Former fashion model and Vogue correspondent, Elizabeth (Lee) Miller was in Munich during the American liberation of that city in 1945. She found Adolf Hitler's apartment and posed in the bath for an iconic photograph.
Reportedly this happened just hours after Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Lee Miller had been accredited into the US Army as an official war correspondent for Condé Nast Publications and entered the city with the 45th division along with LIFE photographer, David E Scherman.
Miller and Scherman explored the city and just by chance, wandered into an apartment in a building located at number 16 Prinzenregentplatz. They had found Hitler's Munich residence.
Miller wrote in her diary, ”Almost anyone with a medium income and no heirlooms could have been the proprietor of this flat.”
“The place was in perfect condition, including electricity and hot water and heat available and [an] electric refrigerator. It wasn’t empty enough to be ‘sub-let’ as it stood, but a quarter of an hour’s clearing cupboards would have made it ready for any new tenant who didn’t mind linen and silver marked AH.”
Reportedly the couple spent around three nights in Hitler's apartment, sitting at his desk, sleeping in his bed and “using Hitler’s toilet and taking his bath and generally making ourselves at home,” wrote Miller in her diary.
The couple had just visited Dachau and Miller had walked through the death camp only a few hours before finding the apartment. When the iconic photograph was published in Vogue, Miller was asked why she chose to bathe in Hitler's bathtub. Miller said that she had merely been trying to wash the odors of Dachau away.
Scherman took the photograph of Miller posing in the bathtub and there was, allegedly, also a photograph of Scherman taken by Miller, although Miller's photograph became the iconic image of that period.
“I looked like an angel on the outside. That’s how people saw me,” wrote Miller. “But I was like a demon inside. I had known all the suffering of the world since I was very a little girl.”
Miller recounted her stay in Hitler's apartment in a letter to her Vogue editor, Audrey Winters:
“I was living in Hitler’s private apartment when his death was announced, midnight of Mayday … Well, alright, he was dead. He’d never really been alive to me until today. He’d been an evil-machine-monster all these years, until I visited the places he made famous, talked to people who knew him, dug into backstairs gossip and ate and slept in his house. He became less fabulous and therefore more terrible, along with a little evidence of his having some almost human habits; like an ape who embarrasses and humbles you with his gestures, mirroring yourself in caricature. “There, but for the Grace of God, walks I.”"
The New York Times reported: “A picture of the Führer balances on the lip of the tub; a classical statue of a woman sits opposite it on a dressing table; Lee, in the tub, inscrutable as ever, scrubs her shoulder. A woman caught between horror and beauty, between being seen and being the seer.”
Miller was one of only two women combat photographers during World War II. She was also one of few correspondents who actually visited the liberated concentration camps.
She published images of emaciated survivors of the concentration camp, along with badly beaten Nazi guards, and earned a reputation as one of the most extraordinary photographers of the 20th century.
Vogue Fair Use
Former model Lee Miller bathes in the bathtub of Adolf Hitler's apartment in Munich, April 30, 1945