Who's Who Among Hitler's Bodyguards
A brief guide to the men who protected Hitler
Johann "Hans" Baur
Hitler’s personal pilot and commander of the Führer’s aircraft squadron. A decorated World War I aviator, Baur joined the Nazi party in the 1920s and first flew Hitler during the national political campaign in 1932. He remained Hitler’s pilot until the Führer’s final days. Shot while fleeing the Berlin bunker, Baur remained a Russian prisoner until 1955.
Joseph "Sepp" Dietrich
Commander of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (1933-45), Hitler’s bodyguard regiment. Born to peasant farmers, Dietrich worked a series of menial jobs in the hotel industry before enlisting in the Bavarian Army and fighting in World War I. He joined the Nazi Party in 1928 and quickly attracted attention for his organizational skills, loyalty to Hitler, and physical toughness in dust-ups with Communists. Among his many services to Hitler, he commanded the on-the-ground campaign that captured Ernst Röhm and his followers during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.
Commander of the eight-man SS Begleitkommando, Hitler’s personal bodyguard (1934- 45). Gesche joined the Nazi Party in 1922 at the age of 17. In street brawls with rival political gangs, he proved adept with a rubber truncheon and pistol, and Hitler counted him among his most trusted protectors. Eventually, however, his habitual drunkenness caused his demotion and exile to the Italian front, where he fought during the waning days of the war.
Commander of the SS Begleitkommando (1933-34). Gildisch’s background in law enforcement made him an excellent candidate to head Hitler’s personal bodyguard. He played a key role in the Night of the Long Knives, personally executing several government officials, including Erich Klausener, Germany’s secretary of transport and president of Catholic Action, a religious group that opposed Hitler. Himmler later relieved Gildisch of his bodyguard command for habitual drinking.
An early leader of the Sturmabteilung (SA, the armed militia responsible for protecting Nazi Party officials), commander of the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, or Secret State Police), and prominent Nazi minister. A decorated war veteran, Göring brought military discipline and organization to the fledgling SA militia after Hitler recruited him in 1923. When Hitler took the office of chancellor in 1933, Göring joined his cabinet and became minister of Prussia. He transformed the Prussian police force into the Gestapo, which was absorbed into the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Security Central Office) under Himmler’s SS in 1939. As Germany’s minister of aviation, Göring also commanded the Luftwaffe.
Hitler’s first personal bodyguard (1920- 23) and a founding member and senior officer of the Schutzstaffel (Protective Echelon, better known as the SS). Trained as a butcher, Graf had already made a name for himself as an amateur boxer when he joined Hitler’s entourage in 1920. His fighting skills, loyalty, and bravery never came into question. During the ill-conceived putsch in 1923, on Hitler’s march through Munich, Graf placed himself directly in the police line of fire and took several shots intended for Hitler. He survived his wounds and eventually rose in the ranks of the SS.
Reichsführer-SS (1929-45), the head of all security forces in Nazi Germany. An army veteran and failed farmer, Himmler gravitated to Hitler while still a student in Munich. He protected Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch, rose to deputy head of the SS in 1927, and became its chief in 1929. Himmler oversaw the SS’s evolution from bodyguard unit to secret state police and combat force, responsible for assassinations, concentration camps, and extermination programs.
(1920-21) of the Sturmabteilung and commander of Hitler’s SA guard at scheduled public appearances (1925-32). A watchmaker by trade and a convicted embezzler, Maurice became friends with Hitler almost immediately after World War I. His close personal relationship with the Führer helped him survive many career crises, including his involvement with Hitler’s niece and alleged mistress, Geli Raubal, and Himmler’s suspicions of his Jewish heritage.
Head of the Reichssicherheitsdienst (Reich Security Service, or RSD), 1933-45. A former law enforcement officer in Munich, Rattenhuber recruited fellow Bavarian policemen to provide security for Hitler and other Nazi leaders as the party rose to power. Although he headed the RSD during Stauffenberg’s near-miss assassination attempt at the Wolf’s Lair, Rattenhuber retained his position of authority afterward and remained loyal to Hitler until the very end.
A founder of the Sturmabteilung and SA chief of staff (1931-34). An ex-commander in the Bavarian infantry, Röhm is widely regarded as the man most responsible for launching Hitler’s political career. He publicly allied himself with Hitler in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch; afterward, he was exiled to Bolivia. In 1930, Hitler recalled Röhm to head the SA. But Röhm eventually became a political rival of both Himmler and Göring, leading to his arrest in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 and his subsequent execution.
Hitler’s private chauffeur and early member of the SA, the first commander of the Stosstrupp (Assault Squad) Adolf Hitler (1923), and the chief organizer of the SS as a Nazi headquarters guard. In 1925, Schreck formed SS units in cities all over Germany to protect Nazi Party meetings. His passing resemblance to Hitler also allowed him to work as the Führer’s double. He continued to serve as Hitler’s personal driver until poor health forced him to resign. Schreck died in 1936 of meningitis.