She kept a promise of silence and secrecy for 66 years. A promise made to one of the vilest leaders of Nazi Germany.
Now Brunhilde Pomsel, 100 years old, is talking about her time as secretary to Joseph Goebbels, propaganda chief for Adolph Hitler, a man who railed against Jews and once wrote, “Adolf Hitler, I love you because you are both great and simple at the same time. What one calls a genius.”
All these years later, his secretary calls him something else.
“I will never forgive Goebbels for what he brought into this world,” Pomsel tells Bild, Germany’s most widely-read paper. “And the fact that he could murder his innocent children in this way.”
She worked for Goebbels from 1942 until May 1, 1945 — a week before V-E Day — when he killed himself in Berlin.
“He got away lightly with suicide,” she says. “He knew he would be condemned to death by the Allies. His suicide was cowardly, but he was also smart because he knew what was coming if he didn’t take that way out.”
Countless books have been written about Goebbels and his role in the war, but none had the benefit of a conversation with Pomsel, whose job was to take down Goebbels’ every word — “The Jews must get out of Germany, indeed out of Europe altogether”, “The Jews ought to please observe the laws of hospitality and not behave as if they were the same as us,” and so on.
Pomsel tells Bild she was asked to work for Goebbels because she was a fast typist. “It was an order to be transferred to work for him. You couldn’t refuse.”
And while Pomsel kept notes on all her boss’ hate-mongering, she also claims — in colorful language — to have never known about the horrors that were underway. “I didn’t know about the Holocaust. I was a stupid, politically uninterested little sausage of simple means. I only learned about the Jewish extermination program after the war.”
Pomsel recalls eating goose with Goebbels at his home outside Berlin, and receiving dresses from his wife Magda after her own home was destroyed in an allied bombardment. But “you couldn’t get close to him,” she says. “He never once asked me a personal question. Right up until the end I don’t think he knew my name.”
Pomsel tells the story of perhaps Goebbels’ best-known diatribe, the day she and three other secretaries were ordered into the Sportspalast Stadium in Berlin. It was February 18, 1943. German forces had just suffered defeat in the brutal battle at Stalingrad, which would prove the turning point of the war. “This was a service order, we had to attend. Magda Goebbels sat directly behind me as he raged.”
The speech Goebbels gave that day was a call for “Total War” — and his first admission that things weren’t going as well as all his own propaganda had suggested. “Two thousand years of Western history are in danger,” Goebbels told the jammed arena, calling for a war “more radical than anything that we can even imagine today.”
Brunhild Pomsel listened as the crowd roared. And while she claims to have known nothing of the Holocaust, she says she knew that all those roars of approval were misguided. “The photos show the crowd going wild as he asked them if they wanted total war, and springing to their feet to give the Hitler salute. I wasn’t as jubiliant as them. I knew what was coming.”
Two years later Pomsel was in the cellars of the propaganda ministry in Berlin. The city was being leveled by British and American bombers, and Russian artillery. Nazi Germany was in its death throes.
“On May 1 the news came that The Boss – Hitler – had committed suicide the day before,” Pomsel tells Bild. “The Russians came shortly afterwards and dragged me from the cellar. I spent the next five years as a prisoner of the Russians in special camps.”
Later Brunhild Pomsel learned about her boss’ final hours. Joseph and Magda Goebbels had killed their six children by breaking cyanide vials in their mouths.
Goebbels then shot his wife before shooting himself. Their charred corpses were discovered by the Soviet Army.
“I never believed also that I would have a happy life after working for him. But I found a way somehow.”