Although Braun was 33 when she died, there is still something of the melodramatic, petulant teenage girl about her. She takes an overdose of sleeping pills when she fears Hitler's attentions are straying. She's jealous of the attention he pays his dog, and she sullenly kicks it when he's not around. She may rebel a little by smoking cigarettes, despite Hitler's disapproval, but she still willingly heels at his command, keeping their relationship a secret because he wants to maintain the illusion of being God-like and above such human needs as companionship or sex.
In fact, there is nothing at all interesting about Eva Braun except for the fact that she dated Hitler. The facts of her life are so mundane as to be interchangeable with any other woman of the era, except for that one twist. She longed for marriage ... with Hitler. She was so dreamily in love that she could not bear her family's criticisms of her boyfriend ... who happened to be Adolf Hitler. She dabbled in photography, mostly filming the men in her life ... Adolf Hitler and his top advisors. In the films she shot at Berghof, Hitler's Bavarian retreat, Hitler is shown meeting with dignitaries, conversing with his generals, staring out into the Bavarian landscape. Cut to Eva Braun, picking flowers with her girlfriend.
Looking at the same scanty collection of diary fragments, interviews, and letters, most historians see a nonentity -- while Görtemaker sees an intelligent, engaged woman who bears some responsibility for history, if only for not opening her mouth in protest. Görtemaker, who earned praise with her previous biography of post-World War II journalist Margret Boveri, is rigorous about discounting unsubstantiated anecdotes, but in other places she draws conclusions about Braun's personal political beliefs that don't have any rationale, making the assumption, for example, that because she never argued with Hitler she did not disagree with his actions in the war. Because of this, Görtemaker has met with some resistance from Germany's critics, even as they praise her scholarship. Die Welt called her analysis of the material "too speculative," and a disappointed Süddeutsche Zeitung admonished Görtemaker, "You can't write what you don't know."
And there is a lot that Görtemaker and the rest of us do not know. With so little to go on, Braun still appears to be more metaphor than flesh and blood. Her blankness is her defining characteristic. Braun can be, and was in Angela Lambert's problematic biography The Lost Life of Eva Braun, a stand-in for the unquestioning wives of the officers who carried out Hitler's orders -- even for the nation of Germany itself. Or, if you'd like to take it further, for the wives of politicians who stand by loyally as their husbands drag us into war, women who marry serial killers serving life sentences in prison, or every woman who defends the boyfriend who brutalizes her night after night. We don't understand these women, just as we still don't quite understand how that whole Nazi Germany thing happened, no matter how much we analyze the historical record. Görtemaker's book is just the latest failure in this attempt.