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Why Was This Woman In Hitler's Bathtub On The Day He Died?

9 de marzo de 2018

Ariel Rodriguez

She switched expensive dresses and high heels for combat boots and a camera.

The iconic photo shows a woman in a bathtub, scrubbing her back as she takes a bath. The dirt from her combat boots has stained the mat and her clothes are folded on a chair next to her. In the far left corner of the tub, though, there’s an official portrait of Adolf Hitler, which begs the question: why is it there? The woman in the tub is Lee Miller. The apartment where she was photographed belonged to Hitler himself. The picture was taken on the same day he committed suicide: April 30th, 1945.

Miller was one of the few female war correspondents reporting on WWII (historical records can only confirm five of them). Her articles and photographs appeared in Vogue magazine from 1944 to 1945. She covered the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, concentration camps, and the Allied journey from Normandy to Paris and eventually Germany. She was joined by her colleague and mentor, David E. Scherman, who worked for Life magazine at the time. The two photojournalists were inseparable, traveling across Europe and reporting from the front lines. They both arrived in Germany with US forces and went inside Hitler's private apartment in Munich with the help of a local resident. After looking around and taking some items from the house, Miller decided to take a bath, and that’s when Scherman captured the moment with his camera. He was later quoted in John Loengard’s book, LIFE Photographers: What They Saw, saying the following:

We moved into Hitler's headquarters in Munich. Lee and I found an elderly gent who barely spoke English, and we gave him a carton of cigarettes and said, "Show us around Munich." He showed us Hitler's house and I photographed Lee taking a bath in Hitler's bathtub.

Source: Lee Miller's Archive

The only thing that could be more interesting than the picture itself, is Miller’s life story. She was a former model for Vogue in New York and then moved to Paris to become a Surrealist model. She was the muse of Man Ray, who she learned photography from. It was only after getting bored with the photoshoots and glamorous world of fashion that she decided go behind the scenes and to pursue a career in journalism. The model turned war correspondent kept details of her life a secret after the war. In fact, her son, Anthony Penrose, grew up thinking his mom had only been a housewife. After her death in 1977, he discovered a bunch of Vogue articles and photo negatives hidden in his parents’ attic. He became so fascinated with his mom’s work that he wrote a book about her time covering the war.

Source: Lee Miller's Archive

It’s hard to tell why Miller never told her son about her life as a reporter. The records found by her son say that Miller went through a period of depression and alcoholism. But why did she want to leave everything behind to cover a war and put her life in danger as a correspondent? I mean, she was already a successful model, loved and admired by the crème de la crème of the art industry (artists like Pablo Picasso). Whatever her reasons might have been, we can be certain that Miller wanted to put her skills as a photographer to better use. Posing for a camera wasn't enough for her anymore, and she wanted to get behind the lens to capture the world around her.

Source: Lee Miller's Archive

TAGS: Hitler Feminism Photojournalist
SOURCES: Lee Miller Archives Telegraph BBC Time

Ariel Rodriguez

Creative Writer


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