In Hitler’s Bunker: A Boy Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of the Fuhrer’s Last Days – Book Review
In Hitler’s Bunker: A Boy Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of the Fuhrer’s Last Days
Armin D. Lehmann with Tim Carroll
The Lyons Press, Hardcover, 2004
Adolf Hitler is now considered one of the world’s most ruthless madmen. Yet this was not always the case. In fact, Hitler was idolized by the German people, and with the aid of Josef Goebbels, he was deified by the German youth. Not even the death and destruction in Germany during the closing days of World War II could shake the faith of these young fanatics. Yet very few members of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) ever got to see the real face of the Fuhrer, or be in his presence for more than a few hours. Armin Lehmann was a notable exception to this. During the waning days of Nazi Germany, Lehmann was the courier for the Hitler Jugend leader Artur Axmann. He tells his story with collaborator Tim Carroll.
In Hitler’s Bunker is the story of a sensitive youth who is transformed twice by the power of Hitler. The book opens with a look at the Fuhrer’s bunker in which he would watch the great cataclysm unfold for Germany. The second chapter is a look back at Armin’s early days, and the influences that shaped him. Even then there was a schism in his life. His mother and grandparents installed a strong moral sense in him, but his disapproving father demanded much, and any setback was seen as a failure. In retrospect it’s easy to see that the father (Fritz Lehmann) was trying to use Armin’s success to fill the void due to his own life’s failures. Thus when Armin failed or was perceived to fail, his father’s disappointment and anger was crushing to Armin. Yet Armin was a talented poet, and his works were brought to the leader of the Hitler Jugend, Baldur von Schirach. Schirach encouraged him to continue writing his creative works.
The war brought changes that unsettled Armin, but beyond questioning himself, he did not question the state or its roll in the disappearance of his hunchbacked friend Rudi or any other activities one with his sense of morality should have. (Rudi and Armin both shared a love of animals, and after a rocky beginning, became friends). Armin also helped an old and infirmed Jewish lady cross the street bringing on a confrontation with another member of the Hitler Jugend. When she disappeared one day, Armin was uneasy but still did not question. Armin’s father seemed to have a job in the Schutzstaffel service (SS – Body Guard) monitoring radio stations. Once, Fritz Lehmann had a report publicized when acting as a War Correspondent which made Armin proud of him. It was this job that brought the Lehmann family to Breslau. As the Soviets closed in on the city, Armin was away taking mountaineering training. Leaving early to be by his family, Armin was assigned to Kampfgruppe (Battle Group) Gutschke. Wounded in the fighting, Armin was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class for helping rescue and treat other wounded Germans.
In the hospital, Armin had his first true love with an older Red Cross nurse (she was 19 and he was 16). Returning to his unit, he discovered that only one third had survived, and the unit was to be mustered in the Waffen-SS or armed SS. As the unit was being paraded for Artur Axmann, the Hitler Jugend leader saw the Iron Cross ribbon. A short discussion later and Armin was in the delegation to be presented to the Fuhrer on his birthday. After meeting and being shocked by the appearance of the Fuhrer, he had one more surprise coming. Artur Axmann decided to keep Armin with him to serve as a courier in the Kampfgruppe, which consisted of twenty Hitler Youth groups in and around Berlin. Armin was to win the Iron Cross 1st class for destroying a Soviet tank while helping a group of nurses and patients move to the Berlin Zoo bunker. He stayed with Axmann around the Fuhrer’s Bunker until Hitler gave the orders for those who wanted to breakout of the encirclement to attempt it. During the action, Armin was wounded yet again. Given his discharge papers by the Soviets, Armin fled to the west where he was reunited with his family.
In Hitler’s Bunker is mixture of autobiography and history. One problem that I had was the author used Trevor Roper’s Last Days of Hitler to describe incidents Armin never saw, or to give context to the events in Armin’s life. This fact was not acknowledged until the very end of the book. It would have been better if had been mentioned in the preface. The writing is mostly flawless, but the book has a few quirks due to the unique nature of the writers. The only problem with the book is the inclusion of some photos that can be best be described as inexplicable.
At a suggested retail price of $24.95, In Hitler’s Bunker is worthy of being in the library of any student of military history who desires a new and unique first person account of Hitler’s last days.