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Freytag von Loringhoven, Baron Bernd 1914–2007

Freytag von Loringhoven, Baron Bernd 1914–2007

PERSONAL:

Born February 6, 1914, in Osel (now Saaremaa), Estonia; moved to Germany during childhood; died February 27, 2007, in Munich, Germany; married Renate (deceased), married Ilse-Verna Kraul (deceased); children: one son (deceased) from first marriage, son Arndt from second marriage.

CAREER:

Officer, German army, 1933-45; publishing industry worker, 1948-55; West German army officer, 1955-73, retired as lieutenant general.

WRITINGS:

(With others) Im Dienst der Friedenssicherung: General Ulrich de Maizière; Beiträge zu seiner Verabschiedung als Generalinspekteur des Bundeswehr, 1966-1972, Bernard & Graefe Verlag für Wehrwesen (Frankfurt, Germany), 1972.

(With François d'Alançon), In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Though he never joined the Nazi party, Baron Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven was privy to strategic meetings between Adolf Hitler and his top advisors. As an aide to General Heinz Guderian, Freytag von Loringhoven delivered messages between the general and Adolf Hitler, and he was present in the bunker where the führer spent the final days of his life in hiding. His memoir of that experience, In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945, presents what many readers consider a compelling account of this grim episode.

Freytag von Loringhoven had considered a career as a lawyer, "but the profession was being taken over by the Nazis," he said in an interview for the London Observer with Alex Duval Smith. He continued, "The Wehrmacht [army] seemed an honorable career." During World War II, he served in Poland and in the Soviet Union, being one of a very small number of people to survive the Battle of Stalingrad. In his memoir, he states that he did not witness atrocities against civilians, and was not aware of Hitler's "Final Solution," the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II. After escaping from the bunker with the führer's permission just one day before Hitler's suicide, Freytag von Loringhoven was captured and imprisoned by the British, who suspected him of Nazi sympathies. After two and a half years as a British prisoner of war, Freytag von Loringhoven was released to West Germany, where he resumed his military career in 1956, retiring in 1973 as a lieutenant general.

In an obituary for the New York Times, Douglas Martin observed that In the Bunker with Hitler "paint[s] a picture of an eerie subterranean limbo where lights flickered with each bomb blast." In his book, Freytag von Loringhoven describes Hitler's stubbornness and obsession with military tactics, as well as the führer's cold rages. A contributor to the London Times commented, "Loringhoven provides a vivid account of Hitler's mental deterioration in the final months of the war in Europe. The Fuehrer's preoccupation with the minutiae of military deployment, his absolute refusal to accept that divisions represented by flags on his battle map were reduced to the strength of battalions or even companies, and his outright rejection of sound professional advice left experienced generals such as Guderian exasperated and helpless." Freytag von Loringhoven describes Hitler's frequent rages and his habit of playing with his dog, on whom he would test poisons. In an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News reporter Rob Broomby, Freytag von Loringhoven said that he did not observe the strong charisma that has frequently been associated with Hitler. "I felt nothing," he stated of his first meeting with the führer. "The eyes were pale and without any expression anymore." In an interview cited in an obituary for Star Online written by David Rising, Freytag von Loringhoven said that Hitler seemed pleased at the young officer's planned escape from the bunker. "I had the feeling when we talked to him that he had already decided to end his life and that he, as a physical wreck, was envious of three strong young men who still had the chance of getting through," Freytag von Loringhoven explained.

Freytag von Loringhoven also writes about Hitler's marriage to Eva Braun and the führer's order, twenty-four hours later, to have his new brother-in-law shot for suspected complicity with Schutzstaffel (SS) chief Heinrich Himmler as Nazi leaders strategized about taking command following Hitler's anticipated suicide. Freytag von Loringhoven describes the final hours of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda, who poisoned their six children in the führer's bunker before ingesting cyanide themselves. In a review of In the Bunker with Hitler for the Spectator, M.R.D. Foot commented that Freytag von Loringhoven "paints a stirring picture of a dictatorship in its final chaos, when no one could trust anyone at all." In his interview with Broomby, Freytag von Loringhoven concluded that Hitler was "a terrible creation. Yes, a being, but a being full of evil and cruelty … he was a monster."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Freytag von Loringhoven, Bernd (with François d'Alançon), In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2006.

PERIODICALS

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News, April 26, 2005, Rob Broomby, "Eyewitness: Hitler's Last Days," author interview.

Booklist, October 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945, p. 19.

Contemporary Review, December 22, 2006, review of In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945, p. 534.

Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1995, Mary Williams Walsh, "A Witness to Hitler's Last Stand," author interview, p. 1.

Observer (London, England), March 27, 2005, Alex Duval Smith, author interview.

Publishers Weekly, September 3, 2007, review of In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945, p. 50.

Spectator, June 3, 2006, M.R.D. Foot, "One Who Got Away," review of In the Bunker with Hitler, 23 July 1944-29 April 1945.

ONLINE

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (July 24, 2008), author information.

OBITUARIES:

PERIODICALS

America's Intelligence Wire, April 2, 2007.

Guardian (London, England), March 28, 2007.

New York Times, April 1, 2007.

Record (Bergen County, NJ), April 3, 2007.

Star, April 4, 2007.

Times (London, England), March 10, 2007.

UPI NewsTrack, April 2, 2007.

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