“I stood closer [to Hitler] than anybody with the exception of Eva Braun,” writes Heinz Linge in “With Hitler to the End: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler’s Valet.” Linge served as Hitler’s closest personal aide for over a decade, responsible for maintaining the Führer’s household and catering to the Nazi leader’s every need. His insights make for fascinating reading, no doubt as compelling today as when first published in Germany in 1980, three months after the author’s death.
In contrast to what one might expect, “Linge’s profile of Hitler does not come across as starry-eyed,” offers Roger Moorhouse—author of “Killing Hitler: The Third Reich and the Plots Against the Führer”—in his introduction to this first-ever English language edition. “His portrayal is affectionate, certainly, but it is not without criticism,” he continues, though “[Linge] was evidently frustrated by the tendency among memoirists to lay every failure … at Hitler’s door.” To be sure, Linge goes out of his way to dispute the post-war assertions of several prominent Nazis, while also offering observations about Rudolph Hess, Joseph Goebbels, Martin Bormann, and Eva Braun, among others.
Along the way, Linge reveals everything from Hitler’s daily routines, eating habits, and personal preferences, and recounts seminal events like the assassination attempt of 1944 and the Führer’s suicide in April 1945, which he discusses in some detail. Naturally, the author also explains how he came to join Hitler’s staff, and touches on the ten years he spent as a prisoner of the Soviets before his release and return to Germany in 1955.
Tellingly, however, Linge is either unwilling or unable to place his experiences in context, glossing over the fact that he remained loyal and subservient to a man responsible for starting a world war and annihilating six million Jews. Linge is clearly cognizant of this problem, yet his explanation is entirely unconvincing: “Screened in his immediate circle against all negative ideas which might be circulating elsewhere, I was blind to the reality…. Unlikely as it may sound, I saw how Hitler held the levers of power in his hands … but where he was steering us was something I could not see.”