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Without hesitation, Marlene offered him shelter. In the months that followed, feeding and hiding Mikhail became her principal preoccupation, her silent protest against the dictator whose hospitality she enjoyed. At the same time, she was drawn into the Nazi web through her love of an SS officer whom she names as Oberstrumbannfuhrer Hans. To keep him away from the Tea House, she spent nights with him in a nearby hotel, but they did not make love.

One day, he arrived unannounced at the Tea House and, in panic, she surrendered her virginity to distract him from Mikhail hiding in a corner of the room.

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Soon afterwards, Braun left the Berghof to rejoin Hitler in Berlin. I am baffled. I don't believe it. I say: It's not so much the fact that she's gone.

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It's the fact that she didn't say good-bye to me. Imagine just leaving like that! And as the BBC keeps reporting, the end is fast approaching. Marlene's final weeks at the retreat are indeed the stuff of novels.


She and Mikhail are snowed in without food, Hans begins to suspect her behavior and reveals himself more Nazi than lover, she defies him by declaring "the truth is that we're beaten" and is placed under house arrest, Mikhail manages to escape and Allied bombers target the Berghof.

She learns that her cousin has at last achieved her dream of marrying Hitler, two days before they commit suicide. Then Marlene too is scrambling for her life. The book concludes with Marlene's final mea culpa, a letter written to her father, whom she last saw in July and who died in a Russian camp in She now knows he was right in opposing her move to the Berghof and that she misses him desperately. And then she adds: "We all have our dead, with whom we are fated to talk. To whom we still owe our explanations, and of whom we would like to know one last thing.

You are one of them for me, Father, and Eva is another. My cousin, Eva Braun As a year-old, Gertrude Weisker joined her cousin Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress at Berchtesgaden for lonely days of swimming and killing time in the dying months of the war. In the summer of , bored and in need of distraction, Eva invited her cousin Gertrude Weisker to stay with her at the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat; the novel, to be published in this country next month, drew largely on Gertrude's account of that summer, a summer which was to prove Eva's last.

She is also one of the most inconvenient women in history, for her existence testifies to a mysterious phenomenon: that Hitler had a personal life. If he loved Eva and Eva loved him, then he must have been a human being, despite the great weight of evidence to the contrary. Who could have fallen in love with Hitler other than a Nazi as fanatically committed as he was? One might expect no more intelligence and morality than from a lapdog and it was an untranslatable Austrian slang word for a pet that Adolf used for her nickname.

Those who chastise women for their love of clothes and make-up and other tawdry diversions do not understand that you cannot have depths without surfaces, but in Eva's case, she was veneer through and through. So I was mad to meet Sibylle Knauss, the novelist, who had so depicted her, and stunned to find out that Gertrude Weisker, the model for the novel's central character, was happy to be interviewed.

I could now speak to one of the last personal links with the originator and instrument of both the second world war, and of genocide and mass murder. Sibylle Knauss lives just outside the southern city of Stuttgart, Gertrude Weisker a couple of hours' drive north, in Jena, near Heidelberg. Sibylle, a tall elegant woman born in who has written nine novels and also lectures in film, picked me up and we set out in pleasant sunshine along the autobahn.

She is part of a generation I have long admired and respected - those Germans born during and just after the war, whose investigation of their parents' past had a uniquely personal resonance.

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In the s, after the Allied programme of "de-Nazification" that was supposed to identify party members and ensure they had no place in the new civic, industrial and media infrastructure, the motto of Germans and oddly enough, of their victims, too was "forget the past". The postwar period, both for perpetrators and survivors, was one in which the future was everything; both Germans and Jews were intent on building new states.

The Bible commands us not to look back on past evil, lest we are turned to pillars of salt, but Sibylle's novel does not accept that memory, compassion, emotion and perception must be abandoned if one is to escape from history. Of course I don't feel personally guilty because I was a newborn baby when Hitler was there, but when I say, 'I'm German', I say, 'I belong to a guilty nation' and I think that's how most Germans feel. You are forced to look inside, to look back. The genesis of her novel was a interview with the magazine Der Spiegel, in which she mentioned that she would be interested in writing something about Eva Braun.

I was interested in writing about her because it's so difficult. I appreciated the challenge, but it was a long-term project, not very real, until I got this call from a woman who said, 'I am the cousin of Eva Braun and I could tell you a lot', so I met her. I did some interviews, but more than that we just talked.

She also gave me some papers she had written for her children. As we drove along, I was trying to get to grips with Gertrude Weisker. The narrator of Sibylle's novel, Marlene, is explicit about her place close to the heart of fascism - "we Nazis," she says - but Sibylle warned me to be cautious. Gertrude's father, an engineer, was not a member of the party and in was killed by the Russians, for collaborating with the Americans.

In July , Eva rang Gertrude and told her she was lonely, with Hitler away a great deal in east Prussia directing the failing war effort. Alone in the Berghof, she asked Gertrude to come and be her companion. Gertrude's father forbade his daughter to go. Her defiance of him, Sibylle felt, was less to do with an admiration for fascism than the adolescent rebellion of a year-old girl intoxicated by her glamorous older cousin Eva was then 32 , who on a previous visit had donated to her one of her own satin bras.

My personal view is that, at the age of 20, nobody is really any political person. When I think of myself, when I think of my sons who are 28 and 27 now, at the age of 20 they talked so much nonsense and I also had no view of any political things at the age of We arrived in Jena.

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  • Gertrude came to the door, a stocky woman in her late 70s. The walls of her living room were covered with Chagall prints. We sat down and I apologised in advance for asking the same questions as many others must have done before. The facts about Eva Braun are these. She was born the middle of three sisters into a Catholic family; three lively, pretty girls. In , at 17, she was working as an assistant to Hermann Hoffman, Hitler's official photographer. From the moment Hitler walked into the shop, she was in love. Her father frowned on, and later felt humiliated by, the liaison - not because his daughter was associated with the prime mover of the Nazi party, but because Hitler would not marry her; she was a mistress, not a wife.

    After , when the Nazis were elected and took control of the press, her face vanished from the public gaze. Few people outside the party's inner circles were aware of her existence until after the war, when her death, alongside Hitler in their Berlin bunker, was announced.

    Hitler had married her 36 hours before. She would leave behind instructions to her sister, Ilse, to burn some of her papers, her dressmaker's bills. She did not want to go down in history as a shopaholic - the only sin, Sibylle writes, that she was aware of committing. Apart from these few facts she is a void. The first thing I asked Gertrude was why she had defied her father. I wanted to see if Sibylle's thesis was correct, that it was innocence that drew her to the Berghof. With the Nazi regime we felt ourselves in a big concentration camp.

    Then I had the chance to see my cousin and why should I not go?

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    But Eva was not on the train station when I arrived. There were two SS men and they told me, 'We bring you to your cousin.

    I was startled by this reference to Germany as a "concentration camp" for its Nazi population; if its free civilian citizens thought they were in a concentration camp, where exactly were the inmates of Auschwitz? The Marlene of the novel would not, I thought, have used such inadvisable language. But I pressed on, asking if she knew about her cousin's relationship with Hitler when she went to stay.

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    I was nine years old and I saw a picture in the newspaper saying that Eva Braun was now the favourite of Hitler, but I didn't know about Hitler and I didn't know what a favourite was. My parents told me I was not allowed to talk about it. I decided it was best to say nothing. What was the Berghof like?

    Sibylle had described it as resembling the headquarters of a Bond villain. I was not impressed by it, not at all. The servants served us meals and took care of the rooms. They were kindly, why shouldn't they be?

    When I was there we were completely alone. I was disappointed to hear this. I was not going to get any close-up portrait of the madman himself. What sort of person was Eva? She was very sporty, and to me she was very beautiful. You see I was 12 years younger than her and it is normal that you adore the grown-up person.