The years 1930 and 1931 had been good for Hitler politically. The Nazis
were now the second largest political party in Germany. Hitler had become a best-selling
author, with Mein Kampf selling over 50,000 copies, bringing him a nice
income. The Nazi Party also had fancy new headquarters in Munich called the Brown
Money was flowing in from German industrialists who saw the Nazis as
the wave of the future. They invested in Hitler in the hope of getting
favors when he came to power. Their money was used to help pay the growing
numbers of salaried Nazis and fuel Goebbels' propaganda machine.
Ever-larger crowds for Hitler - the packed Sports Palace in Berlin during a Nazi campaign rally. Below: Newly elected Nazis give the Hitler salute while entering the Reichstag building to take their seats.
Below: Hitler surrounded by supporters inside the Brown House, Nazi headquarters in Munich.
The German General Staff was also investing support in Hitler, hoping
he meant what he said about tearing up the Treaty of Versailles which limited
their Army to 100,000 men and also prevented modernization. The generals
had been encouraged by Hitler's performance as a witness during the trial
of three young regular Army officers charged with spreading Nazi doctrines
in the German Army.
Hitler had used his appearance in the courtroom to send a message to the
General Staff that there would be no attempt to replace the regular Army
with an army of storm troopers and that once in power, the Nazis would
raise the German Army to new heights of greatness. This was exactly what
the generals wanted to hear.
It was however, the SA, his own storm troopers, that gave Hitler
problems. Many of the violence prone, socialist leaning SA members wanted
to become a new German revolutionary army. They also embarrassed Hitler
by wreaking havoc in the streets despite his order to lay low. Hitler had
to use his personal bodyguard, the SS, under its chief, Heinrich Himmler,
to put down a small SA revolt in Berlin led by Captain Walter Stennes.
Hitler installed former SA leader, Ernst Röhm, as the new leader
to reorganize and settle down the SA, now numbering over 60,000
members. The SA, however, and its leadership would remain a problem for
years for Hitler, culminating in a major crisis a few years down the road.
It was in his personal life, however, that Adolf Hitler was about to
face a crisis that would shake him to the core.
Back in the summer of 1928, Hitler had rented a small country house
at Berchtesgaden which had a magnificent view of the Bavarian mountains
and years later would be the site of his sprawling villa.
For Hitler, then aged 39, it was the first place he could truly call
home. He settled into the little country house and invited his step sister,
Angela, to leave Vienna and come to take over the daily household chores.
Angela arrived along with her two daughters, Friedl and Geli.
Geli was a lively 20-year-old with dark blond hair and Viennese charm,
qualities that were hugely appealing to a man nearly twice her age. Hitler
fell deeply in love with her. He fawned over her like a teenager in love for
the first time. He went shopping with her and patiently stood by as she tried
on clothes. He took her to theaters, cafés, concerts and even to Party
This relationship between Hitler and his niece was for the most part
socially acceptable according to local customs since she was the daughter
of his half sister.
Young Geli enjoyed the attention of this man who was becoming famous.
Strangers would come over and ask Hitler for a souvenir or an autograph
while they were sitting in a café. There were also the trappings
of power, SS body guards, a chauffeur, and obedient aides.
Geli had a tendency to flirt. Although she liked the attention of this older
man, she yearned for the company of young people. She had a number of romances,
including one with Hitler's chauffeur, who got fired as a result.
Though Hitler cast a jealous and disapproving eye on Geli's romances,
he was flirting himself with a fair-haired 17-year-old named Eva
Braun, who worked in the photography shop run by his personal photographer,
Hitler's jealousy and possessiveness of his niece made her life increasingly
claustrophobic, especially after she moved in with him to a fancy nine-room apartment in Munich. Everywhere she went, she had two Nazi chaperons
and had to be back home precisely at the time her uncle ordered. She couldn't
do anything without his permission. And each time she tried to get free
of her uncle's constraints, he tightened his grip.
Hitler's niece and love interest, Geli Raubal.
Hitler's stormy relationship with Geli worsened. There were many loud
In September of 1931, Hitler ordered her to stay at his apartment and
not go to Vienna while he was away. This made her furious. A huge argument
followed. She desperately wanted to go. Hitler said no.
As Hitler headed outside to his car to leave for an SA meeting, Geli
went to the window and yelled down to him asking one more time if she could
go. Hitler yelled back a stern "No!"
He departed with an uneasy feeling about the whole situation.
The next morning, on the way to Hamburg, Hitler's car was flagged down
by a taxi. Rudolf Hess was on the telephone line back at the hotel Hitler had just
left and wanted to speak to him immediately.
When Hitler picked up the phone there, he was told his niece had shot
herself. In a frenzy, Hitler rushed back to Munich. But by the time he
got back to his apartment, Geli's body had been already removed. She had
shot herself through the heart with a pistol.
The love of his life was gone, and under horrible circumstances. To
make matters worse, there were rumors in the press she might have been
murdered, perhaps even on Hitler's orders. Hitler became deeply depressed
and spent days pacing back and forth without stopping to eat or sleep.
Hermann Göring would later say Adolf Hitler was never the same after
the suicide of his beloved niece. Hitler later said Geli was the only woman
he ever loved. He always kept portraits of her hung on the wall, decorated
with flowers on the anniversaries of her birth and death. Whenever he spoke
of her, it was often with teary-eyed reverence.
Curiously, shortly after her death, Hitler looked with disdain on a
piece of ham being served during breakfast and refused to eat it, saying
it was like eating a corpse. From that moment on, he refused to eat meat.