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.
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.
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.