There aren't many people who reminisce fondly about their days with Adolf Hitler, and the world just lost one of the last of them. Rochus Misch, Hitler's bodyguard and the last surviving witness to his final days in the bunker, died yesterday at age 96, surrounded by his family, his literary agent announced today. His death comes just a month ahead of the English-language publication of his book The Last Witness, the AP reports.
The AP and Reuters have both spoken with Misch in the past. Here are some highlights from those interviews:
- Misch called Hitler "the boss," and was fiercely loyal to him, staying in the bunker long after Hitler let others leave. He was the only one allowed to have a weapon inside the bunker.
- Misch cited his time with Hitler in the Bavarian Alps as the happiest of his life, showing off pictures of the Fuehrer surrounded by children. "It was wonderful, like a holiday. The boss was very relaxed when he was there."
- In addition to his duties as bodyguard, Misch acted as a sort of assistant, secretary, and courier for Hitler. "No matter who wanted to see Hitler, no matter if it was Goebbels, Goering, or anyone else, they had to get past me."
- "Life in the bunker was pretty normal. Hitler was mostly very calm," Misch once said. "It was much less dramatic than shown by many historians." But there was one disconcerting element: the silence. "Everybody was whispering, and nobody knew why. That's why it felt like the bunker of death."
- Misch never really condemned Hitler. "He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman," he said. He also said the dictator never mentioned the Final Solution around him. "That was never a topic. Never."
- Misch said he signed up for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler unit because the movement "was anti-communist, against Stalin—to protect Europe. "I signed up in the war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler."
- "He was a wonderful boss," Misch said of Hitler. He said he and fellow SS member Johannes Hentschel "were the closest people who worked with him ... we were always there. Hitler was never without us day and night. "