Rochus Misch as a Unterscharführer
|Born||29 July 1917
Alt Schalkowitz, German Empire
(now Stare Siołkowice, Poland)
|Died||5 September 2013
|Years of service||1937–1945|
1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler; Führerbegleitkommando
|Battles/wars||Battle of Modlin|
DRL Sports Badge
|Spouse(s)||Gerda (m. 1942 - died 1997)|
|Relations||Daughter Brigitta Jacob-Engelken|
|Other work||Home decorating|
Rochus Misch (29 July 1917 – 5 September 2013) was a German Oberscharführer (sergeant) in the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) during World War II. He served as a courier, bodyguard and telephone operator for German leader Adolf Hitler from 1940 to 1945. He was the last surviving occupant of the Führerbunker when he died in 2013.
Misch was born in Alt-Schalkowitz near Oppeln (Opole) in the Province of Silesia (now Stare Siołkowice, Poland). His father, a construction worker, died of wounds sustained in World War I. His widowed mother died of pneumonia when he was two and a half, and he grew up with his grandparents. His older brother Bruno died after an accident which occurred in May 1922.
Over the objections of the school director, his grandfather took Rochus out of school after eight years. His grandfather thought Rochus needed to learn a trade. He became an apprentice with the firm of Schmüller and Model and worked as a painter. In 1935, Misch attended the Masters' School for Fine Arts in Cologne. After six months, he returned to Hoyerswerda to continue his training. Misch met Gerda, his wife-to-be, in July 1938. They later married on New Year's Eve, 1942. They had a daughter, Brigitta Jacob-Engelken, who later in life worked as an architect and supported Jewish causes. After he returned from the Soviet Union, Brigitta learned from her maternal grandmother that Brigitta's mother was Jewish, making Brigitta Jewish as well (according to Jewish tradition). Misch refused to acknowledge it.
In 1937, Misch received a call up notice for military service. In Offenberg, he joined the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), the predecessor to the Waffen-SS instead of the German Army as the SS-VT did not require Reichsarbeitsdienst (National Labour Service) time. Along with eleven others, he was selected for Hitler's personal bodyguard unit, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). In August 1939, he was promoted to the rank of SS-Rottenführer.
For the invasion of Poland in September 1939, his regiment was attached to XIII Army Corps, a part of the Eighth Army. Close to Warsaw on 24 September, he was one of four men selected by his company commander, then SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Mohnke to negotiate the surrender of Polish troops during the Battle of Modlin. He was picked because of his ability, although very limited, to speak Polish. After the negotiations failed, the unarmed Germans headed back to their lines. When they were about 80 metres from the fort, the Poles opened fire. Several rounds hit Misch, who then fell and lost consciousness. Some fellow German soldiers carried him to the aid station. Later, he was transferred to two different hospitals. Thereafter, he spent six weeks at a convalecent home. For this act he was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class. As Misch was the last living member of his Lower Silesian family, Mohnke recommended him for the Führerbegleitkommando (FBK). This was made up of SS members, including men from the LSSAH who no longer had to serve on the front lines.
Misch was transferred to the FBK on 2 or 3 May 1940. As a junior member of Hitler's permanent bodyguard, Misch travelled with Hitler throughout the war. When not serving as a bodyguard, Misch and the others in the unit served as telephone operators, couriers, orderlies, valets, and waiters. On 16 January 1945, following the Wehrmacht's defeat in the Battle of the Bulge, Misch and the rest of Hitler's personal staff moved into the Führerbunker in Berlin. He did not leave it for any significant period of time until the war ended in May 1945. Misch handled all of the direct communication from the bunker.
Hitler committed suicide on 30 April. Misch witnessed the discovery of the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun, and was present (in the bunker complex) during the time when Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda poisoned their six young children and committed suicide on 1 May 1945. Misch and mechanic Johannes Hentschel, two of the last people remaining in the bunker, exchanged letters to their wives in case anything happened to either of them. Misch fled the bunker on 2 May only hours before the Red Army seized it. He was captured shortly thereafter. Misch was brought to the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, where he was tortured in an attempt to extract information regarding Hitler's exact fate. Misch spent nine years in Soviet forced labour camps.
After his release from captivity in 1953, Misch returned to Berlin, arriving home on New Year's Eve 1953, where he lived 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) from the Führerbunker. Following the rediscovery of the bunker in the 1990s, Misch stated publicly that the bunker complex should not be completely destroyed, being an important part of world history.
Misch struggled for several years with what to do with his life after captivity. He was offered various odd jobs, among others as a bodyguard and as a driver. While he entertained these offers, which for the most part were through his wartime contacts, all early offers would entail moving away from Berlin, which his wife refused unconditionally. He finally obtained credit backed by wealthy German philanthropists to buy out a painting and wallpaper business from a retiree in Berlin. He ran this modest business successfully, and during the early Allied occupation of Berlin also became involved in the making of peanut butter for American troops. This sideline became so successful that he considered leaving painting. His wife intervened and he remained in the painting business until retirement. His memoir in German, Der letzte Zeuge (The Last Witness), was published in 2008. The English edition was published in 2014 with an introduction by Roger Moorhouse.
With the deaths of Bernd von Freytag-Loringhoven on 27 February 2007, Armin Lehmann on 10 October 2008, and Siegfried Knappe on 1 December 2008, Misch became the last survivor of the Führerbunker. Misch was loyal to Hitler to the end, saying "He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman", "...very normal. Not like what is written", and "He was a wonderful boss".
After the release of the 2004 German film Downfall (Der Untergang) in France, French journalist Nicolas Bourcier interviewed Misch on multiple occasions during 2005. The resulting biography was published in French as J'étais garde du corps d'Hitler 1940–1945 (I was Hitler's bodyguard 1940–1945) in March 2006, ISBN 2253121541. Translations were released in South America, Japan, Spain, Poland, Turkey and Germany in 2006 and 2007.
Misch lived in Berlin in the same house he moved into when he was released by the Soviets. The house is in the district of Rudow in South Berlin. Misch regularly received visitors who wished to speak to or interview him.
Portrayal in the media
Rochus Misch has been portrayed by the following actors in film and television productions.
- Michael Kitchen in the 1981 United States television production The Bunker.
- Heinrich Schmieder in the 2004 German film Downfall (Der Untergang).
- Florian Lukas in the 2005 German television production Die Letzte Schlacht (The Last Battle).
- J'étais garde du corps d'Hitler (1940-1945 témoigne) - with Nicolas Bourcier, Le Cherche Midi, 2006, ISBN 978-2749105055. Paperback 2007, ISBN 978-2253121541.
- Rochus Misch: Der letzte Zeuge. Ich war Hitlers Telefonist, Kurier und Leibwächter. Mit einem Vorwort von Ralph Giordano. 11. Auflage, Piper-Verlag 2013, ISBN 978-3-492-25735-0.
- Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard. Frontline Books 2014, ISBN 978-1848327498.
Notes and references
- Bernstein, Adam (8 September 2013). "Rochos Misch, 96. Hitler attendant believed to be last survivor of dictator's bunker". Washington Post. p. C8. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- Rising, David (6 September 2013). "Hitler Bodyguard Rochus Misch Dies at 96". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- Misch 2014, p. 11.
- Misch 2014, p. 12.
- Misch 2014, pp. 11, 12.
- Misch 2014, pp. 14, 15.
- Chawkins, Steve (6 September 2013). "Rochus Misch dies at 96; Hitler's bodyguard was unrepentant". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- Rosenberg, Steve (4 September 2009). "My father was Hitler's bodyguard". BBC. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
- Misch 2014, p. 19.
- Misch 2014, p. 20.
- Misch 2014, p. 29.
- Misch 2014, p. 30.
- Misch 2014, pp. 30, 31.
- Misch 2014, p. 31.
- Misch 2014, p. 34.
- O'Donnell 1978, p. 101.
- Misch 2014, pp. 34, 35.
- Rosenberg, Steven (3 September 2009). "I was in Hitler's suicide bunker". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 2009-09-03.
- "The Hindu: 'I heard Hitler shoot himself'". Hinduonnet.com. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
- Margalit Fox, "Rochus Misch, Bodyguard of Hitler, Is Dead at 96," The New York Times, 2013-09-07, National Edition, page B8.
- Misch, Rochus (2008). Der Letzte Zeuge. Munich: Pendo Verlag GmbH. ISBN 978-3492257350.
- Misch 2014, p. xvii.
- "Last Hitler bodyguard Rochus Misch dies". BBC. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
- Abramowitz, Rachel (2008-12-27). "Cruise, Singer and McQuarrie discuss 'Valkyrie'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
- "Hitlers Hofstaat : Der letzte Zeuge aus dem Führerbunker ist tot – Nachrichten Geschichte – Zweiter Weltkrieg – DIE WELT". Welt.de. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
- Adolf Hitler's bodyguard Rochus Misch dies, smh.com.au, 7 September 2013
- "Rochus Misch (Character)". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
- O'Donnell, James P. (1978). The Bunker: The History of the Reich Chancellery Group. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-25719-7.
- Misch, Rochus (2014) . Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard. London: Frontline Books-Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-1848327498.
- Burns, Chris (15 October 1999). "Berliners debate what to do with Hitler's bunker". CNN.
- Hall, Allan (3 May 2005). "Hitler, the Tragic Goebbels Children and Me: 60 Years on, Führer's Nurse Tells Her Story". The Daily Mail. p. 13. (Not found in Daily Mail's online archive.)
- Simon, Ralf (29 July 2007). "Des Teufels Leibwächter: Die Geheimnisse des letzten lebenden Hitler-Vertrauten". Der Spiegel online (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-09. Part 2 - Eva Braun saß tot in der Couchecke
- Hattemer-Higgins, Ida (21 February 2005). "Hitler’s bodyguard". Salon.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09. interview with Rochus Misch
- The last survivor of Hitler's bunker. BBC. 3 September 2009. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
On the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, the BBC hears from Rochus Misch, the last surviving person to have been in Hitler's bunker between April and May 1945.