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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 10: Announcement of Hitler’s death to the outside world


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, Reichspräsident (President of the Reich) and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, Reichspräsident (President of the Reich) and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz had left the Führerbunker on April 21, 1945. He was in a remote hideout at Plön, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. He received the following message from Martin Bormann:

The Führer has appointed you, Herr Admiral, as his successor in place of Reichsmarschall Göring. Confirmation in writing  follows. You are hereby authorized to take any measures which the situation demands. — Bormann.”

This surprised Dönitz. In his memoirs, he describes his reactions:

… This took me completely by surprise. Since July 20, 1944, I had not spoken to Hitler at all except at some large gathering. … I had never received any hint on the subject from anyone else…. I assumed that Hitler had nominated me because he wished to clear the way to enable an officer of the Armed Forces to put an end to the war. That this assumption was incorrect, I did not find out until the winter of 1945-46 in Nuremberg, when for the first time I heard the provisions of Hitler’s will…. When I read the signal I did not for a moment doubt that it was my duty to accept the task it had been my constant fear that the absence of any central authority would lead to chaos and the senseless and purposeless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives I realized that the darkest moment in any fighting man’s life, the moment when he must surrender unconditionally, was at hand. I realized, too, that my name would remain forever associated with the act and that hatred and distortion of facts would continue to try and besmirch my honor. But duty demanded that I pay no attention to any such considerations. My policy was simple — to try and save as many lives as I could ...

On the morning of May 1, 1945, Dönitz received the following radio message, classified as “Secret and Personal,” from Bormann:

[Hitler’s] Will now in force. Coming to you as quickly as possible. Pending my arrival you should in my opinion refrain from public statement.

On perusing this message, Dönitz presumed that Hitler was dead, but knew not how. The public had to be told of the Führer’s death expressed in respectful terms:

… To denigrate him as, I felt, many around me would have liked me to do, would, in my opinion, have been a mean and cheap thing to do I believed that decency demanded that I should word my announcement in the manner in which it was, in fact, worded. Nor, I think, would I do otherwise today…

The same day, Dönitz received a third and final radio message from the Berlin chancellery classified as “Personal and Secret” but signed this time by Goebbels and Bormann:

Führer died yesterday, 1530 hours. In his will dated April 29 he appoints you as President of the Reich, Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, Bormann as Party Minister, Seyss-Inquart as Foreign Minister. The will, by order of the Führer, is being sent to you and to Field Marshal Schoerner and out of Berlin for safe custody. Bormann will try to reach you today to explain the situation. Form and timing of announcement to the Armed Forces and the public is left to your discretion. Acknowledge.

 Then the voice of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, named by Hitler in his political testament as his successor with the title of Reichspräsident, was relayed from his remote hideout in North Germany. He said:

German men and women, soldiers of the armed forces: Our Führer, Adolf Hitler, has fallen. In the deepest sorrow and respect the German people bow.

At an early date he had recognized the frightful danger of Bolshevism and dedicated his existence to this struggle. At the end of his struggle, of his unswerving straight road of life, stands his hero’s death in the capital of the German Reich. His life has been one single service for Germany. His activity in the fight against the Bolshevik storm flood concerned not only Europe, but the entire civilized world.

Der Führer has appointed me to be his successor.

Fully conscious of the responsibility, I take over the leadership of the German people at this fateful hour.

It is my first task to save Germany from destruction by the advancing Bolshevist enemy. For this aim alone the military struggle continues. As far and for so long as achievement of this aim is impeded by the British and the Americans, we shall be forced to carry on our defensive fight against them as well. Under such conditions, however, the Anglo-Americans will continue the war not for their own people, but solely for the spreading of Bolshevism in Europe.

What the German people have achieved in battle and borne in the homeland during the struggle of this war is unique in history. In the coming time of need and crisis of our people I shall endeavor to establish tolerable conditions of living for our women, men and children so far as this lies in my power.

For all this, I need your help. Give me your confidence because your road is mine as well. Maintain order and discipline in town and country. Let everybody do his duty at his own post. Only thus shall we mitigate the sufferings that the coming time will bring to each of us; only thus shall we be able to prevent a collapse. If we do all that is in our power, God will not forsake us after so much suffering and sacrifice.

 Even as he announced the death of Adolf Hitler, Dönitz was not aware of the suicide of Joesph Goebbels and his wife, and the murder of their children.

Front page of the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes, 2 May 1945. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Front page of the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes, 2 May 1945. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Dönitz then authorized a withdrawal of the German forces to the west hoping to save the army and the nation by negotiating a partial surrender to the allied forces. This move enabled about 1.8 million German soldiers to avoid capture by the Soviets. However, the troops continued to fight until May 8, 1945.

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 Previous – Part 9: Suicide of Joseph Goebbels and His Wife

Next Part 11: The Breakout from the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 9: Suicide of Joseph Goebbels and His Wife


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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“For us, we have burnt our bridges. We cannot go back, but neither do we want to go back. We are forced to extremes and therefore resolved to proceed to extremes.”
– Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

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Adolf Hitler with  Goebbels'  first daughter, Helga (born September 1, 1932), in Heiligendamm in 1933.
Adolf Hitler with Goebbels’ first daughter, Helga (born September 1, 1932), in Heiligendamm in 1933.

On May 1, 1945, after Hitler committed suicide, Joseph Goebbels looked very depressed. He said:

It is a great pity that such a man is not with us any longer. But there is nothing to be done. For us everything is lost now and the only way left for us is the one which Hitler chose. I will follow his example.

Though Hitler in his political testament had appointed Joseph Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, the latter considered it as an empty title. He knew that Karl Dönitz whose sole concern was to negotiate with the western Allies to save Germany from Soviet occupation, would not want a notorious figure like him to be the head of his government.

Even though Hitler had signed the order to allow a breakout from the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker on April 29, 1945, Goebbels told Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss that he would not entertain the idea of either surrender to the Soviets or escape:

I was the Reich Minister of Propaganda and led the fiercest activity against the Soviet Union, for which they would never pardon me.”

Moreover, Goebbels could not escape because he was Berlin’s Defense Commissioner and he considered it would be disgraceful for him to abandon his post.

In the morning on May 1, 1945, Joseph Goebbels, in his official capacity as the new Chancellor, dictated a letter and ordered German General Hans Krebs, under a white flag, to deliver the letter to General Vasily Chuikov, commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanding the Soviet forces in central Berlin. In this letter, Goebbels informed Chuikov of Hitler’s death, and requested a ceasefire, hinting that the establishment of a National Socialist government hostile to Western plutocracy would be beneficial to the Soviet Union.When this request was rejected, Goebbels knew that further efforts were futile.

Shortly after, he dictated a postscript to Hitler’s testament:

The Führer has given orders for me, in case of a breakdown of defense of the Capital of the Reich, to leave Berlin and to participate as a leading member in a government appointed by him. For the first time in my life, I must categorically refuse to obey a command of the Führer. My wife and my children agree with this refusal. In any other case, I would feel myself… a dishonorable renegade and vile scoundrel for my entire further life, who would lose the esteem of himself along with the esteem of his people, both of which would have to form the requirement for further duty of my person in designing the future of the German Nation and the German Reich.

In the afternoon on May 1, 1945, before the start of the breakout from the Führerbunker, Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss and about 10 generals and officers, went individually to Goebbels’s shelter to say goodbye, and asked Goebbels to join them. But he replied:

The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it.”

Magda Goebbels bore six children to Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels between 1932 and 1940 – five daughters and one son. According to some writers the names of all the children began with ‘H’ as a tribute to Adolf Hitler, but there is no evidence to support this contention; rather, it supports that Magda’s ‘H’ naming was the idea of her first husband, Günther Quandt who named his other two children after his first wife beginning with ‘H’.

Magda and Joseph Goebbels hated each other, and were estranged for a long period since the husband blackmailed his wife emotionally. Their marriage was held together on Hitlers’s orders only.

The Goebbels sought the help of Helmut Kunz, an SS dentist, to kill their six children.

Magda Goebbels told her children that they needed an inoculation. According to Kunz’s testimony, he injected the children with morphine. Magda then put the children to bed. She then asked Kunz to help her give the children cyanide once they were asleep, but he refused. She then turned to one of Hitler’s doctors, Ludwig Stumpfegger. He helped her crush cyanide vials between the children’s teeth as they slept.

Around 8:15 pm, Goebbels and his wife left the Vorbunker and went up and out to the garden of the Reich Chancellery. They were followed by Goebbels’s adjutant, SS-Hauptsturmführer Günther Schwägermann. While Schwägermann was busy preparing the gasoline, Magda bit a vial of cyanide and, Goebbels shot her with a pistol, to make doubly sure that she died, before turning it on himself. Schwägermann ordered one of the soldiers to shoot Goebbels again because he was unable to do it himself.

The bodies of Joseph Goebbels and his wife were then burned in a shell crater, but owing to the lack of petrol, the burning was only partly effective. The remains were not buried.

The Goebbels family in 1942: (back row) Hildegard, Harald Quandt, Helga; (front row) Helmut, Hedwig, Magda,  Heidrun, Joseph and Holdine. (Source- Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-086-03-CC-BY-SA)
The Goebbels family in 1942: (back row) Hildegard, Harald Quandt, Helga; (front row) Helmut, Hedwig, Magda, Heidrun, Joseph and Holdine. (Source- Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-086-03-CC-BY-SA)

In the above manipulated vintage image, the visage of the uniformed Harald Quandt, stepson of Joseph Goebbels born to Magda Behrend Rietschel and Günther Quandt, was inserted and retouched. Actually Harald was away on military duties when the photo of the Goebbels family was taken. He was not present when his half-siblings were killed.  He was safe in Canada, incarcerated in a prisoner-of-war camp.

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 Previous –Part 8: Burning the Bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun

Next Part 10: Announcement of Hitler’s death to the outside world

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