“Mueller lights a fuse for a new generation of debate on old settled questions.” -Barney Rosset

THE BUNKER IS PART OF MY BEING. Out of love for him, I greedily seize this underground as mine. Through all its systems of vitality and power, the Bunker is a pulse, a throbbing that I know is His heart.

When I saw my first rat, I didn’t scream. Adi warned me there would be rats. It’s normal for them to hunker in with us. But I thought I’d only see one at night. This was early morning and it was brown, though I expected black. Chewing through the concrete with tiny hard incisors, its skeleton conveniently collapsed so it could worm inside a two-inch hole. I was fascinated and determined not to be afraid like Magda and the children who yell and have Papa Josef and his orderly run all over shooting at the beasts. No, I don’t scream for help. I observe them. That first time, I waited. The rat stood in front of its hole, his head angled to one side as if casually looking at me. He was after food, and I made certain from the very beginning that I would never have a crumb in my room. Eliminating food is the only way to control them. Because of the Goebbels’ children, we’re reluctant to put down poison traps. So this brown demon went back and forth in front of his hole, pacing. Another one came out and paced with him. Then a third. Goebbels’ war films have rats running across the screen for several minutes, then the rats gradually turn into Jews. But looking closely at these creatures, I could only find the sinister eyes of Bormann as he goes topside to find abandoned furniture and jewelry for his wife, Gerda.

Goebbels tried to lessen his children’s fear of rats by taping a dead one stained with its own blood in a picture book. But that didn’t stop their screaming, and the “rat book” was thrown away.
Rommel told Adi about desert rats, huge creatures that banged their tails on the sand to attract the female.

Often the bomb shuddering walls keep the vermin in their hole though Adi tells me rats can mate up to 20 times a day. I try not to think of rodents enjoying themselves and making thousands of awful babies.

I have learned to live with secretive rats. Most of the time, they’re no bother. Their chewing at night is not as bad as the screech-bombs above with their high piercing scream. My concern now is to make my home as pretty as possible.

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 I must set down every moment I’ve been with him. I once read that to destroy a man you have to destroy his past. I won’t let that happen to Adi. I will record everything, writing without vanity…only the truth and from my own experience. Because I can’t keep it in. I’ll mark him with sentences that are without prejudice and guile. Here in this memoir, my Adi will always be loved and never forgotten.

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 April 1945—The Führerbunker. The first time we were intimate, I knew it would be different. You have to expect that with a genius. But my sister, Gretl, says there’s just so many ways the “manhood” can be used—even with a genius. My sister is wrong.

Dr. Morell, blond and wearing a long white coat reaching down to his highly polished boots, positioned me in great modesty with sheets draped around my thighs and stomach so that only my pubes were visible. Pursing his very thin lips and clicking his iron-studded heels together, he inserted the exercise-bar in my womb without even removing the silver Goethe ring on his right hand. I didn’t startle as the thoughtful doctor had heated the bar beforehand in hot towels. I was told to clench…release. Clench…release. Already I was longing, with the flexible metal inside me, longing for the man who is the steel and chrome of Germany itself.

Dr. Morell calls the device he invented V-Volk. Vaginal Volk. It’s a yielding little rod for developing muscles to make me a superior German woman internally. There’s no question, the doctor tells me, that I’m superior on the outside. “You’re the daughter I never had,” he says as he pats my thigh. (It was nearly a year before I knew he already had a daughter.)

My loving Führer is masterful. I lie flat on the bed, knees bent, my lower body tilting upwards. Lubricating the 7-inch Krupp steel V-V with warm butter, he inserts it slowly and gently. I clench my pelvis muscles around it as Dr. Morell taught me to do. My sweet Führer chants: “Pull. It creates resistance. Pull. Work your muscles. Work.” He places an egg timer on top of the headboard. The V-Volk slips…slides ever so slightly. I’m in training. He breathes heavily. Not like a common man. No. His heavy breathing is lyrical for my beloved’s body is so finely tuned that his enormous capillaries must gather around his blood cells one at a time—careful to be unique even there.

Lying stiffly next to me, he talks about the perfect copulation he saw on the battlefield. Two seriously wounded men lay one on top of the other (he pulls me over him). The bottom man was a German soldier, the top one a French soldier. Both men were in great pain, their blood dripping to the ground. There were cries of agony, the German calling to the Frenchman on top, the Frenchman to the German on the bottom. Back and forth, (we rock), death rattling calls of utmost tenderness—enemy to enemy. Pain gripped each soldier with equal force. They were embraced in misery. (Suddenly, my lover’s voice now becomes high pitched and excited, his glorious part swelling). The German on the bottom began to slowly shift his arm toward something. His sleeve was drenched in sparkling red blood as he moved his arm inch by inch. The German finally stretched his fingers to reach a hand grenade to pull the pin—to end the pain for himself and his suffering enemy on top. Both exploded in shiny dark plugs of dust, varnishing in the air (as my love snakes his hand inside me and is soon released).

“My precious little grenade,” he moans.

For nearly an hour, we lie still, silent, thinking only of this love story, letting the memory of those two soldiers rub against our senses until I caress the frill of skin around his manhood and he shoves against the metal of the V-Volk, the tip of his hot full member ramming the Volk inside me. The phonograph plays and he adjusts his peak to Wagner’s climax. Even though his gift doesn’t touch me, I still feel a glorious blend of man, steel and music—a triumphant ménage a trois—as he explodes, dripping down my thighs like goat cheese brie, ripe and silty. Then he wipes his “genius” with a clean handkerchief he keeps by his bedside and later burns in a metal tray as there is the danger someone will use his specimen to create another Führer.

“You always make my badge live again,” he rumbles sweetly.

“No badge is less dead than yours. I love you,” I say softly.

“What would you like me to give you?”

“Three words: I…love…you.”

“Evchen, I’m wedded to Germany. You know that.”

“Is there no love left for me?”

“My little grenade, you are very special. Now, what can I give you?”

“A pink flamingo.”

“I’ll have one sent to the Berlin Zoo.”

“I want one on a scarf.”

“Done!” Instead of an SS salute with outstretched hand, he gives me a tender military salute from his forehead to mine that’s as soft and caressing as a love pat.

I’m not physically satisfied after these love sessions. It’s enough to see his neck relax and his shoulders go limp. Afterward, he slowly puts on his Schnurrbartbinde—the little bandage he wears at night to keep his mustache flat and straight. I can’t sleep because of passion cramps, but I’d never let him know he’s caused me pain.

After all these years we’ve been together, there are still only V-Volk nights. Even here in the Bunker. Though he doesn’t permit himself the full measure, the desire to do so is a great comfort to me. But I’m waiting patiently for that time soon when I’ll finally have all of Him.

When we first met, I was young and naïve and had no idea how important he was. He was introduced to me as Herr Wolf, an alias used during his early years. I knew he was considered up and coming in the government, but so were a lot of men who asked me out when I was working at Herr Hoffmann’s photo shop at 42 Wiedenmeyerstrasse in Munich. Herr Wolf would stop by now and then to buy film and look at the new cameras. Many books were behind glass along the store’s back wall and that’s where he told me most books belong—behind glass. I said that when I was bored and there were no customers, I would read the titles of the many volumes out loud to pass the time. I couldn’t know then that he was an author himself as he didn’t look like a man who ever hunched over stacks of papers but was someone with a certain upright vitality.

He would often talk to Albrecht, the parakeet in a cage by the door. When I asked him why he didn’t take a picture of Albrecht, he said: “Why photograph what is already alive.”

“Does that mean you would never photograph a woman…..such as me, Herr Wolf?”

He smiled and said cryptically: “Perhaps if you were a building.”

“That sounds very Art Deco,” I offered, proud to be able to spar with him. I took one of the empty boxes from behind the counter. One slat was gone from the side giving the appearance—if one had an imagination—of an open window. I pushed my head against the opening like a human frame and waved at him. “Now will you photograph me?”

He answered with a quizzing stare, his mustache slightly twitching upward, a mustache so perfectly even that one side was exactly the same thickness as the other side. But I could tell he was amused.

Just then Hoffmann arrived and quickly grabbed a camera to take a delightful picture. But Herr Wolf roughly snatched the camera from Hoffmann, yanked away the box that still covered my head and shouted: “I don’t allow impromptu shots.” Later, as the Führer, when he was continually photographed, he would carefully stage each and every pose and forbid any picture when he wore his reading glasses. “A photograph is a reflection with a past,” he announced preferring the colored postcards of himself painted by the famous W. Willrich.

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 Though his pale blue eyes were fetching, I didn’t find Herr Wolf particularly mysterious or superhuman. He seemed very ordinary except for an Austrian charm in regards to our parakeet bringing his rain cape to hang around the sides of the cage so that Albrecht wouldn’t get chilled. Telling Herr Hoffmann never to buy Albrecht a wife, he explained that a parakeet would ignore people and concentrate on his mate.

We had a fish bowl on the counter and when one of them gave birth, I delivered the baby to Hoffmann’s eight-year-old niece, Hertha, for her birthday. When Herr Wolf found out, he was angry saying it was wrong to separate a mother from her child. I had to put the baby fish back in the bowl, and poor Hertha went without a gift.

Herr Wolf would often talk to Hoffmann about Arnold Fanck who experimented with lenses, camera speeds, and film stocks. They considered him a great artist who used high-contrast images and backlighting and even went so far as to put cameras to his skis for daring downhill-racer shots. But I thought Fanck was rather silly as his pictures didn’t look normal.

For many days Herr Wolf deliberated over buying either a Minox or the new Leica II. Hoffmann talked endlessly about the importance of the Leica’s trigger operated shutter, flat range finder top, and lens with click locking apertures. One Saturday, Herr Wolf finally bought the Leica II realizing, he said, that a superior camera would free him from any prison-hours of idleness. Afterward he walked directly over to me as I was changing Albrecht’s water and said earnestly in his soft Austrian accent: “Do you enjoy watching elegant and important people?” At first I was a little annoyed because I did get to see certain famous persons who came by the shop to talk with Herr Hoffmann who himself is prominent and happens to be an outstanding photographer. And I had often attended quaint parties in Schwabing, Munich’s Latin Quarter. I like to be where the songs are sung. I didn’t consider myself a stupid country girl, even back then. But my mother always told me: “One can eat with a knife and fork and still lack gentlemanly common sense.”

Herr Wolf invited me to an event where we could see the best and finest of Munich. I knew Hoffmann regarded him highly, and I thought it might be good for business. Also, the banker I was seeing was in Hamburg visiting his sister. I hesitated but finally said “yes.” Running outside to catch a bus, Herr Wolf paused by our display window to write my name backwards in the moisture. Later, when the shop closed, he came by for me looking very ordinary in an unbelted trench coat, a black velour hat, his mustache neatly clipped. He said my name softly, his tongue sucking the sound.

On a rack in back of the shop was a maroon silk party dress with a pleated skirt, puff sleeves and a small peplum around the hips for emergencies such as this. I thought the dress might smell of printing chemicals, so I wore a fresh flower pinned at the neckline. The shop had peony bouquets on the counter. I could take a peony whenever I wanted. When I came out to meet Herr Wolf, he leaned over to smell the flower on my bodice. Having once been a painter, he was instantly drawn to the skin of a petal. Then he complimented me on the pleats in my dress saying he loves repetition in good cloth as such folds are an important part of sculptures and frescoes.

We went in a taxi speeding down Maximilianstrasse and turned off to the Don Carlos Music Café: leather chairs, dark bread soup, turnip stew, hominy pudding so rich and thick that the sauce stuck to my teeth. As we ate, I noticed him gesturing to someone behind me, lifting his head and angling it to one side in silent communication. Once he actually stood and gave a celebratory wave to whoever it was behind me. Curious and believing I would discover one of his friends, I turned around only to find a large oval mirror.

“Catching sight of a loyal friend?” I asked him coyly.

“Loyal, to be sure,” he answered followed by a careful little laugh. But he was not embarrassed, and that impressed me.

When dessert came, creamy walnut cake with pistachio ice cream, he took off his jacket and hung it over the chair, and there were delicate stains on his chest, like marks women have on their blouse when nursing. That’s when I first knew he was special. Perfume came from his nipples. (In the Bunker, it’s a great benefit for it helps us with all the acid dampness of our underworld.)
Before leaving the restaurant, he left a wildly generous tip.

“You’re going to make this place impossible for me to return to in the future,” I offered, smiling.

“So you must always come with me.”

Then he left a tip for a waiter who hadn’t even served us saying he could see pain in that waiter’s stooped shoulders.

I miss those leisurely times. When he’s busy with his generals and I ache for him, I wish he were still just an artist with only colors to capture. His tints and hues are captives, after all. If I tell him that, he scowls and says: “Pasteur could have held his own among painters. Are you sorry he chose a scientific career? Frederick the Great played the flute. Should he have been a musician?”

“Perhaps their wives would have wished it,” I say.

He hesitates for a brief moment, then goes on to talk as if he had not heard me. “Now El Greco should have painted houses. His faces are dumb and who wants to talk to them.”

“I’ve never seen any Greco. But I admire poor Monet who went blind and had to memorize where he put the colors on his palette.” I’m grateful to Sister Angelus in my convent school who had cataracts and spoke frequently about the painter.

He suddenly closes his eyes, in respect and sadness, remembering that time in the Great War when he temporarily lost his sight. Patting my hand, he thanks me for my sensitivity.

But I’m happy that our Führer tells painters in Germany not to use any tint that can’t be seen in nature by the naked eye and not to paint or draw repellent or revolting images. He ordered the Gestapo to conduct raids on artists to examine their brushes for forbidden colors.

But getting back to our first outing…we walked up the steps to this new hospital on Ludendorffstrasse. He stopped and squinted when he saw a lone biscuit wrapper on the stairs, picking it up and placing it firmly in a nearby trash container. Soon we stood in front of ugly steel doors with a thick red ribbon stretched across them. Funny little stick figures (that I later knew as swastikas) were stitched on a banner quivering in the breeze. People were packed together waiting, I didn’t know for what. We were ushered to a row of wooden chairs. Looking around, I didn’t see any cinema stars but just some shabbily dressed politicians and a few doctors and nurses in ugly unstarched uniforms. I was annoyed that I had come and ruined a good evening. More and more people arrived, and large six-wheeled black Mercedes with red leather upholstery screeched up, but there were no film stars that I could see, and I was getting more and more bored when suddenly…he just left me—all alone, sitting there! Left my side without a word! Had he run out on me? The next thing I knew, he was up front receiving a bouquet from a little girl, cupping the child’s face in his hands, smiling, then cutting the thick strip of red satin ribbon to officially open the new hospital. Doves were released in the air, and an orchestra that came out of nowhere played Wagner’s “March of Homage.”

Little did I know that on the very street of this hospital, he had once shoveled snow for a few pfennigs when he was poor and a struggling artist. More amazing, one day those swastikas I didn’t even know the name of would fly over the Ritz in Paris.

After the opening of the hospital, he didn’t come by the shop or call me in over two weeks. I wondered if I had only been a last minute replacement as he had invited me just hours before the event and didn’t even so much as pat my cheek when the evening was over. Then…he suddenly appeared carrying a box of film for Herr Hoffmann to arrange in an elaborate political montage. Hoffmann gave him a warm “Sieg Heil,” something new to me. (I didn’t know that Hoffmann joined his party early with the number 59.)

“Think of it,” Hoffmann told me, “He’s an Austrian, a born politician who only recently became a German citizen. And he’s going to make Germany great. We need a genius of action—Taterperson, this shaker. Tater.”

As he used the store phone, I overheard Herr Wolf’s conversations in which he made arrangements for speaking engagements at various cities. Afterward, he casually asked me to lunch. I accepted eagerly remembering all the doves and music of our first extravagant encounter. But this time, we only walked across the black asphalt street, dodging the traffic as he told me that most of his friends dreamed of owning their own Leica, but his dream was to be the camera itself.  We sat on the steps of an office building. He carried a bottle of tepid tomato soup in a brown paper bag, and we took turns drinking from it. Eating too much at lunch was bad for one’s productivity, he explained. Most of his party members wanted heaping plates of meat, something hard for him to witness. I took numerous sips, and he drank the last of it and finished by running his tongue slowly around the upturned rim so that I saw the jar’s murky bottom. He used to drink soup from the same bowl with his mother, he said.

Soon we were sharing a jar of soup two or three times a week with Hoffmann warning me pleasantly that Herr Wolf carried a “single bed” in his heart.

Herr Wolf instructed me to poke him from time to time as we sipped the broth so that even this liquid nourishment would not be automatic and escape his concentration. This made me realize that a man can communicate something before it’s understood. And I enjoyed tickling him from time to time, watching him laugh softly against his will. As the jars of soup became larger, I realized he wanted the lunches to last longer. We would sit on the same office step for two hours. Of interest to him was what it was like for me being a young working girl, and I told him how dandelions make a good salad for lunch when you’re short of money and how I toasted bread on an upturned electric iron in back of the shop. Soon he continued on about unemployment, the shame of Germany’s poor standing in the world, his hatred of the Communist Party. He recited the Versailles Treaty by heart, grimacing over certain words, his mustache twitching after sentences. Then he’d snarl: “Clemenceau…forbidding our soldiers between the French border and a fifty kilometer line east of the Rhine! What infamy at the Hotel Majestic in Paris—that heinous delegation called the Versailles Peace Conference.” He was continually upset about the ignominy of the Fatherland in that awful War Guilt Clause which erased the former wonders of the German army and reduced it to a mere 100,000 men. (Later, I’m glad to say, he introduced compulsory military service and further flouted the Treaty by announcing on the radio that he planned to raise troop strength to 550,000.)

He encouraged me to read The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl, a book that detailed the Zionist ideal, for he was absorbed by the political Jewish problem with its territorial solution. Herzl wanted Uganda as a possible Jewish homeland, but Herr Wolf felt the use of too many German ships to get them there was not a good idea. I admitted that I personally knew only one Jew who was my mother’s cook, and she was rather dull though dutiful.

There were stories of his being a young man and feeling restless and eagerly welcoming Stahlgewitter, the thunder of the Great War. Even Thomas Mann, he said, desired a steely conflict when he wrote: “This world of peace which has now collapsed with such shattering thunder—did we not all of us have enough of it? Was it not foul with all its comfort?”

Herr Wolf said a single fear was that he would reach the front too late. This fear gave him no rest, and he eventually wrote about it in Mein Kampf. I was lucky enough to hear it from his own lips.
Later he showed me his paintings of blood-drenched poppies from the Great War.

I was honored that he used army terms when speaking to me such as “pill boxes” which were not those little pearl cases on my dresser. I would become familiar with such language. Trusting me with personal sentiments wasted on party members with jowls full of beef, he spoke of his mother, the warm home she made for him, how he would cry as a child when they entered their house because then he couldn’t see it from the outside. Before he said his first word, he drew it, a round outline of his mother’s face. The sketch called out “mutti” as loud as any word. Thereafter, he was continually horrified when anyone showed less than reverence for maternal love.

If one of his associates walked by and I was near him, he would stand, clicking his heels, shake hands with the official and then turn and shake mine. I knew I wasn’t to be part of his political life, but I didn’t care because he told me his real name was Herr Hitler. Bending nearly double, his lips would brush my palm in the old Viennese manner that embarrassed me as I didn’t even know if he was spelled with two tees or one. But he wanted me to call him Adi, the name he went by with all his closest friends. Then he pulled out a membership application form that I eagerly signed.

When the political montage was completed, he traveled around the country but promised to see me as soon as he returned saying we would go to the lake as I had told him I loved swimming. He sent me a phonograph record from Berlin. I listened to one of his speeches made on a brittle disk, expounding to his comrades about the beauty of a sparse jar of soup for lunch. I smiled in complicity as I played the record over and over until his voice grew weaker and weaker and slowly disappeared.

I began reading in the paper all about him. Nietsche’s sister said Adi was a religious rather than a political leader. Somebody named Joachim Fest was taken in by his “obscene, copulatory character at mass meetings.” (I was upset by this, but Hoffmann said it was a compliment.) Von Hindenburg called him a “bohemian corporal.” I thought “bohemian” was romantic.

Returning from his journey of speeches, Adi took me to Grosser Wannsee and was happy to find I was strong and muscular in the water. Too many women, he felt, were flabby and pale like the underside of a sea urchin. Explaining that I use to model swimsuits, it was annoying to me that men noticed the style and material of the suit without realizing that the firmness beneath made the swimsuit attractive. But he knew. And we went to the lake often, and he even admired my purple lips so cold from the water. After several months, now yearning for him, I picked a deserted area and decided to swim in the nude.

“I need no equipment but my skin.” I stood proudly before him naked. “A suit creates drag in the water.”

“But you wear a cap.” He smiled. His teeth were better back then, less stress.

“My hair is not cooperative.”

“You mean your hair on top?” He wasn’t looking at my head. As I stood before him, I found it strange that he had no shadow, but I came to realize he allowed nothing to escape his body without permission.

“I do wear mittens,” I explained, “to make fists for good strong strokes, so I don’t over muscle the water.” Forcing myself to do physical things excited him.

His hand strayed between my legs, and he wondered what the ligaments of my clitoris were like—how firm they must be. Such ideal German ligaments deserved a strong man.

“I can’t do any freestyle with your hand there,” I teased.

“Then water-thrash.”

“You’ll have to take off your clothes, too,” I urged. The summer air lay heavily upon my shoulders. It would be months before I realized he took his clothes off for no one, not even his doctor.

On the collar of his tunic were the Iron Cross and the black ribbon of the wounded. Slung across gnarly branches on a tree above us was the Leica II camera that started it all.

“I like to dry swim. Fully dressed. Come now, create fluid motion for me. I’ve had enough today of the robotic action of politicians, my little Evchen.”

Taking his hand from my vee, he lay on the ground, face down and struck a perfect horizontal posture, his nose slightly slanted as he breathed to the side. Then he flutter kicked—small, fast and supple. Most beginners kick too big.

“I was gassed in the Kaiser’s War.” This he said without the slightest hint of pity. “I let air gently fall into my seared lungs when inhaling. I exhale through my mouth.”

“You’re so right,” I answered happily. “Weak swimmers tend to breathe only through their nose.” Cupping the waves, he sucked on water from the deep darkness that most people fear.

I got on the grass next to him, and he moved me expertly onto his back as we both kept our bodies long, narrow and straight—he face down, me on the top. His tusk stiffened into the sand, and then I felt a slight arch.

“My pretty Evchen, we drink from the same bowl,” he said sweetly.

“Why don’t we do it the real way?” I asked.

“What way is that?”

“You enter my soil.”

“How much more real is that?”

Wanting another aperture, he reined me in digging into the crack of my bottom with his left hand (always saving his right for handshakes). After only moments, I think he was spent. One never knew with Adi. It took a while for me to learn that he stores passion like a special solitude, a sublime way of carrying the burning sun inside himself even as he writhes from his scorching juice.
I fell in love with his middle finger.

I’ve been on many beaches from the age of six. This particular shimmering swim let my body speed through swells and surges faster than any water I had ever know before. From that day, I knew I would always love him no matter what he did to me. For Adi carries magic even when he sleeps. He doesn’t snore, and there’s a soft glow about him when he’s unconscious as he breathes in little staccato puffs of air. I lie beside him thinking: “What is he dreaming? Who has taken him away from me into that other world?” It never leaves me, this fear of being left.

Excerpt from The Patient Ecstasy of Fraulein Braun (c) 2013 by Lavonne Mueller. By Permission from Opus, a division of Subtext, a Glenn Young Company (

Lavonne Mueller is the recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and NEA grants for her writing. As a Fulbright creative artist she worked in Argentina and Jordan; under an Asian Cultural Grant she investigated the culture of Calcutta.