Hitler's former bodyguard Rochus Misch is the last survivor of Hitler's bunker
By Steven Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin
At his living room table, 92-year-old Rochus Misch shows me some of his old photo albums. Private pictures he had taken more than 60 years ago. There are colour images of Mr Misch in an SS uniform at Adolf Hitler's home in the Alps, snapshots of Hitler staring at rabbits, and photos of Hitler's mistress and future wife Eva Braun.
For five years, SS Oberscharfuehrer Rochus Misch had been part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle, as a bodyguard, a courier and telephone operator to the Fuehrer.
Rochus Misch spent years as part of Hitler's inner circle. Photo Rochus Misch
"My first meeting with Hitler was rather strange," Mr Misch recalls. "I'd been in the job 12 days when Hitler's chief adjutant, a man called Bruckner, started asking me questions about my grandmother, about my childhood.
"Then he got up and walked towards the door. Being an obedient soldier, I flung myself forward to open it, and there was Hitler standing right behind the door. I felt cold. Then I felt hot. I felt every emotion standing there opposite Hitler.
"In the Fuehrer's entourage, strictly speaking, we were bodyguards," says Mr Misch. "When Hitler was travelling, between four and six of us would accompany him in a second car. But when we were at Hitler's apartment in the Chancellery we also had other duties. Two of us would always work as telephone operators. With a boss like Hitler, there were always plenty of phone calls."
With the Allies advancing and Germany on the brink of defeat, Hitler retreated to his Berlin bunker. Rochus Misch was the telephone operator there.
"I worked in a small room with a telephone and teletype machine with outside lines," he remembers.
Hitler's HQ in eastern Poland was known as the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair). Photo: Rochus Misch
"There was only enough room to shelter one extra person in my room in the event of an air raid. The bunker really wasn't that big. It contained small rooms of only 10 to 12 square metres."
Rochus Misch is the last survivor of the Hitler bunker. He is the final witness of the drama that took place there on 30 April 1945. It was the day Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide.
"Suddenly I heard somebody shouting to Hitler's attendant: 'Linge, Linge, I think it's happened.' They'd heard a gunshot, but I hadn't. At that moment Martin Bormann, Hitler's private secretary, ordered everyone to be silent. Everyone began whispering. I was speaking on the telephone and I made sure I talked louder on purpose because I wanted to hear something. I didn't want it to feel like we were in a death bunker.
Eva Braun at The Berghof, Hitler's Alpine HQ. Photo Rochus Misch
"Then Bormann ordered Hitler's door to be opened. I saw Hitler slumped with his head on the table. Eva Braun was lying on the sofa, with her head towards him. Her knees were drawn tightly up to her chest. She was wearing a dark blue dress with white frills. I will never forget it.
"I watched as they wrapped Hitler up. His legs were sticking out as they carried him past me. Someone shouted to me: 'Hurry upstairs, they're burning the boss!' I decided not to go because I had noticed that Mueller from the Gestapo was there - and he was never usually around. I said to my comrade Hentschel, the mechanic: 'Maybe we will be killed for being the last witnesses.'"
The next day the drama continued. Down in the bunker, the six children of Germany's new leader - Joseph Goebbels - were drugged and murdered. It was their own mother Magda who killed them.
"Straight after Hitler's death, Mrs Goebbels came down to the bunker with her children," Mr Misch recalls. "She started preparing to kill them. She couldn't have done that above ground - there were other people there who would have stopped her. That's why she came downstairs - because no-one else was allowed in the bunker. She came down on purpose to kill them.
"The kids were right next to me and behind me. We all knew what was going to happen. It was clear. I saw Hitler's doctor, Dr Stumpfegger give the children something to drink. Some kind of sugary drink. Then Stumpfegger went and helped to kill them. All of us knew what was going on. An hour or two later, Mrs Goebbels came out crying. She sat down at a table and began playing patience."
Winston Churchill poses outside the Berlin bunker
Mr Misch fled Hitler's bunker just hours before it was seized by the Red Army. But he was quickly captured and spent the next nine years in Soviet labour camps. The captured "Fuehrerbunker" became a symbol of the Allies' victory in World War II.
Two months after the end of the war, Winston Churchill visited it. He posed for photos outside, sitting on a chair recovered from the shelter. In later years, the bunker was blown up to stop it becoming a Nazi shrine.
At the end of our conversation, I ask Rochus Misch whether he knew of the horrors that Adolf Hitler had unleashed across Europe. Did he know about the Holocaust?
"I knew about Dachau camp and about concentration camps in general," he tells me. "But I had no idea of the scale. It wasn't part of our conversations. The Nuremberg Trial dealt with crimes committed by the Germans. But you must remember there was never a war when crimes weren't committed, and there never will be."
Britain declared war on Nazi Germany exactly 70 years ago today. What are your memories of the day? What did you or your relatives do in the war? Do you or your family have any inspirational wartime stories? Are you doing anything to mark the anniversary? Tell us your experiences here.
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