INSIDE HITLERS BUNKER - BERLIN APRIL 1945 Part 2/
There were two bunkers beneath the Reichs Chancellery building in Berlin. The older one, the upper bunker, had been designed by Albert Speer as an air raid shelter in the early 1930s. It was built beneath the cellars of the old Reichs Chancellery and was ready for use by 1936. A lower bunker, which became known as the Führerbunker, was constructed in 1944. It was located 8.5 meters below the garden and protected by a 3-metre-deep concrete roof.
July 1947 photo of the rear entrance to the Führerbunker in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. Hitler and Eva Braun were cremated in a shell hole in front of the emergency exit at left; the cone-shaped structure in the centre served as the exhaust, and as a bomb shelter for the guards
During January 1945 Hitler slept in the Führerbunker but worked in the remaining rooms of the Reichs Chancellery. In the early afternoon of the 3rd February 1945, the US Air Force undertook a mass bombing attack on Berlin, creating a fireball which burned for five days and inflicting the worst damage that the capital had yet suffered. From his point Hitler stayed underground.
Most of the senior Nazis had sent their families to safety and had removed out of the capital. Joseph Goebbels remained in Berlin, sleeping in a luxurious bunker built beneath his family home.The Head of the SS Heinrich Himmler, had been living in a sanatorium in in the beautiful resort of Hohenhychen since January, receiving treatments for stress and severe stomach pain. Himmler held a very inflated view of himself as a figure of international stature and had become convinced that he was the best person to negotiate the peace and lead Germany into the future. At the suggestion of his Swedish masseur. Felix Kersten, who took advantage of his relationship with the SS chief to try and get concentration camp prisoners released. Himmler had two secret meetings: One with Count Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat and one with Norbert Masur, the Swedish representative of the world Jewish Congress.
Ostensibly the purpose of both meetings was to discuss the release of prisoners, but Himmler's motive was to open up a channel of communication with the Western Allies, He hoped that Masur would put the issue of the Final Solution behind him.
On the 11th March 1945 there was a service of remembrance for the war dead in the village of Markt Schellenberg, close to Hitler's mountain retreat Obersalzberg. At the end of the speech the local Army Commander called for a 'Sieg Heil' to the Führer. There was a deadly silence. None of the civilians, Home Guard or Soldiers responded. On his cold morning everyone kept their mouths shut and their right arms tightly by their sides. At hundreds of rallies held during the previous 12 years these people, and millions of others, had leapt, mesmerized, to their feet to 'Sieg Heil' the close of Adolf Hitler's rousing speeches. But the spell had been broken.
Joseph Goebbels with his daughters Hilde & Helga on Christmas 1037
Hitler went outside for the last time on his 56th birthday, 20th April 1945. He dragged himself up the concrete steps from the Führerbunker to the Reichs Chancellery garden to inspect a group of young boys, members of the Hitler Youth. The boys had been instructed to look straight ahead, so 16-year old Armin Lehmann was shocked at the Führer's decrepit appearance when it finally came to his turn and his leader was standing right in front of him. His hands were shaking as he grabbed Lehmann's arm and clutched at his sleeve before enclosing the boy's right hand in both of his, 'I could not believe', Lehmann later wrote, 'that his withered old man in front of me the visionary who had led our nation to greatness.'
Hitler on his birthday greeting members of the Hitler Youth on his last birthday
In the following days the Russian Army encircled Berlin and entered the suburbs. An attempt by Göring to clarify his position as Hitler's successor triggered one of the Führer's ferocious outbursts and Göring's dismissal as head of the air force. Hitler felt betrayed on all sides. He blamed the disaster of the war on the incompetence of his generals, and ultimately a failure of the German people. When he learned about Himmler's attempts to negotiate with the West he turned purple with rage and ordered his arrest and execution. That evincing, 28th April 1945, Hitler started to get his personal affairs in order. He instructed Joseph Goebbels to find an official with the authority to conduct a civil wedding and to source some wedding rings. After a lifetime insisting, for me marriage would have been a disaster... it's better to have a mistress. Hitler had decided to marry Eva Braun the women who had been his secret mistress for 14 years. He the asked his secretary Traudl Junge to take down his final testament and will. Adolf Hitler. who for the past 12 years had kept Germany under his spell, who had masterminded some of the most extraordinary battles in modern history, was preparing to end his life.
The following is the story of Monday 30th April, the day Hitler commits suicide, and also the day before, when so many extraordinary things happen both inside the bunker and across the world that help place that last day in context.
On D-day, 6th June 1944, hundreds of Allied soldiers wrote about the life and death events happening around them. Sometimes, as soon as they'd scrambled to the top of the beach, having dodged bullets and mortars, out would come a diary and pencil. These diaries provided perfect source material for the book D-Day:
SUNDAY 29TH APRIL 1945
Eva Braun is in her bedroom having her hair done by her maid. Liesel Ostertag. Braun keeps it lightly peroxided, cut in short waves, with her long fringe pinned up on the right side. Her face is carefully made up to look natural, as Adolf Hitler likes it. She has chosen her outfit: a long black silk taffeta dress which she is going to wear with her favorite diamond watch, a gold bracelet with pink tourmaline gems and a topaz necklace. She decided on some black suede Perragamo shoes, one of the scores of pairs she has bought from the exclusive Italian designer since her first visit to Italy in 1936. She wants to look her best.
Tonight she is marrying the man she has loved since she was 17. They have been conducting a secret love affair for the last 14 years. Braun's room is the most comfortable in the bunker complex. She has furnished it entirely with pieces designed for her by the architect of the bunker, Albert Speer. As well as the dressing table and chair, there's a straight-backed sofa, upholstered in a floral fabric, a wardrobe and a single bed. Everything is marked with her four-leaf clover monogram, also designed by Speer, the two sides of the clover created out of curved E facing a curved B. Her monogram is stamped on the furniture, embroidered on her clothes and engraved on her silver combs and brushes, on her jewellery and on the broach-clip which Liesel is pinning into her hair.
Twenty-eight feet above Braun's head, the body of her brother-in-law, Hermann Fegelein, is being placed into a shallow grave in the Reich Chancellery garden. The gravediggers are working by the light of the firestorms illuminating the Berlin sky. There is heavy Russian artillery bombardment as Soviet forces have just succeeded in establishing a crossing over the river Spree and the guns are giving cover to the streams of tanks entering the centre of Berlin. Braun's brother-in-law has been executed during the evening on the orders of the man she is about to marry. She pleaded for his life for the sake of her younger sister Gretl who was expecting Fegelein's child any day, but Hitler had dismissed her furioussly, forcing her to concede, 'You are the Führer'. (It is not clear, however, if the execution took place before their wedding or after, as he then had given orders to shoot his brother-in-law
In the Führerbunker switchboard office the telephonist Rochus Misch is watching Hans Hofbeck of the Reich Security Service describing Hermann Fegelein's killing. Hofbeck witnessed the shooting in the Reich Chancellery cellar corridor about half an hour ago. He acts out what he has witnessed:
He rauses his arms, holding an imaginary machine gun, and aims at the shoulder height, shouting the sound effects 'Ratatata!'
Adolf Hitler is standing in the conference room of the Führerbunker leaning both his hands on the broad side of the empty map table. Traudl Junge, one of the two secretaries remaining in the bunker, sits at the other side of the table taking down his words in shorthand. The Führer has nearly finished dictating his 'Political Testament'. Junge had been very excited when he started. She thought that she was going to be the first person to learn why the war had become so catastrophic. As she later told the makers of the documentary 'The World at war', 'I was heart thumping,sic,when I wrote down what Hitler said'. But as Hitler drones on in a flat monotone she feels increasingly disappointed. There are no revelations, neither expressions of guilt or justifications, just the recycled accusations she has heard many times before: 'It is untrue, that I, or anybody else in Germany, wanted war in 1939, it was wanted and provoked exclusively by those international politicians who either came of Jewish stock, or worked for Jewish interests.'
He boasts how he has forced the Jews to pay for all the suffering they have caused: 'I...leave no one in doubt that this time, millions of children of Europe's Aryan people would not die of hunger, millions of grown men would not suffer death,and hundreds and thousands of women and children not be burned and bombed to death in the towns without the real culprit having to atone for his guilt,even if by my more humane means'.
Hitler goes on to explain his planned suicide: 'I will not fall into the hands of an enemy who wants to create a new spectacle, organised by the Jews, to entertain the hysterical masses. I have therefore decided to remain in Berlin, and there to choose death voluntarily at the moment when I believe that the residence of the Führer and the Chancellor can can no longer be held...'
Hitler barely looks up as he dictates. He nominates a successor government with Grand Admiral Dönitz, the head of the navy as its leader. Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, and Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, are formerly expelled from the Party and from their posts for negotiating with the enemy without my know;edge and against my wishes'. The list of new appointments is long. As she jots down the names in shorthand, Junge can't understand the point of all these appointments if, as he insists, all is lost.
The Führer pauses briefly and then launches into the dictation of his personal will. He sets out a number of legacies and then explains that he has decided to 'take my wife the young women who after long years of friendship voluntarily came to this practically besieged city in order to share her destiny with me'.
The news shocks Junge, Hitler has always insisted he will never marry because women have a destructive influence on great men. Hitler regarded it as a crucial part of his public persona that he was a single man, devoted to his country and without a wife standing in the way of the fantasies of the women of Germany. He continues, 'I and my wife choose death in order to escape the shame of deposal and surrender. It is our will that our bodies be burned immediately in the place where I performed the greatest part of my daily work in my 12-year-long service to my people'.
continued under under Part 3