It so happens that I shook a hand that shook Hitler's!

  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10


    What a crazy world!  I was at a large work related litigation/insurance process recently, and lawyers doing what lawyers do, we were separated in to different groups and left for hours at a time, whilst the lawyers wheeled and dealed.

    In my room was a retired inspector named Ray, who although an independent in the case, was lumped in with our group.  We got to talking about his career, and living in Canada, bla bla bla, and it became evident that he was alot older than he looked.

    At some point it came about that he lived in Berlin as a child post WWII. So of course I had more questions! 😛  As my grandfather served as an air traffic controller during the Berlin airlift!

    “Ray” went on about the Airlift for sometime, and how he said the allies literally saved his family from starvation. And he talked about how they would bomb the schoolyards during the day with lumps of coal, and that the coal was then carried off to the power plants, to provide the city 2 hours of electricity a day. Etc etc, it was fascinating!

    At some point I impolitely asked what year he was Born in… He said 1935.

    And then of course… the infamous question…  Living in Berlin, from 1935 to 1945… did he ever see Adolf in a parade? or at a speech? I mean surely… the dude SURVIVED the Battle of Berlin after all!

    So it turns out… a bit embarrassed to tell me, Ray acknowledge that at some point in 1944, in a cold air raid shelter, he actually met the fuhrer and shook his hand during a photo op!

    As a kid, with the nazi propaganda and all, Ray was excited at the time about it.  He came home and told his father “I am never going to wash my hand!”  Ray’s father promptly told him that if Ray didn’t wash his hand right then and there, and tell NO ONE of what happened, his father might never speak to him again! LOL!  (Ray mentioned his father was regular Wehrmacht, and fought the Canadians along the boot of Italy, Ray’s father in law was also in the same battle on the allied side!).

    Of course… I’d already shook Ray’s hand with NO knowledge of the living history in front of me.  I can’t imagine the difficulties he and his family faced during those times.

    At the meeting, Ray’s was put on the hot spot, with lawyers coming at him from every angle. Someone said privately “I think he’s going to break under the pressure.”

    I laughed and said “you have no idea what he can handle”

  • '16 '15 '14 Customizer

    Interesting read - sadly it won’t be long until all these people are gone…

  • @Der:

    Interesting read - sadly it won’t be long until all these people are gone…

    Great story, and you are so correct. I believe over 90% of all WWII era aged people are now deceased.

  • wow. cool story. and yes, we are loosing a irreplaceable treasure…our veterans and their stories

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16

    So Gar, tell us, did you or did you not….?? 😄 😄

  • '18 '17 '16 '15 Customizer

    Awesome story.  8-)

  • Moderator 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 '13 '12

    Thank you  for the story Garg.
    I missed it when you first posted, sorry! Have not had as much time to browse lately.

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I know that there was a famous occasion, in the final days of the Battle of Berlin, when Hitler handed out medals to Hitler Youth kids in an outdoor ceremony near his bunker (a scene reconstructed in the movie Downfall), so I’m not discounting as impossible the story Garg got from the fellow he met…but I’m a bit sceptical about this incident.  For one thing, Hitler was – as far as I know – never much of a hand-shaker, except sometimes in controlled circumstances like propaganda films.  He wasn’t exactly the avuncular type, and he was justifiably concerned about being assassinated.  Moreover, after the German defeat at Stalingrad in early 1943, Hitler increasingly stayed out of the public eye (both in person and in newsreels), with Joseph Gobbels gradually taking over in public as his stand-in.  As Berlin increasingly suffered bomber damage, Hitler even began to avoid daytime travel entirely so that he wouldn’t have to see the damage first-hand.  So I wonder just how probable it would be that Hitler would stage a 1944 photo-op (with no obvious purpose) in which he was shaking hands with an unknown nine-year-old civilian boy (not even a Hitler Youth member), at a time when the Russians were driving westward towards the Reich, the Anglo-Americans were either poised to invade Forrtess Europe (prior to June) or advancing across France (from June onward), and Hitler himself was not only a virtual recluse but was also under enormous stress and was becoming physically quite decrepit.  (John Keegan’s book The Mask of Command includes a vivid description of how Hitler seemed to age about 10 years in six months during 1944, which is another reason why he stayed out of sight.)

  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10


    Fair comments! Some of the details are hazy. I will elaborate with the bit more that I know.

    Ray did say the event occurred at night. (3 in the morning ish), and was very impromptu; in his words “It was like a photo-op”, “I just happened to be there”.

    He also noted that when the allies first started bombing  Berlin, the only air raid shelter was in (or around) the Reichstag.  Now, this is not to say that he was in the Reichstag shelter during a bombing, or that this event even occurred there.  I didn’t have enough to “clarify” all those details.  But it’s possible this was near his home.

    In fairness to Marc, I had my own “skepticism” at the time, with concerns surrounding the details with his father? How likely is it that a Wehrmacht Serving dad would have been at home during this time?  Who knows…

    I also didn’t ask if Ray was Hitler Youth.  That’s assumed. As my experience meeting people who may have been HY members, is that they DON’T want people knowing, and usually deny anything to do with it.  Ray was 9 or 10 years old in Berlin in 1945, it’s a garauntee.

    For the record - Ray wasn’t advertising, I had to dig for about 45 minutes before I started getting somewhere!

    My gut says the story is as true as it seems.  A quick google image search of Hitler+Kids shows photos of him meeting children and hugging them etc.  And we all know how the Fuhrer was about kids!

    Of course… unless we launch a formal inquest! We’ll never know!  I’ll probably get the chance to talk to Ray again in the near future.

    Any specific questions I should ask?

  • '17 '16 '15 '14 '12

    I think it was law that Aryan boys over age 10 had to join the Hitler Youth as of 1939 and something like 80-90% joined.  I had an argument once with German student who told me that most Germans were not in the Nazi party (true) and that most young people were not in the Hitler youth (not true).

    Gargantua has Hitler germs.

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10


    Any specific questions I should ask?

    Well, his assertion about the only air raid shelter being in or around the Reichstag at the time when the Allies (actually the British) started bombing Berlin may or may not be correct – but that period would correspond to August 1940, not to some date in 1944.  Hitler ordered air raid shelters to be built in response to these 1940 attacks, one of the most prominent ones (in every sense of the word) being the enormous Tiergarten flak tower, a.k.a. the Zoo Tower, which included civilian shelter space and was completed in 1941.  By 1944, there would have been quite a few shelters around Berlin, so the assertion that he was in a bomb shelter in that year doesn’t prove that it was at the Reichstag, which in turn doesn’t provide a basis for assuming that Hitler might have conveniently dropped by for a visit.

    Anyway, there’s no reason to grill the poor fellow about this.  He may be remembering a genuine meeting with Hitler that really happened in 1944.  He may be remembering a meeting with Hitler which which genuinely happened but at an earlier date.  He may be  deliberately lying.  He may be honestly convinced that he met Hitler, whereas in fact he may never have done so: his memory (especially given his age) may be faulty; his imagination may have run away with him; or he may be confusing Hitler with some other high-ranking Nazi official that he did meet (as improbable as it sounds to confuse Hitler with anyone else).  In fact, if your account had said that he had shaken hands with Joseph Goebbels in a Berlin bomb shelter in 1944, I’d have been inclined to believe it straightaway, given that Goebbels was in fact going around in public at that time to stiffen the resolve of the citizens (ironically, much as Churchill did in Britain in 1940).  And just to throw in a hypothesis from the fringe, purely for fun, perhaps he shook hands with one of Hitler’s alleged doubles.

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Even worse he shook a hand that shook….well you know. Wash hands many times a day.

  • Customizer

    Interesting story Garg nonetheless. @ Marc you are very correct that speaking to those who experienced WWII first hand is an increasingly rarer luxury as time passes. Thank you for sharing Garg!

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16


    So Gar, tell us, did you or did you not….?? 😄 😄

    So Gar, tell us, did you or did you not wash… ??:-D 😄

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16

    Fun aside but it is possible that he did shook hands with him, I would be just more interested in Rays real name or whole name, like Ray for Raimund or so…I’ll gather some more info on that.

  • @toblerone77:

    Interesting story Garg nonetheless. @ Marc you are very correct that speaking to those who experienced WWII first hand is an increasingly rarer luxury as time passes. Thank you for sharing Garg!

    Perfectly spoken.

  • @Gargantua:

    (Ray mentioned his father was regular Wehrmacht, and fought the Canadians along the boot of Italy, Ray’s father in law was also in the same battle on the allied side!).

    I found this to be the most interesting thing in the tale.  Pretty cool.

  • 2007 AAR League

    Interesting story Garg, interesting story.

    And thanks Marc for the background info. It’s easy to forget/overlook things like that.

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