Maria Reiter, the daughter of an official of the Social Democratic Party, was born in Berchtesgaden on 23rd December 1911. The death of her mother meant that she had to leave school and work in the family clothes shop in Obersalzberg.
When she was sixteen Maria met Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party. Hitler appears to have been strongly attracted to teenagers. He later explained: "A girl of eighteen to twenty is as malleable as wax. It should be possible for a man, whoever the chosen woman may be, to stamp his own imprint on her. That's all the woman asks for."
Hitler, who was 37 years old at the time, asked Maria out. "We went out into the night.... Hitler was about to put his arm around my shoulders and pull me toward him when the two dogs suddenly attacked each other.... Hitler suddenly intervened, like a maniac he hit his dog with his riding whip... and shook him violently by the collar. He was very excited.... I did not expect that he could hit his dog so brutally and ruthlessly, the dog which he had said he could not live without. Yet he beat up his most loyal companion." Maria asked him "How can you be so brutal and beat your dog like that?" He replied "It was necessary."
Cate Haste, the author of Nazi Women (2001), has pointed out: "Hitler introduced himself to her when their paths crossed while walking their dogs. He pursued her, flirted with her, took her out on trips in his Mercedes and invited her to a meeting he was to address. She was impressed by his celebrity, and by his dress - by this time, breeches, light velour hat, riding whip and a coat held closed by a leather belt. In her later account, she recalls him taking her to dinner, feeding her cakes like a child, and touching her leg with his knee under the table. Hitler told her that she reminded him of his own mother, especially her eyes, and suggested they visit her mother's grave. There, she recalled, Hitler was overcome." Reiter later recalled: "he was moved by something he did not want to tell me... I am not ready yet."
Ian Kershaw has argued Hitler 1889-1936 (1998): "He (Hitler) was thirty-seven years of age; she was sixteen. Like his father, he preferred women much younger than himself - girls he could dominate, who would be obedient playthings but not get in the way. The two women with whom he would become most intimately associated, Geli Raubal (nineteen years younger than he was) and Eva Braun (twenty-three years younger), fitted the same model - until, that is, Geli became rebellious and wanted a level of freedom which Hitler was unwilling to permit." Ronald Hayman has pointed out that there was a regular patten to Hitler's relationships: "Though he found it easy during his twenties and early thirties to make friends with children and with women in their forties and fifties, he was nervous of being rebuffed or humiliated by women of his own age. But at thirty-seven he was old enough to treat a teenage girl as if she were a child. With Maria, once they were sufficiently relaxed in each other's company, there was nothing to stop them from making love."
They had several dates during which Hitler became increasingly passionate towards her. According to Reiter, Adolf Hitler "told her that he wanted her to be his wife, to found a family with her, to have blonde children, but at the moment he had not the time to think of such things. Repeatedly Hitler spoke of his duty, his mission." Hitler told her: "When I get my new apartment you have to stay with me... forever. We will choose everything together, the paintings, the chairs, I already can see it all: beautiful, big lounge chairs of the violet plush." After declaring his love to Maria, Hitler returned to Munich.
In February 1927 Hitler wrote to Maria: "My dear, good child, I was truly happy to receive this sign of your tender friendship to me... I am given a constant reminder of your cheeky head and your eyes... As regards what is causing you personal pain, you can believe me that I sympathize with you. But you should not let your little head droop in sadness and must only see and believe: even if fathers sometimes don't understand their children any longer because they have got older not only in years but in feelings, they mean only well for them. As happy as your love makes me, I ask you most ardently to listen to your father. And now, my dear treasure, receive warmest greetings from your Wolf, who is always thinking of you."
Adolf Hitler sent her a a leather-bound copy of Mein Kampf for Christmas. Reiter gave him two sofa-cushions that she had embroidered. However, he did not visit her: "My whole world started tumbling down. I did not know what had happened, nothing... All sorts of pictures appeared in my mind... faces of other women and Hitler smiling at them. I did not want to go on living." Günter Peis points out: "In this depressed mood, she went to find a clothesline. One end of it she slung around her neck, the other around a door handle. Slowly, she glided to the floor. Slowly, she lost consciousness." Luckily, her brother-in-law arrived and "saved her life at the last minute."
Hitler sent a message that he was unable to see her because he was being blackmailed. According to Maria: "Hitler told my brother-in-law, that anonymous letters had been mailed to the party office saying that Hitler was having a relationship with a girl who was underage." The letter said: "Hitler seduces young, inexperienced girls. He just found a sixteen-year-old girl in Berchtesgaden who obviously will be his next victim." Hitler explained that he could not allow his relationship to "jeopardize the success of his party".
Lothar Machtan has argued in The Hidden Hitler (2001) that the reason Hitler broke off his relationship with Maria was because he was being blackmailed by Emil Maurice. "As early as 1927, Party headquarters had received some anonymous letters accusing Hitler of seducing a minor. It later transpired that their author was a certain Ida Arnold, a girlfriend of Maurice, who had invited Mimi to coffee and skillfully pumped her for information. Feeling cornered, Hitler requested Maria Reiter to make a sworn deposition to the effect that she had had 'no relationship of any kind' with him. Although this amounted to flagrant perjury, it must have seemed Hitler's only possible recourse in the summer of 1928. He was clearly under extreme pressure, because nothing could have presented a greater threat to him, as party leader, than revelations about his private life - and who knew more about that subject than Emil Maurice?"
After she recovered she married a local hotelkeeper. The marriage was not a success, however, and in 1931 Reiter left her husband. Maria Reiter later claimed that she was visited by Rudolf Hess who suggested that Hitler was still interested in her. According to her own account, she travelled to Munich to see Hitler: "I let everything happen. I had never been so happy as I was that night". Hitler suggested that she remain in Munich as his lover, but Reiter wanted marriage. Some historians have questioned the truth of this account. They point out that in 1931 Hitler was romantically attached to Geli Raubal, the daughter of his half-sister, Angela Raubal.
However, Ronald Hayman, believed her story: "The account she later gave of their liaison is more reliable than most of the stories told by women who claimed him as their lover.... They probably became lovers when she visited him in Munich. He spoke of renting a flat and living with her, but nothing came of these plans, and by July 1927, when she was in Berchtesgaden again, he was no longer living in the hotel. What she had in common with Geli was that she was too young and inoffensive for him to feel threatened. If she laughed it would mean that she was either embarrassed or having a good time."
Maria Reiter, who told her story to the German periodical Stern in 1959, died in 1992.