- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

LONDON — Adolf Hitler was a shaking, graying, weakened man who “sank into himself” in the final days before his suicide on April 30, 1945, according to the first published account of his nurse, who worked in his bunker as Allied forces closed in on Berlin.

Erna Flegel, now 93 and living in a nursing home in northern Germany, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in an interview this week that Hitler “had a lot of gray hair and gave the impression of a man at least 15 to 20 years older,” toward the end of his life.

“In the last few days, Hitler sank into himself,” Mrs. Flegel said. “He shook a great deal, walking was difficult for him, his right side was still very much weakened as a result of the attempt on his life [in July 1944].”

With defeat imminent, Hitler, 56, shot himself. His mistress, Eva Braun — whom he married shortly before his death — committed suicide by taking cyanide in his underground bunker in Berlin.

Mrs. Flegel dismissed Braun but described Magda Goebbels, wife of Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, as “a brilliant woman, on a far higher level than most people.”

The Goebbels poisoned their six children and killed themselves in the bunker after Hitler’s death.

Mrs. Flegel said she tried to persuade Mrs. Goebbels not to take the lives of her children as Russian troops got closer.

But Mrs. Goebbels replied: “I belong to my husband. And the children belong to me,” Mrs. Flegel recalled.

The Guardian said Mrs. Flegel had never given a public account of her job as Hitler’s nurse and her time in the Berlin bunker. But as the 60th anniversary of end of World War II in Europe approached this weekend, she was speaking out for the first time.

Mrs. Flegel’s existence became known after the transcript of an interview she gave to U.S. interrogators was declassified by the CIA four years ago, according to the Guardian.

In a separate interview with the German tabloid BZ, Mrs. Flegel said she wanted her story to be known. “I don’t want to take my secret with me into death,” she was quoted as saying.

Asked by the Guardian what she thought of Joseph Goebbels, Mrs. Flegel replied:

“I didn’t like him. Nobody liked him. There were always people who hung around him, of course, relatives and so on, but they were only there because they wanted to help their careers. There were also lots of women there who were young and pretty. They used to hang ‘round his ministry. They had an easier time of it than the rest of us, for whom things were more difficult.”

The Goebbels’ children, Mrs. Flegel said, were favorites of Hitler’s, who drank hot chocolate with them and allowed them to use his bathtub.

Mrs. Flegel described how Hitler said goodbye to his medical staff on April 29, 1945, the evening before his suicide.

“He came out of the side room, shook everyone’s hand, and said a few friendly words. And that was it,” she recalled.

Mrs. Flegel evaded the question of whether she regretted her role in the Third Reich. “Everyone has their own opinion,” she said.

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