Rochus Misch never expressed regret over his wartime service or doubts about the man he and his comrades called “the boss.”
Misch was Adolf Hitler’s bodyguard, messenger and telephone operator. He had tea and cookies with Hitler’s sister in Vienna. He delivered a congratulatory bouquet from Hitler to a young musician who had just announced his engagement. He was in the next room of the infamous Berlin bunker when Hitler and Eva Braun, the Nazi leader’s wife, killed themselves on April 30, 1945.
Misch, the last survivor of the entourage holed up in Hitler’s underground lair, died in Berlin on Thursday. He was 96.
His death was confirmed to The Associated Press by Burkhard Nachtigall, an author who helped Misch write his 2008 memoir, The Last Witness.
In numerous interviews over the years, including a lengthy 2004 oral history with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Misch said he had no knowledge of the millions of deaths by genocide at Nazi concentration camps.
At the war’s end, Misch was captured by Russian soldiers invading Berlin, tortured in prison, and sent to work camps in Kazakhstan and Siberia until his release in 1953. He was never charged with a war crime.
Summoned as a witness to the Nuremberg trials, he was not called to testify. A former member of an elite Nazi SS guard, Misch drew outrage from critics with his nonchalant approval of Hitler decades after the war.
“He is the most unrepentant and unapologetic Hitler supporter you could ever have the misfortune to meet,” a reporter for the London Sunday Express wrote in 2003.
In 1944, Misch witnessed the attempted assassination of Hitler by top generals.
In the Reich’s final days the next year, Misch was manning the bunker’s phones when Hitler gathered his remaining staff for goodbyes. A little while after he and Braun disappeared into his office, someone discovered their bodies and Misch came running.
“I saw him slumped with his head on the table,” he told the BBC. Hitler had shot himself, and his wife had taken cyanide.
In 2009, Misch’s daughter, Brigitta Jacobs-Engelken, told the BBC a family secret: her mother — Misch’s wife, Gerda, who died in 1998 — was Jewish.
“I know it from my grandma,” the daughter, an architect in Germany who worked to restore synagogues, said of the news that Gerda’s mother had shared.
Misch refused to accept it, his daughter said.