Hitler and Women
by Carolyn Yeager, June 2007
copyright Carolyn Yeager 2007
A New York Times journalist wrote in 1932 that: “Women have been among the strongest pillars of Hitlerism from its very inception … At Nazi meetings the proportion of women in attendance is surprisingly large. Hitler has a fascination for Germany’s weaker sex …”
Fifty percent of the National Socialist vote in ’32 came from women. Yet anti-Nationalist and feminist writers subject their readers to the worst kinds of bias to explain away this female popularity, even to suggesting that Hitler cultivated his female fan-base through an occult “mystical appeal,” mesmerism, and magic powers delivered through his eyes! Even though some women felt the caring and commitment that came from his direct gaze, this simply is not true, as a close look at the women in his life will show.
The first woman Hitler loved was his mother, Klara. As her firstborn, she doted on him, but soon a younger brother, followed by a sister, required her attention. Adolf grew into an independent, adventure-loving youth, vividly interested in the world around him. He clashed with his father over his choice of career, but not with his mother who allowed him his own direction.
It was his mother’s illness and untimely death from cancer at the age of 46 that, only 2 years after his father’s death, gives us a glimpse of Hitler’s strong emotions. According to the family doctor, 15 year-old Adolf returned home from school in Vienna to keep constant watch over her, applying the painful, expensive treatments himself, and even helping with the household chores. When, right before Christmas, she died, the doctor later said he had never seen anyone so overcome with grief as Adolf Hitler at the loss of his mother.
In 1917, when news of Germany’s unconditional surrender was announced at the Pomeranian hospital where the now 28-year-old Hitler had been taken because of mustard gas damage to his eyes, he was similarly devastated. He describes in Mein Kampf being unable to listen to the end of the speech, going to his bed and burying his face in his pillow, the pain in his heart overwhelming the terrible pain in his eyes.
This death sentence imposed upon his beloved Germany, for which he had fought and sacrificed for four years, caused him to determine then and there that he would enter politics. He became an organizer, directing all his life energies to the cause of developing a nationalist political party that could take power. A vegetarian and an ascetic, he did not drink or smoke and he did not seek out the companionship of women.
Yet he never failed to appreciate the importance of women’s support of his young Party and to credit them for it. Years after his 1923 prison term, he reminisced that it was women who kept the National Socialist faith alive while his male followers indulged in acrimony. “I left jail after thirteen months imprisonment to find (women) had sustained the movement. Instead of weighing the odds in a prudent and rational manner, they followed the dictates of their hearts and have stood by me, emotionally speaking, to this day.”
Before 1931, many women’s organizations supported Nationalism, some openly advocating for Hitler’s NSDAP. Guida Diehl’s Nationalist Newland Movement predated the Nazi Party by at least six years. She recruited from the well-educated, Protestant establishment and wrote in her memoirs of her first impressions of Hitler in mid-1920s: “Serious, warm, and natural – he set out his goals. He brought nothing new. Just a summary of the very best of our national tradition. He offered a dynamic organization where others relied on uninspired party politics.”
Catholic women were more cautious, but had long endorsed socially and politically conservative views, and had begun calling for an “authoritarian democracy.”
In 1931, several national and national socialist women’s organizations joined together under the NS-Frauenschaft, which was later declared the official organization for women in the Third Reich. Gertrud Scholtz-Klink led this group from 1934 until 1945. She had begun by organizing women in Baden, a tiny Catholic, liberal state in southwest Germany, after being left a widow with six children in 1928. As the Reichsfrauenfuhrerin (Reich Women’s Leader), she regularly had face-to-face meetings with the Fuehrer and shared the speaking platform with him during major women’s rallies.
Though suffering great hardship after the war, including prison time, Scholtz-Klink disappointed and infuriated a world that expected her to show remorse for her Nazi past. After interviewing her in 1987, feminist author Claudia Koonz wrote, “… this was not an ex-Nazi. She remained as much a Nazi now as she had been in 1945 or 1933. Without a trace of irony, she recalled, ‘If you could have seen the women of Berlin defending their city with their lives against the Russians, then you would believe how deeply German women loved our Fuehrer.’ ”
Scholtz-Klink, writes Koonz, “worried about young Germans’ need to be proud of their past, by which she meant Hitler. ‘You see, we genuinely believed in our ideals … national greatness, pride, our heritage.’ ” And speaking of Goebbels in particular, but including other Nazi leaders, she said, “You can’t imagine what gentlemen they all were.”
In 1932, recognizing the filmmaking genius of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler arranged a meeting and told her that when he took office, “you must make my films.” After she completed the short film, Victory of Faith, he promised her unlimited resources and complete artistic control to film the 1934 Party rally in Nuremberg. The result, the immortal Triumph of the Will, won international acclaim, including the Paris Film Prize of 1937.
In a 1936 essay contest on the theme “Why I Became a Nazi” that attracted 500 essays, 36 of them were from women ranging in age from 17 to 73 who revealed a passionate Germanic idealism and a personal connection with Hitler. “At last, I found a man willing to die for his faith; a feeling rushed through me like fire,” wrote one. Another said, “Whoever has looked deeply into our Fuehrer’s eyes will never, not even years later, forget such a powerful experience!”
Luise Jost, whose son, an SA member, was killed shortly after her husband died penniless in 1928, received a surprise visit from Hitler. She wrote, “In my pain and grief, Adolf Hitler came to me and looked deep into my eyes. He pressed my hand, and I knew that my boy did not die in vain. This man is worth a life sacrificed in his service … I became a National Socialist.”
When Hitler met his future mistress and wife, Eva Braun, she was a 17 year old clerk to his personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. She fell firmly in love the first time she saw him come into the shop. Hitler began showing her little favors and courtesies; he even took her to the theater. Though he reportedly had other liaisons at the time, he eventually settled on Eva.
There is an effort by some to portray Eva Braun as an innocent young woman who suffered injury at the hands of a callous leader. But Eva pled to Hitler again and again that she wanted nothing more than to be with him, under any conditions, for the rest of her life. After two suicide attempts, in 1932 and 1935, Hitler was so impressed, or convinced, that he set her up in a house near his own apartment, and later invited her to move into his mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden.
Eva knew his intentions were to never marry, as he was already married to the German people. She spent her time exercising, reading novelettes and writing in her diary, where she famously vented her complaints and unhappiness that Hitler had so little time for her.
But according to Hitler’s servant, Heinz Linge, “He telephoned her every second day. If his adjutants or Bormann were flying to Munich, he would give them letters to Eva.” He took to addressing her within his intimate circle with tender Austrian words of affection. Traudl Junge, Hitler’s long-time secretary, reminisced that he would pat her hand, calling her Mein Patscherl.
A letter from Hitler to Eva after the 1944 assassination attempt reveals the loving bond that had developed between them:
Mein Liebes Tschapperl, Don’t worry about me. I’m fine though perhaps a little tired. I hope to come home soon and then I can rest in your arms. I have a great longing for rest, but my duty to the German people comes before everything else. Don't forget that the dangers I encounter don't compare with those of our soldiers at the Front. I thank you for the proof of your affection and ask you also to thank your esteemed father and your most gracious mother for their greetings and good wishes. I am very proud of the honor - please tell them that - to possess the love of a girl who comes from such a distinguished family. I have sent to you the uniform I was wearing during the unfortunate day. It is proof that Providence has protected me and we have nothing more to fear from our enemies. From my whole heart, Your A.H.
Geliebter, I am beside myself. I am dying of anxiety now that I know you are in danger. Come back as soon as possible. I feel as if I am going insane. The weather is beautiful here and everything seems so peaceful that I am ashamed of myself … You know I have always told you that I would die if anything happened to you. From our first meeting on, I have promised myself to follow you wherever you go, even to death. You know I live only for your love. Yours, Eva.
By 1945, a matured Eva rose to unexpected heights. On April 15, she managed to fly from Munich to the Chancellery in Berlin. Hitler ordered her to return to Munich. She refused and reportedly said, "Do you think I will let you die alone?"
In the early hours of April 29, Hitler and Eva Braun were married. On that same day, according to Traudl Junge, when Hitler summoned her to record his Last Will and Political Testament he apologized for troubling her and enquired “with his usual kindness” whether all of her needs were being taken care of.
In his Will, Hitler calls Eva his wife three times, ending with “I myself and my wife … choose death.”
A gentleman and man of honor to the end, we can say proudly that Adolf Hitler inspired steadfast devotion and uncommon strength from women as well as men - women who held him, and still hold him, in the highest esteem, as he did them.