Erich Kempka
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

Obersturmbannführer was a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. It was created in May 1933 to fill the need for an additional field grade officer rank above Sturmbannführer as the SA expanded. It became an SS rank at the same time...

 (Lieutenant Colonel) Erich Kempka (16 September 1910 – 24 January 1975) served as Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's chauffeur
A chauffeur is a person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle, especially a luxury vehicle such as a large sedan or limousine.Originally such drivers were always personal servants of the vehicle owner, but now in many cases specialist chauffeur service companies, or individual drivers provide...

 from 1934 to April, 1945. He was SS member #2,803 and served in the Allgemeine SS
Allgemeine SS
The Allgemeine SS was the most numerous branch of the Schutzstaffel paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany. It was managed by the SS-Hauptamt...


Early life

Kempka was born in Oberhausen
Oberhausen is a city on the river Emscher in the Ruhr Area, Germany, located between Duisburg and Essen . The city hosts the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and its Gasometer Oberhausen is an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. It is also well known for the...

 to a miner with ten children. He worked as a mechanic for the automotive manufacturer DKW
DKW is a historic German car and motorcycle marque. The name derives from Dampf-Kraft-Wagen .In 1916, the Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen founded a factory in Zschopau, Saxony, Germany, to produce steam fittings. In the same year, he attempted to produce a steam-driven car, called the DKW...


Nazi career

Kempka joined the Nazi Party
National Socialist German Workers Party
The National Socialist German Workers' Party , commonly known in English as the Nazi Party, was a political party in Germany between 1920 and 1945. Its predecessor, the German Workers' Party , existed from 1919 to 1920...

 on 1 April 1930 as member #225,639. Two years later, he was one of eight founding members of the SS-Begleit-Kommando.

Kempka served as chauffeur for Josef Terboven
Josef Terboven
Josef Antonius Heinrich Terboven was a Nazi leader, best known as the Reichskommissar during the German occupation of Norway.-Early life:...

 until 29 February 1932, when, based on Terboven's recommendation, he was tasked as a reserve driver for Hitler's personal entourage. In 1934, he replaced Julius Schreck
Julius Schreck
Julius Schreck was an early Nazi Party member and also the first commander of the Schutzstaffel .-Biography:...

 and Emil Maurice
Emil Maurice
Emil Maurice was an early member of the Nazi Party and is regarded by historians as the founder of the SS. A watchmaker by trade, Maurice was a close associate of Adolf Hitler with a personal friendship dating back to at least 1919...

 as Hitler's primary chauffeur, valet and bodyguard. That same year, he was present at the arrest of Ernst Röhm
Ernst Röhm
Ernst Julius Röhm, was a German officer in the Bavarian Army and later an early Nazi leader. He was a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung , the Nazi Party militia, and later was its commander...


As his chaufeur Kempka usually drove one of Hitler's black Mercedes
Mercedes-Benz is a German manufacturer of automobiles, buses, coaches, and trucks. Mercedes-Benz is a division of its parent company, Daimler AG...

 cars from a fleet of six to eight stationed in Berlin, Munich and other places. Unless in the company of an important personality, Hitler would sit in the front, next to Kempka, with his valet behind him. In a cavalcade, Hitler's car would be followed by a second car with the SS bodyguard, then a police car, further a car with his adjudants and physician, and more cars for press agency representatives, stenographers, and provisions. Later, Hitler's car was protected by bulletproof glass and armor plates.

On 1 December 1937, Kempka joined the Lebensborn society
Lebensborn was a Nazi programme set up by SS leader Heinrich Himmler that provided maternity homes and financial assistance to the wives of SS members and to unmarried mothers, and also ran orphanages and relocation programmes for children.Initially set up in Germany in 1935, Lebensborn expanded...

. He was also awarded a Totenkopfring from Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

. He had been engaged to Gerda Christian
Gerda Christian
Gerda "Dara" Christian née Daranowski was one of Adolf Hitler's private secretaries during World War II.-Biography:...

 (born Daranowski), a private secretary of Hitler's. She later married Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 officer Eckhard Christian
Eckhard Christian
Eckhard Christian was a Luftwaffe officer in World War II, and rose to the rank of Generalmajor. He married Gerda Daranowski on 2 February 1943. She was one of Adolf Hitler's private secretaries during World War II....

 on 2 February 1943.

In 1945, as the end of the Third Reich drew near, Kempka accompanied Hitler to the Reich Chancellery
Reich Chancellery
The Reich Chancellery was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945...

 and then the Führerbunker
The Führerbunker was located beneath Hitler's New Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. It was part of a subterranean bunker complex which was constructed in two major phases, one part in 1936 and the other in 1943...

. On 20 April, ten days before Hitler's suicide, he briefly wished the Führer a happy birthday and spent about fifteen minutes with him.

Kempka was one of those responsible for the burning of Hitler and Eva Braun
Eva Braun
Eva Anna Paula Hitler was the longtime companion of Adolf Hitler and, for less than 40 hours, his wife. Braun met Hitler in Munich, when she was 17 years old, while working as an assistant and model for his personal photographer and began seeing him often about two years later...

's corpses after they committed suicide together
Death of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler committed suicide by gunshot on Monday, 30 April 1945 in his Führerbunker in Berlin. His wife Eva , committed suicide with him by ingesting cyanide...

 on the afternoon of 30 April 1945. Otto Günsche
Otto Günsche
Otto Günsche was a Sturmbannführer in the Waffen-SS and a member of 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler before he became Adolf Hitler's personal adjutant. He was captured by soldiers of the Red Army on 2 May 1945...

 telephoned Kempka to deliver 200 litres of gasoline to the garden behind the Reich Chancellery. Kempka and his men brought over eight to ten Army petrol cans and deposited them by the emergency exit of the Führerbunker. Later, SS guards brought over additional cans of petrol to further burn the corpses. Kempka left the bunker complex on the following night of 1 May. During his escape, he came across Obersturmbannführer
Obersturmbannführer was a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. It was created in May 1933 to fill the need for an additional field grade officer rank above Sturmbannführer as the SA expanded. It became an SS rank at the same time...

 (Lieutenant Colonel) Georg Betz
Georg Betz
Georg Betz was a SS officer, who rose to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer during World War II. Betz served as Adolf Hitler's personal co-pilot and Hans Baur's substitute. Betz was present in the Führerbunker in Berlin in late April 1945. On 1 May 1945, Betz took part in the break-out from the...

(Hitler's personal co-pilot and Hans Baur's substitute) and left him in the care of Kaethe Hausermann. On 20 June, Kempka was captured by U.S. troops at Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich...


According to The Last Days Of Adolf Hitler, H. R. Trevor-Roper, p. 128, Betz was last observed in the area of the Weidendammer Bridge
Weidendammer Bridge
The Weidendammer Bridge is an long bridge where the Friedrichstrasse crosses the Spree river in the central Mitte district of Berlin, Germany...

 as part of the group which left the Führerbunker during the evening of May 1, 1945. Other sources give more details as to Betz's fate, stating that he died from wounds received during the crossing of the Weidendammer bridge.

Historical reliability

Despite claims made to the contrary during his interrogation, Kempka later admitted that when Hitler and Eva Braun
Eva Braun
Eva Anna Paula Hitler was the longtime companion of Adolf Hitler and, for less than 40 hours, his wife. Braun met Hitler in Munich, when she was 17 years old, while working as an assistant and model for his personal photographer and began seeing him often about two years later...

 locked themselves in a room to commit suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

, he lost his nerve and ran out of the Führerbunker, returning only after Hitler and Braun were dead. By the time he returned to the bunker, Hitler and Braun's bodies were already being carried upstairs for cremation.

Despite his questionable reliability, many interviewers quote Kempka in their accounts of Hitler's suicide because of his colorful (and raunchy) language. For example, one interviewer, O'Donnell, recounted the following quips in his book, The Bunker
The Bunker
The Bunker is an account, written by American journalist James P. O'Donnell, of the history of the Führerbunker in early 1945, as well as the last days of German dictator Adolf Hitler...

  • He referred to General Hermann Fegelein
    Hermann Fegelein
    SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein was a General of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany, a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage, brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl, and husband of the sister-in-law to Adolf Hitler through Hitler's marriage to Eva...

     as having "his brains in his scrotum" (Fegelein was executed by Hitler for trying to desert Berlin with his mistress).
  • He remarked that when Magda Goebbels
    Magda Goebbels
    Johanna Maria Magdalena "Magda" Goebbels was the wife of Nazi Germany's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels...

     was around Hitler, you could "hear her ovaries rattling" (Magda Goebbels was said to be quite attached to Hitler psychologically).
  • When Martin Bormann
    Martin Bormann
    Martin Ludwig Bormann was a prominent Nazi official. He became head of the Party Chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler...

     carried Eva Braun's corpse out of the bunker, Kempka took the body from him and insisted on carrying it up himself, remarking that Bormann was carrying Braun "like a sack of potatoes" (Bormann and Braun had a mutual dislike).

At the Nuremberg trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

, Kempka was called to testify because he claimed to have seen Martin Bormann killed by a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 anti-tank rocket. He later referred to Eva Braun as "the unhappiest woman in Germany". He was released on 9 October 1947.


Kempka was the subject of Mauri Sariola's 1972 book Kolmannen valtakunnan kuningatar (Queen of the Third Reich).

He died on 24 January 1975, aged sixty-four, in Freiberg am Neckar
Freiberg am Neckar
Freiberg am Neckar is a town in the district of Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated on the left bank of the Neckar, 18 km north of Stuttgart, and 4 km north of Ludwigsburg....


Kempka retained his association with the "Führer-Begleit-Kommando" by attending reunions of I SS Panzer Corps
I SS Panzer Corps
The I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or I SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS panzer corps which saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.-Formation and training:...

 members until the year before his death. His memoirs first appeared in 1951 under the title Ich habe Adolf Hitler verbrannt (I cremated Adolf Hitler). In 1975, it was reissued with a foreword by author and former member of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Erich Kern
Erich Kern
Erich Kern, was an Austrian right-wing extremist journalist...

 under the less sensationalist title Die letzten Tage mit Adolf Hitler (The Last Days with Adolf Hitler). An English edition of the book was published in 2010 by Frontline Books-Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., under the title I was Hitler's Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka, with an introduction by Roger Moorhouse
Roger Moorhouse
Roger Moorhouse is a British historian and author. Born in Stockport, Cheshire, he was raised in Hertfordshire and attended Berkhamsted School. Inspired to return to education by the East European Revolutions of 1989, Moorhouse enrolled in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of the...


At the 2008 military trial for Osama bin-Laden's driver, Salim Hamdan, the defense argued for his innocence, noting that Kempka was not tried as a war criminal for being a chauffeur for Hitler.

Portrayal in the media

Erich Kempka was portrayed by Jürgen Tonkel in the 2004
2004 in film
The year 2004 in film involved some significant events. Major releases of sequels took place. It included blockbuster films like Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Passion of the Christ, Meet the Fockers, Blade: Trinity, Spider-Man 2, Alien vs. Predator, Kill Bill Vol...

 German film Downfall (Der Untergang)
Downfall (film)
Downfall is a 2004 German/Italian/Austrian epic war film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler's life in his Berlin bunker and Nazi Germany in 1945....

. He is also played by Axel Werner in the comedy film Mein Führer – Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler
Mein Führer – Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler
Mein Führer – Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler is a 2007 German comedy directed by Dani Levy....


External links

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