“Berlin was no longer defensible. The Russians had already occupied almost all of the city. It was now merely a question of defense of the Chancellery. It too, was doomed, as Hitler and Borman learned at the situation conference at noon on April 30, the last that was ever to take place. The Russians had reached the eastern end of the Tiergarten and broken into Potsdamerplatz. They were just a block away. The hour for Adolf Hitler to carry out his resolve had come.”
This was how William L. Shirer summed up the bleak situation faced by Adolf Hitler early on the afternoon of today’s date, April 30, in 1945 – when he would finally face facts and kill himself.
Der Fuehrer “Celebrates” His Birthday, Fat Hermann, and Bloody Heinrich Make Themselves Scarce
It had been just a short ten days since his birthday – April 20 Eva Braun, Hiler’s mistress (to the apparently very limited extent to which the mighty Fuehrer HAD such things), had arrived just a short time before, and the “party” was attended by two of the other Nazi bigwigs, Hermann Goering, the Reichs Marshall, and Hitler’s would-be heir apparent, as well as Heinrich Himmler, the former (unsuccessful) chicken farmer, and Head of the Gestapo. These men made their birthday greetings to their Fuehrer, and then promptly booked. They would never see him again. In fact, when they misstepped and appeared to grab for power themselves, Martin Bormann was there to whisper his usual amount of poison into the Fuehrer’s ear, and get those two expelled from Hitler’s good graces, to the very limited extent that such a thing made any difference any more. Also present in the stifling and strange atmosphere of Hitler’s underground Bunker were Dr. Joseph Goebbels, his wife and their children, and a handful of others who made up Hitler’s last sad entourage. One of those had been his secretary, Traudl Junge (below), who described the odd affair that had been Hitler’s 52nd birthday “party”:
“…. There came the congratulations, and everybody shook his hand, and wished him the best. It was all very depressed; it was not a happy birthday. And when the official part was over, Hitler retired at once, but Eva Braun invited some of the people to go upstairs in her little living room to make a birthday party. And (some)one found a record, with hit songs and dance music, and then we sat around the table, and tried to forget our miserable situation, and there was laughing and everyone giggled… it was a very artificial sort of gayness.”
Hitler and Eva Braun Commit Suicide
But eventually, the end had to come. Ten days later, ten days filled with Hitlerian histrionics about traitors, and Jewish conspiracies, Generals who had allegedly stabbed him in the back, as well as plans for victories with armies that no longer existed, the mighty leader of the Thousand Year Reich which had in fact lasted twelve years called it quits. As a sop to Eva Braun (below) for standing by him all of these
years (wherein she had remained placidly, and compliantly in the shadows), Hitler married her and then promptly substituted suicide for a wedding night. Traudl Junge recalled the moment when Hitler pulled the trigger:
“Suddenly there was a bang…there was a shot, and it was obviously within the Bunker, because the noises of the outside we (recognized). And the little boy of Goebbels noticed that this was another sound. And he said ‘Oh! That was a bulls eye!’ And I thought ‘Yes, you are right. That was really a bulls eye.’ “
This account is flatly contradicted by the testimony given years later by Otto Guensche, (below) an SS officer who by this time was Hitler’s personal adjutant. According to Guensche, no shot was heard by anyone:
“There were as I now recall at least six people almost as close to that door (to the private room where Hitler and his Frau went to kill themselves) as I was…. None of us heard a shot. I believe that this was of the sealed double doors. Both of these doors were fireproof, gasproof, hence soundproof. (Hitler had ordered them to wait ten minutes, then enter.) This is exactly what we did. I kept glancing at my watch. I thought it must have stopped; they were the longest ten minutes in my life.”
Whatever sound that was heard or not, Heinz Linge, Hitler’s Valet then stepped forward with Hitler’s State Secretary, the sinister Martin Bormann (below) to look into the room:
“I went into Hitler’s workroom with Borman, and this picture presented itself to us: Hitler was sitting on the left of the sofa, with his face bent slightly forward, and hanging down to the right. With the 7.65 (pistol) he had shot himself in the right temple. The blood had run down onto the carpet and from this pool of blood, a splash had gotten onto the sofa. Eva Braun was sitting on his right. (She) had drawn both of her legs up onto the sofa and was sitting there with tramped lips so that it immediately became clear to us that she had taken cyanide. I took Hitler by his neck…. behind me were two other officers from his bodyguard. So we took Hitler’s body, and proceeded with it into the park. In the park, we laid the bodies together, next to each other, and poured the available petrol over them. In the Reich Chancellery Park, there was fire all around. A draft had got up so that we could not set the corpses alight with an ordinary match. So I twisted a taper out of some paper from a notebook and Borman, who meanwhile had also come upstairs with others like Dr. Goebbels , Bergdorff and some officers lit the taper, and I threw the taper onto the bodies, and in an instant the corpses were set alight.”
READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any “Today in History” posting, I would love to hear from you!! You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I’m writing (or not!)!!
“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1960
“The World at War” Volume 6, “Nemesis: Germany Feb. – May, 1945” by Stuart Hood, Prod. & Dir. by Martin Smith,
Thames Productions, 1976.
“The Berlin Bunker” by James P. O’Donnell, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1966.