Hitler's Last Witness, the Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard, Rochus Misch

Hitler's Last Witness, the Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard, Rochus Misch

Rochus Misch was a member of Hitler's bodyguard and a telephone switchboard operator, who ended up operating the switchboard in the Berlin bunker. He was thus a witness to Hitler's last days, and was on the edge of momentous events. After spending some time in Soviet captivity after the war, he returned to a fairly anonymous life in Germany, at least until interest in Hitler's last days began to increase, and the evidence of the last eyewitness came into demand. He produced this autobiography in an attempt to answer the many questions that came his way, and to reduce the amount of time he had to spend answering them.

Although Misch doesn't appear to have been terribly thoughtful at the time (at least in part because he realised that too much curiosity could have sent him to the front, and he quickly realised how lucky he was not to be at the front), he did ponder some interesting questions in his memoirs, not least how the holocaust could have been kept secret from Hitler's immediate staff. His view is that any sensitive conversations took place in private meetings between Himmler and Hitler, where none of the staff were present. He also finishes his book with a clear anti-war message, and the hope that his grandchildren recognise the value of democracy - an impressive finish not always present in the memoirs of those who were close to Hitler. For most of the war Misch was clearly content with what he realised early on was a fairly easy life, with few risks and plenty of perks.

For most of the war Misch was close to major events, but not close enough to have much insight into them - he was often actually just outside the room. When operating as a telephone operator one of his jobs was to listen to the sound quality of conversations, but most of the time he appears to have ignored their content. As the war turned against Germany, and the pressure built up on Hitler, that distance began to blur, and when Hitler and his entourage moved into the bunker early in 1945 that sense of distance disappeared. As a result we get a more close-up view of the final few months of the war, and in particular of the last few days in the Bunker and the mood after Hitler's suicide. Misch provides a valuable eyewitness to these events (although his details don't always match other accounts, which also often don't agree with each other). The earlier sections are also of interest, although Misch wasn't quite as close to the inner circle as some of the other authors of memoirs.

Author's Introduction
1 - My Childhood: 1917-1937
2 - Conscripted Soldier: 1937-1939
3 - The Outbreak of War: 1939
4 - Hitler Needs a Courier
5 - My Reich - The Telephone Switchboard
6 - The Berghof, Hitler's Special Train and Rudolf Hess
7 - FHQ Wolfsschanze: 1941
8 - FHQ Wolfsschanze, FHQ Wehrwolf, Stalingrad
9 - The Eastern Front Begins to Turn West
10 - The Philanderer: 1944
11 - Weddings and Treason: 1944
12 - Preparing the Berlin Bunker: February-April 1945
13 - Bunker Life: The Last Fortnight of April 1945
14 - Hitler's Last Day: 30 April 1945
15 - Negotiations and the Goebbels's Children: 1 May 1945
16 - Break-out and Capture
17 - My Nine Years in Soviet Captivity
18 - My Homecoming and New Beginnings

Author: Rochus Misch
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 240
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2014 translated edition of 2008 German original

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