitler in November, 1931 during his first romantic trip with Eva to Haus Wachenfeld.
JT: And she told you it had become an intimate relationship?
GB: She didn’t have to say that in so many words, I just knew. She started hiding things in our room.
JT: Such as?
GB: Personal garments, contraceptives, letters, things that a romantic young girl does during her first love affair. She was having an affair, even I knew that and I was only 16 or 17 myself.
JT: Did Hitler ever come to your parents house?
No! He did drop off Eva after their evenings together, or at least he did so usually. My parents suspected absolutely nothing. My sister was, as I said, very careful, very prudent, and very silent about her time with Hitler.
JT: Did she stay away all evening?
GB: At first, no. Shortly after the death of his niece, Eva went away for several days. I knew she was going to be with Hitler, but I didn’t know the details until her return. She developed some photos, she was a very passionate photographer, you know. They were of Hitler on the Berg.
JT: He took her to the Berghof this early on?
GB: It was the house he had up there before it was transformed into the Berghof. I thought he ruined the cozy old place when he added so much to it. But yes, she was up there with him and stayed days at a time. Hoffmann was dependent on Hitler, so whenever Eva was with him, she just didn’t bother to turn up for work then.
JT: Was Eva enthusiastic about Hitler? Did she come into your bedroom and say things like, “I am so in love with him!”
GB: No, she wouldn’t have done that. You have to bear in mind, this was a different time and place. She wasn’t married to him and most people then thought an affair with a much older man would have been scandalous. I knew she loved him, and she made this abundantly plain to me years later. She wasn’t demonstrative like that. She loved him deeply, but wasn’t the type to gush. That wasn’t her.
JT: How often would Eva meet Hitler?
GB: At that time, in the early days, it was only at his invitation. She would have been with him constantly, but he didn’t ask her. They didn’t travel together, then or later, very much. This is all before he gained power, he was away all the time. He was, I think, the first German politician who travelled by air, that was unheard of in those days. Eva also could talk to him on the telephone at the house of her friend, Herta Ostemeyer. Her parents had some money, they had a long-distance telephone line.
JT: How often did he take your sister to the mountains?
GB: That was more or less a constant thing, even early on. Hitler would send one of his cars and have one of his men drive her up to the Berg. My parents weren’t suspicious, they hadn’t the slightest inkling their middle daughter was having a torrid romance with a much older and very famous man. It amazes me even now how well she pulled all that off so that so few knew anything.
JT: Did Hitler take Eva on dates?
GB: Early on, definitely he did. Before he became Chancellor, he would take her to dinner, to the opera, to a movie, things like that. But they never went alone, there were always people around, Then he would take her back to his apartment where they could be alone.
JT: What other people were around?
GB: Hitler hated new faces around him, he absolutely hated it. He wanted an unvarying routine. The people always around him in Munich were Schaub, Brueckner, Schreck and later on, Erich Kempka, of whom I was very fond. Hitler wanted to sack him later on when rumors spread that he’d married a prostitute. But Maya was not a prostitute.
JT: Tell us about your sister’s first attempt at suicide.
GB: Well, our older sister, Ilse, was the one who found her. I was not in Munich, but attending a funeral of the father of one of my friends. Eva shot herself, or tried to, and missed the mark. She grazed her chest with the bullet, but apparently there was a lot of blood.
JT: Why would a young, pretty girl do this?
GB: Because of Hitler, of course. He had been neglecting her, his calls were getting infrequent. She was very attached to him and very in love and he wasn’t with her. Not at that point yet. Hitler came around and gave her flowers and a card and explained he was very, very busy.
JT: Did anything change after he became Chancellor?
GB: I would say it did change. Eva now didn’t sneak away from the house, she just told our parents that she was working with Hoffman and “on the road.” Now she absented herself from our apartment routinely. She would be gone all night and it just became an accepted thing. My parents were still not suspicious. Both of them took her at her word, that she was assisting Herr Hoffmann with this photography business. I never volunteered anything to them.
JT: Was she actually still working at Heinrich Hoffmann’s shop?
GB: Of course, she was there almost every day. She’d meet Hitler at the shop as well, but the vast majority of their time together was spent in his apartment or on the Berg.
JT: When did you start to get to know Hitler better?
GB: This was very gradual. I wouldn’t say I really knew him well until years later and in some respects, nobody knew him. Hitler was very guarded and very private. But gradually Eva brought me more and more together with him. In 1933, when I was 18, she got me a part time job in Hoffmann’s shop. I was there more often than Eva.
JT: Did she ever take you to Hitler’s apartment?
GB: Oh yes, many times, but only during the day. He was there whenever she was.
JT: Is there any way you can describe him for me? Give me a word portrait of him, this would help so much.
GB: I’m asked this all the time by everyone who ever gets to know to me. What can I say except he was a normal, nice, friendly man. He was very charming, very fatherly and also had a funny sense of humor. He could laugh and enjoy life in the confines of his private circle. I’m sorry if that sounds bad nowadays, but you asked me. He was not the monster shown today on TV or in magazines. Not in the slightest.
JT: When Eva and Hitler were together, were they affectionate or loving towards one another?
GB: It was a different time and place. I know I said that before, but I have to repeat it. Displays of affection between a German couple then were not common and Hitler was older, let’s not forget that. He was 26 years older than me, he was like a father, an older gentleman.
JT: So you never saw them touch one another?
GB: Well yes, naturally. Hitler liked women, he liked to be around pretty girls. He was much more demonstrative towards her than vice versa.
JT: In what way?
GB: He would always hold her hand. He was a great hand holder. I have seen him take his index finger and trace a circle around her face, things like that. As for kissing, embracing, carrying on together? Never.
JT: And Eva would not touch him?
GB: As a general rule, no. But she looked at him adoringly. She was happy, always, to be around him, except maybe during the war, when his repetitive stories annoyed her.
JT: Was Hitler affectionate towards you? Did he use “Du” with you?
GB: No, he would never have done that. He called me “Fräulein Braun” when others were around, usually it was just “Gretl” though. He never flirted with me. He would never have done that, he would have considered that rude and indelicate because I was Eva’s sister. He flirted with everyone else that was attractive. Any woman between the ages of 15-50 he would gladly flirt with.
JT: Tell us about Eva’s second suicide attempt, if you can.
GB: This was in 1935 and she was clearly becoming very unhappy and desperate. He was gone all the time and at that time, she wasn’t allowed to see him in Berlin. If Eva didn’t get to see Hitler as often as usual, she would be thrown always into a deep depression. The second time she took a lot of pills and had to have her stomach pumped out. I remember Hoffmann being very annoyed at this “playacting.”
JT: Did she really want to die or was it a plea for sympathy?
GB: I would say the latter. People who really want to die, do it. They’re dead. People who want to die don’t have failed suicide attempts, they do the deed and it’s over.
JT: Did Hitler change towards your sister after this?
GB: Yes, emphatically so. I think he realized he had come close to losing her. He was also thinking of the potential for scandal, but I really do think he thought to himself, “My God, she’s important to me.” It was after that when he got us an apartment and very quickly thereafter, our own house.
JT: Tell me about the house, please.
GB: You can walk or drive by it, it’s very unchanged, though the wall has been altered. It survived the war just fine. Eva had her own bedroom, I had mine, it was a very happy period for me, at least and for her too. We entertained, threw parties, all the things girls do.
JT: How often was Hitler there?
GB: Not that often, really. In the winter, when it would get dark earlier, he would come around 5:00 in the evening and stay a few hours. I always left when he came, I either went to our parents apartment or visited friends. I would always know if he was still there by whether the cars would be parked outside when I returned. If he still was there, I’d walk back down to town, hail a taxi and drive around to kill time.
JT: More than one car was required for these visits?
GB: He’d come with Kempka, then another car with SS men, or people to safeguard his privacy.
JT: Then the neighbors must have known who your sister was.
GB: They figured it out soon enough. Sometimes we would get anonymous letters or notes, asking for money or assistance. Eva would throw them away. She never showed them to Hitler, I am positive about that.
JT: Did Hitler spend the night?
GB: Never. Not once, I am sure of it. It would have been too risky to spend all night in a Munich house with his conspicuous cars waiting outside. His visits were pre-planned and arranged. He would stay a few hours and leave. He left once around 11:00 at night, most of the times he didn’t stay that late at all.
JT: You never stayed to chat to him?
GB: I think twice I did, but then immediately left. It was a little awkward for him, I think. You could always tell when Hitler was embarrassed or upset, he would not listen anymore and have a far-away look in his eyes.
JT: What about your life at the Berghof?
GB: It was 1935 or 1936 when it was renovated, it was after Eva’s second try at suicide. After this, I had my own room at my disposal there until the end of the war. Of course I never stayed there unless Eva was there.
JT: Did she spend all her time there then?
GB: Not at all, she only started doing that during the war. Prior to that, she really only was there when Hitler was in residence.
JT: Some of the other people in the entourage have told me Hitler was very boring at the Berghof.
GB: Who would have ever said that?
JT: Some of the intimates up there.
GB: Well, I disagree. He could get tedious with his monologues, but that was really only very late. Maybe 1942 or 1943. He didn’t bore me, I enjoyed being in his company and the locale up there is, as you have to know, quite impressive. More than just impressive.
JT: Can I ask you about Eva’s intimate life with Hitler?
GB: There’s nothing to say, it was a completely normal, average relationship. Hitler was not a pervert or a monster. Anyone who saw them together would tell you the same thing: they were a normal couple.
JT: Did Eva confirm this to you?
GB: She didn’t have to, no one who knew them would ever think anything else. They weren’t legally married, but they lived together when they could as husband and wife. When the subject was broached, Eva would tell me, “you know I can’t talk about him in that way.” I didn’t push her for details on her private life. I knew from her remarks and observations that it was an intimate relationship. She missed him very much when he was gone.
JT: So based on your observations, it is merely rumour or innuendo that Hitler was impaired sexually or abnormal?
GB: I don’t even know where all these stories come from. Honestly I have no idea. I can tell you this: I was Eva’s sister and I also spent a tremendously lot of time with Hitler. I saw them together in many different places over many different years. She loved him, he loved her, they were normal and happy when they were together. These stories of perversions had to be invented by people who hated him or never knew him in any way.
JT: Some of the other intimates suggest Hitler never loved Eva.
GB: I say he did. He told my sister that he loved her, he was not shy in expressing his feelings. He could appear awkward, but with Eva he was comfortable and expressive. He may not have been in love with her until the mid-30’s, she might have just been convenient for him before that time. But based on what I saw and heard, he loved her by the time of the middle 1930’s.
JT: Do you think he was capable of love?
GB: Yes. Why do I say that? I know because he loved his mother. I know he loved his niece, he would admit to that often enough. He loved his dogs. I know he loved Eva, or at least loved all these people to the extent he was capable.
JT: How did the war change their relationship?
GB: Markedly. It changed everyone. For one thing, Hitler would be away for longer periods, but then on the other hand, he would stay months on the Berg. Before the war, he would stay maybe 2 weeks up there. After the war, it wasn’t uncommon for him to spend 3 months there. I think their relationship deepened, became very conjugal. He was dependent on her. He trusted her, he relied upon her. The passion may have faded somewhat, but his feelings for Eva definitely intensified.
JT: How often did you see him after 1939?
GB: As much or more than ever. None of us ever went to his various headquarters, that was verboten. Eva begged to see him, he refused. He told her that because his soldiers were so deprived, he had to be deprived some of the time too.
JT: Based on what you know, were they still physically intimate?
GB: Yes, but he was very immersed in the war. Also I always thought the war prematurely aged Hitler. It was very noticeable in his face, hands, gait, everything. I don’t think 50 is very old for a man and that was how old he was when the Polish thing got started. He was telling Eva he was “too old” for her and he was failing. One could see it by 1942, maybe even before.
JT: Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer says Eva tearfully told him that Hitler offered to give her up because he was too old for her. This was during this time period.
GB: Yes, I have read that. She told me essentially the same thing. This was fairly late in their life though, maybe after Stalingrad, 1942? 1943? He said he couldn’t fulfill her anymore. Eva was very distraught, but I think it was his way of gaining reassurance. By then, the only two living things he could trust were my sister and Blondi, his dog.
JT: What was your relationship like with Eva?
GB: We were always close. We had our rows, like any siblings. Eva disapproved of some of my then-boyfriends, she could get moody. But we loved each other. There is not a day that passes where I still don’t think of her and with great fondness. I miss her laugh, I miss her smile, I miss her.
JT: How did Hitler treat your parents?
GB: He tried to avoid them as much as possible. He was always behaving very embarrassed in front of them. They were on the Berg a lot, but usually when Hitler wasn’t in residence. He just didn’t want to be around them.
JT: Did you know that Eva was going to Berlin to die with Hitler at the end?
GB: No, that would be hindsight. Bear in mind that in 1944 or 1945, we didn’t necessarily know we would lose the war. Hitler had performed miracles before. Many believed we would throw out the Russians from Berlin, mount an offensive and seize the day. Maybe that was delusional, I don’t know.
JT: How did you hear of your sister’s death?
GB: Can you believe I only learned about it on the radio? It was in the beginning of May, it wasn’t generally known they got married. I was happy for her when I learned Hitler had finally relented and married her. I know that would have made her happy, despite the tragic circumstances surrounding her then. I was preparing for her death, but I didn't assume when she went to be with him that she would perish there.
JT: Do you think Hitler would have married her under any other circumstances?
GB: As a matter of fact, I do. Beginning around 1940, he openly told Eva that when the war was won, they would build a beautiful house in Linz, overlooking the Pöstlingberg in Linz. I think he even had blueprints for the proposed house. He said they would be married. He even mentioned this to me, saying he hoped I would visit them and bring Basko, my dog.
JT: Is there anything else you would like to add before we conclude this?
GB: I don’t think so. I am hoping that my sister will not be misrepresented any longer. So many untruths have been circulated all these years. She was just a very nice and very lovely girl, I would say this even had we not been related. She loved Hitler, that was not a crime, she had no way of knowing how things would turn out.
JT: Any last word on Hitler?
GB: Yes, even more lies have been published about him. About his crimes, I can’t address that. But I can say as a man, as a human being, I defy anybody who knew him to say that he behaved poorly or like a gangster or sadist. He was always polite, kind and enjoyable to be around him.
JT: Thank you.