CHAPTER 19

Matchmaker

Putzi Hanfstaengl knew of Martha’s various romantic relationships, but by the fall of 1933 he had begun to imagine for her a new partner.

Having come to feel that Hitler would be a much more reasonable leader if only he fell in love, Hanfstaengl appointed himself matchmaker. He knew this would not be easy. As one of Hitler’s closest associates, he recognized that the history of Hitler’s relationships with women was an odd one, marred by tragedy and persistent rumors of unsavory behavior. Hitler liked women, but more as stage decoration than as sources of intimacy and love. There had been talk of numerous liaisons, typically with women much younger than he—in one case a sixteen-year-old named Maria Reiter. One woman, Eva Braun, was twenty-three years his junior and had been an intermittent companion since 1929. So far, however, Hitler’s only all-consuming affair had been with his young niece, Geli Raubal. She was found shot to death in Hitler’s apartment, his revolver nearby. The most likely explanation was suicide, her means of escaping Hitler’s jealous and oppressive affection—his “clammy possessiveness,” as historian Ian Kershaw put it. Hanfstaengl suspected that Hitler once had been attracted to his own wife, Helena, but she assured him there was no cause for jealousy. “Believe me,” she said, “he’s an absolute neuter, not a man.”

Hanfstaengl telephoned Martha at home.

“Hitler needs a woman,” he said. “Hitler should have an American woman—a lovely woman could change the whole destiny of Europe.”

He got to the point: “Martha,” he said, “you are the woman!”

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