Rochus Misch, 1917–2013

The bodyguard who defended Hitler to the end

Rochus Misch never had any regrets about his wartime service to the man he affectionately called “the boss.” For most of World War II, the former German soldier was Adolf Hitler’s bodyguard and personal assistant. He poured tea for propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, witnessed the attempted assassination of the führer by his top generals in 1944, and was one of the first people to see the bodies of Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, after they committed suicide in April 1945—Hitler by gunshot, Braun by poison. “I saw him slumped with his head on the table,” he said. “I saw Eva on the sofa; her head was next to him, her knees drawn tightly up to her chest.”

Misch, the last known witness to Hitler’s final days, was 20 when he joined the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite corps, said the Associated Press. “I signed up for war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler,” Misch said. While recovering from a wound sustained during Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland, he was invited to become one of Hitler’s two chief bodyguards. He met the Nazi leader and was impressed. “He wasn’t a monster or superhuman,” Misch said in 2011. “He stood across from me like a completely normal man with nice words.”

By late April 1945, as the Soviet army surrounded Berlin, Hitler had retreated to his underground bunker with Misch and several key aides. Misch was present at Hitler and Braun’s marriage on April 29. “I wondered how I would address her—Frau Hitler?” said Misch. “It was a moot question,” said The New York Times. The next day, knowing their cause was lost, the couple committed suicide. Misch fled the bunker two days later and was captured by Soviet troops. He spent much of the next nine years in prison camps in Kazakhstan and Siberia, said the Los Angeles Times. After his release, he returned to Berlin and opened a home decorating business.

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Until the end, Misch deflected questions over responsibility for the Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews, saying Hitler never mentioned the Final Solution in his presence. “That was never a topic,” he claimed in 2005. “Never.”

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