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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