Ilse Braun, the eldest of three daughters of Friedrich Braun (1879-1964) and Franziska Kronberger (1885-1976), was born in Simbach, Germany, in 1909. Her father was a master craftsman. Her sisters were Eva Braun and Gretl Braun.
In 1929 she went to work as a receptionist for Dr. Martin Levy Marx, a Jewish doctor. In 1932 her younger sister, Eva, began seeing Adolf Hitler. Ilse later wrote: "We Braun girls were not very communicative when it came to the details of our private lives. Even among ourselves, in the sanctum of our bedroom, we rarely spoke about our relations with men. There was a very strong barrier of puritanism, perhaps because of our convert education, perhaps because of the Victorian ideas of our parents. I knew that Eva sometimes went out with Hitler, but I knew nothing about the state of her feelings."
Eva was extremely jealous of Hitler's other girlfriends and in 1932 she also attempted suicide by shooting herself in the neck. Doctors managed to save her life, and after this incident Hitler seemed to become more attached to Eva. The problem returned and Hitler began seeing a great deal of Renate Müller, Unity Mitford and Stephanie von Hohenlohe. On her twenty-third birthday, Eva Braun again tried to kill herself. Ilse Braun suspected that her sister had to some extent staged this suicide. Eva had taken only twenty tablets of vanodorm, an amount that had little chance of killing her.
Hitler was shocked and turned up at her home asking for forgiveness. She recorded in her diary on 18th February, 1935, that he promised to buy her a house: "Dear God, please let them come true and let it happen in the near future... I am infinitely happy that he loves me so much and I pray that it may always remain so. I never want it to be my fault if one day he should cease to love me." However, in her diary on 28th May she complains: "Is this the mad love he promised me, when he doesn't send me a single comforting line in three months?"
Ilse Braun did not meet Adolf Hitler during this period. According to Heinz Linge, the reason for this was Ilse's Jewish employer: "Ilse Braun, her eldest sister, a very intelligent journalist, was friendly with a Jewish doctor and kept well away from the circle in which Eva found herself." After the passing of the Nuremberg Laws Ilse faced the possibility of being arrested and charged with "defiling the race".
Eva Braun suggested that Ilse went to work for Dr. Theodor Morell but she refused the offer. Nerin E. Gun, the author of Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress (1969), has pointed out: "Eva wrote to her sister proposing that she should work for the wonder doctor. Ilse had been obliged to leave Dr. Marx by this time, at his request. The Jewish doctor realised that the association of the sister of the Führer's mistress with a Jew could only cause trouble for the Brauns, while he himself ran the risk of being sent to a concentration camp, this being a convenient way of disposing of those whose discretion was not to be trusted. Ilse greatly regretted his decision that they should separate." After leaving Marx she went to work for Albert Speer.
In 1939 Ilse Braun meet Adolf Hitler for the first time: "Hitler came towards me, took my hand, and raised it to his lips. His eyes were sky-blue, intense in their gaze, striking but always fixed, immobile. I was slightly disappointed, for I had imagined a more imposing man, more like the portraits that were displayed everywhere. He was always gesticulating dramatically with his hand. I examined his hands. They were very white, sensitive like those of a musician, not very masculine, but attractive.... There was no dancing. Hitler detested and consequently banned this form of amusement."
After leaving Speer's department she went to work for the right-wing newspaper, Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. Ilse Braun married Dr. Fucke-Michaels in 1942. The couple moved to Breslau, where she was employed by the Schlesische Zeitung.
On 28th April, 1945, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun. That night Hitler tested out a cyanide pill on his pet Alsatian dog, Blondi. Braun agreed to commit suicide with him. She could have become rich by writing her memoirs but she preferred not to live without Hitler. The Soviet troops were now only 300 yards away from Hitler's underground bunker. On 30th April Hitler and Eva Braun went into a private room and took cyanide tablets. Hitler also shot himself in the head. The bodies were then cremated and his ashes were hidden in the Chancellery grounds. Albert Speer commented: "Eva's love for him, her loyalty, were absolute - as she proved unmistakably at the end."
Ilse Braun died of cancer in Munich in 1979.
"Wait for us in the library, I'm going to introduce you to the Führer," Eva said to me. Embarrassed by the shortness of my cyclamen-coloured lace evening dress, not knowing what to do with my hands, desperately longing for a cigarette, but under strict orders from Eva not to smoke, I stayed there kicking my heels...
Hitler was wearing tails in honour of the occasion. My sister had been at great pains to persuade him to dress with a minimum of good taste. "Look at Mussolini," she would say, "he has a new uniform. And you, with those postman's caps." She asked him to give up his eternal dark ties and his black shoes. She insisted that his valets should press his clothes every day. At the Obersalzberg, until the outbreak of war, Hitler nearly always wore civilian dress. Eva was constantly stantly chiding him because his hair was badly combed, the lock on his forehead did not meet with her approval, or he had cut himself while shaving. Hitler would reply "There is more blood shed as a result of razor-blade gashes than on the battlefields of all the wars ever waged."
Hitler came towards me, took my hand, and raised it to his lips. His eyes were sky-blue, intense in their gaze, striking but always fixed, immobile. I was slightly disappointed, for I had imagined a more imposing man, more like the portraits that were displayed everywhere. He was always gesticulating dramatically with his hand. I examined his hands. They were very white, sensitive like those of a musician, not very masculine, but attractive. He complimented me: "But the Braun sisters are all beauties." He apologised for the fact that the room he had put at my disposal was not of the best - "We have too many people here, there's a shortage of space" - and insisted that I must consider myself at home in his house. When he looked at me, beads of sweat formed between my breasts, and I did not even have the courage to say Danke schon (thank you), though I had promised myself to make a great speech.
The guests that evening, with a few exceptions, belonged to Hitler's favourite group and were about thirty in number. The only people known to the general public, apart from Hitler, were the Schmeling couple, the former world boxing champion and his wife, the Czech film star Anny Ondra. Otherwise the guests included Dr. Morell and Dr. Brandt with their ladies, the press chief Dietrich, his aide Lorenz, von Hasselbach, another of Hitler's doctors, the dentists Dr. Blaschke and Dr. Richter, Martin Bormann and his brother Albert.
There were other aides-de-camp - Bruckner, Schaub, von Puttkammer, Albrecht, Engel, von Below, Schmundt, the photographer Hoffmann, Gerda Bormann, and the wives of some of the other gentlemen, the secretaries Wolff, Schroeder, and Gerda Daranowsky, Eva's friends Marion Thiessen and Herta Ostermeyr, the managing director of the Daimler-Benz company, Werlin, and my sister Gretl.
I noticed an abundance of caviare on the table. Hitler was very partial to it. But the champagne was a German brand. The dishes bore the gilded initials AH, and so did the solid gold cutlery. I remember the fireworks show at the end of the meal. The quartermaster Willy Kannenberg had been specially imported from Berlin to organise the festivities. He revealed to me that the whole display had cost only 94.50 marks, which still seemed to me excessive, for there were only a few paltry rockets that staggered painfully up over the terrace. There was no dancing. Hitler detested and consequently banned this form of amusement (despite Eva's cajolery, he would not so much as dance a waltz with her when they were alone). Then Hitler went into the anteroom and took up his stand between two candelabra to receive the congratulations of the guests and then those of the staff. He took part in the lead-pouring ceremony, a Teutonic tradition dating from time immemorial. It consists in pouring some molten lead into a small basin of water and interpreting the future according to the shapes it assumes. Hitler did not seem satisfied with his results, for afterwards he sat down in an armchair, gazing dejectedly at the fire, and hardly spoke for the rest of the evening. Eva was extremely worried about him.
Another mountain tradition was a fusillade in honour of the guests, for which the reservists and guides of Berchtesgaden presented themselves armed with carbines and antique shotguns (Hitler had financed them with three hundred marks). On the Austrian side of the border, we could see the New Year torches and bonfires burning. Then, in the morning, the municipal band played Hitler's favourite marches and Franz Lehar melodies.
When Hitler and Eva had taken their leave, the atmosphere relaxed slightly, still more champagne and brandy were served, Kannenberg played the accordion (there was never a dance band even for New Year's Eve at the Obersalzberg), and I went down into the cellar, where a bowling alley had been set up. My sister was mad about the game, but Hitler, after trying once and missing every shot, refused to touch it again.
Ilse Braun, her eldest sister, a very intelligent journalist, was friendly with a Jewish doctor and kept well away from the circle in which Eva found herself. Gretl, the middle one, we saw often, especially after she married Hermann Fegelein, Himmler's SS liaison officer to the Fuhrer. Fegelein, a former horseman, advanced quickly as a result of this marriage. The highly decorated leader of a frontline SS cavalry division, he was quickly made SS-general and enjoyed a lot of grace and favour until shot by firing squad shortly before the capitulation. He felt very good and well protected in the circle around Hitler, to whom he was attracted as a moth to the light. With charm and presents he inveigled himself into everybody's good books and gave the impression of having a particular standing with Hitler which was not the case, for Hitler- a kind of technical brother-in-law - treated him formally and kept him emphatically at arm's length. As with everybody else Hitler called him by his surname while Fegelein would address Hitler as "Mein Fuhrer". He used the familiar pronoun when conversing with Eva Braun, of course, and she always called him "Hermann" which he considered a distinction. While he did not actually refer to it directly, he would attempt to imply that it was significant with regard to his relationship with Hitler. Scarcely anybody wanted anything to do with "the Fuhrer's brother-in-law", who came to regard his duties as a paid pastime and too often let it be known that he thought himself " too good for the job". He was not "too good" for the post he occupied; on the contrary he was not the man for it, and he had to thank his relationship by marriage to Eva Braun for his position and the prestige.
How Eva Braun's conservative parents, who were initially opposed to the liaison between Adolf Hitler and their daughter Eva, ever came to accept the SS son-in-law for daughter Gretl was something none of us ever worked out. I did know, however, that they eventually came to terms with Eva's decision to lead her own life and "fit in" with Hitler according to her own ideas.