Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's long-term lover who married the Nazi leader hours before their joint suicide in his Berlin bunker, may have had Jewish ancestry, ground-breaking DNA testing has found.
DNA analysis of hair samples from a hairbrush claimed to belong to Braun suggests that the fascist dictator responsible for the murder of millions of Jews may have unwittingly married a woman of semitic descent, in one of his final acts as the Third Reich crumbled.
The revelation appears in a Channel 4 documentary, Dead Famous DNA, in which leading scientists attempt to extract DNA from relics and analyse their genome to solve mysteries associated with them.
Forensic scientists sequenced the hypervariable region of the mitochondrial DNA from a sample of hairs extracted from a monogrammed hairbrush found at the end of the Second World War in Braun's apartment at Hitler's Alpine residence, the Berghof in Bavaria, by an American army intelligence officer.
They found a specific sequence within the mitochondrial DNA, a small genome within the mitochondria of the cell that is passed down the maternal line from mother to daughter unchanged over the generations, belonging to haplogroup N1b1, which is associated with Ashkenazi Jews.
A haplogroup is a particular sequence of mitochondrial DNA which is passed down the maternal line and according to traditional Jewish law, Judaism is passed down through matrilineal descent.
Photography assistant Braun fell madly in love with Hitler at just 17-years-old, although he was twenty-three years her senior. Hitler ordered his private secretary Martin Bormann to investigate Braun's family, who sent Eva to a Catholic school, to ensure that they were "Aryan" and that she had no Jewish ancestors. After being assured there were none, the courtship advanced.
But Hitler, fearful that the relationship would harm his public image, refused to marry Eva and kept her a state secret, hidden away at his mountain-top residence, the Berghof.
Channel 4 used hair initially recovered in the summer of 1945 by Paul Baer, a US 7th Army captain, who was posted to the Berghof and took personal items, including the hairbrush, from Braun's private apartment. There are photographs of Baer at the Berghof in 1945 and the hairbrush has been authenticated by experts.
Baer's son sold Braun's hairbrush to a relic dealer who separated the hair and sold it on to hair dealer John Reznikoff. Dead Famous DNA presenter Mark Evans bought eight strands of the hair from Reznikoff for $2,000. The hair was then sent to an international team of forensic scientists for analysis.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: "In the nineteenth century, many Ashkenazi Jews in Germany converted to Catholicism, so Eva Braun is highly unlikely to have known her ancestry and - despite research he instigated into Braun's race - neither would Hitler."
Whilst the results will provide a talking point, they are not definitive. To prove that the hair came from Eva Braun's head, Mr Evans attempted to get a DNA swab from one of Braun's two surviving female descendants, but both refused.
An attempt by the producers to procure Hitler's hair ended in embarrassment when it emerged that clippings sold by controversial historian David Irving to Channel 4 for £3,000 turned out to be fake.
Mr Evans said: "This is a thought-provoking outcome - I never dreamt that I would find such a potentially extraordinary and profound result. Racism & Fascism - ideas that one racial group is superior to another - made a mockery of by studying dead famous DNA."
Hitler and Braun became lovers in 1932 when Eva was 20, although Hitler insisted that they never show the slightest affection in public. They were married in a small civil ceremony within the Führerbunker in the early hours of April 29, 1945, witnessed by Bormann and Joseph Goebbels.
The following day, as the Soviet Army advanced upon Berlin, Eva, 32, bit into a cyanide capsule. Hitler took poison and shot himself in the temple. Afterwards, the two bodies were laid side by side, doused with petrol and burnt.
- The Independent