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Memoirs of a Wartime Interpreter (Hardback)

From the Battle for Moscow to Hitler's Bunker

WWII All Greenhill Books Greenhill: WWII Hitler & the Third Reich Women of History

By Elena Rzhevskaya, Foreword by Roger Moorhouse, Translated by Arch Tait
Greenhill Books
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781784382810
Published: 30th April 2018


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"By the will of fate I came to play a part in not letting Hitler achieve his final goal of disappearing and turning into a myth… I managed to prevent Stalin’s dark and murky ambition from taking root – his desire to hide from the world that we had found Hitler’s corpse" - Elena Rzhevskaya

"A telling reminder of the jealousy and rivalries that split the Allies even in their hour of victory, and foreshadowed the Cold War"- Tom Parfitt, The Guardian

On May 2,1945, Red Army soldiers broke into Hitler’s bunker. Rzhevskaya, a young military interpreter, was with them. Almost accidentally the Soviet military found the charred remains of Hitler and Eva Braun. They also found key documents: Bormann's notes, the diaries of Goebbels and letters of Magda Goebbels.

Rzhevskaya was entrusted with the proof of Hitler’s death: his teeth wrenched from his corpse by a pathologist hours earlier. The teeth were given to Rzhevskaya because they believed male agents were more likely to get drunk on Victory Day, blurt out the secret and lose the evidence. She interrogated Hitler's dentist's assistant who confirmed the teeth were his.

Elena’s role as an interpreter allowed her to forge a link between the Soviet troops and the Germans. She also witnessed the civilian tragedy perpetrated by the Soviets. The book includes her diary material and later additions, including conversations with Zhukov, letters of pathologist Shkaravsky, who led the autopsy, and a new Preface written by Rzhevskaya for the English language edition.

Rzhevskaya writes about the key historical events and everyday life in her own inimitable style. She talks in depth of human suffering, of bittersweet victory, of an author's responsibility, of strange laws of memory and unresolved feeling of guilt.

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About Elena Rzhevskaya

Elena Kagan was born in Gomel, Belarus in October 1919. She moved with her family to Moscow in 1922 where she later studied philology at Moscow State University. After serving the war effort as a munitions worker and after finishing a war interpreter's course Elena joined Gen Dmitry Lelyushenko's army of resistance in 1942. By February 1945 Elena was working in Poznan before joining the USSR's 3rd Army's attack on the Reichstag in late April. Her journey to Berlin began in Rzhev on the Volga, where millions of Red Army soldiers died fighting German forces. She adopted the surname Rzhevskaya to honour the fallen.

Rzhevskaya was the first person to read key documents related to the last days of the Reich including the personal papers of Hitler. She lived in Moscow after the war to work as a writer and won prizes for her fiction and journalism. She was the author of two acclaimed history books and six war novels. She died in April 2017.

About Roger Moorhouse

ROGER MOORHOUSE is a historian of the Third Reich. He is the author of the acclaimed BERLIN AT WAR, KILLING HITLER and THE DEVILS' ALLIANCE and has been published in over 20 languages. He has contributed to HE WAS MY CHIEF, I WAS HITLERS CHAUFFEUR, WITH HITLER TO THE END and HITLERS LAST WITNESS (all Frontline Books). He is also a tour guide, a book reviewer and a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Warsaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @Roger_Moorhouse

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