Loving Your Enemies


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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[Jesus said to his disciples:]

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?

And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Mathew 5:43-48

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I had a very difficult time trying to write about loving my enemies. I wrote and deleted, wrote and deleted, more than a dozen times. Then I remembered having read long ago a thought provoking speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., on this subject.

I am just a mole hill before the colossal mountain called Martin Luther King, Jr., the greatest champion of Jesus, who still lives in and will never fade away from our memory. So, today, I have taken the easy way out. I want our beloved King to talk to us on loving our enemies.

Martin Luther King Jr. (source: biography.com)

Martin Luther King Jr. (source: biography.com)

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This is a very long speech; so take your time to read it. I request you  to digest, understand and follow his way of loving our enemies if you really love Jesus.

Here is the speech “Loving Your Enemies” by Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, 17 November 1957.

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I want to use as a subject from which to preach this morning a very familiar subject, and it is familiar to you because I have preached from this subject twice before to my knowing in this pulpit. I try to make it a, something of a custom or tradition to preach from this passage of Scripture at least once a year, adding new insights that I develop along the way out of new experiences as I give these messages. Although the content is, the basic content is the same, new insights and new experiences naturally make for new illustrations.

So I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.

Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.

Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation.

Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.

But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.

And this is what Jesus means when he said: “How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves.

A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.

I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”

So somehow the “isness” of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

The Greek language, as I’ve said so often before, is very powerful at this point. It comes to our aid beautifully in giving us the real meaning and depth of the whole philosophy of love. And I think it is quite apropos at this point, for you see the Greek language has three words for love, interestingly enough. It talks about love as eros. That’s one word for love. Eros is a sort of, aesthetic love. Plato talks about it a great deal in his dialogues, a sort of yearning of the soul for the realm of the gods. And it’s come to us to be a sort of romantic love, though it’s a beautiful love. Everybody has experienced eros in all of its beauty when you find some individual that is attractive to you and that you pour out all of your like and your love on that individual. That is eros, you see, and it’s a powerful, beautiful love that is given to us through all of the beauty of literature; we read about it.

Then the Greek language talks about philia, and that’s another type of love that’s also beautiful. It is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. And this is the type of love that you have for those persons that you’re friendly with, your intimate friends, or people that you call on the telephone and you go by to have dinner with, and your roommate in college and that type of thing. It’s a sort of reciprocal love. On this level, you like a person because that person likes you. You love on this level, because you are loved. You love on this level, because there’s something about the person you love that is likeable to you. This too is a beautiful love. You can communicate with a person; you have certain things in common; you like to do things together. This is philia.

The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape. And agape is more than eros; agape is more than philia; agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.

And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.

Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends.

Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”

Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.

Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses. Psychologists and psychiatrists are telling us today that the more we hate, the more we develop guilt feelings and we begin to subconsciously repress or consciously suppress certain emotions, and they all stack up in our subconscious selves and make for tragic, neurotic responses.

And may this not be the neuroses of many individuals as they confront life that that is an element of hate there. And modern psychology is calling on us now to love. But long before modern psychology came into being, the world’s greatest psychologist who walked around the hills of Galilee told us to love. He looked at men and said: “Love your enemies; don’t hate anybody.” It’s not enough for us to hate your friends because—to to love your friends—because when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

I think of one of the best examples of this. We all remember the great president of this United States, Abraham Lincoln—these United States rather. You remember when Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking about Lincoln. He said a lot of bad things about Lincoln, a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, “You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the president of the United States.” He went on and on and on and went around with that type of attitude and wrote about it.

Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. And if you read the great biography of Lincoln, if you read the great works about him, you will discover that as every president comes to the point, he came to the point of having to choose a Cabinet. And then came the time for him to choose a Secretary of War. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. And when Abraham Lincoln stood around his advisors and mentioned this fact, they said to him: “Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Do you know what he has done, tried to do to you? Do you know that he has tried to defeat you on every hand? Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?” Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said: “Oh yes, I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job.”

Mr. Stanton did become Secretary of War, and a few months later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And if you go to Washington, you will discover that one of the greatest words or statements ever made by, about Abraham Lincoln was made about this man Stanton. And as Abraham Lincoln came to the end of his life, Stanton stood up and said: “Now he belongs to the ages.” And he made a beautiful statement concerning the character and the stature of this man. If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would have not transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.

That’s it. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”

And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words.

History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.

Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.

Not only did Jesus discover it, even great military leaders discover that. One day as Napoleon came toward the end of his career and looked back across the years—the great Napoleon that at a very early age had all but conquered the world. He was not stopped until he became, till he moved out to the battle of Leipzig and then to Waterloo. But that same Napoleon one day stood back and looked across the years, and said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”

Yes, I can see Jesus walking around the hills and the valleys of Palestine. And I can see him looking out at the Roman Empire with all of her fascinating and intricate military machinery. But in the midst of that, I can hear him saying: ‘I will not use this method. Neither will I hate the Roman Empire.’

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Who Are We to Judge?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Judge not others

Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others.  Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.

But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others.

This brings to my mind two sayings In Tamil:

  • “இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”
    (Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?) meaning “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”
  • “கண்ணாலே காண்பதும் பொய், காதாலே கேட்பதும் பொய், தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்..”
    (Transliteration: kannaalae kaanbathum poi, kaathaalae kaetpathum poi, theera visaaripathae mei.) meaning “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investige thoroughly.”

Hence, we must investigate thoroughly before passing  on our judgment and condemning others. Also, we must as well learn to forgive those who displease us.

Forgiving

All of us have a right to our justified anger. Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.

Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.

Martin Luther King Jr., said:

First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Giving

Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.

The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.

For the Hindus there are five important points to keep in mind.

  1. Give with the heart not with the head.
  2. Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
  3. Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
  4. Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
  5. Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance .

For the Buddhists,

  1. Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
  2. Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
  3. Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).

In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.

Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).

True  Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 — Luke 6:36-38

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.
— Luke 6:41-42

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 13: What Happened to Hitler’s Body?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The surrender of Berlin

Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht General)

Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht General)

General Wilhelm Burgdorf

General Wilhelm Burgdorf, Chief Adjutant to Hitle

Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle

SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle

Some of the SS personnel, who did not join any of the breakout groups, opted to commit suicide. General Hans Krebs, Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff, and General Wilhelm Burgdorf, the Chief Adjutant to Adolf Hitler, along with SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Franz Schädle of the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers, stayed behind.

Since the field hospital in the Reich Chancellery above needed power and water, Johannes Hentschel, the master electro-mechanic for the bunker complex, opted to stay even after everyone else had either left or committed suicide.

General Helmuth Weidling and other German generals in captivity, Berlin, Germany, on May 2, 1945. (Source: ww2db.com)

General Helmuth Weidling and other German generals in captivity, Berlin, Germany, on May 2, 1945. (Source: ww2db.com)

At 6 am, on May 2, 1945, General Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army.

Around 9 am,, the first Russian combat troops arrived at the bunker complex unopposed. They were followed by the Russian search teams of “SMERSH”, equivalent of CIC of the Allieds.

SMERSH (acronym of Spetsyalnye MEtody Razoblacheniya SHpyonov or Special Methods of Spy Detection, but also referred to as SMERt‘ SHpionam; “Death to spies”) was an umbrella name for three independent counterintelligence agencies in the Red Army formed in late 1942 or even earlier, but officially founded on April 14, 1943.

The Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) abbreviated НКВД (NKVD) soldiers captured more than 50 officers and men who were still there in the bunker complex, including Johannes Hentschel. Then they found out that the bulk of the Reich Chancellery group had decamped during the night.

Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Klimenko, the leader of one of the search teams found the cadaverous remains of the partly burnt corpses of the Goebbels and filmed them. He immediately sent the remains to the Russians headquarters in Berlin’s Plötzensee Prison.

Hitler’s Double

Another search team found an old oak water tank which contained many dead bodies. They pulled out a particular body that resembled Hitler.

Click on the image to see the video titled "Gustav Weler body (Hitler´s double) - Berlin 1945."

Click on the image to see the video titled “Gustav Weler body (Hitler´s double) – Berlin 1945.”

The dead man was one of Hitler’s doubles, named Gustav Weler. The Russians mistakenly believed the body to be that of Hitler because of his identical moustache and haircut. They photographed and filmed the dead body of was Weler.

The security personnel in the bunker, responsible for Hitler’s safety, may have had Gustav Weler, a doppelgänger or Body-double of Adolf Hitler, to camouflage and help Hitler escape, if Hitler decided to take part in a breakout. But, after Hitler’s death, they would have realized that any double if found would be an embarrassment, and therefore disposed him by shooting in the forehead, in an attempt to confuse the Russian troops.

Gustav Weler’s body was taken to Lefortovo prison in Moscow, for further investigations, and was laid to rest in its yard.

When Ivan Klimenko returned to the bunker the next day, May 3, 1945, he found the body resembling Hitler, displayed prominently in the main hall of the Reich Chancellery. Ignoring the darned socks, worn by the dead man, Klimenko assumed the crucial problem of finding Hitler dead or alive had been solved.

Then probing inside the darkened bunker the Russians found the bodies of many Germans who had committed suicide, including that of General Hans Krebs. The bodies of General Wilhelm Burgdorf and SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle were never found.

Bodies of the six Goebbels children, who were poisoned by their parents (Source: imgur.com)

Bodies of the six Goebbels children, who were poisoned by their parents (Source: imgur.com)

The Russians then discovered the bodies of the six Goebbels children lying in their beds in the Vorbunker. They were wearing white nightclothes with the clear mark of cyanide shown on their faces. According to the autopsy the Russians carried out, bruising on the face of 12-year-old Helga Goebbels indicated that she was forced to ingest cyanide.

Finding Hitler’s body

On the following day, May 4, 1945, Ivan Churakov, a Russian soldier, climbed into a nearby bomb crater strewn with burned paper. He saw some partly burnt furry object and he hollered, “Comrade Lieutenant Colonel, there are legs here.

They started to dig and pulled from the crater two dead dogs, and digging further they found the burnt bodies of a man and a woman. At first Klimenko did not even think that the two burnt corpses might be that of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Since he believed that Hitler’s corpse was already displayed prominently in the Chancellery and only needed to be positively identified, he therefore ordered the newly discovered burnt cadavers to be wrapped in blankets and reburied.

On Saturday, May 5, 1945, Comrade Klimenko while pondering over his finding the burnt bodies of a man and a woman from the burnt crater rushed back and exhumed the two bodies. He transported both bodies to Plötzensee Prison. There he was ordered to send them on to the 496th Field Hospital in Buch, a German locality within the Berlin borough of Pankow.

On May 8, 1945, the Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day), the first preliminary forensic autopsy was performed on both bodies. Positive identification took place in a very simple yet quite foolproof.

A few days later, the Russians moved Hitler’s body to a different gravesite outside Berlin. This would be just one of several moves the corpse would make in the next few decades.

In early June 1945, the Russians re-buried the body of dead male identified as that of Hitler, in a forest near the town of Rathenau. Eight months later, they moved it again, to the SMERSH facility in the Soviet Army garrison in Magdeburg on February 21, 1946.

Soviet leaders were quite worried about leaving Hitler’s body in the garrison or burying it somewhere away from their watchful eye. They feared Hitler’s gravesite would eventually turn into a shrine for neo-Nazis.

Hitler’s body remained in Magdeburg until March 1970, when the Soviets decided to abandon the garrison and turn it over to the East German civilian government.

KGB director Yuri Andropov decided that Hitler’s remains should be destroyed. He authorized an operation to dispose the body. The KGB kept the fragments of a jawbone and skull, and stored it in government buildings in Moscow.

Yuri Andropov selected a KGB officer Vladimir Gumenyuk to pick a secret final resting place for Hitler’s remains. Armed with a secret coordinate to the last burial spot in the Soviet Army garrison in Magdeburg, Gumenyuk led a three-man team to dig out the remains and take them away for destruction.

Since the Soviet garrison was surrounded by German-built high-rise buildings in Magdeburg, to avoid being seen, Gumenyuk’s men pitched a tent over the spot where the bones had been buried. After some digging with no results, the team realized they had counted 45 meters instead of 45 paces while following the directions to the corpse. They put the dirt back, and moved the tent to the correct spot measuring in paces.

After securing the remains, Gumenyuk’s team disguised themselves as fishermen and drove to the mountains. They stopped along a small stream. There, they lit two campfires. One to make soup and the other to burn the remains further and turn them to ashes.

A general view of what Russian officials claim to be a fragment of Adolf Hitler's skull, at an exhibition in Moscow, Wed April 26, 2000.  (Photograph: Mikhail Metzel-AP)

A general view of what Russian officials claim to be a fragment of Adolf Hitler’s skull, at an exhibition in Moscow, Wed April 26, 2000. (Photograph: Mikhail Metzel-AP)

On September 26, 2009, the History Channel aired a documentary called Hitler’s Escape. For the making of the film, Connecticut archaeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni flew to Moscow to inspect the Hitler trophies at the Russian State Archive which included the skull fragment with a bullet hole through it, which the Russians dug up outside the Führerbunker in 1946, as well as bloodstains from the bunker sofa on which Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were believed to have committed suicide. The Russian government has been publicly claiming since 2000 that these articles belonged to Hitler.

Bellatoni said:

“I had the reference photos the Soviets took of the sofa in 1945 and I was seeing the exact same stains on the fragments of wood and fabric in front of me, so I knew I was working with the real thing.” (sic)

Examination of the skull by Bellantoni revealed it belonged to a young woman and not that of the 56-year-old dictator. “The bone seemed very thin. Male bone tends to be more robust,” he said. “And the sutures where the skull plates come together seemed to correspond to someone under 40.”

Bellantoni applied cotton swabs and took samples for DNA tests during the one hour he was allowed with the Hitler trove. The swabs were then flown back to Connecticut. At the university’s Centre for Applied Genetics, Linda Strausbaugh, worked for three days on the samples sent by Bellatoni. “We used the same routines and controls that would have been used in a crime lab,” she said.

The DNA analysis revealed that the skull undoubtedly belonged to a female, and the only positive physical proof that Hitler had shot himself had suddenly been rendered worthless. The result of the DNA analysis reopened the mystery surrounding Hitler’s death.

If Hitler allegedly shot himself in the right temple, then why did the Russians exhibit what is claimed to be Hitler’s cranium, showing a bullet hole in the back of his head?

Russian officials, however, rejected the findings of Nick Bellantoni.

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Next → Part 14: The Fate of the Three Messengers

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 10: Announcement of Hitler’s death to the outside world


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, Reichspräsident (President of the Reich) and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, Reichspräsident (President of the Reich) and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz had left the Führerbunker on April 21, 1945. He was in a remote hideout at Plön, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. He received the following message from Martin Bormann:

The Führer has appointed you, Herr Admiral, as his successor in place of Reichsmarschall Göring. Confirmation in writing  follows. You are hereby authorized to take any measures which the situation demands. — Bormann.”

This surprised Dönitz. In his memoirs, he describes his reactions:

… This took me completely by surprise. Since July 20, 1944, I had not spoken to Hitler at all except at some large gathering. … I had never received any hint on the subject from anyone else…. I assumed that Hitler had nominated me because he wished to clear the way to enable an officer of the Armed Forces to put an end to the war. That this assumption was incorrect, I did not find out until the winter of 1945-46 in Nuremberg, when for the first time I heard the provisions of Hitler’s will…. When I read the signal I did not for a moment doubt that it was my duty to accept the task it had been my constant fear that the absence of any central authority would lead to chaos and the senseless and purposeless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives I realized that the darkest moment in any fighting man’s life, the moment when he must surrender unconditionally, was at hand. I realized, too, that my name would remain forever associated with the act and that hatred and distortion of facts would continue to try and besmirch my honor. But duty demanded that I pay no attention to any such considerations. My policy was simple — to try and save as many lives as I could ...

On the morning of May 1, 1945, Dönitz received the following radio message, classified as “Secret and Personal,” from Bormann:

[Hitler's] Will now in force. Coming to you as quickly as possible. Pending my arrival you should in my opinion refrain from public statement.

On perusing this message, Dönitz presumed that Hitler was dead, but knew not how. The public had to be told of the Führer’s death expressed in respectful terms:

… To denigrate him as, I felt, many around me would have liked me to do, would, in my opinion, have been a mean and cheap thing to do I believed that decency demanded that I should word my announcement in the manner in which it was, in fact, worded. Nor, I think, would I do otherwise today…

The same day, Dönitz received a third and final radio message from the Berlin chancellery classified as “Personal and Secret” but signed this time by Goebbels and Bormann:

Führer died yesterday, 1530 hours. In his will dated April 29 he appoints you as President of the Reich, Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, Bormann as Party Minister, Seyss-Inquart as Foreign Minister. The will, by order of the Führer, is being sent to you and to Field Marshal Schoerner and out of Berlin for safe custody. Bormann will try to reach you today to explain the situation. Form and timing of announcement to the Armed Forces and the public is left to your discretion. Acknowledge.

 Then the voice of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, named by Hitler in his political testament as his successor with the title of Reichspräsident, was relayed from his remote hideout in North Germany. He said:

German men and women, soldiers of the armed forces: Our Führer, Adolf Hitler, has fallen. In the deepest sorrow and respect the German people bow.

At an early date he had recognized the frightful danger of Bolshevism and dedicated his existence to this struggle. At the end of his struggle, of his unswerving straight road of life, stands his hero’s death in the capital of the German Reich. His life has been one single service for Germany. His activity in the fight against the Bolshevik storm flood concerned not only Europe, but the entire civilized world.

Der Führer has appointed me to be his successor.

Fully conscious of the responsibility, I take over the leadership of the German people at this fateful hour.

It is my first task to save Germany from destruction by the advancing Bolshevist enemy. For this aim alone the military struggle continues. As far and for so long as achievement of this aim is impeded by the British and the Americans, we shall be forced to carry on our defensive fight against them as well. Under such conditions, however, the Anglo-Americans will continue the war not for their own people, but solely for the spreading of Bolshevism in Europe.

What the German people have achieved in battle and borne in the homeland during the struggle of this war is unique in history. In the coming time of need and crisis of our people I shall endeavor to establish tolerable conditions of living for our women, men and children so far as this lies in my power.

For all this, I need your help. Give me your confidence because your road is mine as well. Maintain order and discipline in town and country. Let everybody do his duty at his own post. Only thus shall we mitigate the sufferings that the coming time will bring to each of us; only thus shall we be able to prevent a collapse. If we do all that is in our power, God will not forsake us after so much suffering and sacrifice.

 Even as he announced the death of Adolf Hitler, Dönitz was not aware of the suicide of Joesph Goebbels and his wife, and the murder of their children.

Front page of the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes, 2 May 1945. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Front page of the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes, 2 May 1945. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Dönitz then authorized a withdrawal of the German forces to the west hoping to save the army and the nation by negotiating a partial surrender to the allied forces. This move enabled about 1.8 million German soldiers to avoid capture by the Soviets. However, the troops continued to fight until May 8, 1945.

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 Previous – Part 9: Suicide of Joseph Goebbels and His Wife

Next Part 11: The Breakout from the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 12: The Breakout by Martin Bormann


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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On May 1, 1945, around 11:00 pm, Martin Bormann left the Führerbunker in one of the ten breakout groups that included Adolf Hitler’s personal surgeon Ludwig Stumpfegger, Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann, Hitler’s pilot Hans Baur, Erich Kempka and Werner Naumann, State Secretary in Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Martin Bormann - Hitler's private secretary

Martin Bormann – Hitler’s private secretary

Ludwig Stumpfegger, Hitler's personal surgeon.

Ludwig Stumpfegger, Hitler’s personal surgeon.

Artur Axmann, leader of the Hitler Youth (Reichsjugendführer)

Artur Axmann, leader of the Hitler Youth (Reichsjugendführer)

They made their way north along the Friedrichstrasse to the Weidendammer Bridge, which was under heavy Russian fire and blocked by an anti-tank barrier at its north end. So, they withdrew to the south end of the bridge where a few German tanks soon gathered.

A Tiger B (Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B) tank spearheaded the first attempt to storm across the bridge, but it was destroyed by the Soviet artillery. The violent explosion stunned Bormann, Stumpfegger, and Baur; and the bright flash almost blinded Kempka. Hans Baur was left with gunpowder burns that remained in his pores for many months. Baur then rejoined Bormann, Stumpfegger and Axmann at a ruined tenement. He crawled up the stairs and through a window counted around 20 Russian soldiers in the courtyard and reported to Bormann, and they moved on.

The German tanks made two more attempts and on the third attempt, made around 1:00 am, Bormann’s group using the tanks as their shield managed to cross the bridge and pressed forward as far as the Ziegelstrasse, but retreated back to the Weidendammer Bridge.

Realizing they were not going to move ahead as a group, Bormann, Stumpfegger, and Axmann left the rest of their group and walked along the railway tracks towards Lehrter station.

On reaching the station, Bormann and Stumpfegger decided to go east on Invalidestrasse and Axmann decided to go alone in the opposite direction of his two companions.

When Axmann came across a Soviet patrol, he hurried back to catch up with Bormann and Stumpfegger. Axmann was stunned when he saw the dead bodies of Bormann and Stumpfegger near the railroad switching yard. He knew it was them because he saw their faces clearly under moonlight. He could see no signs of an explosion. He did not have time to check the bodies. So, he did not know how they died. He assumed that they had been shot in the back. Axmann avoided capture by Soviet troops and disappeared from Berlin.

After Bormann, Stumpfegger, and Axmann left him at the Weidendammer Bridge, Hans Baur was shot in the legs. Gangrene set in and his right lower leg was amputated later in Posen on June 10, 1945.

The breakout by others

Otto Günsche left the Führerbunker after midnight on May 1, 1945. He was captured by Soviet troops encircling the city on May 2, 1945 and was flown to Moscow for interrogation by the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs).

The last courier of the Hitler, the 17-year-old Hitler Youth, Armin Lehmann, mislead to the end, until the suicides of the top Nazis, caught him off guard. After hiding in cellars and disused buildings, he succeeded in reaching the American Occupation Zone two months later. He realized that he was just a minor figure in the grand scheme of things placed in a critical location at a critical time.

SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Georg Betz left the Reich Chancellery as part of one of the groups attempting to break out. By midnight Betz was part of a large group of German soldiers and civilians who crossed the Weidendammer Bridge that was under heavy fire from Soviet tanks and guns. Betz was wounded during the crossing.

Heinz Linge, valet of Adolf Hitler, was one of the last to leave the Führerbunker in the early morning hours of May 2, 1945. He teamed up with Hitler’s chauffeur SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Erich Kempka. They left the bunker complex on the night of May 1, 1945, along with one of the SS-Hauptscharführer Heinrich Doose, a driver who was a member of his staff. During their escape, they came across the wounded Betz and left him in the care of Kaethe Hausermann, but Betz succumbed to his wounds the following day.

Linge got separated from Kempka and was captured near Seestraße station. Several days later, after his identity was revealed, two Russian officers escorted Linge by train to Moscow, where he was thrown into the notorious Lubjanka Prison.

Rochus Misch, bodyguard, courier, telephone operator and attendant of Adolf Hitler, fled the bunker on May 2, 1945, only hours before the Red Army seized it. He was captured by the Russians shortly thereafter. Misch was sent to the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, where he was tortured in an attempt to extract information regarding Hitler’s exact fate because the Soviets did not believe Hitler was dead.

The surrender of Berlin

In the early morning of May 2, 1945, the Soviets captured the Reich Chancellery.

General Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army at 6 am.

Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht General)

Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht General)

General Wilhelm Burgdorf

General Wilhelm Burgdorf, Chief Adjutant to Hitle

Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle

SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle

Some of the SS personnel, opted to commit suicide. General Hans Krebs and General Wilhelm Burgdorf, along with SS SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Franz Schädle of the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers, stayed behind.

In the early morning hours of May 2, 1945, the trio committed suicide by gunshot to the head.

Johannes Hentschel, the master electro-mechanic for the bunker complex, stayed after everyone else had either left or committed suicide as the field hospital in the Reich Chancellery above needed power and water. He surrendered to the Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) abbreviated НКВД (NKVD) search teams that entered the bunker complex at 09:00 am on May 2, 1945.

The NKVD soldiers captured more than 50 officers and men who were still there in the bunker complex and found out that the bulk of the Reich Chancellery group had decamped during the night and did not know where they were.

They saw the macabre remains of the partly burnt corpses of the Goebbels and filmed them. Then inside the bunker they found the bodies of many Germans who had committed suicide including that of General Hans Krebs, General Wilhelm Burgdorf, and SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Schädle.

Bodies of the six Goebbels children, who were poisoned by their parents (Source: imgur.com)

Bodies of the six Goebbels children, who were poisoned by their parents (Source: imgur.com)

The Russians discovered the bodies of the Goebbels’ six children only on May 3, 1945. They were lying in their beds in the Vorbunker, wearing white nightclothes with the clear mark of cyanide shown on their faces. According to the autopsy the Russians carried out, bruising on the face of 12-year-old Helga Goebbels indicated that cyanide was administered to her forcibly.

A few days later, Hans-Erich Voss captured by the Russians and brought back to the bunker identified the partly burned bodies of Joseph and Magda Goebbels and the bodies of their children.

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 Previous – Part 11: The Breakout from the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

Next Part 13: What Happened to Hitler’s Body?

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 14: The Fate of the Three Messengers


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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In the early morning of April 29, 1945, while the Red Army closed in on the Reichstag building, Hitler after his wedding ceremony, retired to a room with Traudl Junge, his youngest private secretary, and dictated in a hurry, his last Testaments: a Private Testament – a will (see Appendix A), and a Political Testament (see Appendix B).

Hitler ordered that three copies of these testaments to be taken out of the Führerbunker in the besieged city of Berlin by three messengers to ensure their presence for posterity.

Three officers: Adolf Hitler’s Deputy Chief Press Secretary Heinz Lorenz, Bormann’s adjutant SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander, and the last adjutant to Adolf Hitler Major Willy Johannmeyer, were chosen as messengers to hand-deliver these testaments to Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner in Czechoslovakia, Karl Dönitz in Schleswig-Holstein, and Paul Giesler in Tegernsee.

After the three messengers said their farewell to Hitler, Martin Bormann gave each of them a white dossier containing the testaments. Later that day, armed with automatic weapons, the trio left the besieged Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker. They escaped from Berlin, passing through Soviet lines without being captured.

The arrest of Heinz Lorenz

Heinz Lorenz, Adolf Hitler's Deputy Chief Press Secretary

Heinz Lorenz, Adolf Hitler’s Deputy Chief Press Secretary

The British arrested Heinz Lorenz, traveling under alias as a journalist from Luxembourg, for possessing false identity papers. The documents were hidden in Lorenz’s coat-lining. After a lengthy process of interrogation, Lorenz finally confessed the truth.

Lorenz  revealed the existence of two more copies smuggled out of the Führerbunker, and the names of the other two messengers as SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander, and Major Willy Johannmeyer.  He told the British interrogators that they left the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker on April 29, 1945, after receiving a set of documents each.

The next problem that faced the interrogators was how to pursue the two absconding messengers, and find out whether they still had the documents with them.

The arrest of Major Willy Johannmeyer

Major Willy Johannmeyer, the last adjutant to Adolf Hitler.

Major Willy Johannmeyer, the last adjutant to Adolf Hitler.

Major Willy Johannmeyer was found living quietly under his own name in his hometown of Iserlohn. He was a straightforward soldier of unconditional loyalties to his Führer and courageous. He firmly asserted and almost convinced his interrogators that he was merely sent as a military escort to the other two, to guide them through the Russian lines.

Eventually, under pressure Johannmeyer coughed up: “Ich habe die Papiere”. Then, he led his interrogators to a corner of his garden, dug up a bottle containing Hitler’s political testament and a covering note from Burgdorf to Schoerner.

The arrest of SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander

Hans Arnold Wangersheim was born in Nuremberg on July 25, 1924. His parents divorced when he was six years old, and he was put in a Jewish orphanage.

On 9–10 November 1938, a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria was carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians while the German authorities looked on without intervening. This series of coordinated attacks is referred to as Kristallnacht (English: “Crystal Night”), also known as Reichskristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass as the result of the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed.

The pretext for the attacks was the assassination on November 9, 1938, of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in the French capital.

On November 15, 1938, five days after the Kristallnacht in Germany and Austria, a delegation of British Jewish and Quaker leaders appealed to Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. They requested the British government to permit temporary admission of unaccompanied Jewish children into Britain, without their parents.

The Kindertransport (children transport), a rescue mission was born. In the months between the Kristallnacht Pogrom to the start of World War II, nearly 10,000 children were sent, without their parents, out of Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Free City of Danzig, to safety in Great Britain. These children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often they were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust. A similar, but a much less organized effort to transport unaccompanied children, mostly Jewish, to the United States was known as the One Thousand Children (OTC). The program brought about 1,400 children aged between 14 months and 16 years to the United States.

In 1938, about a year before the Second World War began, Arnold Wangersheim was rescued by a Jewish social service organization.

Arnold was 13 when he arrived in the United States, with only a cardboard suitcase and $5 cash. He did not know anyone in America, nor knew a single word of English. Eventually, he was placed with a family that owned a jewelry store in Janesville, Wisconsin. He changed his surname “Wangersheim” to “Weiss” – a name he borrowed from Howard Weiss, a Wisconsin football star and was known as Arnold Hans Weiss thereafter.

Arnold Hans Weiss in 1945

Arnold Hans Weiss in 1945

He studied at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before joining the Army. In the Army, Weiss trained as a tail gunner until a crash landing broke both his legs. During his recuperation, since he spoke German, he was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II intelligence service, the precursor of the CIA.

In 1945, in the months following the fall of Nazi Germany, the 21-year-old Weiss was back in Germany as a U.S. military intelligence officer in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC).

Weiss’s unit was given the responsibility of confirming Adolf Hitler’s death because there were endless rumors that Hitler was still alive. Since Berlin was part of the Russian zone, and no witness and neither the body of Hitler nor of Eva Braun had been produced by the Soviets, many Germans refused to believe the Fuhrer was dead. However, Weiss and his unit were certain that he had committed suicide in his bunker. Weiss questioned many members of the Nazi hierarchy in advance of their trials.

The British and the Americans believed that Martin Bormann, the highest-ranking Nazi, the Brown Eminence, the Nazi Party secretary and Hitler’s gatekeeper was still on the loose. If anyone knew what had really happened to Hitler, then it would none other than Bormann. Weiss vaguely remembered that his adjutant Wilhelm Zander hailed from Munich and was still unaccounted for. So, Weiss surmised that there was a good chance that Zander had been in the Führerbunker just before the Red Army stormed it and might know where his boss, Bormann, was hiding. So, Weiss referred the Munich phone book and found several Zanders listed in it.

He rounded up Zander’s mother and sister. They seemed just ordinary people. They insisted that Zander had done nothing wrong. Eventually, he found out from them that the 34-year-old Zander had a young 21-year-old girlfriend in Munich and lived with her parents.

Weiss had Zandeer’s girlfriend arrested. He lodged her in a large jail, on the outskirts of Munich which housed common criminals.  There, he let her sit alone in a cell to ponder over her fate. After two days, she was ready to talk. She said she saw Zander six weeks earlier and that he was working as a farmhand for someone named Irmgard Unterholzener in a village not too far from Munich called Tegernsee. She also told Weiss that Zander was using the alias “Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin“.

Hugh Trevor-Roper, British intelligence officer and historian (1950)

Hugh Trevor-Roper, British intelligence officer and historian (1950)

 Weiss immediately sent a coded communique to CIC headquarters in Frankfurt. The U.S. intelligence notified British Intelligence, which dispatched its lead investigator Hugh Trevor-Roper, to join Weiss in the chase.

In November 1945, Trevor-Roper, the British intelligence officer and historian who wrote “The Last Days of Hitler,” was ordered by Dick White, then head of counterintelligence in the British sector of Berlin to investigate the circumstances of Adolf Hitler’s death, and to rebut the Soviet propaganda that Hitler was alive and living in the West.

Weiss and Trevor-Roper made hasty arrangements to raid the farmhouse, but by the time they arrived, Zander had vanished. For the next three weeks, Weiss chased down blind leads without luck. Then, just before Christmas, Weiss got a call from the CIC field office in Munsingen, Germany. A Paustin had registered for a residence permit.

Weiss, Trevor-Roper and a junior American CIC Special Agent Rosener, along with several MPs reached the old stone building where Zander was hiding before 4 am on Christmas Eve.

As the MPs broke down the door, a shot rang out from the house. They found the startled Zander naked in bed with a woman, not the girlfriend Weiss had arrested earlier, and quickly overpowered him.

Arnold Weiss took part, largely as a translator, in the interrogation of Wilhelm Zander. Initially, the arrested person claimed that he was a victim of misidentification. They grilled him for 10 hours. They confronted him with all the facts of his life. Finally, Weiss said: “We have your mother and sister.” This was not true. Weiss had arrested only the girlfriend. But Zander didn’t know that and he solemnly accepted that he was SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander.

That same day Zander led Weiss and Trevor-Roper back to Tegernsee, where he had originally been hiding. He took them to a dry well at the back of the Unterholzener property, and he pointed down it. They retrieved a fake-leather suitcase lying at the bottom of the well. It contained Zander’s discarded SS uniform. But upon closer inspection, they found a hidden compartment and in it was a plain manila envelope containing the Mein privates Testament, the Mein politsches Testament and the marriage certificate of Hitler and Eva Braun, and a covering letter from Bormann to Doenitz.

 The documents were sent to the United States. In Washington, a forensic analysis of the paper and ink by the FBI confirmed their authenticity.

With that the last of the documents in the case was in the hands of the Allieds. Thus, one of the copies fell into the hands of the British while the other two copies of the documents ended up in the hands of the Americans.

By January 1946, the texts of these documents were published widely in the American and British press. However, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, considered restricting access to these documents. He feared they might become cult objects among the Germans. But the Americans did not share these concerns since they were already public knowledge, but nonetheless agreed to refrain from further publication of them.

Letter to President Truman from the Secretary of War ((Source: eisenhower.archives.gov)

Letter to President Truman from the Secretary of War ((Source: eisenhower.archives.gov)

Hitler’s political testament and his marriage certificate were presented to American President Harry S. Truman by the Secretary of War. One set was placed on public display at the National Archives in Washington for several years.

Thus, one of the copies fell into the hands of the British while the other two copies of the documents ended up in the hands of the Americans.

 

 Previous – Part 13: What Happened to Hitler’s Body?

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 11: The Breakout from the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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General Helmuth Weidling, defense commandant of Berlin.

General Helmuth Weidling, defense commandant of Berlin.

Although Hitler had appointed General Helmuth Weidling as the defense commandant of Berlin, SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke remained free of Weidling’s command to maintain his defense objectives of the Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker. The aggregated total for the Berlin’s defense of General Weidling’s LVI Panzer Corps and the other few units, and Mohnke’s SS Kampfgruppe (combat group), totaled roughly 45,000 soldiers and 40,000 Volkssturm (people’s militia). They faced a superior number of Soviet soldiers. There were about 1.5 million Soviet troops allocated for the investment and the assault on the Berlin Defence Area.

After the death of the Führer the occupants of the Führerbunker were now free to make their escape from Berlin based on the orders issued by Hitler the day before he committed suicide along with his wife Eva Braun. Most planned was to escape from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North.

The breakout by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke’s group

Wilhelm Mohnke, SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Waffen-SS.

Wilhelm Mohnke, SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Waffen-SS.

Prior to the breakout, Wilhelm Mohnke briefed all commanders who could be reached within the Zitadelle sector about Hitler’s death and the planned break out. They split up into ten main groups. Mohnke, split up the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker soldiers and personnel into ten main groups.

Mohnke planned to break out towards the German Army which was positioned in Prinzenallee. His group included: secretary Traudl Junge, secretary Gerda Christian, secretary Else Krüger, Hitler’s dietician, Constanze Manziarly, Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, Walther Hewel and many others.

Before leaving the Führerbunker, Traudl Junge approached General Hans Krebs to say goodbye. Hans straightened up and smoothed his uniform before greeting her for the last time.

On the night of May 1, 1945, Mohnke led the group out of the Reich Chancellery. It was an apocalyptic moment for him because he had been the first duty officer of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) at the building and now was leaving it as its last battle commander.

As planned, the group headed along the subway, to the Friedrichstrasse station, but their route was blocked because of the flooding of the Berlin underground on April 28, 1945, to slow the advancing Soviet troops. So, they went above ground and found Berlin in flames, and Russian shells bursting everywhere around them.

At noon,  Wilhelm Mohnke’s group joined hundreds of other Germans, military and civilian, bent on seeking refuge at the “Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery” on Prinzenallee. Although the brewery housed large air-raid shelters, it had hardly been hit by the enemy aircrafts and was unscathed.

There was a large courtyard, forming the center of the main building. The morale and discipline was deteriorating rapidly among the simple soldiers and lower ranks in the German army. Not certain of where the Russians were, the soldiers decided it was good a time as any to take a sunbath, on this sunny afternoon of Wednesday, May 2, 1945.

The Russians were not far-off. Having heard the news of the capitulation by the Germans, they were simply biding their time by prolonging the May Day celebrations of the day before.

General Mohnke mustered his senior officers for a last staff meeting. Most officers thought the Red Army would storm the brewery by nightfall. Mohnke decided to surrender to the Russians.

Around 2:30 pm, Mohnke along with a non-SS officer named Clausen, sought out the Russian general commanding the Wedding sector in Berlin. However, Mohnke returned soon, leaving Clausen to mediate.

Knowing that it was impossible to get through the Soviet cordons, Mohnke told the soldiers what the officers already knew — that Adolf Hitler was dead. But he did not tell them that Hitler committed suicide. He took upon himself the responsibility of telling all officers and men that their oath of allegiance was binding only up to the Führer’s death and advised them, to escape capture, at the first chance, even by changing into civilian clothes.

While many eagerly slipped out of the brewery that same afternoon, and headed north and west, some others had located stored kegs of beer; and drinking parties were in progress. Several hysterical women fleeing the invading Russians, threw modesty into thin air and flung themselves into the arms of startled and exhausted men and paved the way to group sex.

Most of the SS officers discreetly retreated into the cellar caverns of the brewery and spent a serene afternoon.

A while later, the Russians encircled the brewery and ordered those inside to surrender.

Mohnke turned to the women in his party and asked them to try to get out of Berlin and go north to Admiral Dönitz’s headquarters and give him a report he had in his hand. Gerda Christian, one of the secretaries of Hitler and two other women persuaded Traudl Junge to carry the report.

They were still about ten miles to the outskirts of Berlin. A Luftwaffe sergeant, a Berliner who knew his way around the city, volunteered to escort the women out of Berlin. The women took off their steel helmets, pistols and military jackets, shook hands with the men and left.

When the small group came out to the courtyard, they saw members of the Volkssturm who had already thrown down their weapons and surrendered. The Russian soldiers were handing out cigarettes and schnapps to them. The small group ambled through the crowd in the courtyard surrounded by victorious Russian soldiers as if they were invisible.

Led by the Luftwaffe sergeant, the women managed to slip out of Berlin. They reached the River Elbe that evening and hid overnight in the woods. They eventually made it to the west.

General Mohnke was captured by the Soviets on the morning of the following day, while hiding in a cellar off the Schönhauser Alle, one of the most important streets of the Prenzlauer Berg district.

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 9: Suicide of Joseph Goebbels and His Wife


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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“For us, we have burnt our bridges. We cannot go back, but neither do we want to go back. We are forced to extremes and therefore resolved to proceed to extremes.”
– Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

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Adolf Hitler with  Goebbels'  first daughter, Helga (born September 1, 1932), in Heiligendamm in 1933.

Adolf Hitler with Goebbels’ first daughter, Helga (born September 1, 1932), in Heiligendamm in 1933.

On May 1, 1945, after Hitler committed suicide, Joseph Goebbels looked very depressed. He said:

It is a great pity that such a man is not with us any longer. But there is nothing to be done. For us everything is lost now and the only way left for us is the one which Hitler chose. I will follow his example.

Though Hitler in his political testament had appointed Joseph Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, the latter considered it as an empty title. He knew that Karl Dönitz whose sole concern was to negotiate with the western Allies to save Germany from Soviet occupation, would not want a notorious figure like him to be the head of his government.

Even though Hitler had signed the order to allow a breakout from the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker on April 29, 1945, Goebbels told Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss that he would not entertain the idea of either surrender to the Soviets or escape:

I was the Reich Minister of Propaganda and led the fiercest activity against the Soviet Union, for which they would never pardon me.”

Moreover, Goebbels could not escape because he was Berlin’s Defense Commissioner and he considered it would be disgraceful for him to abandon his post.

In the morning on May 1, 1945, Joseph Goebbels, in his official capacity as the new Chancellor, dictated a letter and ordered German General Hans Krebs, under a white flag, to deliver the letter to General Vasily Chuikov, commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanding the Soviet forces in central Berlin. In this letter, Goebbels informed Chuikov of Hitler’s death, and requested a ceasefire, hinting that the establishment of a National Socialist government hostile to Western plutocracy would be beneficial to the Soviet Union.When this request was rejected, Goebbels knew that further efforts were futile.

Shortly after, he dictated a postscript to Hitler’s testament:

The Führer has given orders for me, in case of a breakdown of defense of the Capital of the Reich, to leave Berlin and to participate as a leading member in a government appointed by him. For the first time in my life, I must categorically refuse to obey a command of the Führer. My wife and my children agree with this refusal. In any other case, I would feel myself… a dishonorable renegade and vile scoundrel for my entire further life, who would lose the esteem of himself along with the esteem of his people, both of which would have to form the requirement for further duty of my person in designing the future of the German Nation and the German Reich.

In the afternoon on May 1, 1945, before the start of the breakout from the Führerbunker, Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss and about 10 generals and officers, went individually to Goebbels’s shelter to say goodbye, and asked Goebbels to join them. But he replied:

The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it.”

Magda Goebbels bore six children to Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels between 1932 and 1940 – five daughters and one son. According to some writers the names of all the children began with ‘H’ as a tribute to Adolf Hitler, but there is no evidence to support this contention; rather, it supports that Magda’s ‘H’ naming was the idea of her first husband, Günther Quandt who named his other two children after his first wife beginning with ‘H’.

Magda and Joseph Goebbels hated each other, and were estranged for a long period since the husband blackmailed his wife emotionally. Their marriage was held together on Hitlers’s orders only.

The Goebbels sought the help of Helmut Kunz, an SS dentist, to kill their six children.

Magda Goebbels told her children that they needed an inoculation. According to Kunz’s testimony, he injected the children with morphine. Magda then put the children to bed. She then asked Kunz to help her give the children cyanide once they were asleep, but he refused. She then turned to one of Hitler’s doctors, Ludwig Stumpfegger. He helped her crush cyanide vials between the children’s teeth as they slept.

Around 8:15 pm, Goebbels and his wife left the Vorbunker and went up and out to the garden of the Reich Chancellery. They were followed by Goebbels’s adjutant, SS-Hauptsturmführer Günther Schwägermann. While Schwägermann was busy preparing the gasoline, Magda bit a vial of cyanide and, Goebbels shot her with a pistol, to make doubly sure that she died, before turning it on himself. Schwägermann ordered one of the soldiers to shoot Goebbels again because he was unable to do it himself.

The bodies of Joseph Goebbels and his wife were then burned in a shell crater, but owing to the lack of petrol, the burning was only partly effective. The remains were not buried.

The Goebbels family in 1942: (back row) Hildegard, Harald Quandt, Helga; (front row) Helmut, Hedwig, Magda,  Heidrun, Joseph and Holdine. (Source- Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-086-03-CC-BY-SA)

The Goebbels family in 1942: (back row) Hildegard, Harald Quandt, Helga; (front row) Helmut, Hedwig, Magda, Heidrun, Joseph and Holdine. (Source- Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-086-03-CC-BY-SA)

In the above manipulated vintage image, the visage of the uniformed Harald Quandt, stepson of Joseph Goebbels born to Magda Behrend Rietschel and Günther Quandt, was inserted and retouched. Actually Harald was away on military duties when the photo of the Goebbels family was taken. He was not present when his half-siblings were killed.  He was safe in Canada, incarcerated in a prisoner-of-war camp.

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 Previous –Part 8: Burning the Bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun

Next Part 10: Announcement of Hitler’s death to the outside world

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 8: Burning the Bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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SS-Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka - Hitler's personal chauffeur

SS-Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka – Hitler’s personal chauffeur

In 1936, when Hitler’s top driver suddenly died, SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant-colonel) Erich Kempka was appointed as Hitler’s personal chauffeur. He served as Adolf Hitler’s chauffeur until April, 1945. Hitler was particular in providing his drivers the best accommodation and food. He once said: “My drivers and pilots are my best friends! I entrust my life to these men!”

On April 30, 1945, around 3:45 pm, 1945, Kempka was in the underground garages. Hitler’s SS personal adjutant Otto Günsche, phoned him. His voice hoarse with excitement, he said: “I must have 200 litres of petrol immediately.”

At first Kempka thought it was a joke and told him it was out of the question. Günsche began shouting: “Petrol, Erich, petrol!”

“Why would you need 200 liters of petrol?” Kempka asked.

“I cannot tell you on the phone. But believe me, Erich, I simply must have it. Whatever it takes, it must be here right now at the exit to the Führer-bunker!” Günsche shouted back.

Kempka knew that the only source was the Berlin Zoo bunker, where the Nazis had buried a few thousand liters of petrol. But, he also knew that it would be certain death for his men to go there under bombardment. So, Kempka told Günsche: “Wait until at least 5 pm because the firing generally dies down a bit around then.”

“I cannot wait another hour. See how much you can collect from the damaged vehicles and send your men at once to the exit to the Führerbunker in the Chancellery garden. And, then come yourself immediately!” Gunsche ordered and hung up.

The concrete roof of the underground garages had caved in. Except for a few, most of the vehicles there were covered with masonry. Kempka ordered his men to siphon out whatever petrol they could find.

While a heavy Russian bombardment was in progress, Kempka returned to the Führerbunker. As he entered he saw Günsche leaving Hitler’s sitting room. His face was as white as chalk. Kempka hurried over to Günsche.

“For God’s sake, Otto, what is it?” Kempka asked.

Günsche went to the two outer doors with Kempka following hin and shut them. Then he turned and said: “The chief is dead.”

Kempka was shocked. He said: “How could that happen, Otto? I spoke to him only yesterday. He was healthy and calm.”

Gunsche raised his right arm, imitated holding a pistol with his fist and pointed to his mouth.

Hermann Karnau, an SS bodyguard of Hitler, saw four men, subordinates of Erich Kempka, arrive with gasoline cans outside the bunker, which they said was for the air conditioning system inside the bunker. Remembering the air conditioning system was fuelled by diesel, Karnau denied them entrance into the Führerbunker. When pressed he allowed one of the men to enter the bunker. The subordinate found Kempka and told him that he and his men had placed around 180 to 200 litres of petrol at the exit to the bunker. Kempka sent the man back to the surface.

At that time the door of Hitler’s sitting room opened and his SS valet Heinz Linge shouted desperately at Kempka: “The petrol, where is the petrol?”

Kempka replied: “It is in position.”

According to Erich Kempka, he saw the dead Führer in his study. Hitler had fallen across the table with the revolver in his hand and Eva sat at an angle beside him. She had taken poison. Her right arm was hanging over the side of the sofa and on the ground nearby was the pistol.

Linge returned to the sitting room. Seconds later the door opened again. Hitler’s doctor, Ludwig Stumpfegger, and Linge emerged carrying Hitler’s body wrapped in a blanket. Hitler’s face was covered as far as the bridge of his nose and his left arm was dangling out of the blanket.

Bormann followed with Eva in his arms, her head inclined backwards. Kempka took Eva’s body from Bormann. Her side was wet. Kempka assumed that she had also shot herself, but later Günsche told him that when Hitler’s body collapsed across the table it overturned a vase and the water flowed over Eva.

There were 20 steps up to the bunker exit. Halfway up, Kempka’s strength failed and he had to stop. Günsche hurried to help him and together they carried Eva’s body into the open.

It was around 5 pm. The Reich Chancellery was under siege. The Russian shells exploded all around them, sending fountains of sand and grit into the air.

LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth sifting through the dirt and debris in the shallow shell hole where the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were thought to have been burned after their suicides. (Source: dailymail.co.uk)

LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth sifting through the dirt and debris in the shallow shell hole where the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were thought to have been burned after their suicides. (Source: dailymail.co.uk)

Stumpfegger and Linge placed Hitler’s body wrapped in the blanket on the ground in a shell crater about three metres from the bunker exit with his legs towards the bunker stairway. Günsche and Kempka placed Eva at an angle to her husband.

Kempka rushed back to the bunker exit. Panting, he seized a can of petrol. He came back and placed the can near the two bodies. As he was about to remove the cap of the petrol can, shells exploded close by, spattering them with earth and dust. So, all ran to the bunker entrance for cover. When the shelling died down, Günsche, Linge and Kempka poured petrol over the corpses. Goebbels, Bormann and Stumpfegger watched from the entrance to the bunker.

Kempka protested when someone suggested that they should ignite the bodies with a hand grenade. He saw a large piece of rag at the bunker exit.

“Get that cloth!” Kempka shouted.

Günsche tore the rag in half. Opening the petrol can Kempka soak the rag with petrol.

“A match!”, Kempka again shouted.

Goebbels took a box of matches from his pocket and handed it to him. Kempka lit the rag and lobbed it on the petrol-soaked corpses.

In seconds a bright flame flared up, accompanied by billowing black smoke. Slowly the fire nibbled at the corpses. For the last time, Joseph Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Heinz Linge, Otto Günsche, and Erich Kempka, stood at attention and gave the Hitler salute as they watched the two bodies burn.

Under the most difficult conditions, Kempka’s men supplied several hundred more litres of petrol and kept on pouring petrol over the burning corpses.

July 1947 photo of the rear entrance to the Führerbunker in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. (Source: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-V04744,_Berlin,_Garten_der_zerstörte_Reichskanzlei)

July 1947 photo of the rear entrance to the Führerbunker in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. Hitler and Eva Braun were cremated in a shell hole in front of the emergency exit at left; the cone-shaped structure in the centre served as the exhaust, and as bomb shelter for the guards. (Source: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-V04744,_Berlin,_Garten_der_zerstörte_Reichskanzlei)

After the flames had died, Heinz Linge touched the remains of the burnt bodies with his boot and a few scorched bones crumbled into dust. Later, along with Hermann Karnau and some other men the charred remains of the bodies were gathered up and interred in a shallow grave at the side of the house fronting the garages. They covered the grave with rubble and stamped on them.

Back inside the bunker everyone seemed to be relaxed. Now that the Führer was no more, they smoked without any inhibition because he had generally forbidden smoking in his presence.

Next, they collectively began plotting ways and means to flee from Berlin, avoiding capture by the Russians.

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 Previous – Part 7: Suicide of Hitler and Eva Braun

Next → Part 9: Suicide of Joseph Goebbels and His Wife

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 7: Suicide of Hitler and Eva Braun


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Around 2:30 am on April 30, 1945, the personal staff of Hitler assembled in the dining area. Hitler emerged from his private quarters. With glazed eyes, he went around the room shaking the hands of each staff member silently. Everyone in the room knew that the time had come. Hitler bade farewell to them.

After Hitler had retired back into his quarters, the officers and the staff members pondered over the significance of what  they had just witnessed. The great tension that prevailed in the past few days seemed to suddenly dissipate with the realization that Hitler was nearing the end of his days.

A few hours later Krebs received Alfred Jodl’s reply:

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

By dawn, Russian troops had reached Potsdamer Platz and the sounds of battle were all around. Russian shells were hitting the government district and the Reich Chancellery continuously. The streets around the Chancellery were just piles of rubble.

Hitler attended his last military situation conference in the Führerbunker.

Adolf Hitler asleep, next to Eva Braun - this photo was banned during Hitlers lifetime. (Source:  dailymail.co.uk)

Adolf Hitler asleep, next to Eva Braun – this photo was banned during Hitlers lifetime. (Source: dailymail.co.uk)

At 2:00 pm Hitler and Eva sat down for their last lunch, a vegetarian meal as usual.

The Russians were now only a few blocks away from the Reich Chancellery. Hitler began making systematic preparations to commit suicide.

Hitler gave precise instructions for the disposal of his dead body. He ordered his adjutants to burn his corpse. He said: “I do not wish my corpse to be displayed after my death in a Russian panopticon like Lenin.

He gave his butler, Arthur Kannberg, gold and silver cigarette cases engraved with his name and said: “Look after these until we meet again.”

Shortly after 3:00 pm the personal staff of Hitler assembled in the bunker. Hitler and Eva emerged from their suite. They went around the room shaking hands of each staff member silently. Everyone in the room knew that the time had come.

Hitler gave poison capsules to his female secretaries to use if the Soviets stormed the bunker. He asked them to forgive him as he did not have better parting gifts to give them.

At 3:30 pm, the couple  bade farewell to their staff and retired to their private room, to carry out their decision to commit suicide.

Hitler and Eva carried a small box of cyanide capsules. He had two guns and she had one. After closing the door of their room, with his “Thousand-Year Reich” already in its death throes, Hitler and Eva bit into thin glass vials of cyanide. Hitler also shot himself in the head with a 7.65mm Walther pistol. Eva made no use of the revolver at her side, preferring to let the poison take its course.

Traudl Junge later wrote that while she was playing with the Goebbels children she heard gunshots:

Suddenly [...] there is the sound of a [gun] shot, so loud, so close, that we all fall silent. It echoes on through all the rooms. ‘That was a direct hit,’ cried Helmut [Goebbels] with no idea how right he was.

Otto Günsche, Hitler's SS personal adjutant

Otto Günsche, Hitler’s SS adjutant

Heinz Linge, Hitler's SS valet.

Heinz Linge, Hitler’s SS valet.

Hearing a gunshot, Heinz Linge, Otto Günsche, and Martin Bormann, entered Hitler’s suite.

Author of the book “The Bunker“, James P. O’Donnell, a Signal Corps captain, and one of the first Americans to enter the bunker complex in July of 1945, investigated Adolf Hitler’s death from a journalistic perspective. He claimed that nobody heard the shot that killed Hitler as the double doors to Hitler’s study were thick enough to muzzle such a sound. He states that when he asked witnesses, who had been standing outside this door, they claimed they heard nothing; the people, who made the claim retracted their statements later saying that Allied interrogators pressured them into saying it; also some people who claim to have heard a shot were not even present at the scene.

Later, on October 25, 1956, in a courtroom in Berchtesgaden, the site of the Fuehrer’s mountaintop home in Bavaria, Heinz Linge recalled that he saw Hitler almost upright in a sitting position on a blood-soaked sofa. He said:

Hitler had his head bent forward somewhat and I could see a bullet hole on his right temple and a trickle of blood ran slowly down over his check.”

The pistol was on the floor where it had dropped from Hitler’s right hand. Eva Braun was lying on the sofa beside him, her lips puckered from the poison, with the unused revolver at her side. “It was as though she had fallen asleep ..“, Linge said.

Otto Günsche said:

Hitler sat on the arm of the sofa with his head hanging down on the right shoulder which was itself hanging limp over the back of the sofa. On the right side was the bullethole.

The pair testified that when they first entered Hitler’s study, Martin Bormann, was with them.

Later on, Rochus Misch, Hitler’s telephone operator, said that he peered through the door and saw Adolf Hitler had committed suicide.

Two weeks after the couple’s death, and when the battle for Berlin ended,William Vandivert, a 33-year-old LIFE photographer, was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker. Vandivert photographed the almost eerie scenes inside the unlit bunker and the room where Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves.

With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler's bunker. (Photograph: William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler’s bunker. (Photograph: William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

In his typewritten notes to his editors in New York, Vandivert described in detail what he saw. For the above photograph published in LIFE magazine in July 1945, he wrote:

“Pix of [correspondents] looking at sofa where Hitler and Eva shot themselves. Note bloodstains on arm of soaf [sic] where Eva bled. She was seated at far end Hitler sat in middle and fell forward, did not bleed on sofa. This is in Hitler’s sitting room.”

The above narration by Vandivert indicates that Eva Braun was also shot.

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 Previous – Part 6: Preamble to Suicide

Next → Part 8: Burning the Bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun

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