Last days Of Hitler: Eyewitness Accounts: ERNA FLEGEL: Hitler's Nurse

 Hitler's Nurse, ERNA FLEGEL

Erna Flegel (11 July 1911 – 16 February 2006) was a German nurse. From January 1943 until the end of World War II, Flegel served in that capacity for Hitler's entourage and during the Battle of Berlin. She is believed to have been in Hitler's bunker when he committed suicide.

Flegel was born in Kiel in 1911.

She had originally worked alongside one of Hitler's physicians, Dr. Werner Haase, as a nurse at Humboldt University Hospital and was transferred by the Red Cross to the Reich Chancellory as the war ended.

During her time in the Führerbunker she befriended Magda Goebbels and sometimes acted as a nanny to the Goebbels children until their deaths.

During the Soviet capture of Berlin, Soviet troops advised her to remain in the bunker where it was safer. Later interrogated by the Americans, Flegel then lived a life of anonymity until 1977 when documents including her interrogation were declassified. The media later tracked her down to her residence, a nursing home in Germany.

She was portrayed in the 2004 German film Der Untergang by Liza Boyarskaya.

Flegel died in Mölln in 2006.

The Berlin paper BZ relates 93-year-old Erna Flegel's account of the last days of World War II, under the headline "I was Hitler's nurse".

Mrs Flegel said she stayed in the bunker after Hitler killed himself and was there when Soviet troops arrived.

She said Hitler was so paranoid that he even suspected spies had filled his cyanide capsule with false poison.

From January 1943 until the end of the war, Mrs Flegel's job was to give medical treatment to Hitler and his inner circle, she told the paper.

She was interviewed by US secret service agents in 1945, but otherwise has kept silent about her experiences for the past 60 years, BZ reports.

Now, however, she said she had decided to speak out, telling the paper: "I don't want to take my secret with me to the grave."

Mrs Flegel's story does not challenge what is already known, but does add new details.

She said of Hitler: "By the end, he didn't trust anyone any more - not even the cyanide capsule he swallowed."

She also recalled trying to save the lives of the six children of Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, but said his wife Magda, who poisoned them, was "merciless".

Mrs Flegel said that after Hitler's suicide, Goebbels took over as leader, but no-one paid any attention to him.

"His last subordinates shot themselves in succession," she said. "And those who didn't shoot themselves tried to flee."

She said she remained, however. "I had to look after the wounded."

In the newspaper interview, Mrs Flegel described the atmosphere in the bunker as the noise of approaching Soviet forces grew.

"You could feel that the Third Reich was coming to an end," she said. "The radios stopped working and it was impossible to get information."

Mrs Flegel added that when the Soviet troops arrived, they were well-behaved and advised her to lock her door.

She said she stayed for several days, and was one of the last people to leave the bunker.

Source: BBC

An Interview of Erna Flegel (Guardian)

Guardian: Frau Flegel, you were in Hitler's bunker at the end of the second world war?

Flegel: Yes. I was in the bunker when the war ended in 1945. I was working at the university clinic (in Berlin's Ziegelstrasse) and was transported from the clinic by car to the Reichs Chancellery. Towards the end we were always there. We lived there.

Guardian: How did you get the job?

Flegel: I was working as a nurse on the eastern front. One day an order came through...and the head sister said would I be interested, there was a post free in the Reichs Chancellery. I said yes. We were used, when there was an order, to carry it out. If I did the opposite, well...I thought I could do something in the Reichs Chancellery. I went there and had a look. It was beautiful. And that how I ended up there. Later I had my own apartment. It was very agreeable. But then (as the Russians approached) the circle got increasingly smaller. People were pushed together and lived more unassumingly. I was sharing a room with another nurse.

Guardian: You met Magda Goebbels, the wife of the Nazi propaganda minister, in the bunker. What did you think of her?

Flegel: She was a very clever woman, on a higher level than most people...She was married before and decided one day that it wasn't working, that it had become boring, and so she separated from her first husband. Then came the second marriage. It's hard to say from the outside that it was happier (than the first). Goebbels enjoyed many affairs to the full. I don't know details. That was all gossip and trash.

Guardian: What were the Goebbels children like?

Flegel: The Goebbels children were charming. Each one of them was absolutely delightful. That she (Magda Goebbels) killed them cannot be forgiven.

Guardian: Did you try and persuade Frau Goebbels not to kill her own children?

Flegel: You have to understand that we were living outside normal reality. I wanted her to at least take one or two children out of Berlin. But Frau Goebbels told me: 'The children belong to me. Everything belongs to me.' But I still didn't understand how she could kill six children. Generally, Frau Goebbels looked after the children. But one evening she said to me: 'I have to go to the dentist and can't be with them, and I would like you to say good night to them. I said: 'Of course. I'll do it. Don't worry.' In the room where the Goebbels children were sleeping there were two bunk beds, one on top of another. The children had a piece of string attached to their beds, and if they wanted something they just had to pull it. The kids were so charming. They played with each other. They should have been allowed to live. They had nothing to do with what was going on. It was impossible. But she (Frau Goebbels) didn't want it. She said: 'I belong to my husband and the children belong to me.' Not to spare one or two of the children was madness, dreadful.

Guardian: What did you think of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, who moved with his family into the bunker on April 20 1945?

Flegel: I didn't like him. Nobody liked him. There always people who hung around him, of course, relatives and so on, but they were only there because they wanted to help their careers. There were also lots of women there who were young and pretty. They used to hang round his ministry. They had easier time of it than the rest of us, for whom things were more difficult.

Guardian: And did Frau Goebbels object to his numerous affairs?

Flegel: She didn't say anything.

Guardian: What did you think of Eva Braun? In the interview you gave to US interrogators after the war you dismiss her as a 'completely colourless personality'. You also say that when Hitler agreed to marry Eva Braun it was 'immediately clear to you that this signified the end of the Third Reich'. What was she like?

Flegel: Oh dear God. She didn't have any importance. Nobody expected much of her. She wasn't really Hitler's wife.

Guardian: There were rumours at the time that Eva Braun was pregnant, and that the father of the child wasn't Hitler?

Flegel: I didn't hear anything about this and I don't believe it. It's true that in the Reichs Chancellery next to the room where the Führer slept there was accommodation where Eva Braun also stayed. She was really nothing. She was a young girl back.

Guardian: When did you first meet Hitler, who stayed in Berlin from November 1944? What was your impression of him?

Flegel: I was in the house (the Reichs Chancellery) and then someone said: 'The Führer is here.' Well, please. It didn't particularly affect me then. That was the first time. Then the Führer was away for a long time from Berlin. Suddenly, he was back. Someone said: 'The Führer is in the building.' That was an experience. Everyone was discussing it. Hitler then shook hands with all the people he hadn't greeted before. It was very interesting. Obviously this wasn't a (formal) meeting. After this he talked to us regularly, and not just about the weather. They were very interesting discussions but not in a substantial sense.

Guardian: Can you describe the mood in the Bunker in the days leading up to Hitler's death?

Flegel: In the last few days Hitler sank into himself. Everybody has their own style, either negative or positive.

Guardian: In your interrogation you describe how Hitler said farewell to his medical staff on the evening of April 29 1945, just before his suicide. What happened?

Flegel: He came out of the side-room, shook everyone's hand, and said a few friendly words. And that was it. There were a few people who then heard it (the shot, when Hitler killed himself the next afternoon) and there were others who didn't. The Führer suddenly wasn't there any more. The staff then decided whether to stay or not stay. I knew that the Führer was dead. Suddenly there were more doctors in the bunker, including Professor (Werner) Haase (one of Hitler's doctors). I didn't see Hitler's body. It was taken up to the garden. The Führer had such an authority that when he was there you knew it. It felt so extraordinary. He was so informal. He would talk to you quite normally.

Guardian: What happened next?

Flegel: Word spread that Hitler was dead. That meant that people no longer had to follow the oath of loyalty they had sworn to him.

Guardian: Did you think you would leave the Bunker alive?

Flegel: We simply didn't think about it. We knew, naturally, who had the say, who was in charge, and couldn't talk about it. The soldiers gradually left. Suddenly they were gone. Afterwards many of us went to the U-Bahn in the hope that when they got there they could escape even if they met the Russians. Everybody was trying as bravely as they could to get out of this bedlam intact. And then it was finished.

Guardian: After Hitler's death most of the SS officers tried to break out. You stayed behind. What happened?

Flegel: We knew the Russians were approaching. As we were in the bunker a (nursing) sister phoned up and said: 'The Russians are coming'. Then they turned up in the Reichs Chancellery. It was a huge building complex. The Germans were transported away and we were left. The Russians treated us very humanely. They came to the entrance and we negotiated with them. First of all they sent someone to talk to us and to have a look round. By this stage there were only six or seven of us left, not more. They looked here and there. They (the Russians) were selected personnel and they behaved quite decently. They found everything stored downstairs. Anyone who needed anything went downstairs. The Russians respected this. The Germans were no longer responsible for anything. It worked. I stayed in the bunker for another six to ten days.

Guardian: After the war, in November 1945, US intelligence officers interviewed you about your time in the bunker. Do you remember much about the interview?

Flegel: They invited us to have dinner with them and treated us to six different courses in order to soften us up. It didn't work with me, though. They tried to soften us up with exquisite food. I did have a couple of meals with them.

Guardian: Why did you choose to remain silent for 60 years about your experiences?

Flegel: It was because after 1945 people started pointing fingers at each other and suggested that so and so was infected (ie a Nazi). There were a great many people who didn't say anything. And after that it remained a source of controversy. I didn't discuss it with my family. While I was in the bunker I had no idea whether my parents were alive or dead. In fact, they both survived the war. We were just glad to have survived.

Guardian: You recently saw Downfall, the Oscar-nominated film about the bunker and Hitler's final days. What did you think of it?

Flegel: It was good. They got a few small details wrong but generally it was right. I even recognised myself as a nurse.

Guardian: Do you regret your role in the Third Reich? Or was this an exciting period for you?

Flegel: It's difficult when you have a society (the Nazis) and it's discussed afterwards by the left or the right. Often it's seen wrongly. Everyone has their own opinion.


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