‘The preparations now began for the break-out by night from the Citadel, the rather obvious cover-name for the New Reich Chancellery. Bormann told Mohnke that, as the most senior in rank, he (Bormann) should take command. The SS general, who did not think much of Bormann and had been extremely firm with him over the telephone cable affair accepted the claim but made arrangements first for generals Krebs and Burgdorf to shoot themselves, which they did after downing a few bottles of alcohol for Dutch courage.
In ten mixed groups consisting of soldiers, women and other civilians, we were to attempt to flee the Citadel and head for the Berlin city boundary in a northerly direction (and using as far as possible the underground railway tunnels). Mohnke suggested to Bormann that they should set out together, but the Reichsleiter, now ‘Party minister’ clearly lacked the spirit for it. He sent his secretary Else Krüger with the Mohnke group and decided: ‘I am going with the third troop to which Stumpfegger, Baur and Naumann are attached.’ Thus he wanted to break through the Russian lines with Hitler’s doctor, his flight captain and state secretary Werner Naumann, who had military experience and was listed as troop leader. In his decision to go with Naumann, Bormann was probably taking into account that Naumann had been appointed Propaganda Minister in the new Reich cabinet in Hitler’s Will. In a future meeting with Reich president Dönitz, whom Bormann despised, Naumann could therefore be very useful for Bormann.
I teamed up with SS-Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka. In full uniform we climbed through a window of the New Reich Chancellery cellar. Under a hail of shell and mortar fire we crossed Friedrich-Strasse to the railway station where a couple of our panzers were standing and still offering the Russians battle. Towards midnight on the Weidendamm Bridge we came upon Stumpfegger, Baur and Bormann who had lost their bearings, arrived by a roundabout route and were now separated from the Russians by an anti-tank barrier. As three of our panzers and three armoured vehicles rolled up, Bormann decided to break through the Russian lines using a panzer. Kempka jumped up, stopped the vehicles and told the leading panzer commander what was required. Under the protection of this panzer heading for the tank barrier, Bormann, Naumann and Stumpfegger doubled forward while I watched. The panzer was hit by a projectile from a Panzerfaust. The people alongside it were tossed into the air like dolls by the explosion. I could no longer see Stumpfegger nor Bormann. I presumed they were dead, as I told the Russians repeatedly in numerous interrogations later.
Now fifteen to twenty strong, once we realised we could not save our skins in this manner, we decided to go through the tramway tunnel. We reached See-Strasse, but only with great effort, losing people on the way. For a moment or so I had been alone with a member of the SS bodyguard when I heard the sound of tanks and voices through a shaft leading up to the street. I stopped and listened. From above I heard the call: ‘German panzers are advancing. Come up, comrades!’ I leaned out of the shaft and saw a German soldier, He looked towards me and beckoned. Scarcely had I left our hiding place than I saw all the Soviet tanks around me. The German soldier belonged to the Nationalkomitee Freies Deutschland formed after the Battle of Stalingrad to work for the communists. I was captured, but that was all. Although in full ‘war paint’ and not resembling a warworn soldier, nobody was interested in me. German civilians passed by and talked to us, so far as was possible under the circumstances. I smuggled a gold watch which Hitler had given me with a personal inscription to a woman who spoke to me. She promised that since she had my name, which was also engraved on the watch, she would return it as soon as it was all over. An illusion. I never saw her again. A Russian sergeant approached me and said: ‘Nichts gut, kamarad, uniform carry bird on arm. Nichts gut. Take off.’ I understood: the silver eagle and swastika on the left upper sleeve of my uniform indicated that I was SS. I took his advice and ripped off the rank insignia and the offending ‘bird on my arm’, and tossed them away. The Führer always portrayed the Russians as bad, I thought, but they do not seem to be. On the contrary they offered me cigarettes and tobacco and even let me retain my two pistols, something that I found remarkable, since I was carrying one openly in my SS belt.
Under guard we walked for some days until we reached Posen. On the way we rested up once in an open field and on another occasion in a ruined church, and were treated as ‘a classless society’. Everybody was equal to everybody else. Nobody enjoyed any advantage, nobody any unnecessary or unjustified disadvantage. That changed at Posen. Without warning I was locked in a potato cellar. The Russians had noticed the good-quality uniform I wore, as they told me later. In their opinion I must be somebody from Hitler’s immediate staff. I was interrogated and had to write out who I was, my rank and what military posts I had had, and where I had served. I put down that I had been with an army unit in charge of catering. My real identity and what I had actually been doing since 1933 I kept secret, but it did not help me much, for one day I was brought back for interrogation and confronted with my past. Hans Baur, who had been in the military hospital and had stated truthfully that although a Luftwaffe general he had been Hitler’s personal pilot, which the Russians refused to believe, had named me as a witness, and said I was in the camp. My disguise was blown. I had to write down the answers to all their questions which I had answered falsely before, but this time honestly.
The result was that one day two Russian officers appeared and escorted me by train to Moscow where I was thrown into the notorious Lubljanka Prison.
There in a filthy bug-infested cell I waited, expecting the worst. It came in the form of a large GPU lieutenant-colonel who spoke good, cultivated German. He interrogated me with a monotonous patience which brought me to a state of sheer despair. Over and over he asked the same questions, trying to extract from me an admission that Hitler had survived. My unemotional assertion that I had carried Hitler’s corpse from his room, had poured petrol over it and set it alight in front of the bunker was considered a cover story. In order to lull me into a false sense of security, he occasionally told me that before the war he had been in Germany, and he chatted with me as though he were an old war comrade. I remained as alert as I could, no easy task for the bedbugs gave me no respite and only rarely did I sleep. Finally the bugs were even too much for the officer who had to watch me constantly. ‘Tell the commissar’, he advised me. When I replied with a cynical grin that if I did that they would increase the bug population, he countered: ‘Tell him!’ I did so, and could scarcely believe the result. I was moved to a ‘lavish cell’ with parquet flooring. Slowly it dawned on me why. It had been expected that I would complain.
Now came the carrot-and-stick treatment. Since I would not confirm what the commissar wanted to hear I had to strip naked and bend over a trestle after being warned that I would be thrashed if I did not finally ‘cough up’. Naked and humiliated I persisted with my account: ‘Adolf Hitler shot himself on 30 April 1945. I burned his body!’ The commissar ordered a powerfully built lieutenant holding a whip with several thongs: ‘Give it to him.’ As I cried out like a stuck pig, he observed cynically: ‘You ought to know about this treatment better than us. We learned it from your SS and Gestapo.’
Nevertheless I kept to the facts. He changed the procedure only inasmuch as he had me brought to a sound-proofed room – dressed again – where seven or eight commissars were waiting. The ceremony began once more. While somebody roared monotonously: ‘Hitler is alive, Hitler is alive, tell the truth!’ I was whipped until I bled. Near madness I yelled until my voice failed. Still bellowing the torturers in officers’ uniform stopped for a rest. I was allowed to dress and returned to my cell where I collapsed. That was the beginning of an intensive interrogation strategy which even today gives me nightmares.
About a year after the end of the war I was thrust into a barred railway wagon and transported like some wild animal back to Berlin. My daily rations were a salted herring, 450 grams of damp bread and two cubes of sugar. In Berlin I was put into a jail. What the Russians wanted was to be shown was where – according to me – Hitler had shot himself. I was taken to the ruins of the New Reich Chancellery where a number of commissars and Marshal Sokolovski awaited. I showed them the sofa on which Hitler had shot himself, still where we had left it, but meanwhile ripped by ‘souvenir hunters’. After this local visit, for which the Russians seemed to have little enthusiasm, I was returned to the prison for more interrogations.
These Berlin interrogations were carried out in a different way to those in Moscow. A female interpreter asked politely, I responded in like manner. The only thing certain was that the Russians did not believe me. In 1950 they were still doubtful that Hitler was dead. Accordingly the question-and-answer game in Berlin went round in monotonous circles. ‘How much blood sprayed on the carpet?’ ‘How far from Hitler’s foot did the pool of blood extend?’ ‘Where was his pistol exactly?’ ‘Which pistol did he use?’ and ‘How and where was he sitting exactly?’ These were some of the stereotype, endlessly repeated questions I was obliged to answer. The interpreter was hearing these details for the first time and they interested her, but even so it was not hard to see that she would have preferred to be doing something else. The questioning usually went on without interruption until the bread trolley was heard.
One day when I had had just about enough of the same stupid questions I reacted stubbornly as the trolley passed. ‘That is the end of it’, I said, ‘I am hungry and cannot go on.’ The interpreter reacted with a friendly smile and the observation that she was from Leningrad and knew ‘what hunger really was’. ‘When you tried to starve us out’, she went on with a blush, ‘we ate mice and rats.’ I was ashamed of my outburst and fell silent. The interrogation ended.
Measured by the term of my imprisonment, Berlin was only a flying visit. Soon I was back in the Moscow prison where, a long time later, I met Otto Günsche again. In the prison hospital we were treated with kid gloves in order to show us how good things could get. One day it was revealed to us that we were to have the opportunity to write our ‘memoirs’. We were released from hospital and given rooms in a Moscow villa in which the widow of a general lived. After she had got to know and trust us, she told me that her son had often been seen in public with Stalin. Under guard we now set down on paper, day in, day out, our experience of Hitler. Then before we had really got used to the house and surroundings, it was time to move on. We arrived at a villa outside Moscow. German soldiers served us as they had General Seidlitz, captured at Stalingrad, and who had been our predecessor in this dacha. It was not a bad life. The food was good and we were decently treated. Suddenly it was not so important to the Russians where Hitler might have gone. They wanted manuscripts which proved that his main aim had been to play the Russians for fools – if necessary with the Western Powers. According to the Soviets we knew more about this than was in the official documents.
Our career as historians came to an end when the Russians realised that we were not prepared to portray Molotov’s negotiations with Hitler falsely. Without blinking an eye they denied that for a period Stalin and Hitler had made common cause and shared out Poland between them. Our ‘memoirs’ were archived. We became normal PoWs and were put into a camp for generals. It contained forty-two generals and three staff officers. Although we lived well there, the other inhabitants made us sick. Looking at these idlers, pedlars swapping little boxes and other nonsense, I asked myself how the ‘Boss’ could have expected to win the war with them. Most of the gentlemen complained about the rations prescribed by the Russians for the other ranks service personnel, comprised of German PoWs, demanding that cigarettes and sugar be excluded. As Günsche and I were on the side of the men in this quarrel, eventually the generals refused to return our salutes. Although there were exceptions, they could not wash away the negative impression. The generals went home to Germany. We, the two ‘Hitler people’, were put on trial in 1950 and received twenty-five years’ hard labour in the Soviet Union.
When Red Army soldiers fetched us from the now empty camp and brought us to the prison where we were to be tried, I thought I would never see Germany again. At first we asked ourselves if it was to be a military or civilian trial. In vain. There was no clue. The judges wore robes, and there were uniformed officers sitting around, but this told us nothing, for men in officers’ uniform also worked parttime in factories, as carpenters and at work benches. Scarcely had I become accustomed to the dim courtroom, which reminded me of a school hall with its red curtains, than I heard the charges against me from the lips of the interpreter. I had ‘helped Hitler to power’, had known his ‘criminal plans’ and supported him ‘with conspiratorial intent’. My speechlessness at these charges was apparently accepted as a guilty plea. Within ten minutes the pompous theatre was ended. Each of us got twenty-five years. A Russian tried to console me. He gave me a friendly slap on the shoulder and said: ‘Comrade, twenty-five years is not so much. It could have been more. You will soon be home.’ I did not believe him.
Five years later, I was in a railway coach on my way to West Germany. I had served Hitler to the end, and in the opinion of the Russians by 1955 I had paid the price.’