The Musmanno Papers: Interview With Hitler’s Barber
The interview is an excerpt from the Musmanno Papers, the personal papers and library of the former Pennsylvania State Supreme Court justice, congressman, and author. Documents include papers from Musmanno’s time as a defense attorney in the Sacco & Vanzetti trial, judge in the Nuremberg Trials, witness in the case against Adolf Eichmann, and interviews with Hitler’s associates. The collection also covers papers related to campaigns to end the Sunday Blue Laws, illegalize the Communist Party and to disband the Coal and Iron Police.These papers are stored in Duquesne University's collection.
This is an interview with Adolf Hitler’s barber, August Wollenhaupt. He was the only man allowed to cut Hitler’s hair from 1932-1945. The interview was conducted in 1948 by American judge, Michael Musmanno. Throughout the interview, MM refers to Musmanno and AW refers to Hitler’s barber, August Wollenhaupt.
MM: When did you first meet Adolf Hitler?
AW: I first actually saw him in 1929 in Berlin. He was then just a young politician and he happened to be leaving a bakery as I was walking in. I looked at him because I recognized him. He gave me quite the piercing stare. After that I attended a speech of his and I have to confess he was quite something up there.
MM: Were you a Nazi party member?
AW: No, I never joined the party, I was always apolitical. Hitler never asked me about my politics, we never talked about those things. It sounds strange to never discuss politics with a politician, but that’s the way it happened.
MM: Let’s talk about your first actual meeting with Hitler.
AW: This was in early 1932. My barber shop was at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin. This was a sort of headquarters for the Nazis. They all stayed there in the early 30’s. Goebbels in fact lived there for awhile. I cut Goebbels’ hair and he was always talking about Hitler. One day in January, 1932, I said to Goebbels, “you should let me cut Hitler’s hair.” It was said in jest, but several weeks later, Goebbels introduced me to Hitler.
MM: Can you explain the circumstances of this meeting?
AW: Certainly, it was simple enough. Goebbels stood before me and introduced me to Hitler. By the way, Hitler did not stay at the Kaiserhof when he was in Berlin, he always stayed at the Hotel Sansoucci.
MM: Tell me about this hotel, why did he stay there instead of the Kaiserhof?
AW: The Hotel Sanssouci was a small bed and breakfast with only about 70 rooms. It was on Linkstrasse, and was very modest. It was far less luxurious than the Kaiserhof. Hitler always liked it because it was modest, quiet and he was not bothered there. It was a sort of artist’s hotel and that appealed to the Bohemian in Hitler.
MM: Now return to your first meeting with him.
AW: Hitler was very nice, affable and gave off a modest demeanor. He was soft spoken, which shocked me, because my experience with him as an orator was the hoarse screaming. In person he wasn’t like that in the least.
MM: What impression did he make on you?
AW: I liked him and that never changed, Hitler was always quite friendly and approachable with me. I went home and told my friends that evening that I had met Hitler and that I’d quite liked him. Maybe you can’t understand that, but I am being direct here.
MM: How long before you cut Hitler’s hair and how did you come into his service? Did he ask you?
AW: Well, this is easy to tell. After Goebbels brought me to Hitler, he then asked me if I could go to the Hotel Sanssouci later on to meet with Hitler and possibly to cut his hair. I did have clients that I went to, instead of them coming to me.
MM: I assume because Hitler didn’t want to sit in a public barbershop?
AW: Exactly. It was a security issue as well, the Nazis and the Communists at that time were killing each other on the streets. So I went to the Sanssouci and went up to Hitler’s room. He opened the door himself, he was alone. He asked me about myself and my family, which I appreciated. He always was very polite in such things, he was very correct in his manners.
MM: Did you cut his hair then?
AW: No, we just talked. Hitler wanted to know my schedule, if I was able to travel to see him and all those sorts of things. I told him of course I couldn’t leave my shop at the Kaiserhof. I will never forget what Hitler said to me. “When I come to power, you can travel anywhere I go when I need your services.” On his next trip to Berlin, I cut his hair for the first time.
MM: Tell me about that.
AW: I went to the Sanccouci, took the lift up to Hitler’s room and went about my business.
MM: It was said that Hitler was afraid of scissors and razors.
AW: That’s just a myth and I really do have to laugh at such things. It is true that Hitler didn’t like an open straight razor near his throat, but I only shaved him for several days, and that was after the attempt on his life in 1944.
MM: Did Hitler give you instructions on his hair?
AW: He really didn’t do that, even prior to the first time I cut his hair. He told me, “don’t change the style, don’t cut too much.” That was all. I attempted to try and tame his forelock, but he would have none of it. I personally thought he looked more pleasing without the forelock, but he said he wanted that to stay. I used scissors on most of his hair, and around the neck and ear area I used the electric razor.
can tell you that I used a Jacob Schick electric razor, which had only then been recently available. Hitler took a keen interest in my electric razor, he was very captivated by it and the sound it made. He was a superb mimic and whenever we’d meet, he would almost always make the “bzzzzz” sound because he knew I would use that razor.
MM: Along with the haircut, what else did you do?
AW: I would also trim his mustache. Usually Hitler attended to this himself and I have to say, he sometimes did a pretty poor job. Because he was right-handed, it was difficult for him to get the side of his mustache even. I talked to him about this and even showed him how to do this in front of a mirror, but he never seemed to get the hang of it.
MM: Hitler’s secretary told me that he hated being touched. Did this also occur to you?
AW: Never. Of course I had to touch him in order to cut his hair and tend to him when that needed doing. I never had the feeling he was timid in this way. He was not a familiar man, but he was friendly and approachable, within certain limits.
MM: How would you describe Hitler’s looks? Did he look the same in person as he did on photos or newsreels?
AW: I think he looked quite fine. He had very nice skin, unblemished and milky white. He was very fair skinned. Of course his famous eyes lived up to their reputation, he had extremely attractive eyes, that was his best feature. His hair was very fine and very soft. He washed it himself every day, as he told me. He kept himself very clean and very fresh. He was just that sort of man, very clean and well-groomed. Goebbels was the same way, but he smoked and would smell of cigarettes. Hitler was pleasant all around.
MM: Hitler hated smoking, we’ve been told.
AW: Oh yes he did. He hated smokers and would talk to me about this on many occasions. There were few things he hated more than smokers and smoking. He always told me, “what a disgusting habit!”
MM: After Hitler assumed power, did you start travelling with him?
AW: Not at first. In 1933 he spent a lot of time in Berlin and he’d summon me to the Reichs Chancellery for his haircuts. Sometimes I would get a call at my home at 1:00 in the morning and I’d go over to give him a trim.
MM: How often were your services needed?
AW: Hitler wanted his hair cut every two weeks. He told me that as a young man in Vienna, when he was poor and struggling, his dream was someday to be able to afford a haircut every two weeks. He used to have to cut his own hair by himself.
MM: He told you this?
AW: Many a time he said this to me. He disliked Vienna and would mock the Viennese accent. Like I said, he was a terribly good mimic.
MM: When did you start travelling to cut Hitler’s hair?
AW: Gradually by late 1934 this happened more and more. But that was not all the time. Hitler’s schedule before the war was generally about 12 days in Berlin, 8 days in Munich, a few days travelling and the remainder on the Obersalzberg. It was really only when he started staying longer periods at the Berghof that I had to travel to him.
MM: How many times were you actually at the Berghof?
AW: Not until 1935 or 1936. After that, many times. Maybe 30 times I was there, possibly less, possibly more. It was so impressive there that I looked forward to my times there, it’s such a tragedy it was all bombed.
MM: Every time you were there, you cut Hitler’s hair?
AW: Of course, that was the service I provided to him. I was there in his presence to perform a task and I did so. I did also cut some of the hair of other men there, guards, SS men and that sort.
MM: Did you ever cut the hair of Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun?
AW: That would never have happened and it’s an amusing suggestion. If you had ever been around Eva Braun, you would know that she had her hair professionally styled, tinted and coiffed. She would have probably perished before letting me touch her hair.
MM: Did you know her at all?
AW: I didn’t know her well, but I met her many times and we chatted sometimes. I saw her in Berlin seldom and then not until really the start of the war, maybe a trifle earlier. She was always there when Hitler was at the Berghof, I saw her there often.
MM: Did you ever encounter Eva Braun in Munich?
AW: You mean in Hitler’s apartment? I was there occasionally, and always prior to the war. I saw her there once, I believe. Yes, once.
MM: What are your impressions of Eva Braun?
AW: She was a very attractive and pretty girl. She was modest like Hitler, liked to laugh, could be buoyant and jolly. A modern girl, athletic and sporty. She always had her girlfriends with her. From what I saw of her, I liked her very much.
MM: Did you ever see Hitler and Eva together?
AW: Yes, naturally. They behaved very well towards one another. I had the sense that her presence relaxed Hitler. He seemed jollier when Eva Braun was around. That was my perception.
MM: How did they act towards each other?
AW: Their relationship of course was secret. It was “don’t see, don’t tell” when it came to them. For instance, I never told anyone, not even my family, about the existence of Eva Braun. You ask how they behaved? I would say normally. They seemed like good friends, a father-daughter type of teasing relationship. They were not affectionate in front of others and I was not one of his close circle. I was just the barber. They maintained the facade of being merely friends. The close circle knew better though.
MM: Did Hitler ever mention Eva Braun to you?
AW: Very rarely and then only in later years. He said once that Eva took more time on her hair in one morning than he had taken in 50 years. Such things as that. In 1943 and 1944, he spoke of her more often and with great warmth and tenderness.
MM: What would he say?
AW: Nothing specific, he just had a great warmth in his voice when he would mention her. I had the sense he had grown more fond of her as the years passed.
MM: Do you think he loved Eva Braun?
AW: He gave indications of this. He was not demonstrative really, but the fact she was by his side for so many years tells me he was devoted to her. He was not a man incapable of tender feelings. He loved children, he liked to look at pretty girls, he had all the normal weaknesses and feelings of most people.
MM: Did you have the feeling he was faithful to her?
AW: I wasn’t around him enough to make a judgment on that. However, based on my personal interactions with Hitler, I would say he was not the type of man to play about with women. His position made that practically impossible anyway.
MM: What about Leni Riefenstahl and the British student, Unity Mitford?
AW: Hitler was merely friends with those two ladies, there was no romance with anyone after he met Eva Braun. I don’t have personal knowledge of this, but I knew people in Hitler’s circle and they told me this many times.
MM: Did Goebbels talk about Hitler and Eva Braun?
AW: No, that would never have come up. He wouldn’t have discussed anything about the Fuhrer’s private life with me.
MM: What would Hitler talk to you about when he was in the barber’s chair?
AW: He loved gossip. This is something not generally known, but Hitler loved to listen to gossip about actors, musicians and famous people. He liked to know who was cheating on who and with whom, such things as that. I knew no Munich gossip, but knew everything about Berlin and he reveled in that. He liked to whistle and was a superb mimic. He could imitate anyone, their voice and their walk.
MM: Did you suggest that Hitler change his hairstyle?
AW: I stopped suggesting anything after 1935. He asked me to stop nagging about his forelock and let it be, so I did and laid the matter to rest. He sometimes teased me before I began my cutting, “now don’t tamper with this,” and he would grab his forelock. I think he thought he looked dashing in it. He wanted it cut so it would dangle on his forehead during speeches, but in repose, it would stay plastered to his head.
MM: Did Hitler have grey hair at the end?
AW: Yes, quite a bit, also in his mustache by that time, by 1944. Prior to that, he had little grey hair, though his whiskers started to become grey around 1942.
MM: You said you shaved him only twice? What were those occasions?
AW: It was after the July 20th bomb plot. I had been at the Wolfsschanze in Rastenburg, numerous times. I positively hated going there, but one couldn’t ignore a summons from Hitler. It was then that I had to shave him for several days. He was quite old looking by then and had been banged up pretty good in the bombing. His hair stood up like a porcupine, so I didn’t cut his hair but shaved him. That was a little bit of a trial.
MM: In what way?
AW: I used a straight razor, (photo below) I always used that. Hitler was accustomed to a blade razor and was uncomfortable with being shaved. One day he wanted to skip, but then looked visibly unshaven and this “wouldn’t do” for the Führer. I noticed for a very brief time then that he also had dandruff. He had told me in the early 20’s he had suffered with dandruff, but that Hanfstaengl had given him a special shampoo and it had never reoccurred.
MM: Were you afraid of cutting Hitler?
AW: No, I had shaved 100,000 faces by then, I knew my job. Hitler trusted me but didn’t like anyone to shave him except himself.
MM: What was the longest Hitler ever went between haircuts?
AW: Once it was one month, that was in 1935. I don’t recall why this happened, but his hair was much longer than usual when I got to him again. He always tipped me 2 RM’s when I cut his hair, even though I received adequate compensation from Bormann’s account. I thought that was a nice touch, a sentimental remembrance of when he’d been a private man and I had first cut his hair. He always asked about my family, took a keen interest in me personally and was always polite.
MM: You never saw him have a rage?
AW: No and I doubt he ever had one. I saw him impatient sometimes, never angry. When he’d get impatient, he would snap his fingers in an increasingly rapid tempo. He was always calm and polite with me. I just can dismiss these raging stories out of hand.
MM: When was the last time you cut Hitler’s hair?
AW: It was not in the Bunker, I never knew of the existence of that. My last haircut for the Fuehrer was in early March, 1945. He was visibly trembling, old and completely a shell of what had once been. It was a horrible sight, he was the walking dead.