Hitler's Last days: Eyewitness: Valet HEINZ LINGE

Heinz Linge was Hitler's personal valet. Linge himself was captured by the Russians and later released in 1955 as part of a general amnesty. He died in 1980

 Linge with Hitler in happier times

On April 27, 1945, Hitler called me into his study. The Russians were advancing on Berlin and even the Fuhrer - normally so optimistic - had begun to realise defeat was inevitable.

He had totally isolated himself, wanting to see no one but Eva Braun and me; not even wishing to celebrate his 55th birthday.

With no preamble, Hitler addressed me: 'I would like to release you to your family.' I interrupted him: 'Mein Fuhrer, I have been with you in good times, and I am staying with you also in the bad.'

Calmly, he accepted my insistence. 'I have another personal job for you. You should hold in readiness woollen blankets in my bedroom and enough petrol for two cremations.

'I am going to shoot myself here together with Eva Braun. You will wrap our bodies in woollen blankets, carry them up to the garden and then burn them.'

'Jawohl, mein Fuhrer,' I stuttered, trembling. There was nothing else to say. Swiftly - my knees feeling as though they were about to collapse under me - I left Hitler alone.

Three days later he was dead. Opening the door to Hitler's room, I saw a sight that will never leave me. He and Eva were slumped on the floral sofa. Hitler had shot himself through the right temple. His head was inclined towards the wall and his blood had spattered on to the carpet. To his right sat Eva, her legs drawn up, her contorted face betraying the manner of her death: cyanide poisoning.

Ten years had passed since I began my service with Hitler and this moment, 3.45pm on April 30, 1945. A whole world lay between the man to whom I had sworn to be faithful unto death, and this corpse which I had now to wrap in a blanket, carry up the dark, narrow, bunker stairway, lay in a shell crater, douse with petrol and set alight.

The man I had first met in the summer of 1934 had been a dominant personality exuding a spellbinding charisma. The one whom I burned and interred under a hail of Red Army shells was a trembling old man, a spent force.

Born in Bremen in 1913, I was a former bricklayer who joined the Waffen-SS in my home town in 1933. I was never much interested in politics, but a year later I was dispatched with two dozen other comrades to Hitler's country seat at Berghof - the most widely known of his headquarters and a place he spent much time before and during World War II.

A year after that, I was selected to serve on Hitler's household staff and became his personal valet shortly after the outbreak of the war in 1939.

Just once to be in the presence of Adolf Hitler was then the wish of millions. But life with the Fuhrer was not without its trials.

My job was to sort the morning papers and the first foreign dispatches - placing them on a chair outside his bedroom. I would wake him at 11 o'clock. Hitler would rise, fetch the post and read it in bed - beside which there would be a tea-trolley with books, newspapers, his spectacles and a box of coloured pencils.

I was responsible for keeping him stocked with writing materials and spectacles (he never liked to be seen wearing these in public, as he thought it a sign of weakness). I always carried a spare pair of glasses when we travelled, as he often broke them while toying with them in his hand, ruminating over a problem.

After his morning reading session, Hitler always followed the same routine - he would shave, remove his white nightshirt, lay it on the bed, bathe, take the clothing ready on the clothes-stand and dress.

Hitler always dressed himself and he did this to a stopwatch, my presence being as a kind of referee. At his command 'Los!' I set the watch going and the dressing race began. The quicker he finished, the better his temper.

Standing before the mirror, eyes closed, he required my help only for the bow-tie, which also had to be done in record time. He counted the seconds and as soon as I said 'finished' he would open his eyes and check in the mirror.

The hairdresser and tailor were also required to work at the double. Hitler's characteristic lock of hair, which always lay across his forehead - and his moustache - attracted a lot of friendly amusement among the population. He knew this and took great pride in both. As far as the staff were concerned, his moustache was also a clue to his mood. If he was sucking it, he was unhappy and this was a warning to us.

It was often difficult to understand Hitler. On the one hand he pandered even to the most unimportant things, while on the other he was excessive and unfeeling.

He might show the most fatherly concern for a female secretary who had stubbed her toe but be utterly ice-cold when issuing orders that sent thousands to their deaths.

The 'privilege' of experiencing his concern was not necessarily an enjoyable affair. Frequently, he tried to convince me how unhealthy it was to smoke. As his personal servant, I had no option but to listen.

Forty minutes after waking, Hitler would take breakfast in the library - a frugal affair, only tea or milk, biscuits or sliced bread and an apple. During breakfast, he studied the menu card for lunch.

Two vegetarian courses, (both including the obligatory apple) were provided for him to choose from. Hitler had long eschewed meat, but if strangers came to lunch, his food was carefully arranged in such a way that the absence of meat was not obvious at first glance.

Because Hitler was such a late riser, it might be that the midday meal, usually attended by a dozen guests, would not be served until 2.30pm, by which time many of those invited would have satisfied their appetites by eating elsewhere.

Hitler's meals were prepared lukewarm after an operation on his vocal cords - following a gas attack during World War I - left his voice sensitive.

His diet consisted principally of potatoes and vegetables, a stew without meat, and fruit. Hitler would occasionally have beer with his meal, and wine on official occasions when a toast was to be made. He was strict about his vegetarianism and non-smoking, but was not opposed to alcohol.

However, he found drunkenness repulsive and gave up beer in 1943 when he began to put on fat around the hips. He believed the German people would not want to see a corpulent Chancellor.

Dinner was a much smaller affair, with only a few guests present, beginning at around eight.

Again, of course, it was vegetarian, with Hitler believing the 'most disastrous stage in human development was the day when man first ate cooked meat'. He was convinced that it was this 'unnatural' way of living that 'cut short' human life span to 60 or 70 years.

By Hitler's calculations, all animals whose nutrition was natural lived eight to ten times as long as their period of development to full maturity.

He was convinced we would all live to be 150-180 if we became vegetarian. Such a view exasperated his physicians, who constantly tried to persuade him to change his diet, keep regular hours, sleep normally and take exercise.

From what he told me, I knew that since the end of World War I he had suffered stomach trouble. Sometimes the gripes caused him to double up when he thought no one was looking.

In the ten years I knew him, he was constantly worried about his health, and his physical decline began early on.

At the end of 1942, when the fighting at Stalingrad reached a threatening stage, his left hand began to tremble. He made a great attempt to suppress this and hide it from outsiders by pressing his hand against his body, or grasping it firmly with the right.

Then in 1943, he seemed almost to become an old man overnight. By the end of 1944, he was moving without agility - bent both forward and sideways. If he wanted to sit, a chair had to be placed for him.

Despite increasing physical frailty, Hitler did little to protect himself from assassination attempts. He rejected precautions (like entering buildings discreetly through a back door) as exaggerated, believing: 'No German worker is going to do anything to me.'

Only very few of the attempts on his life were ever known publicly. Some he escaped very closely - like the time Himmler's car was shot at in an attempt clearly meant for Hitler (who for an unexplained reason was travelling in the car behind that day).

The only precautions he took were with food - banning foodstuffs from abroad and having his water tested daily.

After the war, it was said that Hitler had been so fearful of assassination that he always had the window blinds down when travelling by train. This, however, was not the real reason: his eyes were intolerant of sunlight. Even bright artificial light hurt them.

No, Hitler believed himself lucky and, by and large, he was. Only once was he struck by a bomb, on July 20, 1944. Some 200 wood splinters were removed from the Fuhrer's leg, his uniform was in ribbons, his hair singed and hanging in strands.

Yet in the immediate aftermath, he was calm, the doctor noting that his pulse never quickened. The only indication that anything out of the ordinary had happened was that he allowed me to help him out of his clothes, for the only time during my long service.

Just six months later, in December, the mood at Berghof had changed. Our hopes for a possible shift in the war situation were dashed. Victories on the Western Front had led to nothing.

Increasingly, Hitler spoke of the past. His health was deteriorating and with it his spirits. He grew distrustful of those around him. During those days I could not have been more attentive and watchful and the Fuhrer, who trusted me blindly, knew that. He once said: 'Linge, when you sit or stand behind me, I feel more secure than if one of the Obergruppenfuhrers [the highest rank in the SS] were to stand in your place.'

In Berlin, his April 20 birthday was a muted affair and it was just seven days later that he told me of his plans to die with Eva at his side.

Throughout my time with him, I had witnessed how he and Eva lived as man and wife during the times they were at the Berghof. They had four rooms for their intimate life: two bedrooms and two bathrooms with connecting doors. Hitler would end most evenings alone with Eva in his study drinking tea, while she lounged in a housecoat sipping sparkling wine.

Like any 'wife', she had influence over her husband, persuading him to loosen rationing for women whose menfolk were coming back from the Front and not to close hairdressing parlours, as he had once proposed.

No one was closer to Hitler than Eva, yet he was careful never to appear familiar with her in public. He believed that it was his duty to devote himself wholly to the German people and if they thought he was in an intimate relationship they would lose faith in him.

Two days after Hitler told me of the planned double suicide he finally rewarded Eva for her loyalty, by making her his wife.

 Allied soldiers at Hitler's bunker

It was something she had dreamt of for ten years but which was in the end a sterile, disappointing affair. Nevertheless Eva's face lit up when she was referred to as 'Frau Hitler'. When she awoke next morning it was to be her first and last day as a wife.

Hitler had lain on the bed all night fully dressed and awake. He delivered a monologue about the future at the midday meal, then he and Eva said their goodbyes .

At a quarter past three, I asked for his orders for the last time. Outwardly calm and in a quiet voice - as if he were sending me into the garden to fetch something - he said: 'Linge, I am going to shoot myself now. You know what you have to do.' I saluted, and as he took two or three tired steps towards me, he raised his right arm in the Hitler salute for the last time in his life.

I turned on my heel, closed the door and went to the bunker exit. In the midst of the cacophony of exploding Soviet shells a single pistol shot rang out. His life was over.

Mine would never be the same again.

Source: Daily Mail


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