Hitler’s Last Witness

Posted: April 16, 2015 in Books, World War II

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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.

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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.

Hitler’s Last Witness is a one of a kind book – very few people can claim to have been as close to Hitler as Misch was, and even fewer survived to write a book about their experiences.  What is especially admirable about Misch’s book is how objective and apolitical it manages to be.  There is no glorification, and there is no condemnation either.  Misch is able to be completely neutral – acknowledging the faults of Hitler and the party, whilst also readily praising their positive aspects.

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Unfortunately, the weak point is frequently Misch himself.  He regularly makes references to how insignificant he considers himself to be, and doesn’t really understand why people would be interested in reading about his experiences.  While this may award him several thousand points for humility, it’s not exactly what a reader want to hear!  We want to be interested and engaged.  Telling us that what we’re reading isn’t very important isn’t exactly motivating!

Of course, Misch’s concerns are completely unfounded.  This is a great book, showcasing a very intimate part of history, and presented very well.  Well worth checking out for anyone into Hitler’s personal life, or the internal workings of the Third Reich.

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