Reports of Soviet troops looting and raping as they advanced were circulating in Berlin. During the third week of April, 1945, the Red army reached the city centre and were fighting only a few hundred yards away from Hitler’s refuge.
On the same day, General Hans Krebs made his last telephone call from the Führerbunker to Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of German Armed Forces High Command (OKW) in Fürstenberg. Krebs told Keitel that if relief did not arrive within 48 hours, all would be lost. Keitel promised to exert the utmost pressure on
Generals Walther Wenck, commander of the Twelfth Army, and Theodor Busse, commander of the Ninth Army.
Meanwhile Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, wired to Großadmiral Karl Dönitz:
“Situation very serious … Those ordered to rescue the Führer are keeping silent … Disloyalty seems to gain the upper hand everywhere …Reichskanzlei a heap of rubble.”
Since the foreign press was reporting fresh acts of treason, Bormann said: “that without exception Ferdinand Schörner, Walther Wenck, and the others must give evidence of their loyalty by the quickest relief of the Führer.”
Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein
Hans-Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein, an SS-Gruppenführer (group leader) was a general of the Waffen-SS and a member of Adolf Hitler’s entourage. He was the brother-in-law of Eva Braun through his marriage to Gretl Braun, one of her two sisters.
In August 1941, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the SS Cavalry Brigade to be formed under the command of Hermann Fegelein from the 1st and 2nd SS Cavalry Regiments.
On July 17, 1941, Himmler assigned Fegelein’s regiment to the general command of HSSPF Erich von dem Bach for the “systematic combing” of the Pripyat swamps, an operation designed to round up and exterminate Jews, partisans, and civilians in that area of the Byelorussian SSR. Fegelein reported to von dem Bach that his men had killed 13,788 Jews and what he claimed were “soldiers in civilian clothes” during the first stage of the operation. At the end of the second stage, which ran during the last two weeks of August, Fegelein reported that all 3,500 Jewish men in the Rogatschew region had been killed.
Fegelein was wounded a couple of times in action. After he was wounded for a third time, on the Russian front, Himmler reassigned him on January 1, 1944, to Hitler’s headquarters staff as his liaison officer and representative of the SS. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant (group leader and lieutenant-general) of the Waffen-SS.
On July 20, 1944, Fegelein was present at the failed attempt on Hitler’s life at the Wolf’s Lair headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia, and he received a minor wound on his left thigh from the bomb blast.
Historians William L. Shirer and Ian Kershaw picture him as cynical and disreputable. Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect, called him “one of the most disgusting people in Hitler’s circle”.
Fegelein was an opportunist. He sought favour with Himmler, who granted him the best assignments and rapid promotions. Even his courting of Gretl Braun, one of the two sisters of Eva Braun, was a calculated move to advance his career.
Hitler, Himmler, and Bormann acted as witnesses at his marriage. However, Fegelein was a known playboy and had many extramarital affairs.
Hitler was told that Himmler had left Berlin on April 20, 1945, and was trying to discuss terms of surrender with the Western Allies through Count Folke Bernadotte. Hitler was enraged. Considering this as treason, he ordered Himmler’s arrest and according to certain sources ordered the execution of Eva’s brother-in-law.
Fegelein left the Reich Chancellery bunker complex, but was apprehended on April 27, 1945, by SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl in his Berlin apartment while preparing to flee to Sweden or Switzerland, wearing civilian clothes, carrying German and foreign cash and jewelry, some of which belonged to Eva Braun. Högl also confiscated a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler’s attempted peace negotiations with the western Allies. According to most accounts Fegelein was intoxicated when arrested. He was brought back to the Führerbunker.
Hitler ordered Waffen-SS General Wilhelm Mohnke to set up a tribunal to inquire into Fegelein’s desertion. The court martial panel consisted of Wilhelm Burgdorf, Hans Krebs, Johann Rattenhuber, and presided by Wilhelm Mohnke.
Fegelein was still drunk when he was produced before the martial panel. Unable to stand up, he vomited and even urinated on the floor. Since the German military law required the defendant to be of sound mind and body during a court martial, Mohnke was in a predicament.
Fegelein refused to accept the authority of Hitler, and stated that he would answer only to Himmler. Although Mohnke was certain Fegelein was “guilty of flagrant desertion,” he ended the proceedings and turned the defendant over to General Rattenhuber and his RSD security squad. Mohnke never saw Fegelein again.
When Fegelein was arrested, his wife, Gretl was heavily pregnant. Hitler considered releasing him without punishment or assigning him to Mohnke’s troops.
Traudl Junge, Hitler’s youngest private secretary from December 1942, an eyewitness to events in the Führerbunker, later stated that Eva Braun pleaded with Hitler to spare her brother-in-law and tried to justify his behaviour. However, on April 28, 1945, Fegelein was taken to the garden of the Reich Chancellery and was “shot like a dog“.
In 2007, in an interview with Der Spiegel, Rochus Misch, Hitler’s courier, bodyguard and telephone operator, and the last surviving person from the Führerbunker, disputed aspects of Traudl Junge’s account. According to Misch, Hitler ordered only Fegelein’s demotion and not his execution. Misch claimed to know the identity of Fegelein’s killer, but refused to reveal his name.
To be continued …
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Prelude (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 1: The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 2: Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 3: Life in the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker (tvaraj.com)
- Battle of Berlin (en.wikipedia.org)
- Death of Adolf Hitler (en.wikipedia.org)
- Führerbunker (en.wikipedia.org)
- Hermann Fegelein (en.wikipedia.org)