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 buiold during thec War as the Allied expanded the strategic bombing campaign (1943). The 1943 construction wasccarried out by the Hochtief company. It was part of an extensive program of subterranean construction in Berlin began earlier in the War (1940).[5] As it developed, there were some 30 small rooms on two levels. Tghe complex was protected by by about four metres (13 ft) of steel-reinforced concrete. 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, After Hitler moved in, sumptous furniture taken from the Chancellery were moved in along with framed oil paintings. Hitler chose a portrait of one of his heroes, Frederick the Great, to decorate his study.

Last Führer Headquarters (January 1945)

It 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).

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

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 military formations still existed were now ignoring his 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, apropagandist with an audience of one. He insisted the hand of providence was a play in Presidebnt Roosevelt's death (April 12). Goebbels fueled the fantasy that the British and Americans wold make a separate peace.

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 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 lightly-armed boys to face Red Army tanks.

Decision to Stay (April 22)

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. One of the most revealing accountts of Hitler's mindset comes from his personal pilot, Lieutenant-General Hans Baur. Hitler hated flying, but hd confidence with Baur. Over time an intimate relatinshop developd between the two men. Hitler relaxed in his presence knowing that Baur ould respect his confidences. He poke 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 meam ...' I began in dismay. 'Yes,' he answered. The time has come. Ny generals have betrayed me; ny 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 Argentinem or to one 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 Reicj 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 to participate in the fighting, clining that there was a danger that he might be wounded and captured.

Eva Braun' Brother-in-law Executed (April 28)

Hitler ordered Eva Braun's brother 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 ridibng school and as aesult 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, bt this was the day that new came out tht Himmler was negotiating an end to the war. He was, as a result, smmarily shot.

Mussolini (April 28)

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.

Marriage (April 29)

Hitler finally married his long-time mistress Eva Braun (April 29). Eva Braun was connected with photoraphy from an early point. Hitler met her in a phptographic studio. She shot movie footage at Burchesarten. Thus she chronicled the social life of the Nazi regime. She not only captured Hitler's private life with her cine-camera, but visis grom the NZI elte and hangers on. This footahe is esoecially valuable because the tehnology now exiss to recreate some of the dilog spoken while Braunshot the footage. Hitler like her because she was not demanding and was willing to sty out of the splotlife. She did not, howeverm, bing her cmera into the bunker.

Last Will and Testimony (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.)

Suicide (April 30)

The next day with the Soviet soldiers in the nearby Reichstag, Hitler set about commiting suicide (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."

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).

Sources

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).

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: 6:54 AM 7/31/2013