[Above: Frieda Zychski and family.]

      Interview with Frieda Zychski & Gerda Christian. Frau Zychski was among the housekeeping staff of Hermann Göring. Berchtesgaden, 1990.
Frau Christian was the private secretary to Adolf Hitler and considered his 'favorite'. Both women were members of the Inner Circle and were friends.

Thank you for allowing me to come visit you here, it is a pleasure to meet you. Edda [Göring] gave good directions. As was discussed I would like to ask a few questions. Firstly, how did you come to be on Göring's staff?

Frieda: Yes, she spoke to me earlier. I was here because of my husband, we were both at the Göring's home, and we had the children here as well. We lived there and he paid us good money, it was 425 marks a month and we had no expenses. The Reichsmarschall, or as we called him, boss, was a very kind man I will say. He hired us on to manage his home, which he only used maybe two weeks out of the year, so for us it was like having our own place, with a house guest once in a while. He would offer us bonuses and presents for Christmas and birthdays. The children loved him. My husband loved the cars he would bring to enjoy, he always had the best.

Did you ever meet Hitler?

Frieda: Oh yes, the Führer would come once in awhile, usually to see Edda [Göring's daughter] or Emmy [Göring's wife], whom he was fond of. I have only good memories of him being here, he was a person whom you could see was larger than life. He once commented to me that once the war was done he would like to have a family like mine. He said this during a tea lunch, my girls were on his lap while he drew a picture, you know he was an artist, he liked to draw often. He was drinking Kümmel tea along with his Fachingen water. The boss liked these too, so we kept them at the ready. While we were just the house staff, he treated us as we were family. None of the bosses treated their staff bad; even Bormann's staff reported very good treatment. He has a bad reputation now, but back then he seemed like a good boss.

I was able to meet most everyone in the Führer's circle, this area was a huge camp back in those times, you could see his guards at their posts and patrolling around. We were invited to the Berghof on a few occasions and we were introduced to the staff. I even met Eva Braun, whom was delightful and fun to be around. Once she invited my children to go with the Goebbel's children for some time on the water, she said it would give us some time to be alone.

Did you have aspirations to do anything else other than housekeeping while growing up?

Frieda: It is not a bad choice, in Germany you had choices to make when you are young regarding what you wanted to do with your life. It is the question of our new modern age for a youngster. You could follow the family business, go to college if you had the money and grades, go to a trade school if you can't do college, or just become a general worker. In my case I had to take the trade school path where one learned to care for the home. For a young girl this was quite to my liking I will tell you. And I met my future man and we wed. Children followed and we were secure in our jobs. Politics had nothing to do with coming here to work, I must say. I was not a political person at all. I had no feelings about it; however I can tell you I did admire what the Führer did for Germany. When I first met him in person I was intimidated but he quickly broke the ice by complimenting my outfit and the way the house was presented. He told my husband that I was quite a good find and he ordered him to be a good husband and father in a joking way.

You met many of the other staff and secretaries, and have kept in close touch with a few. Did they gossip about the bosses?

Frieda: Oh yes, that is for certain, it is a human trait to be absorbed in your work and to share the experiences with friends. I got to know many of the staff of the Berghof, and of other homes in the area. You must understand to be a house manager here meant you ran the home; it was a very prestigious position back then. Using discretion was a must, and what you saw you kept to yourself. When the war started this was made very important, where there were SS men always paying attention. There was also a certain power and influence that we had. We would go shopping into town for the house and when people knew who you worked for they snapped to when you needed something. Oh, I was able to pass on your questions to Gerda [Hitler's secretary], and she did reply saying she is sorry she has not found time to meet you [her interview at bottom].

What do you remember about Reichsmarschall Göring. Can you tell me some memories and observations?

Frieda: Yes, the boss was a very likable man, with a good family. I remember him being very proper and happy. He did not have an easy life; he lost his first wife during the Kampfzeit [time of struggle] and was wounded with Hitler. He was a warrior and would speak of the fights against the Red Front back in the twenties. Something that I am afraid is lost to history is just how much he cared for people, especially his men. I can share a story here that shows this. In 1943, I believe, we were out enjoying a picnic with many of the house staff and guests from around the area. One young girl was working at the hotel in town, and was married to a soldier of some type. The postman received a telegram for her and brought it up during this time. We all knew it was never good news.

It told of her man being listed as missing, and she was devastated. The boss had arrived the next day and we shared this story with him. He stopped what he was doing and started making calls to friends in other countries about the fate of this soldier. He had contacts in Sweden and Switzerland who could speak to his counterparts. I think it was a week later he heard back that her man was alive, and was captured by the Americans. He invited her up to tell her the news. He told her she should be getting a letter from him soon, and the Americans will treat him well. She cried in his arms tears of joy, thanking him for doing this. His detractors say bad things about him but we knew a different side.

He was a large man, as you know, but I can tell you he was very fit for his size. He would go out and climb the mountains here, ski, swim, hike, and hunt. It is not true what they sat about him today; he was not a lazy slob. He was always up doing something, he had lots of hobbies. He had records, books, cars, toy cars, toy trains, and collectibles. He loved weapons and war relics from history; he was a very big history buff. My husband was too, and they would drink beer and talk about history at times. He loved his beer; he had some of the best brewers in Germany who would send him new samples. I remember him being a good father to Edda, they had a good relationship and he took her with him to enjoy the outdoors often. I really have nothing bad I can say about him, is there anything specific you would like to know?

I have read he looted and stole art treasures from all over Europe. Do you believe this, or know anything different?

Frieda: I can tell you, as we managed the home, after 1941 he had many items sent here after the expansion. He had receipts showing what he paid for each piece. He would have staff or he himself would negotiate with dealers and studios from all over to buy pieces. I know he was against any looting. He once returned a piece to the French that a subordinate presented to him as a war trophy. He had the man reprimanded, for me that tells all I need to know about that. If any army looted or stole works of art, it was the American army. They came here and looted every home, building, and bombed structure. After the bombing of Obersalzberg, some of the civilians came up here to get food, medicine, and things they needed to survive. A few did take some personal items, but not many did this. The Americans came and were like locusts, they pounced on everything they could carry.

It was so bad that the commander, after complaints from the mayor, had to post guards, some were even German prisoners, to stop it. I remember this well, as they came to the house and took anything they could, they even went into the living quarters for us and wanted to take things but we convinced them it was our house and had nothing valuable. I just do not accept that the boss would do any of these things; I think his opulent collections and tastes made him a target for blame. He had all these nice things, so the looters spread the tales that it was all stolen, so it justified their thievery. I saw the receipts; I know he paid, with his own money, for all the art and collectibles he owned. They even took Emmy's and Edda's gifts away.

Something I will tell you that shows his true character, when the Americans started bombing the cities, he rushed to get all the cultural treasures to safety. This was in France, Holland, Italy, Poland, and of course Germany. He could not bear that bombs were destroying priceless works of art and culture. He would blast the war often, saying that it was robbing Europe of the past.

[Above: Hermann Göring and his wife Emmy and their daughter Edda.]

Did he ever share with you or your husband thoughts on the war and how it started and was going?

Frieda: Yes, as I said he would speak at times with my man as they liked history. I got the feeling he was deeply saddened about the war. I personally think they all were, from my observations. I know he was hoping Britain would not want to fight, and was angry when they did, and started bombing. He commented once that he knew it was wrong to bomb cities, but that the British forced this type of war on him. He never really spoke about how it started, but I know from putting bits and pieces together that Poland had done something to the Germans who were living within the borders. They wanted all Germans out, and masses came to the Reich in the months before it started.

He came here after it was over to celebrate, and was very proud of the job his Luftwaffe had done in destroying the Polish air force and ground targets. He would get calls from abroad as well wishing him well. He had friends all over the world, many of the Arab royals were friendly I recall. I got the sense that he knew the war was lost early on after Stalingrad. He seemed to fall into a depression after that because an airlift [supplies to the encircled troops] had failed, and he gave a guarantee it would work. He sulked here for awhile after that and seemed to be displeased with some men around Hitler. I would hear from others that he was blamed by some for the failures of the front.

Speaking of this, did he ever seem like he did not get along with anyone in the inner circle?

Frieda: Well, so again, he was a very friendly person. The type of person you would meet for the first time and make a good impression on you. This did not work for all personalities. I know he butted heads with Martin Bormann often. It was because the boss still had ideas for the economy and rebuilding. Bormann would say he was there to keep the Führer focused on military matters; he had no time for domestic daydreams. The boss took credit for the economic turn around of 1934, and was quite proud of this. He was given many jobs and titles and seemed to have done very well with each assignment.

He seemed distrustful of a few, like Himmler, who was in charge of the SS. It was the SS who arrested the boss at the end, I was there to see that. The boss believed Hitler was no longer able to lead the whole nation, only Berlin, so Göring wanted to have permission to take over. He wanted to make peace right away as the war was claiming too many civilians. As I understand it, it was seen as treason and he was arrested. The war ended before anything came of it. This was right at the end. He was a high party leader as well, and I know before the war he would have words with some of the party leaders. He was always trying to help someone out of a hole they dug, and it was not uncommon for him to step in between the infighting. That is really all that I can recall.

Interview with Gerda Christian, private secretary to Adolf Hitler. This interview took place via letters between Frieda and Gerda, where I asked Frieda to pass along three questions. This interview was set up by Edda [Göring] over 2 months in advance.

Frau Christian, if you don't mind, I would like to ask you a few questions about your time with the Führer. I have spoken to our mutual friend, and she passed on that you are okay with these. Question one: It is claimed that Hitler ordered the murder of millions of people across Europe. Can you describe what type of work you did for him, and if any topics like this came up?

Gerda Christian: Tell Brian, I can write with a clean conscience that we did not know anything about what may have been going on in the east. I can share with you that in Hitler's presence there were a few who came right out and asked if the rumors were true. He defiantly dismissed them, acting as if there was nothing to them. I worked for Hitler as his secretary from 1937 and was there for the end of it all. The work was hard, but not too hard, we became very close and I have nothing bad to say about him as either a person or a boss. I have a hard time believing all the stories that are being told today about the sinister side of him, we never saw it. We were in on many conferences and correspondences, and never once did I even hear anything mentioned about the killing of Jews.

Himmler was even present once where I heard Hitler bring up the issue of the Jews in the east, and I remember Himmler saying that they were being cared for as best the camps could. I now do not know what he meant, at the time I took it that supplies were lacking and they were doing their best to give care and feed them. My thoughts on the matter were only reinforced after the war when seeing how badly we lacked food and medicine. It was so bad right after that many Germans who had become sick from lack of a good diet and so forth, died. In my mind the Allies caused the photos they show us today of those poor souls who died in the camps.

[Above: Adolf Hitler greets his secretary Gerda Christian at an evening reception. Next to her stands another private secretary Christa Schröder.]

Can you describe Hitler to me, what type of person he was, what did he like and dislike? It is claimed he went into fits of rage, did you see this?

Gerda Christian: I remember him as a very calm and gentle person who liked to just relax and enjoy life. He was on a sacred mission he would tell us all, and we believed him, especially after the July 20th attempt. He seemed to be from up above and untouchable, I remember thinking, how could we be losing this war? He treated us like his family, or children. He often liked to have us ladies eat with him as he loved the sound of female voices, he found it calming. He would let us talk for hours like we were best friends. He always lavished compliments on me, especially since I had worked in cosmetics previously; I always wore perfume he loved.

He could be quite flirtatious at times, but never inappropriate. He loved squeezing cheeks or patting a head. If we were ever having a problem he was quick to make sure we got help. Anytime someone was ill, he had them go see an arranged doctor to quickly get cured. He loved animals of all kinds, at the Berghof he would have deer, dogs, rabbits, and all sorts of wild life to enjoy. It was as if they all were attracted to his presence and came out of nowhere. I remember a friendly fox once just ran up on the terrace and ate out of his hand. He was truly a good man, and I will never have anything bad to say about him. He paid us very well and made sure all our family needs were met. He went out of his way to meet our families and to send gifts. If a sick child was brought to his attention he would send a gift along with a letter. I would type these up and he would sign them.

As for the outbursts, I never saw anything like this from him at all. I can say he did not like being interrupted. This is where his fatherly side came in. I once excitedly interrupted him in mid sentence, and he stopped, calmly turned to me and said "when you interrupt it means that what the person is saying is not interesting to you, this is rude behavior". I remember feeling embarrassed, but he quickly finished and asked me to go ahead and tell what I was thinking. That was gracious of him. He had an adjutant, Fritz Darges, dismissed for making inappropriate jokes, often at the most inopportune times. He did not like jokes about women or sex, as he thought it degraded women.

Fritz did not heed this. Hitler was a man who loved people, but also liked being alone to reflect. He liked walks with his dogs, or with Eva Braun, at times I would go with him. He was very close to all of us and at times I think Eva might have been jealous.

While in the bunker did Hitler ever say anything about the future world or what he thought might come after the war?

Gerda Christian: Yes he did. I remember him telling us, after an emotional breakdown, that National Socialism was dead. That he had failed at his mission, and he alone should bear the results. This was when he was determined to end his life, and all of us were determined to stay with him. That is the affect he had on everyone. We felt like we were somehow fulfilling a higher calling by being by his side, it is a hard thing to describe today. He did say that maybe in 100 years National Socialism would arise again in another nation, and be carried to the world this time. I remember he told Traudl [Gertraud "Traudl" Junge, Hitler's last secretary] that he was so sorry her man fell in Normandy; he was strafed by a Jabo [American fighter plane] and killed. He felt responsible for all the soldiers who fell, it was a terrible weight we could see. He believed we would all be united again and made whole from the losses that had been suffered. He was very fatalistic I remember, as was Eva, his wife. He believed the coming world would be hard for us to live in.

Eva cried when giving us her last greeting and I remember her saying she hoped for the best for all of us. The Goebbels killed their children because they feared what the Russians might do to them. We were hearing about all the reports of rapes and killings coming from the occupied areas. Hitler had seen an Allied reel of Mussolini being dragged through the streets and strung up, and he did not want that fate I know. It all seems so surreal to recount this to you, but there it is. For Hitler the near future would be very bleak with the forces he opposed controlling the world for awhile. He did have hope a better world was coming but in the far future. I hope that answers your questions.

[Above: Eva Braun-Hitler looking at the camera, while Gerda can be seen sitting in the background.]

[Above: 'Gerda Christian, left, always described her Führer as a kind and fair boss...']

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