Hitler was deranged with grief when niece killed herself
Hitler was deranged with grief when the niece he lusted after killed herself, claims Fuhrer’s household staff as they reveal intimate details of the Nazi leader’s life
- What was it like to work for Adolf Hitler?
- Not as a minister or a general, but as one of largely unseen household staff
- Those who saw him every day, in every mood, and brought him his breakfast
- A new book brings together the translated accounts of Hitler’s staff
What was it like to work for Adolf Hitler? Not as a minister or a general, but as one of the silent and largely unseen household staff who saw him every day, in every mood, brought him his breakfast and made his bed.
For the first time, a fascinating new book brings together the translated accounts of Hitler’s housekeeper, valet and chambermaid.
Herbert Dohring was appointed housekeeper at the dictator’s mountain retreat, the Berghof, in 1935, where his wife already worked as the cook. Anna Plaim joined the household as a chambermaid at the age of 20 in 1941.
As for Karl Wilhelm Krause, he was plucked from the German navy to become Hitler’s valet in 1934. So close was Krause to his boss that he was nicknamed Shadow — and even after he left his job five years later, his friends kept him well informed about the dictator’s private life.
Pictured: Adolf Hitler with his niece Geli Raubal. The relationship between Hitler and his niece Geli Raubal had been something else altogether
All three servants survived to witness the millennium. Dohring and Krause both died in 2001, while Plaim is still alive at the age of 98.
In this exclusive extract, they reveal intimate details of Hitler’s relationships with women — including his mistress and his tragic niece.
Herbert Dohring, Housekeeper
One day in 1936, my wife Anna — who was the cook — said: ‘Listen to me, there’ll be a young blonde lady turning up. She’s Adolf’s girlfriend.’
He laughed at English children’s rickets
In September 1936, the British former prime minister David Lloyd George came for a visit to the Berghof, recalled Hitler’s housekeeper, Herbert Dohring.
At that time, Hitler truly wanted to cultivate deep links with Great Britain. He cared little for stuffy English lords, but he was keen to befriend the people.
In fact, he regarded England as a model for quite a few things. Often, he’d say: ‘Such a small country, with only 40 million inhabitants, yet it rules over an entire world empire.’
As far as he was concerned, the British Empire was a shining example to us all.
On the other hand, he’d also be sharply critical of the British because of the prevalence of rickets — or what he called the ‘English disease’. And he often made fun of the children’s bowed legs.
For a while, Hitler had had high hopes for Edward VIII. As we know, the king was particularly fond of Germany and, had he remained on the throne, much might have turned out totally differently.
At lunchtime on December 10, 1936 — I remember the date because it was my wedding anniversary — there was an important phone call from the German Embassy in London.
It was Hitler’s newly appointed ambassador to the Court of St James’s, Joachim von Ribbentrop, calling to tell him that Edward VIII was going to abdicate.
During that lunch, which lasted for two hours, Hitler must have been called to the phone at least ten times [to discuss the repercussions]. And after each call, he returned to the table looking more downcast.
Even so, unlike his political and military advisers, Hitler believed for a long time that England would reverse its policies towards Germany.
I was totally lost for words. The public had no knowledge of the fact that Hitler had a girlfriend.
And it remained a strictly secret relationship. At the Berghof, the rule was that Eva Braun was never to be spoken about, not to anybody. And, unfortunately, that meant we could never hire any new staff.
When I saw Eva for the first time, she was walking up and down the terrace with him. She was elegant and smartly dressed, but I thought she seemed moody. Not long afterwards, Hitler asked me to come to his study on the top floor late one night to help him catalogue documents. I found him in a trance, totally lost in thought, as he worked on some plans.
Then someone knocked on the door that led to his bedroom, but he didn’t hear. The knock was repeated and in came Eva Braun.
She walked up to Hitler and started to speak. But he totally lost his temper.
‘You always come when I don’t want to be disturbed,’ he shouted. ‘You surely must see that I’m knee-deep in my work. I have absolutely no use for you now.’
Eva turned red and looked furious. Then, head held high, she walked out.
Hitler was a strange man, so full of contradictions. He could be benevolent, yet he could also be utterly brutal.
In the mornings, if he came down from his study humming a tune, he was quite approachable, even enjoyable company. But if he was whistling — beware. Everyone had to get out of his way and keep their heads down, Eva included.
That couple, in my opinion, would never have got together in ordinary circumstances. Eva was a secretary at a photographic studio that Hitler frequented — and her boss fixed him up with her.
As we used to say in the army: ‘That broad was served up on a silver platter.’
After they started seeing each other, Eva tried to commit suicide several times. Personally, I think that’s why Hitler felt he couldn’t leave her. [In 1932, she shot herself in the neck, and three years later she took 35 sleeping pills.]
He was a very lonely person, actually. While Eva and his weekend guests were engaged in some leisure activity, the Boss — as I called him — would be upstairs, working. Sometimes he’d be working on speeches until as late as 4am.
My own relationship with Eva was OK. She’d sometimes challenge me to a shooting match down in the basement, where there was a bowling alley that doubled up as a range. I used to miss the target on purpose in order to let her win.
However, she was always doing things that bothered me. The war led to all kinds of shortages and austerity measures, yet she’d insist on having luxuries.
While other people had nothing, she was ordering turtle soup, freshly pressed orange juice and confectionery. It upset me.
She was often bored. For her, life at the Berghof was hugely monotonous, which is why she was so moody with Hitler.
The minute a handsome man entered the room — such as Hermann Fegelein, a liaison officer on Hitler’s staff — she’d act as though she was besotted with him.
The relationship between Hitler and his niece Geli Raubal had been something else altogether. My wife Anna got to know her because Geli also had her own room at the Berghof, before it was expanded.
It was a simply furnished bedsit on the top floor. Inside were an old wooden bed, a chair and a wooden cupboard with a mirrored door — that was it.
Pictured: A candid photograph of Eva Braun with Adolf Hitler at the dining table in Berlin, Germany
In 1931, Anna noticed that Geli and Hitler were taking more walks together than usual.
One day, she entered the living room and found them locked in an embrace on the sofa. Anna just quietly closed the door.
It was a terrible shock when Geli shot herself that September in Hitler’s Munich apartment. [She’d had a row with him earlier in the day, when he forbade her from going to Vienna.]
He didn’t go to her funeral, but a few days later he had someone drive him secretly to her grave in Vienna. After that, he just locked himself into her room at the Berghof for an entire week.
He told my wife that he wanted to shoot himself. He was also refusing to eat, though Anna eventually persuaded him to have a little food.
Later, Geli’s room became the gift room. It was where we stored all the presents Hitler received, some of them very valuable.
The fact that it had once been his niece’s bedroom became a secret. And when the Berghof was renovated, Hitler ordered that the room should remain for ever untouched.
Nine years after Geli’s death, in 1940, my wife showed Hitler a lovely picture of her that she’d found. It showed a tall young woman with a fashionable hairstyle and a sensual look in her eyes.
Hitler looked at it with a strange expression on his face. ‘Anna, would you kindly let me have this photo?’ he asked. ‘When the war is over, I’ll give it back to you.’
Well, Eva Braun was only a few rooms away at the time. But it was clear to me that Hitler had loved his niece, and loved her still.
Karl Wilhelm Krause, Valet
My entire interview with Hitler [for the job of valet] lasted all of four or five minutes. I was dismissed with a handshake.
I next saw him a few days later at the Reich Chancellery, where he was having tea (he never drank coffee) with guests in the garden. Suddenly, he grabbed hold of two garden chairs, marched up to the middle of the garden and ordered me to take a seat opposite him.
Then he explained the duties I was to perform and added: ‘Whatever you get to hear and see here is nobody’s business.’
One of my main duties was looking after Hitler’s wardrobe. His civilian clothes were so worn-out that even a lowly office clerk wouldn’t have wanted them.
Well, you can imagine all the criticism. Even ordinary people wrote letters to reproach me, as if it was my fault. Once, I asked a tailor to take in the waistline of one of his jackets a little bit, then laid it out for Hitler to put on. Goodness me, did I get it in the neck!
Pictured: Adolf Hitler in his study at the Berghof. My entire interview with Hitler [for the job of valet] lasted all of four or five minutes. I was dismissed with a handshake
It was the same story with his shoes and boots. He simply couldn’t bear to be parted from his high boots, which had unsightly folds. Even when I ordered three new pairs, he simply carried on wearing the old ones.
As for shoes, they were nearly always patterned loafers. And he was so stubborn that for years he ignored the brown shoes I’d bought to go with light-coloured suits. He always wore black ones, which looked awful. When it came to ties, I’d prepare two every day, but he’d just select a different one — which was, of course, totally unsuitable.
The bow ties, I’d have to tie for him — but this had to happen very quickly, within 25 seconds. Otherwise Hitler would become disgruntled, shifting from one leg to the other. Nobody can do a proper job in such conditions. However, I was calmness itself, though this would also drive him crazy.
One day he’d praise something I’d done, then the next he’d hate it — or vice versa.
Here’s an example. He was particular about his underpants — which he’d sometimes change twice or even three times in a day (though there were also times he didn’t change them for maybe three days.)
Anyway, one day I asked a seamstress to make some more out of the same fabric as the old ones. Then I added them to Hitler’s underwear pile. The next morning, I enter his room and what happens? He throws the new underpants at my feet, saying: ‘Take these things out of my room. They’re just totally unbearable!’
In the end, I wore the underpants myself. Then some weeks later, I realised that Hitler had run out of clean underwear. What to do?
I’d already worn his new underpants, but at least they’d been washed. So I laid out a pair for the next morning and braced myself for a tantrum.
To my astonishment, Hitler actually put them on without giving me an earful.
For a few years, Hitler’s sister Frau Raubal oversaw the management of the Berghof, his house in the mountains.
In 1936, however, she decided to try to find a wife for Hitler, and that seriously displeased him. They must have fallen out over it, because she left the Berghof. But I can assure you that Hitler didn’t hate women. If he saw an attractive actress in a film or play, he’d ask to be introduced to her.
Among the film actresses he particularly liked were Olga Tschechowa and Brigitte Horney. He used to invite many of them out to the theatre with him.
And, often, during our travels, he’d suddenly be totally riveted by a woman he’d just spotted. ‘My God, isn’t that a beautiful girl!’ he’d exclaim.
He freed a builder from Dachau to make fireplaces for his retreat
When Hitler decided to have his mountain retreat expanded, he asked the architect to install nine fireplaces — just in case the central heating ever broke down, recalled Hitler’s housekeeper, Herbert Dohring.
They were going to be green, which was Hitler’s favourite colour. His sofa suite was green, his desk was covered in green leather, his favourite soap (Palmolive) was green, his leather coats were green, his tablecloth and napkins were green.
Even his signet ring had the initials AH and a swastika embossed in green.
Anyway, all the green fireplace tiles were going to be designed to represent the different regions of Germany.
‘Well, do you know of a good fireplace builder?’ Hitler asked his architect.
‘Yes, I know of a very good one’, the architect replied, ‘but some four or five weeks ago you put him into the Dachau concentration camp.’
Hitler asked: ‘But why? What on earth did he do?’
‘He was distributing some flyers for the Communist Party,’ answered the architect. ‘They caught him and immediately locked him up.’
Hitler became quite agitated. ‘The man should be released at once!’ Turning to his chief aide, he ordered: ‘Make sure that he’s here within a few hours.’
Barely four hours later, the fireplace builder arrived at the Berghof. He was a small man and seemed rather intimidated.
Can you imagine — he’s come directly from the Dachau concentration camp, and there he is, facing the Fuhrer himself!
After he’d been told what was required, Hitler asked him bluntly: ‘Can you take care of this job for me?’
The guy’s whole body was trembling now. But he replied: ‘If I may, I will gladly do it.’
‘First of all, I will make sure that you and your firm will be compensated for your stay at Dachau,’ Hitler said to him. ‘Do you have a particular request?
The fireplace builder replied: ‘Yes, I do have a request, seeing that you had me locked up. May I have permission to make one tile with a picture of me on it? It would also depict bars, to represent my imprisonment.’
It was a daring request, but Hitler said: ‘Yes, that will be done immediately.’ And he told his architect: ‘Make sure this happens.’
The tile was duly manufactured. It was the same green shade as the others, but it showed this man’s face behind bars. As you stood in front of the fireplace, it was on the left.
If we happened to be in a car, he’d turn around to keep watching her. And because I was sitting behind him, he’d make me move aside so that he could follow the lady with his gaze.
More often than not, his adjutant then had to find out the woman’s address. After that, she’d be invited for coffee, so that Hitler could have a chat with her. When he had women guests round, though, he’d become quite erratic. What a circus. Nothing was ever good enough. Everyone around him would be gripped by a fever.
The orderlies and I were petrified, dreading what might happen to us if, heaven forbid, even the slightest thing went wrong. If it did, it was usually advisable not to show your face for a couple of days.
During these social gatherings, Hitler would sometimes give advice to the ladies about their cosmetics. He enjoyed doing that — and above all he liked pulling their legs.
Once, during the war, some ladies were complaining that it was getting quite difficult to get hold of good-quality underwear.
Hitler said: ‘Yes, of course, the silk … we now require it for other purposes.’ Then he laughed and added: ‘You may have to switch to wearing leather underwear, but at least it’s likely to last a long time.’
What Hitler didn’t care for was ladies who got involved in politics. He firmly believed that politics should be left exclusively to men.
Yet he also said that one reason he hadn’t married was that his most enthusiastic fans were women. According to Hitler, they were more likely to follow a single man.
As for Eva Braun, I knew her well. I don’t want to be judgmental, but we got along about as well as a cat and dog. Hitler and Eva weren’t together that much.
In the years 1934-37, they were never in Berlin together at the same time. Their relationship became closer only after the war started.
But, even then, Eva Braun came to stay in Berlin only two or three times, and then for no longer than one or two days. She never came to his headquarters, nor was she asked to official receptions.
Anna Plaim, Chambermaid
Pictured: Anna Plaim, Chambermaid
To be honest, I think that the Berghof really bored Eva. I suspect she’d have preferred to have more male company.
It was actually only women at the Berghof when Hitler wasn’t around. Eva’s sister Gretl was a visitor; also Frau Schneider, a friend from Eva’s youth; and a hotel owner called Frau Dreesen.
Frau Schneider came with her nanny and her two children, aged three and seven months. One day that I’ll never forget, the nanny gave the baby an ice-cold shower.
Of course the baby howled his head off. I was appalled. But the nanny just said that the child had to be toughened up. Anyway, Eva’s friends and her sister were what made life a bit more bearable for her.
The truth is there was hardly anything for her to do. The ladies always used to look forward to having afternoon coffee together. We had special coffee sets for that, hand-painted with a floral design.
When Hitler was at the Berghof, he and Eva always went to the teahouse — a ten-minute walk away — together at 3pm. It wasn’t an intimate occasion: there were usually about eight other guests and they were all served by servants in military uniform.
Most of the time they had cheesecake — Hitler’s favourite cake. The cook made it specially.
These visits to the teahouse became a fixture in Eva and Hitler’s shared diary. He spent all the rest of his time in his study, where he wasn’t to be disturbed under any circumstances. Sometimes Eva tried to do something to make Hitler happy, like wearing a dirndl [an Austrian dress].
But I can’t remember a single time when they ever held hands or kissed. And as their chambermaid, I can vouch for the fact that both Hitler’s and Eva’s beds were untouched during the day.
But they did have an intimate relationship. I know that from my cousin’s wife Gretel, who also worked at the Berghof.
It was Gretel who showed me the linking door between Hitler’s bedroom and Eva’s. In between was a small, closet-like room that was full of the most precious crocodile-skin suitcases.
Hitler had a totally plain single bed. Eva’s was larger, and it could easily be turned into a sofa. It was Gretel who had to buy Eva Braun’s medications, so that she could defer her menstrual cycle when Hitler was due to pay a visit.
Adapted by CORINNA HONAN from Living With Hitler: Accounts of Hitler’s Household Staff by Herbert Dohring, Karl Krause, Anna Plaim and Kurt Kuch, published by Greenhill Books at £19.99. To order a copy for £15.99 (offer valid to June 7, 2018; p&p free), visit www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640.
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