After remaining silent on the subject for more than six decades, the 100-year-old former personal secretary to Joseph Goebbels – Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister – has spoken out about her time with one of the most infamous of Nazi war criminals.
Brunhilde Pomsel, who worked for Goebbels for the last four years of the Second World War and often allowed his six children to play with her typewriter, spoke to Germany's Bild newspaper from her home in the Munich suburb of Schwabing.
Looking frail in a bright red cardigan and thick spectacles, Ms Pomsel recalled how, after her house was bombed, she was given dresses by Goebbels' wife, Magda. She also told of her visit to Goebbels' island villa on a Berlin lake, where she ate roast goose.
However, Ms Pomsel said she did not like or admire her former employer.
"He was unapproachable!" she said. "He never asked me a personal question. He had no idea what my name was right up until the very end."
Ms Pomsel's attitude differed from that of other secretaries employed by the regime to work with senior Nazis.
Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, who died in 2002, admitted to having been fascinated by her employer. She said: "He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend. I enjoyed the time by his side almost until the bitter end." Her autobiography formed the basis of the award-winning 2004 film Downfall about the final days of Hitler's life.
Joseph Goebbels shot his wife and then killed himself in Berlin bunker in the spring of 1945, as the Red Army moved on Berlin. Magda Goebbels had earlier poisoned her children with cyanide pills.
Ms Pomsel's described Joseph Goebbels' suicide as "cowardly".
"He took the easy way out," she said. "He should have been sentenced to death, but he was too cunning not to realise what would happen to him." Although Goebbels masterminded the Nazi regime's virulently anti-Semitic propaganda machine, Ms Pomsel assured Bild that she had only learned about the Holocaust when she was released from captivity five years after the end of the war.
"I was a stupid and politically disinterested nobody from a simple background," she said. She recalled how she arrived in Goebbels' office in 1942 and joined three other secretaries who were already working for him.
"I was forced to work there," she said. "I had been employed by Berlin Radio and was one of the fastest typists in the office.
"The only way I could have refused would have been to claim that I had an infectious disease. It was an order," she said. Ms Pomsel spent the last 10 days and nights of the war in the cellars of Goebbels' ministry of propaganda, taking cover from the Soviet artillery shells which were raining down on Berlin. She said an attempt was made to carry on work as normal.
On 1 May 1945, she was informed of Goebbels' suicide.
"The Russians then came and drove us out of the cellar," she said.
Ms Pomsel spent the next five years as a prisoner in the former Nazi concentration camps of Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, that had been hastily converted by the Russians into detention centres for captured Nazis. She was finally allowed out in 1950.
She went on to work as a secretary for regional radio, before joining Germany's main broadcasting station ARD in Munich.
"I never believed I would ever be able to live a happy life," she told Bild. "I will never forgive Goebbels for what he did to the world or for the fact that he murdered his innocent children."Reuse content