Adolf Hitler gave Rochus Misch only a momentary glance when he was first introduced to the young man who was to go on to become the Fuhrer's head bodyguard.
Misch, now 91 and the only living member of the group that was in Hitler's bunker when the Fuhrer committed suicide, reveals his own impressions of the Nazi leader in his book "The Last Witness," published earlier this month in Germany.
The pivotal period of Misch's military career began in 1940, when he joined Hitler's inner circle, and ended with Hitler's suicide in his Berlin bunker in 1945. For five years, Misch worked as a courier, bodyguard and telephone operator in the Fuhrer's office.
"In the inner circle, Hitler was a good boss," he recalled in the book. "In the living quarters and the work room Hitler was a very relaxed man. He had a deep and quiet voice. There was no need to be scared if you made a mistake."
Today Misch still receives letters at his home in Berlin. Many people contact him with requests for an autograph or for details of his connection to Hitler. In the last few years Misch has turned into somewhat of a celebrity, particularly in the wake of the popularity of the movie "The Downfall" (2004), which depicted Hitler's last days in the bunker.
A year after that movie the Israeli director Yael Katz Benshalom produced a documentary on Misch, also called "The Last Witness".
Incidentally, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian published an article three years ago on another witness from the bunker days they had managed to track down - nurse Erne Flegel, who had moved to northern Germany and agreed to tell her testimony for the first time.
In his book, Misch described Hitler's everyday life as quite banal. The reader will discover, for example, that Hitler spent his nights clutching a hot water bottle, and will learn about the mosquitoes that disturbed the Fuhrer's relaxation time in the military headquarters. Hitler particularly enjoyed the parties thrown by his wife, Eva Braun.
"She was a nice woman and very sporty," Misch wrote of Braun, describing hher dancing ability.
In contrast to what one might assume, Misch insisted that the leader's headquarters were not run like a war room.
"Nobody saluted their higher-ranking colleagues within the building. Hitler was the only one who used the military salute," Misch wrote. "The young people called him Mein Fuhrer, the older called him Herr Hitler, or Boss."
The war crimes that occurred under Hitler's leadership, including the Holocaust, go almost unmentioned in the book.
"At no time did they speak about the camps and what happened there. I was at Hitler's side and he never visited the camps," Misch wrote. He also mentioned that one of Hitler's favorite songs was composed by a Jew, and revealed that his personal cook was not a "real Aryan."
Misch has a strong recollection of the final days. On April 30 1945, shortly after 3 P.M., Hitler left his final followers and entered the private room with Eva Braun.
"He didn't want us to disturb him anymore," remembered Misch, who understood at the time what was about to happen. "Thirty, maybe 45 minutes later, we heard the shots, and later they ordered me to open the door. And there I saw ? and I could never forget it - Eva Braun on the couch and her head resting on Hitler."
An English-language edition of the book is expected to be released by the end of 2008.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now