Rosa Mitterer, 94, has been silent for decades about her relationship with Adolph Hitler, the brutal tyrant who launched World War II. But now that she is the last surviving member of Hitler's household staff, she has decided to break her silence and tell the world what it was like to work for the one who brought death and misery to so many people.
Mitterer worked as a maid in Hitler's mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria in the 1930s. She began working for him at age 15. Her sister Anni had worked as a cook at the retreat for several years before Rosa came on board. She told her sister that Hitler needed a housemaid, and she thought Rosa was the perfect person for the job. Rosa smiles when remembering her first day on the job. "I remember so clearly the first day I spoke to him in the kitchen," she said. "I said I was Anni's sister and that made him smile, because Anni was his favorite. I only ever knew Hitler as a kindly man who was good to me."
Rosa rose each morning at 6:00 a.m., put on her apron, and went to feed his three German shepherds. Her first direct contact with her boss was a pleasant one. She was drying some porcelain cups in the kitchen when Hitler came down the stairs and approached her and said hello. "Sorry to trouble you," he said, "but could you make me some coffee and bring some gingerbread biscuits to my study?"
At that time Hitler slept in an iron bed in his study, which was sparsely furnished with one wardrobe, one table, and two chairs. A picture of his mother hung on the wall beside the bed.
Rosa and her sister were the only servants in the home for a long time, so they saw Hitler often. Hitler ordered that the two girls were to be taken to church every Sunday because he thought it would be good for them. Their duties in the house included sorting through the thousands of gifts and letters that were delivered to the house. "There were cigars, jars of jam, flowers, pictures," Rosa recalls. "We gave most of them away to poorer peasant families nearby on Hitler's orders."
Hitler's former housekeeper, who died before Rosa arrived, was Geli Raubal, who was rumored to have had an affair with her boss. But she shot herself in September 1931. When Rosa arrived, she was told right away that Hitler was not to be approached on the anniversary of Raubal's suicide. "My sister and I shared a room that was directly over Hitler's," Rosa says. "We could hear him crying."
After working in the house for several years, Rosa began to feel like a prisoner instead of an employee, because the house was surrounded by minefields and SS checkpoints. She fell in love with a local businessman and handed in her notice, and she was told she could leave right away. She never returned to the house, but she did see Hitler one more time, when he came to her sister Anni's wedding. Hitler spoke to Rosa kindly and told her that he had missed her.
Rosa, now a great-grandmother, lives in Munich. After the war, she became aware of the horrors that had been inflicted upon the world at the hands of the man she had willingly worked for and enjoyed knowing. She still can't believe that he commanded such terrible things and caused such devastation for so many people.
"He was a charming man, someone who was only ever nice to me, a great boss to work for," Mitterer says. "You can say what you like, but he was a good man to us."