The atmosphere was oppressive in the crowded bunker. Air raids occurred daily. Hitler stayed mostly on the lower level, where it was quieter and he could sleep. Conferences often took place for much of the night, sometimes often until 5:00 am.
Even after Hitler moved to the underground Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker he continued to use his large study in the undamaged wing of the Reich Chancellery, where he held afternoon military conferences. After the meetings, he would have tea with his secretaries before going back down into the bunker complex for the night. After several weeks of this routine, Hitler seldom left the bunker except for short strolls in the Chancellery garden with his dog Blondi.
On his 56th birthday on April 20, 1945, Hitler made his last trip to the ruined garden of the Reich Chancellery, where he awarded Iron Crosses to boy soldiers of the Hitler Youth. That afternoon, the Soviet artillery of the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov bombarded Berlin’s city centre for the first time. At the same time, Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed from the south through the last formations of German Army Group Centre.
Despite the appalling civilian and military casualties in Berlin, Hitler believed his German Army would defeat Zhukov’s eight armies that had entered Berlin. He placed his hopes on the units commanded by Waffen-SS General Felix Steiner. On April 21, Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the encircling Soviet salient and ordered the German Ninth Army, southeast of Berlin, to attack northward in a pincer attack.
But in reality, the German defenses were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, disorganized, and exhausted Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions that had reached the end of their fighting ability, as well as poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members armed with the anti-tank weapon, the Panzerfaust – a cheap, single shot, recoilless German anti-tank, and the elderly men forced into a civilian’s militia.
During the last ten days of Hitler’s Berlin, thirty thousand German teenagers belonging to the Hitler Youth troops perished in the Allied onslaught while defending their beloved Führer.
Hitler’s last Courier.
Armin D. Lehmann was a high-flying member of the Hitler Youth, the sole official youth organization in Germany that was partly a paramilitary organization for male youth aged 14 to 18. In April 1945, a fanatical Nazi aged 16, convinced that he was part of a “new order” destined to last 1,000 years, was chosen as a Courier to run messages between the radio room below the party Chancellery and Hitler’s secret Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker in Berlin. He gained his privileged place in the bunker after earning an Iron Cross for saving two comrades, while wounded, while fighting in January 1945.
Though Armin Lehmann, who idolized Adolf Hitler, would have gladly given his life for his leader like every other member of the Hitler Youth, he and a few other boy soldiers escaped the bloodbath. Destined not to be sacrificed to the enemy at the gate, he was chosen to serve the most notorious and bizarre Nazis of Hitler’s hated Reich: Bormann, Himmler, Goebbels, and, of course, the Führer himself in the German High Command’s Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker as a Hitler Youth Courier. In fact, Lehmann was Hitler’s last Courier.
In his book “In Hitler’s Bunker: A Boy Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of the Führer’s Last Days“, co-authored by Tim Carroll, Armin D. Lehmann wrote:
“Hitler seized power before I was five years old. It was not my choice to grow up under the form of government in which absolute power is held by a dictator.
At the age of ten, it was mandatory that I join the Deutsche Jungvolk (DJV), the junior branch of the Hitler Jugend or Hitler Youth. In January, 1945, I was drafted into the Volkssturm, the home defense. I was decorated (with the Iron Cross) for pulling battle-injured comrades out of the line of fire, after I had been seriously wounded myself. I was selected by Reichsjugendfuehrer Artur Axmann to be a member of a Hitler Jugend Helden (Hitler Youth Heroes) delegation to visit the Fuehrer in Berlin on his birthday. I met Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery garden (also known as the Hinterhof or backyard) outside his bunker on his last birthday, April 20, 1945. I became one of his last couriers as a member of Artur Axmann’s staff.”
In the thick of the prevailing chaos, the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary death squads brutally dealt with any signs of surrender primarily by shooting. In the Kurfürstendamm Boulevard, the SS squads shot people who put white flags outside their houses.
During the following days, the Soviet army rapidly advanced through the city and reached the city centre where close-quarters combat raged.
On April 22, 1945, during his afternoon military situation conference in the bunker, Hitler learned that the forces of General Steiner had not moved. He fell into a tearful rage and let loose a hysterical, shrieking denunciation of his generals. Hitler blatantly declared for the first time that the war was lost and his Reich was a failure. He said there was nothing left for him to do, but stay in Berlin and fight to the very end, and then shoot himself.
Hitler’s staff tried to convince him to escape to the mountains around Berchtesgaden and direct the remaining troops from there. But Hitler was adamant and told them his decision was final. He even insisted a public announcement be made.
Faced with the inevitability of defeat and determined to await defeat and death along with the Führer, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, took residence in the upper Vorbunker.
Magda Goebbels, quite attached to Hitler psychologically, was more devoted to Hitler than to her own husband. Adolf Hitler’s chauffeur, Erich Kempka, once remarked: “When Magda Goebbels was around Hitler, you could hear her ovaries rattling.”
While other leading Nazis had sent their children into the mountains or out of the country to protect them from the impending catastrophe, Magda Goebbels decided that she and her children would join her husband to bring their lives to what she called “the only possible and honourable conclusion”. She moved into the Vorbunker on April 22, 1945, along with her six children.
Previous – Part 2: Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker
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