Monthly Archives: September 2013

Historian’s Almanac for September 7, 2013

Yesterday, September 6, 2013, Rochus Misch died.  He was 96 years old, when the angel of death called at his residence.  He was just one of many individuals who died on September 6.  So, why do we note his passing?

Rochus Misch was the last survivor from among those who chose to spend the last days of the Third Reich along with Adolf Hitler in a concrete and steel bunker beneath the streets of Berlin.  Above, those who once hailed Hitler as one sent from providence were enduring the wrath of the Russian army.

Hitler’s intimate entourage drank champagne while recalling days of glory.  Many of them must have believed that they were participating in a Wagnerian opera.  Meanwhile Hitler cursed the German people and blamed them for the fact that his dream of a new German Reich that would last for a thousand years was ending after only 12 years.

Rochus Misch became a part of Hitler’s inner circle in 1940 after being severely wounded and receiving the Iron Cross during the German conquest of Poland.  He served as a chauffeur and bodyguard to Hitler.  Wherever Hitler went, Misch went.

Misch was, and remained up until his death, a loyal servant of the man he referred to as a “wonderful boss.”  Misch was present when the door to Hitler’s room in the bunker was opened in order to remove his and Ava Braun’s bodies after they committed suicide.  “I saw Hitler slumped with his head on the table. Eva Braun was lying on the sofa, with her head towards him,” he recalled later in an interview.

He knew of Magda Goebbels’ plan to murder her six children following Hitler’s death.  It was unthinkable, she said, for her children to have to live in a world without Hitler.  After administering the fatal poison to the children, Misch recalled that their mother came out of the room crying, and then sat down at a table and began playing solitaire.  Shortly afterwards, Magda and Joseph Goebbels committed suicide above ground in the Chancellery gardens.

Misch always insisted that Hitler was a perfectly normal person.  “He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman,” claimed Misch.  He never indicated remorse for the concentration camps about which he said Hitler never spoke in his presence.

Misch left what he later referred to as “the bunker of concrete” on May 2. He became a prisoner of the Russians after the fall of Berlin.  The Russians took him to Moscow, where he was tortured repeatedly, as the Russians demanded that he reveal what he knew about Hitler’s fate.

In 1954, after spending 9 years in Russian prisoner of war camps, Misch was free to return to Berlin.  He and his wife, Gerda, whom he married in 1942, opened a paint and wallpaper shop in a Berlin suburb.  Gerda died in 1997.

Rochus and Gerda Misch had only one child, a daughter, Brigitta, who learned from her maternal grandmother that her mother was, in fact, Jewish.  It was a revelation that her father was never willing to believe.

Brigitta Jacob-Engelken became an architect.  She lived for a time on a kibbutz in Israel, and has supported and participated in a number of Jewish causes.

Rochus Misch served as a consultant for two recent and highly regarded movies about the end of the Third Reich, Downfall (2004) and Valkyrie (2008).

One is tempted to wonder if Herr Misch is once again serving as Hitler’s chauffeur.

Be good, do good, and always live under the mercy.