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My father was Hitler's bodyguard

By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin

Brigitta Jacob-Engelken as a baby with her parents
Brigitta's father was in prison for much of her childhood

In her home in the Bavarian countryside, Brigitta Jacob-Engelken shows me her childhood photos.

She has one remarkable picture. It is of her as a baby tucked up in a pram.

Nothing special about that, you might think. Until you discover where the pram came from.

It was a gift to her parents from Adolf Hitler's mistress.

"My mother got it from Eva Braun," Brigitta tells me. "And clothes, too."

That is because Brigitta's father, Rochus Misch, was part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. He worked in the Fuehrer's SS protection unit as a bodyguard, a courier and a telephone operator.

He was in Hitler's Berlin bunker when the Fuehrer committed suicide.

Brigitta only has one photograph of her father cradling her as a baby. Then, rather abruptly, his face disappears from the family album and from her childhood.

On escaping from Hitler's bunker he was captured by the Red Army. Along with hundreds of thousands of other German POWs, he was then transported east to the Soviet Gulag.

"I was a daughter without a father," Brigitta recalls. "I knew I had a father and that he was in prison. But you must know that there were lots of other children whose fathers were imprisoned. They came slowly back."

Homecoming

Brigitta remembers how German radio would broadcast lists of prisoners who had been released from Russia and were on their way home. Her mother would sit by the radio at night hoping to hear Rochus' name.

Brigitta Jacob-Engelken in her pram
Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun, gave Brigitta a pram

"But his name was never mentioned," says Brigitta, "and my mother cried."

Then on New Year's Eve 1953, a taxi drew up outside the family house. The doorbell rang.

"My grandmother went to the door and she cried, "Rochus ist da! [Rochus is here]"

We all jumped up and went to the door. I remember I was running along to jump in his arms. The first moment I was happy because I had the feeling our family was complete. It was a very emotional moment."

"I was very disappointed that he didn't come back wearing a Russian jacket. I'd seen them in films.

"He was wearing a normal suit and coat and hat like men wore in the 1950s.

"When he opened his suitcase I was searching for Russian coins. I wanted to find some pieces of Russia. I couldn't understand that he was so happy not to have one coin in his suitcase!"

Jewish roots

The initial joy of getting her father back soon passed.

Brigitta Jacob-Engelken
I don't blame my father for the work he did because it was harmless work
Brigitta Jacob-Engelken

Father and daughter seemed to have little in common. They argued. Then Brigitta's maternal grandmother let her into an amazing secret: Brigitta's mother was Jewish.

"My grandmother said to me, 'I think it's good to keep in touch with your roots. But don't tell your mother. She doesn't want that."

Mr Misch refused to accept that his wife was Jewish.

"He is still saying, 'No, I won't believe that!'. But I know it from my Grandma."

Brigitta learnt Hebrew, she spent time on a kibbutz in Israel. Back in Germany, she made a career as an architect. Among the projects she worked on were the restoration of local synagogues.

Her father is now 92. He lives in Berlin, 500 miles (800km) away from his daughter. For many years he kept silent about his past.

Now he talks openly about the five years he spent in Hitler's entourage, working for "the boss".

"I don't blame my father for the work he did," Brigitta says, "because it was harmless work.

"What I don't understand is that he is not giving a sign of more distance. No reflection afterwards. This is what I miss. His critical reflection."

But Brigitta considers her father's stories from the bunker do serve one useful purpose.

"I think it is of some value that you can hear how it really was in Hitler's inner circle. And that you can be sure that Hitler is dead. My father is someone who can say 'I've seen him dead!'."



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