Rochus Misch: Soldier who was proud to have been Hitler’s bodyguard

As Hitler’s body was burnt, Misch feared that he would be shot as a witness. But he stayed at his post

Rochus Misch, who has died at the age of 96, served as Adolf Hitler’s devoted bodyguard for most of the Second World War and was the last remaining witness to the Nazi leader’s final hours.

Misch remained proud about his years with Hitler, whom he affectionately called “boss”. In a 2005 interview he recalled Hitler as “a very normal man” and gave a riveting account of the German dictator’s last days before he and his wife Eva Braun killed themselves as the Red Army closed in around their bunker in Berlin. “He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman,” Misch said.

Born in 1917, in the small Silesian town of Alt Schalkowitz, in what today is Poland, Misch was orphaned at an early age. At 20 he decided to join the SS, an organisation he saw as a counterweight to a rising threat from the left. He signed up for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, a unit founded to serve as Hitler’s personal protection. “It was anti-communist, against Stalin – to protect Europe,” he recalled. “I signed up in the war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler.”

But when Germany invaded Poland Misch found himself in the vanguard as his SS division was attached to a regular army unit for the blitzkrieg attack. Misch was shot and nearly killed while trying to negotiate the surrender of a fortress near Warsaw, and he was sent to Germany to recover. There he was chosen in May 1940 as one of two SS men who would serve as Hitler’s bodyguards and general assistants, doing everything from answering the telephones to greeting dignitaries.

Misch and his comrade Johannes Hentschel accompanied Hitler almost everywhere he went, including his Alpine retreat in Berchtesgaden and his forward “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters. He lived between the Fuhrer’s apartments in the New Reich Chancellery and the home in a working-class Berlin neighbourhood that he kept until his death.

“He was a wonderful boss,” Misch said. “I lived with him for five years. We were the closest people who worked with him. We were always there. Hitler was never without us day and night.”

In the last days of Hitler’s life, Misch followed him to live underground, protected by the so-called Führerbunker’s heavily reinforced concrete ceilings and walls. “Hentschel ran the lights, air and water and I did the telephones – there was nobody else,” he said. “When someone would come downstairs we couldn’t even offer them a place to sit. It was far too small.”

After the Soviet assault began, Misch remembered generals and Nazi top brass coming and going as they tried desperately to cobble together a defence of the capital with the ragtag remains of the German military. He recalled that on 22 April, two days before two Soviet armies encircled the city, Hitler said: “That’s it. The war is lost. Everybody can go.”

Misch said, “Everyone except those who still had jobs to do like us – we had to stay. The lights, water, telephone ... those had to be kept going but everybody else was allowed to go and almost all were gone immediately.” However, Hitler clung to a report – false, as it turned out – that the Allies had called upon Germany to hold Berlin for two more weeks against the Soviets so they could fight communism together.

“He still believed in a union between West and East,” Misch said. “Hitler liked England – except for Churchill – and didn’t think that a people like the English would bind themselves with the communists to crush Germany.”

On 28 April Misch saw the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and Hitler’s confidant Martin Bormann enter the bunker with a man he had never seen before. “I asked who it was and they said that’s the civil magistrate who has come to perform Hitler’s marriage,” he said. That night, Hitler and Braun were married.

Two days later Misch saw Goebbels and Bormann talking to Hitler and his adjutant, Otto Guensche, in the bunker’s corridor. “I saw him go into his room ... and someone, Guensche, said that he shouldn’t be disturbed,” Misch said. “We all knew that it was happening. He said he wasn’t going to leave Berlin, he would stay here. We heard no shot, we heard nothing, but one of those who was in the hallway, I don’t remember if it was Guensche or Bormann, said, ‘Linge, Linge, I think it’s done’,” Misch said, referring to Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge.

“Then everything was really quiet. Who opened the door I don’t remember, Guensche or Linge. They opened the door, and I naturally looked, and then there was a short pause and the second door was opened ... and I saw Hitler lying on the table like so,” Misch said, putting his head down on his hands on his living-room table. “And Eva lay like so on the sofa with knees up, her head to him.”

Misch ran to the chancellery to tell his superior the news and then back downstairs, where Hitler’s body had been put on the floor with a blanket over it. “Then they bundled Hitler up and said, ‘What do we do now?’,” Misch said. “As they took Hitler out ... they walked by me about three or four metres away. I saw his shoes sticking outside the sack.”

An SS guard ran down the stairs and tried to get Misch to watch as the two were covered in petrol and set alight. “He said, ‘The boss is being burned. Come on out’,” Misch recalled. But Misch retreated into the bunker to talk to Hentschel. “I said, ‘I saw the Gestapo upstairs in the ... chancellery, and it could be that they’ll want to kill us as witnesses’,” Misch said.

But he stuck to his post in the bunker – which he described as “a coffin of concrete” – taking and directing telephone calls with Goebbels as his new boss until 2 May, when he was given permission to flee. Goebbels, he said, “came down and said, ‘You have a chance to live. You don’t have to stay here and die’.”

Misch fled with a few others into the rubble of Berlin. Working his way through cellars and subways, he surfaced after hearing German being spoken above through a ventilation shaft. But the voices came from soldiers who had been taken prisoner, and the Soviet guards seized him. He was taken to the Soviet Union, where he spent nine years in prisoner of war camps before returning to Berlin. He was reunited with his wife Gerda and opened up a shop.

Misch always avoided questions of guilt or responsibility for the Holocaust, saying that Hitler never brought up the Final Solution in his presence. “That was never a topic,” he said. “Never.”

Rochus Misch, soldier: born Alt Schalkowitz, Germany 29 July 1917; married 1942 Gerda (died 1997); died Berlin 5 September 2013.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape