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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 2: Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker


. Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj.

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Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

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.

Map of the Battle of Berlin, phase of 16-25 April 1945 based on Praca zbiorowa Boje Polskie 1939-1945 Przewodnik Encyklopedyczny, Bellona, Warszawa 2009

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 

Martin Bormann - Hitler's private secretary
Martin Bormann – Hitler’s private secretary

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.

Hitler With his Alsatian Dog, Blondi.
Hitler With his Alsatian Dog, Blondi.

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
Eva 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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Previous – Part 1: The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

Next → Part 3: Life in the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 1: The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker


. Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj.

.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

In 1986, the East German government made plans to build a massive apartment complex on the corner of Vossstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse in what was then East Berlin. For constructing the complex it was necessary to demolish concrete from a darker past. Under the construction site, located 28 feet (8.5 metres) deep in the ground, was the most notorious and imposing bunker complex used by Adolf Hitler and his murderous band of Nazis at the close of World War II.

In 1987, Robert Conrad, a German photographer, disguised as a construction worker took the risk to secretly photograph Adolf Hitler’s decaying Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker-Führerbunker complex. Conrad said:

Of course there was nothing in the newspapers about the Nazi bunkers. That was very much a taboo subject, as was everything about the Nazi period… Officially, they were just constructing a new residential neighborhood.”

Wilhelmstrasse in 1934, Reich Chancellery and Foreign Office on the left
Wilhelmstrasse in 1934, Reich Chancellery and Foreign Office on the left

Wilhelmstrasse (German: Wilhelmstraße) is a major thoroughfare in the central Mitte and Kreuzberg districts of Berlin, Germany. The street whose former name was Husarenstraße was renamed Wilhelmstraße in honor King Frederick William I, who died in 1740.

Wilhelmstraße was recognized as the centre of the government, first of the Kingdom of Prussia, later of the unified German Reich, housing in particular the Reich Chancellery and the Foreign Office.

King Frederick William I (August 14, 1688 –  May 31, 1740) of Prussia built the Palais Schulenburg, at Wilhelmstraße 77, for his esteemed Lieutenant General Count Adolph Friedrich von der Schulenburg. The building was completed in 1739.

Palais Schulenburg - Main building and courtyard formerly located on Wilhelmstraße.
Palais Schulenburg – Main building and courtyard formerly located on Wilhelmstraße.

In 1875, after many ownerships, the feuding Radziwill heirs sold Palais Schulenburg to the German Reich. It became the Reichskanzlerpalais (Chancellor’s palace). It was the Chancellery of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945 from the time of Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany, and subsequent German Chancellors, the last being Adolf Hitler.

The Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker

Adolf Hitler (center) with his architects Professor Leonhard Gall (left) and Albert Speer (right) (Source: Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H29050)
Adolf Hitler (center) with his architects Professor Leonhard Gall (left) and Albert Speer (right) (Source: Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H29050)

In 1933, Adolf Hitler decided to expand the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery), which he considered too small for his needs. On July 21, 1935, Professor Leonhard Gall, one of Adolf Hitler’s architects, submitted unique plans for a large reception hall to be built as an expansion of the old Chancellery, that could also be used as a ballroom.

The plan envisaged a bunker 5 feet (1.5 metres) beneath the cellar of the large reception hall behind the old Reich Chancellery at Wilhelmstraß. It had a 6.25 feet (1.6 metres) thick roof. The thick walls of the bunker were designed to support the weight of the large reception hall on top of it. The bunker had three doorways – to the north, west and south.

The construction was completed in 1936.

Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker as it was in April 1945 (Source: Dennis Nilsson)
Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker as it was in April 1945. (Source: Dennis Nilsson)

The bunker was meant to be a temporary air-raid shelter for Adolf Hitler, his guards, and servants. It was officially called the “Reich Chancellery Air-Raid Shelter” until 1943, with the construction to expand the complex with the addition of the Führerbunker, located one level below. From then on this bunker became known as the Vorbunker or forward bunker or upper bunker.

The New Reich Chancellery

Though Hitler lived in Reichskanzlerpalais he once commented that Bismarck’s Old Chancellery was “fit for a soap company” but not suitable as headquarters of a Greater German Reich. So, in January 1938, Hitler asked Albert Speer, his chief architect, to build a larger, grander, new Reich Chancellery on the same site as the existing structure. Hitler said he needed the new building built in a year, in time to host the foreign diplomats during his next New Year’s reception.

This huge undertaking was a tall order because the existing Chancellery was in full operation. After consultation with his assistants, Speer agreed to build it.

However, the site was cleared only in April, 1938. Speer employed thousands of workers in two shifts. He completed the task successfully in nine months.

New Reich Chancellery - The Eastern Administrative Building.
New Reich Chancellery – The Eastern Administrative Building.

Albert Speer presented the fully furnished New Reich Chancellery to Hitler two days earlier than the allotted last day.

Hitler, who had remained away from the project, was overwhelmed when he saw the large, impressive, structure that included a 480-feet (146 metres) long “Marble Gallery,” almost twice the length of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. In appreciation Hitler awarded Speer the Nazi Golden Party Badge. But in Winston Churchill’s words, it was the hub of “a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.”

The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

3D model of Führerbunker (left) and Vorbunker (right) by Christopher Neubauer
3D model of Führerbunker (left) and Vorbunker (right) by Christopher Neubauer

The most famous and arguably the most notorious and elaborate bunker complex in Germany consisted of two separate shelters, constructed in two phases. The Vorbunker completed in 1936, and the Führerbunker, to the west-southwest, completed in 1944. Since the bunkers were kept secret, information and details about them are rather scarce.

Increased bombing of Berlin led to the expansion of the Vorbunker as an improvised permanent air-raid shelter. The Führerbunker located 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) lower than the Vorbunker was built about 28 feet (8.5 metres) beneath the garden of the old Reich Chancellery, 390 feet (120 metres) north of the new Reich Chancellery building at Voßstraße 6.

The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker was the last of the Führer Headquarters used by Adolf Hitler.

Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker  as it was in April 1945. (Source: Dennis Nilsson)
Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker as it was in April 1945. (Source: Dennis Nilsson)

The above sketch of Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker is based on the photographs taken in 1988 by researcher Tom Posch of the remains of the bunkers and published in the book titled “The Berlin Führerbunker: The Thirteenth Hole, After the Battle, No.61“, Special Edition, Battle of Britain International Ltd, 1988.

The Vorbunker and the Führerbunker were connected by a stairway set at right angles and could be closed off from each other by a bulkhead and a steel door.

Besides being deeper underground, the Führerbunker had significantly more reinforcement than the Vorbunker. Its roof was made of concrete almost 10 feet (3 metres) thick. About 30 small rooms were protected by approximately 13 feet (4 metres) of concrete; exits led into the main buildings, as well as an emergency exit up to the garden.

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Next → Part 2: Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

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