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
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.
Previous – Part 10: Announcement of Hitler’s death to the outside world
Next Part 12: The Breakout by Martin Bormann
- 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)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 4: The Doubts About Loyalty to the Führer (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 5: Hitler’s Marriage and Last Testaments (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 6: Preamble to Suicide (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 7: Suicide of Hitler and Eva Braun (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 8: Burning the Bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 9: Suicide of Joseph Goebbels and His Wife (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 10: Announcement of Hitler’s death to the outside world
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 12: The Breakout by Martin Bormann
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 13: What Happened to Hitler’s Body?
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 14: The Fate of the Three Messengers
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Appendix A: Adolf Hitler’s Private Testament (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Appendix B: Adolf Hitler’s Last Political Testament (tvaraj.com)
- Death of Adolf Hitler – Appendix C: Marriage Certificate of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (tvaraj.com)\
- Helmuth Weidling (en.wikipedia.org)
- Wilhelm Mohnke ((en.wikipedia.org)
- Martin Bormann (en.wikipedia.org)
- Ludwig Stumpfegger (en.wikipedia.org)
- Artur Axmann (en.wikipedia.org)
- Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht general) (en.wikipedia.org)
- Wilhelm Burgdorf (en.wikipedia.org)
- Franz Schädle (en.wikipedia.org)
- Georg Betz (en.wikipedia.org)
- Armin D. Lehmann (en.wikipedia.org)
- Traudl Junge (en.wikipedia.org)
- Gerda Christian (en.wikipedia.org)
- Else Krüger (en.wikipedia.org)
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