September 7, 2013

Hitler's bodyguard faithful to the fuehrer to the finish

To Rochus Misch, who died Thursday at the age of 96, the reviled German dictator was simply the 'boss.'

By DAVID RISING The Associated Press

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Rochus Misch
click image to enlarge

Rochus Misch, who worked as a courier, bodyguard and telephone operator for Adolf Hitler, shows his picture book during a Reuters interview in Berlin in 2007. Misch, who died Thursday at the age of 96, was with Hitler until the end.

Reuters

After his evacuation to Germany and convalescence, he was appointed in 1940 to serve as one of two SS men who would serve as Hitler's bodyguards and assistants, doing everything from answering the phones to greeting dignitaries -- and once running flowers to one of the Fuehrer's favorite musicians who had gotten engaged.

FUEHRERBUNKER MENTALITY

Misch and SS comrade Johannes Hentschel accompanied Hitler almost everywhere

"He was a wonderful boss," Misch said. "I lived with him for five years. We were the closest people who worked with him ... we were always there. Hitler was never without us day and night."

In the last days of Hitler's life, Misch followed him underground, protected by the Fuehrerbunker's concrete.

"Hentschel ran the lights, air and water and I did the telephones -- there was nobody else," he said. "When someone would come downstairs we couldn't even offer them a place to sit."

After the Soviet assault began, Misch remembered Nazi brass coming and going as they tried to cobble together a defense of the capital with the ragtag remains of the German military.

He remembered that on April 22, two days before two Soviet armies completed their encirclement of the city, Hitler said, "That's it. The war is lost. Everybody can go."

"Everyone except those who still had jobs to do like us -- we had to stay," Misch said. "The lights, water, telephone ... those had to be kept going, but everybody else was allowed to go and almost all were gone immediately."

But that same day, Hitler clung to hope given by what turned out to be a false report that the Western Allies had called upon Germany to hold Berlin for two more weeks against the Soviets so that they could battle communism together.

"He still believed in a union between West and East," Misch said. "Hitler liked England -- except for (Winston) Churchill -- and didn't think that a people like the English would bind themselves with the communists to crush Germany."

On April 28, Misch saw Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and Hitler confidant Martin Bormann enter the bunker with an unfamiliar man.

"I asked who it was, and they said that's the civil magistrate who has come to perform Hitler's marriage," Misch said.

That night, Hitler and Eva Braun were married in a short ceremony in which they both pledged they were of pure Aryan descent before taking their vows and signing a registry.

Two days later, Misch saw Goebbels and Bormann again, this time talking with Hitler and his adjutant, SS Maj. Otto Guensche, in the bunker's corridor.

"I saw him go into his room ... and someone, Guensche, said that he shouldn't be disturbed. And that meant 'Now it's happening,'" Misch said. "We all knew that it was happening."

ARRESTED AT LAST

Eva Braun had died of poisoning and Hitler had shot himself.

"Then they bundled Hitler up and said 'What do we do now?'" Misch said. "As they took Hitler out ... they walked by me about three or four meters away, I saw his shoes sticking outside the sack."

After the bodies were carried outside, an SS guard ran down the stairs and tried to get Misch to join the spectacle outside as the two were covered in gasoline and set alight.

But Misch stuck to his post -- taking and directing telephone calls with Goebbels as his new boss until May 2, when he was given permission to flee.

Misch grabbed the rucksack he had packed and fled with a few others into the rubble of Berlin. Working his way through cellars and subways, Misch bumped into a large group of civilians seeking shelter in one tunnel.

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