In early 1945, the situation on the fronts of World War II was critical for Germany. On the Eastern Front, the Soviet troops crossed the Oder river and in early February reached the border about 60 kilometers from Berlin. On the Western Front, the German Ardennes counteroffensive failed, and on February 8, the Anglo-American army crossed the western border of Germany. In the south, in Italy, German-Italian troops quickly retreated north under pressure from the Allies.
In mid-January, Hitler arrived in Berlin from his Eagleʼs Nest residence in the Bavarian Alps. He changed the place of his stake for the third time due to the offensive of the troops of the anti-Hitler coalition. He set up a new headquarters in the center of Berlin, in the Reich Chancellery. But due to daily raids by the aircraft of the Allies, he was forced to move his headquarters underground to the Führerbunker under the same building.
It was a top-class shelter — with thick floors and walls, completely airtight, with a separate diesel generator and oxygen cylinders. The bunker was two-story. On the ground floor there were 12 rooms with offices, kitchen, dining room and guest room. The lower floor was elite — 17 rooms were intended for the Fuhrer himself and his immediate entourage. There were also bathrooms, bedrooms, telephone station, reception and security rooms.
Until early 1945, the bunker was almost never used. But later it became Hitlerʼs last headquarters. From mid-March and until his death he almost never left the bunker.
So Hitler returned to Berlin annoyed and angry. According to eyewitnesses, he looked so horrible that many began to doubt his health, both physical and mental. "At the end of his life, Hitler took an absolutely incredible number of various, including extremely extravagant drugs, which could not, of course, not affect his health. In particular, there was arsenic, amphetamines, cocaine and so-called gas tablets, which contained small doses of strychnine and atropine. He also developed Parkinsonʼs disease," wrote David Owen, a British politician, psychiatrist and publicist.
But most importantly, he developed an extreme degree of hybris-syndrome — excessive self-confidence, categoricalness, intolerance of criticism, belief in his infallibility and almost divine purpose. Some experts call this the "intoxication of power" to which politicians are often exposed.
Therefore, when Hitler was offered to negotiate on peace with at least Britain and the United States, he flatly refused the idea, confident of victory. In the last radio address from the bunker to the German people, Hitler accused the Western powers of "starting the war" and called on all to fight for a "final victory."
But defeat was inevitable. And everyone understood this, except the Fuhrer himself. German-occupied European cities fell one after another. But Hitler continued to believe in a "miraculous salvation," accusing his soldiers and generals of cowardice and treason and ordering that they be brought before a tribunal and shot. At this time, he began to compare himself with the Prussian King Frederick II and said he would be able to defeat opponents first in the east and then in the west. He even ordered a large portrait of Frederick to be delivered to his office in the bunker.
But unlike the tactical genius of his time, Frederick, Hitler increasingly began to give troops senseless and suicidal orders. In early March, he sent the last able-bodied units of the German army to attack Soviet troops with orders to recapture Budapest and Prague. The news of the failure drove him mad. He fired some military leaders for "overly panicked and not optimistic daily reports" and advised them to "cure their nerves".
In mid-March, at a meeting in the bunker, Hitlerʼs personal architect, Minister of Armaments and Ammunition, Albert Speer, in a report on the state of the countryʼs industry, for the first time stated in plain language that the war was lost. Prior to that, no one dared to say such a thing in the presence of the Fuhrer. Hitler first fell into a stupor, then became angry and said that he gave Speer 24 hours to "think over his words." The next day, Speer withdrew his words and said that he was "too hot." Satisfied, Hitler presented the minister his portrait, but could not sign it for a long time because of trembling hands.
The fact that Hitler denied reality did not improve the situation on the fronts. In early April, Soviet troops began storming Vienna, for which the Führer ordered to hold the city at all costs. On the morning of April 13, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels reported the death of the seriously ill US President Franklin Roosevelt. This news aroused Hitlerʼs admiration that he ordered a banquet with champagne in the bunker and toasted "for a quick victory." But that evening the news of the fall of Vienna came. Upon learning of this, Hitler, according to eyewitnesses, grabbed his heart and fell on the couch in his room. And then doctors pumped him out for a long time.
Within days, Soviet troops launched an offensive on Berlin. On the morning of April 20, Hitler woke up to loud explosions. He ran to one of his adjutants and asked, "Whatʼs going on?" To which he first received congratulations on his 56th birthday, and then the news that the city was shelled by Soviet artillery.
Around noon, Hitler went out from the bunker for the last time in his life to the courtyard of the Reich Chancellery. Boys from the Hitler Youth, some of whom were a little over ten years old, were lined up there especially for him. He shook hands with them all, called them "the future of Germany" and returned to the bunker.
Within hours, Hitler convened a military council in the bunker, at which all those gathered first began to persuade him to leave Berlin for northern Germany. But the Führer flatly refused, saying he would stay in the city "until complete victory". He ordered General Felix Steiner, who commanded the defense of Berlin, to prepare a counterattack on the positions of the Red Army "until their complete and final defeat." Everyone present understood that the order was impossible, but no one dared to object.
At a meeting on the morning of April 22, Hitler gave a speech on how a counteroffensive should stabilize the situation at the front and drive the Soviet army away from Berlin. One of the generals timidly objected that the troops could barely hold their defenses and could not advance. Hitler froze for a few seconds, then literally exploded in a blast of uncontrollable anger. He shouted hoarsely in his voice, surrounded by "vile liars and traitors who dare to disobey his orders," and hit the table so hard with the pointer he usually used on the map broke. Finally, he said for the first time that "the war is lost because it is impossible to command in such a situation." He added that now "everyone can do what they want", and he himself would rather shoot himself than run away.
After that, many of Hitlerʼs inner circle left Berlin. But some remained, and Goebbels even brought his wife and six children to the bunker. Speer was one of the last to leave. He was perhaps the only one to support Hitlerʼs decision to stay in Berlin, saying in farewell that "the Fuhrer should stay on stage when the curtain falls." According to him, at that time there was almost no discipline in the bunker — the corridors were full of drunken officers, everyone smoked wherever he wanted, even in the presence of Hitler himself, which was previously banned.
For the next few days, Hitler was in apathy, then he gathered generals and demanded an immediate offensive. One of the commanders, after leaving the Fuhrerʼs office after the meeting, declared to everyone that Hitler had finally lost touch with reality and had become a "crazy dreamer." The only more or less adequate solution at that time was the order for the total mobilization of all Berliners capable of bearing arms.
By April 27, Berlin was completely surrounded. Some of the escaped military leaders, such as SS Commander Heinrich Himmler, have already tried to negotiate surrender terms with Western countries. And Hitler at that time distributed ampoules of cyanide to all those who remained in the bunker.
Back in early April, his longtime mistress Eva Braun came to Berlin from Munich to Berlin and said she would stay with him until the end. On the night of April 29, they married in a bunker, for the first and the last time signing the marriage contract as Eva Hitler. After a short celebration, the Führer went to his office to write a will.
In the morning, Hitler learned of the death of his ally, the fascist dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini. The day before, Mussolini and his mistress were shot dead by Italian guerrillas, and his body was hung in a square in Milan for the crowd to mock. Perhaps this prompted Hitler to make adjustments to the will — he ordered his body to be burned. On the same day, the bunker staff prepared canisters of gasoline.
At noon on April 30, Hitler said goodbye to everyone in the immediate area who remained in the bunker, and at about 2:30 p.m., he and Eva locked themselves in his office. A shot was heard from there later. At this time, about half a kilometer from the bunker, Soviet troops stormed the first floor of the Reichstag.
One of the witnesses to these events was the bodyguard, courier and telephone operator of the Fuhrer Rohus Mish. "Hitlerʼs personal secretary, Martin Bormann, ordered the door to the office broken down. Hitler bowed his head on the table. Eva Brown lay on the couch, her knees close to her chest and her head turned to him. She was wearing a navy blue dress with white lace. I will never forget this picture," he recalled. The bodies were then wrapped in soldierʼs blankets, taken to the Reich Chancellery garden, doused with petrol and set on fire. But they burned badly, and the sounds of battle were getting closer, so the staff decided to bury the half-burned bodies nearby in a funnel from the shell. An examination later found that both had taken cyanide, and Hitler shot himself in the head to secure the death.
On May 1, the commander-in-chief of the German navy, Karl Denitz, whom Hitler had appointed as his successor in his will, announced on the radio that the Fuhrer had died. At this time in the bunker, Joseph Goebbelsʼs wife ordered the killing of all her children." Magda went down to the bunker with her six children, and we all knew what was going to happen. I saw Hitlerʼs personal doctor give them something to drink. And in an hour or two Frau Goebbels came to us in tears. She sat down at the table and started playing solitaire,” Rohus Mish recalled. The next day, Goebbels and his wife also took cyanide.
In the weeks following the announcement of Hitlerʼs death, some 7,000 Nazi soldiers and officials of various ranks have committed suicide, including several leaders of Hitlerʼs National Socialist Workersʼ Party, top SS leaders and army generals.
At the same time, a conspiracy theory emerged that Hitler and his wife had fled to Latin America, where they lived under other names. In fact, their remains were found by Soviet counterintelligence in the same shell pit near the bunker. Hitler was identified by his dentures. Fragments of his jaw and skull were taken to the archives of the Soviet secret services, where they are still stored. And the bodies were reburied several times, until in 1970, by order of the Soviet leadership, they were secretly excavated, burned, and the ashes scattered over a lake near Magdeburg.
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