Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard by Rochus Misch
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|Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard by Rochus Misch|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Forget claims this book is too unreliable or frivolous, this book can still teach you things you didn't know about Hitler and the passing of World War Two. The last-of-a-kind status bequeathed it is not the only thing to make it interesting.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: August 2014|
|Publisher: Frontline Books|
I am proud to declare an interest in all things Holocaust, one of the key areas of which was the last days of Hitler – the Downfall, if you like, way before youtube satirists. So this book, from the man who for some unspecified years was the last eye-witness to have been in the Fuhrerbunker at the end of the Nazi regime, was always going to be a great read. It remained that even after the foreword dismissed its own book, pointing out differences here to the canon of thought about the timings etc of April/May 1945, and declaring the author somewhat naïve in not being so aware, circumspect and authoritative about the major points of WWII.
I think Misch is worth much more attention that that opinion would hold; I'll admit the foreword does seem to admit an enjoyment of the trivial just as I had. So here is a man who was never really Hitler's bodyguard as such, giving his life story. Misch was in the unit that served as Hitler's bodyguard, so one of them was always within sight or earshot of the Fuhrer throughout the war, but really Misch was a factotum – from an early start delivering presents from Hitler, and documents to Hitler, he became a telephonist, able to give the ultimate contact through his switchboard.
And his testimony is interesting, whatever you may think of his text that leaves the military details and affirmations to the footnotes. He sees Hitler eat meat just the once, after he had sacked his Jewish cook; he sees Eva Braun's exuberance last to the end; he witnesses the Fuhrer being, feeling or seeming lonely, and ending his days in a tomb of his own making, with harsh artificial light that ruined everybody's circadian rhythm and echoed with the sound of the generators pushing air through it, towards everyone – warmongers and innocent children alike.
We do get this kind of trivia from a witness to the head Nazi, but we do also get a sense of the historical document the foreword seemed to seek – Hess's mystery-laden flight to Scotland was actually the third time he'd tried such a manoeuvre; and a strong sense of the author. Yes he never atones for doing his job, and he regularly points out he did it not as a NSDAP member but as someone who had seen the front and knew which side his bread was buttered, but he does point out that the declarations of him and others can at least make the future generations at least pose the right questions of the world – and not just idly watch things happen without interference or opinion. Misch does not seem to dissemble about the Final Solution – he always claims ignorance, but he was on the shoulder of one of the stand-out people history has provided us, and what he has to say in this book is definitely of note. Hitler had an eidetic memory, and certainly identified Misch at his work, although seemed to still urge a 'date' on the man soon after our narrator's wedding.
It is an unusual book – it seems to have had five ghost writers, it came after many years of Misch being in the media eye then tailing that appearance off due to age, and it comes to English with a new foreword from the author written just before he finally passed. It also has an argumentative and anonymous translator adding his own comments now and again, but what it does have principally is readability. Through either the work or the fault of someone or other it is incredibly light to read, and passes by in a breeze of easy vocabulary, light-hearted detail and very personable reflection. So if you can at least get aside the idea of assuming his unreliable narrator status, this book from Misch is one of the last eye-witness testimonies to what changed the last century so avidly, and is well worth a look.
Magda by Meike Ziervogel looks freshly at the last weeks of Hitler's life through a fictionalised Mrs Goebbels.
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