My Rating: 5
As an avid reader of anything about World War II, I was surprised when I realized I had never read this book. If you have any interest whatsoever about the final days of Adolf Hitler, this is definitely a must-read.
Hitler’s Last Secretary is a one-of-a-kind piece as it gives you a perspective that you cannot get from any other book about World War II. Traudl Junge was Hitler’s secretary not only in the last couple of years of the war, but also the last few weeks of Hitler’s life in the underground bunker, and her chronicle of that time period is truly fascinating.
The beginning was a little slow, as it gives a summary of Traudl’s childhood and family life, but I know it was necessary in order to better understand her background. I feel like those first chapters might turn you away if you think that's what the rest of the book is going to feel like, but just stick with it until the actual journals begin because you will not be disappointed. Traudl wrote down her time under Hitler in 1947, so everything was fresh in her mind, and this is evident in the amount of detail she shares as well as the emotions that are still fresh.
This book was a little weird for me as I am so used to reading accounts of concentration camp survivors, American soldiers fighting in Europe, or other victims that suffered due to Hitler’s rule, so I am accustomed to only reading about how evil this dictator was and how he was such a monster. I'm not saying this book makes him seem innocent in any way, definitely not, but Traudl did something that no other book I've read accomplished: she made Adolf Hitler appear human.
Traudl shares her duties as Hitler’s personal secretary, but mainly she talks about the daily routine, the people she lived and work with, conversations the group had, as well shares a softer and more personal side of Hitler that most historical accounts don't go into. What I found intriguing about seeing a different side of him was the fact that he must have qualities we don't usually talk about as so many people were literally so mesmerized by him that they would do anything for him. I think it is vital to see this person in his entirety so we can continue to try to understand how millions of people got completely seduced by a man with such radical ideas.
Overall, this book was fascinating. It gives you a unique glimpse into the inner workings of one of history’s most hated men, and provides a perspective you will never get anywhere else. It is straightforward and unapologetic, yet also details Traudl’s life after the war and how this time of naivety affected her forever. If you have any curiosity at all, I encourage you to read this book. Whether you love it or you hate it, you won't forget it, and it stands as a lasting reminder of how one person can transfix a nation and change history forever.