Just hours after Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30th, 1945, former fashion model and Vogue correspondent, Elizabeth (Lee) Miller was photographed taking a bath in his tub. Miller had been accredited into the U.S. Army as an official war correspondent for Condé Nast Publications and upon the American liberation of Munich, she entered the city with the 45th division and LIFE photographer David E. Scherman at her side. Lee and David began to explore the crumbling city and by chance, happened to wander into an apartment in a building at number 16 Prinzenregentplatz. Incredibly, the pair had stumbled upon Hitler’s abandoned Munich apartment.
“Almost anyone with a medium income and no heirlooms could have been the proprietor of this flat,” Miller wrote in her diaries, “The place was in perfect condition, including electricity and hot water and heat available and [an] electric refrigerator. It wasn’t empty enough to be ‘sub-let’ as it stood, but a quarter of an hour’s clearing cupboards would have made it ready for any new tenant who didn’t mind linen and silver marked AH.”
The photograph was taken by David. Allegedly there is also a photograph taken by Miller of David in the bath. But with the former model looking like she did, it was the photograph with Miller as the subject that became the iconic image from their collaboration during World War II. “I looked like an angel on the outside. That’s how people saw me,” wrote Miller. “But I was like a demon inside. I had known all the suffering of the world since I was a very little girl.”
There are many questions surrounding Miller’s decision to disrobe in the Nazi leaders private bathroom and bathe herself, possibly using his flannel. The pair reportedly spent up to three nights in his apartment together, sitting at his desk, even sleeping in his bed, “using Hitler’s toilet and taking his bath and generally making ourselves at home,” wrote Miller. They had just come from Dachau, and with those double-buckled boots that sit in front of the bath, Miller had walked through the horror of the death camp only a few hours earlier. In the midst of controversy following the photograph’s publication in Vogue, Miller said that she had merely been trying to wash the odors of Dachau away.
In a letter to her Vogue editor, Audrey Winters, Miller recounts her stay in Hitler’s home:
“I was living in Hitler’s private apartment when his death was announced, midnight of Mayday … Well, alright, he was dead. He’d never really been alive to me until today. He’d been an evil-machine-monster all these years, until I visited the places he made famous, talked to people who knew him, dug into backstairs gossip and ate and slept in his house. He became less fabulous and therefore more terrible, along with a little evidence of his having some almost human habits; like an ape who embarrasses and humbles you with his gestures, mirroring yourself in caricature. “There, but for the Grace of God, walks I.”
Information & image sources 1, 2, 3
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