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Mysteries in the Archives looks at Eva Braun's Images

20 August 2014

Mysteries in the Archives is a series of 26-minute films produced since 2006 at and by INA, Arte France and YLE (Finland) with the participation of RSI (Switzerland). A series that will soon grow to 40 films. This series is conceived to uncover or rediscover footage that bears witness to a century of history. Some of the images are well known; some have never been seen before. Every episode is a formal inquiry. Some subjects are cheerful and amusing; others bear witness to solemn, momentous events. Meticulous investigations are undertaken. Film is sifted through and sorted, examined frame by frame and analyzed until, finally, its secrets are revealed.
Pierre Commault, the author of this study, meticulously dissected this body of images attributed to Eva Braun during a long internship at Mysteries in the Archives. An introduction to his study is below and the full 60 page document can be read on the pdf in the Further Information box on the right of this page.

Eva Braun's Images

A study by Pierre Commault for Mysteries in the Archives Series directed by Serge Viallet, translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.


Preparation for the film in the Mysteries in the Archives series dealing with Eva Braun’s images, shot between 1938 and 1944, led to this study. These widely circulated images by Adolf Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, were discovered by the American troops upon their arrival in Germany. While they have often been used as illustration for documentaries, as visual complement to a commentary or presented as a way of getting close to Hitler’s private life through the eye of the camera, the images themselves have rarely been the subject of analysis, at least in the cinema or on television.

The aim of the film, as for the Mysteries in the Archives series as a whole, is thus to look at these images anew, to watch out for the details that come to light. What were the stakes involved? What conflicting interests were they used for? What fights were they themselves the object of? Positing that there is always an enigma to discover and solve in an image can be a disappointment, but it nevertheless remains the fundamental method of the series: honing our gaze in as close as possible to the images.
Since its first airing in 2009 and throughout the 30 26-minute episodes, Mysteries in the Archives, directed by Serge Viallet using various slow-motion, blow-up or repetition techniques, has created a visual pedagogy of images that have often become emblematic of famous historic events. The images of Neil Armstrong, astronaut, and his first steps on the moon in 1969, those of the Yalta conference’s heads of states in 1945 or those of the demonstrations on Tiananmen Square in China in 1989 are examined in the light of their contexts, conditions and production aims and that then makes it possible to discern what escapes the control of those who stage them. Expressing it very well, Sylvie Lindeperg says it is a question of “confronting the speed of the editing that prevents the shots from existing or becoming with the persistent and obstinate slowness of a renewed trade in images (...)”1 And to take the question of the shooting seriously, willingly taking on the images (...) without taking over the conversation in their place (...). [It is] part of the desire to see the fact of looking elsewhere, of looking out of the box, of seeing what has not been dependent on a desire to show.”2
Research for the film benefitted from the work already available on Eva Braun’s images. It is cited in the bibliography at the end of the study. But as in all research, it was often necessary to delve into various sources and to cross check them. A document synthetizing the currently available information on these images was thought to be useful to all those interested. The reader could use it as a springboard to develop unfinished or incomplete areas. It should be considered as a link in a chain, a step in other work that will surely enrich the knowledge at one’s disposal on the subject.

We also wanted to share the written and visual documents we used and the development of our thinking that led to the results shown in the film. The illustrations constitute one of the mainstays of the research. Thus, the archives of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s official photographer, conserved by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek of Munich and available online, provided a constant source of comparison and confrontation with our own hypotheses. The information the researchers provided us about the conditions under which these photos were shot was greatly appreciated. We take this opportunity to thank them here.
Lastly, the many internet sites we consulted contributed significantly to our research, whether it meant tracking down ideas found on forums (tracks that obviously had to be checked out against others) or submitting our own to specialists and experts who participated in the forums. The site, www.thirdreichinruins, created by Geoff Walden, and the forum devoted to the Berghof on the site were precious resources to grasp the topography of the places, the identity of the personalities who stayed there and the various uniforms and ranks of the officials and the soldiers.

Identification was done by a collective of the Mysteries in the Archives team who worked on the film, Serge Viallet, Julien Gaurichon, Cédric Gruat and Olivier Ferrari. We regularly consulted with Pierre Catalan whose historical knowledge was precious, especially on the battle of Crete.

1 Lindeperg S : La voie des images. Quatre histoires de tournage au printemps-été 1944, Verdier Histoire, Editions Verdier, 2013, p. 15.
2 Ibid p. 213, 214, 216