13 December 1913
|Died||14 April 1997 (aged 83)|
|Other names||Gerda Daranowski (maiden name)|
|Known for||Adolf Hitler's personal secretary before and during the Second World War|
She worked for Elizabeth Arden before coming to work for Hitler. In 1937, Hitler's other secretaries Johanna Wolf and Christa Schroeder complained about having too much work. They asked for assistance, but Hitler reportedly hesitated; he did not wish to see a new face in his inner sanctum. He finally gave in and hired Gerda Daranowski.
World War II
She had been engaged to Hitler's driver Erich Kempka, and later married Luftwaffe officer Eckhard Christian on 2 February 1943. Gerda then took a break from her employment for Hitler and her work was taken over by Traudl Junge.
In mid-1943, Gerda Christian returned to Hitler's staff as one of his private secretaries. Eckhard was promoted to Generalmajor and Chief of the Luftwaffe Command Staff at Hitler's request on 1 September 1944. In April 1945, Eckhard was stationed in Berlin at the Führerbunker HQ. He left the bunker complex on 22 April 1945 to become Chief of the liaison staff of the Luftwaffe to OKW Command Staff North. Gerda and Traudl Junge both volunteered to remain with Hitler in the Führerbunker. While in the bunker complex, the women also looked after the Goebbels children.
During Hitler's last days in Berlin, he would regularly eat lunch with Traudl Junge and Gerda. After the war, Traudl recalled Gerda asking Hitler if he would leave Berlin. This was firmly rejected by Hitler. Gerda recalled that Hitler made it clear in conversation that his body must not fall into the hands of the Soviets. He would shoot himself, and wanted to be cremated "without a trace". Eva Braun said she would take cyanide poison. At one of these meal time conversations, Hitler gave Gerda a cyanide ampoule for use.
In the early afternoon of 30 April 1945, Hitler and Eva Braun said farewell to members of the Führerbunker staff and fellow occupants, including Bormann, Joseph Goebbels and his family, the secretaries, and several military officers. After the farewells, Gerda returned to the secretary quarters located in part of the large cellars under the Reich Chancellery. Later, she returned to the Führerbunker and learned from chief valet Heinz Linge that Hitler was dead, with his corpse having been carried upstairs and out into the Chancellery garden where the cremation was still in progress. She walked into Hitler's study/office and saw a bloodstain "about the size of a hand" on the rug next to the sofa.
After Hitler's death, Gerda tried to escape from Berlin on 1 May 1945. She was part of a "break-out" group led by Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke that included secretaries Else Krüger and Traudl Junge. The group was taken prisoner by the Soviets on the morning of 2 May, while hiding in a cellar off the Schönhauser Allee.
In 1946, she divorced Eckhard Christian because he did not remain with her in the Führerbunker until after the death of Hitler. Christian moved to Düsseldorf, where she worked at the Hotel Eden. She was a friend of Werner Naumann, a former state secretary in the Third Reich's propaganda ministry. In 1953, Naumann was arrested by the British Army and accused of being the leader of a Neo-Nazi group, but he was never convicted. Gerda Christian died of cancer in Düsseldorf in 1997, aged 83.
Portrayal in the media
Gerda Christian has been portrayed by the following actresses in film and television productions.
- Sheila Gish in the 1973 British film Hitler: The Last Ten Days.
- Mitzi Rogers in the 1973 British television production The Death of Adolf Hitler.
- Birgit Minichmayr in the 2004 German film Downfall (Der Untergang).
- John Toland (1976), Adolf Hitler, p. 733, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
- Hamilton 1984, p. 141.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 293.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 299.
- O'Donnell 1978, p. 134.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 131, 169, 170.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 169, 170.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 170.
- Beevor 2002, p. 358.
- Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 176.
- O'Donnell 1978, pp. 271, 274, 291.
- "Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973)". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
- "The Death of Adolf Hitler (1973) (TV)". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
- "Untergang, Der (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
- Beevor, Antony (2002). Berlin – The Downfall 1945. Viking-Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-03041-5.
- Hamilton, Charles (1984). Leaders & Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 1. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0-912138-27-0.
- Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999) . The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends, the Evidence, the Truth. Trans. Helmut Bögler. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 978-1-86019-902-8.
- O'Donnell, James Preston (1978). The Bunker: The History of the Reich Chancellery Group. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-25719-7.