Traudl Junge

Johanna Wolf

Traudl Junge
She shared Hitler's bunker, but claimed ignorance of the Holocaust

John Hooper
The Guardian, February 14, 2002

As exits go, that of Traudl Junge was timed to exquisite perfection. Her life was largely one in which infamy was overlaid by obscurity. Then, for a brief few days, she was accorded something approaching global fame. And, in the midst of it, at the age of 81, she died.

Junge was one of Adolf Hitler's secretaries. She took down his last will and testament. She was in his bunker when he committed suicide in 1945. She has just published her book, Through The Final Hours, which was based on notes she compiled in 1946. She herself died in the night of Sunday to Monday, hours after a long-awaited and widely publicised documentary on her life was given its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

She had been suffering from cancer. She spent her last days in a Munich hospital.

With masterly ambiguity, the documentary, by the multi-talented André Heller, was called Blind Spot - a title that did justice both to Junge's claims to have been kept in the dark and the belief of many historians that she and others close to the Führer suffered from an entirely self-induced amnesia.

Junge insisted that Hitler and other Nazi leaders "practically never mentioned the word Jew" in her presence, even though it was while she was working for the Führer that his regime killed most of the 6m Jews who died in the Holocaust. She said she only found out about the Holocaust after the war, and then felt wracked with guilt for having liked "the greatest criminal who ever lived".

Among those who scorned her claims were staff at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. After Heller's film was screened in Berlin, Efraim Zuroff, director of the centre's office in Israel, said: "Her story reflects the blind loyalty of far too many Germans whose allegiance to Hitler and the Nazi party enabled the implementation of the final solution."

Junge was born Gertraud Humps in Munich. She had wanted to be a ballet dancer, but when she heard of a vacancy in the Chancellery, she played up her typing and shorthand skills to land the job. "I thought I would be at the source of all information. But I was really in a blind spot," she said in the documentary.

When Junge's trial period as a Hitler's secretary was about to end she was summoned in front of Hitler for the confirmation of her new job. She was expecting a loyalty oath, countless background checks, and to be forced to join the Nazi Party. Instead Hitler only wanted one promise from her: Since she would be a young girl working among a lot of male military personnel, she would have to promise to report to Hitler any harassment by them.

In December 1942, she became the youngest of the Nazi dictator's personal secretaries. "He was a pleasant older man who welcomed us with real friendliness," she said of their first meeting. Among her recollections of the Führer was that he did not like cut flowers because, he said, he did not want to be "surrounded by corpses".

In June 1943, Traudl married Hitler's SS aide Hans Junge - just three months after she had stated that she "had no interest in men". The fact that they both worked close to Hitler enabled Hans Junge to - finally, after several pleas - get away from Hitler's entourage for a frontline duty in the ranks of the Waffen SS.  He was killed a year later when a British plane strafed his company in Normandy in August 1944.

The young widow joined Hitler and his staff when they moved into an underground bunker in Berlin in January 1945. She recalled Hitler sitting for long periods of time, just staring into the distance. Meals were no longer served regularly, and people even began to smoke in the Führer's presence.

"It was a terrible time. I can't really remember my feelings. We were all in a state of shock, like machines," she said.

After the war, Junge was taken into custody by the Red Army, then the Americans. After being interrogated and spending about six months in prison, she was released. She continued to work in Germany as a secretary, and later as a science reporter.

Othmar Schmiderer, the producer of the documentary, was among the last people to speak to her. He quoted her as saying: "Now that I've let go of my story, I can let go of my life."

Junge had no children, but is survived by a sister who lives in Australia.

·Traudl Junge, secretary, born 1920; died February 10 2002

On 1 May Junge left the Führerbunker with a group led by Waffen-SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke. Also in the group were Hitler's personal pilot Hans Baur, chief of Hitler's Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, secretary Gerda Christian, Borman's secretary Else Krüger, Hitler's dietician Constanze Manziarly and Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck. Junge, Christian and Krüger made it out of Berlin to the River Elbe. The remainder of the group were found by Soviet troops on 2 May while hiding in a cellar off the Schönhauser Allee. The Soviet Army handed those who had been in the Führerbunker over to SMERSH for interrogation, to reveal what had occurred in the bunker during the closing weeks of the war.

Although Junge had reached the Elbe, she was unable to reach the western Allied lines, and so she went back to Berlin. Getting there about a month after she had left, she had hoped to take a train to the west when they began running again. On 9 July, after living there for about a week under the alias "Gerda Alt", she was arrested by two civilian members of the Soviet military administration and was kept in Berlin for interrogation. While in prison she heard harrowing tales from her Soviet guards about what the German military had done to members of their families in Russia and came to realize that much of what she thought she knew about the war in the east was only what the Nazi propaganda ministry had told the German people and that the treatment meted out to Germans by the Russians was an aftermath of what the Germans had done in the Soviet Union.

Junge was held in sundry jails, where she was often interrogated about her role in Hitler's entourage and the events surrounding Hitler's suicide. By December 1945 she had been released from prison but was restricted to the Soviet sector of Berlin. On New Year's Eve 1945, she was admitted to a hospital in the British sector for diphtheria, and remained there for two months. While she was there, her mother was able to secure for Junge the paperwork required to allow her to move from the British sector in Berlin to Bavaria. Receiving these on 2 February 1946, she traveled from Berlin and across the Soviet occupation zone (which was to become East Germany) to the British zone, and from there south to Bavaria in the American Zone. Junge was held by the Americans for a short time during the first half of 1946, and interrogated about her time in the Führerbunker . She was then freed, and allowed to live in postwar Germany.

Following the war, Junge was not widely known outside the academic and intelligence communities. Other than appearing in two episodes (#16, "Inside the Reich" (1940–1944) and #21, "Nemesis: Germany (February – May 1945)") of the 1974 television documentary series The World at War she lived a life of relative obscurity, working in secretarial jobs. Junge twice resided for short times in Australia, where her younger sister lived; her application for permanent residency was denied due to her Nazi past.[4]

Later she became more public about her experiences. In 1989 Junge's manuscript about her life throughout the war was published in the book Voices from the Bunker by Pierre Galante and Eugene Silianoff (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons). In 1991 she appeared in the documentary series Hitler's Henchmen produced by German television channel ZDF. The 2002 release of her autobiography Until the Final Hour, co-written with author Melissa Müller and describing the time she worked for Hitler, brought media coverage. She was also interviewed for the 2002 documentary film Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary which drew much attention.

Further fame came two years later when some of Junge's experiences with Hitler were portrayed in the Academy Award-nominated film Der Untergang (Downfall) .

Traudl Junge's attitude in later life towards her employer was ambivalent; indeed, she maintained that he was "two men".

In an interview two years ago with the Austrian journalist Gitta Sereny she described Hitler as "very paternal", adding: "I have never understood the effect he had on all of us. Sometimes, when he went off somewhere without us, it was almost as if the air around us had become deficient . . . some essential element was missing . . . There was a vacuum."

She apparently never encountered the "second" Hitler, claiming that it was only after the war ended that she fully understood the evil perpetrated under the Third Reich: "We never saw him as the statesman, we didn't attend any of the conferences. We were summoned only when he wanted to dictate, and he was as considerate then as he was in private."

After Stalingrad, Hitler's two older secretaries would eat lunch with him, while the two younger ones - including Traudl Junge - would share his supper.

"My colleagues told me," she said, "that in the earlier years he talked incessantly, about the past and the future, but after Stalingrad, well, I don't remember many monologues. We all tried to distract him, with talk about films, or gossip, anything that would take his mind off the war. He loved gossip. That was part of that other side of him, which was basically the only one we saw."

After the war she was to express her remorse: "I have the feeling from year to year that I have less and less ability to forgive the young thing that I was."

Junge died from cancer in Munich on 10 February 2002 at the age of 81 and she was given global celebrity for a few days, reportedly having said shortly before her death, "Now that I've let go of my story, I can let go of my life."

The Massaging of History
The film Downfall relies on memoirs written by Hitler's allies to distance themselves from Nazism

David Cesarani and Peter Longerich
The Guardian, April 7, 2005

The film Downfall has received terrific reviews in this country and has already been seen by four and a half million Germans. It has clearly struck a chord with the popular mood in Germany and feelings about the Nazi past.

This should come as no surprise. The brilliant portrayal of Hitler by Bruno Ganz exposes him as a repellent human being devoid of concern about the misery into which he led his people. The film thus panders to the tendency of Germans to see themselves as victims of Nazism and war rather than perpetrators.

A self-pitying attitude has always been present in German attempts at "coming to terms" with the Nazi past, but it has been expressed with increasing stridency over the last two decades. It provides the key for understanding how history is massaged by Downfall's makers.

The film's producer, Bernd Eichinger, and director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, claim they are merely excavating a suppressed history and that they sourced every major scene from historical texts. The script draws on books later written by survivors of the Führer bunker, notably the memoir of Traudl Junge, Hitler's last secretary, but also Albert Speer and an SS doctor, Ernst Günther Schenck.

In fact they have reworked the evidence and omitted crucial information. Traudl Junge appears in the film's opening scene in 1942 as a fresh-faced and apolitical 22-year-old who is engaged by Hitler because she comes from his beloved Munich. The audience never learns that her background was saturated in Nazism.

Her father was a fanatical nationalist who fought in the rightwing Freikorps in the early 1920s. For participating in Hitler's abortive putsch in 1923 he earned the Nazi "Blood Order" medal. Although he was estranged from Traudl for many years, they were reunited in 1936, by which time he was security director in an armaments factory and held SS officer rank.

Traudl herself enrolled in the Nazi League of German Girls in 1935, and in 1938 joined the elite Faith and Beauty organisation. Its mission was "to bring young women up to pass on the National Socialist philosophy of life". She was an activist in other Nazi organisations too. Although she did not formally join the Nazi party until 1944, by the time she started working for Hitler she had impeccable ideological and political credentials.

Perhaps to maintain her image as a virginal witness, the film passes over her 1943 marriage to Hans Junge, who joined the SS-Leibstandarte, Hitler's personal guard, in 1933, and served as Hitler's orderly for three years. He was killed fighting with the Waffen-SS in Normandy in 1944. So when her eyes widen while Hitler rants about "international Jewry" it can hardly be out of surprise at his lethal rhetoric. Her reaction is as unlikely as the sight of Albert Speer, in another scene, shifting uncomfortably when Hitler congratulates himself on having cleansed Germany of the "Jewish poison".

Almost the only voices in the bunker protesting against Hitler's inhumanity come from Waffen-SS members. We see Schenck, after toiling heroically in the underground field hospital, looking shocked at the antics of Hitler's entourage. He repeatedly asks why officers should obey the Führer's orders unto death.

We are not told that Schenck had earlier served in the Waffen-SS on the eastern front or that, more damningly, after the war Munich University refused to reinstate him to his chair because he was implicated in the conduct of "frivolous" medical experiments on inmates in Mauthausen concentration camp.

Most astonishingly, Waffen-SS General Wilhelm Möhnke is depicted as a humanitarian pleading with Hitler to evacuate civilians and arguing with Goebbels against the suicidal deployment of poorly armed militia against the Red Army.

This is the same Möhnke whose Waffen-SS unit massacred 80 captured British soldiers outside Dunkirk in May 1940. He later led a Waffen-SS regiment in Normandy that murdered more than 60 surrendered Canadian troops.

In one dramatic encounter, Möhnke protests to Göbbels against the pointless sacrifice of aged militia men. Göbbels retorts that they had consented to Nazi rule and "now their little throats are going to be cut". The effect is to engender contempt for the heartless Nazi propaganda chief and sympathy for his hapless victims who were hoodwinked into giving their mandate to a gang of murderous thugs.

However, the scene is invented. The only source is the postwar memoir of Hans Fritzsche, who served in the Nazi propaganda ministry. Fritzsche claimed to have heard these words at the last Göbbels press conference, not addressed to Möhnke.

Yet this fabrication goes to the heart of the film's mission, which is to depict the German people as the last victims of Nazism whose true defenders were a band of brave German soldiers, including SS men, who fought until overwhelmed by the Bolshevik hordes.

This is no accident. The film's agenda echoes the Historikerstreit controversy in the late 1980s over interpretations of the Third Reich, and parallels the efforts of former Chancellor Kohl to allow Germans to feel comfortable with their past.

Although Kohl has gone, his legacy informs this film. His precipitate union of West and East Germany in 1990 left a deeply divided nation. He understood that in the search for a national identity one thing all Germans could share is a history of suffering under allied aerial bombardment and the onslaught of the Red Army on eastern Germany.

The popularity of Downfall capitalises on the success of recent publications about the bombing of German cities and the dreadful experience of civilians overrun by the Red Army. These horrors are undeniable, but the use of memoirs intended to distance their authors from Nazism by depicting Hitler's clique as contemptible reinforces the sense of Germans as guileless victims. Is the belligerent self-pity fostered by Downfall becoming a new form of German nationalism?

David Cesarani is research professor in history at Royal Holloway, University of London, where Professor Peter Longerich is director of the centre for research on the Holocaust and 20th-century history.


Gerda Christian

Born Gerda Daranowski, and nicknamed "Dara", she began working for Hitler in 1937 after his secretaries Johanna Wolf and Christa Schröder had complained about having too much work. They asked for assistance but Hitler reportedly hesitated. He did not wish to see a new face in his inner sanctum. He finally gave in and hired Gerda Daranowski.

She had been engaged to Hitler's driver Erich Kempka, and later married Luftwaffe officer Eckhard Christian on 2 February 1943. Gerda then took a break from her employment for Hitler and her work was taken over by Traudl Junge. Eckhard Christian was appointed Ia of the Luftwaffe Command Staff at Hitler's request. Gerda Christian returned to Hitler's staff as one of his private secretaries.

Eckhard was promoted to Generalmajor and Chief of the Luftwaffe Command Staff at Hitler's request on 1 September 1944. In April 1945, Eckhard was stationed in Berlin at the Führerbunker HQ. He left the bunker complex on 22 April 1945 to become Chief of the liaison staff of the Luftwaffe to OKW Command Staff North. Gerda was one of two secretaries who volunteered to remain with Hitler in the Führerbunker. After Hitler's death, Gerda tried to escape Berlin on 1 May 1945. She was part of a "break-out" group led by Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke, that included secretaries Else Krüger and Traudl Junge. The group was captured by the Soviets on the morning of 2 May, while hiding in a cellar off the Schönhauser Allee.

In 1946, she divorced Eckhard Christian because he did not remain with her in the Führerbunker until after the death of Hitler. Gerda moved to Düsseldorf, where she worked at the Hotel Eden. She was a friend of Werner Naumann, a former state secretary in the Third Reich's propaganda ministry and a leader of a postwar neo-Nazi group. She died of cancer in Düsseldorf in 1997, aged 83.

Her death was first reported by the newspaper Bild, but it was not clear when she died. She entered the hospital in May.

Mrs. Christian rarely spoke about her work with Hitler. ''What am I supposed to say about that?'' she once asked. ''Whatever I say would certainly be misinterpreted.''

There are rumours that Christian wrote memoirs. If this is true, they have remained unpublished, even though countless other memoirs by those close to Hitler have been published in German, and recently re-published in English.

However, the newspaper said she told close friends she had no complaints about her time with the Nazi leader.

Mrs. Christian and Hitler's other private secretary, Gertrude Junge, remained with the Nazi ruler during his final days. They were among the inner circle of associates who attended his bunker wedding on April 29, 1945 to his longtime mistress Eva Braun. Hitler and Braun committed suicide two days later, and Mrs. Christian was one of those to whom he bid his last farewells.

Johanna Wolf

Wolf was born in Munich and joined Hitler's personal secretariat in 1929 as a typist, at which time she also became a member of the Nazi Party. When Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933 she became a senior secretary in his Private Chancellery. Wolf was one of his oldest and longest tenured secretaries. While he addressed his other secretaries formally as “Frau” or “Fräulein”, he called her “Wölfin” meaning She-Wolf because of his obsession with wolves. Ms. Wolf and Hitler had a very close relationship. She was often thought of as the best possible source for people to go about Hitler. As a dedicated Nazi she was a trusted member of Hitler's entourage, and remained with him when he withdrew to the Führerbunker in central Berlin as the Red Army approached in 1945.

On the night of 22 April 1945, Hitler, having decided to stay and die in Berlin, sent Wolf and Christa Schröder by aircraft out of Berlin to Salzburg and then to his house at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. She remained there until 2 May and then traveled to her mother's residence in Bad Tölz.

Wolf was arrested and taken prisoner on 23 May in Bad Tölz when the Americans occupied Berchtesgaden. Together with Schröder, she remained a prisoner until 14 January 1948. Wolf moved to Kaufbeuren afterwards and died in Munich on 5 June 1985 aged 85.

Although Wolf served under Hitler for many years, unlike other secretaries such as Traudl Junge, she refused to consent to any interviews or reveal any information, even when, during the 1970s, she was offered a large amount of money to write her memoirs. Whenever asked to do so, Wolf stated that she was a "private" secretary and believed it was her duty to never reveal anything about Hitler. When Wolf was taken prisoner, Leni Riefenstahl, a German filmmaker, eventually got her to disclose some information about Hitler. Wolf revealed that people close to Hitler were not able to escape his magnetism until his death, even though he was quite emaciated. She was so loyal to Hitler that she wanted to die with him, and she also claims that Hitler was not aware of all the terrible things that were happening in Germany during his reign, but fanatics exerted more and more influence on him and they gave orders Hitler knew nothing about.

Wolf also told Leni Riefenstahl she really wanted to stay with Hitler at Führerbunker, but she departed because Hitler urged her to leave the Reich Chancellery for the sake of her 80 year old mother and he forced her and others to leave on the last flight out of Berlin.

Christa Schröder

She was born, Emilie Christine Schröder, in the small town of Hannoversch Münden and moved to Nagold after her parents died. There she worked for a lawyer in 1929 and 1930.
After leaving Nagold for Munich, Schröder was employed as a stenotypist in the Oberste SA-Führung, the Sturmabteilung high command. There she got to know Hitler in early 1933, when he had just been appointed chancellor. He took a liking to Schröder and hired her same year.
Schröder lived at the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) near Rastenburg, Adolf Hitler's first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters from 1941 until he and his staff departed for the last time on 20 November 1944. On 20 April 1945, during the Battle of Berlin, Schröder, Johanna Wolf, Albert Bormann, Admiral Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer, Dr. Theodor Morell, Dr. Hugo Blaschke, and several others were ordered by Hitler to leave Berlin by aircraft for the Obersalzberg. The group flew out of Berlin on different flights by aircraft of the "Die Fliegerstaffel des Führers" over the following three days. Her account of her service as Hitler's secretary (Er war mein Chef, Herbig, 2002) is an important source in the study of the Nazi years.
She was arrested on 28 May 1945 in Hintersee near Berchtesgaden. Schröder was interrogated by the French liaison officer Albert Zoller serving in the 7th US Army. She was released on 12 May 1948. The interrogation and later interviews in 1948 formed the basis for the first book published about Hitler after World War II in 1949, Hitler privat (“Hitler in private”). An English translation of Schröder's book Er war mein Chef was published in 2009 under the title He Was My Chief: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's Secretary (Frontline Books, London). The book includes Anton Joachimsthaler's introduction from the original German edition and a new introduction by Roger Moorhouse. The book was serialised in The Sunday Telegraph magazine "Seven", The Week magazine and the New York Post newspaper.
Schröder worked as a secretary for a construction company in Munich. Schröder died on 28 June 1984 in Munich aged 76.