History has condemned him as the megalomaniac who brought death and misery to millions.
But for one woman, the name Adolf Hitler evokes a smile not a shudder.
She is Rosa Mitterer, who worked as a maid for the Fuhrer at his mountain retreat in Bavaria in the 1930s.
Rosa is 91 and until now has kept a vow of silence about her experiences. She has chosen to break it after realising she is the last survivor of the circle who served the tyrant in the years before he launched the Second World War.
91-year-old Rosa Mitterer is the sole survivor of those who served Adolf Hitler in the years before the Second World War
And her verdict on her former master: ‘He was a charming man, someone who was only ever nice to me, a great boss to work for. You can say what you like, but he was a good man to us.’
Rosa’s remembrances of life at the court of the tyrant make gripping reading. She saw leading Nazis come and go. Himmler, the evil party secretary; Bormann, whom she described as a ‘dirty pig’; and the club-footed, sexually-obsessed propaganda minister Goebbels.
Rosa went into Hitler’s service at the age of 15 in 1932 when she was Rosa Krautenbacher. Her sister Anni had worked as a cook at Hitler’s Berchtesgaden retreat since the late 1920s.
‘She said he needed a housemaid and I would fit the bill,’ Rosa recalled. ‘I remember so clearly the first day I spoke to him in the kitchen. I said I was Anni’s sister and that made him smile, because Anni was his favourite. I only ever knew Hitler as a kindly man who was good to me.’
A photo taken at Rosa’s sister’s wedding, which Hitler attended
His former housekeeper was Geli Raubal, with whom it was rumoured he had a love affair. ‘She shot herself in September 1931 and I was told as soon as I went to work for him that he was not to be approached on the anniversary of that day,’ said Rosa.
‘My sister and I shared a room that was directly over Hitler’s. We could hear him crying.’
For a long time she and Anni were the only servants in the home, known as Berghof.
Recalling her first direct request from her master, she said she was drying some porcelain cups when he came down the stairs.
‘Hello,’ he said softly. ‘Sorry to trouble you, but could you make me some coffee and bring some gingerbread biscuits to my study?’
Coming into such close proximity to Hitler made her feel faint, she said, but she soon became accustomed to life at Berghof.
‘I rose at 6am every day and put on a red-green dirndl with a white apron. My first task was to feed his dogs – he had three German shepherds at the beginning called Wolf, Muck and Blondi.
‘In those days, Hitler slept in his study. In it was an iron bed, one wardrobe, one table, two chairs and a shoebox. It was very modestly furnished. Beside the bed hung a picture of his mother.’
She added: ‘I didn’t have to be a Nazi party member or anything. After a while I relaxed a bit. Apparently it was Hitler’s orders that Anni and I be taken to church every Sunday because he thought this would be “good for us”.
‘Another time he came into the kitchen, saw me and said, “Ahh, I see our little one has grown a little plumper!”.’
Part of her duties involved sorting out the fan letters and presents that were delivered in their thousands to the house.
‘There were cigars, jars of jam, flowers, pictures,’ she recalled. ‘We gave most of them away to poorer peasant families nearby on Hitler’s orders.’
Her time in service also allowed her to see at close quarters the woman Hitler kept secret from his people throughout his rule – Eva Braun. ‘She was not so pretty close up,’ Rosa recalled.
‘Himmler was always there too, thinner than what he looked like in the photos, and Goebbels.
‘And Bormann, I didn’t like him at all. He was a dirty pig.’ By the end of 1934, the house was surrounded by minefields and SS checkpoints. Rosa said. ‘I felt like a prisoner instead of an employee.’
In 1935 she fell in love with local businessman Josef Amorts and handed in her notice. She was told she could leave immediately..
‘I only met Hitler once more, on December 10, 1936, when Anni married Herbert Doehring, manager of the Berghof. He came to the wedding and was nice to me, saying he missed me.’
Rosa married in 1939 and had three daughters. She later remarried. A great-grandmother, she now lives in Munich. After the war she had to confront the reality of the man for whom she had worked so willingly. And in particular the reality of the Holocaust.
‘That he had ordered such terrible things, I just couldn’t believe it,’ she said. ‘Even now, I prefer to remember the charming facets of his personality.’
Charmer: Adolf Hitler, ‘the perfect boss’