Posted Monday, January 22, 2001

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London, Sunday, January 21, 2001

Love triangle: Baarova, left, gained the affection of Goebbels to the point that he wanted to divorce his wife, right, but Hitler forbade it

Goebbels mistress tells tales from the grave

Peter Conradi

THEIRS was one of the most dramatic and dangerous love affairs of the Third Reich. A glamorous Czech actress who became Josef Goebbels's mistress and fled Germany after his wife denounced them to Hitler has described her turbulent relationship with the Nazi propaganda chief for the first time.

In her autobiography, The Sweet Bitterness of My Life, to be published posthumously in Germany next month, Lida Baarova writes of life in the Nazi upper echelons, where elegantly dressed ministers mingled with the film world elite.

The actress, who died alone in poverty in November aged 86, reveals that Goebbels's wife, Magda, proposed a ménage à trois to save her marriage but Hitler ordered an end to the two-year affair on the grounds that it could damage the Nazis' image as guardians of traditional family values.

It was Hitler who first fell for Baarova, then 20, during a visit in 1934 to a film set in Berlin. Three days later she was summoned to tea at the chancellery. He said she reminded him of somebody both "beautiful and tragic" in his life. To her horror, she later realised this was Hitler's former lover and half-niece, Angela Raubal, who was found dead in her Munich flat in 1931, aged 23, after shooting herself in the heart with a pistol.

Several more meetings followed, despite the protests of Gustav Fröhlich, a jealous actor with whom Baarova was living. But the Führer did not press himself on her.

Hitler and Geli Raubal
Hitler and his half niece, whom he thought Baarova resembled Photograph: Ullstein

She and Goebbels first met in 1936 during the Berlin Olympics in the city's opulent Schwanenwerder suburb, where Goebbels had rented a villa near Fröhlich's. Baarova was attracted immediately.

"His voice seemed to go straight into me," she said. "I felt a light tingling in my back, as if his words were trying to stroke my body."

There were other meetings on Goebbels's yacht Baldur, and he invited her to hear him speak at a Nazi congress. He promised to touch his face with a white handkerchief during the speech as a sign of his devotion.

BaaorvaPanicking, Baarova decided to leave town. But as her train waited at the station, a messenger arrived with roses and the minister's picture. "He was a master of the hunt, whom nobody and nothing could escape," she said.

For months Goebbels pursued her relentlessly, inviting her for trips in his chauffeur-driven limousine or visits to his log cabin on the shores of Lake Lanke outside Berlin.

Although their relationship was platonic for a long time, she tried to hide it from Fröhlich. When Goebbels rang he left messages as Herr Müller and hung up if the actor answered. One winter evening in the cabin, however, before a blazing fire he kissed her for the first time, saying: "I have never in my life been so in-flamed with love for a woman."

They met whenever he could get away from his wife. Baarova recalled his mood swings dramatically. Sometimes he amused her with Hitler impressions, at others he expressed doubts about Nazi ideology.

Rumours of their relationship spread after Goebbels bailed out one of Baarova's films. Then Fröhlich arrived home to find them on the road to the villa. He berated Goebbels and left Baarova soon afterwards.

BaarovaHis impertinence did not go unpunished. Goebbels later took revenge by removing his exemption from military service and sending him to war.

In the autumn of 1938, however, Goebbels had telephoned Baarova, saying he had confessed to his wife, and wanted the two women to meet. Magda Goebbels was distraught when they were introduced, and suggested sharing her husband.

"I am the mother of his children, I am only interested in this house in which we live," she said. "What happens outside does not concern me. But you must promise me one thing: you must not have a child by him."

Goebbels appeared with gifts of jewellery for both women as if to cement the love triangle. But Magda told Hitler and Goebbels was summoned to the Führer. "My wife is a devil," he told Baarova.

Early the next morning he rang again, weeping. Hitler had refused his request for a divorce and forbidden him to see her. "I love you, Liduschka," he said. "I cannot live without you."

The propaganda machine swung into gear. Newspapers published pictures of the Goebbels family, and Goebbels rehabilitated himself with Hitler by orchestrating Kristallnacht, an orgy of violence in November 1938 when Jewish property across Germany was destroyed.

Baarova was called to a police station and told she was barred from appearing in films or plays and even from attending social functions. She was pursued by the Gestapo, who organised hecklers to shout "Whore", when she defiantly attended the premiere of her film, Der Spieler (The Player).

Baarova returned to Prague, disobeying an order from Hitler's adjutant to remain in Germany. She was on a Nazi blacklist, however, and it became more difficult for her to work. In 1942 she moved to Italy and resumed her career.

She saw Goebbels one last time at the 1942 Venice film festival. He ignored her. "He must have recognised me, but he did not make a single movement," she said. "He was always the master of self-control."

In 1945 Baarova was arrested by the Americans and briefly imprisoned for collaboration. Goebbels and his wife stayed with Hitler in his bunker, taking their own lives and those of their six children on May 1 as the Russians swept into Berlin.

After two failed marriages, her career faded as Czechs refused to forgive her. She continued to deny the Goebbels relationship until the 1990s, when Richard Kettermann, a German publisher, encouraged her to write about it. Although she was in her eighties when they met, Kettermann said last week he was struck by the warmth she exuded. When she looked back at her relationship with Goebbels, however, her overwhelming emotion was regret.

David Irving interviews Lida BaarovaWebsite comment: There is nothing in this article that is not related in the biography Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich by David Irving, who interviewed Baarova at length in 1993. [Free download of book].

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