Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Finding a life between the lines

 

Following the trail of The Munich Girl

Seventy-four years ago this spring, Eva Braun’s world, and life, were coming to their end as Germany succumbed to defeat and ruin.

From a bunker under Berlin, she wrote her final letters, to her younger sister, Gretl, and longtime friend Herta Ostermayr Schneider.

She writes to Herta of preparing to die, and bewilderment at how things are ending, for Germany:

“Greetings to all my friends.

I’m dying as I have lived. It’s not difficult for me. You know that.”

Footage of Eva Braun with her childhood friend, Herta Ostermayr Schneider.

On this same day, she chose an action whose significance would only be revealed later, during the war crimes trials in Nuremberg. In testimony there during the Ministry Trials of 1948, a high-ranking German officer credited her with ensuring that one of Hitler’s last desperate orders had come to him, rather than to someone who would actually carry them out.

As a result, the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war were saved.

Among them were likely two relatives of mine, and a whole lot of those who were the loved ones of tens of thousands of people.

When writing fiction that includes elements of history, accuracy must always trump creative possibilities. It’s been suggested to me several times that Eva Braun’s “character” in the story might be conveyed through letters.

However, her very last letter, to her younger sister, Gretl, asked that most of her correspondence be destroyed, and the remaining small amount hidden. It has yet to surface, and those who’ve tried to track it down doubt it ever will.

So, any story true to Eva Braun’s consistently private personality must reference only the handful of pieces of her correspondence that are still in existence.

And seek, as so many stories do, to find the story of a life between the lines.

More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War at:

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Goodreads question: “Any historical deductions regarding Eva Braun?”

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It was a pleasant surprise to find a question about The Munich Girl at Goodreads last week:

May I ask, were you able to make any historical deductions regarding Eva Braun?

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70My reply:

“Thanks for this question, Johnathan.

“Albert Speer said that historians would be disappointed in what they did, or did not, uncover about Eva Braun. As a writer, I had a different experience as I researched.

“Some of the discoveries were more intangible and paradoxical, such as the fact that so much of what was conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about him, when in fact, more complete and accurate facts about her could help us better understand him.

“This made me wonder: how much of the truth do we miss because we approach finding it with ingrained, inherited — often blindly imitative — assumptions? In other words, how much do our biases trip us up before we even get started? s-l1600

“Another paradox, for me, was the recognition that those very qualities of compassion and caring that the Third Reich sought to suppress and demean were what Hitler came home to Eva Braun for.

“The massive hypocrisy in that got me wondering how this continuing imbalance, which misunderstands and devalues those “softer” human aspects even as it needs and depends on them, is still creating the kind of chaotic, power-pursuing conditions that engulf our world in so much violence and suffering.

gottlob_berger“A more concrete discovery was that testimony from an officer named Gottlob Berger at the 1948 Ministry Trials at Nuremberg indicates that an action Eva Braun took in the last week of her life saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war. The record shows that she almost never interfered or intervened in anything Hitler did as leader, with very few small exceptions.

I believe she did this out of the regard she had for life, some understanding of the moral principles behind the Geneva Convention — and, bizarre as it may seem to us today, to protect how Hitler would be perceived after the war. This suggests to me that, much like his secretaries and others in his inner circle, she lived a compartmentalized existence that, even that close to the end, knew far less about the Nazis’ human-rights atrocities than has been supposed.

eva-braun“A personal turning point for me was the discovery that some British members of my family were likely saved by this action of hers.”

Johnathan followed up with a comment that wondered about Hitler’s marriage to Eva Braun in the eleventh hour of their lives, shortly before the pair committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in April of 1945.

My thoughts:

“I think that the marriage was intended to reward and honor her loyalty, and perhaps to honor her family, especially her Catholic mother, who, curiously, Hitler included in his will. I think he understood that much of what he appreciated in her daughter had been shaped by her.

“Thanks again for asking, Johnathan. It’s nice to get chance to use this Goodreads feature.” cropmunichgirl_card_front1

I welcome other readers to share their questions at Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2890301.Phyllis_Edgerly_Ring

And more about The Munich Girl is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8


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What secrets does a portrait of Eva Braun hide?

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The Munich Girl –

A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War

Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun.

Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends.

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Eva Braun’s diary, courtesy The National Archives.

The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s.

Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante–and a tyrant’s lover–Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged.

With Hannes’s help, she retraces the lives of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned 16 years (the length of time Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress), but never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions.

EB pix Germany and more 610Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives. One of those was the Resistance fighter that Anna’s mother loved, who was involved in a plot to kill Hitler.

As it draws her into the past, Anna’s journey leads her deep into long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her own heart.

It is the path that will help her understand the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War at:
http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/