Baron Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven


Born: 6 February, 1914, in Estonia. Died: 27 February, 2007, in Germany, aged 93.

BARON Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven played a significant part in the last days of Hitler's Reich. As an administrative aide-de-camp, he was present in the bunker during those traumatic hours and was one of the few to emerge alive. He was never prosecuted for his role in matters and is thought to be the last survivor of those who were in the bunker in 1945. His book, In the Bunker With Hitler, provided an authentic, and historic, account of the chaotic and frenzied final days and gave an insight into Hitler's failing mental condition prior to his suicide.

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Loringhoven was never a member of the Nazi Party and wrote, some 60 years later: "As a soldier, I had the disagreeable impression of having been used as fodder for the adventures of a charlatan."

Loringhoven was born into an aristocratic Estonian family whose lands had been confiscated by the Bolsheviks in 1919. He wanted to study law, but, in 1932 membership of the Nazi Party was obligatory in order to become a lawyer so Loringhoven enlisted in the army, joining a cavalry regiment. At the outbreak of war, he served in the invasions of Poland and France. But the advance into Russia alerted him to the inadequacies of the Nazi fighting machine.

The brutal winter during the Battle of Stalingrad and the lack of proper equipment alarmed Loringhoven. By then he had joined the staff of General Heinz Guderian's crack Panzer Division: Guderian was a particular favourite of Hitler and a rising military star. The two became firm friends and were together for the last two years of the war.

After the failed plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, Guderian was appointed chief of staff and Loringhoven, as his ADC, attended all briefings and reported to the Fhrer twice a day on troop movements and military events. These visits began at Hitler's East Prussian command post and then, when the Red Army approached the region, to the bunker under the Chancellery in Berlin.

At first hand, Loringhoven saw the deterioration in Hitler's health. "The once glittering eyes were dull, the pale skin now had a grey tinge. He dragged his left leg and his handshake was limp," Loringhoven wrote in his book. "He was sometimes hunched over so much that he almost had a hump."

Hitler's powers of analysis had clearly been affected by the unsuccessful July plot and Loringhoven recounts how his inability to grasp facts got noticeably worse.

He refused to accept the daily casualties and the flags on the maps never really represented the strength of the troops. Hitler could not take in the decimation of the army and this led to conflict - especially with Guderian.

Loringhoven was present at many fierce arguments between Hitler and Guderian. After one unsuccessful German assault, Guderian gave the Fhrer the reason: no shells. Hitler was furious and stormed and shouted.

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Loringhoven wrote: "Guderian's face turned red with rage as he defended the army. The row escalated with terrifying intensity. Hitler became paler and paler, while Guderian became redder and redder."

The final days in the bunker took on an air of farce. The Red Army had disrupted all communications and Loringhoven's job as an ADC was superfluous. He could no longer provide news of troop movements and had only one method of discerning how far the Red Army had advanced into Berlin; he looked up the Berlin telephone directory and rang civilians on the outskirts of the city. If he got an answer he asked if the Russians had arrived. Often, however, he got a reply in Russian.

Loringhoven did not want to die in the bunker and he asked Hitler's permission to join his regiment. Hitler was full of approval and when he explained he would cross the Havel Lake, Hitler instructed Loringhoven: "You must get an electric motor boat, because that doesn't make so much noise and you can get through the Russian lines." Loringhoven thanked the Fhrer who "shook hands limply with me and I was dismissed".

Loringhoven crossed the Havel Lake and was then captured by the US Army, as he had planned all along.

He was interrogated at length but was never put on trial. However, Loringhoven was not released from captivity until 1948, penniless and without a job. For a few years, with the help of friends, he worked in publishing in Munich but was allowed to rejoin the German forces in the early Fifties. He held various posts in NATO, both in Europe and Washington, retiring with the rank of lieutenant-general.

Loringhoven was twice married. Both his wives predeceased him and he is survived by a son from his second marriage.