Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


Why The Munich Girl?

EvaAlong the path of my forthcoming book, The Munich Girl, a novel about the many kinds of legacies that outlast war, there’s one question I’m asked more than any other:

What led me to write a book about Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife), Eva Braun?

It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role she had played finally came to light:

“Why her, just an ordinary Munich girl?”


Wisdom House, Litchfield, CT, Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

I had a chance to ponder both of these questions further during this summer’s conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild at a welcoming retreat center in Connecticut called Wisdom House. After nearly 40 years of memberships in various organizations, the IWWG remains my stand-out favorite.

IWWG is a wonderful network that fosters the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing. While it has nurtured an impressive record of success and achievement for its members in the publishing world, it has always aimed for both excellence and personal transformation. It especially values “an inner ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events, and emotions”. If you’re a woman and a writer, check out: http://www.iwwg.org.

In a wonderful memoir workshop led by Maureen Murdock, whose book, The Heroine’s Journey (among several of hers) has shed important light on my path, I reflected on that Eva Braun question. I also recognized that my next book is likely to be a memoir about the sometimes uncanny, even mystical process that has led to my writing about her, and about Germany during the war. 51-UcjX4oTL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_

For a workshop activity that was designed to reveal more about me as a “character” of my own story, I wrote: “When I watched the films of Eva Braun, I would be moved into depths I could not understand. I was left feeling like a child who didn’t want to pull herself away from play or a remarkable new discovery.

“I wanted to visit with her over coffee, be in the presence of those expressions I saw shape her face as I watched the films in silence — feel that unmistakable lightness that she communicated in those scenes without sound. And, I wanted to better understand the struggle and despair I heard quite unmistakably in the pages of her diary. I was fascinated that she had found her way toward an audacity that could tease, even scold, someone like that tyrant she loved, even as she also seemed to give up her entire life because of him.

EB pix Germany and more 388

“Who knows which of her unnamed roles was really the more significant, in her time? The buffer she sometimes provided for others around him? The diffuser of tension she so often was, or the soother of circumstances that others undoubtedly came to rely on during the self-will-run-riot mania of a self-appointed despot?

“She seems such an emblem of what so many women do, have done, throughout the ages. Not able to enact their own potential in a direct and visible way, they must resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.”

In Eva Braun’s case, that invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

EB pix Germany and more 679Ironically, because she was considered so insignificant, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly protested to the contrary — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life.

One he never would have had without her.

A question that still lingers for me is, did she?

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War here:


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