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Until the Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary Paperback – 14 Jun 2004
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'To have such an uncomplicated, unaffected witness present at some of the key, defining moments of the 20th century was fortunate for historians. Frau Junge's book has sold 100,000 copies in Germany, and it is easy to see why: her testimony rings absolutely true, when other politically motivated accounts of the last days of Hitler do not.' (Andrew Roberts THE EVENING STANDARD (13.10.03) )
'Traudl Junge's memoir is a very unusual, and useful, addition to the canon of literature that seeks to explain Hitler. Junge was at her 'Fuhrer's' side for three years as his trusted secretary, and her fluent account sheds light on what it was like to be a believer in his power.' (Elena Lappin DAILY TELEGRAPH (19.10.03) )
'Junge had a sharp eye for detail and she conveys a good sense of the atmosphere among Hitler's entourage...Junge's memoirs, sandwiched between good editorial insights by Melissa Muller, provide a powerful impression of the deep sense of unreality that envoloped the court of Hitler in its last years.' (Ian Kershaw MAIL ON SUNDAY (2.11.03) )
'Until the Final Hour is a remarkable historical document...But more than this, it is another painful reminder of how it is possible for a person - or even an entire nation - to sleepwalk slowly into sin.' (Rachel Cooke OBSERVER (9.11.03) )
'The unfolding doom, her typing up Luftwaffe losses before skipping off for another Champagne supper with the leader (who preferred mineral water), the claustrophobia within the increasingly fortified bunkers, and eventually the physical and spiritual decline of the Fuhrer as he accepted defeat are grippingly recounted...compelling.' (Jenny Hjul THE SCOTSMAN (11.10.03) )
'There have been countless memoirs of former functionaries of the Nazi regime but this may well be the last, first-hand account from one of Hitler's inner circle, and is possibly the most vivid.' (Simon Eder JEWISH CHRONICLE (14.11.03) )
'Frank and gripping, the book shows another side to the megalomaniacal murderer...A fascinating fly-on-the-wall glimpse at history's most infamous despot, that watches him descend in two and a half years from ultimate power to a feeble, beaten old man.' (Neville Marten INK MAGAZINE (December '03) )
'...a moving story of one woman's gradual realisation of her own complicity in the crimes of the Nazis.' (JACK (December '03) )
'Junge offers fine descriptions...[she] portrays the real character of the Fuhrer's court...a fascinating insight into how ordinary Germans saw Hitler...[she] writes splendidly.' (David Cesarani LITERARY REVIEW (December 2003) )
'...a fascinating, feminine view of Hitler's charm, charisma and awfulness...Compelling.' (Alan Judd SPECTATOR (22.11.03) ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
His secretary's first-hand account of life with Hitler from 1942 until his death.See all Product description
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The book is very well written by Traudl, it doesn't bore at all and keeps up an interesting pace throughout. Like the other readers we all wonder about Traudl's real knowledge of events at the time. She comes over as more than a little selfish, preferring the comforts and glamour of the life surrounding Hitler to the harsh world outside. Pretending not to have any understanding of what was going on, even when the innocent daughter of a friend put her foot in it talking about the 'poor jews' on the train in Holland, asking Hitler if he knew about it, thereby causing a very icy atmosphere in the chalet, Truadl soon forgets.
I did wonder too if she could have done something to have saved the 6 little children who were killed by Goebbles wife in the bunker. Traudl seemed to know it was going to happen but did nothing to help them. No wonder she had mental problems afterwards!
Everything else that needs to be said has already been explained by other readers so it is just for me to say I highly recommend this book if you are at all interested in 2nd World War or indeed how a psycopath can manipulate so many people with charm and persuasion.
The photos are great and offer another insight into the strange world of Adolph Hitler.
Junge's close involvement with Hitler is surprising because - even if she was slightly less innocent than 'Downfall' implies - she was not at all a dedicated Nazi. She joined in the obligatory hearty youth groups as a schoolgirl, and vaguely admired Hitler for dealing with Germany's unemployment, but she doesn't seem to have had any interest in politics at a deep level, and was never a Party member. She basically joined Hitler's employ because she wanted to move to Berlin, and earn enough money to train as a dancer. When Hitler took a shine to her, and picked her out of the Reichstag typing pool, she was too flattered to say no to her appointment as one of his four personal secretaries. And - bar one attempt to leave when she wasn't getting enough work - she seems to have remained loyal to her boss from start to finish. Indeed, she married one of his valets, and, after her husband was killed on the Eastern Front, seems to have relied heavily on Hitler's fatherly protection.
This is more understandable than it might be if you believe Junge's repeated statement that she never saw Hitler's brutal side. From her account, Hitler always behaved to her like a perfect gentleman, and treated her with fatherly (if somewhat controlling) kindness. She doesn't seem to have been involved in work on Hitler's military campaigns or in anything involving the Final Solution or the concentration camps (though surely she must have known about her boss's vile attitude to the Jews to some degree?) and appears to have seen only his most domestic side. When they talked, as they did on a daily basis, it was about dogs, Eva Braun, art and music and vegetarian diets. Her typing for Hitler - such as it was - appears, bar his final Political Testament and Will - to have been largely more domestic messages to the German people. To the end of the war, she doesn't appear to have had much of an idea of Nazi policies.
This inevitably means that the book only provides a very partial image of Hitler and his circle. On the negative side, this means that the text can get swamped in domestica. We learn a lot about Hitler's diet, his dog's exercise and the furnishings of his various quarters, but very little about his political beliefs (other than his conviction in his own genius) or indeed about the war (other than that good food seems to have made it into Hitler's bunker practically to the end). On the positive side, the text provides a valuable demonstration of how a psychotic, violent personality can also show charm and warmth in certain circumstances. Hitler was clearly a completely split personality - a violent, totalitarian warmonger who in private could be gentle, cultured and oddly needy - he had so many secretaries because he relied on them to entertain him in the evenings, and help him relax. Junge provides an interesting alternative to the common theories that Hitler didn't really care that much about Eva Braun - as she observed the couple, Hitler was deeply fond of Eva, and needed her even if he wouldn't marry her. And Junge's own need for a father - her own had abandoned his family when she was small - clearly led her to cling to Hitler, who appears to have showed her nothing but kindness. As a portrait of domestic life in Nazi circles, this book is definitely of interest and worth reading.
It's not, however, great literature - whether or not it's lost something in translation or not, I'm uncertain. Junge can at times write very well, but a good deal of the text comes across as a bit plodding and pedestrian, though she does occasionally produce beautiful portraits of some of her fellow-staff, and of Eva Braun, who comes across (despite being consort to one of the most loathsome dictators in history) as a kind and generous woman. There's also an odd sense of detachment at times, particularly in the scenes in the bunker - while Junge produces an excellent portrait of Eva Braun's final party on Hitler's birthday (carried over almost intact in 'Downfall') some of the later scenes, such as Magda Goebbels's final desperate actions, seem curiously flat - Junge's clearly got an excellent memory for what happened when, and who said what, but isn't always so good at filling in the emotions around events. And - apart from one scene involving the wife of Baldur von Schirach, and a reference to how Himmler claimed that his 'labour camps' were brilliantly run, it seems odd that she doesn't really mention the Nazi camps at all - either her attitude at the time to what was going on, or how much she knew about them.
The memoir - which is actually very short - is 'bookended' by an account by Melissa Müller of Junge's life pre- and post-Hitler. This too can be a little flat in tone at times, and the constant present tense can get rather wearying, but it does fill in some interesting missing facts about Traudl Junge. Her difficult early life may explain why she clung to Hitler's circle so much; her llife after the war seems to have been extremely sad - poverty, a series of not particularly satisfying jobs (though she did find some interesting secretarial work in publishing), a broken engagement and illicit love affair and, as World War II became more widely discussed, a growing shame about her early life. As Mülller notes - a bit priggishly perhaps, but certainly with some truth – Junge certainly paid the price for her ill-advised early career. One hopes that writing her memoir helped to ease the pain a little.
I wouldn't recommend this as a core text on World War II - ultimately, I think Traudl Junge's experiences of the Nazis were very limited and rather claustrophobic, and this carries over into the book to some degree. 'Downfall' also conveys much better the horror of those final days in the bunker. However, for a glimpse into the more domestic side of Hitler's circle, and as a view of the Nazis away from politics and the battlefield, it's certainly of great interest - and, as a short memoir, can be read in an evening.
So my feelings about Hitler are very anti in the extreme, you don't even want to know what I think about David Irving and other apologists for the Holocaust however to my complete and utter surprise I found myself respecting and even liking Traudl Junge, I saw the film Blind Spot before I read this book and I want to learn more about Hitler's last secretary.
People have complained in some of the reviews that Traudl tried to explain her ignorance about the Final Solution on her youth, however I have both read this book and seen the documentary Blind Spot and not once did she do that, she admitted she was young and foolish but she did face up to the fact that she had been so blind about Hitler's failings which is more than a lot of other people have ever done since the end of the war.
This book actually compliments Blind Spot; it fills in the gaps and expands on a very good documentary and along with the film "Down Fall" which I think does do Traudl Junge justice, I do think she was not a bad person, just misguided and foolish and who in the end had the courage to admit her mistakes and try to make amends by letting history document her part in an era we must never forget.
The book chronicles Traudl's childhood and how she ended up as Hitler's secretary by sheer fluke, she might have not been the most intelligent girl available for the job but I think it is unfair to say that she was taken on because she was a brainless bimbo, far from it, for if she had been brainless she would not have faced up to the fact at a later time in her life that evil is banal and even a person who is basically "good" can be ensnared before they even know it.
I think in order for a person to get a good understanding of Traudl Junge, you have to read this book and it is a fascinating read from beginning to end, watch the documentary Blind Spot, and then see the film Down Fall, in that order.
I am not defending Traudl Junge; she was foolish, she followed a brutal and corrupt system blindly and fell into the trap of being banal, just like millions of other people did, but unlike millions of other people she faced up to her part in the Third Reich and this book is her story, unsentimental and told from her perspective, you cannot help but feel a modicum of compassion for a foolish young woman who would have to live for the rest of her life with the knowledge that she was secretary to a man who helped put together the final solution along with God knows how many other atrocities that have got lost in the annals of history.
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