Hitler’s Last Witness Book Review
|Date of Review||October 2014||Title||Hitler’s Last Witness|
|Author||Rochus Misch||Publisher||Frontline Books|
|Format||256 pages, hardbound||MSRP (USD)||$32.95|
Hitler, this volume claims, "was beside himself with rage" at the torching of synagogues during the infamous Kristallnacht in Nov 1938.
A Westphalia farmer's wife sent him home-baked bread every week – which the Nazi leader directed should be taken directly to the kitchen "as soon as the mail van brought it".
While technically unlisted, the Führer's phone number "was not by any means secret". And because Berlin's telephone system remained operable until war's end, "a host of outraged citizens were always ringing in".
Oh, and the author never heard Hitler laugh aloud.
Those are some of the revelations in Hitler's Last Witness, the fascinating memoirs of Rochus Misch from Frontline Books – available in North America from Casemate.
Subtitled "The Memoirs of Hitler's Bodyguard", this intriguing and entertaining book comes packed with intimate observations – of events, German officers, Nazi underlings, Hitler's family and, naturally, Führerbunker personnel during the Third Reich's death throes.
Misch himself suffered serious wounds in the 1939 Polish campaign – and thereafter entered SS service as Hitler's bodyguard, courier, orderly and, eventually, Führerbunker switchboard operator.
In short, he personally saw – and experienced – many events he relates. And his memoirs dutifully report some real eye-openers.
But therein lies the book's foremost flaw. Eye-witness testimony makes good journalism – but debatable history. And while first-hand narratives excite and entertain, they can prove unreliable and inaccurate. Combat after-action reports often confirm that.
A rapid, riveting read, the 254 pages of Hitler's Last Witness fly by. The book also sports 16 pages of photographs, short biographies of selected individuals Misch mentions, and an index. Ours was an "unedited", advance paperback. Casemate now carries the hardbound edition.
Rochus Misch considered Hitler a "normal, simple man, the simplest man I ever knew" and "extremely unpretentious". He loved children and animals. But he plunged the world into misery, chaos and holocaust. Remember that as you read Misch's admittedly enthralling account. And use it as one step to deeper study of Nazi Germany's notorious Führer.
With thanks to Casemate for the review copy.