Birthday: July 29, 1917
Died At Age: 96
Sun Sign: Leo
Born Country: Poland
Born in: Stare Siołkowice, Poland
Famous as: Hitler's Bodyguard
Spouse/Ex-: Gerda Misch (m. 1942–1997)
children: Brigitta Jacob-Engelken
Died on: September 5, 2013
place of death: Berlin
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
awards: Iron Cross Wound Badge DRL Sports Badge
Rochus Misch was a German “Oberscharführer” (senior squad leader) who served in the ‘1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’ (LSSAH) in ‘Nazi’ Germany. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Modlin, fought during the German invasion of Poland at the outset of the Second World War. Following his recovery, Misch was inducted into the ‘SS-Begleitkommando des Führers,’ later called the “Führerbegleitkommando” (Führer Escort Command, or FBK) where he worked for around 5 years, serving Adolf Hitler as a bodyguard, courier, and telephone operator. Throughout the Second World War, Misch traveled with Hitler as a junior member of the latter’s permanent team of bodyguards. After the defeat of the ‘Wehrmacht’ in the Battle of the Bulge, Misch, along with other personal staff of Hitler, was moved into the air raid shelter known as the ‘Führerbunker.’ Following the death of Hitler, Misch escaped from the shelter but was soon captured by the ‘Red Army.’ He spent 8 years in the Soviet forced labor camps, before being released under an amnesty. Thereafter, Misch ran a painting and wallpaper business until he retired. He created a lot of controversy when he argued that Hitler was not a brute, monster, or superman, but was quite normal and a wonderfully good boss, who was never authoritarian.
Childhood & Early Life
Rochus Misch was born on July 29, 1917, in Alt Schalkowitz, Province of Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire, to a construction worker. His father succumbed to wounds sustained during the First World War. This was followed by his mother’s death due to pneumonia. Misch was just 2 and a half years old back then. He was thus raised by his grandparents. In 1922, he lost his older brother, Bruno, in a swimming accident.
His grandfather, who wanted Misch to learn a trade, stopped his schooling after 8 years, much to the objection of the school director. Years later, Misch started working as an apprentice with the firm of ‘Schmüller & Model’ in Hoyerswerda. He was also trained as a painter there.
He worked as a journeyman painter and then started attending the ‘Masters' School for Fine Arts’ in Cologne in 1935. He went back to Hoyerswerda after 6 months and continued with his training there.
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A military service call-up notice was given to Misch in 1937. However, instead of joining the ‘German Army,’ Misch joined the ‘SS-Verfügungstruppe’ (SS-VT). He and 11 others were chosen for the ‘1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’ (LSSAH) that started as Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit. The unit’s main duty was to guard the Führer, his offices, and his residences. Misch was elevated to the post of “SS-Rottenführer” in August 1939.
At the time of the Second World War, the ‘LSSAH’ turned into an elite division-sized unit. The unit fought during the invasion of Poland from September 1 to October 6, 1939. Misch’s regiment was attached to the ‘8th Army’s ‘XIII Army Corps’ during the invasion.
Misch’s (limited) Polish-speaking skills led his company commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Mohnke, to choose him with three other men to make attempts in negotiating the surrender of Polish troops during the Battle of Modlin. Misch’s attempts in negotiating the surrender of the ‘Modlin Fortress,’ while himself being wounded, later led him to receive the ‘Iron Cross, Second Class.’ Misch had been seriously wounded and had to undergo treatment at two different hospitals. He also spent 6 weeks at a convalescent home.
Being the last surviving member of his Lower Silesian family, Misch was recommended by Mohnke for the ‘FBK’ so that he would not have to serve on the front lines. In May 1940, he was inducted into the ‘FBK,’ which was assigned the task of protecting the life of Adolf Hitler. During the Second World War, the ‘FBK,’ with Misch serving as a junior member of Hitler's permanent bodyguard unit, accompanied Hitler on all his travels and remained with him at the various “Führerhauptquartiere” in different areas of the German-occupied Europe. Thus, Misch had the opportunity of being in close proximity to Hitler for several years.
As part of the Fuehrer's inner circle, Misch and others from the unit also served as couriers, telephone operators, orderlies, waiters, and valets. The only armed men who were allowed by Hitler to be near him were the ‘FBK’ members. These men were only allowed to carry ‘Walther PPK 7.65’ pistols.
After the German defeat in the Battle of the Bulge, their last major Second World War offensive campaign on the Western Front, Misch and other personal staff members of Hitler were moved into the air-raid shelters “Führerbunker” and “Vorbunker,” beneath Berlin’s ‘Reich Chancellery’ garden on January 16, 1945. Misch was made the telephone operator of the heavily reinforced bunker by Franz Schädle, his ‘FBK’ commanding officer. This saw him handling all direct communications.
The Fall of Nazi Germany & Its Aftermath
As ‘Nazi’ Germany was collapsing and the ‘Red Army’ was less than 500 metres from the ‘Führerbunker,’ on April 30, 1945, Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, whom he had married the day before, committed suicide. While Hitler killed himself by shooting himself with a gun, Eva consumed cyanide. Misch recalled the incident, stating that after Hitler and Eva locked themselves in Hitler’s room, everyone was waiting for the gunshot, as they had all expected it. When it finally happened, he accompanied Otto Günsche and the chief valet of Hitler, Heinz Linge, to the room and took a quick “glance” at the dead bodies of Hitler and Eva. Misch then saw several men taking Hitler’s body out of the room. It was wrapped in a blanket.
Misch informed about the event to Schädle, who advised him to go back to his duty station. As the corpses of Hitler and Eva were burned in the ‘Reich Chancellery’ garden, Misch refused to watch the event.
While Misch was still serving in the bunker complex, Magda Goebbels, wife of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, poisoned their six children to death on May 1, 1945. The couple then committed suicide. Joseph had come with his family to stay in the bunker when the ‘Red Army’ was about to enter Berlin. Misch recalled the event as the "most dreadful thing" he had experienced during his stay in the bunker and claimed that before taking this step, Joseph had told him: “Well, Misch, we knew how to live. Now we know how to die."
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Before committing suicide, Joseph had released Misch from further service, thus making him free to leave. Misch thus fled from the bunker on May 2, 1945, informing a wounded Schädle, who later shot himself. The Soviets captured the bunker the same day. Misch was eventually taken prisoner by the ‘Red Army’ and confined at the ‘Lubyanka Prison’ in Moscow, where the ‘NKVD’ officers subjected him to severe torture to extract information about the last days of Hitler. The Soviets, for political reasons, presented different versions of Hitler's fate, including the possibility that Hitler was not dead but had managed to escape and was protected by the former “Western Allies.”
Life After Prison
Misch was freed from confinement in 1953, after spending 8 years in forced labor camps of the Soviet Union. He then returned to West Berlin. He reached home on December 31 that year. The house was 3.2 kilometres away from the ‘Führerbunker.’
It took Misch years to decide how he would move on in life after captivity. He was offered different jobs, mostly through his wartime contacts. Misch, however, wished to find a suitable occupation in Berlin, as his wife, who was working as a teacher in Neukölln at that time, was not ready to move out of Berlin.
Misch ultimately took a loan and bought an interior-decorating and painting shop from a retiree in Berlin. He ran the business successfully and also launched a side business of making peanut butter. Misch ran his shop until he retired in 1985.
Misch, who had remained loyal to Hitler throughout his association with him, got entangled in a controversy when he claimed that Hitler was not a brute or a monster. He claimed Hitler was a normal person, contrary to what is written about him. He also added that Hitler was a wonderful boss.
Following the release of the historical war drama film ‘Downfall’ (2004), which depicted the final days of Hitler, in 2005, French journalist Nicolas Bourcier interviewed Misch quite a few times. These interviews resulted in his French biography, ‘J'étais garde du corps d'Hitler 1940–1945’ (‘I was Hitler's bodyguard 1940–1945’), which was published in March 2006. While giving an interview in 2005, Misch described the events seen in the film as "Americanized" and to some extent exaggerated, compared to what had happened in reality.
American screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie consulted him while writing the 2008 thriller film ‘Valkyrie’ that depicted the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944.
Following the deaths of Bernd von Freytag-Loringhoven, Armin Lehmann and Siegfried Knappe, Misch became the last known survivor of the ‘Führerbunker’ in December 2008. The same year, his memoir ‘Der letzte Zeuge’ (‘The Last Witness’) was published in German. It was published in English in 2014.
Family & Personal Life
In July 1938, he met Gerda. The two married on New Year’s Eve in 1942. The couple had a daughter named Brigitta Jacob-Engelken. Brigitta grew up to be an architect and supported Jewish causes after the Second World War.
In 1975, Gerda was elected to the parliament of West Berlin, where she served for many years. She later suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in 1998.
In his later years, Misch gladly welcomed his visitors who were interested to speak to him or wished to take his interview. He passed away in Berlin on September 5, 2013.