Book Review: Hitler’s Last Witness
Author: Rochus Misch
Publisher: Frontline Books
Number of Pages: 256
My Rating: 4
Summary from GoodReads.com:
After being seriously wounded in the 1939 Polish campaign, Rochus Misch was invited to join Hitler’s SS-bodyguard. There he served until the war’s end as Hitler s bodyguard, courier, orderly and finally as Chief of Communications. On the Berghof terrace he watched Eva Braun organize parties; observed Heinrich Himmler and Albert Speer; and monitored telephone conversations from Berlin to the East Prussian FHQ on 20 July 1944 after the attempt on Hitler’s life. Towards the end Misch was drawn into the Fuhrerbunker with the last of the faithful . As defeat approached, he remained in charge of the bunker switchboard as his duty required, even after Hitler committed suicide. Misch knew Hitler as the private man and his position was one of unconditional loyalty. His memoirs offer an intimate view of life in close attendance to Hitler and of the endless hours deep inside the bunker; and provide new insights into military events such as Hitler’s initial feelings that the 6th Army should pull out of Stalingrad. Shortly before he died Misch wrote a new introduction for this first-ever English-language edition. The book also contains a foreword by the Jewish author Ralph Giordano and a new introduction by Roger Moorhouse.
If you know anything about me, you realize that I am a huge history nerd and am obsessed with anything and everything that has to do with World War II. That being said, I was intrigued by this book for a couple of reasons, so hear me out.
First, I found it interesting the point of view that this memoir was written from- Hitler’s personal bodyguard, Rochus Misch. I mean, come on, how many books are written from the point of view of someone who is so deeply imbedded in the inner circle of this horrific person? Second, I was curious about the general German point of view as most of the books I read about are from concentration camp survivors, or those who rebelled against the Nazi regime. Let me add that I do not sympathize with Misch, but I found it fascinating to read about the war from his perspective.
The book begins before Europe entered the war and briefly talks about his role in the military and how he eventually worked his way up to the duty of Hitler’s personal bodyguard. He follows Hitler as he moves from one headquarters to the next, and even records some of the attempts to take his life. But he also shows the banalities of this man and shows him in the normal day-to-day life that he so often saw him in. Misch is rarely at the rallies that the Nazi leader spoke at so he mainly tells us about details such as when Hitler preferred his correspondence, how he addressed his regular employees, and the type of music he enjoyed listening to (quite a bit of Jewish artists might I add). All of these rare glimpses added up to basically showing what a regular person he was instead of this “god” that people made him out to be in the public eye.
What I felt was the most educating part of this book was when Misch revealed all of the details of the final days of the war in Hitler’s bunker. He was not guarded in his recordings but rather he put it all out there and was not afraid to share exactly what it was like. He made it out to be boring, anxiety-filled, and miserable, which I’m sure it was. The bunker itself was unpleasant and Hitler was constantly on edge because he knew they were losing the war and he was getting betrayed by many of his loyal followers on a daily basis. From his encounters with Hitler and Eva Braun to his post-war years in a Russian prison camp, Misch shares his life in simple fashion with no added frills. If you are a fan of historical books at all or simply curious about having a rare glimpse into an unknown world, you should definitely read this book. You will not be disappointed.