Kempka, Erich, born 16-09-1910 in Oberhausen to a miner with ten children. He worked as a mechanic for the automotive manufacturer DKW. Kempka joined the Nazi Party
on 01-04-1930 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, Gauleiter of Essen until 29-02-1932,
Terboven committed suicide on 08-05-1945, age 46, when, based on Terboven’s recommendation, he was tasked as a reserve driver for Adolf Hitler’s
(did you know
) personal entourage. In 1934, he was present at the arrest of SA leader, Ernst Julius Röhm
. In 1936, he replaced SS Brigadeführer, Julius Schreck
as Hitler’s primary chauffeur and chief of his car fleet, from 1936 to April, 1945.
As his chauffeur Kempka usually drove one of Hitler’s black Mercedes cars from a fleet of six to eight which were 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 adjutants 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 01-12-1937, Kempka joined the Lebensborn society. He was also awarded a Totenkopfring and the SS Honor Sword from Heinrich Himmler
. Kempka had been engaged to Gerda Christian (born Daranowski), a private secretary of Hitler’s.
She later married Luftwaffe officer Eckhard Christian on 02-02-1943. Christian died age 77, on 03-01-1985 and she died of cancer, age 85 on 14-04-1997. In 1945, as the end of the Third Reich drew near, Kempka accompanied Hitler to the Reich Chancellery and later the Führerbunker. By then, Kempka oversaw a fleet of 40 vehicles, 60 drivers and mechanics. 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’s
(see Braun parents
) corpses after they committed suicide together on the afternoon of 30-04-1945. SS Sturmbannführer, Otto Günsche
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 along with SS-Hauptscharführer Heinrich Doose, a driver who was part of his staff. During his escape, Kempka came across SS Obersturmbannführer, Georg Betz
, Hitler’s personal co-pilot and SS Obergruppenführer, Hans Baur’s
and left him in the care of Käthe Heusermann
, Betz, age 42, died escaping from the bunker with SS Brigadeführer, one of Adolf Hitler’s last remaining Generals, Wilhelm Mohnke
, age 41 on 02-05-1945 and States Secretary of the Reichsministry and right hand of Josef Goebbels, Hugo “Werner” Naumann
. On 20 June, Kempka was captured by U.S. troops at Berchtesgaden and held until 9 October 1947. He was the first witness the Americans captured who could confirm the death of Hitler. Despite claims made to the contrary during his interrogation, Kempka later admitted that when Hitler and Eva Braun
locked themselves in a room to commit suicide, he lost his nerve and ran out of the Führerbunker, returning only after Hitler and Eva 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: He referred to General der Waffen SS, Hermann Fegelein,
(see Waldemar “Axal” Fegelein
) Fegelein was executed by fellow SS, age 38 on 29-04-1945, 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
was around Hitler, you could “hear her ovaries rattling” Magda Goebbels was said to be quite attached to Hitler psychologically. When Martin Bormann
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, Kempka was called to testify because he claimed to have seen Martin Bormann killed by a Soviet anti-tank rocket. He later referred to Eva Braun as “the unhappiest woman in Germany”.
Death and burial ground of Kempka, Erich.
Cemetery location of Kempka, Erich.