- With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler’s Valet
- Skyhorse Publishing, 224 pp.
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.
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.”
John Holt and his wife, photographer Ginny Holt, are currently finishing up a pair of related books – “Yellowstone Drift: Floating the Past in Real-Time” (to be published by AK Press in February 2009) and “Searching For Native Color – Fly Fishing for Cutthroat Trout.” John’s work has appeared in publications that include “Men’s Journal,” “Fly Fisherman,” “Fly Rod and Reel,” “The Angling Report,” “American Angler,” “The Denver Post,” “Audubon,” “Briarpatch,” “counterpunch.org,” “Travel and Leisure,” “Art of Angling Journal,” “E – The Environmental Magazine,” “Field and Stream,” “Outside,” “Rolling Stone,” “Gray’s Sporting Journal” and “American Cowboy.” Chesapeake Bay Bridge