Achtung baby!

HITLER AND GELI by Ronald Hayman, Bloomsbury pounds 17.99

On 18 September 1931 a 23-year-old woman named Angela ("Geli") Raubal was found dead in a Munich apartment with a bullet wound in her heart; the inquest verdict was suicide. At first sight, just another chore for the homicide division of Bavaria's corrupt police force. But the woman was Hitler's half-niece (the daughter of a half-sister), and the leader of the Nazi party (and soon-to-be Reichsfuhrer) had been having an affair with her for four years. All historical evidence agrees that Hitler was devastated by Geli's death and contemplated suicide himself. By common consent Geli was the only woman he ever loved. So what had happened? Did Geli really kill herself and if so, why? Or had she been liquidated by Nazi paramilitaries?

Ronald Hayman's extraordinarily able reconstruction of this event focuses on two aspects of the case: Hitler's sexuality and the official suicide verdict. A mass of conflicting evidence has come down to us on Hitler as sexual being, but Hayman seems on firm ground in claiming that the Nazi leader was monorchid (he had only one testicle), that he was intermittently impotent and that his basic libidinal drive was sado-masochistic. Hayman has sifted the evidence with great care and made effective use of the key pieces of eyewitness data: Albert Speer's revelations to the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm and the testimony to Allied interrogators in 1943 by former "left-Nazi" Otto Strasser.

Hitler's relations with significant women were always shot through by motifs of suicide and death-drive. Eva Braun threatened suicide many times and finally accepted the pact of death in the bunker in 1945. The movie actress Renate Muller jumped from a window in 1937 to foil her SS executioners. The usual story is that she had taken a lover without Hitler's permission and in revenge he sent a hit-squad to deal with her. But the real reason is that she knew too much about the Fuhrer's sexual preferences; he liked Muller to beat him savagely while he masturbated.

Geli Raubal came into Hitler's life in 1927 when her mother took the post as housekeeper at her half-brother's house near Berchtesgaden. Two years later Hitler moved into a nine-room apartment in Munich with Geli. Among other sexual perversions, Hitler liked to lie beneath his naked mistress gazing into her genitalia until Geli performed the grand finale by urinating on him. Knowledge of Hitler's special tastes made Geli dangerous once the Nazis got close to real power in Germany, as they did in 1930, following the death of Gustave Stresemann and the world economic crisis triggered by the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

Hayman provides a convincing psychological study of Geli, a young woman of easy virtue in conventional terms but terrified of her uncle's dark side, which she had glimpsed in the boudoir. In the early years of their relationship Hitler connived at her infidelity with his chauffeur, Emil Maurice, and at her other affairs. Once Hitler moved her into the flat in Munich he controlled her more tightly. Why did he not marry her? Partly, as Hayman suggests, because he despised women and partly, as Jung pointed out, because a medicine-man type of thaumaturge (essentially what the Fuhrer was) can never marry. Geli appears to have been a dog in the manger. She had no real feeling for "Uncle Alf" but did not want any other woman to have her role on the manipulative inside track.

Hayman is at his very best in disentangling the tragedy of September 1931. It is true that Hitler was losing interest in Geli and that the Nazi party might have wanted her out of the way as a dangerous source of damaging scandal about their leader. Yet a hit-squad would hardly have assassinated her in Hitler's own flat. That leaves the official verdict of suicide, but Hayman proves conclusively that this was a lie hurriedly concocted by Hess and others, and abetted by corrupt doctors and officials. The most plausible interpretation is that Hitler and Geli had one of their frequent, volcanic rows, and that it got out of hand. The likely sequence of events is that she told him she was pregnant by another man, that he became angry and threatened to shoot them both with a pistol, that there was a brief struggle during which the gun went off, and that Geli fell mortally wounded. It was Hitler's habit to emerge suddenly from rages and become quite rational again. Hayman speculates, plausibly enough, that he thought better of his earlier threat to kill himself and instead instituted a cover-up.

This is a riveting short book, which occasionally reads like La Ronde written by a black humourist, especially when we read that Geli first went to bed with Maurice out of jealousy, because "Uncle Alf" was flirting with Winifred Wagner, the statuesque English wife of Wagner's homosexual son, Siegfried. Hayman does his best to make sense of the sometimes alarming inconsistencies in the evidence: we cannot even learn with certainty from a plethora of eyewitnesses what colour Geli's eyes were. Hayman can sometimes be a harsh critic of other historians - both Joachim Fest and Allan Bullock underestimated Geli's age by two years - and this precision would be more welcome if he did not himself fall into silly errors, such as describing Sulla as a Roman emperor. But nothing can disguise the fact that this is a first-rate piece of historical detective work.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam