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July 30, 2014
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August 1, 1981
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Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219TITLE: Interview with Erna FlegelAUTHOR: Richard HelmsVOLUME: 25 ISSUE: Fall YEAR: 1981Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 pproved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219INTELLIGENCEA collection of articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects of intelligence.All st`atemepts of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those ofthe authors. They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the CentralIntelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in thecontents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of anarticle's factual statements and interpretations.1Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 00061721944,CONFIDENTIAL-SSRATMIC S2RVICES UNIT, 11713 DITARTITIZTMISSION FOR G7RAANYU. S. FORS, FUROPMAN TRAFRAPO 74230 November 1945SUBJECT: Interview tlth Erna Flegel ? Report AttachedTO g Brigadier General. G. Bryan Conred, GSCDirector of Intelligence '1. Attached is an interview with Erna llegel, whovas a nurse in the Puehrerbunker durinz the last days beforethe capture of,Bevlin by the Russians. Althouch !r ,eelnever belonged to the Nazi Party, she is a fenatical admirerof Hitler and a definite supuorter.of Kari doctrines.2. This statement was secured in German by one ofthe officers of this detechment. The only other distributionwhich this docummt bas had in 00118 is to Col. Nohenthal.AttachmentCCI Colonel R. CollinsOffice of nf.rector of IntelligenceTele-bone: 76-243230fet Richard Nelmsit/ RICMRD ELMSLt. Comdr., USIIRCommanding OfficerBerlin Detachment/SSUCONFIDENTIALApproved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219SUBJECT: Statements of Erna Flegel, R.W. Red Cross Nurse from the TrainingSchool "Markisches Haus," Scharnhorststrasse 3. Born 1911.?I was employed as a surgical nurse in the University Hospital on Ziegelstrasse.Since there was a shortage of doctors in Berlin, a nurse always had to be present in theair raid shelter in the Reichs Chancellery when there was an air raid alarm, for firstaid in case it was necessary for injuries, etc. The same was true for the Fuehrer's7---shelter which belonged to his private residence, Wilhelmstrasse 77. The air raidservice was first assigned to me in January 1943. For this purpose, when there was analert, I was called for with a car at the University Hospital, transported there, andafter the end of the raid transported back to the hospital again. During the raid Istayed in the First Aid room of the shelter. When Berlin came under direct artilleryfire, I stayed there all the time. It was a small room, to which a second room belonged,the operating room in the Reichs Chancellery on Vosstrasse. Properly, only SS unitswho had been injured were brought there. The physician in charge there was Oberarztand Obersturmbannfuehrer Professor Haase from the University Hospital. When thering around Berlin kept drawing closer and closer, we had to keep the injured therewho had formerly been carried away to the hospitals after air raids. In the course ofthe fighting, we grew to be a large hospital?about 500 wounded.After November 1944 Hitler stayed in Berlin continuously, with the exception ofthe Christmas holidays?and then one time he had been at the Oder front. BesidesHitler and the staff of the Chancellery, the Mohnke Combat Group was alwayspresent. Mohnke himself had his quarters in the Reichs Chancellery.In the middle of April, Goebbels had his family come in from Schwanenwurder,at first to the Propaganda Ministry, but on 20 April he moved over with his wife andthe six children into the shelter of the Reichs Chancellery. Hitler was fond of theGoebbels children. They gave him a great deal of pleasuie; even in the last days he in-vited them for chocolate, which made the children very happy. In Hitler's shelterthere were only one bathtub, which was naturally provided for him. He allowed theGoebbels children to bathe in it, which likewise afforded them great pleasure.*The fate of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Goebbels and other Germans who shared the Bunker with theFuehrer during the siege and fall of Berlin in May 1945 tantalized many in the West for years following theNazi defeat. On 30 November 45, Richard Helms of the Office of Strategic Services, assigned to Berlin, for-warded to Washington the interrogation of a nurse who had been in the Reichs Chancellery at its fall to theinvading Russians. That report was lost from sight for more than 30 years. It was discovered recently by acollector of WW II memorabilia, who provided a copy to Mr. Helms. It is reprinted here because it can beviewed as a classic of intelligence reporting and for the unique insight it affords both into life in the bunkerand the mental outlook of those Germans who stayed with Hitler until the end. Several authors have writtenabout the bunker and Hitler's last days; none depicted the final events more graphically than Erna Flegel.31Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219?<4t, iiesides these, Martin Bormann was also present. His brother, Paul Bormann, whodidn't get along with him, had left Berlin some time before, as his wife was expectinga baby.Schaub went to Upper Bavaria; he had a house in Kitzbuehl, Austria, and had leftBerlin previously.The following aides were present: Brigadefuehrer Albrecht, who shot himselfafter Hitler's death; Colonel von Below of the Air Force, who also shot himself;General Burgdorff, who later carried on the surrender negotiations with the Russians.On 28 April, Field Marshal Ritter von Griem landed on the Pariser Platz; his pilotwas Hanna Reitsch. In landing Griem was injured below the knee, and after his injuryhad been treated he was to have been carried in to Hitler, but he bluntly refused.Greim said concerning Hanna Reitsch: -She was my good angel, she piloted memarvelously.- He was there only one day; he had been summoned to Hitler in order totake over the supreme command of the Air Force as Goering's successor, and in orderto receive Hitler's orders in this connection. I had a long talk with Hanna Reitsch inthe shelter in the presence of Eva Braun.All the other generals, etc., were with Keitel outside the cauldkp of Berlin.There were present also orderlies and soldiers and the SS bodyguards, the kitchenpersonnel and the cleaning women. Up to the end Hitler received his special diet,which consisted of fresh vegetables; he took meals regularly.On 21 April, for the last time, personnel of the Reichs Chancellery were taken outof Berlin by air.When parts of Berlin were already occupied, and the Russians were comingcloser and closer to the center of the city, one could feel, almost physically, that theThird Reich was approaching its end. Marines were supposed to land by plane to pro-tect Berlin until the Wenk Army Group had arrived for the relief of the city. Wenkwith his troops was already at Beelitz. But suddenly we heard that Wenk's ArmyGroup absolutely required a twenty-four hours' rest; the soldiers were completelyexhausted. Later they were entirely wiped out there. It wasn't that anything had gonewrong?it could have been expected, since in the last weeks and days so muchtreachery, so much cowardice and meanness had revealed itself in Hitler's immediateentourage.Hitler required no care; I was there exclusively for the care of the wounded. Tobe sure, he had aged greatly in the last days; he now had a lot of grey hair, and gavethe impression of a man at least fifteen or twenty years older. He shook a good deal,walking was difficult for him, his right side was still very much weakened as a result ofthe attempt on his life. In the period immediately after the attempt he always shookhands with us with his left hand, but that had gone away again, and toward the end hewas using his right hand. It was not until November that I saw Hitler again for the firsttime after the attack, when he was in Berlin for a state funeral. He was taking greatcare to favor his right hand. At that time he was very animated, and made all sorts ofjokes. When Hitler was in the room, he filled it entirely with his personality?you sawonly him, aside from him nothing else existed. The fascinating thing about him was hiseyes; up to the end, it was impossible to turn away from his eyes.I assume that Hitler recognized the hopelessness of his position; he is said to haveexpressed himself on the subject to Professor Haase. For that very reason, I regard ev-ery rumor that Hitler is still alive as senseless, he would never have had the spiritual32Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219and vohyiical strength to build up a new Germany. Hitler experienced too manydisillusionments at the hands of his closest friends. He no longer believed in the loyaltyof Himmler. The liaison officer between them, namely, Fegelein, the brother-in-lawof Eva Braun, had betrayed him. He was caught on the point of leaving Berlin in civil-ian clothes. This treachery affected Eva Braun very deeply.Professor Morell was not there; he actually had a serious heart ailment, and was atObersalzberg, where later on he died of heart disease. For some time he had been un-able to move around unnecessarily.Dr. Stumpfecker was present as his personal surgeon; also the dentist, Dr. Kunz.Both doctors were later taken away by the Russians. Dr. Kunz was the one whopoisoned Goebbels' children.The marriage of Hitler to Eva Braun took place on the 28th of April. When Ilearned about it, it was immediately clear to me that this signified the end of the ThirdReich, for if Hitler had believed a continuation of it possible, he would never have tak-en this step. Now, with death facing him, he wished to thank this woman for herself-sacrificing loyalty by giving her his name. After all, she was still young and haa"-voluntarily stayed with him in order to share his fate. On the afternoon of 28 April themarriage was performed. This incident was of little importance to us; at any rate, wesaw nothing unusual in it, for Eva Braun was a completely colorless personality. Whenshe was with a crowd of stenographers, she was in no way conspicuous among them.For example, the fact that Hitler had poisoned his wolfhound somehow affected usmore. The dog received in Hitler's presence a large dose of the poison with which laterothers were also poisoned. He was very fond of the dog, and took his death very muchto heart.On the day of his marriage Hitler dictated his political testament until late intothe night. The secretary was Miss Schroeder. On that day he probably did not go tobed until about four o'clock, or even six.On the morning of the 29th nothing special happened. I had to go over a fewtimes to the Fuehrer's shelter?I went there only when,I needed something urgentlyfrom the First Aid room. Thus, I saw Hitler a few times. He always took his mealsalone and with great regularity, too, up to the end. His food was very well prepared;this was easy to manage, in view of the tiny portions that were involved. The only lux-ury he allowed himself throughout the war was that he always had fresh vegetablessupplied to him from Holland.The ring around us was now drawing closer and closer, and the radio connectionwas broken off. It was impossible to get information from now on, except throughshock troops who went out and brought reports as to where the Russians had newly es-tablished themselves in the meantime. We had water and light until the end, thanks tothe technical excellence with which the installations in the shelter functioned. Also, arather large staff of technicians had stayed behind, who constantly supervised theequipment.At the end we were like a big family; it was a common fate which we were expe-riencing in an atmosphere of true comradely association. The terrific dynamics of thefate which was unrolling held sway over all of us. We were Germany, and we were go-ing through the end of the Third Reich and of the war, concerning the outcome ofwhich we had hoped, up to the end, for a favorable and tolerable issue. Everythingpetty and external had fallen away.33Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219it Oh 29 April in the evening, we were told that we were all to be received by Hit-ler. It was half past ten when we were instructed to hold ourselves in readiness. Thenwe went over at half past twelve. There were Professor Haase, Dr. Kunz, ProfessorStumpfecker, and two or three Medical Corps enlisted men. About twenty-five orthirty people were already gathered there, the secretaries, the cleaning women, and afew strangers who had taken refuge in the shelter. They were all standing in a row.Hitler had the names of the persons he didn't know told to him, and shook hands witheach one as he walked down the line. A -brown sister,- who was a stranger and whohad perhaps not grasped the seriousness of the moment, and the ultimate fate,expressed her thanks to Hitler because she had been admitted into the shelter, and saidin conclusion: "Fuehrer, we believe in you and in a good outcome!" Whereupon Hitlerreplied: -Each one must stand in his place and hold out, and if fate requires it, therehe must fall!" I had a feeling that for Hitler we were the forum of the German peopleto which he was presenting himself once more since he had no more extensive one.On 30 April then, in the afternoon, he departed this life. We asked no questionsas to how, none at all, for each one of us had the feeling on the previous evening thatthis was farewell. I learned of his death in a special way. Because of this feeling I huejust described, my first question to the Doctor each morning was: -Is Hitler sir "alive?" The answer: -Yes." The same anxious question at each meeting with Dr.Haase. When the latter came out of the Fuehrer's shelter at six o'clock, I asked again:-Is Hitler still alive?" As he gave me no answer, I knew the truth. It was natural thatsuch an event was not discussed, and that it affected us all very deeply, also that atsuch a time unimportant matters were of no interest at all. For, of course, we all be-lieved that we, too, should not come out of this hell alive; we knew precisely whatmight be in store for us, everyone had made up his mind to that, there was no morequestion about it, we were paying attention only to what was essential.Then later we learned that Hauptsturmfuehrer Schneider was required to bringgasoline from the garage of the shelter. Dr. Stumpfecker burned Hitler's body in. thegarden.On the next morning after Hitler's death we were all conscious of a vacuum, ourfate could not be postponed. I saw that the end was about to come. Upon the news thatHitler was dead, we were told that now we were released from our oath, and everyonewas permitted to choose his own fate. The able-bodied men prepared to make a sally.We others decided not to go out with the combat group; we stayed, naturally, at ourplace beside the wounded. Goebbels carried on the government as well as he could,and General Brockdorf was in command. On 30 April no orders were given for the sal-ly, for reasons which I do not understand; they were given only on the first of May,and as a result there were an unbelievably large number of dead to mourn.Martin Bormann was among the men who took part in the sally. It is to be as-sumed that he met death there; for, as most of the young battle-experienced SS menfell, a relatively older man cannot have come through alive.Flight Captain Bauer also joined in the sally.As I have said, the Mohnke combat group then equipped itself to make the sallyout of the shelter. All the able-bodied men who were still there joined with them. Theytried first to get out at the exit to Potsdamer Platz, which was impossible, then theyturned toward the north and in individual cases got as far as the Stettiner Bahnhof; weheard nothing more from them.34Albrecht shot himself when the combat group started out.Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219Coibbels died on 30 April. Mrs. Goebbels had been his guiding genius. I cannotjudge whether he was wavering. Mrs. Goebbels was having a dental treatment, and Ioften talked with her for an hour at a time. She was far superior to the average humanbeing. It took a resolute spirit to decide to sacrifice her own children; indeed, itrequired more resolution than for Hitler to take his life. She said: -Now, we too, willgive up our lives.- About the children, furthermore, she said, -Where shall mychildren go? The shame of being Goebbels' children will always rest upon them.- (Shesaid this to me on the day when the Marines were summoned. We were present whenan admiral gave the order over the telephone that the Marines were to start.) The lasttime that I saw Mrs. Goebbles was on the morning of 30 April. We shook hands with-out a word, for there was nothing to say. The children died in the afternoon and theparents in the evening. Mrs. Goebbels had told the children that they would have tolive in the shelter quite a long time, and that with this in view they had to be inoculat-ed. Of course, the children were accustomed to inoculations as a result of the war. Thechildren's bodies were not burned?the Russians found them. I heard only on theevening of the same day that Goebbles and his family were dead. All the news reportsthat there were came from the Fuehrer's shelter.Fritsche, the only ranking official left (he had been in the Air Ministry), took thegreatest pains after the death of Goebbels to keep everything more or less orderly andto find the best way of making the surrender with the Russians.On 2 May, about ten o'clock in the morning, the Russians were there. We hadmarked our section with Red Cross flags. At first they went through the shelter, andrespected the Red Cross absolutely. Nothing happened either to the wounded or to us,nor did they take anything away from us. We were even permitted to lock ourselves inat night; the Russian Commandant's behavior was exemplary. Naturally it was asurprise to us that he gave us permission to lock our doors, but he said he could notvouch for his soldiers. Were accustomed to seeing soldiers obey orders very strictly, incontrast to which the Russian commanding officer did not seem to have this authorityover his soldiers. The Russian headquarters was established at Mohnke's battle post.The following were present in the shelter with us, in addition to the wounded: Dr.Kunz, Professor Haase, the nurses, the civilian personnel of the Fuehrer's residenceand of the Reichs Chancellery, working girls who had taken refuge there, BDM? girlsand their leaders. The latter, coming from the Reichsportfeld, had fled more and moreinto the center of the city instead of going out of Berlin. Later on these girls went towork admirably, and when the Hotel AdIon burned down, with their feeble strengththey carried the wounded soldiers, a task which was giving us trouble, and after all,these girls were not at all accustomed to wounded people and to the oppressive air inthe shelter. The German boys also showed a model behavior; with their slight strengththey shifted ammunition; indeed, up to the end Hitler had an unshakeable faith in theGerman youth.Then on 2 May individuals were taken to the Reichs Institute for the Blind onOranien Strasse, where the Russians had set up one of their GPU offices.I was taken there on 3 May and stayed until 10 May; I was lodged in the cellarthere, and was questioned daily. Then I came back to the hospital, and just in time, foron the same day the departure by car was to take place, to the Herzberg Hospital,where we stayed until the middle of August. From there I was taken to ?ulsdorffor another interrogation by the GPU. We worked in Herzberge until we were takenas prisoners of war to Koenigswusterhausen. At first we worked under direct?Bund deutscher MAdchen, Hitler Youth.35Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219Psuffervision of the Russians, but when they saw that we understood our work they letus carry on freely. Of course, we were behind barbed wire there the whole time.* * * *Commentary? (b)(3)(c)Berlin, 23 November 1945The statement of Erna Flegel regarding her observation in Hitler's bunker asthe Third Reich collapsed is unique?and not only because witnesses to suchhistorical theater are rare. Its unrevised, Nazi-era spirit marks the account asauthentic, from Flegel's enthralled view of Hitler to her assumption that theindescribable catastrophe she watched was but the inexorable working of fate. At thesame time, the reader is drawn to admire the nurse's devotion to duty.Comparison of Nurse Flegel's statement with the recent and acclaimed study ofHitler's last weeks by James P. O'Donnell (The Bunker, Houghton Mifflin Co.,Boston, 1978) confirms that she is a good source for atmosphere and events observedfirsthand. But there are inaccuracies, mainly attributable to her accepting the wordof others. There is a difference between two accounts of a nurse's exchange withHitler that suggests Flegel, although unwilling to speak against the Fuehrer sevenmonths after his death, may have revised history in retrospect.Flegel's statement tells that a "brown sister," a phrase that suggests a nursemore pro-nazi than the source, thanked Hitler for being admitted to his bunker,adding, "Fuehrer, we believe in you and in a good outcome!" O'Donnell's book (page160) cites a physician's account of a reception by Hitler on the same day, at aboutthe same time, when -my Red Cross nurse, this unusually stolid woman, broke downcompletely and began to sigh and moan, 'My Fuehrer, keep up your faith in finalvictory! Lead, and we shall follow.' In the statement, Hitler replies that one muststand firm and fall if fate requires it; the book account has him responding that onemust not seek to avoid one's destiny.Most interesting is that the physician quoted by O'Donnell identifies his RedCross nurse as "Sister Erna." It appears likely that these two accounts describe thesame incident and the Erna Flegel was the "brown sister" she later claimed to haveobserved.Nurse Flegel's statement accepts the death of Hitler without question but shelacks firsthand evidence. This was an important point in 1945. The Sovietscontrolled the evidence of Hitler's death and many of the Fuehrerbunker staff wereimprisoned in the Soviet Union for years thereafter. More than two decades passedbefore Moscow decided to publish forensic proof of Hitler's death, thus spikingrecurrent legends about his appearance in Argentina.36Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617219