The puff piece and its perils

Posted: April 06, 2012

"In yet another twist in the escalating Marie Antoinette-ifying of Syria's first lady, Vogue magazine has removed from its Web site last year's highly flattering - and controversial - profile that hailed Asma as a conspicuously under-accessorized modern woman. ... The fawning 2011 Vogue purple-prose-and-photo spread ... coincided with the Syrian government's crackdown on anti-regime protesters."

- Annie Groer, Washingtonpost.com

By Thomas Vinciguerra

It is a few minutes past noon, and Eva Braun is scrambling around her gleaming Alpine kitchen, apologizing for not having lunch on the table.

"I'm so sorry," says the clean-limbed embodiment of Aryan womanhood, straining liver dumplings into a rustic, Bavarian-style tureen. "We had such a late night. Hermann and Heinrich just wouldn't leave!"

Domestic tranquillity can be a challenge when you're the consort of Europe's most famous dictator. But Ms. Braun, who gave up a high-powered career as a photographer's model and assistant for her man, has no regrets.

"I just adore Adolf," she says, her golden hair shining like a nimbus in the early-afternoon Berchtesgaden sunlight. "I like to tease him about his mustache. Yet no matter how many times I make fun of him, he tells me, 'Liebchen, you are the schlag in my schokolade.'"

Spend even a few minutes with Ms. Braun, and you find yourself wondering, How does she do it? Here she is casually pouring the peppermint tea and slicing up the stollen. But she isn't your average rosy-cheeked hausfrau. The burden of her prospective front-row seat for the destruction of Western civilization weighs on her constantly.

"I guess I do see myself as Adolf's partner in world domination," she says, drawing her smiling, peaches-and-cream visage into an ever-so-pensive study in introspection. "He has so many countries under his heel, and so many yet to conquer. He needs someone to unburden himself to. It's not always easy."

She looks at her guest conspiratorially. "Would you mind if I smoke? Adolf's not around, and he just hates it when I light up in front of him."

In a flash, her pursed lips, elegantly daubed in a pale gloss - keep things modest, Der Führer insists - are puffing Gauloises.

"They're French," she titters. "I wonder what Adolf would think about that!"

Truth be told, Eva is not all that interested in international affairs. Get her started on fashion, though, and she takes on all the animation and force of a blitzkrieg.

"I worship Hugo Boss," she says, her lilt echoing the thrushes outside the chalet-style Eagle's Nest. "I mean, look at what they did for the SS - those smart black jackets and jodhpurs, those shiny jackboots, those adorable totenkopf insignias! They're so much nicer than those grubby brown storm-trooper uniforms."

Right now, she's dressed for relaxing in the mountains: a rakish Tyrolean hat, dark-green lederhosen, and heavy stockings pulled up over her gazelle-like calves, at which Herr Hitler's German shepherd, Blondi, is busily nipping. "Oh, you rascal!" she says, tossing her a dumpling.

It's a full, rich life, to be sure. And yet you have to ask: Will Adolf ever pop the question? Eva has practically been waiting since the Night of the Long Knives for a diamond; some of her friends are even quietly suggesting that she give her man a deadline. But she's in no rush.

"Oh, please," she says, pouring another cup of tea and throwing her head back with an exasperated laugh. "Adolf has a war to fight. He doesn't have time for such nonsense!"

Thomas Vinciguerra is the editor of "Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker." This article was suggested by Raymond Vasvari.

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