Fall River native tracks down, interviews NaziBy MARC MUNROE DION , Associated Press
Oct. 6, 2013 12:31 AM ET
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — There are millions, tens of millions, who would assign the soul of Rochus Misch to hell.
"He was an unrepentant Nazi," said Fall River native Scott Stets, whose quest took him to see Misch in 2009.
Misch, who died on Sept. 12, was the last surviving bodyguard of Adolf Hitler. He was in Hitler's Berlin bunker when the bodies of Hitler and his mistress were discovered after they committed suicide.
As Hitler's body smoldered in the bunker's garden, and the Russian army smashed its way into Berlin, Misch went on the run through the bombed-out city.
What he got for running was nine years in a Soviet prison camp.
Stets is a Fall River native and resident as well as a freelance oral historian.
"My project is called 'The Vet Detective: In Search of Our World War II Veterans,'" Stets said. "I've interviewed 150 vets."
Stets began by interviewing American vets, then Canadian vets. "Then, I started interviewing Germans."
As a historian who uses tape recorders and cameras to preserve memories, Stets said he's in the history business, not the judgment business.
"History will judge everyone," Stets said. "My job is to get their memories."
Misch was a soldier in the much-feared Nazi SS when he was wounded in Poland at the beginning of World War II.
"He was badly wounded," Stets said. "They found him a cushy job."
That job was guarding and being a driver for Adolf Hitler.
Misch would stay until the end.
Stets first saw Misch on television in 1995.
"I wanted to get him then," Stets said.
Years later, Stets, now deep in his World War II project, contacted Misch's agent.
"He had an agent because he'd written a book," Stets said.
Misch wanted 2,000 euros for the interview, which Stets raised and, not long after, Stets was in Misch's living room, under a chandelier that once hung in the Reich Chancellery, seat of Hitler's government.
Misch had a career as a painter and peanut butter salesman after his return to Germany, but he wasn't too eager to have people know his address.
"Germany today is very 'lefty,'" Stets said. "He (Misch) could have been assassinated.
"Misch said Hitler was a man, there were different sides to him," Stets said. "He was a dog lover and a music lover."
And Misch said the media made a number of misstatements about Hitler's last days, including the idea that Hitler spent all his time in the bunker.
"Misch said he didn't go down there until the last days," Stets said.
"He admitted it freely," Stets said of Misch's lifelong adherence to Nazi principles.
In addition to retaining the beliefs of his youth, Misch took the unpopular stand of wanting the bunker to be preserved as a historical site, and he thought there should also be a memorial to the children of Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels and his wife, Magda, poisoned their six children as the Russians approached.
Stets said it was difficult to arrange the interview with Misch and he had high praise for translator Mike Whitten, a German teacher at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; film editor Chris Benoit; interpreter Chris Redstar; assistant director Frances Anne Boudreau and German booking agent Laetitia Manti.
"The project has morphed into a book now," Stets said. "The nonfiction work will have the film DVD along with it, entitled 'The Vet Detective: In Search of Our WW II Veterans.'"