California Literary Review

With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler’s Valet by Heinz Linge

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September 28th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

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With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler's Valet by Heinz Linge
With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler’s Valet
by Heinz Linge
Skyhorse Publishing, 224 pp.
CLR Rating: ★★★★★

Seeing the Truth With Closed Eyes

Discovering anything about who the real Adolf Hitler was has the potential to be important not only from an historical perspective but from a psychological one as well. Perhaps a glimmer of insight into the nature and origins of evil will show itself. So reading Heinz Linge’s With Hitler To The End: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler’s Valet held the promise that can often come from intimate revelation. Unfortunately the book, while delivering a few marginal insights into Hitler’s character, motivations and global strategies, seems largely a one-dimensional narrative that more resembles a loss of contact with reality than a recounting of anything worthy of notice.

The most egregious omission in the book concerns The Holocaust. Reading Linge I got the impression that the systematic murder of six million people, the Jews, took place in another time or perhaps on another planet. The crime against humanity is mentioned in just six brief instances such as this:

The extent of his complicity I discovered only after the war, for Hitler only discussed with him in absolute privacy that of which I would never have believed Himmler capable – the mass annihilation of the Jews. Himmler issued the orders to kill the Jews although he would have found it against the grain to kill anyone by his own hand. It did not surprise me at all to learn, after 1945, that he would be inflexible in his punishment of any SS man who looted a corpse for example.

or:

Just as in the last hours of his life Hitler still saw the historical duty of the German people to be biological anti-Semitism, even in the future, so convinced was he to his last breath that ‘our future lay only in the east’ and that it was so important for ‘our surplus births’ to be channeled there.

When Linge was released from Russian prison in 1955 he was deluged with offers for his story. A photograph in this book shows him holding a fistful of telegrams with such offers. Had the publishers known what they’d be getting, would they have been so eager?

Perhaps the only real value of any lasting significance in Linge’s memoir is that his words provide an easily comprehensible landscape where insanity is the norm and basic decency no longer exists. I mean what the hell? Himmler orders the murder of millions of people but can’t tolerate the looting of corpses. See? He’s really quite a decent fellow. Linge seems suspended in a dream world of denial where his Fuhrer is actually a good natured soul who jokes with his staff and even some of his generals, truly loves Eva Braun and relies heavily on Linge to unload the awful burden of leadership. This type of delusion is unconscionable in even today’s addled society. It would be considered a sick joke if not for the absolute horror of it all. Linge, like the rest of Germany, had driven himself mad by in essence looking the other way. The country became a place where anything was possible in the name of the Reich and those possibilities turned nightmarish, obscene, despicable.

While it is now common knowledge that Hitler was running on a chemical mixture of pain killers and stimulants, Linge speaks of his leader’s troubled bowels, flatulence, worsening shaking of his hand and arm and exhaustion as though drug addiction was nowhere to be seen on the horizon.

The book does go into some detail concerning the suicides of Hitler and Braun – he by gunshot to the head, her by ingested cyanide, and the subsequent burning of his body wrapped in blankets and drenched in gasoline in a bombed-out courtyard near the command bunker.

Linge seems not to be intent upon letting the reader into the inner sanctums of Hitler’s life, but rather writing an extended defense of his actions as in this:

I was not an intellectual. Like most of my comrades, I had read neither Mein Kampf nor any other National Socialist literature and I knew Hitler’s world-view only from hearsay. What gave me unshakable faith and confidence came from other experiences. One of these was that for years the Fuhrer had found a way to achieve what he had aimed for and predicted despite all obstacles. 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 powers in his hands, and I was often there as he occupied himself with them, but where he was steering us was something I could not see.

When I began writing this review I gave the book one star, but on reflection as I wrote this I realized that Linge’s book is indeed illuminating, though not in the way he intended. With Hitler To The End is a textbook case for showing how people turn their backs on reality if they want something desperately enough – freedom, wealth, power, anything. Lust for one’s desires and needs turns black to white and white to black blending seamlessly into shades of grey in a deluded mind.

Linge never spoke truer words when he said, “ I was blind to reality.”

  • http://chickasawplum.homestead.com/ John R. Guthrie

    Hi John Holt–
    I appreciate yuor review and the guotes from “With Hitler to the End…” I finished your comments feeling that the review, with its allusions to self-delusion and denial, was probably more worthwhile than the book. What can a superannuated valet have to say we don’t already know about the Fuhrer?

  • Matthew H. Davidson

    “The most egregious omission in the book concerns The Holocaust…”

    Nothing egregious about it—the Holocaust was *but one* part of a vastly larger enterprise: World Conquest. The Holocaust was a “set-it-&-forget-it” proposition—Hitler’s writ was like that of the Pharaohs “So let it be written, so let it be done.” There would have been *no* need of extended discussions on the topic, with Himmler or anyone else, beyond periodic updates. We *do* know that Hitler told Himmler at one point, “Faster, the whole business has to be done faster.” [Hitler>Himmler>Eichmann>Dieter Wisliceny from whom we have the quote]

    Indeed, *what* would there have been to discuss—the extermination *machine* had been created and set-to-running with a certain degree of efficiency—updates *en passant* would have been the extent of it.

    The only rationale for extended discussion would have been *if* things were not on schedule, if Hitler didn’t trust Himmler to get the job done. The record is abundant with evidence to the contrary.

    Finally, this reviewer is the one who’s deluded—on a number of points, only a few of which can be addressed here:

    “Linge seems not to be intent upon letting the reader into the inner sanctums of Hitler’s life…”
    The man was a *valet*, for God’s sake—not his therapist or confessor ! Hitler’s “inner sanctum” was not his remit, and he would have been sent packing had he acted otherwise.

    In Linge’s own words:
    “…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 powers in his hands, and I was often there as he occupied himself with them, but where he was steering us was something I could not see.”
    Better than that cannot be asked of a valet—in military uniform, too: a proper valet *knows* that when close personal discussions are held he is to place himself out of earshot, but close enough to answer the call if summoned.
    Your reviewer is plainly a stranger to men *in service* and what their specific duties are, and their role in the household they serve. Tsk tsk.

    “Linge seems suspended in a dream world of denial…”
    Denial of *what*—things he had no way of knowing ? It would have been truly mendacious for Linge to retroject post-war viewpoints onto events happening in his own *small* valet’s world, *small* the operative word here. What does your reviewer expect of a *valet*, anyway? Even Hitler’s valet had this in common with all others of his profession: He’s there to *ease the way* for his chief. He’s not there to speculate on his inner psychic condition or matters of policy.
    The reviewer descends to a level of ad-hominem personalization more befitting an *undergraduate* “humanities” major:
    “This type of delusion is unconscionable…”
    “I mean what the hell?…”
    Watch your mouth, kid.

    “It would be considered a sick joke if not for the absolute horror of it all…”
    “The absolute horror of it all” ? How dainty and ladylike !

    “Linge, like the rest of Germany, had driven himself mad by in essence looking the other way…”
    Linge The Mad Valet…Okay-y-y-y…Moving right along:

    Germany drove itself mad, did it ? No, they got up every day like people everywhere, and did the same things they’d do in peacetime under *any* form of government. Life goes on. Life *really does* go on.
    Most Germans, like most *people everywhere*, are *apolitical*—most of them view politics as “A plague on both your houses” proposition. Trust me, I *know*—THREE of my grandparents were German. The vast majority of Germans were just trying to get by and be “left over”. In the final year of the war the standard farewell was “Be left over.” The facts of German wartime life for the ordinary citizen are as prosaic and bourgeois—and *boring* as life in any other contemporary combatant nation.

    “Lust for one’s desires and needs turns black to white and white to black blending seamlessly into shades of grey in a deluded mind…”
    Linge The *Lusting Valet* !! Linge The *Mad Lusting Valet* !!!

    We hear more, much more, about the reviewer and his undisciplined mental process, than we do about the book in question—and this *is* supposed to be a book review, yes? This is more of a rant against yesterday’s enemies—a comforting enterprise, offering the reassurance and security of an risk-free unearned sanctimonious judgment.
    Finally, this reviewer lays his cards on the table:
    “…is a textbook case for showing how people…”
    In this observably *post-literate* age, the notion, the *delusion* that books have an ipso facto pedagogic function has become a literary form of Tourette’s Syndrome, afflicting book reviewers like a loathsome skin disease.
    Linge’s book is *not* a textbook, has *no* teaching function. It’s the *memoirs of a valet*, whose boss happened to be a figure of some note historically. It is *not* an exegesis on Hitler and his psyche and delivers *no* grandiose totalizing pronouncements on the War, Hitler, The Holocaust, The German People/Nation. That Linge’s views don’t match your reviewer’s and that he’s *angry* about it, reveals a whole lot more about him than any rational adult needs to know.
    Says a *lot* about this publication for running it, too.

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