He Was My Chief – Christa Schroeder

he was my chief

Being a secretary to Adolf Hitler was no 9 – 5 job. It was more like joining his family with the commitment and expectations to match. As part of his inner circle, Hitler required his staff to be on call around the clock and for this reason had several secretaries at once. He also required them to travel with him, at painfully short notice for undetermined lengths of time, such was his obsession with absolute secrecy around his plans.

Christa Schroeder was Hitler’s personal secretary from 1933 through to 1945. She was still with him in his bunker only days before his suicide in Berlin in 1945 and such was her involvement that had Hitler not sent her away, she was fully intending to use the cyanide pill she had already obtained for that purpose. These memoirs, only published in Germany after her death in 1985 and for the first time in English in 2009 are Schroeder’s account of these 12 years.

Schroeder claimed to have no interest in politics and also claimed to not know what was happening in Germany and the rest of Europe throughout this time. Her recollections, while covering several important political events including the attempt on Hitler’s life from within his ranks in 1944, are mostly about the day to day activities and running of the Hitler household.  She gives detailed descriptions of the layout and furnishings in Hitler’s various headquarters, the routine when the group would arrive at a new bunker, the relationships between the various members of Hitler’s entourage and also insights into Hitler’s routines. She describes the women in his life, his relationship with his niece Geli and the devastating effect her suicide had on him. Also what she believes is the truth about his relationship with Eva Braun and why Eva Braun had such influence over Hitler. She also recalls conversations she had with Hitler, some of these illustrating an almost humane side to his character, his obvious thirst for knowledge, his love of art and architecture and even a hint of compassion – towards animals.

This is definitely an interesting read and more so I would think for people who have read other accounts of life with Hitler by members of his staff. Schroeder appears at pains to set the record straight on information published in other memoirs that she claims is not correct. She draws on her memories and notes and also letters that she sent to a friend throughout this time. Several of these are included. Her writing is a bit dry and appears naieve at times. What I found most fascinating is what her account does not contain. Even in retrospect she mentions nothing of the atrocities that were committed, nothing of her feelings about being so closely involved whether knowingly or not, no feelings of sadness or shock or any attempt to explain her involvement at all. This had to have been a conscious decision but I find it odd that she didn’t take the opportunity to say something. However, I don’t know the background to how the book came to be so perhaps there was a reason for this.

There is a short appendix at the end of the book – an interesting extract of Schroeder’s interrogation at the end of the war. I would have liked to know how the rest of her life panned out so will look out for some information on that. For further reading, Until the final hour, an account by another of Hitler’s secretaries, Traudl Junge has gone onto my wish list.

I would recommend this book for anybody interested in this period in history or who thinks it sounds interesting because it is. Nothing amazingly revealing but lots of little tidbits that paint an  overall picture that is worthwhile reading.

Published: 1985 (English 2009)
translated from the German by Geoffrey Brooks
Pages: 198
Challenges: WWII, Lost in translation, German reading, Support your local library challenge,2009 Pub

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9 responses to “He Was My Chief – Christa Schroeder

  1. A while ago my fiance, who reads military history and travel, picked up a copy of a book by Hitler’s valet. He mentioned this book and I asked the same question as you – what happened to her after the war. He tells me that she traded on her notoriety for a while, but then she largely had a quiet, private life.

  2. Oh that is really interesting Fleur – thank you. I had a quick look on wikipedia but couldn’t find much so was even more intrigued..

  3. This sounds like a fascinating book. I snagged an ARC at BEA, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It seems hard to believe that she had no idea what was going on in Germany or the rest of Europe, though. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’ll get your review up on War Through the Generations soon.

    –Anna

  4. Thanks Anna – I look forward to seeing what you think when you get to read it. So much information not in there but still really interesting!

    I’m loving the WWII challenge and have probably officially finished now but there are so many great books calling me….

  5. I’ve just asked and the book I mentioned was “Getting Hitler Into Heaven” by John Graven Hughes. Subtitled “The previously unpublished memoirs of Heinz Linge, Hitler’s valet and confidante.” The copy we found was published by Corgi in 1987.

    I’ve fallen behind in my War Through The Generations Challenge – my concentration for serious books has been a little lacking recently – but I have one lined up to read in the next couple of weeks.

  6. Thanks again Fleur, that sounds like another really interesting book. And good luck with your next read for this challenge.

    I know how it is to fall behind on challenges, I have two to read for the compass challenge before the end of August. I really want to read Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean but am stumped on a North book. I picked up Northanger Abbey from the library but I’m just not in the mood for that right now..

  7. Pingback: German Reading Challenge – Completed! « A Book Sanctuary

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