Adolf Hitler may have “unwittingly” married a Jewish woman, according to a controversial UK television documentary.
DNA analysis of hair samples from a hairbrush claimed to belong to Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-term mistress who married the Nazi dictator hours before their joint suicide, are said to contain a specific sequence passed through the maternal line which hints at Jewish roots.
The sequence of mitochondrial DNA belongs to haplogroup N1b1, which is strongly associated with Ashkenazi Jews, who make up around 80 percent of the global Jewish population.
“This is a thought-provoking outcome — I never dreamt that I would find such a potentially extraordinary and profound result,” Mark Evans, presenter of Channel 4′s documentary series "Dead Famous DNA," said.
Bought by Evans for $2,000, the strands of hair came from a brush monogrammed “E.B.” that was found at the end of World War II at Hitler’s Alpine residence, the Berghof in Bavaria, by an American army intelligence officer.
Braun was 17 when she first met Hitler in 1929 and fell in love with him. Concerned the relationship would affect his image, the Nazi leader, 23 years her senior, confined Braun to a sheltered life at the Berghof.
Meanwhile, he ordered an investigation into Braun’s family to ensure that they were “Aryan.”
“In the 19th century, many Ashkenazi Jews in Germany converted to Catholicism, so Eva Braun is highly unlikely to have known her ancestry and — despite research he instigated into Braun’s race — neither would Hitler,” Channel 4 said in a statement.
Braun and Hitler finally married on April 29, 1945, as the Third Reich crumbled. Some 40 hours later, they were both dead, having committed suicide by taking cyanide capsules as the Russian army closed in on Berlin.
Braun’s Jewish ancestry is the latest of a series of claims by the TV show, in which leading scientists attempt to extract DNA from the remains of some of history’s most famous figures, including John F. Kennedy and Napoleon.
Recently, the show came under fire for paying a convicted Holocaust-denying historian about $5,000 for a lock of Hitler’s hair.
“It’s disgusting, and raises questions about Channel 4′s public broadcasting remit,” Labor MP Ian Austin was reported as saying.
Upon scrutiny, the relic turned out to be a fake.
Channel 4 concedes that the conclusions on Eva Braun’s ancestry are far from definitive.
“The provenance of the hair is strong, but to definitively prove that it came from Eva Braun’s head, Mark Evans attempted to get a DNA swab from one of Eva Braun’s two surviving female descendants,” Channel 4 said.
“Both refused. So an element of mystery remains,” it concluded.
Image: Eva Braun and Hitler at the Berghof, June 14, 1942. Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia Commons.