World War II: The Battle for Berlin--The Führer Bunker (April 1945)

Hiler Youth boys with Hitler in Berlin
Figure 1.--The last photographs of Hitler (newsreel footage) was taken on the occasion of his his 56th birthday (April 20). That morning he played with Blondie (his German Sheperd). He took his cocaine eyedrops. Then he climbed the steps into the Reich Chancellery courtyard. There he received the NAZI salute from representatives of the cutoff Courland Army, the SS-Division "Berlin", and 20 HJ boys who had earned the Iron Cross. Hitler muttered a few words to them and patted a few of the younger boys on the cheek. The boy here recalls how Hitler's hand were shaking. He then disappeared back into the bunker leaving the boys to face Russian tanks. Click on the image to learn more about the boy.

Hitler's bomb-proff bunker was built under the Chancellry. Hitler's advisers pleaded with him to leave the Berlin and continue the War from an Alpine redoubt. He refused and decided to stay where he was still in control of the situation. He fantasized over a map table about armies long since destroyed. The ones that still existed were ignoring his orders. When President Roosevelt died (April 12), Goebbels fueled the fantasy that the British and Americans wold make a separate peace. The last photographs of Hitler (newsreel footage) was taken on the occasion of his 56th birthday (April 20). That morning he played with Bolndie (his German Shapard). He took his cocaine eyedrops. Then he climbed the steps into the Reich Chancellery courtyard. There he received the NAZI salute from representatives of the cutoff Courland Army, the SS-Division "Berlin", and 20 HJ boys who had erarned the Iron Cross. Hitler muttered a few words to them and patted a few of the younger boys on the cheek. He then disappeared back into the bunker leaving the boys to face Russian tanks. There in the bunker Martina Goebels played solitare after killing her children. He ordered Eva Braun's brother shot for trying to escape. When picked up by the SS, he had a pocket full of jewells. Italian partisans shot Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci and string up their bodies (April 28). Hitler was determined that he not be caught on the run like Mussolini. Hitler finally married his long-time mistress Eva Braun (April 29). On the same day he dictated his last will and testimony to his private secretary, Martin Bormann. He expelled Göring and Himmler from the Party for disloyalty. And he designated Admiral Karl Doenitz as his replacement. (Doenutz was not informed until the next day after Hitler was dead.) The next day with the Soviet sildiers in the nearby Reichstag, Hitler set about commiting suiside (April 30). After testing the cyninide pills on his dog Blondie, he and Braun took cyninide and he shot himself. Martin Borman and the remaining NAZIs gave a farewell salute as the bodies were burned. [Fest] That pitiful scene was a far cry from what Hitler wanted. He had told his associates, "We may go down, but we will take the world down with us."

The Bunker (1936-43)

Hitler's bomb-proof bunker was built near and deep deep under the massive Reich Chancellry. The bunker was constructed in two major phases. It began as relatively small air raid shelter for the Reich Chancellry (1936). The second larger construction was built during the War as the Allied expanded the strategic bombing campaign (1943). The 1943 construction was carried out by the Hochtief company. It was part of an extensive program of subterranean construction in Berlin began earlier in the War (1940). As it developed, there were some 30 small rooms on two levels. The complex was protected by about four metres (13 ft) of steel-reinforced concrete. The Allies had no bombs to penetrate it even if they knew the exact location. There were entrances from the Chancellry and an emergency exit into the Chancellry gardens. The new 1943 construction included accommodations especially built for for Hitler.

Budapest (November-January 1944)

Budapest was strategically placed on the Danube and the Hungarian plain as a bulwark against a Soviet advance into Bavaria and Austria from the east. Budapest was actually two cities, divided by the Danube Rive. Buda on the Danube’s west bank was hilly and crowned by Castle Hill. It was chosen by the Germans to make a stand. There was also a small oil field Hitler wanted defendd, Germany's last source of natural petroleum. Thus at the same time that Zukov was preparing his forces to drive on Berlin, Hitler decided that the main Soviet target was Budapest and not Berlin. Stalin was partly responsible. He saw Hungary’s capital city as an important political prize. The Allied Yalta Conference was only 3 three months away and possession of Budapest and Vienna beyond would greatly increase his prestige and bargaining power. Among other issues, the occupation zones of Germany were to be finalized at Yalta. Stalin ordered Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, commander of the Second Ukrainian Front to seize Budapest ‘in the shortest possible time — in days even.’ Malinovsky's army was moving toward Budapest, but spread throughout southeast Slovakia and north-central Hungary. Malinovsky requested a 5-day breather to consolidated his tired and poorly supplied forces. They had since July drive west through Romania, Transylvania, and eastern Hungary without a respite. Stalin was having none of it. He cabled Malinovsky, "I categorically order you to begin the offensive on Budapest tomorrow." Malinovsky attacked from near Kecskemét in central Hungary with several divisions, but they were over extended and low on supplies (Novenber 1, 1944). This began the battle for Pest. It drew Hitler's attention at a time the Wehrmacht was stabilized the Eastern Front on the Oder. The Germans managed to hold out in Pest for two months, but the garrison pleaded for permissin to withdraw across the Danube to Buda. Hitler fnlly agreed to withdraw the surviving forces in Pest to continue the fight in Buda (January 17, 1945). This was just as he was moving into he Berlin bunker. As a result all the five bridges across the Danube were clogged with traffic trying to escape the Red army. This included both retreating troops and civilians. The Germans blew the bridges the next day (January 18). Buda's fate was sealed, but the defenders would hold out for some time. The result of the fight for Budapest were two fold. It slowed down the Red armt advance. It would be the americanshat would break into Bavaria and western Austria. It also meant that when the Soviet offensive on Berlin began, there were no substantial German armored force to deend the NAZI capital.

Last Führer Headquarters (January 1945)

The Berlin bunker was the last of the Führer Headquarters (Führerhauptquartiere) to be used by Adolf Hitler. Most of the others were located in East Prussia, Poland, and occupied Soviet Union. As the Red army drove relnlessly west. Hitler decided to command the final months of the war from the Berlin Führer Bunker. Hitler after the failure of his last desperae offensive in the West, took up residence in the bunker (January 16, 1945). He moved in just as the fighting for Budapest was reaching a critical phase. As a result he made decisions that would undermine the German defense of Berlin. He commited german;s last Panzer reserves to the defense of Budapest. After Hitler moved in, sumptous furniture taken from the Chancellery were brought in along with framed oil paintings. Hitler personally chose a portrait of one of his heroes, Frederick the Great, to decorate his study.

Nero Order / Nerobefehl (March 19, 1945)

Hitler at the end of the War ordered that the infrastructure that survived the bombing to be destroyed as the Allied forces entered the Reich, the same burnt earth strategy persued by the Soviets. It was issued as the Western Allies were crossing the Rhine and the Red Army began closing on Berlin. His armies shattered and German cities vast piles of rubble, even Hitler realised he had lost his War--although he blamed the failure on the German people rather than himself. Hitler order the Wehrmacht and NAZI authorities to destroy Germany’s infrastructure so that there would be nothing left of value when the Allies occupied the defeated Reich March 19, 1945). The order has become known as The Nero Order after the Roman Emperor who was accused of burning Rome. Of course this meant that the German people would suffer even more, but Hitler's attitude was that the German people had failed him and did nor deserve to survive the War. The official order was titled 'Demolitions on Reich Territory' (Befehl betreffend Zerstörungsmaßnahmen im Reichsgebiet). Hitler explained the Order without admitting that the War was lost, " It is a mistake to think that transport and communication facilities, industrial establishments and supply depots, which have not been destroyed, or have only been temporarily put out of action, can be used again for our own ends when the lost territory has been recovered. The enemy will leave us nothing but scorched earth when he withdraws, without paying the slightest regard to the population." Fortunately for the German people, who were already living in the shambles of bombed out cities, one official, Armaments Minister Albert Speer, was apauled. He insuisted on being given full resposibility for carrying out the order, but actuall not only refused to execute the order, but actively intervened with Whermacht commanders who while willing to destroy cities in the East, were less disposed to do the same in the Reich. It was virtually suicidal to openly defy the Führer, but Speer began a series of delays and stalling tactics. Hitler was unaware of this for some time. Speer's enemies in the bunker reported this to Hitler. Speer flew into Berlin to see Hitler one last time (April 23). Hitler did not bring up the issue, but Speer thinking it might mean his arest and execution did bring it up. Hitler who had great affection for Speer apparebntly had lost interest in the issue. Speer writes, "During the last months I hd hated him at times, foughtb him, lied to him, and deceived him, but at this moment I was confused and emotionally shaken. In this state, I confessed to him in a low voice, to my own surprise, that I had not carried out any demolitiions but had actually prevebnted them. For a moment his eyes filled with tears. But he did not react. Such questionjs, so important to him only a few weeks before, were now remote." [Speer, p.606.] He was clearly no longer concerned. is thoughts by this time were increasingly focused on his end and suicide.

Goebbels (January-April 1945)

Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels was the only top NAZI to remain with Hitler. As Allied armies closed in on the NAZIs and Allied bombers hammered German cities to rubble, the Führer was no where to be seen. He did not viit bombed out civilians, wonded soldiers, soldiers at the front, or deliver public speeches. The opublic face of NAZIdiom in its death throwxs was left to Goebbels. He continued to ckain that victiory was near and to threaten the ise if secret weapons. Goebbels' speeches and written articles as one disater followed another becane increasingly apocalyptic. He wrote, "Rarely in history has a brave people struggling for its life faced such terrible tests as the German people have in this war. The misery that results for us all, the never ending chain of sorrows, fears, and spiritual torture does not need to be described in detail. We are bearing a heavy fate because we are fighting for a good cause, and are called to bravely endure the battle to achieve greatness."[Goebbels, April 8.] As the Red Army moved closer to Berlin, Goebbels moved his family from their Lanke Castle estate to the relative safety of Schwanenwerder (January 1945). Schwanenwerder is an island in the Havel river wuithin Berlin. The children soon after could hear the rumble of artillery from the East and innocenly asked why rain never followed the 'thunder'. From Schwanenwerder he was close to the Führer Bunker and Hitler. Goebbels as the Red Army approached moved into the Bunker with his famjily. We are not yet sure about the precise date. Space was found in the Vorbunker, the upper level of the Bunker. There in conversatiions with Admiral Hans-Erich Voss he explained tht he would not even consuder either surrender or escape. "I was the Reich Minister of Propaganda and led the fiercest activity against the Soviet Union, for which they would never pardon me.," Voss also explained after the War, "He couldn't escape also because he was Berlin's Defence Commissioner and he considered it would be disgraceful for him to abandon his post." [Vinogradov, p 154.] Borman and others pleaded with Hitler to leave Berlin and establish a center of NAZI resistance in a National Redoubt in Bavaria. Goebbels disagreedc and advuised Hitler to make a last stand in Berlin. Goebbels by remaining in Berlin achieved what he had always wanted, at Hitler's side. This was largely possible because of cultivating Bormann who had become Hitler's de facto deputy. Both Göring and Himmler were descresited by their machinations. Himmler even went so far to contavt the Allies. At the end only Goebbels and Bormann had remained faitful. Goebbels affected the mood in the bunker. The children played in the different rooms. Goebbels as Berlin Gauliter and Defense Commiioner issued this proclamation to the people of Berlin (April 23). "I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the sake of your wives and your children, your mothers and your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife and children are here as well. He, who once capture the city with 200 men, will now use every means to galvanize the defense of the capital. The battle for Berlin must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ..." [Dollinger, p 231.] Unlike many other leading Nazis at this juncture, Goebbels proved to have strong convictions.

Map Table

Hitler fantasized over a map table about armies long since destroyed. The weakened and laegeky imobile military formations still existed were now ignoring his incoherent nd constantly changing orders. Once surrounded by Jodl, Keitel, and other top commanders. Generally the daily military briefings were attended by junior officers acting as liasons.

President Roosevelt Dies (April 12)

Goebbels knew how to raise Hitler's spirits even at the end. Goebbels was now a propagandist with an audience of one. He insisted the hand of providence was at play in Presidebnt Roosevelt's unexpected death (April 12). Goebbels fueled the fantasy that the British and Americans would make a separate peace because of their fear of the Soviets. The euphoria did not last long. It is at this point that Gen. Eisenhower decided not to drive to Berlin. The German capital deep in the agreed on Soviet occupation zone with Hitler' bunker was to be left to the Soviets.

Eva Braun Arrives (April 15)

Eva Braun sat out most of the War safely at the Berghof in the Alps close to the Austrian border. The German people knew nothing about her. Hitler apparently liked her because she was not demanding and was willing to sty out of the splotlight. She did not, however, bring her camera into the bunker. Eva Braun was connected with photoraphy from an early point. Hitler met her in a photographic studio. She shot movie footage at the Berghog. Many of the available film footage is what she shot wih her small camera. Thus she chronicled the social life of the NAZI regime. She not only captured Hitler's private life with her camera, but also visits from the NAZI elte and hangers on. This footage is especially valuable because the tehnology now exists to recreate some of the dialog spoken while Braun shot the footage. Braun of course was shooting with a simple film camera without sound capability. But when the subjects were facing the camera, the dialog can be created, including that of Hitler himself. Against Hitler's expressed wishes, she decided to join him in Berlin. She arrived just as the Soviets were surrounding the city (April 15).

Hitler's Birthday (April 20)

The last photographs of Hitler (newsreel footage) was taken on the occasion of his 56th birthday (April 20). That morning he played with Bolndie (his German Sheperd). He took his cocaine eyedrops. Then he climbed the steps into the Reich Chancellery courtyard. There he received the NAZI salute from representatives of the cutoff Courland Army, the SS-Division "Berlin", and 20 HJ boys who had erarned the Iron Cross. Hitler muttered a few words to them and patted a few of the younger boys on the cheek. He then disappeared back into the bunker leaving the lightly-armed boys to face Red Army tanks. There is a short birthday party ceremony lasting 1 hour. Top NAZIs such as Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler show up for the celebration. They leave immediately afterwards, never to see each other and Hitler again.

Soviet Assault (April 20)

Hitler received an unwelcomed birthday present--the Red Army began the assault on Berlin itself. The German defensive preparations had begun on the outskirts by the newly appointed commander of Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, had taken over from Himmler. He correctly deduced that the main Soviet thrust would come over the Oder River. Hitler had assured Heinrici that the Soviet offensive would be aimed at Budapest. The Soviets encircled the city before beginning the main assault. This began with the battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. The 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov started shelling Berlin's city centre (April 20). Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed from the south through what remained of Army Group Center. The Berlin defences were mainly commanded by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, poorly equipped, and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, which included many SS foreign volunteers. Also defending Berlin were Volkssturm and Hitler Youth boys. The weakness of the defenses was primarily because Hitler hd rejected Heinrici assessment.

Decision to Stay (April 22)

Hitler's advisers pleaded with him to leave the Berlin and continue the War from an Alpine redoubt. This probably was an assessment of their chances to survive the War and escape capture by the Soviets. He refused and decided to stay where he was still in control of the situation. One of the most revealing accountts of Hitler's mindset comes from his personal pilot, Lieutenant-General Hans Baur. Hitler hated flying, but had confidence in Baur. Over time an intimate relationshop developd between the two men. Hitler relaxed in his presence knowing that Baur would respect his confidences. He spoke openly of his plans and frankly about his view of other important NAZIs. Baur was present with Hitler during many critical monents and was with him in the Bunker in case he wanted to fly out of Berlin. He describes their final meeting. "As soon as I entered, Hitler came up to me and took both my hands in his. 'Baur, I want to say good-bye to you.' 'You don't mean ...' I began in dismay. 'Yes,' he answered. 'The time has come. My generals have betrayed me; my soldiers don't want to go on; and I can't go on.' I tried to persuade him that there were still planes available and that I could get him away to Japan or the Argentine, or to one of the Sheiks, who were all very friendly to him on account of his attitude to the Jews ... Hitler declared once again that he would under no circumstamces leave Germany. He could go into the mountains, of course, or he could go to Grand Admiral Dönitz in Flensburg. But what would be the good of that? In a couple of weeks at the outside he would be in the same situation as he was now. 'The War will end with the fall of Berlin,' he declared. 'And I stand or fall with Berlin. A man must summon up courage to face the conequences -- and therefore I am ending it now. I know that tomorrow millions of people will curse me -- that's fate.'" [Baur] Hitler announced to the people in the bunker that he would not leave Berlin, but would stay and fight it out with the Red Army and if necessary die in defence of the Reich capital (April 22) Hitler appears to have made his decision on April 22, although he discussed the issue with Speer on April 23. He decided not to participate in the fighting, claiming that there was a danger that he might be wounded and captured.

Nervous Breakdown (April 22)

Hitler suffers what can only be described as a a nervous breakdown (April 22). He finally admits what he had no doubt thought to himself that that Germany was defeated. What he never admitted was his responsibility for that defeat. He blamed it on the treasn f his genberals anbd the lack of determination on the part of the German people. He sent most of the bunker staff south to Berchtesgaden. He permited the German High Military Command (OKW) including Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl to leave. He appears to have decided at this time to commit suicide. A visit from Goebbels may have caused him to delay for a few days. Magda Goebbels brought all six of their children to live in the Vorbunker. To our knowledge he never expressed concern ver the fate of the children.

Göring Expelled (April 23)

Infighting among the top NAZIs continued even in the final days. Bormann remained the master manipulator. Hitler expels Göring from the Nazi Party after Bormann informed him of a broadcast in which Göring says that as the Führer is cut off in Berlin, he is taking command of the Reich.

Speer Visit (April 24)

Speer visited in the Bunker in an attempt to stop his Nero scorched earth" policy (March19). Hitler refused, but decided to go ahead on his own. Speer's book is self serving, but this was genuine and confirmed by many sources. Speer makes the dangerous step of flying into Berlin, lading on Unter dem Linden in Stork Aircraft. He thought compelled to day goodbye and according to his book, to face up for undercutting the ero Order. He thought he night be shot. Bormann who might have tried to cnvnce Hitler to do just this, instead pleaded with Speer to get Hitler to break out of Berlin. Apparently Hitler's breakdown had changed his mindset. He is a broken man. Speer said good-bye to Hitler, Braun, and the Goebbels. Hitler asked him whther he should leave Berlinas his staff had been pleading with him to do. Speer advised him not to. And Hitler tells him that is what he had decided. [Speer]

Himmler Treason (April 28)

Hitler learned from a newswire) that to save himself was attempting to negotiate a separate peace treaty with the western Allies. Hitler expels Himmler from both the NAZI Party and SS. Himmler must have been the person from which Jitler most expected loyalty. Even with his world collapsing, this must have been a trrible shock.

Eva Braun's Brother-in-Law Tries to Escape (April 28)

Himmler's treason must have decided the fate of his SS FHQ representative, Hermann Fegelein, a truly despicable individual. He was also Eva Braun's brother-in-law. Hitler ordered him shot for trying to escape without permission. When picked up by the SS, he had a pocket full of jewells. SS-Gruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein (1906–45) was a Waffen-SS generally see was aparticularly despicable person. His father ran a riding school and as a result Hans developed riding skills as a boy. Seeing the growth of the NAZI Party, he sebnsed opprtunity. He joined the Party an SA (939 and the SS (1933). After joining the SS he ingeratiated himself with Himmler who assidned him to head he SS equestrian unit. During World War II he served in Waffen SS units involved in anti-partisan activities which at least at first meant shooting Jews. He got in triouble for stealing the booty seixed by Jews in Poland. His most bloody action was shooting Jews in the the Pripyat swamps (Byelorussian SSR) during 1941. Sensing political advantage, he married Gretl Braun, Eva Braun's sister in Salzburg (1944). Hitler, Himmler, and Bormann acted as witnesses at the ceremony. Fegelein continued to have affairs after the marriage. He was a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage and because of the marriage. Himmler posted him to Hitler's headquarters as his personal representative. This would cost him his life. When he disappeard from the Buker, Hitler sent for him. The SS fond him druk with an unidntified woman and piles of jewels. He might have gotten away with this, but this was the day that new came out tht Himmler was negotiating an end to the war. He was, as a result, was summarily shot the next day.

Mussolini (April 28)

Not only were the Soviets moving toward the Reich Chancellery in Brlin, biut the Western Allies had broken through the German lines in Italy. Mussolini spent his final week in power at Milan. Here is where he had risen to power. He disbanded his government offices (April 20). The Allies entered Bologna (April 21). Fascist Party chief Arpinati was killed. Nussolini's staff and friends attempted to persuade him to flee to Spain while it was still possible. Aplane could have reacged Spain, but as far as we know, no effort was made to clear this wih Franco who would not hve been excited about the idea. Franco at the time was worried about what the Allies might do with pain after the NAZIs surrendered. Mussolini was, gowever adament about not leavng Italy. Mussolini submitted an absurd proposal to the Socialist part of the Liberation Committee, that was immediately rejected. Cardinal Schuster met with him, made contact but nothing was decided (April 24). Mussolini was becoming ncreaingly apethetic, mirroring what was happening with Hitler in the Berlin Bunker. He told the Cardinal, "I have no illusions". A meeting took place with the Liberation Committee at the Archbishop's palace, where they informed him of the military situation and impending surrender of the German army in Italy. He replied, "They have always treated us like slaves, and now they betray us". Certainly an amazing comment from the man who forged the Axis alliance with Hitler and married Italy's fate with that of Germany. Mussolini left Milan in a convoy headed north for the lakes near Como (April 25). Leaving Milan in a convoy meant that flight by air was no longer possible. The only real option by road was Switzeland and no assurance the Swiss would permit him entry. The specific desitnation was as Valtelline. The column consisted of some civilian cars and German armored cars, followed by his mistriss, Clara Petacci, and her family. There were no Italian troops or Fascist militia, only German soldiers providing security. At Como, they discussed their options over supper. Mussolini a last letter to his wife, Rachele. He advised her to flee to Switzerland. He signed: 'Your Benito, Como, 27th April, 1945 Year XIII of the Fascist Era". The column left Como and stopped at Menaggio (April 27). A column of Fascists militia led by Pavolini had also left Milan to join up with Mussolini (April 26). It is at this time that they learn of a Liberation Committee degree advocating the death peanalty to the Fascists responsible for the 1922 'insurrection' and individuals guilty of crimes against the state since September 8, 1943. his was when theGermans seized control of Italy with the assistace of Italian Fascists. Pavolini went on ahead of his Militia force and joined up with his leader (April 27). He was accompanied by Angela Curti, one of Mussolini's former mistrsses. As he arrived a German anti-aircraft unit, commanded by Lt. Fallmeyer, also reached Menaggio headed for Tyrol to the north. At this stage of the War, the Germans were intent on one thing, getting back to Germany alive. No one wants to be the last man killd in a war, especially a lost war. They had no real interest in protecting Mussolini and other Italian Fascist allies. Mussolini seems to have had more confidence in the Germans than Pavolini's Militia force. He decided as he had done in the past to to count on the Germans for refuge and head north with them. His goal seems to have been to escape capture, not to abandon Italy. Of course there was not much of Italy left for him as they were gtting near the Swiss and German border. Mussolini and the Germans encountered a partisan check point at Masso (7:00 AM). The partisans did not fire, but stopped the column. Lt. Fallmeyer moved forward to negotiate with the partisan commander, Count Pierluigi Bellini delle Stelle ('Pedro') of the 52nd Garibaldi Brigade. The partisans offered to allow the Germans to pass but not the Italians in the column. They had no idea at the time that Mussolini was one of the Italians. Fallmeyer was not prepared to have a fire fight. He had Mussolini put on a German Army greatcoat and helmet and hide in the back of a truck. The rest of the Italians were turned over to the partisans. The German column was finally allowed to pass (3:00 PM). Mussolini was now alone with the Germans. A partisan group stopped the German column again at Dongo and searched. This time they found Mussolini. It is not known if they recognized him as he was wearing a general's riding pants with a red stripe or they had been advised that he was coming. Fallmeyer did not offer to protect Mussolini as long as his men were allowed to pass unmolestd. The same partisan band later captured Petacci and her brother, Marcello. Petacci's identity wasn't immediately understood. The partisan band informned the Liberation Committee that they had Mussolini. The Committee ordered the partisan unit give him and the other prisoners 'fair'. Thee were strict orders not to shoot them even if they attempted an escape. This was no doubt because shootings by both the Germans and Fascists and now the partisans justifed shootings by imagined escape attempts Count Bellini attempted to transport his prisoners back to the Como area (1:30 AM, April 28). They wrapped Mussolini in bandages to disguise him as a wounded partisan. Upon learming of the the advance of the American 1st Armored Division and reports of gun fire, they decided to return along their route to Mezzegra. They did not want to turn Mussolini over to the Americans. Mussolini and Petacci spent their last night together in a farmhouse. The proceedings of the Liberation Committee at this time are not known. It is known that Togliatti, the secretary of the Communist Party and the Vice-Premier of Italy ordered Mussolini to be shot. Colonel Valerio was assigned this task to be carried out in the name of the National Liberation Committee. When Count Bellini and the partisans with their prioners reache Dongo there was a confrontation with the Communist leader (2:00 PM April 28). Colonel Valerio damanded to see the list of Fascist prisoners. He then announced that he had orders to execute Mussolini. He immediately selected 15 names from the list for execution. Colonel Valerio broke into the room where Mussolini and Petacci were resting. He told them that he had come to rescue them, a ruse to make it easier to handle them. They then hurried to an awaiting car. hey drove about a mile down the road and stopped near a gate to the Villa Belmonte. He ordered Mussolini and Petacci out of the car and to stand next to the stone wall. It is at this point they realized that they were going to be summarily shot. They were summarily executed with automatic weapons. Colonel Valerio placed a guard over the bodies. Valerio returned to Dongo, where he assembled the othger 15 Fascist prisoners he had selected for execution. They were forced into the square and given 3 minutes for a priest to provide them fnal ministrations. They were thgen shot by a quickly assembled partisan firing squad. Marcello Petacci tried to escape by jumping into Lake Como, but was also shot. The partisans apparently thought that Marcello was Mussolini's son Vittorio. The following day, the bodies were brought to the Piazzale Loreto in Milan. There six of the bodies were strung up by their feet from a girder of an Esso gas station--a final indignity. The six were Benito Mussolini, Clara Petacci, Francesco Barracu, Alessandro Pavolini, Fernando Mezzasomma, Paolo Zerbino. There was also a pile of bodies lying under them. Archille Starace who had just been captured and summarily executed was thrown on the pile. The crowd vented their anger on Musolni and his accomlises and began abusing the bodies. When the mob became uncntrobable, the police intervened and brought out hoses. Allied authorities who had liberated Milan ordered the bodies removed for burial.

Marriage (April 29)

Hitler finally decides to marry his long-time mistress Eva Braun. The decision was made the day before the actual marriage (April 28). That morning Braun confided with Hitler's secretary, Frau Traudl Junge wjho later wrote, "That day Eva Braun said something strange to me: she said, you will be shedding tears for me before today is over ... what she actually meant was her marriage to Hitler." It was something Braun had wanted for years, but had not pressed him on. She was determinef to share his fate. We are not privy to discussions betwen them, but after she arrived in the bunker 2 weeks earlier they mut have reached agreement n this. Braun is often depicted as a 'dumb blonde'anbd it is true that she was not a dep thinker and Hitler never discussed serious issues with her. It is not known how nmch she knew about what Hitler was doing or if she even cared. Shut away in the Berghof she wilded away the hours reading romance novels and watching films. Hitler no longer visited by 1945. She was determined, however, to ow be with him forever. Hitler agreed. Shortly before the suicide, Hitler said of Eva: "Miss Braun is, besides my dog Blondi, the only one I can absolutely count on ..." An amazing sttement given the millions of Germans who sacrificed their lives and futures for him, includng the devoted Hitler Youth still fighting Soviet tanks in the sreets above for him. A minor official of the Propaganda Ministry, Walther Wagner, was summoned. Wagner married them sjortly after midnight (April 29). This was Hitler's eward to Braun for her loyalty to the end. At the tim Red army troops were asaulting the Reichstag and Chancellery. Their marriage document survived. It can be seen that Eva began to sign her name 'Eva Braun,' but stopped, crossed out the 'B' and wrote 'Eva Hitler, born Braun.' Goebbels and Bormann were present and signed as witnesses. .

Last Will and Testimony (April 29)

In the morning Hitler retired to a room with his secretary, Traudl Junge, and without any previous preparation, dictated his last will and a Political Testament. He reportedly showed no regret or remorse for the millions of lives he had destroyed and the destruction he had wrought throughout Europe and most pointedly Germany itself. In the will, he stated specifically who was to be the executor of his will, what he wanted done with his body, and who was to receive his possessions He included the expullsion of Göring and Himmler from the Party for disloyalty. And he designated Admiral Karl Dönitz as his replacement. (Dönitz was not informed until the next day after Hitler was dead.)

Suicide (April 30)

The next day with the Soviet soldiers in the nearby Reichstag, Hitler finlly begins to end it all (April 30). In the afternoon, Hitler and Eva Braun hold a farewell ceremony. Then he begins the suiside process. First he tested the cyninide pills on his dog Blondie. We know about this because of one of Hitler's cloest minders. "Tornow held Blondi's nose up, and Haase thrust a pair of tongs inside the mouth to drop a small object ibside. There wasa cracking soundand Blondi quickly collapsed. Hitler made a few steps forward and observed for a few seconds, Then he turned away silently and returned to his rooms. There was a smell of bitter almonds .... Now I could be sure. If Hitler had decided to kill his beloved dog, then it would not be long until he followed her into death." [Misch] There is some disagreement as to what followed next. Braun took cyninide and Hitler shot himself. Martin Borman and the remaining NAZIs gave a farewell salute as the bodies were burned. [Fest] That pitiful scene was a far cry from what Hitler wanted. He had told his associates, "We may go down, but we will take the world down with us." Their bodies are uncerimounusly burned outside in the Reich Chancellery garden. Because of the shortage of gassoline, the bodies are only prtially destroyed.

Goebbels Suicide (May 1)

Goebbels with his wife remained with Hitler in the Führer Bunker until the end. He was the only top-NAZI to do so. Once Hitler committed suicide, he and his wife killed their six children. Martina Goebels reportedly played solitare after killing the children. The two then committed suiside themselves (May 1, 1945).


Baur, Hans. I was Hitler's Pilot: The Memoirs of Hans Baur 2013), 240p.

Dollinger, Hans. The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan

Fest, Joachim. Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Day of the Third Reich (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2004).

Goebbels, Josef. "Fighters for the Eternal Reich," Das Reich (April 8, 1945).

Misch, Rochus. Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoir of Hitler's Bodtguard, 272p. Rochus was seriously wounded in the Polish campaign. He was invited to serve on Hitler's SS bodyguard. He gardually became more than a bodyguard, serving as courier, orderly, and chief of communications. He manned the bunker switchboard even after Hitler killed himself. He was catured by the Soviets and spent 9 years in Soviet camps.

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich (Avon, New York, 1970), 734p.

Vinogradov, V. K. Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB (Chaucer Press, 2005). Goebbels had assumed the title Reichs Defence Commissioner for the Greater Berlin Gau (November 1942). He also made himself City President of Berlin in April 1943.


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Created: 7:34 AM 10/8/2008
Last updated: 6:31 PM 8/16/2016