updated 10/13/2003 8:43:12 AM ET 2003-10-13T12:43:12

Otto Guensche, an aide to Adolf Hitler who burned the Nazi dictator’s body to keep it from the advancing Soviets in the final days of World War II, has died at age 86.

An SS officer and a member of Hitler’s inner circle, Guensche spent the last hours with the Nazi leader in the Fuehrer’s bunker in Berlin before Hitler and his companion Eva Braun committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Guensche lived quietly in West Germany after the war following several years in Soviet captivity.

He died Oct. 2 of heart failure at his home in the town of Lohmar, near the former capital of Bonn, his eldest son, Kai, told The Associated Press.

Otto Guensche said in a recent AP interview that Hitler personally ordered him to burn his body. When the day came, Hitler’s chief of staff, Martin Bormann, tried to set the corpses of Hitler and Braun alight in the garden of the Reich chancellery in Berlin. But it was Guensche who threw a burning rag that started the fire.

Guensche was also with Hitler when the Nazi leader survived an assassination attempt on July 20, 1944.

He was captured by Red Army troops at the end of the war.

Born Sept. 24, 1917, Guensche joined the Wehrmacht and rose to the rank of SS major, according to prosecutor Kurt Schrimm, the head of Germany’s central office for investigating former Nazis. The agency’s files show no investigation against Guensche for Nazi-era crimes, Schrimm said.

Guensche was widowed and is survived by three children. His body was cremated, his son said.

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