Hitler recognized that the end of what he envisioned as his lone fight against bolshevism was approaching, and there are clues in the documents as to how long he believed he could postpone it : for example, he had ordered the General Staff to provide the Berlin area with logistics sufficient for three divisions to hold out for twenty days, should the city be surrounded. If open conflict had not broken out between Stalin and the Americans by then, Hitler realized, his gamble had failed ; it would be his Eclipse, to use the code name assigned by his victorious enemies to the postwar carve-up of the Reich. By April 15, 1945, the document outlining this plancaptured from the British in the westhad been fully translated and was in the hands of Hitler, Himmler, and the military authorities ; its appended maps revealed that Berlin was to be an enclave far inside the Russian occupation zone, divided like Germany itself into British, American, and Russian zones.
What encouraged Hitler was the fact that the American spearheads, in reaching the Elbe, had already encroached on Stalins zone, while the Russians had duly halted at the demarcation line on reaching Saint-Polten in Austria late on April 15. A clash seemed inevitable, and Hitlers General Staff toadied to this desperate belief. Colonel Gerhard Wessel, the new chief of Foreign Armies East, reported with emphasis on the fifteenth(1) that Russian officers were apprehensive that the Americans were preparing an attack (We must drench the Americans accidentally with our artillery fire to let them taste the lash of the Red Army); Wessel also disclosed that the British too were adopting a dangerous new propaganda line to subvert German security forces in Slovenia. Britain is shortly going to start fighting the Soviet Union herself, and with better prospects than the Reich ; Britain has already begun raising Russian units for this purpose. Over and over during the next two weeks Hitler restated the belief that sustained him : Perhaps the othersmeaning Britain and the United Statescan be convinced, after all, that there is only one man capable of halting the Bolshevik colossus, and that is me. This was the real point of fighting an otherwise hopeless battle for Berlin.
Since Roosevelts death, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop had secretly circulated to German diplomatic channels abroad a fourteen-page memorandum designed for Allied consumptiona forbidding and not wholly inaccurate prophecy of Stalins postwar position as the cruel and authoritarian ruler of both a Soviet Union of proven biological strength and of three hundred million non-Soviet eastern Europeans too. German technicians and factories captured by Stalin were already working to expand Stalins power ; could England, asked the memorandum, afford to abet this menace to her traditional routes to the Middle East and India, particularly once the United States had withdrawn her forces from western Europe as one day she must ?
So far the British had been blinded by their hatred, but the Americans suddenly proved more amenable. On the night of April 17, SS General FegeleinHimmlers representativeadroitly informed Hitler that the secret talks between SS General Wolff and Allen Dulles in Switzerland had resulted in principle on terms for an armistice on the Italian front. The Americans were still talking of unconditional surrender, but that was a minor problem if thereby the enemy alliance could be torn asunder. At 3 A.M. the F¸hrer sent for Wolff and congratulated him. I hear that you and your skill have managed to establish the first official contacts to top Americans. He asked Wolff not to leave Berlin until the next evening, to give him time to think it over. I am grateful that youve succeeded in opening the first doorway to the West and America. Of course, the terms are very badthere can be no talk of unconditional surrender, obviously. But by 5 P.M. his mood had hardened again. Strolling with Wolff, Kaltenbrunner, and Fegelein in the Chancellery garden, Hitler enlarged on his own hopeful theories. I want the front to hold for eight more weeks. I am waiting for East and West to fall out. We are going to hold the Italian fortress at all costs, and Berlin too. This was the message Hitler gave Wolff to pass on to General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, Kesselrings colorless successor as Commander in Chief in Italy.
Hitler took harsh action against every vestige of defeatism. After consultation with Bormann, he ordered the arrest of his handsome former staff surgeon, Dr. Brandt, for sending his wife and family to Bad Liebenstein, where they would fall into American hands ; on April 18, Brandt was summarily condemned to death for the offense.(2) Similar sentences would follow.
But entire armies could not be court-martialed for losing heart. Zisterdorf fell to the Russians. On the seventeenth Gauleiter August Eigruber cabled from Linz that the petroleum fields are in jeopardy; by the next day General Hans Kreysings Eighth Army had already abandoned them precipitately, after prematurely destroying the installations. Himmler reported to Hitler that in Austria the armys tendency was to retreat everywhere even though Ivan is obviously both wary and weary of fighting.
This was Hitlers second motive for making a last stand in Berlin : to set an example to his generals and thereby restore his personal authority over them. Great slaughter had been inflicted on the Russians, but by early April 18 alarming fissures were appearing in the defenses. On the sixteenth Busses Ninth Army had destroyed 211 tanksand 106 more the next dayon the Oder front ; while General Fritz Grasers adjacent Fourth Panzer Army had knocked out 93 and 140 tanks on the Neisse front. Busses front was still intact, though mauled and buckled by the sheer weight of Zhukovs onslaught ; at Wriezen in particular a deep wedge had been hammered into the main German line. But southeast of Berlin Marshal Konevs army group had thrown two bridgeheads across the Neisse on the very first dayin fact just where Hitler had foreseen the Russian Schwerpunkt, though angled differently. Russian tanks were already approaching Cottbus and the Spree River at Spremberg : Konevs objective, like Zhukovs, was obviously Berlin and not Prague. This gave Hitler less time than he had thought.
Counterattacks by Heinrici and Sch–rner failed to restore the old battle line. On April 17, Hitler ordered the autobahn bridges blown up and every available aircraft, including the Messerschmitt jets, thrown in to stop the enemy from reaching Cottbus. At his midday conference he proclaimed : The Russians are in for the bloodiest defeat imaginable before they reach Berlin ! But the failure of the counterattacks unsettled him. He sat brooding far into the night with Eva Braun and his secretaries, trying to convince them and himself that the wedge at Wriezen was just the natural luck of the attacker, but that such luck would not hold for long. Now he had to agree to pull troops out of the German bridgehead east of Frankfurt-on-Oder to strengthen the fortresss flanks. He began to blame General Heinrici for the sudden plight of the Oder frontcalling him a plodding, irresolute pedant lacking the necessary enthusiasm for the job.
During the eighteenth a furious battle was fought for Seelow, the high plateau commanding the Russian assault area. By evening it was firmly in Zhukovs hands, and Hitler learned that only the SS Nederland Divisiona volunteer unit of Dutch mercenarieshad been thrown into a counterattack. Perhaps this was the cause of his petulant outburst to General Karl Hilpert, the new commander of the Kurland army group, that day : If the German nation loses this war, that will prove it was unworthy of me. A further eruption came when he learned that Goebbels had sent five battalions of wholly unsuitable Volkssturm troops to the Oder frontalthough Hitler had insisted that such troops were only to be used as a last resort in defense of their own towns and villages. There were enough able-bodied airmen and sailors who could have been sentif only they had had the guns and ammunition.
From now until the end, Hitler slept only fitfully and irregularly. The long days were punctuated by an unending series of ill tidings, each one bringing the end much closer than its predecessor. Restless and pallid, Hitler rambled around the shelter, took brief strolls upstairs, then sat in the telephone exchange or machine roomwhere he had never set foot beforeor visited his dogs in their makeshift kennels behind the lavatories ; he took to sitting in the passageway with one of the puppies on his lap, silently staring at the officers passing in and out of the shelter.
He had news that separatist movements were stirring in W¸rttemberg, Bavaria, and Austria. Late on April 19, Saur reported back to Hitler from the south, where he had conferred two days earlier with Gauleiter Hofer and SS General Kammler on the possibility of establishing an Alpine Redoubt. In one of the Chancellerys few remaining rooms, Saur laid the unpalatable news squarely on the line : there was not enough time left to start large-scale arms production in the Alps ; the most they could count on would be small factories for re-machining captured ammunition to fit German weapons. It was an uninspiring end to the armaments empire Speer had created. As Hitler accompanied Saur to the exit, he talked nostalgically of Speers deceased predecessor. Who knowsif Todt hadnt been killed, the war might have gone very differently ! He gave the stocky arms expert his hand, and he prophesied : Within the next twenty-four hours we shall have won or lost the war.
This echoed the latest dispatch of Heinricis army group : at M¸ncheberg, due east of Berlin, and at Wriezen, farther north, the Russians had finally broken through into open country between 5 and 6 P.M. Immense tank forces were pouring through the two breaches ; at M¸ncheberg alone tank-killer squads and aircraft destroyed 60 tanks during the next few hours, while the Ninth Armys total that day was 226 Russian tanks knocked out. The battle, Heinricis army group reported that evening, is about to be decided. A stabbing headache assailed Hitler as this news reached his bunker. He weakly called for a servant to fetch Dr. Morell, and at his behest the physician crudely drained a quantity of blood from Hitlers right arm until it blocked the hypodermic needle and Morell had to force a somewhat larger needle into the veins. The servant blanched as the blood ran into a beaker, but wisecracked : Mein F¸hrer, all we need do now is mix the blood with some fat and we could put it on sale as F¸hrer blood sausage ! Hitler repeated the unpleasant witticism to Eva Braun and the secretaries over tea that evening.
Midnight would bring his fifty-sixth birthday. Bormann wanly observed in his diary that it was not exactly a birthday situation. Hitler had asked his staff to refrain from ceremony, but Eva Braun cajoled him into stepping into the anteroom and shaking hands with the adjutants who had gathered there. Saur had brought a perfect scale-model of a 350-millimeter mortar for Hitlers collection. Hitler spoke for a while with Goebbels and Ley about his determination to defend the Alpine Redoubt and Bohemia-Moravia in the south, and Norway in the north ; then he retired to drink tea with Eva in his low-ceilinged drawing room-cum-study.
All night after that he lay awake, until the knocking of Heinz Linge, his valet, told him it was morning. General Burgdorf, the chief Wehrmacht adjutant, was outside the door. He shouted that during the night the Russians had broken through Sch–rners army group on both sides of Spremberg ; the Fourth Panzer Army was trying to repair the breaches by a counterattack. Hitler merely said, Linge, I havent slept yet. Wake me an hour later than usual, at 2 P.M.
When he awoke Berlin was under heavy air attacka birthday bombardment that continued all day. His eyes were stinging, but the pain subsided after Linge administered cocaine eyedrops.(3) Morell gave him a glucose injection, then Hitler fondled a puppy for a while before lunching with Eva and the two duty-secretaries, Johanna Wolf and Christa Schroeder. There was no conversation. After lunch they picked their way along the duckboards into the Voss Bunker, to steal another look at the model of Linz ; he identified to them the house where he had spent his youth.
Wrapped in a gray coat with its collar turned up, he climbed the spiral staircase to the Chancellery garden followed by Goebbels. The Berlin air was thick with the dust and smoke from a hundred fires. A short line of fresh-faced Hitler Youths awaited decoration for bravery against enemy tanks on the Oder front. The once well-tended lawns and paths were now pocked with holes and craters and strewn with branches and empty canisters. The perimeter wall was punctuated by dugouts and piles of bazookas at the ready. Near the music room a small parade of troops from the Kurland battlefield awaited inspection. Himmler saluted, and Hitlerstooping and shufflingpassed along the line. They crowded around in a semicircle. He apologized for not being able to speak very loudly, but he did promise that victory would be theirs and that they could tell their children that they had been there when it was finally won.
At about 4 P.M. that afternoon, April 20, 1945, he retraced his steps into the shelter, having seen the sky for the last time.
Before the main war conference began, he allowed his principal ministers in singly to proffer formal birthday greetings. Ribbentrop stayed about ten minutes, the othersG–ring, D–nitz, Keitel, and Jodlrather less. Keitel dropped a broad hint that it was time for Hitler to leave Berlin, but Hitler interrupted : Keitel, I know what I wantI am going to fight in front of Berlin, fight in Berlin, and fight behind Berlin ! With this Clemenceau-like utterance he extended his trembling hand to the field marshal and sent for the next well-wisher.
The main conference began immediately. Both north and south of Berlin the Russians had indeed decided the battle, and armored spearheads were dashing westward. Unless Sch–rners counterattack succeeded, the last main road out of Berlin to the south would be cut off in a matter of hours. G–ring echoed Keitels feeling that it was time for a far-reaching military decision on the future of Berlin. General Koller pointed out that the truckloads of OKW equipment and documents would have to leave Berlin for the south immediatelycertainly there was neither the fuel nor the fighter escort for the OKW to evacuate Berlin by air. Hitler authorized an immediate splitting of the command : D–nitz and part of the OKW staff were to leave for northern Germany ; another part were to leave at once for the south. He gave the impression that he would in due course follow. Bormann left the room at once to organize sufficient armored transport and omnibuses for the transfer. G–ringwhose own truckloads of property were already at Karinhall waiting for the word to goinquired, Mein F¸hrer, do you have any objection to my leaving for Berchtesgaden now ? Hitler was dumbfounded that G–ring could so casually desert him but did not betray his disappointment ; he frigidly granted G–rings plea.
At 6 P.M. Spremberg fell to the Russians ; they were now only a few miles from the vital autobahn from Berlin to the south. At 9:30 P.M., as a new air raid started, Hitler sent for the two older secretaries with whom he had lunched. Christa Schroeder wrote a few days after :
Pale, tired, and listless, he met us in his tiny shelter study where we had eaten our meals or had tea with him of late. He said that the situation had changed for the worse over the last four days. I find myself compelled to split up my staff, and as you are the more senior you go first. A car is leaving for the south in one hour. You can each take two suitcases, Martin Bormann will tell you the rest. I asked to stay in Berlin, so that my younger colleague could go as her mother lived in Munich. He replied, No, Im going to start a resistance movement and Ill need you two for that. You mean the most to me. If worse comes to worst, the younger ones will always get throughFrau Christian at any rateand if one of the young ones doesnt make it, thats just Fate. He put out his hand to stop any further argument. He noticed how downcast we were, and tried to console us. Well see you soon, Im coming down myself in a few days time ! Absolutely numbed, my colleague and I left his room, to pack the two suitcases permitted us in the Voss Bunker where we four secretaries had shared a bedroom for some time. The hall outside was packed with pedestrians who had taken refuge from the air raid outside. In the midst of our packing the phone rang. I answered itit was the Chief. In a toneless voice he said, Girls, were cut offwe were going to drive down through Bohemiayour car wont get through there now. Youll have to fly at dawn. But soon after he phoned again. Girls, youll have to hurry. The planes leaving as soon as the all clear sounds. His voice sounded melancholy and dull and he stopped in mid-sentence. I said something, but although he still had not hung up, he made no reply.
The Russians had now reached Baruth just ten miles south of OKW and OKH headquarters at Zossen, south of Berlin, and still more tanks were pouring through the big gap between the Fourth Panzer and Ninth armies. Sch–rners counterattack had begun, but when Hitler called on Heinrici to attack, in order to close this gap, the army group commander demurred, demanding permission to pull back the Ninth Armys right flank instead, as it seemed in danger of encirclement. But Heinrici could give Hitler no assurances that this would not cost the flank corps its entire artillery, so Hitlerafter hours of deliberationordered the line held where it was. Heinrici dramatically telephoned the General Staff half an hour after midnight to protest that Hitlers order was unrealizable and hopeless. I ought to declare : Mein F¸hrer, as the order is against your interests I request you to relieve me of my command ... then I can go into battle as an ordinary Volkssturm man with a gun in my hand ! General Krebs drily pointed out : The F¸hrer expects you to make a supreme effort to plug the gaps as far east as possible, using everything you can scrape together, regardless of Berlins later defense. Again Hitler ordered every available jet to attack the Russians south of Berlin.
In fact General Heinrici had already decided to override Hitlers order to stand fast. The Ninth Army, he felt, should withdraw westward while it still could. Thus the breach which must eventually seal Berlins fateand Hitlers too if he stayed for the capitals defensewas further widened. But at the time Hitler believed that his orders were being obeyed. That night he resolved not to leave Berlin.
Cramped with his two remaining secretaries in his study he had explained, Id feel like some Tibetan lama, turning a useless, empty prayer wheel. I must force the decision here in Berlin or go down fighting. Hardly anybody arrived for the night conferencemost of his staff, like his secretaries, were packing feverishly. Krebs operations officer brought the grim news that the breach in the Fourth Panzer Army had widened still farther. Hitler calmly blamed this on that armys betrayal. The general challenged him. Mein F¸hrer, you often talk of your betrayal by your commanders and troops. Do you really believe so much has been betrayed ? Hitler cast him a pitying look. All our defeats in the east are solely the result of treacheryand he spoke with deep conviction. At 1 A.M., Hitler dismissed the two stenographers, Kurt Peschel and Hans Jonuschat, so that they too could catch that nights plane south. As the general also departed, Ambassador Walther Hewel stuck his head around the door. Mein F¸hrer, do you have any orders for me yet ? Hitler shook his head. Ribbentrops representative exclaimed, Mein F¸hrer, the zero hour is about to strike ! If you still plan to achieve anything by political means, its high time now ! Hitler replied with an exhausted air, Politics ? Im through with politics. It sickens me. When Im dead youll have more than enough politics to contend with.
Outside, the all clear was just sounding. Puttkamerhis naval adjutant since 1935was leaving, evacuating too General Schmundts dangerous diaries in a suitcase ; Saur joined him on the plane, with orders to organize in the Alps what arms production he could. About eighty other staff members and their families flew south that night. But in the early hours Martin Bormann cabled to the Berghof : Wolf [i.e., Hitler] is staying here, because if anybody can master the situation here, it is only he.
The next morning, April 21, 1945, there was a hammering on Hitlers bedroom door. Linge shouted that Russian artillery had begun pouring shells into the heart of Berlin. Hitler shaved rapidlyI cant stand anybody else hovering near my throat with an open razor, he used to sayand stepped into his study. General Burgdorf announced that the Russians had evidently brought up a heavy battery by rail across the Oder. Hitler telephoned orders to the OKL to identify and attack the battery at once ; General Koller assured him : The Russians have no railway bridges across the Oder. Perhaps they have captured and turned around one of our heavy batteries. Soon after, Koller came on the phone again ; the offending Russian battery had been spotted from the observation post atop the towering antiaircraft bunker at the zoo. It was just eight miles awayat Marzahn.
Throughout the day, as the rain of shells on Berlin continued, a growing sense of isolation gripped Hitlers bunker. Koller was unable to brief Hitler on the Luftwaffe operations south of the city because of communications failures. Nothing had been heard from General Helmuth Weidlings Fifty-sixth Panzer Corps, due east of the city, since 8 P.M. the previous evening. According to one incredible report, Weidling himself had fled with his staff to the Olympic village west of Berlin ; his arrest was ordered. The jets had been prevented by enemy fighter patrols from operating from Prague airfields against the Russian spearheads south of Berlin. Hitler angrily phoned Koller. Then the jets are quite useless, the Luftwaffe is quite superfluous ! Infuriated by a Saar industrialists letter with further disclosures about the Luftwaffe, Hitler again angrily called up Koller. The entire Luftwaffe command ought to be strung up ! and he slammed the phone down. Heinriciordered to report in person to the shelter that dayasked to be excused as he was completely overburdened. He successfully avoided having to look his F¸hrer in the eye ever again.
During the afternoon Hitler began planning a last attempt at plugging the widening breach torn in Heinricis front between Eberswalde and Werneuchen, northeast of Berlin. An ad hoc battle group under the bullet-headed SS General Felix Steiner mustlike a sliding doorpush south during the night from Eberswalde to Werneuchen ; if Steiner succeeded, Zhukovs advanced forces north of Berlin would be cut off. But north of Eberswalde the Soviet Marshal Rokossovski had now breached the Oder front sector held by General von Manteuffels Third Panzer Army, and Hitlers detailed order to Steiner, issued about 5 P.M., had an hysterical undertone :
Any officers failing to accept this order without reservations are to be arrested and shot at once. You will account with your life for the execution of this order. The fate of the German capital depends on the success of your mission.
Krebs repeated this to the over-busy Heinrici by telephone, but Heinrici was also preoccupied with salvaging his right flankthe Ninth Armys flank corpsfrom Russian encirclement at F¸rstenwalde. All I can manage now is to pull it back south of the string of lakes southeast of Berlin, Heinrici warned. This was tantamount to abandoning Berlin. As for the Steiner attack, if the F¸hrer insisted on it, then Heinrici asked to be replaced as Steiners superior.
Hitler insisted, but did not replace him ; perhaps Krebs did not report the conversation to him, for Hitler now pinned all his hopes on Steiners attack. At 9 P.M. he learned that a battalion of the Hermann G–ring Division was still defending the Reichsmarschalls abandoned stately home at Karinhall. He ordered the force handed to Steiner, and when Koller plaintively telephoned at 10:30 P.M. to ask where Steiner was, the F¸hrer snatched the phone from Krebss hand and rasped, The Luftwaffe is to transfer every man available for ground fighting in the north to Steiner. Any commander holding men back will have breathed his last breath within five hours.... You yourself will pay with your life unless every last man is thrown in. Krebs confirmed this. Everybody into the attack from Eberswalde to the south !and then hung up.
What orders Heinrici now issued to Steiner we do not know. But even Steiner was no fool, and to attack Zhukovs flank with a motley collection of demoralized, ill-armed, and undermunitioned troops would be courting disaster. He stalled while ostensibly girding himself for the attack.
The SS generals inactivityto put the best possible interpretation on itwas the last straw for Hitler after Sepp Dietrichs fiasco in Hungary. In the narrow confines of his bunker, the F¸hrer suffered an apparent nervous breakdown on April 22, as the Russians closed in from the east, north, and south on Berlins outer ring of defense. Little now stood between Berlin and a seemingly inevitable defeat. Although crippled by 90 percent power failures, Daimler-Benz, Alkett, and the other arms factories were still sending their remaining tanks and assault guns straight to the nearest front line. But fuel and ammunition were running out, and there was already heavy street fighting in the suburbs. The Russians were in K–penick and approaching Spandau. By evening they might well be fighting in the government quarter itself. This was the military position as Krebs finally secured Hitlers authorization for the garrison at Frankfurt-on-Oder to abandon that city to the enemy as well.
The war conference on April 22 began routinely at about 3 P.M. First Goebbels telephoned, and later Ribbentrop ; but then Hitler asked about the operation which had obviously been in the foreground of his mind all nightSteiners counterattack in the north. An SS authority assured him the attack had begun well, but Hitler mistrustfully asked the Luftwaffe to check ; within the hour General Koller came on the phone with word that Steiner had not yet begun his attack and would not begin before nightfall. This betrayal and deceit by the SS, of all people, shook Hitler to the core.(4) He asked if the Luftwaffe troops had duly come under Steiners command ; General Christian replied that they had still not received any orders from Steiner. Hitler straightened up and purpled. He suspected a fait accompli, to force him to leave Berlin. His eyes bulged. Thats it, he shouted. How am I supposed to direct the war in such circumstances ! The wars lost ! But if you gentlemen imagine Ill leave Berlin now, then youve another thing coming. Id sooner put a bullet in my brains ! Everybody stared. Hitler abruptly stalked out, while the adjutant Otto G¸nsche started after him, calling out, But, mein F¸hrer. . . . Walther Hewel telephoned Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in extreme agitation : The F¸hrers had a nervous breakdownhes going to shoot himself !
Hitler ordered a telephone call put through to Goebbels. When the propaganda ministers voice came on the line, he dictated to him an announcement : I have decided to stay to the end of the battle in Berlin. He ordered Goebbels to bring his family to the shelter and sent for Julius Schaub, his lifelong factotum. By the time Schaub hobbled in, Hitler had recovered some of his composure. Schaubwe must destroy all the documents here at once. Get some gasoline. He fumbled with his ring of safe keys, handed them to Schaub, and went into the tiny bedroom. While Schaub opened the small safe at the foot of the bed and stuffed its contents into a brown suitcase on the bed, Hitler took his lightweight 6.35-millimeter Walther pistol from his trouser pocket and exchanged it for the more lethal 7.65-millimeter Walther from the bedside table. The bulging suitcase was carried upstairs ; from the upstairs safes more suitcases were filled, and then emptied into a crater in the garden. For a while Hitler stood with Schaub, watching his collection of memoirs, memoranda, and secret letters from world statesmen consumed by the flames. Richelieu once said, give me five lines one man has penned ! Hitler lamented afterward. What I have lost ! My dearest memories ! But whats the pointsooner or later youve got to get rid of all that stuff. He indicated that Schaub must leave for Munich and the Berghof and destroy the papers there too.(5) But first there was something he wanted to dictateevidently something for posterity.
Hitlers anguished staff realized that he intended to remain in Berlin and brave the coming storm. I have been betrayed by those I trusted most, he declaimed. Im going to stay here in Berlin, the capital of our crusade against bolshevism, and direct its defense myself. Goebbels, Bormann, Keitel, and Jodl begged him to reconsider. D–nitz and Himmler telephoned. Ribbentrop arrived, but was not even given a hearing. Keitel cornered Hitler alone but was interrupted almost at once. I know what youre going to say : Its time to take a Ganzer Entschluss ! Ive taken it already. Im going to defend Berlin to the bitter end. Either I restore my command here in the capitalassuming Wenck keeps the Americans off my back and throws them back over the Elbeor I go down here in Berlin with my troops fighting for the symbol of the Reich. He felt that if he had stayed in East Prussia in November, the Russians would never have got through there. That was why, he disclosed to the furious field marshal, he had just ordered his decision to stay in Berlin announced to the people ; he could not change his mind now.
Jodl joined the argument and pointed out that if at the last moment Hitler committed suicide in Berlin, the German army would be leaderless. (He also candidly explained that given the F¸hrers trembling hands he was too infirm to handle a rifle or bazooka in the street fighting and that in any case there was the danger that he might be captured.) Hitler called Martin Bormann in, and ordered him, Keitel, and Jodl to fly to Berchtesgaden that night to continue the war with G–ring as acting F¸hrer. All three refused. Somebody objected that there was not one German soldier who would be willing to fight for the Reichsmarschall. Hitler retorted, Theres not much fighting left to be done. And when it comes to negotiating, the Reichsmarschall will be better at that than I.
It was nearly 5 P.M., and the Russians had now taken the Silesia station. The F¸hrers bunker vibrated with the distant echoes of exploding shells. His petrified staff was clustered in the passageway, many of them expecting to hear pistol shots announcing that Hitler had abandoned them. In a private aside to Eva Braun, General Burgdorf put their chances now at only 10 percent. But Jodl argued onpointing out that Hitler still held powerful trump cards in the form of Sch–rners undefeated army group and the armies on the Elbe and in Norway. He reminded Hitler of the demarcation line shown on the captured Eclipse maps and suggested that now they should swing Wencks Twelfth Army around from west to east and use it to relieve Berlin. Hitler shrugged. Do whatever you want ! Secretly he may have been relieved, like a convict granted a last-minute reprieve. Perhaps, as Jodl argued, now the Allies would take his anti-Bolshevik intent seriously. Keitel announced that he would drive in person to give the necessary orders to Wenck that night. Hitler ordered a hearty meal prepared for the field marshal before he set out.
Hitler was not appalled at the prospect of imminent death. At an August 1944 war conference he had told his generals he was almost looking forward to it, just as an artisan savors the coming of the evening, when he can set his gnarled hands to rest ; in death Hitler looked for a release from my sorrows and sleepless nights and from this nervous suffering. It takes only the fraction of a secondthen one is cast free from all that and rests in eternal peace. Ever since World War I he had lived on borrowed time. Besides, as he told Sch–rner, his death might remove the last obstacle preventing the Allies from making common cause with Germany. If Model could find the courage to take his own life, so would he ; he, Hitler, was no Paulus. Did not Varus command his slave : Now kill me ! he noted in a comparison to the Roman general who had led three legions to their destruction.
He gruffly instructed Eva Braun and the two remaining secretaries to get changed and fly south. Its all overits quite hopeless. Eva took both his hands in hers. But you know I am going to stay here with you ! Hitlers eyes glistened, and he did something nobody had seen him do beforehe kissed her lightly on the lips. Frau Junge chimed in, Ill stay too ! and Frau Christian echoed her. I wish my generals were as brave as you, Hitler replied.
Despite a telephone call from his liaison officer, Hermann Fegelein, Himmler had failed to show up at the shelter, evidently fearing from what Fegelein told him that he would be arrested for SS General Steiners passivity ; Fegelein was sent to meet him halfway but failed to return. Instead Himmlers doctor, Karl Gebhardt, a potbellied, bespectacled Bavarian, arrived about 11 P.M.; he pleaded with Hitler to leave or at least to let the women and children sheltering in the adjacent Voss Bunker escape under Red Cross cover. Hitler learned that Himmler had a battalion of six hundred SS troops for his own safety outside Berlin ; he invited Himmler through Gebhardt to contribute them to the defense of the Chancellery. Some time after, Himmlers chief lieutenant, General Gottlob Berger, arrived. Hitler repeated to him his reproaches about the SSs disloyalty and asked Berger to go to Bavaria to crush the dissident and separatist movements stirring there and in W¸rttemberg and Austria. Everybody has deceived me ! Nobody has been telling me the truth ! The Wehrmacht has lied to me ! Even the SS has left me in the lurch ! His last instruction to Berger before the latter flew south was to round up as many British and American officer-prisoners as possible and transport them under guard to the Alpine Redoubtas hostages ; though for what purpose even Hitler did not seem clear.
Under cover of darkness, still more of his staff left Berlin. General Koller flew to Bavaria. Morell came to the shelter, clutching his heart and gasping that he needed a change of climate ; he offered Hitler a last injection before he left, a morphine pick-me-up, but Hitler suspected that a plot might be afoot to drug him and evacuate him from Berlin by force. He contemptuously dismissed the gaudily bedecked professor. You can take off that uniform and go back to your practice in the Kurf¸rstendamm ! Morell chose Munich instead and flew out that night. Hitler sent out the remaining two staff stenographers as well ; their orders were to take the last shorthand records to the outside world.
Hitlers press officer, Heinz Lorenz, was instructed to take down the remaining historic war conferences as best he could. His fragmentary noteswhich begin with Keitels exhausted return with Jodl from the battlefield at 3 P.M. on April 23reveal the growing desperation at Hitlers shelter. East of Berlin the Fifty-sixth Panzer Corps had vanished without trace, as had General Weidling, its commander. It is all so abominable ! When you come to think it over, whats the point of living on ! exclaimed Hitler. Steiner had made no discernible move with his 25th Panzer-Grenadier and 7th Panzer divisions at Eberswalde, north of the capital. The Russians had swarmed across the Havel River between Oranienburg and Spandauunless the Havel lakes could be defended, the city would be completely encircled at any moment.
The situation on Germanys other fronts no longer occupied Hitler. With tanks swarming as far as the eye could see toward the heart of Berlin along the Landsberg Chaussee from the eastand the new Stalin tanks at that, virtually impregnable to German shellsthe bunker conferences devolved only on the defenses of Berlin. Hitlers last stratagem began unfolding. At noon Goebbelss ministry released the news. The F¸hrer is in Berlin.... Our leadership has resolved to remain in Berlin and defend the Reich capital to the end. Perhaps if Stalin knew that Hitler was still in Berlin, his armies might overreach themselves and suffer the same kind of defeat Hitler himself had suffered at Moscow. Lorenz recorded Hitlers belief thus : The enemy now knows I am here. They will do all they can to concentrate on us. That gives us an excellent opportunity of luring them into an ambush. But this depends on all our people realizing the importance of this hour and genuinely obeying the orders they get from above ; they must be honest about it ! This business up hereindicating Steiner on the mapwas downright dishonest ! Steiner had too many nagging doubts about the defenses confronting him. General Krebs interjected, I believe we still have four days time. In four days well know the outcome, agreed Hitler.
The ambush to which Hitler referred was the plan Keitel and Jodl had proposedfor the army on the Elbe and Mulde fronts, facing the Americans, to be turned around, to link up south of Berlin with Busses Ninth Army and then strike northward toward Potsdam and Berlin, mopping up the elite Russian troops they thereby cut off. Wencks objective would be the autobahn at Ferch, near Potsdam. At the same time the Forty-first Panzer Corpscommanded by the reliable General Rudolf Holste, an old regimental comrade of Keitelswould be brought back across the Elbe, to counterattack between Spandau and Oranienburg ; Steiner was to turn over his mechanized divisions (the 25th Panzer-Grenadiers and the 7th Panzer) to Holste, northwest of Berlin.
The realist in Hitler whispered that defeat was inevitable, and he made no secret of this to his intimates, even if he felt constrained to put on a braver face to his generals. Eva Braun wrote that April 23 : The F¸hrer himself has lost all hope of a happy ending. But while we still live all of us have hope, including me. Later she added : At present things are said to be looking up. General Burgdorf who gave us only a 10 percent chance yesterday has raised the odds to 50-50 today. Perhaps things may turn out well after all ! Hitler drank chocolate with Goebbelss five little girls and son Helmuth, who had now moved into Morells quarters. Helmuth read aloud his school essay on the F¸hrers birthday. Helga squawked, You stole that from Papa ! You mean Papa stole it from me ! retorted Helmuth, to the delight of the adult listeners. The children seemed oblivious of the fate their parents planned for them.
Before Keitel returned to Wencks headquarters, he came in to see Hitler and quietly inquired whether any talks at all were proceeding with the enemy. Hitler replied that before he could start talks he must win one more victorythe Battle for Berlin. He disclosed that he had opened up one channel to the Allies through Italy and that he had asked Ribbentrop to discuss further steps with him that evening. Ribbentrops only proposal of substance was to have top Czech industrialists flown that night to France, where they would attempt to persuade the Americans to protect Bohemia and Moravia from the Bolsheviks. The F¸hrer has agreed to this, Ribbentrop informed Karl-Hermann Frank by letter. For the first time Hitler now admitted to Ribbentrop that the war was lostbut he insisted that he had been right all along, that Britain would have done better to have fought at his side and not against him. He dictated to Ribbentrop four secret negotiation points to put to the British if he got the chance, points vital to the future of Europe. If the Continent was to survive in a world dominated by bolshevism, then somehow London and Berlin must bury the hatchet between them. He instructed Ribbentrop to write secretly to Churchill in this sense. You will see, Hitler predicted. My spirit will arise from the grave. One day people will see that I was right.
When Ribbentrop lefteventually attaching his diplomatic staff to General Wencks Twelfth Army staffan adjutant announced that Albert Speer had just arrived in the Chancellery, having made a venturesome landing by light plane on the East-West Axis across the Tiergarten after a flight escorted by a whole fighter squadron from Rechlin. Eva Braun, who like Hitler had been troubled by the recurring rumors of Speers inexplicable behavior, greeted him warmly. I knew youd returnyou wont desert the F¸hrer ! Speer grinned. Im leaving Berlin again tonight ! According to Julius Schaubwho also left that nightwhen Hitler asked his friends opinion on his decision to fight the battle for Berlin to its end, Speers almost brutal advice was that it was better to die there than in his weekend cottage on the Obersalzberg, that is, if the F¸hrer attached any importance to the verdict of history. The remark reveals much about Speers own motives. Hitler, unaware that Speer had secretly arranged with Heinrici for Berlin to be abandoned to the Russians, agreed.
After the war conference, Bormann brought to Hitler a startling telegram just received from G–ring at Berchtesgaden. G–ring, it seemed, was seizing power.
Mein F¸hrer !
In view of your decision to remain in the fortress of Berlin, are you agreed that I immediately assume overall leadership of the Reich as your Deputy, in accordance with your decree of June 29, 1941, with complete freedom of action at home and abroad ?
Unless an answer is given by 10 P.M. I will assume you have been deprived of your freedom of action. I shall then regard the conditions laid down by your Decree as being met, and shall act in the best interests of the people and Fatherland.
You know my feelings for you in these the hardest hours of my life. I cannot express them adequately.
May God protect you and allow you to come here soon despite everything.
Your loyal Hermann G–ring.
Bormann no doubt read this aloud to Hitler in tones worthy of a public prosecutor. But that Ribbentrop and Speer, G–rings other archenemies, were by chance also in Hitlers bunker was a double misfortune for the Reichsmarschall. Ribbentrop had received from G–ring a telegram asking him to fly down immediately unless ordered to the contrary by 10 P.M. Keitel also heard from G–ring. Somehow Hitler learned that G–rings plan was to fly to the American supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and ask for peace terms. Hitler immediately cabled G–ring that he alone would decide when the Decree of June 29, 1941, took effect ; G–ring was forbidden to undertake any steps in the direction he had hinted at. The F¸hrer then ordered G–ring and his staff on the Obersalzberg placed under house arrest. The shelter was in an uproar over G–rings treachery. Speer undoubtedly fanned the flames, for that same day he wrote to General Galland, now a jet-fighter squadron commander in Bavaria, enclosing a copy of G–rings telegram to Ribbentrop. This telegram is clear. The F¸hrer has reacted to it accordingly and ordered G–rings arrest. I request you and your comrades to do everything to prevent an airplane flight by G–ring as discussed.(6)
Thus with characteristic hesitancy and with prodding from Bormann, Hitler took the decision with which he had been grappling since September 1944dismissing G–ring. But even then he spared his feelings, telegraphing the Reichsmarschall : Your actions are punishable by the death sentence, but because of your valuable services in the past I will refrain from instituting proceedings if you will voluntarily relinquish your offices and titles. Otherwise steps will have to be taken. G–ring hastened to comply. Hitler meanwhile ordered General Robert von Greim from Munich to Berlin ; Koller was also instructed to return, and the Luftwaffes General Josef Kammhuber was sent for as well. Greims take-off was, however, prevented by an air raid ; Koller pleaded ill-health, and Kammhuber also avoided coming to the capital. The Luftwaffe was in chaos anyway. General Gallands fighter squadron had somehow amassed ninety-five new Me-262 jets on its Munich airfield, but the squadron had only twenty pilots ; on the other hand, the crack jet-fighter wing JG.7 had only twenty Me-262s left and could not obtain replacements. Nothing had prevented the British bomber squadrons from executing a precision attack in broad daylight on the Obersalzberg early on April 25, leaving the Berghof a smoking ruin.
The last week of Hitlers leadership was plagued by the crumbling communications system. From April 24, 1945, onward, it is difficult to relate the orders emanating from his bomb- and shell-shattered Chancellery building to either the war information reaching him or the actions of his commanders in the field. On April 24, Hitler himself contributed to the command chaos by an order upending the existing command structure and subordinating the General Staffs eastern front to the OKW operations staff. But three days later Hitlers only radiotelephone link with Jodls headquarters was silenced, and Hitler could communicate with the outside world only via a telephone to the admiraltys still-functioning signals room. Jodls clear instructions to the armies were repeated by Hitler on April 24 : Generals Holste, Wenck, Sch–rner, and Busse were to speed up their relief attacks toward Berlin, from northwest, southwest, and south, respectively, and restore a broad land contact with Berlin again, thereby bringing the Battle of Berlin to a victorious conclusion. But apart from Wenck and Sch–rner, Hitlers commanders no longer even paid lip service to his authoritythey were driven only by the compulsion to escape the Russian grasp themselves before the final collapse came.
Apart from word that part of the Ninth Army had been encircled southeast of Berlin, there was no news of the army until Weidling, the missing commander of its Fifty-sixth Panzer Corps, whose arrest for desertion Hitler had ordered, reached Berlins outskirts and the public telephone ; he then stormed into the Chancellery to establish his innocence. On April 24, Hitler willingly appointed this fiery general battle-commandant of Berlin.
Weidling set about reorganizing the capitals defenses, laying down new signals networks and dismissing indifferent sector commanders ; but his task was nigh impossible. Hitler and Goebbels had optimistically sacrificed the capitals resources of men, ammunition, and gasoline to the forward defenses on the Oder, and little now remained for Berlin. According to Keitel, a decamping army commandant had blown up Berlins last major ammunition dump at Krampnitz. Weidling would have little infantry, no artillery, and hardly any tanks. Apart from the shattered remnants of his own corps, the coming street battles would be fought between trained, professional Russian combat troops with the glint of final victory in their eyes, and a few thousand antiaircraft soldiers, Volkssturm men, and police armed with captured rifles, broken-down tanks, or makeshift rocket-launchers. About 2,700 youthshardly more than childrenhad been mustered into a tank-killer brigade; Hitler assigned this Hitler Youth offering to the defense of the bridges across which the relief armies must march into Berlin. Late on April 24, Hitler appealed to the navy for troops ; from Flensburg, Admiral D–nitz promised to airlift 2,000 of his best sailors and fortress troops into Berlin in the next forty-eight hours and to put 3,500 more of his most cherished fleet personnelincluding crews trained to operate the new secret U-boatson standby for the fight ; unless Berlin won this last battlewhich Hitler described to D–nitz as a battle for Germanys whole future outranking all other theaters in importancethose U-boats would never operate.
D–nitz kept this promiseunlike Himmler, who had eventually parted with only half his personal security battalion. (According to stenographer Ewald Reynitz, in these last days of his life Hitler refused to speak to Himmler even over the telephone and flatly forbade Himmler to participate in the war conferences.) Even Ribbentrop courageously requested permission to take up arms in Berlin. But Hitler forbade this : Ribbentrop knew too many secrets to be allowed to fall into enemy hands ; and Walther Hewelwhom Hitler urged with the rest of his staff to take poison before the Russians could capture them(7)telegraphed the foreign minister in Mecklenburg : The F¸hrer appreciates your intentions but has turned you down. Until the ring encircling Berlin has been broken open or until you receive further instructions, you are to stand by outside the combat area. Hewel added significantly : I have no political information whatever. Sch–rner, whose army group had just recaptured Bautzen and Weissenberg, south of Berlin, inflicting heavy losses on the Russians, also began moving northward toward the capital. The attack by Sch–rners army group proves, D–nitz was signaled by Hitlers staff on April 26, that given the will, we are still capable of beating the enemy even today. These distant victories glowed faintly through the thickening gloom of the communications breakdowns besetting Hitlers shelter.
The British and Americans along the Elbe are holding back, Hitler observed. . . . I think the time has now come when out of a sheer instinct for selfpreservation they must act against this bloated proletarian Colossus, this Bolshevik Moloch.. . . If I can win through here and hang on to the capital, perhaps hope will spring in British and American hearts that with our Nazi Germany they may after all have some chance against this entire danger. And the only man capable of this is me.... But I am only F¸hrer as long as I can really lead. I cant lead if I go south and sit on some mountain, but only if I have authority over armies and those armies obey me. Give me one victory herehowever high the priceand then Ill regain the right to eliminate the deadweights who constantly obstruct. After that I will work with the generals whove proved their worth. Later he again digressed on this theme. First I must set an example to everybody I blamed for retreating, by not retreating myself. It is possible that I will die here, but then at least I shall have died an honorable death. Hitler proclaimed that this Battle of Berlin was as important as the 1683 Battle of Vienna, which had turned the tide of the Turkish conquest of Europe.
The first battalion of D–nitzs naval troops arrived, and Weidling threw them straight into the fight. The makeshift hospital in the Voss Bunker next to Hitlers bunker filled with casualties. The streets were strewn with burning vehicles and tanks. The government quarter was under nonstop bombardment by artillery and bombers. But Weidling reported to Hitler that it was proving difficult to demolish bridgesfor example along the Teltow Canal defense linebecause Speers staff had decamped with all the bridge plans. Speer had also fought tooth and nail against the dismantling of the bronze lampposts along the East-West Axis, as Hitler had ordered, to prepare an emergency landing strip. (Speer had protested to Weidlings predecessor : You seem to forget I am responsible for the reconstruction of Berlin.)
During April 26 spirits soared in Hitlers bunker, as the news of Wencks approaching army and Sch–rners successes trickled in. That evening General Greim limped into the shelter with a female admirer, having been shot in the leg as he piloted his light plane to the East-West Axis and made a crash-landing on the boulevard. His injuries were tended, then he was put to bed in a room opposite Hitlers conference room. For many hours Hitler sat at his bedside, morosely describing G–rings ultimatum and the history of the Luftwaffes failureonly General Koller had dared tell him the truth about the technical inferiority of German planes. At 10 P.M., German radio broadcast Greims promotion to field marshal and his appointment as G–rings successor. Hitler urged suicide capsules on Greim and his woman friend, and instructed themif worse came to worstto arrange their own cremation so that the Russians would find nothing. I firmly believed that Berlin could be saved on the banks of the Oder. Everything we had here was moved forward to that position. You must believe mewhen all our efforts there failed I was the most stunned of all, he mused. But Wenck was now approaching Berlin. If he can relieve Berlin, we shall fall back to a new line and fight on. He ordered his new Luftwaffe commander to concentrate the Messerschmitt jet squadrons around Prague.
At night Hitler was kept awake by the shell fire and by his own vivid memories. This was Stalingrad all over again, but this time the miracle would happen. Imagine ! Like wildfire the word spreads throughout Berlin : one of our armies has broken through from the west and restored contact with us ! How could Stalin hope to reduce a great city of four million people with only four hundred tanks, especially if fifty were being knocked out each day ? The Russians have already exhausted their strength in crossing the Oder, particularly the northern army group [Zhukovs].
Against this Hitler had to set his own virtual helplessness and lack of precise information on the battle. Sch–rners forces were approaching, and within one day this pressure should begin embarrassing the Russians in the south. According to Keitel, General Holstes battle group in the northwest had gained ground at Nauen and Kremmen and would gather its last reinforcements for its main attack early on the twenty-eighth. Hitler impatiently told Krebs, Its high time they got a move on ! General Wencks relief offensive from the southwestthree well-fueled divisions under General Karl-Erik Koehlerhad already reached the Schwielow lake, and during the morning the Party announced that it had reached Potsdam, thus attaining the tactical objective laid down four days before. But a tough ring of Soviet troops still barred the way to Berlin.
Hitler realized that time was running out fast. At 5 A.M. on April 27 a big Russian push along the Hohenzollerndamm Boulevard had begun. As Goebbels nervously put it : I keep getting this nightmare picture : Wenck is at Potsdam, and here the Russians are pouring into Potsdamer Platz ! And Im here at Potsdamer Platz, not Potsdam ! agreed Hitler uneasily. His eyes were transfixed by the colored arrows marking the relief armies on the map. He recognized the problem his dwindling authority was causing. Wenck had the drive, the gasoline, and the loyalty to get to Potsdam, but he lacked the tanks to smash the Russian armor. General Busses Ninth Armyencircled southeast of Berlinhad the tanks, but its westward movement seemed designed to bypass Berlin to the south. Hitler was puzzled by this defiance of his orders.(8) Late on the twenty-sixth he had radioed to Jodl : Make it clear to Ninth Army that it is to wheel sharply north with Twelfth Army to take weight off Battle for Berlin. Throughout the twenty-seventh he speculated on this puzzle. I just dont understand the direction of its attack. Busses driving into a complete vacuum. If he had pushed northwest instead, and covered as much distance as he has now, he would have accomplished much more. Wenck and the Ninth Army would already have linked up. And, late that day, it occurred to him at last why the Ninth Army had pleaded its radio failure. If theres a long radio silence, it is always the sign that things are going badly. Its impossible to command if every plan thats drawn up is adapted by every army commander as he sees fit. Whats happened now is just what I predicted : theyve been encircled.
North of Berlin, the generals disobedience to orders was even more blatant. Heinricis remaining Oder sector, south of Stettin, had collapsed under the weight of Marshal Rokossovskis attack. Since noon on April 26, Heinrici had begged Jodl to allow General Steiners two armored divisions to repair the damage. But Hitler and Jodl mistrusted Steiner, and these divisions had been ordered to support Holstes more promising relief attack instead. This order was ignored. Heinrici assured Keitel he was holding a line from Angerm¸nde to Ðckerheim, but when the field marshal set out on a surprise visit to the battlefield he found the front line only a few miles away, in the midst of what was a well-prepared retreat ; and the 5th Light Infantry Divisionalthough its troops were still eager for combat with the Russianswas being pulled back westward because its officers have decided not to fight any longer. Keitel telephoned Hitler about Heinricis deceit. Far from holding the line, Heinrici and Manteuffelcommanding the Third Panzer Army on the breached Oder sectorwere deliberately herding their troops across Mecklenburg toward the haven of the Allied lines. At about 5 P.M. Jodl radiotelephoned his grim decision to Hitler : Steiners two armored divisions would have to be thrown northwardaway from Berlininto the southern flank of the Russian spearheads pursuing Manteuffels troops.
Up to now Hitler had been sustained by the hope of relief. If we can just hold on two, three, or four days more here, Wencks army may arrive and perhaps even Busses too, he had said. Admiral Voss had assured him : Wencks coming, mein F¸hrer ! The only question iscan he manage by himself ! And Hitler had responded, Ill sleep a bit better tonight. I dont want to be awakened unless a Russian tanks outside my sleeping cubicle. Then I must be given time to do what has to be done. But the new hysterical atmosphere created by Jodls radiotelephone message can be judged from the words Martin Bormann jotted in his diary :
The divisions marching to relieve us have been halted by Himmler and Jodl ! We shall stand by and die with our F¸hrer, loyal unto death. If others think they must act out of superior judgment, then they are sacrificing the F¸hrer. And their loyaltyDevil take them !is no better than their sense of honor!
A premature dusk had fallen over Berlin outside the shelter, as smoke clouds and mortar dust blotted out the sun. Gatow and Tempelhof airfields had been cut off. Junkers transport planes were redirected to the Axis landing strip, but the Russians had strung out antiaircraft batteries along the flight path and many planes were lost. A hundred of D–nitzs crack troops had been sent to the Chancellery for Hitlers personal protection. Camouflaged by swastika pennants, four enemy tanks had reached Wilhelms Platz before they were detected and destroyed. Identification regulations are to be strictly obeyed ! Hitler ordered. The Russians announced that they were bringing up 406-millimeter and 370-millimeter mortars to reduce the last citadel of Hitlers capital. Hitler handed his adjutants more of the brass-encased cyanide capsules, to use if absolutely necessary. When the time came he would order a general breakout toward Wencks army at Potsdam. He disclosed privately to Colonel von Below, his Luftwaffe adjutant ever since 1937 : Only my wife and I will stay behind. He compared Eva Brauns loyalty with the gross disloyalty displayed by G–ring and Himmlerwhom he intuitively blamed for Steiners disobedience.
At the late night conference, General Krebs reassured Hitler that the battle lines in Berlin itself were stable again. Hitler Youth units were holding a big bridgehead south of the Pichelsdorf bridge in anticipation of Wencks arrival ; isolated trucks from Wencks army had already broken through. But the first Russian snipers were roaming Potsdamer Platz and Hitler pointed out : The subway and streetcar tunnels are a source of danger. Transport planes with more troops were standing by, but one had just crashed and was blocking the Axis Boulevard. Colonel von Below announced that the first air drops of ammunition had begun.
A ticking clock coming over the radio loudspeakers warned that enemy bombers were still over Germany. Hitler brooded on the evenings bulletin that Benito Mussolini had just been captured alive by Italian Communist guerrillas. He could hear the distant singing of the Goebbels children in sixfold chorus as they prepared for bed. During the evening he had unpinned his own golden Party medallion and bestowed it on their red-eyed mother, Magda. She wrote : Our children are wonderful ! ... Never a whimper or word of complaint. The thudding of shells is getting even on my nerves, but the little ones soothe their younger sisters, and their presence here is a boon to us because now and again they manage to prise a smile from the F¸hrer. They told Uncle Hitler they were longing for the day when the new soldiers he had promised would come and drive the Russians away. For their sake Hitler hoped too, though he himself had long decided to stay. In this city I have had the right to command others ; now I must heed the commands of Fate. Even if I could save myself here, I will not do so. The captain too goes down with his ship.
At 3 A.M.it was now April 28Krebs telephoned Keitel at the OKWs field headquarters. The F¸hrer is most anxious to know about the relief attack west of Oranienburg. Whats the news ? Is it making any headway ? The F¸hrer doesnt want Steiner to be commander there !! Hasnt Holste taken over there yet ? If help doesnt reach us in the next thirty-six or forty-eight hours, itll be too late !!! Keitel replied that he was going to see Steiner in person. Some hours later Hitler learned that a small separatist uprising had begun in Bavaria ; a Munich radio station had been seized, and it was broadcasting seditious proclamations to the local workers and foreigners.
It is unlikely that Hitler slept that night. The Chancellery was under direct and heavy shellfire. The Munich separatists had been bloodily suppressed by local forces, but in Berlin the Russians had now penetrated the last lines of defense. The F¸hrer restlessly paced the bunker passageways, gripping a Berlin street map that was disintegrating in his clammy hands. Over three hundred Russian tanks had been destroyed in the street fighting. Busses Ninth Army had at last linked up with General Wencks Twelfth, but both were beyond the limits of exhaustion. Moreover, by 4:30 P.M. General Krebs had learned from Jodl the full extent of Heinricis disobedience north of Berlin : Keitel had discovered the southern flank of Manteuffels Third Panzer Army retreating across the Schorf Heide in compliance with secret orders which Heinrici had concealed from both the OKW and Hitler. Steiner was covering this illicit retreat and doing nothing to seal off the breach at Prenzlau. Keitel was apoplectic with anger and instructed Heinrici and Manteuffel to meet him at a lonely crossroads to account for their actions. One thing was certain : Berlins northern defenses were wide open.
Hitler had hardly seen Himmlers liaison officer SS General Fegelein, or the Gestapo chief, M¸ller, this last week. But on April 28 his staff began receiving erratic and surreptitious telephone calls from Fegelein. Hitler suspected he was absconding, and he debated with Greim the possibility that the Reichsf¸hrer SS was condoning thiswhich might have sinister implications. Late that afternoon Bormann showed him yet another stunning news report : Allied radio had proclaimed that Himmler had contacted the United States and Britain and guaranteed them Germanys unconditional surrender ! But the Western Allies were insisting on including Russia in the surrender terms.
This bombshell caused a furor. Bormann sneered, I always said loyalty has to be stamped on your heart and not on your belt buckle ! Fegeleins effects were searched and papers relating to Himmlers treachery were found, along with two money belts of gold sovereigns and other enemy currencies. Eva Braun, whose sister had married Fegelein, mournfully noted : The F¸hrer is spared nothing. With his life drawing to a close even the SS and his trusted Fegelein are deserting him. Fegeleins adjutant stated he had last seen him changing into civilian clothes at his Kurf¸rstendamm apartment ; Bormann sent men out into the inferno to search for him. He cabled his Party headquarters in Munich at 8 P.M.: Instead of spurring on the troops to fight us free with orders and appeals, just silence from the top men. Loyalty apparently yielding to disloyalty. We remain here. Reich Chancellery already in ruins.
Two hours later General Weidling, the city commandant, reported that the Russians were hammering Wencks relief army into the ground. The situation in the city was desperate. Food and medical stores were exhausted. He read out an appeal by Professor Ferdinand Sauerbruch, of the Charite hospital, to consider the plight of the injured. Finally Weidling outlined his plan for a mass breakout by the remaining troops, but Hitler replied that he would not himself leave the Chancellery. His naval liaison admiral radioed to D–nitz : We are holding on to the very end. At midnight Keitels telegram arrived. At the crossroads rendezvous Heinrici had suavely promised to obey orders, but at 11:30 P.M. he admitted he had in fact ordered a further retreat ; Keitel had dismissed him and his Chief of Staff General Ivo-Thilo von Trotha, who appeared to be equally guilty.(9) At about the same time Eva Braun was phoned by Fegelein. Eva, you must abandon the F¸hrer if you cant persuade him to leave Berlin. Dont be stupid, its a matter of life and death now ! Within the hour he had been brought back to the bunker, still in civilian clothes. Hitler told Bormann to hand him over to SS General Wilhelm Mohnke, to help the fight for central Berlin ; but Bormann and G¸nsche Hitlers personal adjutantpointed out that Fegelein would just run away again, so the F¸hrer ordered him summarily court-martialed and executed.
Our Reich Chancellery is reduced to rubble, wrote Bormann in his diary. On daggers edge the world now stands! Treason and treachery by Himmlerunconditional surrenderannounced abroad. Fegelein disgracedthe coward tried to clear out of Berlin in civilian clothes ! Hitler, reeling with suspicion, saw this as the origin of Steiners failure too. Perhaps at this very moment Himmler was plotting to kill or kidnap him ? Suddenly he mistrusted the cyanide capsules supplied by the SSs Dr. Stumpfegger. He sent for Professor Werner Haase from the Voss Bunker operating theater and ordered him to test a sample capsule on Blondithe largest animal available in the shelter. The dogs jaws were forced open and an ampoule was broken inside them with pliers ; a bitter almond smell wafted toward the expressionless F¸hrer ; the dog howled briefly and then stiffened. A short council followed on the best methods of suicide ; then Hitler handed ampoules to the rest of his staff, apologizing for being unable to offer them no kinder farewell gift.
More Russian tanks were reported massing south of Potsdamer Platz for the assault on the Chancellery. Hitler was informed that Wencks guns were already shelling the Russian positions here. While Eva Braun, Goebbels, and Hewel hastily wrote last letters to their relatives, a chalk-faced Hitler slumped on Field Marshal Greims bed. Our only hope is Wenck. We must throw in every plane weve got to cover his breakthrough. An Arado training plane had just made a brilliant landing on the shell-cratered Axis ; Hitler ordered the injured Greim to betake himself and his female admirer to Rechlin air base to command the Luftwaffe attackand to arrest Himmler, if his treason were found to be proved. The woman became hysterical, and both begged to stay and share Hitlers end. The F¸hrer dismissed them with God protect you. Bormann and Krebs signed a joint appeal to Wenck to break through as soon as he could, so as to furnish Hitler with a basis for political maneuver. But Hitler himself was already writing finis : Himmlers treachery and the failure of the relief divisions left him with no desire to live on.
With the shelters concrete membranes reverberating under the blast of Russian shells, and a table being laid for eight in his small study, he sent for his youngest secretarythe widowed Traudl Junge. Perhaps I can just dictate something to you now. For a while Hitler stood at his usual midtable place, leaning on the now bare map-room table with both hands and staring at her shorthand pad. Suddenly he barked out : My Political Testament and began dictating without notespart piËce justificative, part paean of praise for his brave troops accomplishments against such odds. From the sacrifice of our soldiers and my own comradeship with them unto death, we have sown a seed which one day in Germanys history will blossom forth into a glorious rebirth of the National Socialist movement and thus bring about a truly united nation. Even dictated under stress, and without notes, the document betrayed, at least in its drafting and construction, no trace of any mental disequilibrium. Hitler formally expelled G–ring and Himmler from the Party and appointed D–nitz as his own successor ; Speer was also sacked. Field Marshal Sch–rnerthe only man to shine as a real warlord on the entire eastern front, Hitler had sighed a day beforewas appointed Commander in Chief of the German army.
It was about 2 A.M., April 29, 1945. Another notable event lay ahead, and this was at the forefront of Hitlers private testament, that he now dictated. During my years of struggle I believed I ought not to engage in marriage ; but now my mortal span is at its end I have resolved to take as my wife the woman who came to this city when it was already virtually under siege, after long years of true friendship, to link her fate with my own. It is her wish to go with me to her death, as my wife. This will make up for all I could not give her because of my work on behalf of my people. Hitler bequeathed his effects to the Party ; or if it no longer existed, to the state. With neat realism he added that should the state also have been destroyed further dispositions on my part would seem superfluous. He asked Martin Bormann as his executor and most loyal henchman to take care of his next of kin, his private staff and secretaries, his housekeeper, and Evas mother.
Elsewhere in the shelter the small wedding party had assembled. A city official had been fetched from Goebbelss ministry as registrar, a slight, quiet-spoken man in Party uniform and a Volkssturm armband. Hitler signed with his most legible signature in months ; Evawearing the black silk afternoon dress that was Hitlers favoritesigned more nervously. From time to time during the funereal wedding supper Hitler left to discuss with Goebbels and Bormann the constitution of the Cabinet with which D–nitz must carry forward the war against the poisoner of all nations, international Jewry. Goebbels was included as Reich Chancellor, but Goebbels warned Hitler that he would not leave Berlin. Most of the rest were moderates like Seyss-Inquart, Schwerin von Krosigk, and Backe. Gauleiter Karl Hanke, still defending his embattled Breslau, was to replace Himmler as Reichsf¸hrer SS and chief of police.
Bormann, the new Party minister, was still transmitting strongly worded messages to D–nitz at Flensburg. Foreign press reports fresh treason. The F¸hrer expects you to strike like lightning and tough as steel against every traitor in north zone. Without fear or favor. Sch–rner, Wenck, and rest must prove their loyalty to the F¸hrer by fastest relief of F¸hrer. Bormann. In his diary he recorded Himmlers treason, Hitlers wedding, and the dictating of the political and private testaments. The traitors Jodl, Himmler, and Steiner are abandoning us to the Bolsheviks ! Yet another heavy barrage ! Enemy reports state Americans penetrated Munich. By 4 A.M. Frau Junge had finished typing the testaments in triplicate (Hitler wanted to make certain that one copy reached the outside world). Hitler himself was still reminiscing softly with Goebbels about the exhilarating struggle for power and empire which was now approaching its end. Death would be a merciful releaseand all the easier now that he had been betrayed by so many of the living.
Hitlers conferences over the next thirty-six hours were irregular and brief, for a Stygian information blackout was descending : his armies were silent and for days he had seen no diplomatic cables. The street fighting in Berlin could be followed only by ringing up telephone numbers at random. Often Russian voices answered. During the night, rain had grounded the OKWs aerial-carrying balloon, so VHF radiotelephone contact was interrupted. At noon on April 29, Jodl reported briefly that Wenck was at a standstill, but at 12:50 P.M. the VHF channel again went dead.
From now on the enemy news bulletins provided Hitlers main information on his own armies. Italian radio was monitored describing the scene as the corpses of Mussolini and a dozen other Fascist leaders shot in the back were strung up at the Standard Oil station in a Milan square. Admiral Voss signaled from the shelter to D–nitz at 4 P.M.: All contact with army authorities outside cut off. Urgently request information on fighting outside Berlin via naval signals channel. Hitlers now idle liaison staff began edging toward the exits. Krebss aide, Captain Gerhardt Boldt, suggested that he and two fellow officers attempt to contact the Twelfth Army. Hitler willingly dispatched them. My regards to Wenckand tell him to hurry, or itll be too late ! The three sets of testaments were entrusted to three other hardy souls who were ordered to smuggle them out to D–nitz, Sch–rner, and to the Berghof. General Burgdorf wrote to Sch–rner : The testament is to be published as soon as the F¸hrer so orders or his death is confirmed.
Heavy fighting was going on at the Anhalt railroad station. With the tattered street map in his hand, Hitler spoke to his chauffeur, Erich Kempka, who had driven him on so many historic journeys since 1933. Kempka told him his motor pool was ferrying supplies to the troops guarding the Chancellery, from the Brandenburg Gate to Potsdamer Platz : Their courage is exceptional. Theyre waiting for General Wencks relief columns to arrive. Hitler calmly responded, Were all waiting for Wenck. In his study he wrote a last letter to Keitel : the fight would soon end, he would commit suicide, and D–nitz would succeed him as Reich President ; Keitel was to support the admiral to the end. My people and Wehrmacht have given their all in this long hard struggle. The sacrifice has been immense. Many people have abused my trust in them. Disloyalty and betrayal have undermined our resistance throughout this war. This was why it was not granted to me to lead my people to victory. He refused to believe that such great sacrifice could have been in vain. The aim must still be to win territory in the east for the German people.
The Russians were pushing down Saarlandstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse and were nearly at the air ministry. At 7:52 P.M. Hitler signaled five urgent questions to Jodl. I am to be informed at once : 1. Where are Wencks spearheads ? 2. When do they attack ? 3. Where is the Ninth Army ? 4. In which direction is Ninth Army breaking through ? 5. Where are Holstes spearheads ? Hours passed without any answer. Bormann issued two signals. The first reflected the ugly atmosphere of the bunker and read : Our own impression is increasingly clear that for many days the divisions in Berlin battle zone have been marking time instead of hacking-out the F¸hrer. We only receive information supervised, suppressed, or doctored by Teilhaus [Keitel]. We can only transmit via Teilhaus. F¸hrer orders you to take rapid and ruthless action against all traitors. The second signal was briefer : The F¸hrers alive and directing defense Berlin.
At the last battle conference on the twenty-ninth, General Weidling announced that there was heavy fighting at the nearby Potsdam Station. There were no bazookas left. Tanks could no longer be repaired. He predicted that the fighting would end within twenty-four hours. A long silence followed this. Hitler wearily asked Mohnke, the Citadel commandant, if he agreed ; Mohnke said he did. With great effort, Hitler lifted himself from his chair and turned to go. Weidling asked what his troops should do when their ammunition ran out. Hitler replied, I cannot permit the surrender of Berlin. Your men will have to break out in small groups. He restated this in a letter to Weidling and Mohnke during the night. Soon after, he received Keitels telegram replying to his questions. It left no hope whatever that Berlin would be relieved. 1. Wencks spearhead is stalled south of Schwielow lake. 2. Twelfth Army is therefore unable to continue attack to Berlin. 3. Bulk of Ninth Army encircled. 4. Holstes Corps forced onto defensive.
At Evas suggestion, all the women in the Chancellery sheltersrefugees fleeing the Russians, nurses from the Voss Bunker hospital, cooks, and officers wiveswere brought to one of the passages. His eyes bleary and unseeing, Hitler went and shook hands with them and spoke a few words in a low voice to each. One of the nurses began a hysterical speech, insisting that the F¸hrer would bring them victory after all, but Hitler brusquely silenced her. One must accept ones fate like a man. He knew he had taken a deliberate gamble by staying in Berlin ; his gamble had failed. By morning, on April 30, 1945, he had decided to die at 3 P.M.
He shaved and dressed as punctiliously as ever, donning the olive-green shirt, and black shoes, socks, and trousers for the last time. Eva was pale but composed ; she wore a blue dress with white trimmings and a favorite gold bracelet set with a green jewel which meant a lot to her. The Russians were now fighting in the subway tunnels under Friedrichstrasse and Vossstrasse ; they were at Weidendamm bridge and on the edge of Potsdamer Platz, where a counterattack had begun.
Hitler sent for Bormann and then for Otto G¸nsche, his personal adjutant. He told them he and his wife would commit suicide that afternoon ; G¸nsche was to ensure that both were really deadby delivering coups de gr’ce if necessaryand then burn both bodies to ashes. I would not want my body put on display in some waxworks in the future. His shelter was to remain intact. I want the Russians to realize that I stayed here to the very last moment. Choking with emotion, G¸nsche replied, Jawohl, mein F¸hrer. I will see to it. Frau Goebbels sank to her knees and pleaded with him to stay, but he gently raised her and explained that his death was necessary to remove the last obstacle in D–nitzs path, if Germany was to be saved. His female staff was assembled, and a last lunch was taken together. When he walked through the bunker for the last time to say farewell, accompanied by Eva, he probably noticed a handful of officers of his escort waiting with two stretchers near the exit staircase.
It was about three-thirty when Hitler and Eva withdrew into the little green-and-white tiled study. Hitler closed the double doors, leaving Goebbels, Krebs, Burgdorf, and Bormann in the conference room. The doors sealed out all sounds but the murmur of the ventilation plant and the echoing explosion of shells. Eva sat on the narrow couch, kicked off her shoes, and swung her legs up onto the faded blue and white upholstery beside her. Hitler sat next to her, with his mothers photograph to his right and the portrait of Frederick the Great frowning down in front of him. They unscrewed the brass casingslike lipstick containersand extracted the thin glass phials with their amber liquid content. Eva bit the glass and sank her head on his shoulder. Her knees drew up sharply in agony. Controlling his trembling hand, Adolf Hitler raised the heavy 7.65-millimeter Walther to his right temple, clenched his teeth on the phial in his mouth, and squeezed the trigger.
1 He succeeded General Gehlen in 1968 as chief of the West German Intelligence service.
2 Himmler and Speer together prevented Brandts execution by a series of maneuvers. He survived the war, only to be hanged by the Americans at Landsberg.
3 A desk calendar later found in the shelter shows that Linge had to administer eyedrops at an ever-increasing raterising from one a day on April 16 to thirteen on April 28, the last page with entries.
4 Steiner wrote in postwar memoirs that he had decided against the relief attack as it was pointless.
5 I have reason to believe that Schaub did not complete this latter task but sold Hitlers papers to a former magistrate now living on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. This gentleman has so far proved unapproachable.
6 Speer does not refer to this in his memoirs. The only acceptable explanation is that if G–ring tried to fly to Eisenhower, Galland was to have him shot down. Speer evidently feared G–ring would get the credit for peace moves, leaving high and dry his own hesitant preparationswhich included a radio speech prerecorded at Hamburg ordering the German people to stop fighting.
7 Hewel, Krebs, Burgdorf, the Goebbels family, and many others followed Hitlers request.
8 Busse had decided to drive with his army remnants toward the American linesunaware at that time of Hitlers plan to denude the Elbe battlefront in favor of Berlin.
9 It is hard to fault D–nitzs opinion that Heinrici and Trotha should have been court-martialed, not just dismissed; Keitel was surprised to find that Trotha gravitated to Speers staff on his arrival in Flensburg.
p. 795 My narrative of the last battle for Berlin is largely based on the war diaries of the General Staff (T78/304) and its annexes (ibid., and T78/305), and of Army Group Vistula (T311/169 and /170); on the private diaries of Martin Bormann, of the Luftwaffe General Karl Koller (ADI[K] Report 348/1945), and of Jodl ; on numerous interrogations and interviews of those concerned ; and on the fragmentary shorthand notes of Hitlers last staff conferences salvaged by Heinz Lorenz in 1945 and published in Der Spiegel, No. 3, 1966 (their authenticity is established beyond doubt by official British papers I have seen).
p. 795 A German translation of the British 21st Army Groups Eclipse folder, typed on Hitlers large-face typewriter, is in General Staff records (T78/434/5864 et seq.). Keitel initialed it on April 15 ; I find no evidence to support Cornelius Ryans contention in The Last Battle that the document was captured as early as January.
p. 795 Wessels report of April 15, 1945, is on microfilm T78/304/4862.
p. 796 Ribbentrops renewed feelers : the memorandum is on film T77/775/1439 et seq, from its contents, it was written between the capture of Vienna (April 13) and the Soviet attack across the Oder (April 16)and not in mid-February 1945 as Reimer Hansen surmises in Geschichte in Wissenschaft and Unterricht, 1967, pages 716 et seq.
p. 796 On dealings with the British and Americans : Schwerin von Krosigk diary, April 15, 1945, and interrogations of Karl Wolff in December 1947. Wolffs appointment with Hitler before staff conference on April 18 is in fact noted on Hitlers desk pad, in British Cabinet Office files.
p. 797 Hitlers remarks in private were recalled under Soviet interrogation by his staffHeinz Linge and Otto G¸nsche ; their manuscript is in my possessionand by his secretary Traudl Junge in her manuscript memoirs.
p. 800 Axmann described Hitlers short speech under interrogation on January 14, 1946.
p. 800 Bormann certainly gained the impression that Hitler would leave for the south soon ; see the manuscript by Bormanns secretary, Ilse Kr¸ger, in British files. So did Jodl : his wife wrote in her diary that April 20 : A[lfred] told me this evening that we may fall back briefly to the north, but that F[¸hrers] intention is to go to the south. (Cornelius Ryans version of this entryin the opposite sensemust be a misunderstanding.) Milch, who met Speer the next day, noted in his own diary Speers good impression of F¸hrer, bad impression of that dodger G–ring.
p. 801 Quoted from her May 1945 shorthand note.
p. 803 Weidling died in Soviet captivity, but fortunately wrote a long account of the battle for Berlin first which was published in Voennoistoricheskii Zhurnal, Moscow, October-November 1961.
p. 804 The tumultuous events of April 22, 1945, are described by the diaries of Koller and Jodl April 22-23 ; by memos of Koller, and Lieutenant Volck, April 25 ; in interrogations of Keitel, Jodl, Christian, Freytag von Loringhoven, Below, Colonel von Brauchitsch, Lorenz, and the stenographers Haagen and Herrgesell ; and in written manuscripts of G¸nsche, Linge, Ilse Kr¸ger, Traudl Junge, and Keitel.
p. 804 Felix Steiner, Die Freiwilligen (G–ttingen, 1958), pages 324 et seq.
p. 806 An important private letter by Eva Braun to her sister, dated April 23, 1945, describes the contemporary mood. The decision to turn round the Twelfth Army to fight the Russiansno less than an invitation to the Allies to take Berlinwas made by 5 P.M., for at that time Krebs telephoned it to Heinrici (T311/170/2182 et seq.).
p. 808 German Radio broadcast Hitlers decision to stay in Berlin at 12:40 P.M., April 23, 1945 (BBC Monitoring Report). Among the papers of Ribbentrops Nuremberg defense counsel I found an eleven-page account by the foreign minister of the last days of Hitler (Rep. 502 AXA 132). He describes arriving at Hitlers shelter after the regular war conference on April 23 : While I was there I learned that it was by no means certain whether the F¸hrer would be leaving for southern Germany, even temporarily. I thereupon spoke to Fr”ulein Eva Braun and asked her to influence the F¸hrer to go to southern Germany, because if he was cut off in Berlin he could no longer lead and then the front lines might easily just cave in. Fr”ulein Braun told me she couldnt understand eitherthe previous day the F¸hrer had been talking of probably flying down south ; apparently somebody had talked him around to the opposite view.
p. 809 Ribbentrops secret letter to Churchill was circulated as a memorandum, CP (45) 48 to the British Cabinet. It is in PRO file CAB 66/66. Ribbentrop swore in it that both he and Hitler had always striven for rapprochement with Britain ; Ribbentrop had always regarded England as my second home. Churchill sent the letter to Stalin on July 12, 1945I assume its content may be of some interest to you, although it is exceptionally long and tedious.
Ribbentrop described his last meeting with Hitler in several interrogations, in Rep. 502 AXA 132, and his memoirs. In his other manuscript, Rep. 502 AXA 122, he proposed repeating the four main points of the offer to the British prosecuting counsel Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, since he had had no reply from Churchill or Eden. According to an overheard conversation of his state secretary, Steengracht, on July 14, Ribbentrop told him after that April 23, 1945, meeting : You know, the F¸hrer has proved right after all. The last thing he told me was, I actually came to power ten years too soon. Another ten years and I would really have kneaded the Party into shape. . . . I wrote that letter to Churchill because I had to. In our last discussion the F¸hrerhe was quite calmtold me he had never wanted any harm to come to Britain. The big handshake with Germanic Englandthat had always been his goal (X-P 18).
p. 810 The telegram draft was found in G–rings possession as a prisoner (DE 426/DIS 202). I also used an interrogation of Below, and the manuscripts of Ilse Kr¸ger and Hans Rattenhuber (in Russian archives); and Kollers secondhand version (diary, April 23). G–rings telegram to Ribbentrop and Speers letter to Galland are on microfilm T77/775. In D–nitzs last diary (T608/1) we find a telephone call from Bormann on April 23, after whichat 10:45 P.M.the admiral phoned General Stumpff ; the Luftwaffe commander in Germany. I have the following F¸hrer order for you : The Reichsmarschall whos down in the south has off his own bat ordered that the Reich government elements that fell back to the north are to fly down to the south. The F¸hrer does not want that at all. It is to be prevented at all costs. You [Stumpff] are to see to that. Have you understood that ?
p. 810 G–ring certainly found little support at the Chancellery. On April 25, 1945, Koller explained to the new Luftwaffe Commander in Chief Greim : He hadnt one friend there. He was just surrounded by enemies who fought him and the Luftwaffe in the most malicious manner these last two years and more, instead of helping (diary). And G–rings personal assistant Dr. Fritz Goernnert told American interrogators on May 12 : He [G–ring] realized more and more that [the Luftwaffes decline] was no accident. The Luftwaffe depended entirely on raw material allocations. You just couldnt get them for the Luftwaffe. Reichsminister Speer played the biggest part against G–ring, because thats just the way he washighly ambitious. He thought that in this way he could satisfy his ambitions still further (46M-8).
This is my own view too, after having intensively studied the interplay of Luftwaffe and German army arms production (which was Speers domain, along with raw material allocations). On the basic question as to whether Speer deliberately obstructed Luftwaffe production as a means of humiliating G–ring and obtaining control over it himself, see G–rings USSBS interrogation of June 29, 1945 ; Milchs resignation speech of June 30, 1944, (MD56/2701 et seq.); and the air ministry study of the reasons for the huge increase in aircraft production from March to June 1944i.e., from the moment Speers ministry took over (FD-4439/45).
p. 811 Hitlers order of April 24, 1945 (evening), is in OKW files (T77/775/1198 et seq.). Koller inadequately summarized it in his diary two days later, which text is unfortunately adopted by the OKW diary, Vol. IV, page 1590.
p. 813 A long U.S. DIC interrogation report on Hanna ReitschGreims female admireris in my possession.
pp. 816-17 Transcripts of the last letters written by Joseph and Magda Goebbels to their surviving sonby her first marriageHarald Quandt, on April 28, 1945, are also in my possession.
p. 817 The textsnot always accurateof the last days signals from the Chancellery are in the war diaries of the OKW command staffs north and/or south.
p. 817 The BBC Monitoring Report of April 28, 1945, noted that a Freedom Action Bavaria began broadcasting at 5:50 A.M. to workers to protect their installations against Nazi sabotage; Gauleiter Paul Giesler quickly broadcast his counterattack at 9:56 A.M., and at 4:48 P.M. he announced that the traitors had been summarily dealt with.
p. 817 The BBC Monitoring Report noted the first Allied report of Himmlers surrender offer at 1:55 P.M. About 5 P.M. D–nitz asked if the OKW was aware of this report. Himmler denied it, and Schwerin von KrosigkRibbentrops successorrepeated this dementi in a telegram to Ambassador Stahmer in Tokyo on May 6, 1945. Precisely how far Himmler did in fact go is uncertain. Reporting an earlier meeting between him and Count Folke Bernadotte, the British envoy in Stockholm cabled London on April 13 that Himmler had refused to consider a surrender as he was bound by his oath to the F¸hrer, to whom he owed everything and whom he could not desert ; Hitler was now interested only in the future architecture of Germanys cities, according to Himmler. (The telegram is in British files.)
p. 818 Bormanns cable to Munich is quoted in D–nitzs files, T608/1; so is Admiral Vosss radio message.
p. 818 In an order to Heinrici and Manteuffel that April 28, 1945, Keitel refused to cancel the dismissal decision and put General von Tippelskirch (Twenty-First Army) in command of the army group (T77/779/5697; and T77/1432/0025).
D–nitzs opinion is cited by W. Baum in his study of the German military collapse, WR, 1960, page 251. Keitels view is in his Memoirs.
p. 819 To his stepson Harald Quandt, Joseph Goebbels wrote : Germany will survive this frightful war but only if our people have vivid examples before their eyes upon which to righten themselves. We want to set such an example.... One day the lies will collapse and truth will again triumph over them. The hour will come when we shall stand above them all, pure and immaculate, just as our faith and endeavor have always been. Farewell, my dear Harald ! Whether we shall ever meet again is in the hands of God. If not, then be proud to have belonged to a family that was loyal to the F¸hrer and his pure and holy mission even in misfortune. Frau Goebbels wrote in the same vein. Hanna Reitsch read the letters and decided not to forward them ; the farewell letter of Eva Braun (With the F¸hrer I have had everything. To die now beside him completes my happiness) she tore upno doubt out of jealous pique.
p. 819 The letter to Wenck read as follows : Esteemed General Wenck ! As can be seen from the attached dispatches, the SS Reichsf¸hrer Himmler made the Anglo-Americans an offer which would have surrendered our nation unconditionally to the plutocrats. Only the F¸hrerand he alonecan bring about a turning point. The prerequisite to that is the immediate establishment of contact between the Wenck Army and ourselves, so that the F¸hrer regains freedom of action for domestic and diplomatic moves. Yours, Krebs, Chief of the General Staff. Heil Hitler, yours, M. Bormann.
p. 819 For Hitlers coming suicide the generals blamed the Party, and vice versa. General Wilhelm Burgdorf wrote on April 29 to Sch–rner that Hitler had signed his will today under the shattering news of the Reichsf¸hrers treachery. Bormann emphasized the failure of the generals in his letter to D–nitz : As our position seems hopeless because of the nonarrival of every division, the F¸hrer last night dictated the enclosed Political Testament.
p. 821 Hitlers last letter to Keitel was destroyed by the courier, Colonel von Below, on May 2, 1945 ; but he reconstructed it under CSDIC interrogation in March 1946.
pp. 822-23 My principal witness is Otto G¸nsche himself, who tape-recorded many hours of his recollections in 1967 and again in 1971 for me. Furthermore, I used interrogations of Kempkawho helped in burning the bodiesthe secretaries Gerda Christian, Traudl Junge, and Ilse Kr¸ger, and Goebbelss adjutant G¸nther Schw”germann. Contrary to the otherwise reliable account of Lev Bezymenski, Der Tod des Adolf Hitler (Hamburg, 1968)based on Soviet documentsthere is not the least doubt that Hitler shot himself as well as took poison, as in fact Artur Axmann privately told Milch in prison on March 1, 1948 (diary). Fragments of the cyanide phial were found in Hitlers jaw. And Life magazine published in July 1945 William Vandiverts excellent photographs of the bunker room and couch, on which the blood stains are clearly visible. Both Kempka and SS Brigadier Hans Rattenhuber (manuscript dated May 20, 1945, Moscow) noticed the bloodstains on the carpet too. The Walther pistol with which Hitler killed himself is now in private German hands.
According to Goebbelss telegram to Admiral D–nitz, May 1, 1945, Hitler died at 3:30 P.M., April 30, 1945.