Walther Hewel, seen here in October 1940, was a German diplomat before and during WWII, an early and active member of the NSDAP, and one of Adolf Hitler’s few personal friends. A participant in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch and fellow inmate at Landsberg prison with Hitler, where he acted as his valet. He started the Indonesian branch of the NSDAP while working there in the 1920s. He joined the diplomatic corps in the 1930s and was sent to Spain, but was recalled to Germany by Hitler in 1938, where their earlier friendship was renewed.
Technically Hewel was an ambassador and he was supposed to serve as Joachim von Ribbentrop’s liaison to Hitler. However, he spent most of WWII without an official portfolio and once described himself as “an ambassador to nowhere”. In the later years of the war, as Hitler became more estranged from Ribbentrop, Hewel essentially became Hitler’s senior adviser on all foreign policy matters. Survivors of Hitler’s inner circle claimed that Hewel owed his position to his long involvement with the NSDAP, and because he was one of Hitler’s friends.
Hewel tended to be shy around women, and as a result, Hitler often tried to play matchmaker for him. Hewel survived an plane crash on 21.4.1944 in which General Hans-Valentin Hube was killed. Elizabeth Blanda, a Red Cross nurse looked after Hewel and later married him at Berchtesgaden. Until Hitler committed suicide on 30.4.1945, Hewel remained in his inner circle. As one of the few people to remain near him until the end, he was said to have tried to cheer Hitler up. Apparently, Hewel was the last individual to engage in a long, personal conversation with Hitler.
Following Hitler’s suicide, Hewel escaped the Führerbunker in a group led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke. Mohnke planned to break out towards the German Army, which was positioned in Prinzenallee. However, Hewel was apparently suffering from psychological stress at the time. In her memoirs, Traudl Junge claimed that, after Hitler’s death, Hewel appeared extremely confused and unable to make the simplest decisions for himself.
The group headed along the U-Bahn tunnels, but their route was blocked so they went above ground and later joined hundreds of other German civilians and military personnel who had sought refuge at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery. Upon arriving at the holdout on 2.5.1945, Hewel made remarks to the effect that he planned on committing suicide. Despite the efforts of Dr Ernst-Günther Schenck, who attempted to talk him out of it, Hewel killed himself in the same manner that Professor Dr Werner Haase had instructed for Hitler, biting down on a cyanide capsule while shooting himself in the head.
According to Dr Schenck, Hitler had encouraged Hewel to commit suicide. Hitler warned Hewel that if he was captured by the Red Army, he would be tortured and “mounted in a waxworks”. Hitler gave Hewel a cyanide capsule and a Walther 7.65mm pistol, then had him take an oath to kill himself rather than be captured by the Russians. Further, Dr Schenck stated that Hewel was emotionally and physically exhausted, which contributed to his actions.
Because of his friendship with Hitler, Hewel was given a large amount of leeway in his actions. For example, he played constant practical jokes on his boss, von Ribbentrop, in order to amuse Hitler and other members of his entourage. After the war, Hewel’s 1941 diary emerged. Also, after Hitler’s suicide, but prior to his own, he spoke with others about his friendship with, and opinion of, Hitler. Right before his suicide, he told Dr. Schenck:
“Hitler was a consummate actor…. Toward the end, he was less the leader, Der Führer, than a man flinging from reality as it advanced itself…. As I look back at those long briefing sessions, it strikes me that Hitler was hopelessly engulfed in the grandeur of his mission, a sense that was now disintegrating into self-pity. When the goddess Nemesis began to avenge his hubris, he lost his nerve.”