Margarete Berta "Gretl" Braun (31 August 1915 – 10 October 1987) was one of the two sisters of Eva Braun. She was a member of the inner social circle of Adolf Hitler at the Berghof. Braun married SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein, a liaison officer on Hitler's staff, on 3 June 1944. Fegelein was shot for desertion in the closing days of World War II. Gretl became the sister-in-law of the Nazi dictator following his marriage to Eva, less than 40 hours before the couple committed suicide together.
Braun was the youngest of three daughters of school teacher Friedrich "Fritz" Braun and seamstress Franziska "Fanny" Kronberger. After dropping out of secondary school in Medingen at the age of sixteen, she worked as a clerk for the photography company of Heinrich Hoffmann, the official photographer for the Nazi Party, who also employed her sister Eva. Hitler provided the sisters with a three-bedroom apartment in Munich in August 1935, and the next year with a villa in Bogenhausen. Their father was not pleased with this arrangement and wrote to protest about it. The sisters were keen photographers; in 1943 Gretl attended the Bavarian State School of Photography.
With Eva at the Berghof
Braun spent much time with Eva at Hitler's Berghof in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps, where she enlivened the formal atmosphere by having fun, smoking, and flirting with the orderlies. According to Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, Hitler explained to her at length why he detested smoking, but she would not give up the habit. Gretl fell for Hitler's SS adjutant Fritz Darges, but he was suddenly dismissed by Hitler and posted to command a unit on the Eastern Front following an insubordinate comment at a meeting in 1944.
On 3 June 1944 she married SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein, who served as Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's liaison officer on Hitler's staff. Their wedding took place at the Mirabell Palace in Salzburg with Hitler, Himmler, and Martin Bormann as witnesses. Her sister Eva made all the wedding arrangements. A wedding reception at the Berghof and party at the Eagle's Nest at Obersalzberg lasted three days. The marriage provided Hitler with a formal link to Eva and a reason to include her at public functions. Fegelein was a known playboy and had many extramarital affairs.
Downfall of the Third Reich
Three days after Gretl's wedding, the Normandy Landings took place. The social scene at the Berghof effectively ended on 14 July 1944 when Hitler left for his military headquarters, never to return. On 19 January 1945 Gretl and Eva arrived at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, but they left for Berchtesgaden on 9 February. Eva later returned alone. On 23 April she wrote her last letter to Gretl and included a request for her to destroy all her business papers, but to retain the personal correspondence or bury it. None of these documents have been found.
Gretl was pregnant and still at the Berghof when her husband was arrested for desertion on 28 April 1945 in an apartment in Berlin, having gone missing from the Führerbunker. Initially, out of consideration for Eva, Hitler considered ordering Fegelein assigned to the defence of Berlin. However, after learning of Himmler's offer to surrender to the western Allies, Hitler ordered Himmler arrested and Fegelein shot. Hitler married Eva Braun in the early morning hours of 29 April. On the afternoon of 30 April 1945 the couple committed suicide. On 5 May 1945 at Obersalzberg, Gretl gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Eva Barbara in memory of her sister. Eva Barbara committed suicide in 1971, after her boyfriend was killed in a car accident.
Gretl Braun married Kurt Berlinghoff on 6 February 1954 in Munich. She died on 10 October 1987 in Steingaden, Bavaria, aged 72.