Monday, April 7, 2014

Hitler's Last Secretary  A firsthand account of life with Hitler
By Traudl Junge
Edited by Melissa Muller

Date Review Posted:  April 7, 2014
Author:          Traudl Junge
Release Date:  2002
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  CCCCC  (A case could be made that I would only review the best of the best because if while reading a book it does not hold my interest, I would not finish it and therefore would not review it.)

Format:  This is a book translated from German into English, it is the memoirs of Ms. Traudl Junge who was on Adolph Hitler's secretary staff and who became very close to him for about 2.5 years.  She was in her early 20's when hired by Hitler

Reason For Reading THIS book:  I watched a TV show on WWII, specifically Germany where Ms. Junge was interviewed.  I was fascinated by her story and her apparent honestly in relating the last days of Adolph Hitler in the bunker where she stayed until the end of Hitler's life.

Number Of Times I Have Read This Book:  Only once.

Brief Summary of Content:  

First a disclaimer.  I have held very strong beliefs regarding Adolph Hitler and consider him one of the world's worst and most prolific mass murders.  This opinion has been long established based on books I have read, movies I have watched and television shows on WWII.  So as I read this book, please take that into account because you are going to be surprised at my review of this book.  Also keep in mind that the book is about Traudl Junge, not necessarily Adolph Hitter but it would be impossible to discuss Junge without discussing Hitler.

As stated, when I first started reading this book I thought I already knew all there was I ever wanted to know about Adolph Hitler.  Yet as I started reading, I learned about a young woman growing up in the 1930's Germany and how at least this particular young woman (Junge) was not exposed to the political activities in Germany at that time or at least that is how she described herself.  More importantly she began to describe how she was hired by Hitler and why and far more importantly how Hitler not only treated her but the entire secretarial staff.

This is where I found myself getting more involved in the reading of this book and found it hard to put down.  Where before I read the book, I could not imagine Hitler demonstrating any characteristics other than the ones you saw on TV specials, movies and in most books - one of being a complete tyrant that everyone feared.  Junge describes someone entirely different.  She describes a person (employer) who is warm, humorous (yes humorous) and who showed a sincere (at least to her) concern for the welfare and health of his secretarial pool.

Junge's book recalls numerous recollections of events and situations and how Hitler reacted and it became very obvious to me while reading her recollection of events as to how and why so many Germans literally fell in love with Hitler as difficult as that was for me to totally understand.  The book covers the period from about 1938 to 1945 but focuses on the 2.5 years Junge spent as Hitler's secretary from 1942 through the end of the war when Hitler committed suicide.  As I read about Junge's last days in the bunker up and until Hitler shot himself, I got engrossed in her writing and at times could feel the tension, smell the smells, and even feel the fears that ran rampant throughout the bunker.  What also very evident was that the secretaries had little to no knowledge about how the war was progressing or not.  It was not until the very end when the outcome of the war became obvious did Hitler ever talk about the war.  Instead when they met or had meals together Hitler would talk about stories of his youth, crack jokes and get the secretaries talking about themselves.

I know that Junge was an integral part of Germany's war effort but I grew to like her very much and found her to be very admirable and more importantly believable.  This was a fascinating read to me and I am very satisfied that I decided to read the book.  I learned a great deal about life in Germany during the War and the attitudes of people in regards to their support of Hitler and the German cause.  That does NOT mean I support Hitler or his cause, only that I have a new appreciation for the people who worked for him and how they could get caught up in his magnetism.

If you like history, you'll love this book!

Who Should Read the Book?    Anyone interested in history.  Anyone who wants to learn more about Adolph Hitler and how he thought and acted behind the scenes you see on film.  Anyone who wants to avoid a similar situation from ever happening again.

Final Test:  Would I read the book again?   Maybe.  It kind of speaks for itself and except for creating a better understanding of the players (remember these were all very German names and spelling including locations in Germany and Europe) I am not sure there would be any additional value from reading it more than once.