Fritz Darges:FRITZ DARGES, who has died aged 96, was the last surviving member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. An Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) in the Waffen SS during the second World War, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the second-highest military award of the Third Reich, given in recognition of battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
Darges’ admiration for Hitler knew no bounds and even after the war when the full horrors of Nazi Germany mass murder had been exposed, he regarded Hitler as “the greatest who ever lived” and a “warm-hearted” man.
But the Führer’s charm had its limits, as Darges discovered in a bizarre incident involving Hitler and a fly which caused Darges’ military career to take a sudden turn for the worse.
Darges was present with Hitler and other senior Nazis at a strategy conference in Rastenburg in east Prussia on July 18th, 1944 – two days before the Claus von Stauffenberg bomb plot almost killed the Führer. During the conference, a fly began buzzing around the room, landing several times on Hitler’s shoulder and on the surface of a map.
Irritated, Hitler ordered Darges to “dispatch the nuisance”.
Darges responded by suggesting, apparently whimsically, that as the fly was an “airborne pest” the job should go to the adjutant of the Luftwaffe (the German wartime air force), Nicolaus von Below. Enraged, Hitler dismissed Darges on the spot. “You’re for the eastern front!” he yelled.
And so Darges was sent into combat.
Darges was born in 1913 in Dülseberg near Salzwedel, about 100km (62 miles) southeast of Hamburg. After school, he trained as an export clerk but in 1933 volunteered for the SS, the Schutzstaffel, Hitler’s praetorian guard elite within the Nazi Party. By 1934 he was an enthusiastic Nazi and was selected to attended the Junkerschule, the SS officer training school at Bad Tölz. After graduation in April 1935 he was promoted to Untersturmführer (second lieutenant).
He served in the SS panzer division Wiking in France and Russia and was promoted on to the Führer’s personal staff in 1940. He was senior adjutant to Reichsleiter (national leader) Martin Bormann, Hitler’s secretary. Now fully within Hitler’s inner circle, Darges was present for all major conferences, social engagements and policy announcements for four years of the war.
Darges wrote memoirs but directed them not to be published until after his death. They are now eagerly awaited: mainstream historians believe it inconceivable that Hitler did not issue verbal directives about the mass killings in Darges’ presence. Other courtiers, such as armaments minister Albert Speer and propaganda chief Josef Goebbels, had their diaries published post war with no reference to hearing Hitler ordering the final solution – the mass murder of all European Jews.
Thus the interest in the unpublished memoirs, though some question whether such an unrepentant fan of Hitler would produce a volume that was anything but hagiographic about his hero.
Darges survived his stint at the eastern front and, unlike most of Hitler’s other inner circle, lived to a ripe old age. He became a car salesman after the war and regretted nothing.
“We all dreamed of a greater German empire,” he said recently. “That is why I served him and would do it all again now.”
Fritz Darges: born February 8th, 1913; died October 25th, 2009