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.