A couple of Jewish genealogists have thrown a twist in a DNA analysis suggesting that Hitler’s longtime lover comes from Jewish stock.
The evidence comes courtesy of a British TV documentary, which commissioned a new analysis of a hair taken from what is believed to be Eva Braun’s hairbrush. The brush was monogramed “E.B” and found in Hitler’s Alpine home soon after the war.
An American intelligence officer found the hairbrush and after his death his son sold it to a relics dealer, according to the documentary. Channel 4 bought eight strands from the brush for about $2,000.
Experts who analyzed the DNA found that it came from “someone who could have had Jewish ancestry,” specifically Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, according to the Channel 4 documentary, “Dead Famous DNA.”
About 80 percent of the world’s Jewish population is Ashkenazi, having descended from those who settled first in The Rhineland. Many converted to Catholicism in the 19th century, and historians doubt Braun, who married Hitler in the hours before his suicide, even knew of her possible Jewish heritage.
But Bennett Greenspan, president and CEO of Family Tree DNA in Houston, is skeptical.
First, he said, there is no proof the brush belonged to Braun, just that it had her initials.
“It could have belonged to Eddie Bauer,” Greenspan said. “And two of Braun’s relatives refused to allow themselves to be tested to see if the DNA on the hair was Braun’s.”
Second, even if it was her brush, he said, “it is undoubtedly old, it was touched by other people and could have been cross contaminated. It could never be used in a court of law because there was no chain of custody.”
Asked about the station’s claim that Braun could have Jewish ancestors, Greenspan said it was hard to tell without seeing the data. “It was reported that the DNA was in a sub-branch of the tree of mankind called N1b1,” he said. “That is less likely to be a Jewish signature, but it is not impossible.”
But even if Braun is shown to have Jewish forebears, that doesn’t mean a whole lot, said Arthur Kurzweil, author of “From Generation to Generation, How to Trace Your Jewish Family History.”
“I think it’s entirely possible that she did have Jewish ancestors,” he said. “In 1700, after the massacres of Jews in Ukraine, there were only 1 million Jews in the world. So more of us are more closely related than we probably imagined.
“To hear that she might have had some Jewish ancestry is not a big deal,” he said.
“The Rambam,” he added, “is said to have said that one should not trace back more than five generations because you’re looking for trouble.”
This was not the first time Braun’s ancestry has been investigated. The New York Times, quoting from a biography of Braun, noted that sometime after Hitler met Braun in 1929 he had her “investigated for Jewish taint.” She was 17; he was 40. That investigation found that she was of pure Aryan descent.