Gertraud "Traudl" Humps was just 22-years-old when Albert Bormann (Martin's brother) offered her some secretarial employment in the Berlin chancery. She had previously had ambitions of becoming a dancer but in the next few years and beyond the war, she would find herself creating her own neat mental choreography, when dancing around the moral issues of just what she had learned about the Nazi atrocities, and remained silent when she worked as Hitler's last and youngest secretary.
Traudl was born in 1920 in Munich (the birth place of the NSDAP in fact.) Her father, who after the First World War, would latch on to the up and coming Nazi movement. Then it seems after an acrimonious divorce any desired emotion from her mother towards young Traudl was scarce, but both her and her sister, were provided with some form of family security, she would later remember.
And both Traudl and Christa Schroeder, Hitler's other permanent secretary, and incidentally the next subject of this series of articles, seemed to have suffered from the syndrome of absent fathers during their formative years. Perhaps coming to work for Hitler in such close proximity offered to both of them a "Frankenstein father figure" to look up to and admire. The Fuehrer it seems possessed concern and cruelty in his character and both women must have experienced and witnessed it first-hand, when taking dictation at his request.
At fifteen Traudl captures a glimpse of her future boss, driving by in an open Mercedes car in Munich and, "remembers what an exciting feeling it was." Yet during those changing years in Germany Traudl continued her studies, whilst supporting herself and her family, with her honed secretarial skills.
In these pre-War years she had flirted with the party youth groups whilst Germany was attempting very publicly to create a Nation that would be free of the 'Jewish influence' and inheritance. Years later she would claim embarrassingly to only have witnessed one woman forcibly wearing the degrading yellow Star of David. Ah how our memory plays convenient tricks at some of the most important events of our life, does it not.
In 1942, after joining Hitler's official staff, Traudl would finally take requested dictation in Rastenburg. This then would be the Fuehrer wartime headquarters, then later she would journey to the Berghof near Berchtesgaden as well as naturally the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. For a young woman this must have been an exhilarating experience to say the least. The so-called "Wolfs Lair" was then located at Rastenburg in Prussia, now Poland. It was a hidden forest compound concealed from the skies by heavy camouflage nets and also attacked daily by of all things, mosquitoes. Boredom also reigned supreme for many who served there as many remember.
Some 30/40 women were employed in the forest with Traudl being one of four non-uniformed working secretaries. The other three were Christa Schroeder, Johanna Wolf and Gerda Christian.
For an evening's entertainment there were films, perhaps hastily prepared and also pride of the entertainment on other evenings, was watching with delight, apparently Hitler's faithful bitch Blondi, performing clever tricks her master had taught her, all good fun from all who watched from the sinking ship of shame.
Gradually seeping into this "Peer Gynt" creation of make believe, Hitler was now becoming paranoid that the allies finally knew about his secret location, and this rather seems to spur him on relentlessly in continuing this lost war, then when all doubts of any compromise were proposed to him, they were dismissed by him in anger. No surrender was now the order he demanded, anything else was sheer treason in his warped mind. So was young Traudl aware of any of this drama of what was being played out under her nose. It's hard to believe she wasn't hearing rumours of what was happening in the east in that final year of this lost war, and perhaps long before that whispers were circulating around her.
When the court of 'king Adolph' relocated for the summer months to the Berghof near Besgarden, then the temperature and tempo changed dramatically. If the "Wolfs Lair" suffered the indignity of mosquitoes, then the beauty and delight of the mountains of Austria, more than made up with its scenery and sanctuary.
"It has been suggested that at the peak of his popularity nine Germans in ten were Hitler supporters, Fuehrer believers," so writes historian, Ian Kershaw.
This has to mean that the office staff Hitler had carefully chosen to be near him and share his daily routine were perhaps more than just supporters.
Of her period as his youngest working secretary Traudl recalls that: "I was 22 and I didn't know anything about politics. It didn't interest me." But if Traudl had heard certain unpleasant whispers about concentration camps and the plight of the Jews, she must have been able to somehow push it conveniently to the back of her young mind, and don't secretaries always know far more about their employers moods and what is expected of them in any situation, why some even end up marrying the boss.
But for the young and lonely Traudl love would enter her life in the figure of one of Hitler's adjutant/valet, Hans Junge. Later they would be married, with Hitler's blessing and prompting it seems in June of 1943, sadly fourteen months later, she became a widow, when her husband died on the eastern front.
Hitler it seems broke the sad news to her with tears in his eyes saying: "I had better tell you straight out, your husband has fallen." Traudl I think somehow appreciated this gesture from the man who always called her "child." All very bizarre behaviour from the man: "Funny how I still remember, though I was hardly listening to him," she remembers in her book Until the Final Hour.
Traudl would never re-marry, preferring to retain her husband's name until her own death in Munich, there were no children from the marriage.
In looking again at those old silent 16mm films, filmed by Eva Braun and somehow capturing those lost balmy summer days at the Berghof in the mid-1940s, it somehow seems to me to resemble an expensive Hollywood movie set, that has been lit and directed by Ernst Lubitsch with the assorted characters posing and parading on the open veranda against a mountain backdrop, like prepared actors.
Traudal of course is in there, and sunning herself is Christa. Himmler and Heydrich also, and out of uniform is Von Ribbentrop. All seem to love the camera as they follow its every jerky movement (and look out for Himmler as he stares straight into the lens, very creepy!) Yet sadly thousands of miles away young German soldiers were freezing and starving to death in the deep snows of Stalingrad and elsewhere. The Holy Bible informs me that: "I tell you, Nay: but unless you repent, ye shall all likewise perish," so wrote Luke (13:3.)
I can only hope some of those soldiers did repent and receive Jesus Christ as their lasting Saviour. Many must have seen through the lies and deceit of Hitler by then.
But did not the languishing ladies of the Berghhof also chat and gossip about fashions, perms, as well as the latest makeup from perhaps America. Well Eva Braun certainly took an interest in all of these, and when did they all realize that their favourite hairdresser or their dress designers weren't available or around anymore to clothe and pamper their bodies. (Many were Jewish who had been hounded out of Berlin and amazingly over 60% of the established dentists in pre-war Germany, were also Jewish.) They must have been aware of the rumours or maybe they foolish thought as so many did, that Hitler was oblivious to what was going on in the death camps. (This is reminiscent of how the Russian people were misinformed about Stalin and his Gulag torture camps too.)
As Ian Kershaw again writes: "As elsewhere people thought that Hitler was being kept in the dark about the real state of affairs," or perhaps they never had any intention of finding more for themselves and were just content to live in ignorance.
And later in a television interview Traudl states that: "The Jews were never talked about." Well, well. But did she and others ever pause to think and talk about what was happening over the horizon and maybe nearer to home or were they content to discard those memories that clutter all of our minds into the either of yesterday. (Maybe it was out of sight and out of mind for her.)
On July 20th 1944, whilst in the concealed lair in the Prussia woods, Count Von Stauffenberg's failed attempt to remove Hitler happened, with almost deadly accuracy. Traudl recalls: "Frau Christian and I cycled to the Moysee, the little lake outside the camp, lying in the water, we dreamed of peace and quiet."
It's a tranquil picture she paints but with the Russian army so close was it a wise thing to do and what about the dreaded mosquitoes that plagued her and all the enclosed staff. Bracken stagnant water has always been traditionally a breeding ground for these bloodsuckers.
She seems also unaware of the important military conference about to commence. It's also surprising to me that she and Gerda were not on office standby for dictation from their boss and assorted military who were present that day. Maybe Christa Schroeder, the next subject in this series, was on permanent standby, who knows, but more about her next time.
Hitler naturally thanks 'destiny' for sparing his life and Traudl, through all of the confusion, would contemplate that perhaps, "the war would have been over" if the conspirators assassination attempt had succeeded. Yet later she mournfully writes: "I still thought we had to win the war," mixed messages it seems from a confused young lady.
However there was nothing confusing about what was happening in the so-called bunker in Berlin in 1945. Here they waited and worried and wondered about what their own fate would be when the Russian Army scythed through any resistance from the depleted German army. The third Reich was dying at last and there would be no reprieve for it. The end had arrived but it would be bloody and bitter, before the surrender would be signed.
A Biblical reference in the book of Daniel 9:26 might be appropriate here to pause and consider. And it reads: "And unto the end of the war desolations are determined."
The launched juggernaut of the Soviet military might would eventually offer to an unprepared Berlin, rape, revenge and retribution and in the Fuehrer bunker, they waited and prepared for all possibilities and perhaps silently wept. I like to speculate that some of them even prayed.
Traudl recalls wearily of those final days that: "We sat talking, smoking and vegetating. You get tired just doing that." So I can only speculate if they prayed or even read their Bibles, some of that hopelessness should have disappeared.
During those final hours, Traudl before Hitler expired, would be offered Eva Braun's Fox fur coat (useful on the black-market then) and later she would feed the Goebbels children before their mother had them silently murdered.
Later she would type up Hitler's last Will and Testament and perhaps retire to her office and wait for further instructions that would never arrive. All quite an emotional experience for any 24-year-old young woman. Now she was alone and then finally it was all finished. She screws the cap onto her used fountain pen, covers her typewriter (perhaps an Underwood) and prepares to make her dash to freedom. At any cost she reasons she must get home to her family.
She later explains in her memoirs of her departure from the bunker and later encountering many celebrating drunken Russian soldiers in the ruins of Berlin. She remembered that: "We passed through them as if we were invisible."
Then after capture by the Russian police she seems to have escaped any violence from them. Later she will be reunited with her mother after periods in various temporary prisons and army barracks. But more important for her she has finally survived perhaps against all the odds. But for Traudl living with her past each hour of every day will be punishment enough, as someone once remarked, the conscience never sleeps.
Years later she would write, perhaps in remorse, that: "At that time I must have often walked past the commemorative plaque to Sophie Scholl. I was terribly shocked when I realized that she was executed in 1943, just when I was beginning my own job with Hitler. (Both Sophie and Traudl were the same age.) All of a sudden I had no excuse anymore."
And later she wistfully recalls: "Now that I've let go of my story, I can let go of my life," quoted just before her death in 2002.
The words it seems of a sad woman or as a friend wrote about her: "Her time with Hitler really messed her up." For Traudl the bitterness may have evaporated finally but the memories still lingered on in her mind and in her memories.
DOWNFALL: I very nearly missed this 2004 DVD release in my research of Traudl's life. I had of course watched it some years ago but had quite forgotten the prominent part she had played in those final days in the blazing bunker.
Some critics have even suggested that after Hitler's role, performed by Bruno Ganz, Traudl Junge's portrayal by Alexandra Maria Laras, offered a great deal in allowing it to become a financial and critical success. I certainly have to agree with this aspect of its popularity. Yet disappointingly the actor playing Goebbels was far too tall for the role and Himmler's awful wig looked rather like a dead hamster sleeping on his head.
But seriously I do not accept that Eva Braun ever kicked Blondi as Traudl allegedly suggests. Dog owners in my experience do not usually attack other people's pets and Eva did after all own two cute Scottish terriers, Negus and Stasi. Sadly all three dogs were put down in the bunker.
Watching young Traudl escape in the film from the ruined Chancellery, then later walking through drunken Russian soldiers without being apprehended or taken away and raped and then shot, should if nothing else have forced her later to fall onto her knees and repent and sincerely thank God with tears in her eyes for His saving grace towards her in those dangerous days in the damaged city, that was Berlin.
And coincidently the Polish Government announced this week that the remote 600-acre complex at Rastenburg, initiated by Hitler as the so called "Wolfs Lair" during the war, has been granted final Government approval to become a future historical educational centre. At its peak, when Traudl and the other secretaries were employed in the forest, over 200 hundred buildings then formed the high command with 2,000+ military personal guarding all installations. The big question for future visitors is are the dreaded mosquitoes still in residence and waiting!
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27.)
Recently released Army interrogation films feature the young Traudl being filmed in 1948, one shows her being interviewed by what rather looks like an American admiral.
The films had been commissioned to be used in evidence at future Nuremberg trials but were never used it seems. The sound quality is excellent and so is her English, very precise and very clear. She had always been called Hitler's favourite secretary and in the interview she talks about preparing his daily mail for him to read as well as referring to a heavy daily cache of love letters and marriage proposals being sent to him. It was Traudl after all to whom Hitler dictated his final Will and testament in the besieged bunker in Berlin in 1945 and of that occasion she says: "I thought he would justify his actions but he repeated only the old slogans form his speeches."
She concludes the interview in a nonchalant manner concerning her previous Boss. Always the perfect discreet secretary it seems.
Until The Final Hour, Traudl Junge