Traudl Junge

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The Independent Online

Gertraud Humps, secretary: born Munich 16 March 1920; married 1943 Hans Junge (died 1944); died Munich 11 February 2002.

According to Traudl Junge, Adolf Hitler was friendly, considerate and soft-spoken, a well-groomed man who always washed his hands after stroking his dog, Blondi. The elegant, good-looking, lady worked for the Nazi leader as a secretary from 1942 to the end in 1945.

She was born Gertraud Humps in 1920, in Munich. She grew up without a father and after graduating from a commercial school at 16, in 1936, went to work as a clerical assistant for publisher. It was through her sister, who lived in Berlin, that she got a job in Hitler's Chancellery as a humble assistant in the typing pool. She did not see her employer in those days. Later, she was picked out as one of the top 10 girls and sent, with the other nine, to the Führer's headquarters in East Prussia, the Wolf's Lair (Wolfschanze).

There she saw the comings and goings of the top Nazi brass and allies such as Mussolini. It was excitingly seductive. She liked the forest headquarters and Hitler liked her; from then on she worked for him wherever he went, at the Wolf's Lair, in Berlin, at his Bavarian retreat and, from January 1945, in his underground bunker in the centre of Berlin.

She claimed she did not know about his crimes, including the Holocaust, at that time and was not required to write political or military texts but only to take down his letters and speeches. However, she was given the honour of taking down Hitler's last will and political testament on the morning of 29 April 1945. The following day he killed himself.

She confirmed what others have reported that Hitler did not want to face the ugly reality of war. His chauffeur always attempted to find a route that revealed few signs of bomb damage or other scars, and when he travelled in his special train the blinds were drawn to prevent the Nazi leader from confronting ugly scenes.

In 1943 Traudl married a young officer, and Hitler aide, Hans Junge, who was killed a year later during the Normandy campaign. She did not remarry.

After Hitler's death in April 1945 and the capture of Berlin by the Red Army, Junge was interned for six months. In May 1946 she returned to her native Bavaria, where she was "de-nazified" and classified by the Americans as a "youthful fellow traveller". This was probably a fair summing up. She had been brought up in an unpolitical household in which there was, apparently, little questioning of the status quo of pre-war Nazi Germany. When war came, she, like many others, believed Poland, France and Britain had forced it on Germany. But did she not see the anti-Jewish pogrom of November 1938, a very public event, and wonder why? Apparently not. After the war she studied the evidence on the Third Reich and was wracked with guilt because of her career in Hitler's service.

In American-occupied Munich Junge found employment as a secretary for an illustrated paper and later as a journalist, and was soon in demand as a witness of Hitler's circle. She helped on a number of historical films, documentaries and books including the Austrian director G.W. Pabst's 1955 feature film Der letzte Akt ("The Last Act"), about the last days in Hitler's Berlin bunker.

Her autobiography, Bis zur letzten Stunde: Hitlers Sekretärin erzählt ihr Leben ("To the Final Hour: Hitler's secretary tells her story"), which she wrote with the help of Melissa Müller, was published just before her death. She was also the subject of a 90-minute documentary film, Im toten Winkel ("Blind Spot"), which was screened at the Berlin film festival just hours before her death.

Interestingly, this was made by André Heller (with Othmar Schmiderer), the son of a Jewish businessman, whose father was a Viennese exile. Heller, to his surprise, found Junge, "unbelievably nice". She agreed to co-operate with him, giving 10 hours of interviews, because she knew she was terminally ill. She commented, "I have let my story go and life is letting me go."

David Childs