Berchtesgaden, 20 June 1945
I, Erich Kempka, was born on 16.9.1910 at Oberhausen/Rhineland as the son of a miner. I have 9 brothers and sisters. Whereas my father died in January 1945, my mother is living at Oberhausen. attended the elementary school up to my 14th year of age and served an apprenticeship as electrician. After my apprenticeship I worked for one year as a practical apprentice with the automobile-distributers of DKW at Essen. Then I got a position as a driver with the "Essener NationaIzeitung," which Position I held until 1932.
In the days after 20 April 1945 I repeatedly asked Sturmbarmführer Günsche (adjutant of the Führer) whether I was to secure the vehicles because they were gradually destroyed by artillery-fire. SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche told me that would not make any difference, we had to go on with the vehicles as long as possible; the Führer at any rate would stay at the Reichs-Chancellery.
I do not know very much about the military situation in the town-district because I did not leave the Reichs Chancellery. The buildings of the Reichs Chancellery in the days after 22 April 1945 were repeatedly set afire. The fires were extinguished only very primitively. Communications to the outside were cut since about 25 April 1945. In these days a story, was distributed by the German press-bureau that Himmler had turned to the western powers and had stated the Führer was suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage, was completely ill and would not be able to live for much longer. I had not read myself this story which was said to have been printed in the newspapers.
As far as I could see Himmler did not appear in the Reichs Chancellery during the days around 20 April 1945 or later.
(Remark of reporter: Himmler wanted to see the Führer on 22.4.1945. The Führer who did not want to be swayed from his resolution to stay in Berlin by anybody, declared that Himmler should not come.)
Only on the 1 May 1945 I heard that the Russians had infiltrated into the Tiergarten on which the Reichs Chancellery borders and had advanced to the Reichstag. The minister of foreign affairs von Ribbentrop did not see the Führer as far as I recollect at any rate not after the 20.4.1945. After 22.4.1945 the following still stayed with the Führer: General Krebs (chief of general-staff of the Army), General Burgdorf (chief adjutant of the Wehrmacht and chief of the army personnel department), vice-admiral Voss (representative of Grand-Admiral Dönitz), Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels with his wife, secretary of state in the ministry for propaganda Dr. Naumann, SS - Hauptsturmführer Schwegermann as adjutant of Dr. Göbbels, SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein (representative of Reichsführer SS with the Führer). SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche (adjutant of the Führer), SS Sturmbarmführer Linge (valet of the Führer), SS-Gruppenführer Rattenhuber (leader of the SD in the Führer's headquarters), SS-Standartenführer Dr. Stumpfegger (the Führer's first physician after Prof. Dr. Morell. had left).
I personally. saw Reichsleiter Martin Bormann several times up to the morning of 2 May 1945. It is impossible that he could have been at Berchtesgaden or vicinity between 22 April 1945 and 2 May 1945. The children of Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels who were brought to the bunker of the Reichs-Chancellery on 22.4.1945, were taken away with a nurse only on 1 May 1945 from the Reichs-Chancellery. Fieldmarshall Keitel and Col. General Jodl according to what I have seen and heard must have left Berlin already on 22 April 1945.
SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein telephoned me, I believe, in the afternoon of 28.4.1945 and asked me to come to see him in the Führer Bunker in the evening in order to receive there important papers concerning the Führer, the Reichsführer SS and himself personally in order to destroy all or to hide them so well that they coud not be found in case the Russians should come through to the ReichsChancellery. I went to the Führer Bunker towards evening in order to meet SS-Guppenführer Fegelein. I did not meet Fegelein.
Reichsleiter Martin Bormann asked me where Fegelein was. I could tell Reichsleiter Bormann that SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein had ordered a car and had driven to his dwelling. They endeavored to find Fegelein. Later on I heard that SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein had reappeared at the Reichs Chancellery in civilian clothes and had been interrogated there by a SS-Gruppenführer Müller whom I had never seen before and who was said to belong to the SS-Hauptamt or to the SD. Fegelein is said to have admitted before Müller that he before several times had been at Nauen in order to meet the Reichsführer SS there; he had endeavoured to get out of the Reich Chancellery and let the Russians pass him and try to get through to the Reichsführer SS in civilian clothes. According to what I had been told Fegelein was declared guilty of high treason and shot by order of SS-Gruppenführer Müller.
In the days after the 20.4.1945 I have still seen Hitler several times in his Bunker in the Reichs Chancellery. He had not changed in his behaviour and gave a quiet impression. Eva Braun stayed with the Führer. After 28.4.1945 there were rumours in the Reichs Chancellery that the Führer had been married during the night from 28 to 29.4.1945 to Eva Braun. A Regierungsrat or Oberregierungsrat of the ministry for propaganda had performed the official ceremony. At the same time two orderlies had been married. There was no publication of the marriage of the Führer to Eva Braun. I also did not congratulate the Führer. Only on 1 May 1945 secretary of state Dr. Naumann confirmed the fact of the marriage of the Führer.
I spoke to the Führer for the last time on 29 April 1945. I reported to him that I was engaged in bringing food into the inner part of Berlin in order not to let the food fall into the hands of the Russians and in order to provide the hospitals situated in the government-district. In the Reichs-Chancellery itself there was a Hauptverbandsplatz [Battalion aid-station]. The hotel "Adlon," the building of the Gauleitung of the NSDAP of Berlin, and other buildings had been converted into hospitals. The Bunkers of the Reichs Chancellery where several hundreds of wounded had been quartered had not suffered any damage by the artillery-fire. There was no enemy infantry attack against the Reichs Chancellery until the morning of 2 May 1945.
On 30 April 1945 at 1430 hours SS-Sturmbarmführer Günsche telephoned me and asked me to come to the Führer Bunker. Besides that I was to take care that 5 cans of gasoline, that is to say 200 ltr., were brought along at once. It took along two or three men carrying the cans. More men were following because it took some time to collect 200 ltr. of gasoline. By order of SS-Sturmbarmführer Günsche the cans were brought by these men to the entrance of the Führer Bunker located in the garden of the Reichs Chancellery, which was next to the so-called tower-home and about 20 m beside the so-called Haus Kempka, my quarters. The men at once returned after deposing the cans. There was a sentry of the SS at the entrance of the Bunker. I then went into the ante-chambre of the briefingroom where I met Sturmbannführer Günsche.
Günsche told me that the Führer was dead. He did not tell me any details about the death of the Führer. He only explained he had got the order from the Führer to burn him at once after his death, "so that he would not be exhibited at a Russian freak-show." A short time after that SS-Sturmbannführer Linge (valet of the Führer) and an orderly whom I do not remember came from the private room of the Führer carrying a corpse wrapped in an ordinary field-gray blanket. Based on the previous information from SS-Obersturmbannführer Günsche, I at once supposed that it was the corpse of the Führer. One could only see the long black trousers and the black shoes which the Führer usually wore with his field-gray uniform jacket. Under these circumstances there was no doubt that it was the corpse of the Führer. I could not observe any spots of blood on the body wrapped in the blanket.
I followed with the corpse of Mrs. Hitler. Behind me came Reichsleiter Bormann, Dr. Göbbels and SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann wore uniform. According to my recollection Dr. Göbbels also wore uniform. It was shortly before 1500 hours, if I remember that I received the first notice from Günsche at 1430 hours and needed 5 to 10 minutes to reach the Führer Bunker. Linge and the orderly carried the corpse of the Führer from the westwardly directed Bunker exit in the tower-house and put the wrapped corpse on the flat ground in a small depression which was about 4 to 5 m distant from the bunker exit. There was no lawn, rather bare sand; in the last period construction work was being done in the Reichs-Chancellery. I put the corpse of Mrs. Hitler next to the Führer's. Immediately SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche poured the complete contents of the five cans over the two corpses and ignited the fuel. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels, SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche, SS-Sturmbannführer Linge, the orderly and I stood in the Bunker entrance, looked towards the fire and all saluted with raised hands.
The stay in the Bunker exit lasted only a short time because the garden of the Reichs Chancellery was under heavy artillery-fire. The short-lasting leaving of the bunker exit already meant a danger to our lives. The ground of the garden of the Reichs-Chancellery was ploughed by shell holes. Besides us the event could only have been observed by the tower post of the SD). This one however was not notified of what had happened. Upon returning into the Führer Bunker no words were exchanged. Günsche, Linge and another person went into the living-room of the Führer.
In the late afternoon of 1 May 1945 I received official notice from SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche, who was the commandant of the Reichs Chancellery, that on the same evening at 21:00 hours the break from the Chancellery was to take place. All men who were able to walk and wanted to go along as well as the women who had belonged to the Führer's surroundings were to take part. SS-Brigadeführer Möhnke was destined as the leader of the group to break out: he had previously a combat group within the government district. The persons included in the break assembled at 21:00 hours in the coal-bunker of the new Reichs Chancellery, before the Hauptverbandsplatz. The number of persons assembled there may have amounted from 500 to 700, among them a number of women. All available weapons, rifles, submachineguns, pistols, automatic carbines, light machine-guns and Panzerfäuste were distributed to the combat-groups I to 6. Brigadeführer Mohnke took the lead and led combat-group 1. Ambassador Hewel (representative of the Foreign-minister in the Führer's headquarters), SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche as well as the Mrs. Christian (wife of Brig. Gen. Christian of the Luftwaffe), Mrs. Junge, Miss Krüger. the secretaries of the Führer, belonged to combat-group 1, about 50 to 60 persons. The men and women singly left the Chancellery through a narrow hole in the wall along Wilhelm-Strasse near the corner of Wilhelm-Strasse and Voss-Strasse.
Because of the heavy artillery-fire everyone ran as quickly as possible to the next entrance of the subway in reach. The next entrance of the Kaiserhof-stop about 50 m from the building of the Reichs-Chancellery had collapsed after a direct artillery-hit. Therefore we went to the entrance approximately 200 m distant from the Reichs-Chancellery which was located opposite the Hotel Kaiserhof. This entrance was open. At the subway-station the single groups gathered again and went to the subway-station Friedrichstrasse along the tracks of the subway. There were many civilians on the platforms of the subway-station Friedrichstrasse, soldiers sat around on the stairs of the station.
As leader of my group which consisted of approximately 60 drivers I left the subway-station through one of the exits which are located north of the city railway-station Friedrichstrasse in the Friedrichstrasse. Outside everything was quiet. Without danger I went about 200 m up to the road-lock on the Weidendammer bridge (about 300 m north of the railway-station Friedrichstrasse). A few meters behind the road-lock I came upon a group of soldiers who told me that shortly before a group of. 50 to 60 persons had passed this spot towards north. This was the leading-group Mohnke. The soldiers declared that they had already tried to break through, but that they had been beaten back. Russian troops had occupied the houses and basements to both sides of the Friedrichstrasse north of the Weidendammer bridge. I now returned and fetched my men from the subway-station in order to let them take cover in the Admiralspalast which was located in front of the subway-exit. After several groups had arrived in the meantime another break-through was decided upon. I made one break-through attempt with my group. Without being fired upon we came through the second road-tylock on the Weidendammer bridge. But 10 or 20 m behind the second roadblock we received strong machine-gun fire from all sides and had to retreat again. Further break-out attempts which failed were undertaken. The break-through of the first group probably succeeded only because of the surprise of our opponents.
Later on I met Mrs. Junge on a march. She told me that the leading-group under Brigadeführer Möhnke had had to stop after a few hundred meters. About 0530 hours a negotiator appeared and had made known that General Tschukow wished a temporary armistice until 0615 hours. During these negotiations Mrs. Junge together with the other women had left the basement. Ambassador Hewel had taken poison. SS-Gruppenführer Rattenhuber who also belonged to Group I had received a serious injury.
During our stay in the Admiralspalast Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Brigadeführer and State's secretary Dr. Naumann, the adjutant of Dr. Göbbels, Schwegermann, and other higher personalities appeared about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. I declared to Reichsleiter Bormann that it was impossible to push through without heavy weapons. Later on 5 to 6 tanks and armoured recogn. cars arrived which were manned by soldiers. It was decided that the tanks were to attempt the break-through and that the men who had broken out of the Reichs-Chancellery were to advance under the protection of the tanks. Behind one tank State's secretary Dr. Naumann went as the first in the top of the tank-turret, behind him Reichsleiter Martin Bormann followed by SS-Standartenführer Dr. Stumpfegger. I went behind Dr. Stumpfegger. More men joined us. After the tank had gone about 30 to 40 m he received a direct hit with a Panzerfaust. The tank flew apart. I saw a short flash of lightning and flew to the ground where I remained lying unconsciously. My last impression was that Dr. Naumann, Bormann and Dr. Stumpfegger fell together and remained lying. I could no longer recognize any injuries. Because Dr. Stumpfegger who preceded me was 30 cm taller than I he protected me from the full blast and I escaped with splinter injuries at my thigh and my upper arm. After an undetermined period I regained consciousness, saw only fire around me and crept back on the ground. I got up behind the road block and sat down on the street because just then I could not see correctly.
SS-Standartenführer Beetz (after SS Gruppenführer Baur the second command pilot of the Führer) was the first whom I saw. He had a serious head injury. Just then I saw a new attack started from our side, but 1 decided not to go along any more because of its futility. I returned to the Admiralspalast, assembled my men and declared them that they were dismissed. Each one could go on on his own, join a combat group or go home. I also advised them to procure for themselves civilian clothes. I myself returned to the Friedrichstrasse railway station with 7 men, among them the lieutenant of the armoured troop Jörke who had been assigned to us with 3 armoured half tracks. We crossed the Spree river on the foot path directly under the city railroad. were able to reach a house on the northern bank of the Spree river without being fired upon and from there across several elevations up to a spot in the region of Albrechtstrasse, Karlstrasse or Ziegelstrasse. The city railroad runs along there. We reached a band of the city railroad in which a dump of medical equipment was located. There we met two Jugoslavs and 2 Russian civilians who had chosen the city railway band as their quarters. These at once sympathized with us and promised to procure civilian clothes for us. When a part of us had already civilian clothes the first Russian soldiers arrived at the yard. Lieutenant Jörke who still had no civilian clothes was hidden by us. We others quickly changed clothes. The Russians demanded that we come into the yard. A Jugoslav woman introduced me as her husband, while the others were designated as camp labourers. We decided to form small groups and thus to go into the street.
In the evening of 2 May 1945 we arrived in Havelberg. We looked for the next best barn in order to sleep. On the next morning we were again thrown out very early; this was a camp for various foreigners. These were led to work in the morning. We were able to leave with the water carriers. We went through Havelberg to a farm. There we received milk and went to sleep. We awoke at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. 2 other Germans who wanted to cross the Elbe river, but could no longer cross it, had been living with this farmer for one or two days. We conferred to make an attempt to cross the Elbe River together on the following day. We remained with the farmer for one or two days. In the morning of 3 May 1945 we crossed the Havel River near Havelberg in the direction of Sandau and reconnoitered the situation there. Boys declared us that the Elbe was situated behind the woods. We would only have to go through a swamp. When we came there on the next morning about 11 o'clock the woods were heavily occupied. However, we crept through the woods and landed in the swamp. All the day long until about 2 o'clock at night we stayed in the swamp. Then we crossed the dam, went into the water at once and swam to the other side. After we had dressed we were stopped by the Russians about 300 m farther. This had really been only one arm of the Elbe river. We were returned to Havelberg to a camp. In Havelberg we were held for 16 days together with 30 to 40 men and transported to Kyritz via Golewen.
On the next day I left Kyritz again with a Marine. We walked to the next railway station and from there rode with a workers' train to Wittenberge. In Wittenberge we tried to receive permission to stay for three days. However, we were denied it with the reason that Wittenberge could not feed itself and that for the time being no food would be provided for transients. We continued in the direction of the Elbe River. On our way we were stopped by a Cossack. There we worked for a whole day, carted dung, swept the yard and cleaned dishes. On the same day we left the Cossack and went to the edge of the city of Wittenberge where we spent the night with Germans. On the next day we looked at the situation on the Elbe River and agreed to swim across the Elbe River at the point of this house. We procured the upper part of a baby car in order to store our things in it while swimming across the Elbe River. Thus we swam across the Elbe River at 0130 hours. We reported to the Bürgermeister in Gottberg. The locality was occupied by Americans. The Bürgermeister told us that a change of command between Americans and English was just taking place and advised us to move on until a new command had been established. We then went to Vorsfelde. There I received a march order to Salzburg from an English command post. I still remember the following details.
On the morning of 2 May 1945 SS-Hauptsturmführer Schwegermann notified me that Dr. Göbbels and his wife were dead. They had both died in the Führer's bunker. Thereupon the Führer's Bunker had been ignited. I did not ask any further question, but I suppose that Dr. Göbbels and his wife had committed suicide. General Burgdorf and SS-Sturmbannführer Schädle of the Führer Escort Command still remained in the Reichs-Chancellery. Schädle told me that he would shoot himself if the Russians were to push through to the Reichs Chancellery. So far as I know further members of the Führer Escort Command did not remain there. It is possible that some returned after futile breakthrough attempts.
After 20 April 1945 Reichsminister Speer came to the Reich Chancellery with a Stork which was flown by Thea Rasche. I expect that the plane had landed on the Hofjägerallee (a cross road to the East-West axis). However, the Führer at once sent Speer away. I do not believe that aircraft have landed and started on the East West axis. Soon after 22 April 1945 heavy artillery fire was laid on the East West axis.
4 July 1945
3. To a great part of the story Karnau, Herman, gave about the cremation, I agree, but to a small part, I do not agree. I don't know Herman Karnau personally, nor did I ever hear his name before. But this is no reason for me to doubt the existence of his person or of his name. I only knew part of the members of the SD Police at the Führer Headquarters. Karnau could have been the guard who was at the exit of the Führer's Bunker leading into the garden of the Reichs-Chancellery. This guard had to be present there at the cremation, also. Because of the heavy artillery fire, he could not have been in the garden of the Reichs Chancellery, but be had to be by the entrance of the Bunker. He must nave been standing close to the rest of them during the cremation. I think it is impossible that Karnau recognized the Führer by his moustache shortly before the cremation. The upper part of Hitler's body was fully covered by a blanket. I don't think it possible that, by laying the body on the ground, the blanket was blown back sufficiently to uncover the head of the body. All that could be seen were the feet, which stuck out fifteen to twenty centimeters. The black low-cut shoes, black socks. black pants, which the Führer usually wore, could be seen. Eva Braun, as I said before, was easy to recognize. She was not covered by a blanket. She wore shoes with a high heel, and it is possible that the shoes had a cork sole. Hitler's body was laid on its back, as Karnau said. It is the truth that Hitler's knees were pulled up a bit. Contrary to Karnau's statement, I remember that Eva Braun was also laid on her back so that her face was upwards. I still remember that, because of the wind, her skirt was blown up so that her garters could be seen. The place where both were lain out was about three or four meters away from the exit of the bunker. Hitler and Eva Braun were not laying parallel to each other, but Eva Braun's body was at an angle to Hitler's. Hitler's body was on the left, and Eva Braun's body was on the right, as seen from the exit of the Bunker. Karnau's statement that next to the bodies there were four empty gasoline cans could be true. There were at least five cans brought there. One can holds twenty liters. Two hundred liters were not available in the garage any more. That amount was brought there. It could be that eight cans of approximately 160 liters, at the most, were brought to the place of the cremation. Karnau gave the distance from the place of cremation to the Bunker as two meters, whereas, I think it was three to four meters. Karnau's statement that Dr. Stumpfegger was present at the cremation of Hitler's and Eva Braun's bodies could be true. I said in my statement of 6/20/45 that SS-Sturmführer Linge and an "orderly" carried Hitler's body. Now I believe that it is possible that the person named as "orderly" by me could have been Dr. Stumpfegger, since it was Dr. Stumpfegger who pronounced Hitler and Eva Braun dead. The belief of Karnau that Dr. Stumpfegger, who was the assistant and follower of Dr. Morell, last with the rank of SS-Standartenführer, poisoned Hitler and Miss Eva Braun, is untrue from my observations. I saw a wound on the body of Eva Braun, and I also saw in Hitler's private room. the two pistols described by me. Besides that, SS-Sturmführer Günsche told me after the cremation of both bodies (I believe on 5/1/45) that the rug which was in Hitler's private room was burned because it was full of blood spots.
This I did not observe during my stay in Hitler's private room in the afternoon of 4/30/45 shortly after the cremation, because it was a multi-colored rug-that Hitler's shepherd bitch which was poisoned three days before 4/30/45 used, as I saw during my stay at the Reichs Chancellery. Who did the poisoning, I can not say.
That in a newspaper statement reported to have been made by the Russian Marshall Chukov that Hitler and Eva Braun could have escaped from the Berlin area by air, I can't agree. On 4/30/45 and two or three days previous, no one could possibly have left the inner parts of Berlin by air. There was a heavy artillery fire on all the inner parts of Berlin during those days. Neither did I hear about a plane arriving or leaving after the 25 or 26 April 1945.
After the 22 April 1945, the usual briefing didn't take place. On the 25 or 26 of April 1945 Dr. Speer, the Reichsminister, arrived with the Storch. On orders of the Führer, he had to leave immediately. It was told that the Storch landed in the vicinity of the Siegessäule. I believe that he was standing at the Hofiägerallee (Cross-road to the East-West Axis). I am changing my statement of 6/20/45 on grounds of later recollection, to the effect that I carried Eva Braun's body through different rooms of the Bunker to the beginning of the steps. There SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche took Eva Braun's body away from me. Günsche then placed Eva Braun's body next to Hitler's, on the outside.
I was Hitler's chauffeur... and I was at the Bunker to hurl a flaming rag on his Petrol-soaked corpse
By Erich Kempka
23 January 2010
Adolf Hitler looked composed. Even I, who'd known him for 13 years, could not tell that he'd already decided to end his life.
I was born in 1910, one of ten children in a family descended from Polish immigrants. In 1930, I became a driver for the Nazi leadership in Essen, joining Hitler's staff two years later.
Hitler rarely spoke to me about politics, but said I could come to him with my personal problems. He would always see that his drivers had the best accommodation and food, emphasising: 'My drivers and pilots are my best friends! I entrust my life to these men!'
Hitler, a great motor enthusiast, would sit with me when I drove him, chatting and reading a road atlas, calculating our timings so he always arrived on the dot.
It wasn't until 26 April that I had a chance to have a long talk with Eva, whom I had known well since 1932.
The only source was the Berlin Zoo Bunker, where we had a few thousand litres buried. It would be certain death for my men to go there under bombardment. 'Wait until at least 5pm, because the firing generally dies down a bit around then,' I said.
With a few exceptions, the vehicles in the underground garages were covered with masonry from a cavedin concrete roof. I ordered my deputy to siphon out what Petrol could be found. Then I hurried over to Günsche. As I entered the Führerbunker, he was leaving Hitler's sitting room. He was as white as chalk.
Hitler had shot himself in his study with his pistol and had then fallen head first across the table. Eva sat at an angle beside him. She had taken poison but had been holding a pistol. Her right arm was hanging over the side of the sofa and on the ground nearby was the gun.
I rushed back to the Bunker. Panting, I seized a canister of Petrol, ran out again and placed it near the two bodies. Hitler's untidy hair fluttered in the wind. I took off the cap of the petrol can. Shells exploded close by, spattering us with earth and dust.
Back in the Bunker, the staff had gathered. Many went up to give the dead leader and his wife a last salute.