Academic journal article Flinders Journal of History and Politics

Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard

Academic journal article Flinders Journal of History and Politics

Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard

Article excerpt

Rochus Misch, Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard. Translated by Geoffrey Brooks with an introduction by Roger Moorhouse, Scribe, Melbourne, 2014, 243pp. + xxvii, $32.99.

The fascination with Adolf Hitler will not go away. The publishers of this book by Hitler's former bodyguard Rochus Misch are well aware of that and have done their bit to fan the flames. But have they simply sought to capitalise on a ghoulish interest in an already well-documented past, or does the publication of this book genuinely deliver new knowledge and insight?

Rochus Misch had attracted a good deal of interest from historians long before he chose to commit his story to print. The legions of viewers of the movie Downfall will be familiar with the figure of Misch as the loyal telephonist who inhabited the bunker with his 'boss' Hitler to the bitter end. And in 'real life' Misch freely recalled to all who would listen his experiences in service of the Führer.

The celebrity status of his later years - Misch died in 2013 - stood at odds with his humble beginnings. Born in Silesia during the First World War and orphaned very young, a career in the armed forces led him into the campaign in Poland in 1939, wounding in battle, and then allocation to an elite SS group dedicated to serving Hitler. Misch did this as a bodyguard, a courier, and ultimately a telephonist, managing over several years to retain Hitler's confidence. Such a curriculum vitae was difficult to conceal at the end of the war, of course, with the result that Misch spent eight years as a guest of the Soviets before being returned to Germany and confronted with the task of establishing something resembling a normal life.

Misch was not the first to report from the bunker. A similar, slightly earlier case is that of Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, whose recollections formed some of the basis of Downfall, in which she appears briefly in person. Misch's book poses questions similar to Junge's reminiscences. Where some will prefer to deny Hitler his humanity and cast him as a monster, Junge and Misch describe a boss who generally treated them well, who displayed a range of distinctly human traits and could even, at times, provoke sympathy. …

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