The former bodyguard of Adolf Hitler, Rochus Misch, served for most of World War II and was the last remaining witness to the Nazi leader’s final hours in his Berlin bunker. However, he died Thursday at the age of 96 after battling a short illness.
He remained proud to the end about his years with the Fuhrer, whom he affectionately called “boss.” In a 2005 interview with The Associated Press, Misch recalled Adolf 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 Soviet Red Army closed in around their bunker in Berlin.
“He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman,” Misch said.
Born July 29, 1917, in the tiny Silesian town of Alt Schalkowitz, in what today is Poland, Misch was orphaned at an early age. At age 20, he decided to join the SS — an organization that he saw as a counterweight to a rising threat from the left. He signed up for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, a unit that was founded to serve as Hitler’s personal protection.
“It was anti-communist, against Stalin — to protect Europe,” Misch said. “I signed up in the war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler.”
But when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, 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 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 Fuehrer’s apartments in the New Reich Chancellery and the home in a working-class Berlin neighborhood 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.”