Armin D. Lehmann
Lehmann was born in 1928 in Waldtrudering, a borough of Munich. Lehmann received his education at Elisabet Gymnasium in Breslau during World War II, and The Journalism School in Munich after the war.
Hitler seized power before I was five years old. It was not my choice to grow up under the form of government in which absolute power is held by a dictator. At the age of ten, it was mandatory that I join the Deutsche Jungvolk (DJV), the junior branch of the Hitler Jugend or Hitler Youth. In January, 1945, I was drafted into the Volkssturm, the home defense. I was decorated (with the Iron Cross) for pulling battle-injured comrades out of the line of fire, after I had been seriously wounded myself. I was selected by Reichsjugendführer Artur Axmann to be a member of a Hitler Jugend Helden (Hitler Youth Heroes) delegation to visit the Fuehrer in Berlin on his birthday. I met Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery garden (also known as the Hinterhof or backyard) outside his bunker on his last birthday, April 20, 1945. I became one of his last couriers as a member of Axmann’s staff. During my duty as a courier inside and outside the bunker, I witnessed the total collapse of the Third Reich. I was able to observe the final days of Hitler, Eva Braun, Martin Bormann, and Josef Göbbels and his family. I was in the adjacent Party Chancellery when Hitler committed suicide. After Hitler's death, I participated in the bloody breakout from the bunker. Two months later, I succeeded in reaching the American Occupation Zone.
WALDPORT, Ore. — In the morning, Armin Lehmann gets out of bed and uses two crutches to make his way to the bathtub, where he soaks in scalding water so he can walk.
In this way he's not unique, for he's an aging veteran who still suffers from wounds received in World War II. But in another way, this 73-year-old retired travel executive is far different from other veterans. For Armin Lehmann spent the last 10 days of the war in a bunker with Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Josef Göbbels, Martin Bormann and the dozens of other Nazis during the Battle of Berlin.
He was Hitler's last courier, a 16-year-old member of the Hitler Youth who ran back and forth across bloody Wilhelmstrasse from the Führerbunker to Nazi Party headquarters, carrying water, medicine, and messages. "I wasn't fearless," Lehmann writes in his book, Hitler's Last Courier. "But I was able to conquer my fears. I was miserable, but like a soldier I didn't buckle under the cries, the screams and the shouts around me. I parted with those horrors inside me and maintained as valiant a state of mind as possible."
Thousands of miles away and 56 years later, Lehmann sits in his airy living room a few hundred yards from the Pacific in this small Oregon town, 150 miles southwest of Portland.
He speaks of nightmares, of piles of bodies. He speaks softly, with traces of a German accent. He runs a hand through his gray hair, shifting on his couch, looking for a comfortable position. "I had to be a good boy, obedient. My father was straight Prussian, and he never repented. Even in '46 he said the Jews had themselves to blame," Lehmann said.
Lehmann's father was a car salesman who joined the Nazi Party and became a propagandist in Hitler's intelligence unit. The Nazis made him feel important. He had money, he wore a uniform.
Lehmann's father beat him, mocked him as a "washrag" and forced him to carry a medicine ball to become strong. On April 20, 1938, at age 9, Armin Lehmann was initiated into the Hitler Youth.
Jews and communists were identified as enemies of the state. Theories of the master race were drilled into the young members. No one contradicted the teachers. By April 20, 1945, Lehmann, then 16, had been wounded at the eastern front, earning a medal for bravery. He was selected by Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann to serve Hitler in the bunker.
Lehmann puts his feet on a cushion in his living room, his voice rising. "I had seen Hitler in '38. He looked tall to me then, powerful. But when I saw him there in the bunker he had aged 20 years." Lehmann stands stiffly, curling his shoulders forward. "Hitler hunched like this," he said. "There were black circles under his eyes, his hand trembled, he tried to hold his uniform coat with his other hand so we didn't see him tremble."
Hitler spoke to a group including nine new couriers that day--his 56th birthday. He shook Lehmann's hand and Lehmann could see Hitler's eyes were "filled with moisture, perhaps because he was taking some kind of drug."
Hitler spoke of a new weapon and said it was imperative that everyone keep fighting with an "iron will." For 10 days Lehmann lived in a world without day or night, a world of constant danger that filled his mind with ghastly images.
In Hitler’s Bunker: A Boy Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of the Fuhrer’s Last Days
Adolf Hitler is now considered one of the world’s most ruthless madmen. Yet this was not always the case. In fact, Hitler was idolized by the German people, and with the aid of Josef Göbbels, he was deified by the German youth. Not even the death and destruction in Germany during the closing days of World War II could shake the faith of these young fanatics. Yet very few members of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) ever got to see the real face of the Führer, or be in his presence for more than a few hours.