The Shop-Keeper’s Assistant

Effie
Effie

This is about two Germans who lived in the earlier part of the 20th century. While in one way it is like any other love story, in another, it is completely different.

Effie was born on February 6, 1912, to a middle class Bavarian family in Munich, Germany. Her parents, Fritz and Fanny, already had one daughter, Ilse. Three years later, they would have Effie’s younger sister, Gretl. As young girls, they had dancing, art, and music lessons. Later they attended the Tangstrasse secondary school.

Fritz and Fanny were married for 54 years. When Fritz died in 1964, Fanny stayed in Ruhpolding to be close to his tomb. “There was not a single cloud, not even a real quarrel,” Fanny said. “Fritz was the only man in my life; I never kissed another and never had the slightest flirtation. And I am certain that he never took any interest in any woman but me.”

When Effie was 16 she was sent to the Catholic Young Women’s Institute, where she was to complete her education and get the diploma that would help her earn her own living later in life. But she was unhappy there from the first, unused to all the people and the strict discipline. After only one year, instead of the typical two, she wrote her mother, threatening that if she wasn’t allowed to go home, she would run away to Vienna or Berlin and seek her fortune there. So in July of 1929, Effie went back to live with her family in Munich. Since Fritz, though fairly well off, did not provide his daughters with pocket money, she needed to find work.

Under the influence of her older sister Ilse, whom Effie tried to emulate in every way, she quickly transformed from a convent-bred schoolgirl to a sophisticated young woman. She started wearing makeup, her hair was now pinned in thick coils about her ears (she would cut them off altogether a short time later), and she stated that she would rather go barefoot than wear shoes that didn’t match her outfit. Under this surreal mask, however, there was still the young girl who lived in castles in the air, her head filled with fanciful dreams in which she was queen of the land.

* * *

As a young boy, Herr Wolf was quiet and gentle, a favorite of his mother, Klara. He began school at the age of six, learned to play piano at eight, and studied singing for two years with the Benedictines. As he grew older, he became brash and rebellious; yet women still found themselves somehow attracted to him.

He was fairly unsociable. Gustav Kubizek, known as Gustl, may have been his only real childhood friend. They shared the same passion for theater, among other things, and Herr Wolf talked of one day becoming a great architect, for he had already started planning the reconstruction of Linz.

Herr Wolf had dreams of attending the Vienna Academy and studying architecture, but the Academy refused him admission. This made him feel like an outcast; a have-not of society. So instead of returning home to tell his mother, who was dying of cancer, he stayed in Vienna until she finally passed away in December of 1907. For the rest of his life, he would always have a strong fear of cancer, and would insist on frequent physical examinations.

After his mother’s death, Herr Wolf went home to Linz. Soon, however, he returned to Vienna, where he spent five and a half years, mostly in the company of his friend Kubizek, writing novels, poetry, and even an unfinished opera, “The Legend of Wieland.” He continued to be something of a Don Juan and there were frequently women hovering around him.

Then one day Kubizek returned from a trip to Linz to find that Herr Wolf had disappeared without leaving so much as an address. The next time he would see him, Herr Wolf would be a well-known public figure triumphantly returning to Linz.

* * *

It was 1929. Effie worked as bookkeeper at a small establishment on Schellingstrasse, with a sign above the door that read, “Heinrich Hoffman, Art Photographer.” Herr Hoffman liked to employ young girls, partially because it was easier to exploit them economically, and partially with the hopes that they would attract the attention of some of his biggest customers, one of which was Herr Wolf. Effie–young, attractive, and innocent–fit the description perfectly. She was employed on the spot.

It was in October of that year that Effie was first introduced to Herr Wolf, although at the time she was oblivious as to who this strange man was. Herr Wolf was fascinated by her from the very start, a fascination that would continue throughout his entire life. He visited Herr Hoffman’s studio only rarely, but he would always ask to see Fraulein Effie, bowing down to kiss her hand and sometimes bringing her flowers or sweets.

It was not until late in 1930, however, when Effie was 18, that Herr Wolf, who was then 41, really began to take an interest in her, asking her to dinner or to accompany him to the opera. Effie found the opera to be boring and dull, but she always marveled at it whenever Herr Wolf asked.

In September of 1931, Herr Wolf’s niece, whom some say was more than family, committed suicide. This sent him into a deep depression. He cut off almost all contact with Effie, and it was almost a year before she saw him again.

Up until this point, their relationship had been nothing more than casual. Herr Wolf came to Munich only rarely, and Effie was dating other men. But the suicide of Herr Wolf’s niece, and his resulting depression, changed something for Effie. She began to see him as a lonely, unloved man, and this touched something inside her young heart.

She didn’t see him again, however, until 1932, when Hoffman, in an attempt to cheer Herr Wolf up, threw several parties, to which Effie was invited. It was then that she took it upon herself to fill the place left in Herr Wolf’s life that his niece had left vacant. For a short time, they saw each other more. He was in Munich often, and she would visit him at his apartment.

Possibly he still thought of her as a casual flirt, for he stopped coming to Munich, and his messages became few and far between. Then on All Saints Day, 1932, after writing a farewell note to Herr Wolf, Effie took her father’s 6mm pistol and fired it at her heart. Either she was an extremely poor shot or else her attempted suicide was half-hearted, a way of attracting Herr Wolf’s attention rather than of ending her life.

Whatever her motive, he saw it as an act of her devotion to him. From then on, their relationship took on more of a permanent nature. After she attempted suicide a second time in 1935, this time using sleeping pills instead of a pistol, Herr Wolf bought Effie a flat in Munich. The next year, he brought her to live with him in his mansion.

Effie and Herr Wolf spent the rest of their lives together, and died within a few hours of each other.

* * *

Herr Wolf and Eva Braun (affectionately known as Effie) were finally married, just hours before their double suicide in a bunker under Berlin on April 29, 1945, as the Allied forces were closing in. Herr Wolf was the pseudonym for a man that, to the general public, is perhaps better known as Adolph Hitler.