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!”
Later, on October 25, 1956, in a courtroom in Berchtesgaden, the site of the Fuehrer’s mountaintop home in Bavaria, Heinz Linge recalled that he saw Hitler almost upright in a sitting position on a blood-soaked sofa. He said:
“Hitler had his head bent forward somewhat and I could see a bullet hole on his right temple and a trickle of blood ran slowly down over his check.”
Otto Günsche said:
“Hitler sat on the arm of the sofa with his head hanging down on the right shoulder which was itself hanging limp over the back of the sofa. On the right side was the bullethole.“
The pair testified that when they first entered Hitler’s study, Martin Bormann, was with them.
Later on, Rochus Misch, Hitler’s telephone operator, said that he peered through the door and saw Adolf Hitler had committed suicide.
Two weeks after the couple’s death, and when the battle for Berlin ended,William Vandivert, a 33-year-old LIFE photographer, was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker. Vandivert photographed the almost eerie scenes inside the unlit bunker and the room where Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves.
In his typewritten notes to his editors in New York, Vandivert described in detail what he saw. For the above photograph published in LIFE magazine in July 1945, he wrote:
“Pix of [correspondents] looking at sofa where Hitler and Eva shot themselves. Note bloodstains on arm of soaf [sic] where Eva bled. She was seated at far end … Hitler sat in middle and fell forward, did not bleed on sofa. This is in Hitler’s sitting room.”
The above narration by Vandivert indicates that Eva Braun was also shot.
The “Battle of Berlin”
The Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, also known as the “Battle of Berlin” was the last major offensive against the Germans in the European Theatre of World War II.
On January 12, 1945, the Soviet Army advanced across Poland towards eastern Germany. The Soviet Red Army breached the German front in the Eastern arena of the European Theatre of World War II. This successful operation by the Red Army, known as the Vistula–Oder Offensive, took place between January 12 and February 2, 1945.
The Russians advanced westward as much as 25 miles (40 km) a day through East Prussia, Lower Silesia, East Pomerania, and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 37 miles (60 km) east of Berlin along the Oder River.
When the offensive resumed, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin.
At the same time, the Allied air forces devastated Berlin with bombing raids.
Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker
As the Third Reich was rapidly disintegrating, Hitler, after deciding to stay in Berlin for the last great siege of the war, retreated to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker on January 16, 1945. He was joined by his senior staff, Martin Bormann, and later, Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun.
Two to three dozen support, medical, and administrative staff were also in the bunker complex. These included Hitler’s secretaries – Gerda Christian, Gertraud “Traudl” Junge, a nurse named Erna Flegel, and Rochus Misch, Hitler’s courier, bodyguard and telephone operator.
When Hitler moved to the underground Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker brought his pet Blondi, the seven-year-old female German Shepherd, gifted to him in 1941 by Martin Bormann, along with him, and Eva Braun brought her two Scottish Terrier dogs Negus and Stasi along with her. In the underground bunker Blondi had a litter of five puppies. Hitler named one of them “Wolf”, his favorite nickname and the meaning of his own first name, Adolf (Noble wolf).
Eva Anna Paula Braun
Eva Braun, hailing from a middle-class Catholic family, met Adolf Hitler, 23 years her senior, in Munich when she was 17 years old. She was then employed as an assistant to Heinrich Hoffmann, the official photographer for the Nazi Party (NSDAP). She was the longtime companion of Adolf Hitler.
On August 10 or 11, 1932, Eva attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest with her father’s pistol. However, historians feel the attempt was a bid for Hitler’s attention. After Braun’s recovery, Hitler became more committed to her, and by the end of 1932 they had become lovers. She often stayed overnight at Hitler’s Munich apartment.
Eva then became a shadowy figure tucked away at the Alpine retreat at Obersalzberg, the main area of Nazi occupation in Berchtesgaden, spent her time with Hitler out of public view. She spent her time skiing and swimming. Though she had no perceptible influence on Hitler’s political career, she provided a certain domesticity to his life.
A few weeks before Hitler’s last birthday on April 20, Eva came to Berlin. From then on, against his will, she stayed with him until their death.
The advance of the soviet army
On April 16, 1945, the Russian Army started the Battle of Berlin and 2.5 million Russian soldiers reached the German capital. By April 19, 1945, the Red Army started to encircle the city.
When Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s Russian troops resumed its offensive, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Street fighting raged in the north of Berlin, with the few German troops putting up a desperate defence against the Red Army. The German Army did not have the means to halt Marshal Zhukov’s troops. The Soviet army outnumbered the Germans 15 to 1. Moreover, the Red Army seemed to have unlimited mechanized armor.
Two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Street fighting raged in the north of Berlin, with the few German troops putting up a desperate defence against the Red Army. The German Army did not have the means to halt Marshal Zhukov’s troops. The Soviet army outnumbered the Germans 15 to 1. Moreover, the Red Army seemed to have unlimited mechanized armor.
Some battalions of the German army were making a hasty retreat westward to surrender to the Americans. Overwrought with rage, Hitler started issuing frantic orders to defend Berlin with his depleted armies.
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