BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Adolf Hitler's companion Eva Braun has been treated as an inconsequential figure in the Third Reich by historians but the author of a new biography said on Friday she was anything but "a dumb blonde".
Heike Goertemaker said Braun, who was 17 when she met the Nazi ruler in Munich in 1929 and married him two days before their joint suicide, was not the meek and deferential woman often depicted in documentary films and books.
Goertemaker's book "Eva Braun: Life with Hitler" has sparked a new interest in Braun, who committed suicide at the age of 33 with Hitler in his bunker in April 1945.
German networks have aired documentaries taking a new look at Braun and a feature film based on the book is planned.
"People have always seen her as just the pleasant woman who fell in love with a monster, but she actually played an important role in Hitler's inner circle," said Goertemaker, 45.
"I can't say she influenced political decisions, but she was not a passive wallflower," she added. "She was no dumb blonde."
Goertemaker describes how Braun worked for Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's photographer, and how he trained her. During this period, Braun met the Nazi leader, then aged 40.
Hoffmann used Braun's relationship to get private snapshots of the dictator because the Austrian-born Hitler allowed her to take pictures and even make films of him.
"She sold her photos to Heinrich Hoffmann," Goertemaker told a group of foreign journalists in Berlin. "She created her own little business in the inner circle."
Goertemaker, who spent years working on the first academic biography of Braun, was asked if she had found any evidence that Hitler and Braun had any sort of sexual relationship because there have been doubts about that in films and books.
"That's always the big question," Goertemaker said. "Hitler left us no evidence."
In April 1945, as Soviet forces invaded Berlin, Hitler and Braun were married. Less than two days later, they committed suicide.
Goertemaker said Braun supported Hitler in his decision to kill himself, as evidenced by letters she wrote.
In a final letter to her sister, Braun asked her to save all the letters and other correspondence between her and Hitler so that people would know of their relationship.
"She wanted to live on in history," Goertemaker said. The Nazi control of the media meant that many Germans were unaware Braun existed until after the war, Goertemaker said.
A Berlin historian, Goertemaker said her work was part of a new body of research that shows women in the Third Reich were not only victims, as long believed, but also perpetrators.