Almost 70 years ago, Rochus Misch was bore witness to Adolf Hitler's final hours.
Misch, who was the Führer's bodyguard up until Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker as the war came to an end, died Thursday at the age of 96.
Orphaned at an early age, Misch signed up at the age of 20 for the SS unit protecting Hitler after Germany invaded Poland.
"It was anti-communist, against Stalin -- to protect Europe," Misch said, in an interview in 2005. Misch was shot and nearly killed when his unit was attached to a regular army unit, and after his recovery, he was selected in May 1940 as one of two bodyguards-cum-assistants in Hitler's personal service.
Misch and the second assistant, Johannes Hentschel, were the only two who stayed with Hitler and Eva Braun between April 22 and their suicides on April 30, 1945.
"Hentschel ran the lights, air and water and I did the telephones -- there was nobody else," Misch said, of the so-called Führerbunker. On April 22, two days before the Soviet Red Army completed its encirclement of Berlin, Hitler dismissed nearly everyone else.
After the war, Misch was kept in prisoner camps for nine years before he was permitted to return to Berlin in 1954. He then opened up a shop with his wife, Gerda, whom he wed in 1942.
Despite Hitler's universal reputation as one of the worst figures in history, Misch only had good things to say about his relationship with the man he simply called "boss."
"He was no brute," Misch said. "He was no monster. He was no superman."
Misch maintained he knew nothing of the Holocaust -- that Hitler never discussed the Final Solution in his presence.
"That was never a topic," Misch said. "Never."
Misch died in Berlin Thursday after a short illness, his biographer, Burkhard Nachtigall, confirmed.