"Hunting Hitler"

Hunting Hitler Part I – The Bunker [28 April-29 April]

Introduction

On 10 November 2015, the "History Channel" will begin an eight-part series on the possibility that Adolf Hitler did not die in his Berlin Bunker on 30 April 1945, but escaped to South America, called 'Hunting Hitler'.  When I learned about the forthcoming television series I remembered that in 2003 the National Archives released the FBI file 65-53615 from the series Headquarters Files from Classification 65 [Espionage] Released Under the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts, 1935-1985 [NAID 565806], regarding the multitude of unsubstantiated sightings of Hitler after 30 April 1945.  My curiosity prompted me to take a look at the file and found, as I remembered from a decade earlier, that it consisted primarily of rumors regarding Hitler being in South America.  I then proceeded to a 1945-1949 State Department Central Decimal File [NAID 302021], 862.002 [Hitler, Adolf] – and found that it contained similar information, as did the files Hitler, Adolf – XE003655 in the Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054].

I thought I would write something about the death of Hitler in the Bunker on 30 April, and the subsequent search during 1945 for proof of his death.  

--  Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park, MD.


Walther Wenck was the youngest general in the German Army and a highly experienced staff officer during World War II. At the end of the war, he commanded the German Twelfth Army. Wenck ordered his army to surrender to forces of the United States in order to avoid capture by the Soviets. Before surrendering, Wenck played an important part in the Battle of Berlin, and through his efforts aided thousands of German refugees in escaping the rear elements of the Red Army. He was known during the war as "The Boy General".


On 10 April 1945, as General of Panzer Troops, Wenck was made the commander of the German Twelfth Army located to the west of Berlin. The Twelfth Army was positioned to defend against the advancing American and British forces on the Western Front. But, as the Western Front moved eastwards and the Eastern Front moved westwards, the German armies making up both fronts backed towards each other. As a result, the area of control of Wenck's army to his rear and east of the Elbe River had become a vast refugee camp for German civilians fleeing the path of the approaching Soviet forces. Wenck took great pains to provide food and lodging for these refugees. At one stage, the Twelfth Army was estimated to be feeding more than a quarter million people every day.

Berlin's Last Hope

On 21 April, Adolf Hitler ordered SS-General Felix Steiner to attack the forces of Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front. Zhukov's forces were encircling Berlin from the north. The forces of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front were encircling Berlin from the south. Steiner was to attack Zhukov with his 'Army Detachment Steiner'. With few operational tanks and roughly a division's worth of infantry, Steiner declined to attack. Instead, he requested that his "army" be allowed to retreat to avoid its own encirclement and annihilation.

Felix Martin Julius Steiner was a German officer, who became Obergruppenführer of the Schutzstaffel [SS]), General of the Waffen-SS, and a member of the Nazi Party of Nazi Germany. He served in both World War I and World War II and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. He contributed significantly, together with Paul Hausser, to the development and transformation of the Waffen-SS, as an armed wing of the Nazi Party's Schutzstaffel, into a multi-ethnic and multinational military force of Nazi Germany.

Steiner was chosen by Heinrich Himmler to oversee the creation of, and command an elite Panzer division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking. In 1943, he was promoted to the command of the III [Germanic] SS Panzer Corps. On 28 January 1945, Steiner was placed in command of the 11th SS Panzer Army, which formed part of a new ad-hoc formation to protect Berlin from the Soviet armies advancing from the Vistula River.

By 21 April, Soviet Marshal Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the German lines on the Seelow Heights. Hitler, ignoring the facts, started to call the ragtag units that came under Steiner's command 'Army Detachment" Steiner (Armeeabteilung Steiner).

Steiner, who  had always been one of Hitler's favourite commanders, who admired his 'get the job done' attitude and the fact that he owed his allegiance to the Waffen-SS, not the Prussian Officer Corps, was was ordered by Hitler to envelop the 1st Belorussian Front through a pincer movement, to attack the northern flank of the huge salient created by the 1st Belorussian Front's breakout. Steiner's attack was due to coincide with General Busse's Ninth Army, attacking from the south in a pincer attack. The Ninth Army had been pushed to south of the 1st Belorussian Front's salient. To facilitate this attack, Steiner was assigned the three divisions of the Ninth Army's CI Army Corps: the 4th SS Panzergrenadier Division Polizei, the 5th Jäger Division, and the 25th Panzergrenadier Division. All three divisions were north of the Finow Canal on the Northern flank of Zhukov's salient. Weidling's LVI Panzer Corps, which was still east of Berlin with its northern flank just below Werneuchen, was also to participate in the attack.

The three divisions from CI Army Corps were to attack south from Eberswalde on the Finow Canal towards the LVI Panzer Corps. The three divisions from CI Army Corps were 24 kilometres [about 15 miles] east of Berlin and the attack to the south would cut the 1st Belorussian Front's salient in two.

Steiner called General Gotthard Heinrici and informed him that the plan could not be implemented because the 5th Jäger Division and the 25th Panzergrenadier Division were deployed defensively and could not be redeployed until the 2nd Naval Division arrived from the coast to relieve them. This left only two battalions of the 4th SS Panzergrenadier Division available and they had no combat weapons.

Based on Steiner's assessment, Heinrici called Hans Krebs, Chief of Staff of the German General Staff of the Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres or OKH), and told him that the plan could not be implemented. Heinrici asked to speak to Hitler, but was told Hitler was too busy to take his call.

On 22 April 1945, at his afternoon conference, Hitler became aware that Steiner was not going to attack and he fell into a tearful rage. Hitler declared that the war was lost, he blamed the generals, and announced that he would stay on in Berlin until the end and then kill himself.

After the capitulation of Germany, Steiner was imprisoned and indicted as part of the Nuremberg Trials. However, he was cleared of all charges of war crimes and released in 1948. He continued to live in Germany, wrote several books, and participated in organizing support for former Waffen-SS members. He died in 1966.

On 22 April, as Steiner and 'Army Detachment Steiner' retreated, Wenck's Twelfth Army became Hitler's last hope to save Berlin. Wenck was ordered to disengage the Americans to his west and, attacking to the east, link up with the Ninth Army of Colonel General [Generaloberst] Theodor Busse. Together, they would attack the Soviets encircling Berlin from the west and from the south. Meanwhile, the XLI Panzer Corps under General Rudolf Holste would attack the Soviets from the north. Unfortunately for the Germans in Berlin, much of Holste's forces consisted of transfers from Steiner's depleted units.

On 26 April General Weidling suggested to Hitler a breakout westwards on the night of the 28th by concentrating at one point the bulk of Berlin's troops and spearheading them with 40 battle-worthy Panzers. The German 12th Army at the Elbe River had disengaged from the Americans and was advancing toward Berlin and a link-up was achievable. Hitler, however, vetoed the plan — he would stay, and Berlin would not be surrendered. 

"Your proposal is perfectly all right. But what is the point of it all? I have no intentions of wandering around in the woods. I am staying here and I will fall at the head of my troops. You, for your part, will carry on with your defence".

-- Antony Beevor, "Berlin The Downfall 1945"

Hitler also passed up a plan offered by Artur Axman to smuggle Hitler out of the Russian lines under the protection of the Nordland part of the 5th SS Panzer division in the last few days of the war.

Wenck's army, only recently formed, did make a sudden turn around and, in the general confusion, surprised the Russians surrounding the German capital with an unexpected attack. Wenck's forces attacked towards Berlin in good form and made some initial progress, but they were halted outside of Potsdam by strong Soviet resistance.

Neither Busse nor Holste made much progress towards Berlin. By the end of the day on 27 April, the Soviet forces encircling Berlin linked up and the forces inside Berlin were completely cut off from the rest of Germany.

On 28 April, German General and Chief of Staff Hans Krebs, made his last telephone call from the Führerbunker. He called Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel at the new Supreme Command Headquarters in Fürstenberg. Krebs told Keitel that, if relief did not arrive within 48 hours, all would be lost. Keitel promised to exert the utmost pressure on Generals Wenck and Busse.

During the night of 28 April, Wenck reported to the German Supreme Army Command in Fürstenberg that his Twelfth Army had been forced back along the entire front. This was particularly true of XX Corps which had been able to establish temporary contact with the Potsdam garrison. According to Wenck, no attack on Berlin was now possible. This was even more so as support from Busse's Ninth Army could no longer be expected.

Late in the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) by radio:

"Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck's spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the Ninth Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the Ninth Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of General Rudolf Holste's spearhead".

In the early morning of 30 April, Jodl replied to Krebs:

"Firstly, Wenck's spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, Twelfth Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of Ninth Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste's Corps on the defensive".

As his attempt to reach Berlin started to look impossible, Wenck developed a plan to move his army towards the Forest of Halbe. There he planned to link up with the remnants of the Ninth Army, Hellmuth Reymann's 'Army Group Spree', and the Potsdam garrison. Wenck also wanted to provide an escape route for as many citizens of Berlin as possible.

Arriving at the furthest point of his attack, Wenck radioed the message: "Hurry up, we are waiting for you."

Despite the attacks on his escape path, Wenck brought his own army, remnants of the Ninth Army, and many civilian refugees safely across the Elbe and into territory occupied by the U.S. Army. Estimates vary, but it is likely the corridor his forces opened enabled up to 250,000 refugees, including up to 25,000 men of the Ninth Army, to escape towards the west just ahead of the advancing Soviets.

Escape route

According to Antony Beevor, "Berlin, The Downfall 1945", (Viking 2002), Wenck's eastward attack toward Berlin was aimed specifically at providing the population and garrison of Berlin with an escape route to areas occupied by United States armed forces:

"Comrades, you've got to go in once more", Wenck said. "It's not about Berlin any more, it's not about the Reich any more". Their task was to save people from the fighting and the Russians. Wenck's leadership struck a powerful chord, even if the reactions varied between those who believed in a humanitarian operation and those keener to surrender to the Western allies instead of the Russians.

Wenck was captured and put in a prisoner of war camp. He was released in 1947.

In 1982, Wenck died in a car accident in Bad Rothenfelde.

On the evening of 28 April Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Reich chancellor and President, had a lot on his mind. News had arrived during the day that there had been an uprising in northern Italy; Benito Mussolini had been arrested by the partisans; armistice negotiations were being initiated by some of Hitler’s military commanders in Italy; and there had been an attempted coup in Munich. 

Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff  was a high-ranking member of the Nazi SS, ultimately holding the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS. He became Chief of Personal Staff to the Reichsführer [Heinrich Himmler] and SS Liaison Officer to Hitler until his replacement in 1943. He ended World War II as the Supreme Commander of all SS forces in Italy.

When Italy surrendered to the Allies, from February to October 1943 Wolff became the Higher SS and Police Leader of Italy, and served as the Military Governor of northern Italy.

In agreement with Himmler on the issue of futility of continuing the war, from February 1945 Wolff under 'Operation Sunrise' took over command and management of intermediaries including Swiss-national Max Waibel, in order to make contact in Switzerland with the headquarters of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, under Allen W. Dulles, initially meeting with Dulles in Lucerne on 8 March 1945.

Russian forces were only some 1,000 yards from the Bunker, and the German Ninth Army, which had been ordered to break through the Russian-encircled capital of the Reich to rescue Hitler would most likely not be able to accomplish its mission. Still, Hitler held a slim hope that Gen. Walther Wenck’s 12th Army, heading toward Potsdam and Berlin, would succeed. [1]

As the evening progressed, more bad news was received in Hitler’s Bunker.  During the night Hitler received confirmation that Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was negotiating with the Western Allies. In response, Hitler ordered Eva Braun’s brother-in-law, SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein, Himmler’s liaison to Hitler, executed for desertion and treason. [2]

On 27 April 1945, Reichssicherheitsdienst [RSD] deputy commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl was sent out from the Reich Chancellery to find Hermann Fegelein who had abandoned his post at the Führerbunker after deciding he did not want to "join a suicide pact". Fegelein was caught by the RSD squad in his Berlin apartment, wearing civilian clothes and preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland. He was carrying cash—German and foreign—and jewellery, some of which belonged to Braun. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the Western Allies. According to most accounts, he was intoxicated when arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker. He was kept in a makeshift cell until the evening of 28 April. That night, Hitler was informed of the BBC broadcast of a Reuters news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies via Count Bernadotte. Hitler flew into a rage about this apparent betrayal and ordered Himmler's arrest. Sensing a connection between Fegelein's disappearance and Himmler's betrayal, Hitler ordered SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller to interrogate Fegelein as to what he knew of Himmler's plans. Thereafter, according to Otto Günsche [Hitler's personal adjutant], Hitler ordered that Fegelein be stripped of all rank and to be transferred to Kampfgruppe 'Mohnke' to prove his loyalty in combat. However, Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would only desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein court-martialed.

Fegelein's wife was then in the late stages of pregnancy [the baby was born in early May], and Hitler considered releasing him without punishment or assigning him to Mohnke's troops. Junge—an eye-witness to Bunker events—stated that Braun pleaded with Hitler to spare her brother-in-law and tried to justify Fegelein's actions. However, he was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery on 28 April, and was "shot like a dog". Rochus Misch, who was the last survivor from the Führerbunker, disputed aspects of this account in a 2007 interview with "Der Spiegel". According to Misch, Hitler did not order Fegelein's execution, only his demotion. Misch claimed to know the identity of Fegelein's killer, but refused to reveal his name.

Journalist James P. O'Donnell, who conducted extensive interviews in the 1970s, provides one account of what happened next. SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, who presided over the court martial for desertion, told O'Donnell that Hitler ordered him to set up a tribunal. Mohnke arranged for a court martial panel, which consisted of generals Wilhelm Burgdorf, Hans Krebs, SS-Gruppenführer Johann Rattenhuber, and himself. Fegelein, still drunk, refused to accept that he had to answer to Hitler, and stated that he was responsible only to Himmler. Fegelein was so drunk that he was crying and vomiting; he was unable to stand up, and even urinated on the floor. Mohnke was in a quandary, as German military and civilian law both require a defendant to be of sound mind and to understand the charges against them. Although Mohnke was certain Fegelein was "guilty of flagrant desertion", it was the opinion of the judges that he was in no condition to stand trial, so Mohnke closed the proceedings and turned the defendant over to General Rattenhuber's security squad. Mohnke never saw Fegelein again.

An alternative scenario of Fegelein's death is based on the 1948/49 Soviet NKVD dossier of Hitler written for Josef Stalin. The dossier is based on the interrogation reports of Günsche and Heinz Linge [Hitler's valet]. This dossier differs in part from the accounts given by Mohnke and Rattenhuber. After the intoxicated Fegelein was arrested and brought back to the Führerbunker, Hitler at first ordered Fegelein to be transferred to Kampfgruppe "Mohnke" to prove his loyalty in combat. Günsche and Bormann expressed their concern to Hitler that Fegelein would desert again. Hitler then ordered Fegelein to be demoted and court-martialed by a court led by Mohnke. At this point the accounts differ, as the NKVD dossier states that Fegelein was court-martialed on the evening of 28 April, by a court headed by Mohnke, SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfred Krause, and SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Kaschula. Mohnke and his fellow officers sentenced Fegelein to death. That same evening, Fegelein was shot from behind by a member of the Sicherheitsdienst. Based on this stated chain of events, author Veit Scherzer concluded that Fegelein, according to German law, was deprived of all honours and honorary signs and must therefore be considered 'a de facto but not de jure' recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Because of the decreasing hope of rescue by his military, the actual and perceived disloyalty of his subordinates [including Hermann Göring], and the desire not to be captured alive, Hitler knew that he soon would have to commit suicide. Before doing so, he wished to marry Eva Braun, and write his final Political Testament and Private Will (NAID 6883511).

Hitler’s secretary, 25-year-old Gertrude Junge, tried that evening to sleep for an hour. Sometime after 11 p.m., she woke up. She washed, changed her clothes, and thought it must be time for the evening tea with Hitler, secretary Frau Gerda Christian, and Hitler’s vegetarian cook Fräulein Constanze Manzialy, as had become a nightly occurrence.

Constanze Manziarly was born in Innsbruck, Austria. She began working as cook and dietitian for Adolf Hitler from his 1943 stays at the Berghof until his final days in Berlin in 1945.

Together with Gerda Christian and Traudl Junge, Manziarly was personally requested to leave the Bunker complex by Hitler on 22 April. However, all three women decided to stay with Hitler until his death.

Manziarly left the Bunker complex on 1 May. Her group was led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, and awkwardly made its way north to a German army hold-out at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer brewery on the Prinzenallee. The group included Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck and the female secretaries, Gerda Christian, Else Krüger and Traudl Junge.

Despite claims that she took a cyanide capsule to kill herself on 2 May, the day after the majority of staff abandoned the Berlin stronghold to avoid impending Soviet capture, Junge recounts Manziarly leaving with her group, "dressed too much like a soldier". In 1989, Junge recalled the last time Manziarly was seen was when the group of four women who had been given the task of delivering a report to Karl Dönitz split up, and Manziarly tried to blend in with a group of local women. In her 2002 autobiography "Until the Final Hour", Junge alluded to seeing Manziarly, "the ideal image of Russian femininity, well built and plump-cheeked", being taken into a U-Bahn subway tunnel by two Soviet soldiers, reassuring the group that "[T]hey want to see my papers." She was never seen again.

When she opened the door to Hitler’s study, Hitler came toward her, shook her hand, and asked, “‘Have you had a nice little rest, child?’” Junge replied, “Yes, I have slept a little.” He said, “Come along, I want to dictate something.” This was between 11:30 p.m. and midnight. They went into the little conference room near Hitler’s quarters. She was about to remove the cover from the typewriter, as Hitler normally dictated directly to the typewriter, when he said, “Take it down on the shorthand pad.” She sat down alone at the big table and waited. Hitler stood in his usual place by the broad side of the table, leaned both hands on it, and stared at the empty table top, no longer covered that day with maps. For several seconds Hitler did not say anything. Then, suddenly he began to speak the first words: "My Political Testament". After finishing his Political Testament, according to Junge, Hitler paused a brief moment and then began dictating his Private Will. [3]

Hitler’s Private Will was shorter. It explained his marriage, disposed of his property, and announced his impending death:

"Although during the years of struggle I believed that I could not undertake the responsibility of marriage, now, before the end of my life, I have decided to take as my wife the woman who, after many years of true friendship, came to this city, already almost besieged, of own free will, in order to share my fate. She will go to her death with me at her own wish, as my wife. This will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people".

Then after describing his possessions and their disposition, he named Martin Bormann as Executor, with "full legal authority to make all decisions". He concluded: “My wife and I choose to die in order to escape the shame of overthrow or capitulation. It is our wish for our bodies to be burnt immediately on the place where I have performed the greater part of my daily work during the course of my 12 years’ service to my people". [4]

The dictation was completed.  He moved away from the table on which he had been leaning all this time and said, “Type that out for me at once in triplicate and then bring it in to me". Junge felt that there was something urgent in his voice, and thought about the most important, most crucial document written by Hitler going out into the world without any corrections or thorough revision. She knew that “Every letter of birthday wishes to some Gauleiter, artist, etc., was polished up, improved, revised—but now Hitler had no time for any of that". Junge took her notepad and typewriter across the hall to type up the Political and Private Wills, knowing that Hitler wanted her to finish as fast as possible. The room she used was next to Reichs Minister of Propaganda Josef Göbbels’  private room. [5]

Eva Braun had spent most of her life waiting for Adolf Hitler and she had agreed to share his fate. She was much more than a dumb blonde reading romance novels and watching films - and she would now be with him forever. It was Hitler's wish that she should be with him in death as she had been for so many years in life. Shortly before his suicide, Hitler said of Eva: "Miss Braun is, besides my dog Blondi, the only one I can absolutely count on ..."

On the morning of 28 April 1945, Eva Braun confided in Hitler's secretary, Frau Traudl Junge:

"That day Eva Braun said something strange to me: she said, you will be shedding tears for me before today is over ... what she actually meant was her marriage to Hitler".


      A minor official of the Propaganda Ministry, Walther Wagner, married them in the early hours of 29 April 1945, as a crowning award for her loyalty to the end, while Soviet troops closed on the Reichstag and Chancellery.

The marriage document survived. Eva started to sign her name "Eva Braun" but stopped, crossed out the "B" and wrote "Eva Hitler, born Braun." Göbbels and Bormann signed as witnesses.

The next item of business was the Hitler-Braun marriage. Once Junge departed the conference room, guests began entering to attend the wedding ceremony.  The ceremony took place probably at some point between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.  The ceremony lasted no longer than 10 minutes.  They then withdrew into their private apartments for a wedding breakfast. Shortly afterward, Bormann, Göbbels, Magda Göbbels, and the secretaries Christian and Junge, were invited into the private suite.

Junge could not come right away as she was typing across the hall. At some point during the party, Junge walked across the corridor to express her congratulations to the newlyweds and wish them luck. She stayed for less than 15 minutes and then returned to her typing.

For part of the time, General of Infantry Hans Krebs, Lt. Gen. Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Lt. Col. Nicholaus von Below [Hitler’s Luftwaffe adjutant] joined the party, as did Werner Naumann [state secretary in the Ministry of Propaganda], Arthur Axmann [Reich youth leader], Ambassador Walter Hewel [permanent representative of Foreign Ministry to Hitler at Führer headquarters], Hitler’s valet Linge, SS-Maj. Otto Günsche [personal adjutant to Hitler], and Manzialy, the cook. They sat for hours, drinking champagne and tea, eating sandwiches, and talking. Hitler spoke again of his plans of suicide and expressed his belief that National Socialism was finished and would never revive [or would not be resurrected soon], and that death would be a relief to him now that he had been deceived and betrayed by his best friends. [6]

Hitler left the party three times to ask how Junge had gotten in her typing. According to Junge, Hitler would look in and say “Are you ready?” and she said, “No my Führer, I am not ready yet". Bormann and Göbbels also kept coming to see if she was finished. These comings and goings made Junge nervous and delayed the process, increasing her distress about the whole situation, and she made several typographical errors. Those were later crossed out in ink. Also complicating her task was the need to add to the political testament the names of some appointments of the new government under Adm. Karl Dönitz. During the course of the wedding party, Hitler discussed and negotiated the matter with Bormann and Göbbels.

While Junge was typing the clean copies of the political testament from her shorthand notes, Göbbels or Bormann came in alternately to give her the names of the ministers of the future government, a process that lasted until she had finished typing.  Toward 5 a.m., Junge typed the last of the three copies each of the Political testament and Personal Will. They were timed at 4 a.m., as that was when she had begun typing the first copy of the political testament.

Just as she finished, Göbbels came to her for the documents, almost tearing the last piece of paper from the typewriter. She gave them to him without having a chance to review the final product. She asked Göbbels whether they still wanted her, and he said, “No, lie down and have a rest". The wedding party was ending, and Göbbels took the copies of the documents to Hitler. The documents were ready to be signed. First Hitler signed the personal will, followed by the witnesses Bormann, Göbbels, and von Below. Hitler and witnesses Göbbels, Bormann, Burgdorf, and Krebs then signed the Political Testament. [7]

At around 6am on 29 April regular intense Russian artillery bombardment began with the whole area around the Reich Chancellery and the government district coming under fire. Then in the early morning hours the Soviets launched their all-out offensive against the center of Berlin.  Soon the front line was now only some 450 yards from the Chancellery. [8]

Ferdinand Schörner was a General and later Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) during World War II. He was one of 27 people to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten) and one of the youngest German generals. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade the Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or outstanding military leadership.

Schörner was promoted to the rank of Generaloberst in April 1944. In July he became commander of Army Group North, which was later renamed Army Group Courland, where he stayed until January 1945 when he was made commander of Army Group Centre, defending Czechoslovakia and the upper reaches of the River Oder. He became a favorite of high-level Nazi leaders such as Josef Göbbels, whose diary entries from March and April 1945 have many words of praise for Schörner and his methods. Finally, on 4 April 1945, Schörner was promoted to field marshal and was named as the new Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres) in Hitler's Last Testament. He nominally served in this post until the surrender of the Third Reich on 8 May 1945, but in reality, continued to command his army group, since no staff was available to him. He did not have any discernible influence in the final days of the Reich.

On 7 May, the day General Alfred Jodl, Chief-of-Staff of German Armed Forces High Command (German acroynym OKW), was negotiating the surrender of all German forces at SHAEF, the last the OKW had heard from Schörner was on 2 May. He had reported he intended to fight his way west and surrender his army group to the Americans. On 8 May, an OKW colonel, Wilhelm Meyer-Detring, was escorted through the American lines to contact Schörner. The colonel reported that Schörner had ordered his operational command to observe the surrender, but he could not guarantee that he would be obeyed everywhere. In fact, Schörner ordered a continuation of fighting against Red Army and Czech insurgents. Later that day, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria, where he was arrested by the Americans on 18 May, said to have been dressed as a Bavarian non-combatant, behavior for which he had only recently had his soldiers executed. Elements of Army Group Centre continued to resist the overwhelming force of the Red Army liberating Czechoslovakia during the final Prague Offensive. Units of Army Group Centre, the last major German units to surrender, capitulated on 11 May 1945

Schörner did not hesitate to second Hitler's daydreams in the last weeks of the war, agreeing that the Red Army's main objective would be Prague instead of Berlin (in itself a colossal strategic blunder), and so leading him to weaken the already critically thin defense lines in front of the German capital to counter this perceived threat.

Hitler now, in the early morning hours, wanted the three copies of his Political Testament and Private Will to be taken out of Berlin and delivered, to Grand Admiral Dönitz and Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner [then commander of Army Group Center in Bohemia – who would become the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army by Hitler’s political testament]. The first person summoned to serve as a courier was thirty-year old Major Willi Johannmeier, Hitler’s adjutant to the Army. At this point he resided in the air-raid shelter under the new Reichs Chancellery, near Hitler’s Bunker.

At about 8am Burgdorf sent for Johannmeier and told him that an important mission had been entrusted to him. Like Johannmeier, Burgdorf’s room was in the shelter of the new Reichs Chancellery.  He was to carry a copy of Hitler’s Political Testament and Private Will out of Berlin, through the Russian lines, and deliver them to Field Marshal Schörner. With him would go two other messengers, bearing similar documents. These were SS-Colonel Wilhelm Zander [an aide to Bormann, representing Bormann] and Heinz Lorenz [an official of the Propaganda Ministry, as representative of Göbbels]. These two men would receive separate instructions. Johannmeier was charged to escort the party on their journey through enemy lines. Burgdorf then gave him the documents he was to carry, along with a covering letter from himself to Schörner:

Führer’s HQ 29 April 1945

Dear Schörner

Attached I send you by safe hands the Testament of our Führer, who wrote it today after the shattering news of the treachery of the RF SS [Himmler]. It is his unalterable decision. The Testament is to be published as soon as the Führer orders it, or as soon as his death is confirmed.

All good wishes, and Heil Hitler!

Yours, Wilhelm Burgdorf

Maj. Johannmeier will deliver the Testament.

About the time Burgdorf was meeting with Johannmeier, or perhaps later, Bormann summoned Zander, who, like Johannmeier, resided in the nearby shelter under the new Reichs Chancellery. Bormann gave him his instructions, including that he was to take copies of Hitler’s Private Will and Political Testament to Dönitz.  When Zander expressed his desire to stay, Bormann went to Hitler and explained Zander’s wish. Hitler said he must go and Bormann conveyed this to Zander. Thereupon he handed Zander copies of Hitler’s political and private testaments, and the certificate of marriage of Hitler and Eva Braun.  To cover these documents Bormann scribbled a short note to Dönitz:

Dear Grand Admiral

Since all divisions have failed to arrive, and our position seems hopeless, the Führer dictated last night the attached political Testament.

Heil Hitler

Yours, Bormann

After receiving the documents from Bormann, Zander sewed them in his clothing later that morning.

Meanwhile Johannmeier had found Lorenz and told him that a special mission awaited him. Lorenz went to breakfast where he met Zander, who gave him a similar message, and advised him to go to Göbbels or Bormann at once. Lorenz reported to Göbbels sometime before 10am, and was told to go to Bormann and then return. From Bormann, Lorenz received copies of Hitler’s personal and political testaments. Bormann told Lorenz that he had been given this mission because as a young man with plenty of initiative, it was considered that he had a good chance of getting through. On his return, Göbbels gave his Appendix [to Hitler’s Political Testament] to him. Where Göbbels told him to take it is not totally clear. It seems that he was to take them to Dönitz if possible, or failing him, the nearest German High Command, and if all else failed, he was to publish the wills for historical purposes, and ultimately, it appears that the documents were to end up at the Party Archives in Munich.

When Johannmeier went to see Hitler around 9 am he had the will in his [Johannmeier] possession. Hitler told him that this Testament must be brought out of Berlin at any price, that Schörner must receive it. Hitler expressed his opinion that Johannmeier would succeed in the task and once again stressed the importance of the will reaching the destination which he ordered.  Johannmeier said they both realized that they would not see each other again and that this influenced the tone in which they said goodbye. Hitler spoke very cordially. Hitler shook his hand. Johannmeier realized that Hitler was going to die. [9]

While Johannmeier, Zander, and Lorenz were getting their instructions, the Russian attack drew ever relentlessly near the Bunker. At about 9am the Russian artillery fire suddenly stopped, and shortly afterwards runners reported to the Bunker that the Russians were advancing with tanks and infantry towards the Wilhelmplatz. It grew quite silent in the Bunker and there was a great tension among its occupants. [10]

About 10am, SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, the commandant of the Chancellery, rang Günsche and informed him that Russian tanks were advancing into Wilhelmstrasse and towards Anhalt station. Günsche reported this to Hitler, who orde red Mohnke to come to him. When Mohnke arrived, Hitler, in the presence of Krebs, Göbbels and Bormann, asked him immediately how long his forces could hold out against the Russians capturing the Bunker. Mohnke replied that unless he received heavy weapons, principally anti-tank weapons and sufficient ammunition, he could only hold out for another 2-3 days at most. At this point, according to Mohnke, the mood of all the leaders was gloomy and “all looked to Adolf Hitler and felt doomed". [11]

Later in the morning Junge went back to Hitler’s Bunker, in order to see whether any changes had taken place. She saw messengers from the fronts coming and going, Hitler was uneasy and walked from one room to another.  Hitler told her he would wait until the couriers had arrived to their destinations with the testaments and then would commit suicide.[12]

On 7 May 1945, SS-Sturmbannführer Dr Helmut Kunz, who had worked in the Reich Chancellery dental surgery from 23 April 1945 onwards, was interrogated by the Soviets. Although he did not profess to know anything pertaining directly to the deaths of Adolf and Eva Hitler, his statement contains a highly significant account of Eva's last known conversation.

The evidence he gave on this occasion cannot be lightly dismissed because it was the first account ever given by a Bunker survivor—meaning that it is the least influenced by accounts given by others. It is also the most reliable, in the sense that the events it discusses had taken place only a week before. Dr Kunz explicitly affirmed seeing Eva Hitler alive on at least two occasions on the evening of 30 April. Dr Kunz told his Russian interrogators that he had seen Eva playing with the Göbbels children on that evening and that a little later, between 10.00 and 11.00 pm, he, Professor Werner Haase and two of Hitler's secretaries had joined her for coffee. On the latter occasion, Eva told Dr Kunz that Hitler was not yet dead but he "would die when he received confirmation that [his] will had reached the person it had been sent to". It is very hard to imagine that Dr Kunz could have been confused about the date, that in such circumstances he could have mistaken Eva Hitler for someone else or that Eva did not actually know whether Hitler was yet dead or not. Moreover, since Hitler's will never reached its intended recipient(s), it is entirely plausible that Hitler would not have decided to die until the last possible moment, which is consistent with a time of 6.30 pm on 1 May.

During the morning General Krebs described to Major Freytag von Löringhoven, his adjutant, the profound disillusionment of Hitler. After the failure of all his effort, Hitler had positively decided to end his life. [13]

At noon, with the Russians closing in on the Bunker, Hitler held his situation conference. Joining Hitler were Bormann, Krebs, Burgdorf, Göbbels, and a few others.  During the briefing Hitler was informed that the Soviet forces had begun an encircling attack on the remnants of the Citadel from three sides and resistance could not be maintained much longer. Krebs added that there was no news of the relief Army. [14]

At about noon, Lorenz, in civilian clothes, Zander in his SS uniform, and Johannmeier in military uniform, accompanied by a corporal Heinz Hummerich (a clerk in the Adjutancy of the Führer Headquarters), left the Bunker.  Penetrating three Russian rings thrown around the center of the city, they reached Pichelsdorf (at the north end of Havel Lake) by around 4pm or 5pm, , where a battalion of Hitler Youth was holding the bridge against the expected arrival of the relief army. There they slept till night. [15]

Footnotes

[1] Anton Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler: Legend, Evidence and Truth" [London: Cassell, 2000]; Bernd Freytag von Löringhoven, "In the Bunker with Hitler: 23 July 1944-29 April 1945" [New York: Pegasus Books, 2006]; Gerhard Boldt, "Hitler’s Last Days: An Eye-Witness Account", trans, by Sandra Bance, [Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military Classics, 2005].

[2] Erich Kern, 'In the Bunker for the Last Battle', Appendix 1 to Erich Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka", trans. By Geoffrey Brooks [London: Frontline Books, 2010]; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler", Joachim Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich", trans. By Margot Bettauer Dembo [New York: Farrar, Strauss and Girousx, 2004].

[3] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054], Record Group 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948,, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Traudl Junge, "Until the Final Hour: Hitler’s last secretary", ed. By Melissa Müller and trans. By Anthea Bell [London: Phoenix, 2004.

[4] Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending 27 February 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, ;The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills', File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314), Publications [“P”] Files, 1946-1951, RG 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, p. 32, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[5] [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948,  Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Junge, "Until the Final Hour".

[6] Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] RG 165; [Interrogation of] Erwin Jakubeck, Munich, 6 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Junge, "Until the Final Hour"; H. R. Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler" [New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947]; Heinz Linge, "With Hitler to the End: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler’s Valet", trans. By Geoffrey Brooks [London: Frontline Books and New York: Skyhorse Publsihing, 2009]; James P. O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker" [London: Arrow Books, 1979]; Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Hitler’s Personal Aides", trans. By Giles MacDonogh [New York: Public Affairs, 2005]; Anthony Read and David Fisher, "The Fall of Berlin" [New York: Da Capo Press, 1995].

[7] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946,  File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 (NAID 645054); Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending 27 February 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary (NAID 2152314); [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Junge, "Until the Final Hour"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[8] Boldt, "Hitler’s Last Days"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[9] Text of letter from Gen. Burgdorf to Field Marshal Schörner accompanying Hitler’s Political Testament [Johannmeier’s copy], Appendix to Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, 1 January 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine],  File: Johannmeier, Willi – XE013274 [NAID 7359546)] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054]; Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending 27 February 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, 'The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills', [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary [NAID 2152314]; Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, 1 January 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: Johannmeier, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546); Interrogation of General Eckhard Christian and Major Willy Johannmeyer [Johannmeier], Americana Club, Nuremberg, 1330-1830 hours, 10 March 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in V. K. Vinogrado, J. F. Pogonyi, and N. V. Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death: Russia’s Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB" [London: Chaucer Press, 2005]; Herman Rothman, ed. by Helen Fry, "Hitler’s Will", The History Press [Glocestershire, United Kingdom, 2009].

[10] Boldt, "Hitler’s Last Days"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[11] Handwritten Statement by the Commander of the 'Adolf Hitler” Division', Chief of the Central Berlin Defense Region, Wilhelm Mohnke, Moscow, 18 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death". According to another source, Mohnke said a day at most. Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[12] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054].

[13] Freytag von Löringhoven, "In the Bunker with Hitler".

[14] Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 (CI), Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598]; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[15] Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 (CI), Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 (NAID 2790598); Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending 27 February 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, 'The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills', [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary (NAID 2152314); Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

Hunting Hitler Part II: The Bunker [29 April-30 April]

Around noon on 29 April 1945, the three couriers with copies of Adolf Hitler’s Private will and Political Testament [and one with his marriage license] left the Berlin Bunker and headed west. 

On 29 April, three couriers left Berlin. Each left with a copy of the Last Will and Testament of Adolf Hitler. Communications were down, the Soviets were closing in, and many were morbidly anticipating Hitler's suicide.

Major Bernd Freytag von Löringhoven and Rittmeister Gerhardt Boldt requested General Hans Krebs' permission to join the fighting outside. Krebs consulted with Burgdorf, who answered that they should take Lieutenant-Colonel Rudolf Weiß with them. At around 13:30 hours, Hitler approved the action and ordered the men to break through to General Wenck's 12th Army. Hitler further told them: "Send my regards for Walther Wenck. He should make haste, before it is too late".

Hitler asked, "How are you going to get out of Berlin?" When Löringhoven mentioned finding a boat, Hitler became enthusiastic and advised, "You must get an electric boat, because that does not make any noise and you can get through the Russian lines".

For those still in the Bunker, the day was one of feeling trapped and waiting for Hitler to kill himself.  Although few believed it would happen, some still were hopeful that the German relief forces would break through the Russian corridor around Berlin and save them. [1]

Hitler ate lunch around 2pm, as usual in the company of the secretaries Gerda Christian and Gertrude Junge. Christian later recalled that nothing was spoken about Hitler’s intention to die or about the manner in which this was to take place. [2]

During the afternoon, communications with the outside world were all but broken and the occupants of the Bunker increasingly became unawares of what was happening on the various fronts. [3] Sometime, probably around 4pm, General Alfred Jodl was able to get a message to the Bunker that in essence said that the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (OKW) knew nothing about the Ninth Army; believed General Wenck’s Twelfth Army was to be near Potsdam; and OKW could only report a hasty withdrawal westwards by Army Group Vistula. [4]

Around 4 or 4:30pm, at a situation conference, Hitler sent for SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, the commandant of the Chancellery, and requested an update on what was happening in Berlin. Mohnke spread out a map of central Berlin and reported that in the north the Russians had moved close to the Weidendammer Bridge; in the east they were at the Lustgarten; in the south, the Russians were at Potsdamer Platz and the Aviation Ministry; and in the west they were in the Tiergarten, somewhere between 170 and 250 feet from the Reich Chancellery. When Hitler asked how much longer Mohnke could hold out, the answer was "At most twenty to twenty-four hours, my Führer, no longer". [5]

After the situation conference, sometime between 5pm and 6pm, Erich Kempka (Hitler’s chief driver and head of the Führer’s motor pool) visited the Bunker.  Outside Hitler’s personal apartment, he stopped to talk.  Kempka said Hitler was composed and completely calm. “Even I, who knew him so well, could not read from his attitude the decision he had already taken to end his life.” In his right hand he held a large-scale map of Berlin. His left hand trembled slightly; a condition in the final months that was virtually permanent.  Hitler asked Kempka about the status of the motor pool.  Kempka replied that the vehicles were in bad condition, destroyed and damaged, but that they were still able to transport the necessary food for the emergency hospitals within the zone of the Chancellery.  Hitler then asked him how he saw things, to which Kempka replied that his men were involved in the defense of the Reich Chancellery in the sector between the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. Hitler asked what did his men think.  Kempka replied that without exception they were maintaining a bearing beyond reproach and waiting for relief by General Wenck.  Hitler responded quickly "We are all waiting for Wenck!"  Hitler and Kempka then shook hands, and Hitler spoke a word of encouragement, smiled and then entered his personal room. Kempka left to join his men.  In 1948, Kempka said that at no time did Hitler say goodbye or farewell. Kempka speculated that probably Hitler had not set the time of the suicide in his mind yet. [6]

At about 10pm Hitler summoned SS-Gruppenführer Johann Rattenhuber, Chief of the Reich Security Service (responsible for Hitler’s protection) to his room and ordered him to gather the leading personnel of the Headquarters and his close collaborators in his reception room.  “I remember,” he later recalled, “that at that moment Hitler looked like a man who had taken a very significant decision. He sat on the edge of a desk, his eyes fixed on one point. He looked determined.”  Rattenhuber went to the door to carry out his order, but Hitler stopped him and said, as far as he could remember, the following:

“‘You have served me faithfully for many years. Tomorrow is your birthday and I want to congratulate you now and to thank you for your faithful service, because, I shall not be able to do so tomorrow…I have taken the decision…I must leave this world…”

Rattenhuber went over to Hitler and told him how necessary his survival was for Germany, that there was still a chance to try and escape from Berlin and save his life. ‘What for?" Hitler argued. "Everything is ruined, there is no way out, and to flee means falling into the hands of the Russians…There would never have been such a moment, Rattenhuber," he continued, "and I would never have spoken to you about my death, if not for Stalin and his army. You try to remember where my troops were…And it was only Stalin who prevented me from carrying out the mission entrusted to me from heaven…"  According to Rattenhuber, Eva Braun came in from the next room and then for several more minutes Hitler talked of himself – of his role in history, that had been prepared for him by destiny, and shaking hands with Rattenhuber asked him to leave them alone. Rattenhuber thought, after him speaking about his mission from heaven, "He had lost his head from fear". [7]

Shortly after 10 pm Rattenhuber gathered up the individuals Hitler had requested.  Among those present for a meeting with Hitler were Josef Göbbels, Martin Bormann, Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Colonel Nicolaus von Below, Hitler’s Luftwaffe adjutant.  Under fire from machine-guns and grenade-launchers, General Helmuth Weidling, Commandant of Berlin, reached the Bunker covered in mud.  The atmosphere in the Bunker was like that of a front-line command post. All who gathered there for the situation report were in a despondent mood. Hitler, “his face still more pinched, was looking fixedly at the map spread before him". Weidling told Hitler that the situation in the city was hopeless, and that the civilian population, in particular, was in a very bad state.  He described the deteriorating military situation.  The Russians, he said, would reach the Chancellery by 1 May at the latest. Weidling suggested the troops in Berlin try to break out.  Hitler replied this was impossible as the soldiers were battle-weary, ill-armed, and without ammunition.  He then suggested that Hitler break out of the city with him and the surviving garrison, but Hitler categorically refused. [8]

Still, Weidling persistently asked Hitler to permit a breakout as soon as possible. Hitler, according to Weidling, with bitter irony in his voice, said “‘Look at my map. Everything shown on it is not based on information from the Supreme Command, but from foreign radio station broadcasts. No one reports to us. I can order anything, but none of my orders is carried out any more". Krebs supported Weidling in his attempts to get permission for a breakout. At last it was decided that, as there were no airborne supplies, the troops could break out in small groups, but on the understanding that they should continue to resist wherever possible. Capitulation was out of the question. Weidling felt that although he had failed to get Hitler to call a final halt to the bloodshed, he had managed to persuade him to end resistance in Berlin. [9]

About 10:30 pm an orderly came into the conference and said he had heard a shortwave broadcast reporting news of that Mussolini and his mistress had been executed by Italian partisans.  He may or may not have learned that their bodies had been hoisted upside down in Milan and that their bodies were pelted with stones by the vindictive crowd. 

Hitler never heard the other news that day from Italy. SS-General Karl Wolff, formerly Himmler's chief aide, had successfully negotiated the unconditional surrender of all German forces in Italy to the Western Allies.

On 29 April, the day before Hitler died, SS General Karl Wolff signed a surrender document at Caserta on behalf of General von Vietinghoff, after prolonged unauthorised secret negotiations with the Western Allies, which were viewed with great suspicion by the Soviet Union as trying to reach a separate peace. In the document, Wolff agreed to a ceasefire and surrender of all the forces under the command of Vietinghoff at 2pm on 2 May. Accordingly, after some bitter wrangling between Wolff and Albert Kesselring in the early hours of 2 May, nearly 1,000,000 men in Italy and Austria surrendered unconditionally to British General Harold Alexander at 2pm on 2 May.

In any event Hitler had already determined that his own body should be burned to prevent its exhibition. [10]

After the conference concluded von Below met with Hitler.  Earlier during the day von Below had asked Hitler if he would allow him to attempt a breakout to the West. Hitler considered this straightaway and said only that it would probably be impossible. Von Below replied that he thought the way to the West would still be free.  Hitler gave him written authority to go and told him he should report to the headquarters of the Combined General Staff, then at Plön, and to deliver a document to Field Marshal Keitel.  That afternoon von Below made his preparations and took part in the evening situation conference.  Hitler gave him his hand and said only “best of luck.”   After saying his goodbyes, Burgdorf handed von Below Hitler’s message. It was addressed to Keitel.  In it Hitler stated that the fight for Berlin was drawing to its close, that he intended to commit suicide rather than surrender, that he had appointed Karl Dönitz as his successor, and that Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler had betrayed him.  At midnight, with his batman Heinz Matthiesing, von Below left the Bunker and followed roughly the same route as the others (including the three couriers) who had left earlier during the day. [11]

It was apparently after Hitler had said his goodbyes to von Below that Hitler ordered his dog Blondi poisoned.  This was in part because he wanted to ascertain the effectiveness of the poison capsules he had been given and also the desire not to have the dog captured by the Russians.  After the poison had been administered the dog instantaneously died. Hitler came to see the results and to take his leave of the dog.  According to witnesses, Hitler said nothing, nor did his face express any feeling. Afterwards, Hitler returned to his study.  Junge later said that after Hitler had seen his dead dog, “His face was like his own death mask. He locked himself into his room without a word". [12]

Blondi  was Adolf Hitler's female Alsatian dog [German Shepherd] given to him as a gift in 1941 by Martin Bormann. 

By all accounts, Hitler was very fond of Blondi, keeping her by his side, even after his move to the underground Bunker in January 1945, allowing her to sleep in his bedroom. According to Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, Eva Braun, who preferred her two Scottish Terrier dogs named Negus and Stasi, hated Blondi and was known to kick her under the dining table.

In spring of 1943, Professor Gerdy Troost was in search of a German Shepherd dog of her own after being encouraged by Hitler to get one. He even gave her a book on raising and training dogs written by the "father" of the German Shepherd breed, Rittmeister Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz. It was Martin Bormann who eventually arranged for her to meet two dogs at her Munich apartment, out of whom she chose Harrass to be hers.

Gerdy Troost was another woman we do not read about much in history. She was the wife - and after 1934 the widow - of Ludwig Troost, who had been one of Hitler's favorite architects. Even after his death, Gerdy remained close friends with Hitler and many others of the Nazi party bigwigs, for whom she did extensive interior design work.

In the fall of 1944, Hitler had some special plans for Blondi - he planned to breed her to a suitable male from equally good lines as her own.

Blondi was bred to Harrass (with some difficulty) and at the very beginning of April 1945 had a litter of four puppies in the Bunker in Berlin where Hitler, his staff, and the Göbbels family were staying as the Russians neared the city. Hitler had a box for Blondi and her puppies in the bedroom, though most of the time they had free run of one of the Bunker's bathrooms. The first male puppy of the litter was named Wolf, Hitler's favorite nickname and the meaning of his own first name, Adolf (Noble Wolf), and some witnesses say that Hitler would be found carrying and petting the puppy frequently during those last days.

Fritz Tornow  was a Feldwebel in the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) who served as Adolf Hitler's personal dog assistant and veterinarian.

During the last days of World War II, Tornow was one of the few remaining German personnel in the Führerbunker. During the course of 29 April 1945, Hitler learning that the Soviet Red Army was closing in on his location, strengthened in his resolve not to be captured alive. That afternoon, Hitler expressed doubts about the cyanide capsules he had received through Heinrich Himmler's SS. To verify the capsules' potency, Hitler ordered Dr. Werner Haase to test them on Blondi. Tornow had to force the opening of the dog's mouth while Haase crushed a cyanide capsule in Blondi's mouth. Tornow became visibly upset by these events, more so when the dog died as a result.

According to a report commissioned by Josef Stalin and based on eye witness accounts, Tornow was further mortified when he was ordered to shoot Blondi's puppies.  On 30 April, Tornow took  each of the four puppies of Blondi's from the arms of the Göbbels children, who had been playing with them, and shot them in the garden of the Reich Chancellery, outside the underground Bunker complex, after Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide together. He also killed Eva Braun's two dogs, Frau Gerda Christian's dogs, and his own Dachshund by lethal injection. Hitler's nurse, Erna Flegel, said in 2005 that Blondi's death had affected the people in the Bunker more than Eva Braun's suicide had.

On 2 May 1945 the Soviet Army took control of the Bunker complex. Tornow was among only five living occupants; the others were Dr. Werner Haase, nurses Erna Flegel and Liselotte Chervinska, and Johannes Hentschel, the electrical engineer. They all surrendered to the Soviet troops.

Soviet troops later recovered Blondi's body as well as that of one puppy [most likely Wolf] when they searched the area, but never made a mention of any other pups in their records, so it is not known for sure what happened to them.

In the book "The Bunker" by James O'Donnell he states that toward Tornow was led out of the Bunker "raging mad in a makeshift straight jacket".

Tornow was taken by the Soviets to the Lubyanka Prison where he was detained, tortured and interrogated until he was released in the mid-1950s. From the 1960s to mid 1970s he lived in the Paulinenhof, in Orthöve, Hervest-Dorsten, where he produced dog food, and apparently the company still exists today, in Gelsenkirchen.

There are rumors that he later lived in Canada; breeders claiming that he worked for them or gave them dogs.

Blondi was initially buried in a shell crater outside the emergency exit to Hitler's Bunker, and this same burial site was later used to inter the cremated remains of Hitler and Eva Braun. On 30 April 1945, on Hitler's orders, Blondi, Hitler and Eva Braun were cremated with Diesel fuel in the Reich Chancellery garden above his Bunker. The charred corpses were later discovered by the Russians. These remains were allegedly shipped to Moscow for tests that confirmed their identity although some accounts have them being autopsied in a pathology clinic in Buch, a suburb of Berlin.

After the autopsies, Hitler, his wife, Eva Braun and his Propaganda leader, Josef Göbbels were allegedly buried in a series of locations including Buch, Finow and Rathenau [all in East Germany].

In February of 1946, the remains were again moved to a Soviet Smersh facility in Magdeburg. These remains were removed one final time in 1982 [some account say it was as early as 1970] at the request of Yuri Andropov, Secretary General of the USSR, 1982-84. Andropov, former KGB chief, fearing that Neo-Nazi's might discover the location, had the graves opened. All remains [still in a state of decomposition] were ground-up and put into a nearby Danube River tributary. All of these details are in dispute and there are many conflicting 'facts' stated in a variety of sources.

While Hitler was in his room, Frau Junge and Frau Christian were conversing and having coffee with two doctors, when Eva Braun joined them.  She said that Hitler would die when he received confirmation that the documents carried by the couriers had reached the persons they had been sent to.  She also said it would not be difficult to die because the poison had already been tested on a dog, and death would come quickly. [13]

Afterwards, Junge, Christian, and Eva Braun joined Hitler for a bite to eat.  Hitler in a calm and deliberate manner said that there was no other way for him, than to commit suicide, because he wanted never, alive or dead, to fall into the hands of the enemy.  He knew from the example of Mussolini, how he would be treated. He also said he could not fight with his soldiers, because in case he was wounded, there would not be anybody in his surroundings who would give him the mercy-shot, in case he was unable to do that himself.   Hitler repeatedly told them that after he was dead, he wanted to be cremated so that nobody shall find him.  He said the best is a shot through the mouth, death was instantaneous.  Eva Braun was for taking cyanide and pulled a little brass cylinder out of her dress, asking whether it would hurt and stating that she was afraid to suffer.  She added she was ready to die, but it must be painless.  Hitler told her that cyanide causes paralysis of the nervous and breathing system and causes death in a few seconds.  So Christian and Junge, not expecting anything good from the Russians, asked Hitler for an ampoule of poison.  He walked to his bedroom where he got the poison. In handing it to them, he said, “I am sorry that as a parting gesture I cannot hand you a nicer present” and that they were very courageous and he wished his generals would have had so much poise and courage as the women did. [14]

Meanwhile, at 10pm on 29 April the three couriers, Zander, Lorenz, and, Johannmeier, found two boats and pushed out into Havel lake, heading southwards for the Wannsee bridgehead, held by units of the German Ninth Army. In the early hours of 30 April they landed independently, Johannmeier on the Wannsee bridgehead, Lorenz and Zander on the Schwanenwerder Peninsula. There they remained, resting all day in underground Bunkers; and in the evening they reunited, and sailed together to the Pfaueninsel, an island in the Havel. From the Wannsee bridgehead Johannmeier had been able to send a radio message to Dönitz, informing him of their position and asking that an airplane be sent to fetch them.  On the Pfaueninsel, Johannmeier and Zander obtained civilian clothing and disposed of their uniforms. [15]

Shortly after midnight of 29 April, Hitler began saying his farewells, realizing he would die on 30 April.  These goodbyes were with four or five different groups. [16]  They lasted until sometime after 2am.  One group consisted of some 20-25 persons who worked in the Reich Chancellery and lived in its underground Bunker.  These included the secretaries, many of them Hitler had never met.  Another group, again numbering between 20-25 persons, included the officers of his escort commando.  In the first instances Hitler shook hands with everybody, thanking each one individually.  With the latter group he did not say anything when shaking hands. [17]

When addressing the second group, Hitler, in a very calm and conversational manner, said that he did not wish to deliver himself to the Russians and that he, therefore, was going to end his life, and that he was now releasing them from their oath.  He thanked them for their services and wished them all the best on their way to the western powers, for it was his wish that they should try to get through to the Americans or British, but that they should not get into Russian hands, on no account. [18]

During these farewells, Junge and Eva Braun watched from a short distance.  The former asked the later if the time had come for her and Hitler to kill themselves.  Eva Braun said no, but that she would tell her when the time had come.  She added that Hitler still had to say goodbye to those closest to him.  At some point in the early hours of 30 April, Rattenhuber, who was celebrating his 60th birthday, left his colleagues and their birthday celebration, and joined Junge and Eva Bruan.  They, all from Munich, talked about Munich and Bavaria, and how sad it was to have to die so far from home. [19] Meanwhile, Hitler was preparing to say good bye to those closest to him, knowing for many it would be the last time they would see him alive.

Robert Ritter von Greim, was a Bavarian ace who had scored 25 WWI aerial victories, been awarded a knighthood and the coveted Orden Pour le Mérite. He was the first squadron leader of the new Luftwaffe, appointed by Reichsmarschall Göring.

On 25 April 1945, Col. General von Greim asked Germany's most famous test pilot Hanna  Reitsch, knowing of her experience and expertise flying around the capital, to fly him into Berlin in a helicopter, as he had been summoned to a meeting with Hitler. Arriving at Rechlin Air Base, she learned the situation in Berlin had worsened, plus the helicopter they had intended to use had been destroyed. Another pilot was to fly von Greim to Gatow in a single seater Focke-Wulff 190, but Reitsch questioned how he would get from there to the Reich Chancellery. She asked if she could be crammed into the back of the plane, so that, with her knowledge of the Berlin center, she could see that von Greim found his way to the Chancellery. This was done and she describes it as the most terrifying plane ride of her life, as she was completely immobile and sightless the entire time.

Upon landing, they learned that all the approach roads into the city were in the hands of the Russians. They finally decided to try to fly into Berlin in a Fieseler Storch [Fi-156C] and land at the Brandenburg Gate. At 6 p.m. they took off in the only Fieseler Storch left, with Greim at the controls and Reitsch crouched behind him. Flying through a hail of Soviet anti-aircraft fire, the plane was hit in the engine and fuel tank. An armor-piercing bullet smashed Greim’s right foot, and he passed out.

Red Army troops were already in the downtown area, and Reitch, with her long experience at low altitude flying over Berlin and having already surveyed the road as an escape route with Hitler's personal pilot Hans Baur, using only hand controls, managed to successfully land the Fieseler landed on an improvised airstrip in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate. The Storch was later destroyed on the ground by Russian artillery.

Reitsch and von Greim made their way to the Führerbunker, and now
began events even more dramatic and historic than what Hannah Reitsch had already experienced in her event-packed life. Reitsch and Greim remained in the Bunker until early morning 30 April. Present, along with Hitler and Eva Braun, were the Göbbels with their six children; State Secretary Naumann; Martin Bormann; Hewel from Ribbentrop's office; Admiral Voss as representative from Dönitz; General Krebs of the infantry and his adjutant Burgdorf; Hitler's personal pilot Hans Baur, and another pilot Beetz; SS Obergruppenfüuhrer Fegelein as liaison with Himmler; Hitler's personal Physician, Dr. Stumpfegger; Oberst von Below, Hitler's Luftwaffe Adjutant; Dr. Lorenz representing Reichspresse chief Dr. Dietrich for the German press; two of Hitler's secretaries, and various SS orderlies and messengers.

Outside, SS elite troops were committed to guarding Hitler to the end. Inside, after Greim’s foot was operated on by Hitler’s physician, the Führer came into the room and expressed deep gratitude for his coming, saying that even a soldier had the right to disobey an order when everything indicates it would be futile and hopeless. Hitler then informed Greim of Göring’s betrayal and Greim’s succession to commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe. He said to Greim, “In the name of the German people I give you my hand".

Shocked, both Reitsch and Greim asked to stay with him in the Bunker to the end. Hitler agreed at the time and, later that night, according to Reitsch’s Allied interrogation report, gave Hanna a vial of poison for herself and Greim, as everyone else already had, saying "I do not wish that one of us falls to the Russians alive, nor do I wish our bodies to be found by them.” Reitsch, sobbing, begged her Führer to save himself and not deprive the German people of his life. That, she said, is the will of every German. Hitler answered that, “as a soldier, I must obey my own command that I would defend Berlin to the last.” He explained other things, and told her he still had hope that Wenck’s army could arrive from the South, but this was in case it came to the worst.

Hanna returned to Greim’s bedside and they decided together that should the end really come, they would quickly drink the contents of the vial and then each pull the pin from a heavy grenade and hold it tightly to their bodies.

On the 27 April, Obergruppenführer Fegelein disappeared. Shortly thereafter, he was captured on the outskirts of Berlin disguised in civilian clothes, claiming to be a refugee. Hitler ordered him shot, but this event caused some doubt as to Himmler’s position. And, indeed, on 28 April, a telegram arrived which indicated that Himmler had joined the traitor list by contacting British and American authorities through Sweden to propose a capitulation. This was a personal blow to Hitler, and was followed by the news that the Russians would make a full-force attack on the Chancellery on the morning of 30 April .

Just after midnight on that day, Hitler came to Greim’s room and ordered him to return to Rechlin to muster his planes to destroy the Soviet positions from which they would attack the Chancellery, and also to stop Himmler from succeeding him as Führer, and  to rendezvous with Karl Dönitz, who Hitler was convinced was rallying troops for a counter-attack. 

On 1 May 1945, Himmler attempted to make a place for himself in the Flensburg government. The following is Dönitz' description of his showdown with Himmler:

"At about midnight he arrived, accompanied by six armed SS officers, and was received by my aide-de-camp, Walter Lüdde-Neurath. I offered Himmler a chair and sat down at my desk, on which lay, hidden by some papers, a pistol with the safety catch off. I had never done anything of this sort in my life before, but I did not know what the outcome of this meeting might be.

"I handed Himmler the telegram containing my appointment. 'Please read this', I said. I watched him closely. As he read, an expression of astonishment, indeed of consternation, spread over his face. All hope seemed to collapse within him. He went very pale. Finally he stood up and bowed. 'Allow me', he said, 'to become the second man in your state'. I replied that was out of the question and that there was no way I could make any use of his services.

"Thus advised, he left me at about one o'clock in the morning. The showdown had taken place without force, and I felt relieved".

— Karl Dönitz, as quoted in "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan".

On 4 May, German forces in the Netherlands, Denmark and northwestern Germany under Dönitz's command surrendered to Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath just southeast of Hamburg, signaling the end of World War II in northwestern Europe.

A day later, Dönitz sent Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, his successor as the commander in chief of the Kriegsmarine, to U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in Rheims, France, to negotiate a surrender to the Allies. The Chief of Staff of OKW, Generaloberst [Colonel-General] Alfred Jodl, arrived a day later. Dönitz had instructed them to draw out the negotiations for as long as possible so that German troops and refugees could surrender to the Western powers. But when Eisenhower let it be known he would not tolerate their stalling, Dönitz authorised Jodl to sign the instrument of unconditional surrender at 1:30  on the morning of 7 May. Just over an hour later, Jodl signed the documents. The surrender documents included the phrase, "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 23:01 hours Central European Time on 8 May 1945". At Stalin's insistence, on 8 May, shortly before midnight, [Generalfeldmarschall] Wilhelm Keitel repeated the signing in Berlin at Marshal Georgiy Zhukov's headquarters, with General Carl Spaatz of the USAAF present as Eisenhower's representative. At the time specified, World War II in Europe ended.

Greim and Reitsch both protested that they would never reach Rechlin, the attempt was futile, but after a bit Greim agreed that every effort must be made, if just to give the light of hope to those in the Bunker. Hanna, though, went again to Hitler and begged that they be allowed to stay and die with him. According to her, he just looked at her for a moment and said, “God protect you".

Until 29 April aircraft could still land or depart close to Hitler's Bunker. At midnight April 28/29 a replacement airplane for Reitsch and von Greim arrived: a Luftwaffe pilot landed an Arado trainer on the Charlottenburg Chaussee between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column in what can only be termed a masterpiece of aeronautics.

About 1.00 am, 29 April, shortly before Hitler's wedding to Eva Braun, von Greim and Reitsch departed Berlin in the replacement airplane. As they left they observed a Ju-52 off the runway and a pilot waiting. James O'Donnell ["The Berlin Bunker"] erroneously concluded that this Ju-52 was waiting for Hermann Fegelein.

The Ju 52 that had 'successfully managed to land' on the Ost-West-Achse on 28 April night and then take-off again was apparently flown by one Oberfeldwebel Böhm from II./TGr 3. This was reported by another young Ju 52 pilot from this unit, Uffz. Johannes Lachmund who described events in his 2009 memoir. Although a pilot Lachmund flew on this sortie as a gunner. Lachmund records that this mission was flown from Güstrow to Berlin with five aircraft to evacuate high-ranking personnel from Berlin, including Ritter von Greim. As Lachmund reports, three of the five Ju 52s had to return after missed approaches, chiefly because the visibility was so poor from the heavy smoke from the fires everywhere on the ground. One Ju-52 was shot-down by the Soviets during the approach.

Lachmund mentions discussions via telephone from the 'air traffic control' command-post at the Siegessäule [Berlin's Victory column] between Ofw Böhm and the Bunker in the Reichskanzlei. There was apparently some dispute over the passengers to be flown-out, chiefly because Hanna Reitsch wanted to fly out Ritter von Greim herself at the controls of the Arado Ar-96, and not leave Berlin as a passenger on this Ju-52 flight. Eventually, the Ju 52 boarded only a few other wounded passengers but not the VIPs. Because of damage to the 'runway' from shelling, the Junkers transport had only 400 metres in which to get airborne.  It is worth noting perhaps that Deutsche Lufthansa record the minimum take-off distance for their lighter [unarmoured and unarmed] Ju 52/3m as 500 metres. [Johannes Lachmund : "Fliegen ; Mein Traumberuf – bis zu den bitteren Erlebnissen des Krieges", Verlagshaus Monsenstein und Vannerdat OHG Münster,  2009].

Fearing that Hitler was escaping in the Arado [Ar 96], troops of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army, which was fighting its way through the Tiergarten from the north, tried to shoot the plane down, but failed and the plane took off successfully, the pilot circling until they reached a cloud bank that protected them, after which they emerged into a clear night sky. In 50 minutes, they reached Rechlin.

Then, after conferring with what remained of the Operations Staff, they flew, with Reitsch as pilot in a small Bücker plane, to Plön to confer with Dönitz. In response to Greim’s order, the sky was soon filled with German and Russian planes. Landing at Lübeck, they had to go by car to Plön. From there, they went to find Keitel, who on 1 May gave them the news that Wenck’s army had long been destroyed or captured, and that he had sent word to that effect to Hitler the day before, on 30 April. Greim and Reitsch now fully expected the suicide plans had been put into operation.

That evening, the announcement of Hitler’s death was made and that Admiral Dönitz was his successor.  After another short trip to Plön, they flew in a Dornier 217 to Königgraetz where Greim lay in hospital for four days while events moved swiftly. On 7 May news reached him that capitulation would probably take place on 9 May.

They left that night, and after crash landing in a field near Graz because of Flak, took off again for Zell am See in search of Field Marshal Kesselring. By the time they got there, they learned Germany had already signed an unconditional surrender; Greim's command was at an end.

They flew to Kitzbühel on the morning of the 9 May and reported to American Military authorities shortly thereafter.

Reitsch was held by the Americans until October 1946 for questioning over the possibility that she had flown Hitler out.

Footnotes

[1] Junge, "Until the Final Hour".

[2] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[3] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[4] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[5] Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker". Another source indicates Mohnke replying that with the weapons and ammunition he had, he could hold out for two or three days more. Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death".

[6] Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Oberstrumbanführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Fuehrer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] RG 165; [Interrogation of] Erich Kempka, Munich, 8 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur". Kempka told a reporter in June 1945 that this was the last time he saw Hitler alive and that Hitler appeared quiet and normal. James MacDonald, 'Hitler Cremated in Berlin, Aides Say', "The New York Times", 21 June 1945.

[7] Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death".

[8] Manuscript Testimony of General Helmuth Weidling, 4 January 1946, in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[9] Manuscript Testimony of General Helmuth Weidling, 4 January 1946, in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death". The airborne supply by parachute on the night of 29-30 April had brought almost nothing: only 6 tons of supplies were delivered, including 8-10 boxes of small arms ammunition, 15-20 artillery rounds and a small quantity of medical supplies. Manuscript Testimony of General Helmuth Weidling, 4 January 1946, in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Handwritten Statement by the Commander of the “Adolf Hitler” Division, Chief of the Central Berlin Defense Region, Wilhelm Mohnke, Moscow, 8 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death".

[10] Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598]; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[11] 032 Civilian Interrogation Camp, 1 Corps District, B.A.O.R., First Interrogation Report, Heinz Hermann Matthiesing, 25 January 1946, inclosure to Memorandum, [signed for] Brigadier, head of Intelligence Bureau, OCG [BE], Bad Oeynhausen to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, United States Forces European Theater, attn: Maj. Alfano, Subject: Death of Hitler, 5 February 1946, File: HITLER, Adolf – XE003655 (NAID 7359097), Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004; Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598]; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Nicolaus von Below, "At Hitler’s Side: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Luftwaffe Adjutant 1937-1945", trans. By Geoffrey Brooks [London: Greenhill Books and Mechanicsburg Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2001]. There seems to be some doubt about von Below’s mission and to the message that he carried. Von Below, "At Hitler’s Side".

Von Below, as he admitted after his arrest in January 1946, left Hitler's Bunker at midnight on 29-30 April I945, having taken his official leave of Hitler, Eva Braun, Göbbels, and General Burgdorf, to whom he had been responsible, half an hour before. The idea of trying to get away had occurred to him at tea-time on 29 April, when he realized, since the sounds of battle could be heard at the bottom of the Bunker steps, that the Russians would have reached the Chancellery by the next day, or the day after.

It was generally known in all three of the Bunkers that Hitler and Eva Braun had decided to commit suicide, and that Göbbels and his family and General Burgdorf would do the same after the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun had been burned. Von Below did not relish the idea of being left in the Bunker, either to follow the example of his Führer or to fall into the hands of the Russians, and so he asked permission of General Burgdorf to leave, and try to get through the enemy lines to the headquarters of General Keitel "to put up a brave fight". The general said that since von Below was Hitler's adjutant he thought he ought to ask him. This von Below did, and Hitler said he would not require him any more, shook hands with him, and wished him luck on his journey.

What happened to von Below afterwards sounds like a passage out of a detective story.

Shells were dropping not far from the Unter den Linden as the adjutant left the Bunker. There were many fires burning in various parts of Berlin and the sky was ablaze. The noise was deafening, heavy artillery, mortars and Panzerfausts adding to the perpetual din of small-arms fire. Obviously the Germans were making their last stand.

Von Below crept across the garden of the Chancellery and went out the back way in the direction of the Charlottenburger Chaussee. He made good progress that night, stole through the Russian lines and lay up at dawn. For three nights he continued in the direction of Keitel's head-quarters, and when he found he could go no further he secured some civilian clothes and turned west through territory occupied by British and Americans. He contacted his father-in-law, Stefan Kuhne, his brother-in-law, Major Heinrich Behr, and a woman named Maria von Groote, and they helped him although they knew that he was wanted by the British. One of them enabled him to enroll as a student of law at Bonn University under an assumed name.

He would not stay longer than was necessary with his friends because he feared detection, and he took a room not far from Bonn University at the house of a stranger. For six months he lived the life of a University student, deceiving everyone, until one January morning he gave himself away. He was sitting at the breakfast table reading the "Kölnischer Kurier", when he jumped in surprise, rushed past his landlady and went to his room. He did not come back for his breakfast. He had read the report of the finding of Hitler's Will.

Shortly after that von Below was arrested.

Von Below told British Intelligence officers that he took up his  quarters in one of the three Bunkers outside the Reichs Chancellery on Hitler's orders on 20 April I945, and that he was present at the conference at which Hitler decided to stay in the capital. He confirmed the story told by Hanna Reitsch, without adding additional facts. He spoke of the effect the news of his betrayal by Göring and Himmler had on Hitler, who had grown very nervous and was suffering from delayed shock caused by the attempt on his life on 20 July I944. He heard about the arrangements for the marriage of Hitler and Eva Braun on 28 April, but was not invited to the ceremony. He stood outside the room, however, and he saw Hitler and Eva Braun leave it, accompanied by the registrar.

He was invited later the same night to go to Hitler's living-room, where he drank champagne together with Dr. Göbbels, Frau Göbbels, who was very quiet, Martin Bormann, General Krebs and General Burgdorf. Two of Hitler's ordinary secretaries -probably the ones who had prepared the Will and Testament- were also present. This strange champagne party lasted for about one hour, during which everyone talked rather nostalgically about the past, and pretended to ignore the fear for the future that showed on their faces.

When the party was over von Below was called into a nearby room, where he was joined by Göbbels and Bormann. Hitler came in with a paper. Turning to von Below, Hitler said that since he had served the Führer as Luftwaffe adjutant for such a long time he was going to ask him to perform a last service. Von Below was then invited to sign Hitler's Personal Will. Von Below read the will after it had been discussed by

Göbbels and Hitler. Hitler signed it with a flourish, followed by Martin Bormann and by Göbbels. Von Below signed last. He was not asked to sign Hitler's Political Testament, and he did not hear of this until later, when General Burgdorf told him a new Government had been formed.

Von Below revealed that he took two letters with him from the Bunker, one from Hitler to Field Marshal Keitel and the other from General Krebs to General Jodl. He declared that he burned these two letters on his way through the Russian lines, but before doing so he read them, committing their contents to memory.

He recited from memory "the contents of these letters".

That from Hitler to General Keitel, dated 29 April, was alleged to have read:

"The fight for Berlin is drawing to a close. On the other fronts as well the end can be expected within a few days. I am going to commit suicide rather than surrender.

"I have appointed Grossadmiral Dönitz as my successor as Reichspräsident and Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht. I expect you to remain at your posts, and to give my successor the same zealous support you have granted me, and to do your utmost to fight gallantly to the end.

"Two of my oldest supporters, Göring and Himmler, have broken faith with me at the last minute.

"The people and Wehrmacht have given their all in this long and hard struggle. The sacrifice has been enormous. My trust has been misused by many people. Disloyalty and betrayal have undermined resistance throughout the war. It was therefore not granted to me to lead the people to victory.

"The Army General Staff cannot be compared with the General Staff in the Great War. Its achievements were far behind those on the fighting front The Luftwaffe fought bravely.  Its Commander-in-Chief has been unable to maintain the superiority of the years 1939 and I940. The Navy has wiped out the disgrace of i918 by its morale during this war. It cannot be blamed for its defeat.

"The efforts and sacrifices of the German people have been so great that I cannot believe that they have been in vain. The aim must still be to win territory in the East for the German people".

The letter from General Krebs to General Jodl, dated 29 April, was:

"The encirclement of Berlin by the Russians is complete.  Our own resistance against enemy superiority can only last a few days. Arms and ammunition are lacking. Supplies by air are insufficient. It is no longer possible to land in Berlin. There is no information about the position of Wenck's army here. Their help in saving Berlin is no longer reckoned with.

"The Führer expects that the other fronts will fight on to the last man".

-- Byford-Jones, W., "Berlin Twilight" [1947]


At noon of 29 April 1945, von Below asked Hitler for permission to leave the Bunker, and attempt to make it out of Berlin to the west. Hitler granted him permission to leave, and told him to go to Grand Admiral Dönitz. Together with his adjutant Heinz Mathiesing, von Below left the Bunker at midnight on 29 April 1945, after he had attended the evening briefing, carrying a letter from Hitler to Fieldmarshal Wilhelm Keitel explaining the recent events of betrayal and extolling the sacrifices of the German people.  On the flight to the West, he was arrested after various intermediate stations on 7 January 1946 in Godesberg by the British. In captivity he was questioned by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, who later wrote the book  "The Last Days of Hitler" [1947].

To end the coercive detention and to achieve better prison conditions for himself, von Below said something about an alleged order from Hitler that he should bring Keitel to him.

After the war, Below wrote a book containing the memoirs of his service during World War II entitled "At Hitler's Side" [2001]

He wrote: "It has subsequently given me no little pleasure, to read in Trevor-Roper's book.....the nonsense about Hitler's order to me,  to deliver a secret message to Keitel".

[12] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054], RG 319; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov,  "Hitler’s Death"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and "Teptzov, Hitler’s Death"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; [Interrogation of] Erwin Jakubeck, Munich, 6 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[13] Record of Interrogation of the Reich Chancellery Physician Helmut Kunz, by 4th Section of the Smersh Counter-Espionage Department of the 1st Byelorussian Front, 7 May 1945, in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death".

[14] Written narrative by Traudl Junge, n.d., p. 8, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude; Interrogation of Hermann Karnau on 26 September 1945, on the subject of burning Hitler’s body, in continuation of previous interrogation reports on the same subject, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations; Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Junge, "Until the Final Hour".

Else Krüger  was Martin Bormann's secretary from the end of 1942 [and, allegedly, mistress] during World War II. She was born in Hamburg-Altona.

She was in the Führerbunker during the Battle of Berlin. Krüger was with Eva Braun, Gerda Christian, Traudl Junge, and Constanze Manziarly when German dictator Adolf Hitler told them that they must prepare to leave for the Berghof like the others. However, she volunteered to remain with Hitler in the Berlin Führerbunker. She was there when Braun indicated that she would never leave Hitler's side and they embraced. In a gesture of kindness, Hitler gave each of the women a cyanide capsule.

Thereafter, Krüger left the Führerbunker on 1 May 1945 in a group led by Waffen-SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke. On the morning of 2 May, the group was captured by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army while hiding in a cellar at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery on Prinzenallee.

After the war Krüger was interrogated by the British. She later married her British interrogator, Leslie James, on 23 December 1947 in Wallasey, Cheshire UK. She lived under the name Else James in Wallasey.

She died in Germany on 24 January 2005 aged 89, despite speculation that she had lived to be much older.

[15] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[16] According to one account Hitler went to the rooms occupied by the staff, and shook hands with everyone and said a few words to them all.  To the secretary Fräuelein Else Krüger he suggested that she should try to make her escape through the lines, rather than to remain in the Bunker. Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, RG 165.

[17] [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, p. 41, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Junge, "Until the Final Hour"; [Interrogation of] Erwin Jakubeck, Munich, 6 February1948, pp. 12-13, 14, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University

[18] [Interrogation of] Erwin Jakubeck, Munich, 6 February 1948, pp. 16-17, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[19]  Written narrative by Traudl Junge, n.d., p. 9, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Junge, "Until the Final Hour". 

Hunting Hitler Part III: The Bunker [Morning, 30 April)

In the early hours of 30 April 1945, Hitler continued saying his goodbyes in his Bunker.  The next group would consist of many people closest to him.  This gathering consisted of Josef and Frau Göbbels; Martin Bormann; Generals Wilhelm Burgdorf, Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Mohnke, and Johann Rattenhuber; Vice Admiral Hans-Erich Voss; Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger [his physician]; State Secretary Werner Naumann; Ambassador Walther Hewel; Junge and Christian [the secretaries], Miss Manziarly [his vegetarian cook]; Hans Baur and Georg Betz [his personal pilots]; and several high-ranking SS officers; at least twenty people in all.

Werner Naumann was State Secretary in Josef Göbbels' Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda during the Third Reich. He was appointed head of the Propaganda Ministry in the Flensburg government of Karl Dönitz by Hitler's Testament of 29 April 1945,  after Dr. Göbbels was promoted to Reichskanzler.  Naumann was the last person to talk to Göbbels and his wife before they committed suicide on 1 May 1945.

Later that day, he was the leader of break-out group number 3 from the Führerbunker. The group included Martin Bormann, Hans Baur, Ludwig Stumpfegger and Artur Axmann. Erich Kempka testified at Nuremberg that he had last seen Naumann walking a metre in front of Martin Bormann when a Soviet rocket exploded by Bormann while he was crossing the Weidendammer Bridge under heavy fire in Berlin. According to Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann, the group followed a Tiger tank which spearheaded the first attempt to storm across the bridge, but it was destroyed. Bormann, Stumpfegger and himself were "knocked over" when the tank was hit. Axmann crawled to a shellhole where he met up again with Naumann, Bormann, Baur, and Stumpfegger; they all made it across the bridge. From that group, only Naumann and Axmann escaped the Soviet Army encirclement of Berlin and made it to western Germany.

Instead of proceeding to Flensburg to join Dönitz he disappeared, and it has been generally accepted that he was then captured and interned by British forces, however, Naumann is the highest ranking person in the Nazi hierarchy known to have come to Argentina immediately postwar. The manner in which he entered Argentina is not known.

The only Argentine author who wrote about Naumann is Jorge Camarasa: "Los Nazis en la Argentina", Editorial Legasa, Buenos Aires, 1992.

In June 1947 a Buenos Aires publishing house, Dürer Verlag, owned by the former Nazi financier Ludwig Freude, began publishing a neo-Nazi magazine "Der Weg" which had been banned in Europe. It was financed by industrialists and German businessmen in Buenos Aires and German colonies in Misiones and Chaco provinces. This was investigated by Israeli agents, who noticed Naumann and reported him to the Wiesenthal Centre.

Naumann returned to Germany in 1949, giving rise to the assumption that he had always been in Europe and had somehow managed to evade detection and internment.

He was arrested by the British Army on 16 January 1953 and accused of being the leader of a Neo-Nazi group that had attempted to infiltrate West German political parties; he was released after seven months in custody. Later on, he became director at a metal firm in Lüdenscheid owned by Göbbels' stepson Harald Quandt.

Hitler shook hands with each, making a personal comment to each one, spoken barely above a whisper, so softly that people could hardly understood what he said. Then addressing the group, he said he did not want to fall into Russian hands and therefore he had decided to commit suicide. Everyone present was freed from his or her oath to him. He hoped they would be able to reach the British or American lines. [1]  SS-Unterscharführer Maximilian Kölz of the bodyguard later testified that from the foot of the stairs he saw Hitler saying goodbye to his entourage.  Immediately following this scene, according to Kölz, one of the participants told him that Hitler would now shortly kill himself. “This information did not surprise me in the least: in recent days we older officers had reached the conclusion that the relief [of Berlin] could no longer be counted upon…” [2]

Around 1:30am Hitler asked that all the medical staff of the hospital at the Reichs Chancellery visit him.  By 2am they were gathered in the the lobby of the bunker outside of Hitler’s quarters.  In this group were Chief physician of the hospital- Obersturmführer Dr. Haase; Senior physician of the hospital- Standartenführer Dr. Schenck; the second physician of the hospital Sturmbannführer- Dr. Kunz; surgical nurses- Erna Flegel, Liselotte Chervinska, and, Elisabeth Lyndhurst; another surgical nurse Rut [full name not known]; Frau Heusermann [Dr. Blaschke’s dental assistant]; and perhaps another 15 to 20 nurses and some other women, including Baroness von Varo [apparently the mistress of an officer of Hitler’s escort commando]. 

In "The Last Days of Hitler" Trevor-Roper mentions a lady, Baroness von Varo that was in the Führerbunker.

This is what the author says about her in the note of sources: "von Varo, Baroness: Was casually in second (SS) Bunker until 1 May. Was present at Hitler's first leave-taking at 2:30 hours on 29 April.

In the introduction to the third edition Trevor-Roper writes: "...and the Baroness von Varo, a casual visitor in Hitler's Bunker, who had been discovered by a British journalist in Berlin, and who was traced and interrogated by me in her mother's home at Bückeburg".

Her full name is actually Irmengard Baroness von Varo zu Bagion, and she was sheltering from the bombings in an adjacent Bunker due to her friendship with Ruger an officer of Hitler's Escort Commando. She attempted to leave Berlin with Kempka and a group from the Führerbunker. She was interviewed on 10 March 1948 by Michael A. Musmanno at Stein Castle, where she described the last days in the Bunkers under the Reich Chancellery and her experiences in the breakout.

Schenck recalled Hitler’s clothes were “sloppy, food-stained.” He “could see Hitler’s hunched spine, the curved shoulders that seemed to twitch and tremble. He struck me as an agonized Atlas with a mountain on his back". Hitler seemed hardly able to shuffle the two paces forward to greet them. “His eyes although he was looking directly at me, did not seem to be focusing… The whites were bloodshot…Drooping black sacks under his eyes betrayed loss of sleep…" Hitler then greeted them individually, inquiring about the names of the persons whom he did not know. According to von Varo, Hitler’s eyes "were glaring into emptiness...his left hand trembled," and that Hitler did not seem to look at the person when he shook hands.  After greeting each person individually, Hitler then thanked all of whom that had earlier in the night had been decorated for their services.  This greeting lasted four or five minutes.  Then Hitler dismissed them, and asked Haase to join him in his room. [3]

Dr. Schenck believed that it was with Haase that Hitler discussed the manner and method of his own suicide. "I know this because Professor Haase told me so, the day after the suicide". They also, according to Schenck, were discussing the problem of how to destroy the bodies. [4]

When Hitler and Haase withdrew from the room, everyone, according to von Varo, asked each other what the meaning of it could be, and they concluded that it must be the preliminary to suicide.  She added that she and her colleagues stayed up all night, contemplating what they would do and talking about how Hitler would commit suicide. "We waited for it. It had to come". [5]  After the meeting with Hitler, Schenck was invited to join a party that was taking place.  Günsche, whom he knew, introduced him to the others. Among them were Bormann, the Göbbels, Krebs, Burgdorf, Bauer, Rattenhuber, Axmann, Hewel, Voss, Linge, and Kempka. He recalled Krebs remarking that it was his guess that the Red Army would want to wait another 24 hours, until May Day, so that Russian Marshal Zhukov could present the big prize [Berlin] to Stalin. “This touch of gallows humor drew rather hollow laughs". [6]

At 3am Field Marshal Keitel sent a message by radio telling of the failure of Wenck’s Twelfth Army to break through for the relief of Berlin and the Ninth Army being fully encircled; thus, nothing could be expected from the relief armies.  This message clearly indicated that all hope was gone. Whether this message was seen in the Bunker is not clear, but undoubtedly the occupants, including Hitler, realized at this point there would be no armies coming to their rescue. [7] Junge recalled that morning they knew “there was no hope left for the Army Wenk [sic]". [8]

At 3:15 am, Bormann sent a message to Dönitz:

Dönitz!

Our impression grows daily stronger that the divisions in the Berlin theatre have been standing idle for several days. All the report we receive are controlled, suppressed, or distorted by Teilhaus [codename for Keitel]…

The Führer orders you to proceed at once, and mercilessly, against all traitors.

Bormann [9]

A postscript contained the words: "The Führer is alive, and is conducting the defense of Berlin". Undoubtedly, according to H. Trevor Roper, Bormann saw his power coming to an end with the death of Hitler and was trying to drag things out until he could be sure a courier had reached Dönitz and thus have his power renewed as called for in Hitler’s Political Testament. [10]

While Hitler was saying his goodbyes in the early morning of 30 April, Mohnke managed to repel all Russian attacks, although suffering heavy losses. [11]

Between 3am and 3:30am Hitler once again queried Haase on the foolproof method of suicide he had recommended, telling him that it was his wish that the double deaths be simultaneous – “We both want to go together when we go".  After speaking with Hitler, Haase visited Eva Braun in her chambers and told her “Simply bite quickly into your capsule the moment you hear a shot". [12]

Then, around 3:30am Hitler and Eva had tea in Hitler’s study with Frau Christian, Frau Junge, and Fräulein Manziarly. Around 4:30am the secretaries and Manziarly left Hitler’s study with tears in their eyes. Junge reported to Günsche that Hitler wanted to shoot himself that day, because the Russians could force their way into the Bunker at any moment. She recounted that Eva had given her several valuable things-clothes and the fur she had worn at her wedding. In addition she had made her a present of a little pistol, that Hitler had once given her.  Junge handed them [probably she meant the pistol] over to Günsche. [13]

Hitler retired and laid down on top of his bed, not under the covers, just before 4:30am.  At 5am Soviet artillery again opened up on the government district. It had by now zeroed in on the Chancellery and took it under constant fire.  It sounded like heavy thunder to those in the Bunker.[14]

30 April 1945
Unterscharführer Karl-Heinz Turk of the Schwere SS Panzerabteilung 503, in one of the unit's few remaining Kingtigers,
defends the Potsdammer Platz along with elements of the Münchberg Division against the rapidly encroaching Soviet forces

At 6am Sergeant Rochus Misch called Mohnke and told him Hitler wished to see him alone in his quarters and immediately. Mohnke asked about Hitler’s temper. Misch replied that Hitler was then in a calm and relaxed mood and no one else was with him. Misch said he did not think Hitler had been able to sleep at all the whole night and that twice within the last hour he had come out to chat with him. Just a moment ago he said he wanted to have a talk with his old friend Mohnke.  After a quick cup of coffee, Mohnke, headed for the Bunker, realizing that he had to give Hitler the bad news that he could no longer hang on. He expected the Russians to make a major assault on 1 May. He surmised this must be what Hitler’s summons was about.  Upon arriving in the Bunker around 6:30am Misch told Mohnke that Hitler had told him that he wanted to receive him informally in his bedroom. Hitler rose politely to greet Mohnke. He moved from the bed to the only chair in the room, then motioned to Mohnke to take a seat on the bed. Mohnke noticed that the bed had not been slept in. At least, the blankets were not rumpled.  For most of the time, Hitler gazed straight ahead, past Mohnke toward the wall. Hitler’s left arm was trembling now and then, but only slightly. He was grasping the arm of the chair and he used his right arm freely to gesture.

Mohnke began with a brief situation report. Hitler listened for five minutes or so in silence. The Russians had reached the Wilhelmstrasse, in the area of the Adlon Hotel, about four blocks away. Russian Infantrymen had penetrated into the subway tubes under both the Friedrichstrasse and the Voss-Strasse. Most of the vast, wooded Tiergarten was now in Russian hands. Russian assault troops had all but encircled the German positions on the Potsdamer Platz, only 300 meters from the Reich Chancellery. Hitler took it all in, intently, calmly. He asked no questions.  Finally, Mohnke told Hitler that he could not guarantee that his exhausted, battle-weary troops could hold for more than one more day. “I now expect a frontal, massed-tank attack tomorrow at dawn, 1 May. You know what 1 May means to Russians.” Hitler said, “I know. Let me say that your troops have fought splendidly, and I have no complaints.”  Hitler then launched into a monologue, denouncing the western democracies, reviewing his whole career, and explaining why National Socialism had failed and how the war had been forced upon him.  He then proceeded to criticize his military leaders and the betrayal of Göring and Himmler.  Then he thanked Mohnke for his service and wished him the best. Mohnke then returned to his command post. [15]

After meeting with Mohnke, which ended around 7am, Hitler wandered about the Bunker listlessly, his eyes cast to the floor, his hands clasped behind his back.  Misch, who witnessed this for about an hour, reported that Hitler seemed like a frustrated animal in a cage. [16]

Towards 8am heavy artillery fired against the Chancellery and the fear of an impending Russian ground attack mounted. The guards in the Chancellery were increased at the entrances to the Bunkers, at the air locks and in the corridors. The corridors in the Bunkers were barricaded by SS men. Hand grenades and sub-machine guns were distributed to the members of the bodyguard and the security guards. [17]

Sometime during mid-morning, Ambassador Walther Hewel [permanent representative of the Foreign Ministry to Hitler at Führer headquarters] met with Hitler for the last time. They chatted for half-an-hour about the old days. Then Hitler told Hewel that he felt confident that if he fell into Russian hands, he would be “squeezed until the pips squeak and then displayed in the Moscow zoo".  He said “Hewel, they will torture and kill you and mount you in a waxworks".  At this point Hewel swore to take his own life rather than fall into Red Army hands. [18] 

Walther Hewel was a German diplomat before and during World War II, an early and active member of the Nazi Party, and one of German dictator Adolf Hitler's few personal friends.

Until Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, Hewel remained in his inner circle. As one of the few people to remain near him until the end, he was said to have tried to cheer Hitler up. Apparently, Hewel was the last individual to engage in a long, personal conversation with Hitler.

Following Hitler's suicide, Hewel escaped the Führerbunker in a group led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke. Mohnke planned to break out towards the German Army which was positioned in Prinzenallee. However, Hewel was apparently suffering from psychological stress at the time. In her memoirs, Traudl Junge claimed that, after Hitler's death, Hewel appeared extremely confused and unable to make the simplest decisions for himself.

The group headed along the U-Bahn tunnels, but their route was blocked so they went above ground and later joined hundreds of other German civilians and military personnel who had sought refuge at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery. Upon arriving at the holdout on 2 May 1945, Hewel made remarks to the effect that he planned on committing suicide. Despite the efforts of Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, who attempted to talk him out of it, Hewel killed himself in the same manner which Professor Dr. Werner Haase had instructed for Hitler, biting down on a cyanide capsule while shooting himself in the head.

According to Schenck, Hitler had actually encouraged Hewel to commit suicide. Hitler warned Hewel that if he was captured by the Red Army, he would be tortured and "mounted in a waxworks". Additionally, Hitler gave Hewel a cyanide capsule and a Walther 7.65 handgun, then had him take an oath to kill himself rather than be captured by the Russians. Further, Schenck stated that Hewel was emotionally and physically exhausted, which contributed to his actions.

Also sometime in the morning Günther Schwägermann, adjutant to Göbbels, was told by a member of Hitler’s escort commando that Hitler had said goodbye to his entire entourage.  He reported that Blondi had already been killed the previous day. After hearing this, Schwägermann recalled that he knew that the death of Hitler was imminent. [19]

Günther Schwägermann served in the Nazi government of German dictator Adolf Hitler. From approximately late 1941, after being wounded on the Eastern front, Schwägermann served as the adjutant for Dr. Josef Göbbels. He reached the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer [captain].

In January 1945, Göbbels sent Schwägermann to his villa at Lanke, ordering him to bring his wife, Magda, and their children to stay at an air raid shelter on Schwanenwerder.

By 22 April 1945, the Soviets were attacking Berlin and Josef and Magda Göbbels brought their children to the Vorbunker to stay. Schwägermann came with them. Adolf Hitler had already taken up residence in the lower Führerbunker in January 1945. It was in that protected Bunker complex below the Reich Chancellery garden of Berlin that Hitler and a few loyal personnel were gathered to direct the city's final defence.]

By the time of Hitler's death on 30 April 1945, the Soviet Army was less than 500 metres from the Bunker complex. On 1 May 1945, Göbbels arranged for an SS dentist, Helmut Kunz, to inject his six children with morphine so that when they were unconscious, an ampule of cyanide could be then crushed in each of their mouths. According to Kunz's later testimony, he gave the children morphine injections but it was Magda Göbbels and SS-Obersturmbannführer Ludwig Stumpfegger, Hitler's personal doctor, who administered the cyanide.

At around 20:30, Göbbels and his wife, Magda left the Bunker and walked up to the garden of the Chancellery, where they committed suicide. There are several different accounts of this event. According to one account, Göbbels shot his wife and then himself. Another account was that they each bit on a cyanide ampule and were given a coup de grâce immediately afterwards. Schwägermann testified in 1948 that the couple walked ahead of him up the stairs and out into the Chancellery garden. He waited in the stairwell and heard the shots sound. Schwägermann then walked up the remaining stairs and once outside he saw the lifeless bodies of the couple. Following Josef Göbbels' prior order, Schwägermann had an SS soldier fire several shots into Göbbels' body, which did not move. The bodies were then doused with petrol, but the remains were only partially burned and not buried.

In one of Hitler's last orders, he had given permission for the Berlin forces to attempt a breakout of the Soviet encirclement after his death. General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Area, and SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, the [Kommandant] Battle Commander for the centre government district, devised a plan to escape out from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. Mohnke split up the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker soldiers and personnel into ten main groups. Schwägermann was in one of the break-out groups of 1 May. He made it out of Berlin and escaped to the west. There Schwägermann was taken into custody and held in American captivity from 25 June 1945 until 24 April 1947.

Although Rochus Misch upon his death in September 2013, at the age of 96, is believed to have been the last living occupant of the Führerbunker, Schwägermann, at 101, is still alive.

Krebs now came up with a situation report even more alarming than that given to Hitler by Mohnke only three hours before. Krebs reported how the Red Army troops had taken both sides of the Leipziger Strasse, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, which ran parallel to the Unter den Linden and was one block closer to the Reich Chancellery. The Anhalter railroad station had also, by now, been stormed. [20] According to those present, Hitler listened in apathetic silence as Krebs droned on. He did not even ask any questions. [21]

About 10am Rattenhuber went to check the sentries. Going upstairs he approached the SS guard on duty, Erich Mengershausen, who was standing at the exit from the Reich Chancellery to the garden. Mengershausen reported to him that at about 8am Eva Braun came up from the Bunker, said "good morning" and went out into the garden, returning approximately 15 minutes later. She explained her visit to the garden by saying "I want to see the sun for the last time". Then she said goodbye to him and, upset, went down into the Bunker. At the time the grounds of the Reich Chancellery were already under Russian rifle fire.  Then Rattenhuber went to Hitler’s reception room.  He recalled that the situation was very tense and the Russians were expected to reach the grounds of the Reich Chancellery at any moment. [22]

Towards noon Hitler’s last briefing began. Weidling came over from his command post in the Bunker in Bendlerstrasse and reported that Soviet troops were storming the Reichstag.  There was fighting in the Red City Hall, the Friedrichstrasse station had been reached by Soviet forces and the Russians had penetrated the tunnel in Voss-strasse [close to the Reich Chancellery].  Weidling said that in all probability the battle for Berlin would be over by that evening.  Weidling then again mentioned the possibility of a breakout and told Hitler that perhaps he should try to get out and break through to join Wenck’s army near Potsdam. Hitler, who had received the report without emotion, said it was useless: "Anyway, nobody is carrying out my orders".

When Weidling asked for instructions in case all their reserve munitions were exhausted, which would happen no later than the evening of 1 May, Hitler said he would never capitulate. Wenck and all other commanders were not to surrender.  After a short exchange with Krebs, Hitler replied that only then, after the reserve munitions were exhausted, could a breakout in small groups be considered because he refused to surrender Berlin. Weidling was then allowed to go. A little later the last “Führer command” was delivered to Weidling:

“In case the defenders of the capital city of the Reich face a lack of munitions and supplies, I give my consent for a breakout. They must break out in small groups, and must look for units that are still fighting and join them. If they cannot find any, the small groups are to continue fighting in the forests". [23]

After the noon briefing Hitler met in his quarters for about twenty minutes with Bormann, Krebs, Burgdorf, and Göbbels.  Afterwards, Günsche met with Bormann and two others, probably Krebs and Burgdorf.  They were in a highly emotional state when they told him about the conversation. [24]

A radio message was received at 12:50pm from Berlin to Dönitz’s headquarters: "No possibility of retreat". [25]  Hitler, having no intention of retreating [or escaping Berlin)] now turned his attention to the time of his death that afternoon, and how his and Eva’s bodies would be destroyed beyond recognition.

Footnotes

[1] [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[2] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[3] Strategic Services Unit, War Department, Intelligence Dissemination No. A-65458, Subject: Interview with Erna Flegel, Red Cross Nurse in Hitler’s Shelter, Date of Report: 11 December 1945, Distributed: 25 February 1946, File: 0240346, Army Intelligence Document Files (NAID 305269), RG 319; Interrogation of the Baroness von Varo, 1 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to POW Interrogations, 1943-1945 (NAID 2790598), RG 165; Interrogation of Baroness von Varo, Stein Castle, Stein, 2000-2330 Hours, 10 March 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Record of Interrogation of the Reich Chancellery Physician Helmut Kunz, by 4th Section of the Smersh Counter-Espionage Department of the 1st Byelorussian Front, 7 May 1945, in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler.

[4] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[5] Interrogation of Baroness von Varo, Stein Castle, Stein, 2000-2330 Hours, 10 March  1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University

[6] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[7] Charles B. MacDonald, The Last Offensive, United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations [Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1973]; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler,"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker".

[8] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976, Records of the Investigative Records Repository, Records of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Intelligence, Records of the Army Staff, Record Group 319.

[9] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler". According to a British report Bormann said in his last cable to Dönitz that “Teilhaus (Keitel) controls suppresses and “colors” all messages…The Führer orders that you smash the traitors quickly and regardlessly.” Document Section [GAD/C], Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 1945, File: No. 143123, Regular Intelligence Reports (NAID 6050264), 1941-1945, RG 226.

[10] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[11] Handwritten Statement by the Commander of the “Adolf Hitler” Division, Chief of the Central Berlin Defense Region, Wilhelm Mohnke, Moscow, 18 May  1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death".

[12] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker". It has been suggested that Haase had given Hitler, when he last seen him, a shot of morphine; or at least a very strong tranquillizer to face the end. O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[13] Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[14] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[15] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler". According to Fest, Mohnke told Hitler they could not hold out more than a few hours because the Russians had advanced to within a few hundred yards on all sides, though for the moment their progress had been halted. Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker". According to Linge he went to Hitler, who was opening the door as he arrived. He had lain on the bed fully dressed and awake as he had done the night before. While Bormann, Krebs and Burgdorf dozed on sofas near his door, and the female secretaries made themselves as comfortable as possible while awaiting the events that must soon come, Hitler asked him to accompany him, finger to his lips, indicating that he should be careful not to disturb the sleeping people. They went to the telephone exchange, where Hitler rang the commandant, who told him that the defense of Berlin had already collapsed. Linge, "With Hitler to the End".

[16] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker". According to Fest, sometime after 7am Hitler decided to exit the Bunker, but when he reached the top of the stairs, the shelling became heavier again, and he turned back. Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker".

[17] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[18] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[19] Personal History of the Adjutant of Schwägermann, Günther, Adjutant of the Minister Dr. Göbbels, n.d., ca. October or November 1945, p. 10, enclosure to Despatch No. 1487, U.S. Political Adviser for Germany, Berlin to Secretary of State, Subject: Statement by Günther Schwägermann, 3 December 1945, File: 740.00116 EW/12-345, Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), 1945-1949, RG 59; Translation of statement made by Günther Schwägermann, Immenstadt, 16 February 1948,  Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[20] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[21] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[22] Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death".

[23] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Jochen von Lang, with the assistance of Claus Sibyll, trans. By Christa Armstrong and Peter White, "The Secretary, Martin Bormann: The Man Who Manipulated Hitler" [New York: Random House, 1979]; Anthony Beevor, "The Fall of Berlin 1945" [New York: Penguin Books, 2003]; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[24] Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May  1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[25] Document Section [GAD/C], Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 1945, File: No. 143123, [NAID 6050264] 

Hunting Hitler Part IV: The Bunker (Afternoon, 30 April)

On 30 April, in his Bunker, Adolf Hitler lunched with his secretaries Gertrude Junge and Frau Gerda Christian and the vegetarian cook Fräulein Constanze Manzialy from 1pm till 2pm. Eva Braun did not join them. During the meal Hitler appeared calm and under control and told the women this was the last time they would eat together. Little of importance was said and there was no mention of the impending suicide. [1]  

After lunch Junge found a room where she could sit down and smoke a cigarette. Then she went to Braun’s private quarters and found her sorting out and preparing to give away most of her belongings as final gifts. She gave Junge her most valuable fur, saying “here’s a present for next winter and your life after the war. I wish you all the luck in the world. And when you put it on, always remember me and give my very best to our native Bavaria-das schöne Bayern". [Bavaria the beautiful]. Then Junge visited Frau Magda Göbbels, who was quite upset about the fate of her children [that she planned to poison, rather than have them fall into Russian hands]. [2]

Hitler, meanwhile, after lunch, met with Martin Bormann. Bormann emerged into the antechamber from Hitler’s study and went straight up to Otto Günsche and told him that Hitler and Braun wanted to bring their lives to an end that day. Their bodies were to be drenched in petrol and burned in the garden of the Chancellery. That was Hitler’s categorical order. Under no circumstances should his body fall into Russian hands. Bormann asked Günsche to make sure that everything was made ready for the burning of the bodies and to make sure the bodies were burned. Günsche said he would take care of things. Shortly after getting the instructions from Bormann, Hitler came out of his room and told Günsche that he would now shoot himself and that Braun would also depart this life. He did not want to fall into the hands of the Russians either alive or dead. The bodies were to be burnt. He wished that nothing should remain of himself, so that the Russians could not desecrate his body or display it in any way. Hitler charged Günsche with the necessary preparations. The way he expressed it, Günsche would be personally responsible for this. Günsche assured Hitler that he would carry out his orders. [3]     

A few minutes later Johann Rattenhuber, and Hitler’s personal pilots, Hans Baur and George Betz, made their way, distraught, into the antechamber. They had just run into Bormann and learned from him that Hitler wanted to take his own life. Now they assailed Günsche with questions. He was just going to answer when the door opened and Hitler came out. Rattenhuber, Baur, Günsche, and Betz gave a Nazi salute. Hitler did not react but in a tired voice merely asked them to come closer. Hitler said, "I have ordered that I am to be burned after my death. Make sure that my order is carried out to the letter. I will not have it that they take my body back to Moscow to exhibit in a cabinet of curiosities". Hitler gave a lethargic gesture of farewell with his right arm and turned round and disappeared behind his study door. [4]

But Hitler then summoned Baur and Betz to his quarters. They entered the small study. Hitler clasped Baur’s hand with both of his and said in an emotional voice, “Baur, I’d like to bid you farewell!” Hitler told him that “My generals have betrayed me and sold me out, my soldiers don’t want to go on, and I cannot go on!” Baur again tried to convince Hitler that he could still fly him to Argentina, Japan, Japanese-held Manchukuo in Asia, or to friendly Arabs. But Hitler shook his head and explained that if he went to Berchtesgaden or to join Adm. Karl Dönitz in Flensburg, he would be in the same situation again within two weeks. According to Baur, Hitler said, “I will stand or fall with Berlin. A person must have the courage to suffer the consequences of his actions. I will take my own life, today!" Hitler thanked Baur for his long years of service and then presented him, as a gift, his favorite portrait of 'Frederick the Great' by Anton Graf. It was the painting that Baur had carried from one headquarters to another during the war. [5]

Meanwhile Günsche began carrying out Hitler’s and Bormann’s orders. Around 2:30pm he called Erich Kempka (Hitler’s long-time chauffeur and head of the motor pool), who was living in the Bunker next to the Chancellery garage, and asked him to bring ten Jerrycans [a German petrol-can contained 4.5 gallons] of Petrol to the Führer Bunker immediately and to leave it in readiness at the emergency exit to the garden behind the Chancellery, and then report to him. To Kempka’s question as to why the petrol was needed, Günsche replied that he could not tell him over the phone. Kempka protested that it would be difficult to find so large a quantity at such short notice, but was told that it must be found. Ultimately he found most of what had been requested and it was quickly delivered to the designated spot. [6]

Kempka was one of those responsible for burning Hitler's body. He was detailed on the afternoon of 30 April to deliver 200 litres of gasoline to the garden outside the Bunker, but was only able to obtain 180. He left the Bunker on the following day.

Despite claims made to the contrary during his interrogation, Kempka later admitted that when Hitler and Eva Braun locked themselves in a room to commit suicide, he lost his nerve and ran out of the Führerbunker, returning only after Hitler and Braun were dead. By the time he returned to the Bunker, Hitler and Braun's bodies were already being carried upstairs for cremation.

Despite his questionable reliability, many historians quote Kempka in their accounts of Hitler's suicide.

It is interesting to note that in 1950 Kempka, who previously had always talked about a lack of petrol, wrote in his book "Ich habe Adolf Hitler verbrannt:

"
The cremation lasted from about 1400 to approximately 1930 in the evening. Under the most difficult conditions, I had had my men fetch several hundred [!] additional litres of petrol during the afternoon ..."

SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Schneider, the supervisor of the garages, had stated that, when Günsche originally ordered him to provide Petrol, he had only been able to supply eight cans, because that was all he had available. However, that was not all the petrol there was in the vicinity of the Chancellery and the Führerbunker.

Hans Fritzsche, Director and Head of the Radio Department in Göbbels' Propaganda Ministry, made the following statement on 5 February 1948 in Nuremberg:

"May I add something at this point? I know that many people have debated the question whether it was possible to cremate Hitler's and Eva Braun's corpses with only 180 litres of petrol. I do not understand this objection at all, because during the final weeks in Berlin I had more petrol available to me than during the whole of the war. It had been brought over from the airports that had had to be evacuated. And I had 20 to 30 or even more barrels filled with petrol in the garden of the Propaganda Ministry. On 27 or 28 April I called the Chancellery and asked if they needed petrol because I had so much and actually thought it could be a bit dangerous. Those in the Chancellery told me, 'We have too much ourselves.' I then had the barrels taken to the Tiergarten through Voss-strasse in order to get rid of them. When the Russians later brought me to the garden near the Führerbunker, I saw with my own eyes many cans standing about". 

Many testimonies [including Russian] put the conservative figure at twelve 20 litre cans [240 litres] utilised on the 'bonfire'.

This is more than enough [According to Anton Joachimsthaler, up to 300 litres of gasoline were used on Hitler and Braun] to reach a temperature where adipose tissue becomes an accelerant in the cremation process. When this point has reached, further fuel is not required.

SS-Hauptsturmführer Edwald Lindloff testified that after only 30 minutes the corpses were already "charred and torn open".

The fire burnt for another two hours.

All that remained of Hitler "was some charred bones with burnt particles of tissue attached".

Soon afterwards Günsche, not wanting any casual observer to witness the final scene, ordered the SS men of the bodyguard and the Security Service who occupied the little room by the emergency exit to vacate the room and find another place. He even ordered the sentries who stood by the armor-plated door which led from the stairway to the emergency exit to go back into the Bunker. Just one man, SS-Untersturmführer Hans Hofbeck, did Günsche leave by the emergency exit with the order to let no one pass. Then Günsche went into the hall of the Bunker and took up his position by the antechamber door. His watch read 3:10pm. [7]

The final goodbyes came about 3:15pm, when Hitler and Braun made their last appearance in the main corridor of the lower Bunker, to say farewell to what was left of the Reich Chancellery Group. Present were Josef Göbbels, Bormann, Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Walther Hewel, Hans-Erich Voss, Dr. Werner Haase, Rattenhuber, SS Staf. Peter Högl, Heinz Linge, Günsche, Frau Christian, Fräulein Else Krüger, Fräulein Manzialy, and Werner Naumann.  He shook hands with each person and apparently, in a weak voice, mumbled something to some of them. While Hitler was saying his final goodbyes, Günsche found Junge and told her that Hitler wanted to say goodbye to her. She met him in the central corridor. He shook her hand. Junge said, “It seemed as if he were not looking at me…I had the feeling he was not really seeing me". He said a few words which she did not understand, but thought it was “All the best,” or something like that. Then Braun, very much composed, took leave of the gathering. She embraced Junge and said, "See to it that you manage to get through to Munich and give my love to Bavaria". Hitler and Braun then retired to Hitler’s study. [8] 

After speaking with Hitler and Braun, Junge, not wanting to be present during the suicides, not wanting to see the corpses, went quickly to the upper Bunker where the Göbbels’ six children were playing. She occupied herself with the children, getting something for them to eat and calming them. [9]

Meanwhile, Güensche continued making arrangements. He contacted Högl, Schädle, Lindloff, Reiser, and perhaps another officer or two of Hitler’s escort commando and had them posted in the upper Bunker. Their imminent task, he told them, would be to carry the two corpses out of the lower Bunker outside into the garden. Günsche then cleared the lower part of the Führerbunker of all persons not belonging to the immediate circle and put a guard on the staircase leading to the upper part of the Bunker with orders not to let anyone in any more. He gave the same order to Hofbeck, who was standing guard on the garden exit. He then returned and stationed himself directly before the door to the Hitler apartment to stand guard. [10]  

A little later, Braun came out of Hitler’s study into the small antechamber. She looked sad as she gave Linge her hand and said, “Goodbye, Linge. I hope that you get away from Berlin. If you run into my sister Gretl, don’t tell her how her husband died.” After thanking him for everything he had done for Hitler, she went to Frau Göbbels, who was in her husband’s room, where she had remained all day, agonizing over the impending death of her children. A few minutes later Braun left Göbbels’ room and went to the telephone exchange, where Günsche was to be found. She said to him, “Please tell the Führer that Frau Göbbels has asked him to come to see her one more time". Depending upon the sources, either Hitler went to Dr. Göbbels’ room to see Frau Göbbels or she was able to enter Hitler’s study to talk to him. In either case she begged Hitler not to take his life but escape to Berchtesgaden. Hitler said he had no other recourse than committing suicide and refused to discuss the matter further. He then thanked her for her commitment and services. Sobbing and trembling, she then left the room, walked past her husband in the corridor without speaking and went to the upper Bunker. Hitler then turned to Dr. Göbbels, who begged Hitler briefly to allow the Hitler Youth to take him out of Berlin. Hitler responded brusquely “Doctor, you know my decision. This is no change! You can of course leave Berlin with your family". Göbbels replied that he would not do so. He intended to stay in Berlin and die there. Hitler then said to him, “I entrust you with the responsibility to see that our corpses are burned immediately". Hitler then shook his hand, and returned to his room, where he was soon joined by Braun, who said goodbye to Günsche on her way back from Dr. Göbbels’ room. It was about 3:40pm when Günsche took up position in front of Hitler’s door. [11]

Before Hitler entered the room, Linge asked Hitler if he might say goodbye to him and ask if Hitler had any orders for him. Hitler said “Linge, I am going to shoot myself now. You know what you have to do". Hitler then told him that “I have given orders to break out. Try to fight your way through to the west in small groups". Either at this point, or perhaps earlier in the afternoon, Hitler had told Linge to take charge of things immediately after his death and it was he who was to give the word when to enter the death room. Linge gave the Nazi salute, they shook hands, and as Hitler entered the room he told Linge to wait at least ten minutes and then to enter if he had heard no sound. Linge lost his composure completely and raced up all the steep steps of the emergency-exit staircase, and out into the courtyard, where he ran into sharp artillery fire. Then, just as promptly, he ran back down the steps, speechless and wild-eyed. He then took up a position near Günsche who was guarding the door. [12]

Meanwhile, Arthur Axmann, head of the Hitler Youth came to the Bunker to see the Göbbels. Dr. Göbbels told him that at that moment Hitler had already retired to his room to commit suicide along with Braun. Axmann desired to bid Hitler a personal farewell, but Günsche told him the Führer would admit nobody and refused to open the door. [13]  

Axmann then joined with Krebs, Burgdorf, Bormann, Naumann, Rattenhuber, Stumpfegger, Hewel, and Göbbels in the conference room. They talked about Hitler’s saying goodbye and in a very agitated state waited for the suicides to take place. [14]  

Sometime between 3:45pm and 4pm there were at different times at least six people almost as near the door to Hitler’s quarters as Günsche: Göbbels, Bormann, Linge, Krebs, Burgdorf, and Axmann and maybe one or two others. When not near the door, they were gathered in the nearby conference room. While Göbbels thought he may have heard a shot, the others did not. Günsche believed that none of them heard a shot, because of the sealed double doors. “Both these doors," he said, "were fireproof, gasproof, hence soundproof". Other witnesses argued that it was impossible to distinguish specific sounds over the constant pounding of the Diesel engines and the humming of the ventilator fans in the Bunker. [15]

In any event, after ten minutes or so [at a few minutes before 4pm], in keeping with Hitler’s instructions to wait that long before entering his room, Linge remarked to Günsche, "I think it’s over," and went into the outer room. The strong fumes made his eyes smart. Choking, Linge closed and locked the door and then turned back to summon Bormann. "Frankly, I was trembling," Linge says, "and I simply did not have the gumption to go in there by myself. It was too eerie". Linge went to the conference room and told Bormann that he had entered the room and smelled gas from a discharged firearm. Immediately Bormann followed Linge to the door, opened it and they went into the room, gasping from toxic fumes.  According to Linge, Bormann “turned white as chalk and stared at me helplessly". [16]   

Günsche entered the room after Linge and Bormann. He went to the conference room and told its occupants that Hitler was dead. Göbbels and Axmann, with Günsche, then went to Hitler’s outer room and entered it. They then joined Bormann and Linge in Hitler’s study. [17]   

Once in Hitler’s study Linge, Bormann, Axmann, Göbbels, and Günsche found that the room smelled of gunpowder, smoke and bitter almonds. They saw the bodies seated on the blue and white sofa standing against the wall opposite the door from the antechamber. Hitler was slumped at the right hand armrest of the sofa [left hand as the witnesses viewed it]. His head was inclined to the right and slightly forward and his eyes open. In Hitler’s right temple gaped a bullet wound the size of a small coin. Form this spot a streaked trail of blood ran down to about the middle of his cheek. Hitler’s lower right arm was between the armrest of the sofa and his right thigh, and his open hand lay on his right knee, palm upwards. The left hung at his side. His feet were on the floor. They were pointing forwards and were about 12 to 15 inches apart. Next to Hitler’s right foot lay a 7.65mm Walther pistol, and next to his left foot a 6.35mm Walther pistol. On the carpet next to the sofa a puddle of blood the size of a plate had formed. The rear wall and the sofa were bespattered with blood. Next to Hitler was a dead Braun, with her head near, or resting on his left shoulder. She was wearing a blue dress, and showed no signs of injuries or blood. She was in the snug position she had assumed before swallowing the poison. Her upper body rested against the back of the sofa, the head was upright. Her legs were drawn up under her on the sofa. Her brightly colored high-heeled shoes stood side by side on the floor in front of the sofa. Her eyes were open and her bluish lips were firmly pressed together. [18]  

Linge immediately left the room and fetched the two woolen military blankets he had left in the antechamber to wrap Hitler up in.

On 27 April 1945, Hitler called me into his study. The Russians were advancing on Berlin and even the Führer  -  normally so optimistic  -  had begun to realise defeat was inevitable.

He had totally isolated himself, wanting to see no one but Eva Braun and me; not even wishing to celebrate his 55th [sic] birthday.

With no preamble, Hitler addressed me: 'I would like to release you to your family.' I interrupted him: 'Mein Führer, I have been with you in good times, and I am staying with you also in the bad.'

Calmly, he accepted my insistence. 'I have another personal job for you. You should hold in readiness woolen blankets in my bedroom and enough Petrol for two cremations.

'I am going to shoot myself here together with Eva Braun. You will wrap our bodies in woolen blankets, carry them up to the garden and then burn them'.

'Jawohl, mein Führer,' I stuttered, trembling. There was nothing else to say. Swiftly  -  my knees feeling as though they were about to collapse under me  -  I left Hitler alone.

"Three days later he was dead. Opening the door to Hitler's room, I saw a sight that will never leave me. He and Eva were slumped on the floral sofa. Hitler had shot himself through the right temple. His head was inclined towards the wall and his blood had spattered on to the carpet. To his right sat Eva, her legs drawn up, her contorted face betraying the manner of her death: cyanide poisoning".

-- Heinz Linge, "I was Hitler's Valet" - MailOnline, 6 August 2009

Göbbels, Bormann, Axmann, and Günsche remained with the bodies for several minutes in silence. Günsche finally snapped out of the trance and directed Linge, who had returned, to move aside the two chairs and the table, in order to spread the blankets onto the floor. While Linge was spreading out the blankets, Günsche went to get Högl, Schädle, Lindloff, Reiser, whom he had put on call to be ready to assist with the bodies. Apparently, Bormann also left the room to call other people to lend a hand. Meanwhile, Dr. Stumpfegger arrived. He examined both bodies and pronounced Hitler and Braun dead. Göbbels and Axmann were wordless spectators to the activities taking place. Linge spread one of the blankets on the study floor in front of the sofa, and with the help of Bormann, or another person, he laid Hitler’s body on the ground and wrapped him in the blanket. Linge then called out to one of the others present that the blanket for Braun was in Hitler’s bedroom. The person he addressed in this manner was already occupied with her body. He does not remember who it was. [19] 

The next activities would be getting the bodies out of the Bunker and then cremating them in the garden.

While he was interned for several years in two Soviet POW camps in Strausberg and Posen, the Wehrmachtsurgeon-general, Major-General Walter Schreiber, had the opportunity to speak with four persons, each of whom had been present in the Bunker until Berlin fell to the Soviets. While he was unable to draw any information on the subject of Hitler's fate out of the "arrogant" Wilhelm Möhnke.

However, in a statement for Soviet authorities dated 18 May 1945, Mohnke wrote:

"I personally did not see the Führer's body and I don't know what was done to it".

Hitler's pilot Hans Baur told him only that he had never seen Hitler dead. Heinz Linge and Otto Günsche were more forthcoming. Linge told him that he "did not see Hitler, but toward the end noticed two bodies wrapped in carpet being carried out of the Bunker". Linge told Schreiber that while at the time he had assumed the bodies to be those of the Hitler couple, only later had he been told that this was the case. This admission is astounding, because Linge is the one person mentioned by all eyewitnesses as having carried Hitler's body up the stairs and into the Chancellery garden.

Heinz Linge's firsthand account of what he saw in Hitler's office: 

"When I opened the door of his room, I found a scene I will never forget.. To the left of the couch was Hitler, sitting dead beside her, also dead, Eva Braun. In the right temple of Hitler I could observe a wound the size of a small coin and on his cheek ran two trickles of blood. On the carpet near the sofa,  had formed a pool of blood the size of a plate. The walls and the sofa were also splattered with blood spurts. Hitler's right hand was resting on the knee with the palm facing up. The left hand hung limp. Next to the right foot of Hitler, there was a Walther PPK pistol caliber 7.65 mm. At the side of the left foot, one of the same model, but a 6.35mm caliber. Hitler wore his gray military uniform  and wore the gold badge of the Party, the Iron Cross First Class and the Medal of the wounded in the First World War, in addition, he was wearing a white shirt with black tie, black pants, black socks and leather shoes".

Günsche, with whom Schreiber spoke only a short time after the regime fell, proved even more informative. Like Linge, Günsche admitted that he had never seen Hitler's dead body.

Otto Günsche, who entered Hitler's room immediately after Linge and Bormann, gave the following description on 20 June 1956: "Eva Braun was lying on the sofa standing against the wall opposite the door from the antechamber. Hitler himself sat in an armchair standing to the left and slightly forward--as seen from the antechamber--but very close to the sofa  Hitler's body was slumped over the right side of a chair. Blood was dripping from his right temple, a pool of blood was already on the carpet. It was immediately apparent that he had shot himself from his own pistol, a PPK 7.65mm which eight days previously after an emotional conference [on 22 April 1945] he had taken out of his bedside table and carried with him constantly, loaded."".

On 2 September 1955, Artur Axmann stated: "Based on the signs I found, I had to assume that Adolf Hitler had shot himself in the mouth. For me the chin, which was pushed to the side, and the blood trails on the temples caused by an internal explosion in the head, all pointed to this. Later the same day SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche confirmed my assumption. I stick to my statement based on the signs I saw, that Adolf Hitler shot himself in the mouth". 

Günsche, however, in his 20 June 1956 testimony stated: "The head was canted [tilted] slightly forward to the right. I noticed an injury to the head slightly above the outer end of the angle of the right eyelid. I saw blood and a dark discoloration. The whole thing was about the size of an old three Mark piece".

He added the enigmatic comment: "Those things were all done without us." 

-- 'Persons Who Should Know Are Not Certain Hitler Died in Berlin Bunker', "Long Beach Press-Telegram", California, 10 January 1949

Such evidence is corroborated by General Helmuth Weidling, who told the Soviets on 4 January 1946: "After I was taken prisoner, I spoke to SS Gruppenführer Rattenhuber and SS Sturmbannführer Günsche, and both said they knew nothing about the details of Hitler's death."

On the basis of Schreiber's and Weidling's revelations, it can be regarded as certain that neither Günsche nor Linge, the two mainstays of the Hitler suicide legend, nor Mohnke nor Rattenhuber, had anything to do with Hitler's death or knew anything about it. It would seem appropriate to conclude that no one who knew anything for certain about what happened to Hitler has ever spoken about it publicly. Hitler's inner circle in Berlin knew nothing about what had happened to him, and the stories they told publicly after 1945 [in the case of Kempka] and since 1955 [in the cases of Linge and Günsche] have been lies. They were either writing themselves into history or, as seems more likely, under pressure from their captors to make statements to help buttress the Hitler suicide narrative. Indeed, it may well have been a condition of Linge's and Günsche's release from Soviet captivity in 1955 that they agreed to furnish such statements.


Footnotes

[1] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude,  Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054], RG 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[2] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, p. 5, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude,  Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054], RG 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[3] Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; von Lang,  "The Secretary".

[4] Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[5] C. G. Sweeting, "Hitler’s Personal Pilot: The Life and Times of Hans Baur" [Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 2000]; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[6] Testimony of Mr. Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, 20 June 1945, File: 3735-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46, (NAID 305264), Record Group 238; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945,  [NAID 2790598]  Box 711, Captured Personnel and Material Branch, Records of the War Department General and Special Staff, Record Group 165; Strategic Services Unit, War Department, Intelligence Dissemination No. A-65458, Subject: Interview with Erna Flegel, Red Cross Nurse in Hitler’s Shelter, Date of Report: 11 December 1945, Distributed: 25 February 1946, File: 0240346, Army Intelligence Document Files, 1950-1955, [NAID 305269], Records of the Army Staff, Record Group 319; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Oberstrumbanführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945, [NAID 2790598] Box 711, Captured Personnel and Material Branch, Records of the War Department General and Special Staff, Record Group 165; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Michael A. Musmanno, "Ten Days to Die" [Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1950].

[7] Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Musmanno, "Ten Days to Die"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[8] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, p. 5, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054), Record Group 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, pp. 45-47, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Musmanno, "Ten Days to Die".

[9] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 (NAID 645054], Record Group 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 1948, pp. 47-48, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Junge, "Until the Final Hour".

[10] Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[11] Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent in Charge and Arthur R. Clarke, Special Agent, CIC, Operations, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Officer in Charge, Subject: Junge, Gertrude, 13 June  1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054], Record Group 319; Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Michael Musmanno, 'Is Hitler Alive', published in the Swiss newspaper "Die Nation" in issues 50, 51, and 52 of 1948 and issue 1 of 1949, in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Musmanno, "Ten Days to Die"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker".

[12] Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[13] Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 1630-1930 hours, 7 January 1948, pp. 25-27. Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[14] Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 1630-1930 hours, 7 January 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[15] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker".

[16] Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler". Linge puts death at 3:50pm. He allegedly noted it by the grandfather clock in the antechamber to Hitler’s office, a clock he had always been at pains to keep running very accurately since Hitler himself took his time from this clock. Günsche puts the death at 3:30pm, claming to have looked at wristwatch. Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[17] Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 1630-1930 hours, 7 January 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[18] Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 1630-1930 hours, 7 January 1948, pp. 29, 30,  Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker"; Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945, [NAID 2790598] Box 711, Record Group 165; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau (CIB), GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, ibid. Apparently as a precaution, Hitler had the smaller pistol nearby in case the heavier pistol, with which he was far less familiar, should jam. O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[19] Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

Hunting Hitler Part V: The Garden (Evening, 30 April)

It was now shortly after 4pm, 30 April 1945. Both Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were dead, having committed suicide some ten minutes earlier. Linge, Hitler’s valet, placed Hitler’s body on a blanket and wrapped it around him, and he and another man picked up the body and moved it into the central corridor. There, Linge at the front end carrying the legs and Högl, Ewald Lindloff, and Hans Reisser at the back end, carrying the head and shoulders, and possibly Sturmbannführer Franz Schädle (commander of the SS Escort), immediately moved through the central corridor in the direction of the Bunker’s emergency exit that led into the Chancellery garden. As they moved through the bunker, only the lower extremities – clad in black trousers, black silk socks and black leather shoes, such as Hitler habitually wore – were visible to Axmann, Mohnke [who had just shown up] and others and clearly recognizable. Initially following Hitler’s body upstairs out of the Bunker were Göbbels, Krebs, and Burgdorf. Günsche, after interacting with Eric Kempka, who had just shown up, followed the others up the stairs. [1]

Meanwhile, Kempka, who had been tasked with finding Petrol and having it placed near the garden exit and then to report to Günsche, hurried by the quickest route over rubble and wrecked vehicles in the Chancellery area to Günsche, to find out what was happening. At the moment he entered the Bunker, Günsche was leaving Hitler’s room, and they met in the lobby to the situation conference room. Kempka wrote: "His features had changed visibly. As white as chalk and distraught, he stared at me". Kempka told Günsche that he must be mad asking him to endanger the lives of a half dozen of his men to bring petrol under the extensive and continuing artillery bombardment. Günsche told him Hitler was dead. Kempka asked where Braun was. Günsche said she was still in Hitler’s room and briefly told him about the suicides. Just then Bormann came out of the antechamber with Braun’s body in his arms. Those that witnessed this could see that the blanket she had been wrapped in did not cover her head and feet. Kempka felt that Bormann "was carrying her as if she were a sack of potatoes…so I grabbed the body of Eva Braun Hitler from Bormann and began to carry her up the stairs myself. I think if Bormann had resisted my effort, I would have hauled him off and clobbered him, but he made no protest". Kempka noticed that she bore no signs of injuries or blood. When he had reached the middle landing of the staircase with her body, Günsche came down the steps toward him, and noticing that Kempka’s strength was failing, took the body from Kempka without saying a word. Günsche immediately noticed an intense smell of almonds emanating from the body and noticed that the body showed no signs of injury. Günsche turned the body over to SS officers as he reached the top of stairs. Kempka would be behind them. [2]

As the guard, Hans Hofbeck, opened the emergency exit door, Erich Mansfeld, on duty at the guard station in the Bunker’s concrete tower, opened the iron window of the tower and noticed who he thought to be Hofbeck and three members of Hitler’s bodyguard running out. A few minutes later Mansfeld left the tower and went over to the emergency exit to see what was happening. He went into the exit and immediately met several SS officers carrying a body wrapped in a blanket, with black-trousered legs up to the knees protruding from it, as well as part of the left arm and all of the right arm. Mansfeld immediately believed it was Hitler based on the black trousers and the shoes he recognized. Then Mansfeld saw another SS officer carrying the unmistakable corpse of Braun, who he had seen on many occasions and who was wearing the same dress she had been wearing when Mansfeld had talked to her about 12 hours earlier. Behind them followed Bormann, Göbbels, Günsche, Linge, Kempka, Burdorf, and possibly Stumpfegger. Günsche shouted at Mansfeld to get out of the way quickly and return to his post. In the excitement of the moment Mansfled remained a few minutes on the stairway leading from the Bunker and then he returned to his tower. [3]

As the bodies were on the verge of being carried out the emergency exit door to the garden, the Reich Chancellery area was being heavily shelled by the Russians. There were explosions very close by. Numerous fountains of soil plumed up. The air was filled with dust and smoke. Waiting for a pause between the shelling, both corpses were carried out through the exit, where they were laid down next to each other about two to four meters from the garden exit. At the moment Braun’s body was being put down, Bormann stepped up to Hitler’s body and freed the head from the blanket and stared at him for several seconds. While Günsche was still bent over, having helped put Braun’s body down, he again saw Hitler’s head for a short moment. In the meantime the bloodstains from the temple had spread further over the face. Then Bormann pulled the blanket over him again. [4]

Meanwhile Kempka rushed back to the shelter of the Bunker, stopping for a moment, waiting for the next salvoes to arrive. Then he seized a canister of petrol, ran out again and placed it near the two bodies. Kempka then took off the cap of the petrol can. But then, shells exploded close by, spattering them with earth and dust, metal splinters whirred and whistled above them. Again he and some of the others who had not returned to inside the Bunker exit earlier [probably Günsche and Bormann] ran to the Bunker entrance for cover. They waited for the shelling in their area to die down. Then Kempka ran out speedily and grabbed the canister and poured the contents over the two bodies, while Günsche and Linge grabbed canisters, left the Bunker exit, and poured petrol on Braun. Flying earth from exploding shells continued to spatter them. Kempka then fetched one fuel canister after another from the Bunker entrance and poured them until the bodies were sufficiently soaked. Perhaps 40 to 50 gallons were used. Someone quickly tried to set the corpses on fire with a match, but this proved impossible, because of the various fires in the garden had created a fierce wind circulating in the area. Then the artillery bombardment increased to such an extent that it was no longer possible to leave the safety of the Bunker entrance and for a few minutes none ventured out. [5]    

Next, either Linge or Günsche acquired a large rag near the fire hoses at the Bunker exit. The rag was torn in half, a petrol canister near the exit was opened, and the rag was soaked by Günsche with the contents. Göbbels took a box of matches from his pocket and handed it to either Bormann or Kempka, who lit the rag, handed it to Linge or Günsche who threw it towards the petrol-soaked corpses, which caught fire immediately. A gigantic flame shot upwards, soon followed by billowing black smoke. Standing at the Bunker entrance Bormann, Göbbels, Stumpfegger, Günsche, Kempka, Linge, and some of the others, very quickly raised their hands for a last Hitler salute. The door had to be quickly slammed shut against the encroaching fire and fumes. They, the SS officers, and probably Krebs, Burgdorf, and Rattenhuber, lingered in silence by the closed door. Then they went down the stairs into the Bunker. Günsche remained in the exit for a short while, and he ordered Hofbeck not to let anyone in or out. Subsequently, Günsche, like all the others, went back down into the Bunker. The whole process had taken less than ten minutes. [6]

The first eyewitness to give an account of the events was  SS Obersturmbannführer Harry Mengershausen, who was a member of Hitler's personal bodyguard, the RSD. Mengershausen was interrogated by a team of Soviet operatives headed by Lt-Colonel Ivan Klimenko on 13 May 1945, and by a different team headed by Lt-General Alexander Vadis six days later. The second version came from Hitler's aide-de-camp, Otto Günsche, who furnished a long written statement on 17 May. The third version came from RSD chief Hans Rattenhuber, who gave his account in Moscow on 20 May. Although all three accounts referred to a cremation which had taken place on 30 April, Mengershausen claimed to have witnessed the cremation around noon while Günsche and Rattenhuber both stated that the cremation had taken place around 3.00 or 4.00 pm. There are no reasons to think that Mengershausen was mistaken and that in fact he witnessed  the 3.00/4.00 pm cremation. Mengershausen mentioned important details which were not mentioned by either Günsche or Rattenhuber, the most problematic of which is that the male's face had been visible. While Günsche and Rattenhuber both stated that the male's upper torso was covered with a blanket—so that nothing could be seen of him other than black trousers, socks and shoes— Mengershausen made no mention of a blanket, stating instead: "When Hitler was being carried out I clearly saw his profile—his nose, hair and moustache".

Mengershausen also gave a full description of the clothes in which Hitler had been dressed. Hitler "...had black trousers worn over high boots and gray-green uniform jacket. Under the uniform jacket, I could see a white shirtfront and a necktie". He also described Eva's clothing as "a black dress with several pink flowers made from cloth on the breast". Günsche and Rattenhuber were unlikely to have overlooked such a touching detail as a corsage of pink flowers; they therefore cannot have witnessed the same cremation that Mengershausen described. Last, Mengershausen stated that only four people were involved: "Except for Günsche and Linge, no one was present during burning of the corpses of Hitler and his wife, and the burial was performed by two men of Hitler's guard".

In contrast, the three available accounts of the 3.00/4.00 pm cremation mentioned a larger cast of participants including Bormann and Göbbels— important personages whom Mengershausen could not possibly have failed to notice, if they had been present. It would be easy, but unfair, to suggest that Mengershausen had fabricated his story. Rattenhuber himself affirmed that Mengershausen had been present at the scene. It can therefore be accepted that both Mengershausen and Rattenhuber were present at a cremation on 30 April. The conclusion that makes most sense is that this was a cremation that took place at around midday, just as Mengershausen said. This cremation is not to be confused with a subsequent cremation that took place nearby, sometime between 3.00 and 4.00 pm that same afternoon.

A helpful piece of information here is that while Günsche and Rattenhuber recalled the presence of Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka—who also acknowledged his own presence on this occasion—Mengershausen did not notice Kempka. On the other hand, of all the eyewitnesses who observed the latter cremation, Rattenhuber is the only one who mentioned seeing Mengershausen. But this does not mean that Mengershausen was present at the 3.00/4.00 pm cremation. The appropriate conclusion to draw, is that Rattenhuber observed both cremations that day, and the account that he subsequently gave the Soviets represented a conflation of remembered elements from the two cremations he had witnessed.

Kempka's statement confirmed that a cremation had taken place at around 3.00 pm on 30 April, Hermann Karnau's statement referred to a cremation on 1 May.

In Berchtesgaden on 20 June 1945, Erich Kempka made a statement for American interrogator George R. Allen, the counterintelligence agent of the 101st Airborne Division.16 In it, Kempka gave the Americans their first eyewitness account of any of the events connected with the death of the Führer. Kempka declared that on 30 April—although he felt unable to say that this was the date "with complete sureness" —at precisely 2.30 pm, SS Sturmbannführer Günsche called him at the Reich Chancellery garage, asking him to bring five cans of petrol over to the Bunker. There Günsche told him that the Führer was dead and that he had been ordered to burn his corpse "so that he would not be exhibited at a Russian freak-show". Kempka said he then helped carry the corpses. While Linge and an orderly whom he did not remember were carrying the corpse of Adolf Hitler, he carried the corpse of Eva Hitler. Kempka simply assumed that the corpse he had seen Linge carrying was Hitler's, for he noticed "the long black trousers and the black shoes which the Führer usually wore with his field-gray uniform jacket".

The corpses were taken from the Bunker to a spot in the Chancellery garden, "about 4 to 5 m distant from the Bunker exit". At this location, both bodies were cremated:  SS Sturmbannführer Günsche poured the complete contents of the five cans over the two corpses and ignited the fuel. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsminister Dr Göbbels, SS Sturmbannführer Günsche, SS Sturmbannführer Linge, the orderly and I stood in the Bunker entrance, looked towards the fire and all saluted with raised hands.

The evidence of  Hermann Karnau, is interesting because he is the only eyewitness to the alleged cremation of Adolf and Eva Hitler who fell into the hands of the British whose story has ever reached the public. Like Kempka, Karnau escaped from Berlin, but by mid-May he had made his way to his British-occupied hometown, Wilhelmshaven, where he surrendered to Canadian troops. After being interrogated by British intelligence officer Captain K. W. E. Leslie, Karnau related his version of the events he had witnessed to an audience of reporters which included Walter Kerr from "Reuters" and Daniel De Luce of the "Associated Press". Leslie told the reporters: "I am sure that Karnau's report about Hitler's death is authentic. I have interrogated many German prisoners of war and I would call this man a reliable witness".

Unfortunately, Karnau's statement clashed with Kempka's in two important respects. First, Karnau claimed to have been certain that one of the bodies was that of Hitler. He told the reporters that he had been able to recognise Hitler "by his brown uniform and his face" and, in particular, by his distinctive moustache. Second, Karnau claimed that the cremation had taken place at 6.30 pm on 1 May. Karnau's account of the events of 1 May is sufficiently detailed that it cannot be said that he was mistaken about either the date or the time at which the cremation occurred. Karnau had seen Adolf Hitler alive and sitting in his favourite wicker chair when he went for breakfast on the morning of 1 May. During that morning, he recalled, four men arrived carrying gasoline cans "for the air conditioning system". Karnau said that as he knew the Bunker's air conditioning system used Diesel oil, he denied them entrance. He only allowed them in after Linge intervened. Karnau, who last saw Hitler alive at around 4.00 pm, believed that Hitler was subsequently poisoned by one of his personal physicians, Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger, and cremated at around 6.30 pm that same day. It should not be concluded that Karnau was wrong about a cremation having taken place on 1 May..

The odd thing is the response that Karnau's story evoked from Kempka. On 4 July, Kempka made a second statement 23 in which he insisted that Karnau couldn't have seen Hitler's moustache because "[the] upper part of Hitler's body was fully covered by a blanket". Karnau must therefore have seen "other cremations", the implication obviously being that Karnau had mistaken someone else's cremation for that of Adolf Hitler and Eva Hitler. However, the fact that Karnau had seen Hitler's face while Kempka had not suggests that it was Kempka, not Karnau, who must have been referring to "other cremations". Kempka also stated that he was now certain that Hitler had been cremated on 30 April 1945, and added the claim that the wind had blown Eva's dress, exposing her garters. However, in this respect, Dr Kunz's evidence seems decisive. Eva Hitler could not possibly have been cremated on 30 April because Dr Kunz spoke with her on the same night. What's more, on this occasion Eva told Dr Kunz that Adolf Hitler was still alive. Therefore, if Kempka saw any cremation at all on 30 April, the bodies he witnessed being burned were not those of Adolf and Eva Hitler.

No serious attempt seems ever to have been made to reconcile the discrepancies between Kempka's and Karnau's accounts, e.g., by confronting the pair with one another. The 1947 book "Who Killed Hitler?", by Herbert Moore and James W. Barrett, criticised Trevor-Roper's "The Last Days of Hitler" for "belittling" Karnau's testimony and relying instead on Kempka's.

A third account, given to US interrogators by SS Hauptscharführer Erich Mansfeld on 30 July 1945, referred to a cremation on either 26 or 27 April.

He stated that he had to leave his post in order to fetch his equipment from the guard's day room in the Bunker and described how he saw two bodies being carried up the stairs and laid on the ground near the Bunker exit. He clearly recognized Eva Braun but did not recognize Hitler, owing to the body being wrapped in a blanket.

A few seconds before the burning rag was thrown onto the bodies  SS Unterführer Hermann Karnau, one of the guards, stumbled upon the two bodies lying side by side, close to the door of the Bunker. Karnau had disobeyed orders and out of curiosity, came through the tunnel from the Chancellery to the main entrance of the Bunker. When he got there he found the door bolted. So he retraced his steps to the Chancellery. From there he went into the garden, with the intention of entering the Bunker from the emergency exit door. As he neared the door, he saw two bodies on the ground. He immediately recognized one of the bodies as Hitler. It was lying on its back wrapped in a blanket. The blanket was folded open on both sides of the upper body, so that the head and chest were uncovered. The skull was partially caved in and the face encrusted with blood. The second corpse was lying with its back upwards. It was completely covered by the blanket except for the lower legs. He noticed Jerrycans near the bodies. As he was looking at the bodies, they burst, spontaneously it seemed, into flame. He could not explain the sudden combustion. He saw no one. He was three feet away from the bodies. From his vantage point the interior of the exit was not visible, so he did not see the people in the shelter of the entrance nor the burning rag thrown on the bodies. While this was taking place, the whole complex of the Chancellery lay under heavy fire, so Karnau did not linger to watch the burning corpses. By the time he was entering the emergency exit door, the others had already gone back into the Bunker. Hofbeck allowed him entry and he went down to the Bunker. There he met Schädle, who told him “The Führer is dead…he is burning outside". [7]

After the bodies had been set alight and all the people had returned to the interior of the Bunker, Hofbeck remained on guard and again opened the door a short time later, which however was only possible for a brief moment because heavy petrol fumes and smoke blew towards him. There was a wind blowing towards the exit. On opening the door he could see that the bodies were still burning. [8]

Mansfeld having just returned to the tower, saw through an observations slit in the tower a huge column of black smoke coming from the direction of the emergency exit. A few minutes later, when the smoke had partly cleared, he could see the two burning bodies, about, he thought, two meters, to the left of the emergency exit. He recognized the body of Braun but could not be certain of the other body as that of Hitler’s. [9]

Meanwhile, Gertrude Junge in the upper Bunker with the Göbbels children, said that shortly after 4:10pm the smell of gasoline penetrated the Bunker. Sometime before 4:30pm she recalled that Günsche came along, sat down next to her, and said “‘Now I completed the last and most difficult order in my life. I burnt the Chief and Eva. Eva was still warm when I carried her up. But the poison smells terribly, I cannot endure this smell anymore. Sturmbannführer Heinz Linge has carried out the Chief. Now there is a heap of ashes lying and that is all that still remained.’” Sometime later, Junge said she was told by Linge, that both Hitler and Braun had just been cremated in the park of the Reich Chancellery, as was their will. Junge also said she met Kempka later and he told her that the bodies had been consumed. [10]

Günsche, Linge, and Kempka, besides speaking with Junge, would spend time clearing out Hitler’s quarters, retrieving the pistols; removing Hitler’s clothing, his personal effects and his medicine; and having the blood-stained rug taken outside and burned near the burning corpses. Linge burned all the papers that lay on Hitler’s desk. [11] 

At around 16:15, Linge ordered SS-Untersturmführer Heinz Krüger and SS-Oberscharführer Werner Schwiedel to roll up the rug in Hitler's study to burn it. Schwiedel later stated that upon entering the study, he saw a pool of blood the size of a "large dinner plate" by the arm-rest of the sofa. Noticing a spent cartridge case, he bent down and picked it up from where it lay on the rug; it was from a 7.65 pistol. The two men removed the blood-stained rug, carried it up the stairs and outside to the Chancellery garden. There the rug was placed on the ground and burned. On and off during the afternoon, the Soviets shelled the area in and around the Reich Chancellery. SS guards brought over additional cans of petrol to further burn the corpses. Linge later noted the fire did not completely destroy the remains, as the corpses were being burned in the open, where the distribution of heat varies. The burning of the corpses lasted from 16:00 to 18:30. The remains were covered up in a shallow bomb crater at around 18:30 by Ewald Lindloff and Hans Reisser.

Ewald Lindloff was a Waffen-SS officer, who rose to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer during World War II. Lindloff was present in the Führerbunker on 30 April 1945, when Hitler shot himself.


In April 1945, he was a member of the Leibstandarte [LSSAH] Guard Battalion and Führerbegleitkommando [Führer Escort Command; FBK] which was assigned to guard Hitler in Berlin. Lindloff was present in the Führerbunker on the afternoon of 30 April 1945, when Hitler shot himself and Eva Braun ended her life by taking cyanide. Afterwards, Lindloff, Hans Reisser, Peter Högl and Heinz Linge carried Hitler's blanket-wrapped corpse up the stairs to ground level and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery. The lifeless bodies of Hitler and Braun were doused with petrol. [6] After the first attempts to ignite the petrol did not work, Linge went back inside the bunker and then returned with a thick roll of papers. Martin Bormann lit the papers and threw the torch onto the bodies. As the two corpses caught fire, a small group, including Otto Günsche, Bormann, Högl, Linge, Lindloff, Reisser, Erich Kempka and Josef Göbbels raised their arms in Nazi salute as they stood just inside the Bunker doorway.

After the salute, the men went back inside the Bunker complex. Approximately 30 minutes later, SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche ordered Lindloff to go and see how far the cremation had progressed and to bury the remains in the Chancellery garden; thus attempting to keep Hitler’s remains from being captured by the Soviet Red Army. Lindloff went out and checked on the situation. He reported back to Günsche that the bodies were "already charred and torn open". The corpses "were in a horrible condition" in no small part due to the detonation of Soviet artillery. On and off during the afternoon the Soviets shelled the area in and around the Reich Chancellery. SS guards brought over additional cans of petrol to further burn the corpses. Just after 18:30 hours, Lindloff reported to Günsche that he had carried out his orders as to the disposal of the remains with the aid of SS-Obersturmführer Hans Reisser.

By 30 April 1945, the Soviet Army was less than 500 metres from the Bunker complex. In one of Hitler's last orders, he had given permission for the Berlin forces to attempt a breakout of the Soviet encirclement after his death. General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Area, and SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, the [Kommandant] Battle Commander for the centre government district, devised a plan to escape out from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. Mohnke split up the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker soldiers and personnel into ten main groups. Lindloff left the Reich Chancellery as part of one of the groups attempting to break out. After midnight on 2 May 1945, Lindloff was part of a large group of German soldiers and civilians who crossed the Weidendammer Bridge while under heavy fire from Soviet tanks and guns. Lindloff and Högl were both killed during the crossing of the bridge.

Meanwhile Mansfeld on duty in the tower, at intervals he saw SS men pour more petrol on the bodies to keep them alight. Around 5:30pm, Mansfeld was relieved of his post by Karnau. On his way to the emergency exit he recognized the remains of the still burning body of the woman. The other was almost completely burned and no longer recognizable. During the next three hours, Karnau and Mansfeld took turns in the tower. During those hours, when they left the tower, they looked at the bodies, which were charred and no longer identifiable. By 8pm the lower parts of both bodies had been burned away. At 9pm when Mansfeld visited the bodies again, they were still burning, but the flame was low. [12]

What happened next is not clear, especially since much contradictory information was provided by various participants, especially Mansfeld and Kempka, mostly during the early 1950s. It appears, however, whatever remains existed of the two bodies, sometime after 9pm, were moved on a tent shelter-half and dragged to a deep shell crater, about four or five meters from the exit, in the opposite direction of where the bodies were initially laid and burned. There the remains were placed in the crater and covered with earth and rubble. Sometime between 11pm and 11:30pm, Mansfeld, from the tower, no longer saw the bodies. He did see, however, a bomb crater four to five meters in front of the emergency exit door, half filled with dirt. He was of the opinion the bodies were buried in the crater. [13]  

In September 1939, when the Gestapo and other police organizations were consolidated under Reinhard Heydrich into the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Heinrich Müller was chief of the RSHA "Amt IV" (Office or Dept. 4): Gestapo. To distinguish him from another SS general named Heinrich Müller [a very common German name], he became known as "Gestapo Müller".

During the Second World War, Müller was heavily involved in espionage and counter-espionage, particularly since the Nazi regime increasingly distrusted the military intelligence service —the Abwehr— which under Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was a hotbed of activity for the German Resistance.

After Heydrich was assassinated in Prague in May 1942, Müller's influence within the regime declined. During 1943 he had differences with Himmler over what to do with the growing evidence of a resistance network within the German state apparatus, particularly the Abwehr and the Foreign Office. In February 1943 he presented Himmler with firm evidence that Wilhelm Canaris was involved with the resistance; however, Himmler told him to drop the case. Offended by this, Müller became an ally of Martin Bormann, the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, who was Himmler's main rival.

In April 1945 Müller was among the last group of Nazi loyalists assembled in the Führerbunker in central Berlin as the Red Army fought its way into the city. One of his last tasks was the interrogation of Hermann Fegelein in the cellar of the Church of the Trinity as to what he knew of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations with the western allies behind Hitler's back. Fegelein was Himmler's SS liaison officer and was shot after Hitler had Himmler expelled from all his posts for the betrayal.

Oberscharführer Rochus Misch, the telephone operator for the Führerbunker, recalled seeing Müller in the Reich Chancellery on 30 April 1945, about 1:30pm. He was still in full uniform, flanked by two high ranking SS officers.

That afternoon, Hitler committed suicide.

In a 2005 interview, Misch revealed: "One of the guys said to me, 'Maybe we'll be shot?' I said, 'Why in the world would we be shot?' He said, 'The head of the Gestapo was here. He never comes here. Why was he here? Maybe they'll shoot all the witnesses, everyone who knows the boss is dead'. And you know, in fact, they did shoot people. During the burning, two civilians showed up out of nowhere. There was a wall -- on the other side was the Foreign Office, and people were crawling around the city everywhere, running away from the Russians at the time. And those civilians were shot by the Gestapo".

According to the book, "The Search for Gestapo Müller" by Charles Whiting, Müller was seen in the Führerbunker as late as 1 May by SS-Gruppenführer Hans Rattenhuber who invited him to join in the breakout from the Reich Chancellery and he reportedly refused saying, "I'm not doing a debunk, the government falls and I fall with it". His attitude was described as calm but resigned. Later when asked my one of his men what they should do now, he said, "Lets wait and see".

As a side note, it is claimed, in the book, that he was, at this time, accompanied by a small Gestapo squad.

This squad may have aided him in the interrogation of SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein on 28 April at the Gestapo emergency headquarters in the crypt of Trinity Church on Mauerstraße a few blocks from the Chancellery.

Müller was also seen in the Bunker on the evening of 1 May by Hans Baur, Hitler's pilot, who later quoted Müller as saying, "We know the Russian methods exactly. I haven't the faintest intention of being taken prisoner by the Russians."

He was last seen alive between 1am and 2am on 2 May 1945 when he left a military hospital at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin
.
 

From that day onwards, no trace of him has ever been found. He is the most senior figure of the Nazi regime who was never captured or confirmed to have died - his fate remains a mystery.

Possible explanations for his disappearance include:

  • That he was killed or committed suicide during the chaos of the fall of Berlin, and his body was not found.
  • That he escaped from Berlin and made his way to a safe location, possibly in South America, where he lived the rest of his life undetected, and that his identity was not disclosed even after his death.
  • That he was recruited and given a new identity by either the United States or the Soviet Union, and employed by one of them during the Cold War, and that this has never been disclosed.

In 2008, historian Peter Longerich published a biography of Heinrich Himmler, which appeared in English translation in 2012. Longerich asserts that Müller was with Himmler at Flensburg on 11 May, and accompanied Himmler and other SS officers in their unsuccessful attempt to escape capture by the Allies and reach Bavaria on foot. Longerich states that Himmler and Müller parted company at Meinstadt, after which Müller was not seen again. Longerich provides no source for this claim, which contradicts previous accounts of Müller's disappearance. The source for Longerich's account appears to be the interrogation of one of Himmler's adjutants, Werner Grothmann, the transcript of which contains references to "Müller".

Footnotes

[1] Testimony of Mr. Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, 20 June 1945, File: 3735-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 [NAID 305264] Record Group 238; Testimony of Erich Kempka, 3 July 1946, Official Transcripts International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, Germany, 3 July 1946, p. 12,897, ibid.; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturbannführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation  Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 (NAID 2790598) Record Group 165; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 1630-1930 hours, 7 January 1948, pp. 33, 35, 41; Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; [Interrogation of] Erwin Jakubeck, Munich, 6 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; [Interrogation of] Christa Schröder, Ludwigsburg, 25 January 1948,  Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

SS Obersturmführer Erwin Jakubeck was a waiter on the staff of the Führerbegleitkommandos.

[2] Testimony of Mr. Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, 20 June 1945, File: 3735-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 [NAID 305264] Record Group 238; Testimony of Erich Kempka, 3 July  1946, Official Transcripts International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, Germany, 3 July 1946; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturmbanführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 (CI), Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; [Interrogation of] Erich Kempka, Munich, 8 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 7 January 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; [Interrogation of] Erwin Jakubeck, Munich, 6 February, 1948, p. 32, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; [Interrogation of] Christa Schröder, Ludwigsburg, 25 January 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[3] Maj. Robert W. Minor, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Bremen Interrogation Center, Bremen Enclave Military District, Intermediate Interrogation Report [IRR], Erich Mansfield, Alias Erich Skrzipczk, 30 July 1945, File: Mansfeld, Erich M-7, Reports, Interrogations, and Other Records Received from Various Allied Military Agencies, 1945-1947 [NAID 647749] Record Group 238 [National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1270, Roll 25]; Capt. James A. Love, Executive Officer, Bremen Interrogation Center, Enclave Military District, Final Interrogation Report [FIR] No. 43, Erich Mansfeld, 3 August 1945, File: 100-578, Persons and Places Case File [Dossier File], 1946-1949 [NAID 1688112]  Record Group 153; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau (CIB), GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations,  Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[4] Testimony of Mr. Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, 20 June1945, File: 3735-PS,  United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 (NAID 305264) Record Group 238; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau (CIB), GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945, ibid.; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturbannführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler";  Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, 'Hitler’s Death". Kempka said that when the bodies were laid down nobody lifted the blanket. He may have been correct, but it is also possible that he was still in the exit entrance or in the process of retrieving the first canister of fuel and did not witness what was happening to the bodies. [Interrogation of] Erich Kempka, Munich, 8 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[5] Testimony of Mr. Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, 20 June  1945, File: 3735-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 [NAID 305264] Record Group 238; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 (CI), Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, November 22, 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September  1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler";  Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; Interrogation of] Christa Schröder, Ludwigsburg, 25 January 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; [Interrogation of] Erich Kempka, Munich, 8 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[6] Testimony of Mr. Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler, Berchtesgaden, 29 June 1945, File: 3735-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 [NAID 305264] Record Group 238; Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 (NAID 2790598) Record Group 165; Points emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger, 25 September 1945; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturbannführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Linge, "With Hitler to the End"; Manuscript Statement by Hitler’s Aide-de-Camp, Otto Günsche, 17 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Evidence of the Head of Hitler’s Bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, Moscow, 20 May 1945 in Vinogrado, Pogonyi, and Teptzov, "Hitler’s Death"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book"; [Interrogation of] Erich Kempka, Munich, 8 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University. The cremation Axmann believed took place about 4:30pm. Interrogation of Arthur Axmann, Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 7 January 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[7] Interrogation of Hermann Karnau on 26 September 1945, on the subject of burning Hitler’s body, in continuation of previous interrogation reports on the same subject, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[8] Interrogation of Hermann Karnau on 26 September 1945, on the subject of burning Hitler’s body, in continuation of previous interrogation reports on the same subject, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[9] Maj. Robert W. Minor, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Bremen Interrogation Center, Bremen Enclave Military District, Intermediate Interrogation Report [IRR], Erich Mansfield, Alias Erich Skrzipczk, 30 July 1945, File: Mansfeld, Erich M-7, Reports, Interrogations, and Other Records Received from Various Allied Military Agencies, 1945-1947 (NAID 647749) Record Group 238 [National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1270, Roll 25]; Capt. James A. Love, Executive Officer, Bremen Interrogation Center, Enclave Military District, Final Interrogation Report (FIR) No. 43, Erich Mansfeld, 3 August 1945, File: 100-578, Persons and Places Case File [Dossier File], 1946-1949 [NAID 1688112] Record Group 153.

[10]  Memorandum, Karl Sussman, CIC Special Agent, Region IV, Garmish Sub-Region, Headquarters Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Forces European Theater to Commanding Officer, Garmish Sub-Region, Subject: Interrogation of Junge, Gertrude, 30 August 1946, File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude,  Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054] Record Group 319; [Interrogation of] Gertraud [Gertrude] Junge, Munich, 7 February 7, 1948, pp. 48, 50, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University.

[11] Special Interrogation of Erich Kempka, at US Third Army Internment Camp No. 6, Moosburg, 7 October 1945, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Historical Branch, War Department General Staff, G-2, Historical Interrogation Commission, Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka, Chief Driver & Head of the Führer’s Motor Pool, 26 September 1945, Third Army Intelligence Center, Lt. Col. O. J. Hale, Interrogator, File: Historical Interrogation Report, ibid.; Kempka, "I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur"; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Eberle and Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book".

[12] Maj. Robert W. Minor, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Bremen Interrogation Center, Bremen Enclave Military District, Intermediate Interrogation Report [IRR], Erich Mansfield, Alias Erich Skrzipczk, 30 July 1945, File: Mansfeld, Erich M-7, Reports, Interrogations, and Other Records Received from Various Allied Military Agencies, 1945-1947 [NAID 647749] Record Group 238 [National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1270, Roll 25]; Interrogation of Hermann Karnau on 26 September 1945, on the subject of burning Hitler’s body, in continuation of previous interrogation reports on the same subject, enclosure to Memorandum, Brigadier [no name given], Counter Intelligence Bureau [CIB], GSI (b), Headquarters, British Army of the Rhine to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [CI], Headquarters, US Forces European Theater, Subject: Investigation into the Death of Hitler, 22 November 1945, Document No. CIB/B3/PF.582, File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 [NAID 2790598] Record Group 165; Capt. James A. Love, Executive Officer, Bremen Interrogation Center, Enclave Military District, Final Interrogation Report [FIR] No. 43, Erich Mansfeld, 3 August  1945, File: 100-578, Persons and Places Case File [Dossier File], 1946-1949 [NAID 1688112] Record Group 153; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler:; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[13] Capt. James A. Love, Executive Officer, Bremen Interrogation Center, Enclave Military District, Final Interrogation Report [FIR] No. 43, Erich Mansfeld, 3 August 1945, File: 100-578, Persons and Places Case File [Dossier File], 1946-1949 (NAID 1688112) Record Group 153; Maj. Robert W. Minor, Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Bremen Interrogation Center, Bremen Enclave Military District, Intermediate Interrogation Report (IRR), Erich Mansfield, Alias Erich Skrzipczk, 30 July 1945, File: Mansfeld, Erich M-7, Reports, Interrogations, and Other Records Received from Various Allied Military Agencies, 1945-1947 [NAID 647749] Record Group 238 [National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1270, Roll 25]; [Interrogation of] Erich Kempka, Munich, 8 February 1948, Interrogations of Hitler Associates, Musmanno Collection, Gumberg Library Digital Collections, Duquesne University; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Musmanno, "Ten Days to Die"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Fest, "Inside Hitler’s Bunker".

Hunting Hitler Part VI: The Search Begins, May 1945 

With Adolf Hitler’s death just before 4pm on 30 April 1945, Hitler’s right-hand man Martin Bormann realized he had no position at all, unless Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz should confirm his appointment as Party Minister in the new government that Hitler had provided for in his Political Testament. He also knew it was improbable that any copy of Hitler’s Political Testament had yet reached Dönitz, who was therefore unaware of Hitler’s death, but also of his own right of succession. Sometime between 6:15pm and 7:50pm, Bormann, Göbbels, and Admiral Voss drafted and sent to Dönitz an ambiguous radio signal in the secure naval cipher, not bothering to mention Hitler was dead. It seemed as if Bormann wished to prolong yet a little longer the authority which he loved but could no longer legally exercise. [1] The message stated “In place of the former Reich-Marshal Göring the Führer appoints you, Herr Grand Admiral, as his successor. Written authorization is on its way. You will immediately take all such measures as the situation requires. Bormann.” [2]

1 May 1945
On the 30th April, Unterscharführer Georg Diers and his crew of tank 314, were ordered to take up a defensive position at theReichstag buildings. This was one of only two remaining King Tigers belonging
to Heavy SS Tank Battalion 503 in Berlin. By that evening they had knocked out about 30 T34's, and the following day led a successful counterattack against the Kroll Opera House directly opposite the Reichstag. Their efforts though, merely postponed the inevitable and by the end of the day the order was given to abandon the position and prepare to break out of Berlin.

At Plön, Dönitz, in the presence of Admiral Kummetz, the naval Commander-in-Chief, Baltic, and Albert Speer, received the message, which had just arrived from Berlin. The message was from Bormann announcing that Dönitz was Hitler’s successor in place of Göring. Dönitz was surprised. He incorrectly assumed that Hitler had nominated him because he wished to clear the way to enable an officer of the Armed Forces to put an end to the war. Dönitz did not find out until the winter of 1945-46, when for the first time he heard the provisions of Hitler’s will, in which he demanded that the struggle should be continued. [3] That evening Dönitz met with Keitel and Jodl and discussed the message. They agreed that Hitler was dead. They discussed making offers of an immediate armistice. [4]

On the morning of 1 May Bormann decided, or agreed, to inform Dönitz that his reign had begun. Still, he avoided an explicit admission of Hitler’s death. His message, which was sent for dispatch at 7:40am and received by Dönitz at 10:53am stated: “The will has become effective. I shall come to see you at the earliest possible moment. In my opinion, publication should be postponed until we meet". [5]

From that Dönitz presumed that Hitler was dead. Contrary to Bormann’s opinion to hold an announcement, Dönitz felt that the German Armed Forces ought to be told what had happened as quickly as possible.  Dönitz would later write: "Of his suicide I knew nothing. Nor from the assessment of his character that I had formed did I for a moment think of suicide as a possibility. I assumed that he had met his end seeking death in battle in Berlin. I felt therefore that the announcement of his death should be couched in respectful terms". [6]

On 1 May Dönitz broadcast the following announcement:

"The Führer has nominated me as his successor. In full consciousness of my responsibilities I therefore assume the leadership of the German people at this fateful hour. My first task is to save German men and women from destruction by the advancing Bolshevist enemy. It is to serve this purpose alone that the military struggle continues. For as long as the British and the Americans continue to impede the accomplishment of this task, we must also continue to fight and defend ourselves against them.

"The British and the Americans in that case will not be fighting in the interest of their own people, but solely for the expansion of Bolshevism in Europe". [7]

He also issued his Order of the Day to the Armed Forces:

"The Führer has nominated me as his successor as Head of the State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. I assume command of all Services of the Armed Forces with the firm intention of continuing the fight against the Bolsheviks until our troops and the hundreds of thousands of German families in our eastern provinces have been saved from slavery or destruction. Against the British and the Americans I must continue to fight as long as they persist in hindering the accomplishment of my primary object". [8]

At 3:18pm Dönitz received a third and last signal from the Chancellery in Berlin, whence it had been dispatched at 2:46pm. It was from Göbbels and Bormann, and signed by Göbbels, who would commit suicide some six hours later. [9]

It read:

"The Führer died yesterday at 15:30 hours. Testament of 29 April appoints you as Reich President, Reich Minister Dr. Göbbels as Reich Chancellor, Reichsleiter Bormann as Party Minister, Reich Minister Seyss-Inquart as Foreign Minister. By order of the Fuehrer, the Testament has been sent out of Berlin to you, to Field-Marshal Schörner, and for preservation and publication. Reichsleiter Bormann intends to go to you today and to inform you of the situation. Time and form of announcement to the Press and to the troops is left to you. Confirm receipt. -Göbbels". [10]

Dönitz decided not to wait for Bormann’s arrival to inform the Germans of Hitler’s death and did so that evening. At 9:30pm Hamburg Radio warned the German people that “a grave and important announcement” would be made; then, came strains from Wagner’s operas and the slow movement of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was played, followed at 10:26pm by Dönitz announcing Hitler’s death and his own succession. The Führer, he said, had fallen “this afternoon;" he had died fighting "at the head of his troops". [11]

Meanwhile on the morning of 1 May, Lorenz, Zander, Johannmeier [the three couriers with Hitler’s Personal Will, Political Testament, and Marriage Certificate]) were on the Wannsee peninsula opposite Schwanenwerder. On 2 May, the day Berlin surrendered, they were on the Havel, a tributary of the Elbe. Before dawn on 3 May, they set out again, and made their way to Potsdam and Brandenburg, and on 11 May crossed the Elbe at Parey, between Magdeburg and Genthin, and passed ultimately, as foreign workers, into the area of the Western Allies, transported by American trucks. By this time the war was over, and Zander and Lorenz lost heart and easily convinced themselves that their mission had now no purpose or possibility of fulfillment. Johannmeier allowed himself to be influenced by them, although he still believed he would have been able to complete his mission. After abandoning their mission, the men split up. Zander and Lorenz went to the house of Zander’s relatives in Hanover. From there, Zander proceeded south until he reached Munich, where he stayed with his wife, and then continued to Tegernsee. At Tegernsee, Zander hid his documents in a trunk. He changed his name, identity, status, and began a new life under the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin. Johannmeier meanwhile went to his family’s home in Iserlohn in Westphalia, and buried his documents in a bottle in the back garden. Lorenz ended up in Luxembourg and found work as a journalist under an assumed name. Their existence and mission would not be known to the Allies until November. [12]

The Moscow radio’s first announcement of the German report of Hitler’s death, broadcast at 3:12am on 2 May to the Russian people, declared that "The German radio statement evidently represents a new Fascist trick". The radio announcement was prefaced by the phrase "it is asserted that", indicating that the Russians were skeptical of the German version of Hitler’s fate. The broadcast said that Dönitz’s order to the German troops was repeating "the usual trickery and twists of Hitlerite propaganda". The Moscow broadcast said that, "by the dissemination of the statement on the death of Hitler, the German Fascists evidently hope to prepare for Hitler the possibility of disappearing from the scene and going to an underground position". [13]

"The New York Times" on 2 May carried an editorial entitled 'The End of Hitler', referencing the German radio announcement that Hitler had died the previous afternoon in his command post at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin "fighting to his last breath against Bolshevism". The editorial, after noting that the announcement indicated that Dönitz had been named as Hitler’s successor, observed that:

"The Nazis have made lies so much a part of their politics, and their reports about Hitler’s alleged doubles have been so widely spread, that these announcements are bound to leave in many minds the suspicion that the master liar is attempting to perpetrate one last great hoax on the world in an effort to save himself, and perhaps prepare the way for his return at a later and more auspicious time. Yet, whether true or not, the announcement does mark the end of Hitler and the regime that plunged the world into this war and formed the core of the fanatical German resistance which has cost so much Allied blood and effort.

"All things considered, there seems to be no good reason to doubt that Hitler is dead, or that he died as the announcement says he did. Logically, he had to die that way, and had he tried to evade his fate, it is difficult to believe that even his most devoted followers would have permitted him to do so".

The editorial added that it seemed probably that Hitler "fell as he was supposed to fall-in the roar and terror of battle, amid the crumbling walls of his capital, in the Chancellery which he had built as the seat of his world dominion, and at a moment when the conquering Russian armies were planting their victory banners on the scenes of his former triumphs". [14]

Near the end of President Truman’s news conference on 2 May, he was asked if he would care to comment on the death of Hitler or Mussolini. He responded “Well, of course, the two principal war criminals will not have to come to trial; and I am very happy they are out of the way.” He was then asked if that meant “that we know officially that Hitler is dead?” Truman responded “Yes.” He was then asked if he knew how Hitler died, to which Truman said “No, we do not.” Truman was asked “Is it official? This is confirmation that Hitler is dead?” Truman responded:  “We have the best–on the best authority possible to obtain at this time that Hitler is dead. But how he died we are not -we are not familiar with the details as yet". Truman was asked if he could name the authority. “I would rather not” Truman replied. Finally, Truman was asked if he was convinced that the authority he gave was the best possible and that the information was true. "Yes" was his reply. The next day Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson followed the lead of Truman in expressing the opinion that Hitler was dead. [15]

Hans Fritzsche, former Ministerial Director of the Propaganda Ministry, on 2 May, being held captive in Berlin, spoke about Hitler’s end. A reporter with the First U.S. Army on 2 May reported that a former high official of the German Foreign Office [Hans Fritzsche] said that day that he and his colleagues believed that Hitler was dead, his body would not be discovered, and that the Nazis would claim cremation. He also said "But admittedly there exists a possibility he is alive and attempting to disappear through feigning death". A communiqué issued in Moscow during the night of 2-3 May announced that Hitler and Göbbels had committed suicide. This statement was attributed to Fritzsche. From London on 3 May 3 a report was made, citing the Soviet communiqué that Fritsche had said General Krebs, Göbbels, and Hitler had all committed suicide. From London on May 3 it was reported that a deposition made by Göbbels’ chief assistant that both Göbbels and Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin was given to the world early that day by Red Army forces after they had occupied Berlin. Fritsche, was quoted in the Soviet communiqué as having reported also the suicide of Krebs. The statement of Fritsche, noted a reporter, added another version of Hitler’s demise to two already given: that he had died in battle and that he had succumbed to cerebral hemorrhage. [16]

From Moscow on 3 May came a story that the Soviets were looking for Hitler and were not convinced that he, Göbbels, and other Nazi leaders actually committed suicide. Well-known "Pravda" writer Nikolai Tikhonoff, wrote: “We shall see what has really happened to him. And if he escaped, we shall find him, no matter where he is". [17]

The official Soviet news agency on 6 May sent a wireless communiqué to all communist newspapers published outside the Soviet Union that Soviet authorities were conducting a very thorough investigation into the matter of Hitler’s fate and the world would soon know the true facts. “Up to now Nazi deviousness and Machiavellian finesse have succeeded in shrouding this in mystery.” [18] An "Associated Press" reporter in Moscow on 7 May reported that Russian investigators combed Berlin again that day for evidence of Hitler, and although a group of German generals insisted anew that he was dead by his own hand there was nothing to indicate the Soviets were any closer to a final resolution of his reported death. A "Pravda" dispatch from Berlin said the examination of bodies discovered in the courtyard of the Chancellery annex, the Reichstag and other public buildings where high Nazis shot themselves, was continuing. Nothing had been discovered to back up the Hitler suicide theory, however, it stated. AP ended the piece: “As each day goes by without confirmation of Hitler’s and Göbbels’ reported suicides the suspicion grows here that Hitler and his henchmen are still alive. Most speculation is that they have gone to some neutral country, or perhaps by long-range submarine to Japan". [19]

"Time Magazine" on 7 May had as its cover the likeness of Hitler’s face with a red X on it. The related story stated that:

"Adolf Hitler had been buried, dead or alive, in the rubble of his collapsing Third Reich. Whether or not he had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage (as reported from Stockholm), or had “fallen in his command post at the Reich chancellery” [as reported by the Hamburg radio, which said that he had been succeeded as Führer by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz], or was a prisoner of Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler as a political force had been expunged. If he were indeed dead, the hope of most of mankind had been realized. For seldom had so many millions of people hoped so implacably for the death of one man". [20]

At Berlin on 10 May, SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force]) issued a press release indicating that at least four bodies, one of which may be Hitler, had been found by the Russians in Berlin. However, none of them has been identified as being definitely that of Hitler. The press release added that the bodies of Göbbels and his family, of Martin Bormann, and of a number of other top Nazis had been found and identified with fair certainty. For a week, the press release continued, the Russians had searched through the ruins of the underground fortress where Hitler and his gang were. Somewhere amid the underground ruins, Hitler’s body charred beyond real recognition by flamethrowers, Hitler probably met his death. The Russians believe he might have been killed beforehand by the people around him. [21]

Hermann Göring on 11 May, at Augsburg, told reporters that he was satisfied that Hitler was dead and that Hitler’s body had been disposed of so it would not fall into the hands of the Russians. On 15 May , at Berchtesgaden, one of Hitler’s stenographers, Gerhard Herrgesell, told a reporter he thought there still was a possibility that Hitler was alive, but was personally convinced that Hitler died in the Bunker with Eva Braun, some SS men and probably Bormann. Herrgesell speculated that plans were made some time ago to prevent Hitler’s body from falling into the hands of the Russians. He thought the bodies of Hitler and a few close associates may have been placed in a vault in the basement of one of the government buildings and then sealed by blasting debris down upon it. Dr. Theodor Morrell, Hitler’s personal physician for eight years, told a reporter on 21 May that he did not believe Hitler had committed suicide, but believed that Hitler was dead, probably from a heart condition. [22]

During an informal exchange on 13 May, Allied counter-intelligence officers were told by Russian officers that Soviet specialists had found new proof that Hitler, mentally unbalanced and partially paralyzed, had been killed in his Bunker on 1 May  by an injection of poison administered to him by Dr. Stumpfegger. [23]

"Time Magazine" on 14 May  carried a story with the title “Victory in Europe: The Many Deaths of Adolf Hitler", in which it said that Hitler had died more deaths in one week than any man in history. The article noted that Hamburg radio had said that Hitler had died “at his command post in the Reich Chancellery, fighting the Russians to the last"; Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, who had it from Heinrich Himmler on 24 April; Hitler had a cerebral hemorrhage, might already be dead; Dr. Hans Fritzsche, captured Göbbels deputy: Hitler had committed suicide; Tokyo radio: Hitler was killed by an exploding shell as he walked down the steps of his Berlin Chancellery; "Paris-Presse": After a quarrel with Hitler over the continuation of the war, other Nazi leaders blew him to bits by a bomb placed in his underground fortress in the Tiergarten on 21 April; the "London Daily Express": Hitler is on his way to Japan in a U-boat; and, the "United Press" war correspondent Edward W. Beattie Jr.: "Germans believed that Hitler was killed in last year’s bomb plot". The "Time" article stated that Soviet soldiers dug deep into the rubble of the Reich Chancellery for Hitler’s corpse. They did not find it, and Fritzsche explained to them: "The body has been hidden in a place impossible to find". "Time" noted that the Russians were determined to find Hitler, dead or alive. Said "Pravda": “Whether he escaped to hell, to the devil’s paws, or to the arms of fascist protectors, still he is no more. We shall find out what really happened to him. And if he escaped, we shall find him, no matter where he is'. [24]

"Big Explosion"

A report, which came through Switzerland, says that Hitler was assassinated on the night of 21 April at his Berlin headquarters. That night, the report says, he presided over a war council. Hitler insisted on a pian to continue resistance in the Bavarian Redoubt, but only Göbbels supported him. A few hours before a second meeting was to have been held there was a terrific explosion in Hitler's private rooms, and he and all his guards were killed, the report adds.

The German Legation In Berne [Switzerland] has had no news from Germany to confirm officially Hitler's death.

Hitler Dead, Says Rundstedt
The Daily News (Perth, WA: 1882 - 1950)
5 May 1945

LONDON. Field-Marshal von Rundstedt told the "British United Press" correspondent with the Seventh Army. "It happened in Berlin and it certainly wasn't suicide", he added.

Where is Hitler? ?
Argentina Report 
May be in Patagonia Landed by Submarine
Geraldton Guardian and Express (WA: 1929 - 1947)    
18 July 1945

Chicago. 17 July. The Montevideo correspondent of the "Chicago Tribune" declares it is virtually certain that Hitler and Eva Braun are at present on a German estate in Patagonia (Argentina).

"The pair are reported to have landed on a lonely part of the Argentine shore from 'the German submarine which is supposed to have later surrendered to the Allies". he says.

The correspondent adds that the utmost significance is now attached to the words of General Basilo Pertine at a banquet on 4 June, who said — "I am glad to announce that our friends are safe at last".

During the last few days there have been persistent reports from correspondents in Argentina that high German officers were landed in southern Argentina — Patagonia is in this area, where there is a large German colony — from the German submarine U-Boot 530. which later surrendered to Argentine authorities. It was reported that a search was being conducted.

The Argentine Cabinet is to meet this afternoon to consider the question of the U-Boat which arrived at Mar del Plata, the Argentine submarine base on 10 July . It was commanded by Otto Wermouth and carried a complement of fifty-four. All were placed in custody by the Argentine naval authorities and the closed to the public. No explanation was given as to where the submarine had been since Germany surrendered.

There have been a number of con flicting reports in the fate of Hitler since Hamburg radio reported, a week before the German surrender, that he had fallen in his command post at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin and that he had been succeeded as Fuehrer by Grand Admiral Doenitz.

Stockholm sources reported he had suffered a cerebral, hemorrhage and also, that he had been taken prisoner by Himmler. The Swedish emissary Count Bernadotte disclosed in a recently-published book dealing with those last eventful days before peace in Europe that he believed Hitler had been poisoned by his own men. Hitler suffered from Parkinson's disease (shaking paralysis), said the Count, and was unable to take the initiative in any decisions. But his madness did' not. deprive him of the power to get his assistants to kill at his command. 

Then Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka said after his arrest that on 1  May  Hitler and Eva Braun shot themselves, two days after they were married, in an underground shelter behind the Chancellery. He declared that at 3 am 2 May he personally carried the body of Eva Braun — who was reported to be the mother of two children to Hitler— from the shelter and later saw the burning of the Petrol-soaked bodies. A German police witness corroborated this story.

On 26 May Harry L. Hopkins [Adviser and Assistant to the President], W. Averell Harriman [Ambassador to the Soviet Union], and Charles E. Bohlen [Assistant to the Secretary of State] met with Josef Stalin at the Kremlin in Moscow. Near the end of the meeting, Hopkins said he hoped the Russians would find the body of Hitler. Stalin replied that in his opinion Hitler was not dead but hiding somewhere. He said the Soviet doctors thought they had identified the body of Göbbels and Hitler’s chauffeur [Kempka], but that he, personally, even doubted if Göbbels was dead and said the whole matter was “strange and the various talks of funerals and burials struck him as being very dubious". Stalin said he thought that Bormann, Göbbels, Hitler and probably Krebs had escaped and were in hiding. Hopkins said that he knew the Germans had several very large submarines but that no trace of them had been found and added that he hoped they would track Hitler down wherever he might be. Stalin said he also knew of those submarines which had been running back and forth between Germany and Japan taking gold and negotiable assets from Germany to Japan. He added that he had ordered his intelligence service to look into the matter of the submarines but so far they had failed to discover any trace and therefore he thought it was possible that Hitler and company had gone in them to Japan.[25]

Office of Strategic Services officer Richard W. Cutler wrote that for a short time after their defeat, a number of Germans simply could not accept the fact that Hitler had died, even though the death had been proclaimed by Dönitz. Hitler’s body had not been found and rumors persisted that he was still alive. [26] Senior British intelligence officer Dick White had recognized from the start the importance of solving the mystery of Hitler’s death. “Hitler had captured the imagination of the German people; so long as the possibility remained that he might be still alive, the stability and security of the occupied zones could not be guaranteed.” [27] White had convinced Field Marshal Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief of the British Zone, of the need for an inquiry into Hitler’s fate. After the German surrender he had gone, with Montgomery’s blessing, to Berlin, where the Russians assured him that both Hitler and Göbbels had committed suicide, and that their bodies had been burnt. White had been shown a set of false teeth identified as Hitler’s. [28] Now, at the end of May the mystery deepened and widened. Many Germans were convinced Hitler was not dead, and if he did die, he had done so in the matter explained by Döitz. Meanwhile the Soviets seemed to be increasingly changing their story. During the summer the confusion and contradictions would continue.

Footnotes

[1]  Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[2] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler". Copy of a complete teleprint of the message, timed at 75:0pm, in German can be found in Document Section (GAD/C), Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 1945, File: Regular Intelligence Report No. 143123, Intelligence Reports [“Regular” Series], 1941-1945 [NAID 6050264] Record Group 226. Speer indicates the message was sent at 6:35 pm. Albert Speer, "Inside the Third Reich", trans. By Richard and Clara Winston [New York: Avon Books, 1971], note. Another source indicates the message was sent at 5:40 pm. von Lang, "The Secretary". Another version reads: “Replacing former Reichsmarshall Göring, the Führer appointed you, Grossadmiral, as his successor. Confirmation in writing dispatched. You are to take immediately any action resulting from the present situation". Translation of Wireless message to Dönitz from Bormann, 30 April 1945, received 6:35pm, enclosure to Maj. Gen. Lowell W. Rooks, Chief, Control Party, SHAEF Control Party at OKW to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5,, Subject: Transmission of Records, 18 May 1945, File: 383.6/4 Interrogation of Prisoners of War, Decimal File, May 1943-August 1945 [NAID 568109] Record Group 331.

[3] Admiral Karl Dönitz, "Memoirs: A Documentary of the Nazi Twilight" [New York: Belmont Books, 1961].

[4] Testimony of Wilhelm Keitel, taken at Nuremberg, Germany, 10 October 1945, 1040-1305, by Mr. Thomas J. Dodd, OUSCC, File: Keitel, Wilh. [Vol. IV 4 Oct-10 Oct 45], I., Interrogations, Summaries of Interrogations, and Related Records, 1945-1946 [NAID 6105243] Record Group 238.   

[5] Translation of Wireless message to Dönitz from Bormann, 1 May 1945, received 10:53am, enclosure to Maj. Gen. Lowell W. Rooks, Chief, Control Party, SHAEF Control Party at OKW to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, Subject: Transmission of Records, 18 May 1945, File: 383.6/4 Interrogation of Prisoners of War, Decimal File, May 1943-August 1945 [NAID 568109] Record Group 331. A copy of this message in German can found in Document Section (GAD/C), Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 1945, File: Regular Intelligence Report No. 143123, Intelligence Reports [“Regular” Series], 1941-1945 [NAID 6050264] Record Group 226. According to Dönitz the message was dispatched at 7:40am on 1 May. Dönitz, "Memoirs".

[6] Dönitz, "Memoirs".

[7] Dönitz, "Memoirs".

[8] Dönitz, Memoirs. On 1 May, Dönitz also issued the following declaration to the members of the German Armed Forces: “I expect discipline and obedience. Chaos and ruin can be prevented only by the swift and unreserved execution of my orders. Anyone who at this juncture fails in his duty and condemns German women and children to slavery and death is a traitor and a coward. The oath of allegiance which you took to the Führer now binds each and every one of you to me, whom he himself appointed as his successor". Dönitz, "Memoirs".

[9] Dönitz, "Memoirs".

[10] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler". Copy of a teleprint of the message in German can be found at Document Section [GAD/C], Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 20, 1945, File: Regular Intelligence Report No. 143123, Intelligence Reports [“Regular” Series], 1941-1945 [NAID 6050264] Record Group 226. Another source indicates that this message was sent at 2:16pm on 1 May and was signed by both Göbbels and Bormann. von Lang,  "The Secretary". Another version of the message reads: “Führer died yesterday 15:30 hours. His will dated 29 April appoints you as President of the Reich, Reichminister Dr. Göbbels as Prime Minister, Reichsleiter Bormann as Party Minister, Reichsminister Seyss-Inequart as Foreign Minister. Upon the Führer’s orders, copies of his will were dispatched to you and to Field Marshall Schörner and taken away from Berlin in order to safeguard it for the public. Reichsleiter Bormann will try today to come to see you, in order to inform you about the situation. Form and time of announcement to public and troops are at your own discretion. Acknowledge receipt". Translation of Wireless message to Dönitz from Göbbels, 1 May 1945, received 3:18 pm, enclosure to Maj. Gen. Lowell W. Rooks, Chief, Control Party, SHAEF Control Party at OKW to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, Subject: Transmission of Records, 18 May 1945, File: 383.6/4 Interrogation of Prisoners of War, Decimal File, May 1943-August 1945 [NAID 568109] Record Group 331.

[11] Document Section (GAD/C), Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 1945, File: Regular Intelligence Report No. 143123, Intelligence Reports (“Regular” Series), 1941-1945 (NAID 6050264) Record Group 226; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler". Other sources indicated that Dönitz had made the announcement at 9:30pm on 1 May during which time Dönitz had indicated that Hitler, “fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism, fell for Germany this afternoon in his operational command post in the Reich Chancellery.” Fischer, "Nazi Germany"; Beevor, "The Fall of Berlin 1945".

[12] Memorandum, Arnold H. Weiss, Special Agent, CIC, Munich Sub-Regional Office  to the Officer in Charge, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Re: Location and Arrest and Recovery of Hitler’s Documents, 30 December 1945, attachment to Memorandum, 1st Lt. Marvin L. Edwards, CIC, Commanding to Commanding Officer, 970/CIC, Regional Office IV, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Adjutant to Bormann; Unterholzner, Ilsa, secretary to Bormann, 4 January 1946; 1st Indorsement, 1st Lt. Joseph E. Gagan, Executive, CIC Region, IV to Chief, CIC, CIB, Headquarters, USFET, 4 January, 1946, File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976 (NAID 645054) RG 319; Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, 1 January 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: XE013274, Willi Johannmeier, ibid.; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Boldt, "Hitler’s Last Days"; Adam Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography" [London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010]; Herman Rothman, ed. by Helen Fry, "Hitler’s Will", [Glocestershire, United Kingdom: The History Press, 2009].

[13] "Associated Press", 'Just a ‘Fascist Trick, Moscow Radio Asserts', "The New York Times", 2 May 1945.

[14] 'The End of Hitler', "The New York Times", 2 May 1945.

[15] Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Harry S. Truman Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President 12 April to 31 December 1945 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1961), pp. 38-39; Special to "The New York Times", 'Truman Believes Hitler Dead', "The New York Times", 3 May 1945; Special to "The New York Times", 'Stimson Accepts Death Story', "The New York Times", 4 May 1945.

[16] "United Press", 'Cremation Report Predicted', "The New York Times", 3 May 1945; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler"; Cable to "The New York Times", London, 3 May  1945, 'Göbbels and Führer Died By Own Hands, Aide Says', "The New York Times", 3 May 1945.

[17] Wireless to "The New York Times", 'Russians Find No Trace of Hitler in Berlin, Moscow Paper Reports', "The New York Times", 4 May 1945.

[18] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[19] "Associated Press", 'New Berlin Search Fails to Find Hitler', "The New York Times", 8 May 1945.

[20] 'Germany: The Betrayer', "Time", Vol. XLV, No. 19, 7 May 1945.

[21] Public Relations Division, SHAEF, SHAEF Release No. 1450, 10 May 1945, File: SHAEF Public Relations Division Releases, 1-10 May, 21-31, 1945, Press Releases, Jun 1944-Jul 1945 (NAID 622519) Record Group 331.

[22] "Associated Press", 'Scared Göring Puts Entire Blame for Atrocities on Hitler', "The Washington Post", 12 May 1945; Jack Fleischer, "United Press", 'Hitler in Fuddle for 2 Days Deciding He’d Die in Berlin', "Washington Times-Herald", 16 May 1945; Tania Long, 'Doctor Describes Hitler Injections', "The New York Times", 22 May  1945.

[23] Joachimsthaler, T"he Last Days of Hitler".

[24] 'Victory In Europe: The Many Deaths of Adolf Hitler', "Time", Vol. XLV, No. 20, 14 May 1945.

[25] Memorandum by the Assistant to the Secretary of State [Bohlem], of 1st Conversation at the Kremlin, 8 P.M., 26 May 1945, File: 740.00119 [Potsdam]/6-645, Central Decimal Files, 1910-1963 [NAID 302021] Record Group 59.

[26] Richard W. Cutler, Counterspy: "Memoirs of a Counterintelligence Officer in World War II and the Cold War" [Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2004].

[27] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[28] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper". 

Hunting Hitler Part VII: The Search Continues, June-September 1945 

At the end of May 1945, Allied military and diplomatic officials went to Berlin to discuss the occupation of Berlin with Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Soviet commander of the Russian Zone of Occupation. During these early talks the death of Adolf Hitler was a matter of some discussion. While some Russians believed Hitler still was alive, others did not. This latter belief was based on some dental evidence they had which indicated that a body they had recovered and inspected was indeed that of Hitler. Apparently Zhukov and General V. D. Sokolovsky, the deputy commander in chief of Soviet forces in the Russian Zone, told the dental identification story to several western military men and diplomats who had visited Berlin for quadripartite preliminary talks, including General Lucius Clay, the American Deputy Military Governor and Robert Murphy, the American Political Adviser. [1]

On 5 June when the Supreme Allied Commanders met in Berlin in order to organize the establishment of the Four-Power Government, responsible Russian officers told officers from General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff that Hitler’s body had been discovered and “identified with almost completely certainty.” They said the body was found in the Bunker together with three others. It had been badly charred, attributed to the flame throwers with which their troops had advanced. According to them, the bodies were examined by Russian doctors and this led to an "almost certain identification". They said if the Russians were not officially announcing Hitler’s death, it was only due to their reluctance to commit themselves as long as there was the "slightest room for doubt". However, they openly admitted that all the evidence available pointed to the conclusion that Hitler was dead.  Again, on 6 June Zhukov’s staff officers assured Eisenhower’s staff officers that Hitler’s body had been discovered, exhumed and scientifically identified.[2]

On 6 June the day the Soviet Military Administration in Germany was set up, the Russians held an unofficial press conference in Berlin at which correspondents from the United States, Great Britain and France were present. An officer from Zhukov’s staff disclosed details of the search for Hitler’s corpse and authorized the correspondents to report-without naming him as the source, that it had been found and identified with a high degree of probability. He said [incorrectly]Hitler’s smoke-blackened and charred corpse was one of four that had been discovered in the Bnker on 3 and 4 May. They had been burnt in the corridor by a flame-thrower, but despite this, after careful examination of teeth and other characteristics the Russians singled out one body which they believed almost certainly was that of Hitler. After examination by chemists from the Red Army, there were indications that Hitler most probably died of poisoning. Asked why no official announcement of the discovery has been made yet by Moscow, the Russian source said as long as any element of uncertainty existed, the Russians did not wish to state definitely that Hitler’s body has been found. The source added, however, that there seems little doubt that this actually is the corpse of Hitler. Covering the event, Joseph W. Grigg, Jr., "United Press" Staff Correspondent for "Combined U.S. Press", observed that “The Russians have given no hint as to how the bodies of Hitler, Göbbels and other Nazis found in Berlin have been disposed of. This probably will remain a secret for all time to guard against the possibility of Nazi fanatics trying to recover the bodies". His story ran 7 June in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times". [3]

While the Soviets in Berlin on 6 June were saying that they believed with a high degree of certainty that Hitler was dead, Stalin was saying just the opposite. On 6 June in Moscow when Hopkins, Harriman, and Bohlen again met with Stalin, Stalin said he was sure that Hitler was still alive. Thus, it is not surprising that after the 6 June press conference, Stalin immediately sent Andrei Vyshinsky [later prosecuting attorney at Nuremberg] to Marshal Zhukov in Berlin as his “political representative to the Chief of the Soviet Military Administration". [4]  

At a major press conference on 9 June with Vyshinsky sitting next to Zhukov, the new “official Russian version” was announced to American, British, French and Russian correspondents. Hitler’s last-minute marriage to Eva Braun was disclosed by Zhukov. He said that she had flown to Berlin in the last day to be at Hitler’s side. “It is well known that two days before Berlin fell Hitler married Eva Braun” he said. He added that the Russians had found references to the marriage in the diaries of Hitler’s personal adjutants. Zhukov said “We have found no corpse that could be Hitler’s” and added that Hitler and Braun had good opportunities to get away from Berlin; “He could have taken off at the very last moment, for there was an airfield at his disposal". Zhukov told the press “The circumstances are highly mysterious. We did not identify Hitler’s body and I cannot say anything about his fate. …” Zhukov added, “Now it is up to you British and Americans to find him". At the press conference Colonel General Nikolai E. Berzarin, Soviet commander of Berlin, turning to the question of whether Hitler had died in Berlin, said “There are all sorts of people who were close to him who say that he killed himself. Still others say he was killed by an exploding shell,” however, Russian soldiers had not yet found Hitler’s body. “My personal opinion is that he has disappeared somewhere into Europe". Berzarin said “Perhaps he is in Spain with Franco. He had the possibility of getting away". The newly Soviet appointed German Bürgermeister of Berlin, Arthur Werner, said “Hitler-we just don’t know…There are many Germans who say he has found refuge in another country". [5]

The following day, 10 June, Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. D. Strong, the SHAEF G-2, asked a Soviet Intelligence officer regarding Zhukov’s statement that Hitler was still alive. The Soviet officer replied that the Russians had revised their earlier opinion that Hitler was dead, and that none of the evidence at present in their possession indicates definitely that this was so. Ambassador Murphy informed the State Department that while SHAEF G-2 did not exclude the possibility that Hitler may be in the Allied area, they did not accept the implication of Zhukov’s statement that primary responsibility rested with “us for finding him.” [6]

On 10 June in Madrid the Spanish Foreign Minister had his press secretary deny Zhukov’s report that Hitler might have found shelter in Spain. The Spanish statement said: “Hitler, married or single, alive or dead, is not on Spanish soil, nor would he be allowed here, and if he entered he would not receive shelter". [7]

The Russian press on 14 June reviewed an article by Elliott [probably George Fielding Eliot] in the "New York Herald Tribune" commenting on Zhukov’s reported statement that the English and Americans should organize a search for Hitler. Elliott reportedly expressed agreement with Zhukov and was cited as emphasizing the probability of the Soviet statement that Hitler at present was outside the Soviet occupation zone. Elliott was quoted to effect that Hitler probably fled to Spain where there were many German refugees who probably would seek to organize Hitler’s flight. Elliott was also quoted describing a possible escape route for Hitler to Argentina. The news item concluded by quoting Elliott’s opinion that the Allies ought to organize measures to apprehend Hitler including if necessary military operations against Franco’s Spain. [8]

In June, witnesses to what had transpired in the Bunker on 30 April began surfacing in the western zones of occupation. On 20 June at the headquarters of the 21st Army Group [which became the British Army of the Rhine in August 1945], at Bad Oeynhausen, near Hanover, Herman Karnau, a guard at the Bunker, told his story to reporters that he saw the bodies of Hitler and Braun burning on ground above Hitler’s bunker. He said he did not know how they had died, but suspected it was at the hands of Dr. Stumpfegger, medical officer at the Reich Chancellery. This account was published in "The New York Times" the next day. Also published in the same edition of the 21 June newspaper was an account of Hitler’s death by Erich Kempka, Hitler’s chauffeur, who had helped provide the gasoline for the cremation and who witnessed it. He had also spoken to reporters on 20 June and provided a great many details on the deaths of Hitler and Braun, and provided information on the death of the Göbbels’ family. He told the reporters that interviewed him that shortly before Hitler and Braun had shot themselves, Hitler ordered Otto Günsche to have their bodies burned so that their remains would not fall in Russian hands. He also said that he, Bormann, Göbbels, Günsche, and Heinz Linge, and a couple of others whose names he did not remember saw the bodies burning in the Chancellery garden near the Bunker. He added: “I doubt if anything remained of the bodies. The fire was terrifically intense. Maybe some evidence like bits of bones and teeth could be found, but I doubt it. Shells probably landed there and scattered everything all over". [9]

"Newsweek" carried a piece on 2 July about the end of Hitler, quoting from Karnau and Kempka as to what happened. "Time" magazine on 2 July reported that at the end of June a SHAEF spokesman had said, summing up the Hitler situation “We have every reason to believe he is dead, but no evidence that he is not still alive". It also reported the Russians, who had done all the investigating in Berlin, had not amended their reports that no trace of Hitler had been found; no believable witnesses in their custody had actually seen him die; and Hitler had ordered his henchmen to spread the story that he was dead. [10] 

A "United Press" story from London on July 15 reported that "The Sunday Dispatch" said that search parties were hunting for Hitler’s body in the Tyrol Mountains of Bavaria. A German POW had said that Hitler had been buried in the mountains under the direction of Himmler’s Reich Main Security Office [RSHA]. [11]

'Can Lead To Hitler'
The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954
2 September 1946


LONDON, Sept. 1 (Special). — A Frenchman, Max dc Rioncourt, who is accused of having worked as a German agent, offered to reveal the whereabouts of Hitler, who, he claimed, was living in the Austrian Tyrol.

Rioncourt said: 'I have a proposition — in return for an undertaking by the court that my service in the Allied cause will be taken into consideration, I will promise to reveal the hiding place of Hitler and a number of other Nazi officials.

'I can lead you to Hitler. He is in the Tyrol. I also know the hiding place of Marcel Deat (one of France's leading collaborators). I had lunch with him recently,' he added.


The court has not yet decided what steps will be taken.

An "Associated Press" story from Stockholm on 15 July, reported that a Swedish newspaper reported that day that a rumor was circulating in Bern, Switzerland, that Hitler was hiding in the principality of Lichtenstein under the name of “Dr. Brandl.” The story added that Braun was not with Hitler but probably in Argentina. [12]

During July, various Allied personnel visited the Bunker in Berlin and subsequently reported on their visits. When Michael Musmanno visited the Bunker, the Russian commandant in charge of the area, Major Feodorovitch Platonov, at once broke into a spirited argumentative denial that Hitler was dead. Musmanno had not made any assertion in the matter one way or the other. He had merely stated that he was examining the place where Hitler lived his last days and hours. The Russian major, pointing at a spot in the garden exclaimed “It is not true that Hitler was found there! Our experts have established that the man found here didn’t look like Hitler at all. And we didn’t find Eva Braun either!”  Journalist Percy Knauth visited the Bunker in July and published an account of it in "Life" magazine. Citing what Kempka had said about which room Hitler had committed suicide, Knauth inspected the room and wrote that there were bloodstains on the left-colored armrest of the sofa. Blood dripped down and collected in small coagulated stripes in the corner. Blood was also to be seen on the outer side of the sofa on the brocade cloth. On 17 July, Permanent Under-Secretary of State Sir Alexander Cadogan noted in his diary after visiting the Bunker, that he was shown a shallow crater in which he was told Hitler and Braun had been buried and later dug up and cremated. “This is also a rumor, of which there are many, and nobody knows the truth…" [13]

At the Potsdam Conference Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the President, wrote that Stalin and Molotov, Truman, Secretary of State James Byrnes and he were together for lunch on 17 July  and Stalin repeated what he had already told Hopkins in Moscow: “he believes that the Führer had escaped and was hiding somewhere. He went on to say that the painstaking Soviet search had failed to discover any traces of Hitler’s remains or positive proof of his death.” During the lunch Byrnes asked Stalin his views of how Hitler had died “To my surprise, he said he believed that Hitler was alive and that it was possible he was then either in Spain or Argentina". Some ten days later Byrnes asked Stalin if he had changed his views and he said he had not. [14]

At his first news conference, Colonel-General Alexander V. Gorbatov, the Russian member of the Allied Kommandantur in Berlin, on 30 July was questioned as to his views regarding the fate of Hitler. He answered that there was still no definite satisfactory evidence of his death. He added, however, that among Russian officers the saying was that if Hitler was alive he was certainly not in Russian-occupied territory. He also noted that he had heard reports that Hitler’s dentist had taken a human jawbone to Moscow and identified it as that of Hitler, but Gorbatov said he knew nothing of the matter beyond that. [15]

During July and August reports continued to surface of Hitler being alive. One in July indicated that he had taken a submarine to either Argentina or Chile; others that he was alive and hiding in Argentina. Reports of sightings continued in September. [16]

A news story from London on 8 September under the headline "World-Wide Search for Hitler Goes On", began “A manhunt that ranges from Berlin to Madrid, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, is underway today on the chance that Adolf Hitler is still alive.” Continuing, “The actual fate of the former Chancellor is the war’s biggest mystery and the Allies, not daring to gamble on such an issue, are tracking down every clue, investigating every rumor lest the story that Hitler took his own life beneath Berlin’s Reichschancellory prove to be history’s greatest and most tragic hoax.” The reporter indicated that the Allies were checking every report, “no matter how fantastic.” He noted that “One story has it that Hitler escaped to Japan by submarine; another that he is in Argentina; a third that he is hiding in Sweden. The latest rumors are that he is on board a yacht in the estuary of the Elbe River or living in luxury at a long-prepared lodge in the Bavarian Mountains". [17] Moscow newspapers on 9 September carried a "Tass" item with heading 'Rumors about Hitler', dateline Rome, 8 September, saying Rome Radio has reported that Hitler has been seen in Hamburg, living under another name. [18] Russian newspapers noted on 10 September of the probability that Hitler was still alive. The idea was even put forward that Hitler was in hiding in Germany. [19]

Harry Collins, a news reporter in London, on 15 September wrote that while there were reports that the charred body of Hitler had been found by the Russians in the Berlin Chancellery, the question remained "Is Hitler alive? The welter of speculation grows with each new ‘clue’ and ‘disclosure.’ The answer is simple-his conquerors do not know". Collins wrote that the Russians had never accepted as proved that the body they found in the Chancellery grounds was Hitler’s. He reported that British Army authorities had declared that the latest rumor that Hitler was seen in Hamburg was “completely unfounded” and that they denied that the British were searching for Hitler. "Yet", Collins noted, “it is known that British intelligence is far from convinced that Hitler is dead". [20]

"Izvestia" ran a story that Hitler and Braun were alive and well, and living in a moated castle in Westphalia, in the British Occupation Zone of Germany. [21] An American journalist in Germany believed that in throwing out names of such countries as Spain and Argentina, Stalin was probably just paying off old political grievances against Franco and other neutrals. But, in having a go at the British he was virtually accusing them of harboring a living Hitler.[22] Dick White, head of counter-intelligence in the British Zone, described the situation as “intolerable.” [23] In September he would turn to Hugh Trevor-Roper to investigate the Death of Hitler.

Footnotes

[1] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[2] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[3] Public Relations Division, SHAEF, Information for Correspondents, prepared by Joseph W. Grigg, Jr., United Press Staff Correspondent for Combined U.S. Press, 6 June 1945, File: SHAEF Releases, 1-30 June 1945, Press Releases, Jun 1944-Jul 1945 [NAID 622519] Record Group 331; Joseph W. Grigg, Jr., Associated Press Staff Writer, Representing the Combined American Press, 'Hitler’s Body Found, Soviet Source Says', "The Washington Post", 7 June 1945, and 'Hitler Body Proof Declared Fairly Certain by Russians', "The New York Times", 7 June 1945; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[4] Memorandum by the Assistant to the Secretary of State [Chester Bohlen], Memorandum of 6th Conversation at the Kremlin, 6 PM 6 June 1945, [Moscow], 6 June 1945, File: 740.00119 [Potsdam]/6-645, Decimal Files, 1945-1949  (NAID 302021) Record Group  59; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[5] "Associated Press", 'Zhukoff  [sic] Says Hitler Wed Actress in Berlin, May Be Alive in Europe', "The New York Times", 10 June 1945; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler". Linge’s daily diaries of Hitler’s activities from 29 February to 30 April were probably found by the Russians, since Zhukov described the final days (Hitler’s marriage, etc) at a press conference in Berlin on 9 June. He explained his knowledge of the events was based on the diaries of Hitler’s adjutant [he meant valet] which had fallen into Russian hands. Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler". Linge, questioned about the matter, stated on 10 February 1956, that during his service with Hitler he kept a diary, which he recorded the daily events [meetings, visits, visitors, etc.].

[6] Telegram Sent, No. 3541, Caffery [from Murphy] to the Secretary of State, 14 June [11 written over with 14] 1945, Classified Cables Sent to the State Department, 1945-1949 [NAID 1719688] Record Group 84.

[7] Wireless to "The New York Times", 'Hitler Not on Spanish Soil, Foreign Minister Says', "The New York Times", 11 June 1945.

[8] Telegram Received, No. 191, Harriman, Moscow to Murphy, 15 June 1945, File: Moscow, Classified Cables Received from Other Missions, 1945-1949 [NAID 1729247] Record Group 84.

[9] James MacDonald, 'Hitler Cremated in Berlin, Aides Say', "The New York Times", 21 June 1945.

[10] A partial copy of the "Newsweek" article is contained in File: XE003655, Hitler, Adolf, Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976 (NAID 645054) Record Group 319; 'International: Where There’s Smoke…', "Time", Vol. XLVI No. 1, 2 July 1945.

[11] 'Hitler Buried in Tirols, Says Nazi Prisoner', "The Washington Post", 16 July 1945.

[12] 'Hitler Buried in Tirols, Says Nazi Prisoner', "The Washington Post", 16 July 1945.

[13] Musmanno, "Ten Days to Die"; Percy Knauth, 'Did Adolf and Eva Die Here?' "Life", 23 July 23 1945; Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[14] William D. Leahy, "I Was There" (New York, London, Toronto: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1950); James F. Byrnes, "Speaking Frankly" [New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1947].

[15] Tania Long, 'Russian Criticizes Berlin Food Chief', "The New York Times", 31 July 1945.

[16] See File: 862.002, Hitler, Adolf, Central Decimal File [NAID 302021] Record Group 59. For related correspondence see File: XE003655, Hitler, Adolf, Personal Name File, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1977-2004 [NAID 645054] Record Group 319 and FBI File: 65-53615, Headquarters Files from Classification 65 [Espionage] Released Under the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts, 1935-1985  [NAID 565806] Record Group 65.

[17] "United Press", 'World-Wide Search for Hitler Goes On', "The New York Times", 9 September 1945.

[18] Telegram Received, No. 77, Unsigned, Moscow to Murphy, 10 September  1945, File: Moscow, Classified Cables Received from Other Missions, 1945-1949 [NAID 1729247]  Record Group 84.

[19] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[20] Harry Collins, 'Is Hitler Dead or Alive?' "The New York Times", 16 September 1945.

[21] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[22] O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[23] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

Hunting Hitler Part VIII: The Search Ends, September-November 1945 
This concludes the 8-part series on Hunting Hitler

The person Brigadier Dick White, head of counter-intelligence in the British Zone, would turn to in September 1945 to sort out the details of Hitler’s death was Hugh Trevor-Roper.  Born 15 January 1914, Trevor-Roper graduated Christ Church College at Oxford in 1936 and in 1939, as a research fellow at Merton College, he qualified for the M.A. degree. His first book was "Archbishop Laud", 1573-1645 [1940], a biography of the archbishop of Canterbury and adviser to King Charles I. Once the war started Trevor-Roper joined the military service and would find himself in intelligence work dealing with Germany, and would be employed in various organizations, including the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), working in signals intelligence. [1]  It was in 1945 he would find a new challenge, when the Allies decided to establish a joint Counter-Intelligence War Room in London, under the auspices of SHAEF, to collect, collate and analyze counter-intelligence material, and to advise staffs in the field on all aspects of enemy clandestine activity. Under the direction of Lt. Col. Thomas Argyll ["Tar"] Robertson, its staff consisted of experts from MI6, MI5, and the Office of Strategic Services. Trevor-Roper was appointed to run the research side of this new body, which became active on 1 March  1945. [2]  In this position he often interrogated German prisoners himself, flying back and forth to liberated France and occupied Germany for this purpose. [3] In April the War Room research department produced a manual for counter-intelligence officers in the field after victory, entitled 'The German Intelligence Service'. [4] Dick White was impressed by what he read. It was this report, he said many years afterwards, that persuaded him to ask Trevor-Roper to undertake an investigation of the utmost importance.  With the war ended, on 20 JuneTrevor-Roper was appointed to a research lectureship at Christ Church. He applied for early demobilization from the Army and meanwhile continued his War Room work before taking his new post. [5]

In early September Trevor-Roper paid a visit to Bad Oeynhausen, near Hanover, the location of the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine [formerly the 21st Army Group].  There he stayed with Dick White and spent time with Maj. Peter Ramsbotham, a graduate of Magdalen who had gone into the Intelligence Corps after leaving Oxford.  One evening while Trevor-Roper was having drinks with White and Herbert Hart [another MI5 member], the three of them began to discuss the issue of the moment: what had happened to Hitler?  This question remained open. The circumstances of Hitler’s last days were mysterious; it was still uncertain whether he was alive or dead. Trevor-Roper outlined for White and Hart what he had discovered about Hitler’s last days from captured German officers, giving an account of a shoot-out in the Berlin Tiergarten which he later realized was complete fantasy. White asked Trevor-Roper if he would undertake a systematic study of the evidence surrounding the fate of Hitler. He would be given all necessary facilities to carry out his inquiry, and have the authority of a major-general to interrogate prisoners, to call on the services of the occupying forces, and to pursue the evidence wherever it led. The Russians would have to be informed, though he could expect little co-operation from them. But the Americans would help, and so, in theory, would the French. Trevor-Roper accepted the offer without hesitation.  According to Trevor-Roper’s biographer:  “Here was a unique opportunity for a young historian: to investigate one of the most dramatic stories in the history of the world, while the trail was still fresh. How could he refuse?” [6]

On 10 September  White requested Trevor-Roper’s release from "Tar" Robertson. After outlining the problem, he proposed a solution. “The man who has kept the closest tabs on the matter appears to be Trevor-Roper” he wrote. “I believe that a job like this, unless it is done now, will never get done and unless it is done by a first-clap chap, won’t be worth having.” As well as being useful in calming relations with the Russians, White believed that the inquiry should be “a work of considerable historical interest.” Trevor-Roper flew back to England for a talk with Robertson. “I agree with you entirely that the idea of clearing up this business about Hitler is essential and that it should be done now” Robertson replied to White on September 19. [7]

Withdrawing his application for early demobilization, Trevor-Roper returned to Germany in mid-September to begin his inquiry. He was already familiar with much of the background. As a member of the War Room he had been on the circulation list for transcripts of interrogations or bugging of German prisoners, and he had access to a mass of captured documents, including the papers of the Dönitz government in Flensburg.  On 20 August the British reported that captured cables mentioned Dönitz as successor, but whether he was appointed by a “Testament of Hitler” [of which Bormann and Göbbels were mentioned] or not, could hardly be decided, it was believed, before such a document was found. [8]

Trevor-Roper planned to trace a sufficient number of key witnesses and confine his questions to the essential fact of Hitler’s death.  He planned to be able to accumulate enough evidence to establish beyond doubt what had happened.  Trying to locate individuals in the chaos of defeated Germany would not be an easy task.  While most of the surviving senior figures were in custody in one or other of the Allied Zones, many of those being sought had gone underground, fearing a charge of war crimes. Additionally some of the prisoners had not been identified, and the significance of others had yet to be recognized. [9]

Early on he traveled to Berlin.  There he visited the Bunker and sketched out a plan of the interior.  Gradually he deduced the function of each room, a layout that would be a crucial aid to his interrogations. A British officer had picked up and subsequently handed to Trevor-Roper a copy of Hitler’s engagement diary, which recorded his appointments, hour by hour, which would provide valuable background material. Trevor-Roper would return to Berlin several times exploring the Bunker and its immediate surroundings.[10]

Trevor-Roper decided to concentrate his search on the period between 22 April, when Hitler had ordered much of his staff to leave Berlin, and 2 May, when the Russians had taken Berlin. Trevor-Roper would focus on finding survivors who could provide eyewitness testimony for those ten days.  Besides those who had remained behind in the Bunker after the exodus on 22 April, he also sought out those known to have visited the Bunker during the last days, such as Albert Speer. [11]

Trevor-Roper spent much of the later part of September driving by jeep to interrogate potential witnesses in the British Zone of Occupation.  Sometimes he was driven by a young soldier, though often he was completely alone.   In general his witnesses, once confronted, spoke freely. [12]

At the end of September, Trevor-Roper was ready to venture into the American Zone of Occupation.  He knew that those of Hitler’s entourage who had left on 22 April had flown to Obersalzberg, where they were now in the custody of the Americans. On 1 October Major Peter Ramsbotham called an American intelligence officer and told him that Major Trevor-Roper from Counter Intelligence War Room, London, was in Germany on a special inquiry for Brigadier White regarding Hitler’s death and that he had to make inquiries at a couple of places in the American Zone.  He said that Trevor-Roper would begin his search in the American Zone on 2 October and that White had asked Lt. Andrews [Special Counterintelligence Officer] to escort Trevor-Roper during the next three or four days. Ramsbotham said they would have to go to Innsbruck and other places. [13]  Trevor-Roper did indeed visit Innsbruck, no doubt to double-check the story that Hitler was there. [14]

By questioning those of Hitler’s entourage who had left on 22 April, Trevor-Roper was soon able to discover the names of colleagues who had been left behind after the exodus – enabling him to draw up a fairly complete list of those who had stayed in Berlin.  He circulated thirty-three names of potential witnesses to prisoner of war camps in all the Allied zones, asking to be notified if any of these individuals were being held. Neither the Russians nor the French ever replied; the Americans, on the other hand, proved cooperative. In Trevor-Roper’s absence, Ramsbotham coordinated the search in the British Zone, and was soon able to report that several of the witnesses on the list were in captivity and available for interrogation. As for those who had evaded capture, Trevor-Roper reasoned that they were most likely to have sought refuge in or near their old homes, or with close relatives, so he made enquires with the British Field Security Police or the American Counter-Intelligence Corps [CIC] in the relevant districts. In this way further individuals on his list were located. [15] Useful to Trevor-Roper’s investigation was the four-volume dossier on Hitler compiled by the CIC. [16]

While Trevor-Roper was conducting his investigation, during early October, Hitler-sightings continued to find their way into the news media. [17]

General Eisenhower certainly did not help matters regarding Hitler still being alive, when on 6 October, it was reported by the Netherlands radio that he had told Dutch newspaper men that there was “reason to believe” that Hitler was still alive. The broadcast, recorded by the 'British Broadcasting Corporation' [BBC] in London, said that one of the correspondents accompanying Eisenhower on a visit to The Hague had asked Eisenhower if he thought Hitler was dead. [18] "The Associated Press" [AP] in London on 7 October reported Eisenhower’s remark that there is “reason to believe” that Hitler may still be alive, reversed his previous opinion that Hitler was dead. [19]  According to "The Times" on 8 October, Eisenhower had said to foreign journalists during a visit to the Netherlands: “Even though I initially believed that Hitler was dead, there are now reasons to assume that he is still alive'. [20]

In an editorial published on 8 October in the London newspaper, "News Chronicle", commenting on Eisenhower’s remark that Hitler may still be alive, Gallman observed:

"General Eisenhower’s remark that Hitler may still be alive is disturbing. It is certain there are still elements in Germany which would be only too glad to gather clandestinely round their old leader or-if that is not possible-at least to keep alive a Hitler myth. Nothing could do more to retard Germany’s return to normality than the belief that the Führer is still in the land of the living.  It would have been better if the general had said less, or said more. If there is just a faint doubt, then the less it is publicized the sooner it will be forgotten. If on the other there are solid grounds for believing that Hitler is not dead, we should be told more about them. It is a matter in which everyone is interested and the public would like to hear at least such of the evidence as will not hamper the hunt". [21]

On 8 October the American Military Attaché in London sent a cable to United States Forces, European Theater [USFET] indicating that the British War Office had requested information as to whether press reports quoting Eisenhower’s statement was based on any recent information gathered by American agencies. The military attaché cabled again on 11 October, reporting that the bulk of British press on 7 October published prominently the statement reportedly made by Eisenhower to Dutch journalists at The Hague on 6 October to the effect that he has reason to believe Hitler was still alive. He also reported the story was broadcast by Hilversum radio [Dutch radio station in Hilversum] and also by the BBC. The Attaché requested directions, asking whether he should deny to the War Office that Eisenhower even discussed the mater or shall he say Dutch must have misunderstood.  USFET responded three days later, stating that Eisenhower spoke with representatives of Dutch Press aboard his train during his visit to The Hague. In this purely informal conversation the newsmen brought up question as to whether or not the General thought Hitler was dead or still alive. There was no speech or official statement made. Col. Edward R. Lee, the General’s aid, was present on this occasion and states, “General Eisenhower never said Hitler was alive; he merely said he could not prove he was dead”. [22]

At Frankfurt on 12 October Eisenhower, explaining the alleged remarks he had made to a Dutch newspaper, denied that he had ever said that Hitler was alive but agreed with Lt. Gen. Walter B. Smith, his Chief of Staff, who declared that “‘no human being can say he [Hitler] is conclusively dead.” Eisenhower said what he had said was that “‘There is every presumption that Hitler is dead but not a bit of positive proof that he is dead.’” He added that the Russians had been unable to unearth “one single bit” of tangible evidence of Hitler’s death. [23]

Meanwhile, on 9 October an American newspaper at Frankfurt reported “The question whether Adolf Hitler is dead or alive may be answered by the testimony of Hanna Reitsch…who was in a Berlin bomb shelter with him a few hours before the Russians captured it". They reported that she had been arrested that day and was being interrogated. [24]  Reitsch, a famous German test pilot, told an interrogator in early October that the tactical situation and Hitler’s own physical conditions made any thoughts of his escape inconceivable. [25] She dismissed the possibility that Hitler could have survived as "absurd". She said “Hitler is dead! The man I saw in the shelter could not have lived. He had no reason to live and the tragedy was that he knew it well, knew it perhaps better than anyone else did". [26]

Major Edward L. Saxe, an American intelligence officer, wrote to the Chief of Counter-Intelligence on 9 October, that a detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Hitler had been conducted by Major Trevor-Roper, acting on behalf of the Counter Intelligence War Room and British Army of the Rhine and assisted by American Intelligence. He noted that the investigation, which has been underway for three weeks, had included examination of practically all evidence available in the American, British, and French Zones of Occupation.

The investigation as a whole, Saxe wrote, was not yet considered to be complete owing to the difficulties involved in locating all available witnesses. A careful cross examination of several material witnesses has, however, he wrote, sufficiently established the following facts:

"Hitler definitely decided on 22 April not to leave Berlin, but to stay and, if the city fell, to die there. In the latter event, his body was to be destroyed and plans for the complete destruction of his body were made.

"That on the night of 29 April  Hitler decided to commit suicide on 30 April. He took leave of his servants at 2:30am on 30 April and preparations for the destruction of his body and that of Eva Braun were made on the morning of 30 April.

"That on 30 April at 2:30pm Hitler took leave of his personal staff in the Bunker and almost immediately afterwards shot himself while in his private room. Eva Braun committed suicide at the same time, probably by poisoning.

"That the bodies were then carried out of the Bunker and burned, as arranged, in the garden".

Saxe discussed the witnesses so far examined and noted the witnesses who could help complete the investigation.   He added that “the disposal of the bodies after burning has not yet been indicated by any evidence as complete as that on which the above statements are made and the bodies themselves have not, of course, been identified".  Summing up his memorandum, Saxe wrote that “It is to be noted that certain alternative stories which have gained currency since the fall of Berlin have been examined and have been found to rest on no valid evidence". [27]

On 15 October the Military Intelligence Service Center, Headquarters, United States Forces European Theater published the first of a series of consolidated interrogation reports dealing with Hitler, as seen by his doctors. It was based on information obtained from doctors who examined and treated him during the past year.  The report indicated that it was being published in order to provide medical data useful for the identification of Hitler or his remains; further material for debunking numerous "Hitler Myths", as well as for other purposes. When the second of the series was published on 29 November the same reasons for its publication were given. [28]

In the House of Commons in London, on 15 October Hector McNeil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs told a questioner that “The Government has no evidence proving conclusively either that Hitler is dead or is alive". He added that investigations were continuing.

By the end of October Trevor-Roper had finished his investigation and it was now time to make the findings known. The press crowded into the Hotel-am-Zoo, the British press headquarters in Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm, on 1 November to hear what he had to say. A handout based on Trevor-Roper’s findings 'The Last Days of Hitler and Eva Braun' was distributed to the press and Trevor-Roper presented a summary to the assembled journalists. The summary began:

“Available evidence sifted by British intelligence and based largely on eyewitness’ accounts shows-as conclusively as possible without bodies-that Hitler and Eva Braun died shortly after 2:30 on 30 April 1945, in a Bunker of the Reich Chancellery, their bodies being burned just outside the Bunker.”

Asked by one of the newspapermen if he was aware of the Russian view on Hitler’s death, Trevor-Roper indicated that he thought the Soviets were skeptical -that is, inclined to the view that Hitler was not dead. Trevor-Roper also dismissed the possibility that it was Hitler’s double who had been burned. Finally, he conceded that there was no “conclusive proof” that Bormann was dead.   The press conference was reported extensively in the world’s newspapers. "The New York Times" ran the complete text of Trevor-Roper’s statement that had been handed out. [30]

Nine days later Trevor-Roper submitted his report, 'The Death of Hitler', to the Quadripartite Intelligence Committee. It concluded that Hitler had committed suicide by shooting himself and Eva Braun on 30 April, and that their bodies had subsequently been burnt. Göbbels had committed suicide the next day. Trevor-Roper was satisfied the seven witnesses to the “dark period” [after April 22] whom he had located and interrogated could not have combined to concoct a story robust enough to have withstood questioning. He was confident that further findings were unlikely to add anything significant, and indeed facts which have emerged subsequently have confirmed the accuracy of his report to almost every detail. His report observed “Other versions have been circulating suggesting that Hitler is not dead at all. These have been examined and found to rest on no valid evidence whatsoever.” He finished his report with a list of suggested questions to be raised at the next meeting of the Committee, most of them directed at the Russians. The Russians noted these requests but never answered them. “Very interesting” was the only response they would make. [31]  Trevor-Roper returned to England and then on to Oxford. [32]  He would soon return to Germany, as a new piece of the puzzle of Hitler’s death surfaced in the British Zone of Occupation in the form of the capture of a courier who had carried Hitler’s Personal Will and Political Testament out of Berlin on 29 April.

Back in England, early in 1946, Dick White encouraged Trevor-Roper to write a narrative regarding the death of Hitler.  The resulting book, "The Last Days of Hitler", would be finished in late 1946, and published the following year.

"The Bunker" [original German title: Die Katakombe, also published as The Berlin Bunker] is an account, written by American journalist James P. O'Donnell and German journalist Uwe Bahnsen, of the history of the Führerbunker in early 1945, as well as the last days of German dictator Adolf Hitler.

While O'Donnell agreed with British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's "The Last Days of Hitler", save for some minor details, he was unsatisfied with this account. Some reasons he gave were:

- Trevor-Roper only had access to two witnesses - Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, and Else Krüger, Bormann's secretary. When he wrote "The Last Days of Hitler" the following year, he only had access to two more witnesses - Hitler secretary Gerda Christian and Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann.

- The vast majority of the major witnesses were captured by the Soviets and, without being charged with any crimes, spent the next ten years in Russian captivity.

Because the Soviets kept denying that Hitler was really dead, they refused to release their interrogation notes to the other Allies.

- Accounts of the Bunker centered on major figures, such as Hitler and Göbbels, while paying scant attention to more minor figures.

O'Donnell realized that many of the aforementioned witnesses had meanwhile been released by the Soviets. He began to track them down, and over the next six years, narrowed his list of witnesses to about 50, and embarked on a project to collate their stories, unlike other accounts, spending considerable time on other, less-famous residents of the Bunker complex.

Below is a rough list of his main sources. He singled out these sources by eliminating individuals who never saw Hitler after 22 April 1945:

Albert Speer, the Nazi Minister of Armaments
Gerda Christian, one of Hitler's secretaries
Traudl Junge, another of Hitler's secretaries
Else Krüger, Bormann's secretary
Erich Kempka, chauffeur

The below observers were captured by the Soviets and held for a decade, and were thus unavailable for many of the initial accounts of Hitler's death:

Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, physician and operator of a casualty station in the Reich Chancellery
Hans Baur, Hitler's personal pilot
Johannes Hentschel, mechanic in charge of Bunker's electricity and water supply
Wilhelm Mohnke, Waffen SS general
Otto Günsche, Hitler's personal SS adjutant
Rochus Misch, the Führerbunker telephone/radio operator
Heinz Linge , chief valet for Hitler

Some witnesses died in Soviet captivity, such as Dr. Werner Haase, the last physician to attend Hitler, who had already been gravely ill with tuberculosis in April 1945 and Helmuth Weidling who died on 17 November 1955, apparently in the custody of the KGB in Vladimir. KGB records listed the cause of death as "arterial and cardiac sclerosis along with circulatory collapse". Johann "Hans" Rattenhuber, was released from Soviet prison on 10 October 1955 and handed over to the German Democratic Republic authorities, who allowed him to go to West Germany. He died in Munich in 1957.

In his epilogue Trevor-Roper wrote:

"The original purpose of the enquiry which caused this book to be written was to establish the facts of Hitler’s end, and thereby to prevent the growth of a myth; and certainly Hitler’s own exploitation of mythology in politics has been sufficiently disastrous for the world to apprehend a repetition. The facts are now clear, and if myths, like the truth, depend on evidence, we are safe. But myths are not like truths; they are the triumph of credulity over evidence. The form of a myth is indeed externally conditioned by facts; there is a minimum of evidence with which it must comply, if it is to live; but once lip-service has been paid to that undeniable minimum, the human mind is free to indulge its infinite capacity for self-deception. When we consider upon what ludicrous evidence the most preposterous beliefs have been easily, and by millions, entertained, we may well hesitate before pronouncing anything incredible.

"Therefore, though the facts in this book are confidently asserted, for their original purpose I only timidly prophesy success. Many men saw Nero die; but within a year, several false Neros arose and were believed. In our own history, the Princes were clearly murdered in the Tower, but there were many who afterwards found it convenient to discover their survival…." [33]

He added that he believed that the facts given in his book belonged “to the category of the undeniable minimum [of evidence], of which even the most extravagant myths must take account". [34]

The case for  the conventional view that Hitler committed suicide and was cremated on the afternoon of 30 April 1945 therefore depends entirely upon the verbal and written statements furnished immediately after the war by a small group of captured Nazis, most of whom were members of the Schutzstaffel [SS], who claimed to have observed these important historical events with their own eyes. The six most important accounts are those of SS Obersturmbannführer Harry Mengershausen, SS Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche, SS Obergruppenführer Johannes ("Hans") Rattenhuber, SS Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka, SS Unterführer Hermann Karnau and SS Hauptscharführer Erich Mansfeld.

The first three eyewitnesses, Mengershausen, Günsche and Rattenhuber, all fell into Soviet hands after Berlin was captured on 2 May 1945. They recounted their respective versions of Hitler's fate to Soviet authorities between 13 and 20 May 1945. The three men's accounts were not available to the public until the 2005 publication of the anthology "Hitler's Death" [Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl, eds., "The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Hitler’s Personal Aides", trans. By Giles MacDonogh (New York: Public Affairs, 2005)]. Although Hitler's valet, SS-Sturmbannführer Heinz Linge, was captured at the same time, his interrogation statements are not included in "Hitler's Death" and have never been made public. Given that Linge subsequently emerged as one of the central protagonists in the official story of Hitler's demise, this fact obviously raises questions about the pretensions of "Hitler's Death" to constitute virtually the last word on the subject.

The three accounts can be supplemented by various other accounts given by German prisoners to the Soviets in May 1945. The other three eyewitnesses, Kempka, Karnau and Mansfeld, were interrogated by the Americans and the British. Until Hugh Trevor-Roper's "The Last Days of Hitler" was published in 1947, the accounts of Kempka and Karnau were the only ones available to the general public. 

It is possible only now to consider the six earliest eyewitness statements together as an independent body of evidence. Only now is it possible, in effect, to leave "The Last Days of Hitler" behind and concern ourselves with the best available original source material. Strikingly, the information derived from these six individuals represents the bulk of the firsthand evidence that would ever become available. Only two of the persons specifically named by others as having been involved in the final days—Heinz Linge and Reichsjugendleiter Artur Axmann—survived the war and were able to give their own accounts later. However, in both cases, the eyewitnesses appear to have been pressured to conform their testimony to the Trevor-Roper account, which was treated by the Anglo-American establishment from the very beginning as definitive. None of the other individuals identified in the six earliest accounts as having been involved— Ulrich Jansen,  Ewald Lindloff,  Peter Högl, Franz Schädle, Burgdorf, Krebs, Bormann, Göbbels—survived the war [so far as we know]. We therefore find ourselves saddled with the task of trying to make sense of one of modern history's most important events on the basis of a remarkably thin body of evidence.

The six accounts describe similar events . If we compare them, we find that there is general agreement on the following four points:

 (1) a male body was carried from a room in the Bunker to a location just outside the exit door from the bunker;

 (2) the male body was wearing black trousers, shoes and socks like those Hitler usually wore;

 (3) at the same time, a female body was carried out of the Bunker whose face was uncovered and was readily identifiable as Eva Hitler;

 (4) Heinz Linge carried the body of the male; and the two bodies were laid down on the ground beside each other, doused with petrol, cremated and buried together in a bomb crater or ditch situated a very short distance from the Bunker exit door.

As soon as we look at elements of the story other than those listed above, discrepancies prove to be the rule. If they had been referring to the same event, authentic accounts ought to have agreed on most details as fully as they agreed on the aforementioned five points. It is impossible to distinguish between eyewitnesses who were "telling the truth" and eyewitnesses who were lying. In the absence of material or documentary evidence that would serve as a control, any such distinction is untenable. Indeed, each eyewitness account is as credible as any of the others. The approach that has most widely been followed, therefore, is that taken by Trevor-Roper, which simply involved assimilating all the available accounts into a narrative of a single event and ignoring or explaining away the details that did not fit with it.

By this means, to give just one example, Trevor-Roper accepted an account of events which the eyewitness Erich Mansfeld stated had taken place "not later than the 27 of April" but treated it as if it were a description of an event that a different eyewitness, Erich Kempka, claimed to have observed on 30 April 1945. The shortcomings of Trevor-Roper's homogenisation technique are rather obvious, however. If one accepts the overall reliability of Mansfeld's account to the extent that one is willing to make use of the information it contains, by what right does one ignore Mansfeld's statement that he is "positive" that the events he was describing had taken place "not later than" 27 April? Trevor-Roper did the same with the eyewitness testimony of Hermann Karnau, who stated that the events he had observed had taken place on 1 May. Clearly, one cannot simply cherry-pick the evidence in this way. Yet it is by this very method that Trevor- Roper assembled the grand narrative of the fall of the Third Reich which is accepted by most people, including most historians, as essentially correct.

Surprisingly, Trevor-Roper seems not to have interviewed any witnesses who had fallen into American hands, which means the better part of those to be found outside Soviet prisons.

It appears that instead of allowing him to meet with them, American intelligence operatives interviewed them and passed copies of their reports to him. In one particularly flagrant case, the Americans furnished Trevor-Roper with partly fabricated testimony; in another, they supplied information that had been obtained in such unusual conditions that it, too, must be considered suspect.

The first case was that of the famous German aviatrix Hanna Reitsch. In an interview with Ron Laytner that she authorised for publication only after her death, Reitsch stated explicitly that at least part of the account attributed to her in "The Last Days of Hitler" had been fabricated: "When I was released by the Americans I read historian Trevor-Roper's book, "The Last Days of Hitler". Throughout the book like a red line, runs an eyewitness report by Hanna Reitsch about the final days in the Bunker. I never said it. I never wrote it. I never signed it. It was something they invented. Hitler died with total dignity". 

This report, dated 8 October 1945, was written by Reitsch's interrogator, Captain Robert E. Work (Air Division, Headquarters, United States Forces in Austria, Air Interrogation Unit), and published for the first time in, of all places, "Public Opinion Quarterly" in 1946–47.

The second case was that of Nurse Erna Flegel. On 23 November 1945, several American intelligence agents took Flegel out for a six-course dinner, the result of which was a five-page statement in English which is presented as a summary of the information she allegedly imparted during her "interrogation". However, Flegel neither wrote the statement herself nor signed it. In fact, no one can be said to vouch for this document because, despite its having been declassified, the names of the persons responsible for it, including the name of the agency for which they worked, remain blacked out.

If this approach was typical, then Trevor-Roper's chief sources were summaries of information that had already been pre-digested for him by American intelligence operatives—involving what distortions and attempts at ironing out inconsistencies we will probably never know. Given that there were few Bunker survivors in British hands and that Trevor-Roper had no access to Bunker survivors in Soviet hands, his task basically appears to have been that of creating a coherent narrative out of information that he was being spoon-fed and that he had no means of assessing himself. There is no reason to believe that any of the evidence that reached Trevor-Roper did so with the active consent of the witnesses. In 1945, captured Nazis were little more than the puppets of their Allied captors; they could be made to say anything their captors wanted them to say, and if they objected there was nothing they could do about it anyway.

Strikingly, Trevor-Roper made his "conclusions" public less than two months after he'd begun investigating the case. At a press conference on 1 November 1945, Trevor-Roper [who remained anonymous at this stage and was referred to in print merely as "a young British intelligence officer"] presented reporters with a statement that consisted of little more than a narrative of the last week or so of Hitler's life. It described how Hitler had committed suicide, probably by shooting himself in the mouth.  Although Trevor-Roper told the reporters that so far he had spoken to about 20 witnesses, the statement did not name even one of them. Nonetheless, reporters probably left the conference under the erroneous impression that the version of Hitler's last days that he had provided was backed up by the testimony of multiple witnesses. Yet he had not found a single new eyewitness to the critical events—Hitler's suicide and cremation; all he had done was take Kempka's testimony as gospel truth and discount Karnau's.

The final section of the Trevor-Roper statement rejected theories that Hitler could have escaped Berlin. In this section, it becomes glaringly obvious that his investigation had been designed to lead to predetermined conclusions. Here we learn, first of all, that Trevor-Roper assumed that Hitler's fate had been entirely determined by last-minute contingencies. According to this line of reasoning, Hitler could not have escaped the Chancellery because this or that avenue of escape had been rendered impossible [or at least difficult, which for Trevor-Roper appeared to mean the very same thing]. Trevor-Roper circumscribed Hitler's exit possibilities by means of generalisations that are all extremely questionable. He wrote, for example, that it would have been impossible for Hitler to have been flown out of Berlin because his "two pilots" remained in the Bunker and "took part in the attempted escape on the night of 1 May". This is all very well, so long as you presuppose that Hitler would never have permitted anyone else to fly him out of Berlin or that one of the pilots could not have left the Bunker and returned to it afterwards. Trevor-Roper confined his discussion of Hitler's escape possibilities to planes and cars. However, in January 1946, General Helmuth Weidling, who was interned in a Soviet prison camp, furnished a long statement for the Soviets in which he conceded that he had grown sceptical about the suicide theory. He had meditated on the problem of Hitler's escape possibilities and concluded: "On the night of 29/30 April there were still opportunities to leave— through the Zoo underground station in western Berlin and through the Friedrichstrasse station in the north. One could have escaped relatively safely through the underground tunnels".

In "Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler" by Simon Dun­stan and Ger­rard Williams, the authors posit that the key play­ers in the real­iza­tion of Aktion Feurland –the code-name for the oper­a­tion facil­i­tat­ing Hitler’s escape– were Allen Dulles on the Allied side and Mar­tin Bor­mann for the Third Reich. Cen­tered on a quid pro quo arrange­ment, the authors hypoth­e­size that Aktion Feur­land involved the trans­fer of Nazi tech­nol­ogy to the U.S. and the West [known as Project Paper­clip] and the sav­ing of price­less works of art from destruction.

"In that con­text, we note that thou­sands of doc­u­ments on both sides of the Atlantic deal­ing with Hitler’s post­war where­abouts are still clas­si­fied!

". . . . Dur­ing this period [the late 1940’s], the FBI was tak­ing reports of Hitler being in Latin Amer­ica very seri­ously. Thou­sands of doc­u­ments per­tain­ing to Hitler from these years are  still clas­si­fied as Top Secret on both sides of the Atlantic; nev­er­the­less, and despite the very heavy cen­sor­ship of the few files released into the pub­lic domain, some infor­ma­tion can be gleaned. . . ."

The offi­cial ver­sion of Hitler’s death is "The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper". Trevor-Roper was an agent for MI6 [British intel­li­gence] at the time and the writ­ing and pub­li­ca­tion of his book was, in and of itself, an intel­li­gence operation–a “psy-op” called Oper­a­tion Nursery.

It was crafted to coun­ter­act Soviet charges that Hitler was alive and had gone over to the West (the pos­si­bil­ity that Soviet intel­li­gence may have known of Aktion Feur­land is some­thing to be contemplated.

Excerpts from "Rat­line: Soviet Spies, Nazi Priests and the Dis­ap­pear­ance of Adolf Hitler" by Peter Lev­enda; Ibis Press, 2012:

"A British intel­li­gence offi­cer, Hugh Trevor-Roper crafted the nar­ra­tive con­cern­ing Hitler’s ulti­mate fate, begin­ning in Sep­tem­ber 1945 on a mission –called Oper­a­tion Nursery– from the Secret Intel­li­gence Service, or MI6. This intel­li­gence oper­a­tion is the source of the story we have all been told since then. It is the author­i­ta­tive ver­sion. It is based on a hand­ful of inter­views with for­mer mem­bers of Hitler’s per­sonal stuff, only some of whom served in the Bunker up until the fall of Berlin in May, 1945. This even­tu­ally became Trevor-Roper’s best-welling book enti­tled "The Last Days of Hitler". It stands today as the defin­i­tive account of Hitler’s alleged sui­cide, even though there are barely thirty-live pages in the orig­i­nal edi­tion that deal directly with the death itself. The rea­son for this is sim­ple: there was no foren­sic evi­dence to work from. There were only state­ments of eye­wit­nesses, all of whom were Nazis and most of whom were in the SS....

. . . . If one were to take all the tes­ti­mony of all of the wit­nesses who have since writ­ten books or who have left behind tran­scripts of their inter­ro­ga­tions by British, Amer­i­can and Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cers, and com­pared them to each other we would soon begin to real­ize that there is vir­tu­ally no con­sen­sus on crit­i­cal points of the story....

. . . . Whom to believe? Which ver­sion is really authoritative?

That depends on the agenda you wish to pro­mote. His­tory was being writ­ten by the vic­tors to sat­isfy intel­li­gence objec­tives and not to illu­mi­nate this dark mat­ter of defeat and vio­lent death. This was war, and the Allied forces were them­selves about to dis­cover that their respec­tive agen­das did not match. The Sovi­ets had one set of goals in mind at the end of the con­flict, and the Amer­i­cans another. And the British another still. . . .

. . . . The choice of Trevor-Roper for the politically-sensitive task of deter­min­ing Hitler’s fate would seem curi­ous if not for the fact that his supe­rior, Brigadier Dick White (later to become direc­tor of MI6), intended that a nar­ra­tive be crafted that would counter the effects of Soviet insis­tence that Hitler was still alive. What was required was not the ser­vices of a lawyer or a sci­en­tist build­ing a legal case from evi­dence but the ser­vices of some­one who could build a his­tor­i­cal text from odd bits of doc­u­ments and dubi­ous tes­ti­mony, hob­bled together with an eye towards pre­sent­ing a sin­gle point of view. In other words, the mis­sion objec­tive of Trevor-Roper in Oper­a­tion Nurs­ery was a fore­gone one: to dis­prove Soviet state­ments that Hitler was still alive. Thus, it had to begin with the premise (pre­sented as fact) that Hitler was dead and had com­mit­ted sui­cide in the Bunker on 30 April 1945, and then be worked back­ward from there. No other inter­pre­ta­tion or pre­sen­ta­tion was accept­able. All he had to do was to col­lect enough “eye­wit­ness” testimony–in Ger­man, a lan­guage he did not understand–that sup­ported [or at least did not con­tra­dict] this ver­sion of evens, and com­pile them into a neat story that tied together all the loose ends that then would stand as the offi­cial ver­sion. The offi­cial British ver­sion...."

P.S.

On 25  October 1956, Judge Heinrich Stephanus, sitting in a court in Berchtesgaden, ruled that Hitler died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 3:30pm on 30 April 1945.  The issuance of the death certificate, which made possible the disposal of Hitler’s small personal estate, was based on the results of a four-year investigation.  Forty-two individuals who were with Hitler during his last days in the Bunker were interviewed.  A vast amount of written material was also examined by the judge.  Judge Stephanus found that the suicides of Hitler and Eva Braun had been performed in private in Hitler’s sitting room in the Bunker.  Aides who entered the room shortly after 3:30pm found Eva Braun dead of poison and Hitler shot and also dead, the judge found.  The bodies were burned in a courtyard of the Reichs Chancellery and the remains had never been recovered, according to the court’s findings. [35]

Footnotes:

[1] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[2] History of the Counter Intelligence War Room, 1 March - 1 November1945, n.d., pp. 3-5, File: XE022360, War Room History, Impersonal File, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files [NAID 645054], RG 319; Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, SHAEF, Counter-intelligence Records in Germany-Part I, The War Room, 20 February 1945, File: GB1/CI/CS/314.81 G-2 War Diary, General Correspondence Files [NAID 568109], RG 331; Until 13 July 1945 it was known as SHAEF G-2 Counter Intelligence War Room, afterwards as the Counter Intelligence War Room. History of the Counter Intelligence War Room, 1 March - 1 November, 1945, n.d., p. 1, File: XE022360, War Room History, Impersonal File, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files [NAID 645054].

[3] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[4] War Room Publications, Liquidation Reports and Monthly Summaries, Appendix “C” to History of the Counter Intelligence War Room, 1March - 1 November 1945, n.d., File: XE022360, War Room History, Impersonal File, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files [NAID 645054]; Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[5] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[6] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper"; Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler", Author’s Preface.

[7] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[8] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper"; Document Section (GAD/C), Political Intelligence Department, Foreign Office, Ref. No. 54, Subject: Fragments of a “White Book” by the “Dönitz Government” on the German surrender and the last communicates exchanged with the Hitler Government in Berlin, 20 August 1945, File: Regular Intelligence Report No. 143123, Regular Intelligence Reports (NAID 6050264), RG 226.

[9] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[10] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper". On 10 September 1945 British Lt. Col. J. L. McCowen found the notes of Hitler’s daily routine from 14 October 1944 to 28 February 1945, kept by Linge lying in an armchair in the Reichs Chancellery. Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler". After the Russians learned that the British had taken notes by Linge, the Russian military government in September 1945 forbade any further visits to the Chancellery and the Bunker by Allied officers and journalists.  ibid.

[11] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[12] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[13] Typewritten note, apparently a telephone call from Operations Branch, 1 October 1945, File: Hitler, Adolf, XE003655, [NAID 7359097], Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, RG 319.

[14] Ada Petrova and Peter Watson, "The Death of Hitler: The Full Story with New Evidence from Secret Russian Archives" [New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996].

[15] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[16] Memorandum, Maj. Edward L. Saxe, Chief, Operations Branch to Chief, CI, Subject: Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Adolf Hitler, 9 October1945, File: Hitler, Adolf, XE003655 [NAID 7359097]; Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper"; Petrova and Watson, "The Death of Hitler".

[17] See File: 862.002, Hitler, Adolf, Central Decimal Files [NAID 302021], RG 59; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker".

[18] "Associated Press", 'Hitler Believed Alive, Eisenhower Tells Dutch', "The New York Times", 7 October 1945.

[19] "Associated Press", London, 7 October 1945, 'Ike Believes Hitler Lives', "The Stars and Stripes", 8 October 1945, File: Hitler, Adolf, XE003655 (NAID 7359097).

[20] Joachimsthaler, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[21] Incoming Telegram, No. 10492, Gallman, London to the Secretary of State, 8 October 1945, File: 862.002/10-845, Hitler, Adolf, Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021).

[22] Headquarters, U.S. Forces European Theater, Staff Message Control, Incoming Classified Message, Ref No. 65954, Office of Military Attaché London signed Tindall to US Forces European Theater Main, October 8, 1945, File: 091.1/1, 1945, Classified General Correspondence, 1945-46 [NAID 5665349], RG 498; Headquarters, U.S. Forces European Theater, Staff Message Control, Incoming Classified Message, Ref No. 65972, Office of Military Attaché London signed Tindall to US Forces European Theater Main, 11 October 1945, ibid.; Headquarters, U.S. Forces European Theater, Staff Message Control, Outgoing Classified Message, Ref No. SC-5486,US Forces European Theater Main signed Eisenhower to Military Attaché United States Embassy London for Tindall, 11 October 1945, ibid.

[23] Wireless to "The New York Times", 'Eisenhower Didn’t Say He Believes Hitler Alive', "The New York Times", 13 October 1945.

[24] Wireless to "The New York Times", 'Hitler’s Woman Pilot Seized', "The New York Times", 10 October 1945.

[25] Capt. Robert E. Work, Air Corps, Chief Interrogator, Air Interrogation Unit [USDIC], Air Division, Headquarters United States Forces in Austria, Interrogation Summary No.1, 'The Last Days in Hitler’s Air Raid Shelter', 8 October  1945, File: Interrogation Summary US Forces in Austria [NAID 2155808], Publications [“P”] Files [NAID 656424], RG 319.

[26] Capt. Robert E. Work, Air Corps, Chief Interrogator, Air Interrogation Unit [USDIC], Air Division, Headquarters United States Forces in Austria, Interrogation Summary No.1, 'The Last Days in Hitler’s Air Raid Shelter', 8 October 1945, File: Interrogation Summary US Forces in Austria [NAID 2155808].

[27] Memorandum, Maj. Edward L. Saxe, Chief, Operations Branch to Chief, CI, Subject: Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Adolf Hitler, 9 October 1945, File: Hitler, Adolf, XE003655 [NAID 7359097].

[28] 1st Lt. Arthur D. McKibbin, Editing Section, Military Intelligence Service Center, Headquarters, United States Forces European Theater, 15 October 1945, p. 1, OI Consolidated Interrogation Report [CIR] No. 2, File: Hitler as Seen by His Doctors: Theo Morell, Erwin Giesing, Walter Loehlein, Karl Weber – CIR No. 2 [NAID 6242539], Reports, Interrogations, and Other Records Received from Various Allied Military Agencies [NAID 647749], RG 238; 2nd Lt. Francis C. St. John, Chief Editor, Military Intelligence Service Center, Headquarters, United States Forces European Theater, OI Consolidated Interrogation Report [CIR] No. 4, Hitler as Seen by His Doctors, 29 November 1945, p. 2, ibid.

[29] Incoming Telegram, No. 10803, Gallman, London to the Secretary of State, 16 October  1945, File: 862.002/10-1645, Hitler, Adolf, Central Decimal Files [NAID 302021]; Wireless to "The New York Times", London, 15 October, "The New York Times", 16 October 1945.

[30] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper"; O’Donnell, "The Berlin Bunker"; Petrova and Watson, "The Death of Hitler"; Reuters, Berlin, 1 November 1945, 'Text of British Report Holding Hitler Ended His Life', "The New York Times", 2 November 1945.

[31] Sisman, "Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[32] Sisman,"Hugh Trevor-Roper".

[33] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[34] Trevor-Roper, "The Last Days of Hitler".

[35] Special to "The New York Times", Bonn, Germany, 25 October 1956, 'German Judge Confirms That Hitler Died As a Suicide in a Berlin Bunker in 1945', "The New York Times", 26 October 1956. A copy of the court order can be found in the File: Hitler, Adolf, Reference Subject Files Relating to Adolf Hitler, 1951-1985 [NAID 12008425], RG 242.

Legends say that Adolf Hitler did not die in his Bunker in Berlin, but managed to escape to Argentina aboard a submarine and reach Patagonia, where he lived until the end of his days in the company of Eva Braun. One of the alleged homes of the Führer, 'Inalco Estancia', a farm with 452 hectares of land and a house of 560 square meters, is now on sale for 35 million dollars. The property is located seven kilometers from Villa la Angostura, now known as Town of the Andes on the border with Chile. The magnificent mansion, designed by architect Alejandro Bustillo and built by Italian manufacturer Longaretti Pedro in the forties, has, in the arrangement of its interior, many similarities with the Berghof, the Führer's headquarters in Obersalzberg, in the Bavarian Alps.

Inalco, that in the original language of the Mapuche Indians means "on the shore of the lake" is located in the Nahuel Huapi National Park. The property includes five kilometers of coast and 90 meters of sandy beach, and a wooden pier for mooring of small boats.

The property, located on the corridor of the Seven Lakes basin, is also easily accessible from San Carlos de Bariloche, the center that immediately after the Second World War had given hospitality to many a war criminal. 

There have been many years of testimonies from people who assure that they had seen Hitler and Eva Braun in San Carlos de Bariloche, then a small isolated town in the heart of the Patagonian steppe, where the only private institution was the German School.

These stories have been collected in various publications, such as ''Bariloche Nazi" by Abel Basti.