Even after Hitler moved to the underground Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker he continued to use his large study in the undamaged wing of the Reich Chancellery, where he held afternoon military conferences. After the meetings, he would have tea with his secretaries before going back down into the bunker complex for the night. After several weeks of this routine, Hitler seldom left the bunker except for short strolls in the Chancellery garden with his dog Blondi.
The bunker was crowded and the atmosphere was oppressive; air raids occurred daily. Hitler stayed mostly on the lower level, where it was quieter and he could sleep. Conferences often took place for much of the night, sometimes often until 5:00 am.
On April 16, 1945, the Russian Army started the Battle of Berlin and 2.5 million Russian soldiers reached the German capital. By April 19, 1945, the Red Army started to encircle the city.
When Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s Russian troops resumed its offensive, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Street fighting raged in the north of Berlin, with the few German troops putting up a desperate defence against the Red Army. The German Army did not have the means to halt Marshal Zhukov’s troops. The Soviet army outnumbered the Germans 15 to 1. Moreover, the Red Army seemed to have unlimited mechanized armor.
On his 56th birthday on April 20, 1945, Hitler made his final trip to the ruined garden of the Reich Chancellery, where he awarded Iron Crosses to boy soldiers of the Hitler Youth. That afternoon, Berlin’s city centre was bombarded for the first time by Soviet artillery of the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov. At the same time, Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed from the south through the last formations of German Army Group Centre.
Despite the appalling civilian and military casualties in Berlin, Hitler believed his German Army would defeat Zhukov’s eight armies that had entered Berlin. He placed his hopes on the units commanded by Waffen-SS General Felix Steiner. On April 21, Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the encircling Soviet salient and ordered the German Ninth Army, southeast of Berlin, to attack northward in a pincer attack.
But in reality, the German defenses were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, disorganized, and exhausted Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions that had reached the end of their fighting ability, as well as poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members armed with the anti-tank weapon, the Panzerfaust – a cheap, single shot, recoilless German anti-tank, and the elderly men forced into a civilian’s militia.
During the last ten days of Hitler’s Berlin, thirty thousand German teenagers belonging to the Hitler Youth troops perished in the Allied onslaught while defending their beloved Führer.
In the thick of the prevailing chaos, the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary death squads brutally dealt with any signs of surrender primarily by shooting. In the Kurfürstendamm Boulevard, the SS squads shot people who put white flags outside their houses.
On April 22, at his afternoon situation conference, when Hitler was informed that General Steiner‘s forces had not moved, he fell into a tearful rage. When Hitler realized that the attack was not going to be carried out, he blamed his generals and blatantly declared for the first time the war was lost. He declared that he would stay in Berlin until the end and then shoot himself.
During the following days, the Soviets rapidly advanced through the city and reached the city centre where close-quarters combat raged.
Hitler’s last courier.
Armin D. Lehmann was a high-flying member of the Hitler Youth, the sole official youth organization in Germany that was partially a paramilitary organization for male youth aged 14 to 18. In April 1945, a fanatical Nazi aged 16, convinced that he was part of a “new order” destined to last 1,000 years, was chosen as a courier to run messages between the radio room below the party Chancellery and Hitler’s secret Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker in Berlin. He gained his privileged place in the bunker after earning an Iron Cross for saving two comrades, while wounded, while fighting in January 1945.
Though Armin Lehmann, who idolized Adolf Hitler, would have gladly given his life for his leader like every other member of the Hitler Youth, he and a few other boy soldiers escaped the bloodbath. He was destined not to be sacrificed to the enemy at the gate, but was chosen to serve the most notorious and bizarre Nazis of Hitler’s hated Reich: Bormann, Himmler, Goebbels, and, of course, the Führer himself in the German High Command’s Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker as a Hitler Youth courier. In fact, Lehmann was Hitler’s last courier.
In his book “In Hitler’s Bunker: A Boy Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of the Führer’s Last Days“, co-authored by Tim Carroll, Armin D. Lehmann wrote:
“Hitler seized power before I was five years old. It was not my choice to grow up under the form of government in which absolute power is held by a dictator.
At the age of ten, it was mandatory that I join the Deutsche Jungvolk (DJV), the junior branch of the Hitler Jugend or Hitler Youth. In January, 1945, I was drafted into the Volkssturm, the home defense. I was decorated (with the Iron Cross) for pulling battle-injured comrades out of the line of fire, after I had been seriously wounded myself. I was selected by Reichsjugendfuehrer Artur Axmann to be a member of a Hitler Jugend Helden (Hitler Youth Heroes) delegation to visit the Fuehrer in Berlin on his birthday. I met Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery garden (also known as the Hinterhof or backyard) outside his bunker on his last birthday, April 20, 1945. I became one of his last couriers as a member of Artur Axmann’s staff.”
The Battle in Berlin lasted from April 20, 1945, until the morning of May 2, 1945.
. RELATED ARTICLES
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Prelude (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 1: The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 2: Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker(tvaraj.com)
- Battle of Berlin (en.wikipedia.org)
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