In 1943 Hitler's health deteriorated rapidly. He was constantly ill with stomach pains, headaches, nausea, shivering fits and diarrhoea and was now completely dependent on the treatment of Dr Theodor Morell. Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, reported that he was very dependent on Morell: "He (Hitler) was taking any amount of medication. Either before or after meals Linge had to give him at least five different pills. One was to stimulate the appetite, another to aid digestion, a third to prevent flatulence, and so on. In addition Professor Morell, grunting and groaning, turned up in person every day to administer his usual miracle-working injections. The doctor had been suffering from particularly bad heart trouble recently. Once again he tried to lose weight by going on a diet, but his voracious appetite made it very difficult. When he came for tea in the evening it was usually only a few minutes before we heard his quiet snoring, which didn't stop until Hitler went to bed. Then Morell would assure us he had enjoyed the evening very much, but he was extremely tired. Hitler was never angry with him, but as solicitous as if he were a child. There was much gratitude and something like pity in his eves when he spoke of Morell." Hitler told Junge: "But for Morell I might have died long ago, or at least have been unable to work. He was and still is the only person who can help me."
Hitler was constantly tired. He rarely got out of bed before 11.00 a.m. At noon he was informed of the latest military developments. After quickly considering the news Hitler issued his orders to the relevant military personnel. After Germany's defeat at Stalingrad, Hitler was unwilling to discuss the war outside these conferences and refused to read reports that gave bad news. His secretaries, for example, were ordered not to mention the war in Hitler's presence.
In her autobiography, He Was My Chief: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's Secretary (1985) Christa Schroeder recalls how in 1943 Henriette von Schirach, the wife of Baldur von Schirach, complained about the treatment of the Jews: Hitler replied: "Be silent, Frau von Schirach, you understand nothing about it. You are sentimental. What does it matter to you what happens to female Jews? Every day tens of thousands of my most valuable men fall while the inferior survive. In that way the balance in Europe is being undermined... I am committed by duty to my people alone, to nobody else!" Schroeder commented that on another occasion Hitler said: "I am totally indifferent to what the future will think of the methods which I have to use." Dr Karl Brandt has s uggested that Schroeder was one of the few people close to Hitler who raised questions about Hitler's behaviour: "Clever, critical and intelligent, she had a turnover of work which no other secretary matched, often spending several days and nights almost without a break taking dictation. She would always express her opinion openly... and in time became sharply critical of Hitler himself. Her boldness undoubtedly put her life in grave danger."
Whereas Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt made use of radio broadcasts to raise the morale of their people. Hitler remained virtually silent. After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Hitler only made two public speeches and five radio broadcasts. Nor did he make visits to bombed areas of Germany. Hitler also avoided contact with injured German soldiers and rarely visited the front.
By 1943, it became clear to many senior German officers that to continue fighting a war on two fronts was bound to end in failure. It was proposed that Germany should negotiate a peace with Britain and the United States, which would then allow them to concentrate their efforts on defeating the Soviet Union. Hitler rejected this idea. He knew that the allies would insist on his removal before agreeing to a deal with Germany. Some senior officers decided that the only solution was to assassinate Hitler. In 1943 seven assassination attempts were planned but none of them was successfully carried out.
At the end of 1943 the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) and the Gestapo managed to arrest several Germans involved in plotting to overthrow Hitler. This included Dietrich Bonhoffer, Klaus Bonhoffer, Josef Muller and Hans Dohnanyi. Others under suspicion like Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster were dismissed from office in January, 1944.
Gretl Braun, the younger sister of Eva Braun, joined Hitler's inner-circle. Hitler tried to find Gretl a wife. His first choice was Heinz Hoffmann, the son of Heinrich Hoffmann, his personal photographer. Gretl did not find Heinz attractive and instead began a relationship with an American diplomat. When this came to an end she turned her attentions to Hitler's adjutant, Fritz Darges. Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, has pointed out in To The Last Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary (2002): "Gretl Braun was in love with Fritz Darges too, but a love affair with her was a little too dangerous and not private enough for young Fritz, so he hadn't been able to make up his mind."
Hitler also tried to persuade Walter Hewell, a member of his intimate circle, to marry Gretl. Hewell was responsible for liaison between Joachim von Ribbentrop, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hitler. Junge has argued: "For a while those around him (Hitler) thought he wanted Hewel to marry Eva's sister Gretl Braun. But Hewel himself didn't fancy the idea." According to Nerin E. Gun, the author of Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress (1969): "Hitler promised Hewell that after marrying Gretl he would appoint him ambassador in Rome. Hitler was so angry when Hewell married someone else he banished him from his presence. However, he eventually forgave him and he returned to his inner circle."
Gretl Braun then became involved with Hermann Fegelein, who was SS liaison officer to Hitler. Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, later commented that Fegelein was very popular with the women at headquarters. "Hermann Fegelein was the daring cavalryman type. He had a very large nose, and wore the Knight's Cross with oak leaves and swords. No wonder he was used to women flocking around him. In addition he had a refreshing, sometimes very dry wit, and never minced his words. You felt he was a naturally frank and honest person. That helped him to forge a remarkable career quickly and unexpectedly. No sooner had he appeared than he was sitting with us at table in the Berghof. He went to Bormann's nocturnal parties, drank to the health of all the important men there, and all the women were at his feet. Those who were not his friends were his enemies until he was firmly in the saddle. He was clever but ruthless, and had some very attractive qualities, such as the honesty with which he admitted that at heart he was a terrible coward, and had won his decorations doing heroic deeds out of pure fear. He also frankly admitted that nothing was as important to him as his career and a good life."
Christa Schroeder was another of Hitler's secretaries who found Hermann Fegelein attractive and admitted that "he was a recognised heroic figure for women". According to Schroeder, so did Eva Braun. She told a mutual friend, Marion Schonmann: "A few years ago the boss (Hitler) said that if I fell in love one day with another man, then I should let him know and he would release me.... If I had known Fegelein ten years ago I would have asked the boss to let me go!" Eventually Fegelein married Gretl. Schroeder claims that the marriage on 3rd June 1944, was arranged by Eva: "Greta Braun was, as one would say today, sexy, and Fegelein might have been thinking of the advantages of one day being Hitler's brother-in-law. Thus the marriage took place and was celebrated as a great occasion on the Obersalzberg and in the tea-house on the Kehlstein."
Traudl Junge complained that even after marriage Fegelein continued to try to seduce the secretaries. According to Christa Schroeder, he had a very close relationship with Eva Braun. "Hermann Fegelein was frequently amongst those who danced with Eva Braun. Today I can recall clearly the unforgettable scene. After a dance Fegelein would lift Eva chest high. At eye level they would gaze at each other full of tenderness and loving: Eva was obviously strongly attracted to Fegelein. I am convinced that her feelings for him went well beyond those feelings for a brother-in-law, but I do not believe anything went on between them."
Albert Speer called him "one of the most disgusting people in Hitler's circle." He was also disliked by Heinz Linge: "With charm and presents he inveigled himself into everybody's good books and gave the impression of having a particular standing with Hitler which was not the case, for Hitler... treated him formally and kept him emphatically at arm's length.... Fegelein... who came to regard his duties as a paid pastime and too often let it be known that he thought himself too good for the job."
In the summer of 1944 another group of conspirators began to make plans to remove Hitler from power. This included Henning von Tresckow, Friedrich Olbricht, Werner von Haeften, Fabian Schlabrendorff, Claus von Stauffenberg, Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Peter von Wartenburg, Friedrich Olbricht, Fabian Schlabrendorff, Ludwig Beck and Erwin von Witzleben. After the assassination of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler it was planned for troops in Berlin to seize key government buildings, telephone and signal centres and radio stations.
Stauffenberg soon emerged as leader of this group. Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) has pointed out: "With the help of men on whom he could rely at the Führer's headquarters, in Berlin and in the German Army in the west, Stauffenberg hoped to push the reluctant Army leaders into action once Hitler had been killed. To make sure that this essential preliminary should not be lacking, Stauffenberg allotted the task of assassination to himself despite the handicap of his injuries. Stauffenberg's energy had put new life into the conspiracy, but the leading role he was playing also roused jealousies." Stauffenberg was highly critical of the conservatives led by Carl Goerdeler and was much closer to the socialist wing of the conspiracy around Julius Leber.
General Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler's chief adjutant, met Stauffenberg and arranged for him to become chief of staff to General Erich Fromm. According to Albert Speer, "Schmundt explained to me, Stauffenberg was considered one of the most dynamic and competent officers in the German army. Hitler himself would occasionally urge me to work closely and confidentially with Stauffenberg. In spite of his war injuries (he had lost an eye, his right hand, and two fingers of his left hand), Stauffenberg had preserved a youthful charm; he was curiously poetic and at the same time precise, thus showing the marks of the two major and seemingly incompatible educational influences upon him: the circle around the poet Stefan George and the General Staff. He and I would have hit it off even without Schmundt's recommendation."
Stauffenberg was now in a position where he would have regular meetings with Adolf Hitler. Fellow conspirator, Henning von Tresckow sent a message to Stauffenberg: "The assassination must be attempted, at any cost. Even should that fail, the attempt to seize power in the capital must be undertaken. We must prove to the world and to future generations that the men of the German Resistance movement dared to take the decisive step and to hazard their lives upon it. Compared with this, nothing else matters."
On 20th July, 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg attended a conference attended by Hitler on 20th July, 1944. It was decided to drop plans to kill Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler at the same time as Hitler. Alan Bullock later explained: "He (Stauffenberg) brought his papers with him in a brief-case in which he had concealed the bomb fitted with a device for exploding it ten minutes after the mechanism had been started. The conference was already proceeding with a report on the East Front when Keitel took Stauffenberg in and presented him to Hitler. Twenty-four men were grouped round a large, heavy oak table on which were spread out a number of maps. Neither Himmler nor Goring was present. The Fuhrer himself was standing towards the middle of one of the long sides of the table, constantly leaning over the table to look at the maps, with Keitel and Jodl on his left. Stauffenberg took up a place near Hitler on his right, next to a Colonel Brandt. He placed his brief-case under the table, having started the fuse before he came in, and then left the room unobtrusively on the excuse of a telephone call to Berlin. He had been gone only a minute or two when, at 12.42 p.m., a loud explosion shattered the room, blowing out the walls and the roof, and setting fire to the debris which crashed down on those inside."
Joachim Fest, the author of Plotting Hitler's Death (1997) has pointed out: "Suddenly, as witnesses later recounted, a deafening crack shattered the midday quiet, and a bluish-yellow flame rocketed skyward... A dark plume of smoke rose and hung in the air over the wreckage of the briefing barracks. Shards of glass, wood, and fiberboard swirled about, and scorched pieces of paper and insulation rained down... When the bomb exploded, twenty-four people were in the conference room. All were hurled to the ground, some with their hair in flames." The bomb killed four men in the hut: General Rudolf Schmundt, General Günther Korten, Colonel Heinz Brandt and stenographer Heinz Berger. Hitler's right arm was badly injured but he survived what became known as the July Plot.
That night Hitler talked to the nation on radio: "I speak to you today in order that you should hear my voice and should know that I am unhurt and well, and secondly that you should know of a crime unparalleled in German history. a very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible, and at the same time senseless and stupid officers had formed a plot to eliminate me and the High Command of the Armed Forces." Hitler told Joachim von Ribbentrop: "I will crush and destroy the criminals who have dared to oppose themselves to Providence and to me. These traitors to their own people deserve ignominious death, and this is what they shall have. This time the full price will be paid by all those who are involved, and by their families, and by all those who have helped them. This nest of vipers who have tried to sabotage the grandeur of my Germany will be exterminated once and for all."
Traudl Junge, the author of To The Last Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary (2002), has commented: "Although he felt uninjured, Hitler did summon an ear specialist from Berlin, because his hearing was giving him trouble and was suffering from headaches. Dr. Giesing found out that one eardrum was burst and the other damaged." Dr. Erwin Giesing later recalled that Hitler was not of a "powerful and feared man" with "fascinating" or even "hypnotic" personality. "The impression he made on me was of a prematurely old, almost depleted and exhausted man trying to keep going on the vestiges of his strength. I was not impressed very much by his allegedly penetrating eyes or his predicted masterful or even tyrannical personality which I had expected from the press, radio, personal accounts and the reports of others."
Dr. Erwin Giesing gave Hitler a full examination: "Hitler pushed back the bed covers and drew up his night shirt so that I could examine his body. He was generally somewhat emaciated and I detected a distinct meteorism (build up of intestinal gases).... The peritoneal reflexes when tested with a needle seemed very responsive. I then requested Hitler to submit to a neurological control examination to which he agreed. I covered the abdomen with a night shirt and pulled away the bed clothing. I found no abnormalities of the genitals.... The pallid skin was fairly dry with no sweat in the armpits. The triceps and arm reflexes were very responsive either side, the spastic reflexes of the upper extremities negative." Hitler told Giesing: "I hope that everything will be well again quite soon. Even the intestinal cramps are easing off... I have been able to eat next to nothing over the last three days so that the intestine is practically empty ... and has had a good rest.... Please have a look in my nose and put in the cocaine stuff."
After the July Plot most of those involved in plot to kill Hitler, including Wilhelm Canaris, Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Peter von Wartenburg, Henning von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Erich Fromm were either executed or committed suicide. It is estimated that around 4,980 Germans were executed. Hitler decided that the leaders should have a slow death. They were hung with piano wire from meat-hooks. Their executions were filmed and later shown to senior members of both the NSDAP and the armed forces.
An eyewitness later reported: "Imagine a room with a low ceiling and whitewashed walls. Below the ceiling a rail was fixed. From it hung six big hooks, like those butchers use to hang their meat. In one corner stood a movie camera. Reflectors cast a dazzling, blinding light. At the wall there was a small table with a bottle of cognac and glasses for the witnesses of the execution. The hangman wore a permanent leer, and made jokes unceasingly. The camera worked uninterruptedly, for Hitler wanted to see and hear how his enemies died."
One of the conspirators, before he died in agony on a meat hook, blurted out the name of General Erwin Rommel to his tormentors. Rommel was so popular that Hitler was unwilling to have him executed for treason. Hitler sent two officers to Rommel's home at Herrlingen on 14th October, 1944. His son, Manfred Rommel later recalled that his father told him: "I have just had to tell your mother that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour. Hitler is charging me with high treason. In view of my services in Africa I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. Its fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family. I'd be given a state funeral. It's all been prepared to the last detail. In a quarter of an hour you will receive a call from the hospital in Ulm to say that I've had a brain seizure on the way to a conference." Rommel committed suicide and was buried with full military honours.
Christa Schroeder argues that Hitler's health deteriorated during the war. "The knowledge from 1944 onwards that he was no longer master of his own body was a heavy burden. When surprised visitors saw his trembling hand, he would cover it instinctively with the other. Yet to the end he remained master of his emotions. Should bad news arrive during a private conversation the only clue would be a movement of his jaw. I remember him receiving the report about the destruction of the Möhne and Eder dams, which flooded much of the Ruhr. As he read it his face turned to stone, but that was all. Nobody could have gauged how deeply the blow had struck him. It would be hours or days before he would refer to such an event, and then give full vent to his feelings."
Dr. Erwin Giesing was able to watch Hitler at close-quarters: "He was a much too powerful political figure and too firmly convinced of the absolute rightness of his opinions, and he would never have tolerated anybody almost equally clever or gifted near him. He had this simple belief that he understood most things better, and could do most things better, than other people. I watched how he controlled himself - and concentrated during our conversations when... differences of opinion occurred. Whoever... had the misfortune to bring bad news fell... into a certain discredit disadvantageous for his position and future.... Hitler was convinced almost exclusively by statistics and he loved to have things advocated to him in percentages or by other figure work. From this there arose a way of falsely accounting for all manner of things which he could never verity himself or had not requested."
When the Allied forces landed in Normandy in June, 1944, Sepp Diettrich commanded three divisions of the 1st SS Panzer Corps. Louis L. Snyder has pointed out: "In December 1944, Hitler, still suspicious of most members of the High Command, gave Dietrich command of the Sixth Panzer Army in the belief that he could trust his own Waffen-SS troops. In a desperate gamble the Fueher committed his last reserves through the Ardennes to cut off the northern wing of the Allies from their supply base and wreck preparations for the coming Allied spring offensive. When Dietrich's army stalled, Hitler's offensive collapsed."
Henry Picker has claimed that Hitler planned to "dictate his memoirs to his two senior female secretaries" Johanna Wolf and Christa Schroeder. Another secretary, Traudl Junge, commented: "The worse the situation got at the fronts, in the small circle at the evening table talks the happier the Führer would be to talk about his plans for after the war. He talked about the painting gallery and reshaping the city of Linz, to where he was planning his retirement, and mentioned in this context repeatedly that he would then surround himself only with civilians, artists and academics, and never again with uniforms, so that he could then finally dictate his memoirs. His two long-serving secretaries Wolf and Schroeder would help him in this, the younger girls would probably marry and leave him. As he would then be older and slower, the women would be able to keep up with his tempo."
Hitler's valet, Heinz Linge, pointed out in With Hitler to the End (1980) that Dr. Erwin Giesing attempted to persuade him to eat meat: "Once, in the autumn of 1944 it looked for a while that Hitler might be thinking of abandoning vegetarianism under the influence of the ENT specialist Dr Erwin Giesing. The physician... confronted Hitler with arguments which gave him cause to reflect. He told Hitler that human dentition, the stomach intestines and the digestive juices were constructed to be a cross between the pure herbivorous and pure carnivorous, which meant that by nature the human could in no way be considered vegetarian. Hitler, whose inclination was always to follow Nature, listened attentively... This apparently seemed very plausible to Hitler, and he asked Giesing to provide him with the technical literature as soon as possible so that he could consider the question in depth. I am fairly sure that if Giesing had stayed longer with Hitler, or had come to him earlier, he would have convinced him to abandon some of his more unsound habits if he wanted to remain in control of his faculties over the longer term."
Heinrich Himmler warned Hitler that he was in danger of being poisoned by his doctors. Himmler persuaded Hitler to dismiss Erwin Giesing, Karl Brandt and Hanskarl von Hasselbach at the beginning of October 1944. They were replaced on Himmler's recommendation by SS physician Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger. Linge pointed out: "Hitler would accept medication only from my hand. His distrust was getting excessive. From the beginning of October he could hear the content of whispered conversations at five to six steps distance, but that did nothing to alleviate his suspicions, which made everyone's life hell. If I had not had strong nerves it might have been difficult to cope with it."
At the beginning of 1945 the Soviet troops entered Nazi Germany. On 16th January, Hitler moved into the Führerbunker in Berlin. He was joined by Eva Braun, Gretl Braun, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, Hermann Fegelein, Rochus Misch, Martin Bormann, Arthur Bormann, Walter Hewell, Julius Schaub, Erich Kempka, Heinz Linge, Julius Schreck, Ernst-Gunther Schenck, Otto Günsche, Traudl Junge, Christa Schroeder and Johanna Wolf.
Hitler was now nearly fifty-five years old but looked much older. His hair had gone grey, his body was stooped, and he had difficulty in walking. His voice had become feeble and his eyesight was so poor that that he needed special lenses even to read documents from his "Führer typewriter". Hitler also developed a tremor in his left arm and leg. He had originally suffered from this during the First World War and also after the failure of the Munich Putsch in 1923. It was a nervous disorder that reappeared whenever Hitler felt he was in danger.
People who had not seen him for a few months were shocked by his appearance. One man remarked: "It was a ghastly physical image he presented. The upper part of his body was bowed and he dragged his feet as he made his way slowly and laboriously through the bunker from his living room... If anyone happened to stop him during this short walk (some fifty or sixty yards), he was forced either to sit down on one of the seats placed along the walls for the purpose, or to catch hold of the person he was speaking to... Often saliva would dribble from the comers of his mouth... presenting a hideous and pitiful spectacle."
Hitler talked of the possibility that Britain and the United States would go to war with the Soviet Union and that Germany would be saved. He told one of his generals that "throughout history coalitions have always gone to pieces sooner or later." Hitler was right that the Soviet Union and the United States would eventually be in conflict, but unfortunately for him this did not happen until after the war had ended.
James P. O'Donnell, the author of The Berlin Bunker (1979) has argued that Martin Bormann and Otto Günsche were the two most important men in Hitler's life in the Führerbunker: "Bormann - stocky, bullish, drinking heavily when off duty - was now literally at the Führer's elbow, wheeling and dealing madly in what was left of the Nazi power game. But in terms of physical proximity, although not of power or influence, there was, however, one man who was often even closer to Hitler. This was Major Otto Günsche, the tall rugged soldier of twenty-seven, who was the Führer's, senior SS adjutant, a kind of Man Friday in the Bunker".
Bormann's loyalty was nor mirrored by all the Nazi leaders. Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering both considered the possibility of overthrowing Hitler. One plan involved Himmler arresting Hitler and announcing to the German people that Hitler had retired due to ill-health. Their main concern was to do a deal with Britain and the United States that would prevent the Soviet Union occupying Germany. The German leaders were not only concerned about the imposition of communism, but also feared what Soviet soldiers anxious to gain revenge for the war crimes committed against their people by the SS might do. (Of the five million Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans an estimated three million were murdered or allowed to die of starvation.)
The situation became so desperate that on 22nd April, Hitler sent Christa Schroeder, Johanna Wolf, Arthur Bormann, Dr. Theodor Morell, Admiral Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer and Dr. Hugo Blaschke, away. Schroeder later recalled: "He received us in his room looking tired, pale and listless. "Over the last four days the situation has changed to such an extent that I find myself forced to disperse my staff. As you are the longest serving, you will go first. In an hour a car leaves for Munich."
General Walter Schellenberg suggested to Himmler at the beginning of 1945 that he should open negotiations with the Western Powers. Himmler was at first reluctant to go against Adolf Hitler but when the Swedish internationalist Count Folke Bernadotte, arrived in Berlin in February to discuss the release of Norwegian and Danish prisoners on behalf of the Swedish Red Cross, he agreed to a meeting. However, Himmler could not make up his mind to speak out. He did agree to accompany Schellenberg to another meeting with Bernadotte in Lübeck on 23rd April, 1945.
Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka, claimed that on 27th April 1945 Hermann Fegelein contacted him with a strange request: "Hermann Fegelein, phoned me to ask if I would put at his disposal two vehicles for a reconnaissance. Moreover he would be grateful if I would do him a personal favour. He wanted me to take care of a briefcase with important files belonging to the Reichsfuhrer-SS and himself. He would hand it to me personally towards ten that evening in the Fuhrer-bunker. It was essential to keep it safe and in the event that the enemy entered the bunker, the briefcase was to be hidden where it could never be found, or should be destroyed. Under no circumstances must it fall into enemy hands. As I had been on familiar terms with Fegelein for years and he enjoyed Hitler's fullest confidence as Eva Braun's brother-in-law, I had no hesitation in agreeing to his request. I had really no idea at that moment that my willingness to be of assistance to him was putting my own life in danger. A short while afterwards Fegelein left the Reich Chancellery with two vehicles I had had repaired. They were the last survivors to remain serviceable from my once great vehicle fleet. To my great surprise the two automobiles were returned thirty minutes later, although without Fegelein. The drivers told me that he had got out in the Kurfurstendamm district to proceed on foot."
When it was discovered that Hermann Fegelein had gone missing the Gestapo was sent out to find him. Heinz Linge recalled that "Fegelein's adjutant reported back to the bunker, he stated that Fegelein had gone to his private flat and dressed in civilian clothing. The adjutant had been ordered to do the same." He told Hitler that the purpose of this being "to allow the Russians to roll over us and then we will make our way through to Himmler". Hitler came to the conclusion that Fegelein was involved in some sort conspiracy against him.
On 27th April 1945, Fegelein was arrested with his mistress in his apartment. SS-Obersturmbannführer Peter Högl discovered him with a great deal of money and discovered that he was just about to leave the country. Högl also found a briefcase containing documents with evidence of an attempted peace negotiation with the Allies. The following day the negotiations that were taking place between Himmler and Count Folke Bernadotte were leaked to the press. Hanna Reitsch was with Hitler when he heard the news: "His colour rose to a heated red and his face was unrecognizable... After the lengthy outburst, Hitler sank into a stupor, and for a time the entire bunker was silent."
According to Heinz Linge: "Fegelein was returned under armed guard he made a poor impression: wearing gloves, a leather coat and a sporty hat he looked like a Kurfurstendamm dandy. On Hitler's order he was arraigned immediately before a court-martial and sentenced to death for treason. Eva Braun, though clearly fighting an internal struggle, would not enter a plea for mercy for her brother-in-law even though Hitler indicated that he would commute the sentence on the highly decorated SS-0bergruppenfuhrer to 'atonement at the front'. Towards midnight an SS squad awaited Fegelein in the Reich Chancellery Ehrenhof. He remained impassive as the sentence of the court martial was read out."
Traudl Junge has argued that Eva Braun had asked Hitler to spare Hermann Fegelein as his wife and her sister, Gretl Braun, was heavily pregnant: "I don't know just where I was when the news reached Hitler. He may have ranted and raged one last time, but when I saw him again he was as calm as before. Only Eva Braun's eyes were red with weeping, because her brother-in-law was condemned to death.... She had tried to explain to Hitler that it was only human nature for Fegelein to think of his wife and their child, and try to help them get through to a new life. But Hitler was implacable. All he saw was deceit and treachery." Hermann Fegelein was executed on 28th April 1945.
Heinrich Himmler told Count Folke Bernadotte that Hitler intended to commit suicide in the next few days: "In the situation that has now arisen I consider my hands free. I admit that Germany is defeated. In order to save as great a part of Germany as possible from a Russian invasion I am willing to capitulate on the Western Front in order to enable the Western Allies to advance rapidly towards the east. But I am not prepared to capitulate on the Eastern Front." Bernadotte passed this message to onto Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman but they rejected the idea, insisting on unconditional surrender. On 28th April the negotiations were leaked to the press. Hanna Reitsch was with Hitler when he heard the news: "His colour rose to a heated red and his face was unrecognizable... After the lengthy outburst, Hitler sank into a stupor, and for a time the entire bunker was silent." Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest. In an attempt to escape Himmler now took the name and documents of a dead village policeman.
When the Soviet troops first entered Berlin it was suggested that Hitler should try to escape. Hitler rejected the idea as he feared the possibility of being captured. He had heard stories of how the Soviet troops planned to parade him through the streets of Germany in a cage. To prevent this humiliation Hitler decided to commit suicide. By the end of April soldiers of the Red Army were only 300 yards away from Hitler's underground bunker. Although defeat was inevitable, Hitler insisted his troops fight to the death. Instructions were constantly being sent out giving orders for the execution of any military commanders who retreated. Hitler made a will leaving all his property to the Nazi Party.
On 28th April 1945 Hitler married Eva Braun. Hitler tested out a cyanide pill on his pet Alsatian dog, Blondi. Braun agreed to commit suicide with him. She could have become rich by writing her memoirs but she preferred not to live without Hitler. Braun told Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge. "Please do try to get out. You may yet make your way through. And give Bavaria my love." Junge commented that she said this "smiling but with a sob in her voice."
Heinz Linge recalled: "After the meal Eva Hitler came to me to take her leave. Pale, having remained awake all night but careful to maintain her composure, she thanked me for 'everything you have done for the Führer'. With a sad look she begged me at the finish: 'Should you meet my sister Gretl, do not tell her how her husband, Hermann Fegelein, met his death.' I never saw Gretl Fegelein again." Linge also reported that Joseph Goebbels tried to persuade Hitler not to commit suicide. Hitler told Goebbels: "Doctor, you know my decision. There is no change! You can of course leave Berlin with your family." Goebbels replied that he would stay in Berlin and die with Hitler.
Hitler then asked to see Linge: "He stood stooped, the hank of hair, as always, across the pale forehead. He had become grey. He looked at me with tired eyes and said he would now retire. It was 1515 hours. I asked for his orders for the last time. Outwardly calm and in a quiet voice, as if he were sending me into the garden to fetch something, he said: 'Linge, I am going to shoot myself now. You know what you have to do. I have given the order for the break-out. Attach yourself to one of the groups and try to get through to the west.' To my question what we should fight for now, he answered: 'For the Coming Man'. I saluted. Hitler took two or three tired steps towards me and offered his hand. Then for the last time in his life he raised his right arm in the Hitler salute. A ghostly scene. I turned on my heel, closed the door and went to the bunker exit where the SS bodyguard was sitting around."
Traudl Junge later recalled how, on 30th April, 1945, Hitler locked himself in his room with Eva Braun: "Suddenly... there is the sound of a shot, so loud, so close, that we all fall silent. It echoes on through all the rooms." Hitler's bodyguard, Rochus Misch commented: “Everyone was waiting for the shot. We were expecting it.... Then came the shot. Heinz Linge took me to one side and we went in. I saw Hitler slumped by the table. I didn’t see any blood on his head. And I saw Eva with her knees drawn up lying next to him on the sofa – wearing a white and blue blouse, with a little collar: just a little thing.” Albert Speer commented: "Eva's love for him, her loyalty, were absolute - as she proved unmistakably at the end."
Heinz Linge and Otto Günsche were in charge of cremating Hitler and Braun. Günsche asked Erich Kempka by telephone: "I must have 200 litres of petrol immediately!" Kempka later recalled in I Was Hitler's Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka (1951): "At first I thought this was a bad joke and told him it was out of the question." Günsche insisted: "See how much you can collect from the fuel tanks of your damaged vehicles, and send your men at once to the exit to the Führer-bunker. And then come yourself immediately!"
When he arrived with the petrol he was surprised by what he saw: "At the moment I entered the Fuhrer-bunker, Günsche was leaving Hitler's sitting room, and we met in the lobby to the situation conference room. His features had changed visibly. As white as chalk and distraught, he stared at me.... For God's sake, Otto, what is it? You must be mad, asking me to endanger the lives of a half dozen of my men to bring you petrol under this kind of artillery bombardment!" Günsche replied: "The chief is dead."
Linge explained in With Hitler to the End (1980): "I reached below Hitler's head, two officers from his SS bodyguard lifted the body, wrapped in a grey blanket, and we carried him out. Immediately in front of the bunker door, in the Reich Chancellery garden, his body was laid next to Eva's in a small depression where gasoline was poured over the cadavers and an attempt was made to set light to them. At first this proved impossible. As a result of the various fires in the parkland there was a fierce wind circulating which smothered our attempts to set the bodies alight from a few metres' distance. Because of the relentless Russian artillery fire we could not approach the bodies and ignite the petrol with a match. I returned to the bunker and made a thick spill from some signal papers. Bormann lit it and I threw it onto Hitler's petrol-soaked body which caught fire immediately. Standing at the bunker entrance we, the last witnesses - Bormann, Goebbels, Stumpfegger, Gunsche, Kempka and I - raised our hands for a last Hitler salute. Then we withdrew into the bunker." Traudl Junge reported that she saw Günsche soon after he carried out the deed: "Then the tall, broad figure of Otto Günsche comes up the stairs, and with him a strong smell of petrol. His face is ashen, his young, fresh features look gaunt. He drops heavily to sit beside me, reaches for the bottle too, and his large, heavy hand is shaking." Günsche tells Junge: "I've carried out the Führer's last order ... his body is burned."
Lothar Machtan, the author of The Hidden Hitler (2001), has pointed out that Julius Schaub stayed with Hitler until he committed suicide: "The finest proof that he really could count on their loyalty was supplied at the end of April 1945, once again by Julius Schaub, who left the flaming ruins of Berlin at the last possible moment and set off for Bavaria, where he emptied the safes in Hitler's Munich apartment and on the Obersalzberg and burned their contents. What these documents were, Schaub doggedly refused to divulge until the day he died. All he once volunteered, in a mysterious tone of voice, was that their disclosure would have had 'disastrous repercussions.' Probably on himself, but most of all, beyond doubt, on Hitler."
According to James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979): "All the data concerning the sources of the Nazis' Party income was assembled in Schwarz's office. Every pfennig was booked as to its origin with meticulous care. Treasurer Schwarz's accounts have never been found. This is one of the greatest mysteries surrounding the last days of the Nazi regime. Hitler trusted Schwarz completely and consequently told him the source of even 'anonymous' contributions, so the name of the donor could be recorded and he could be approached again in the future. Which industrialists contributed to Hitler before 1933? Precisely how much did they give? These questions would undoubtedly have been answered in detail by the books of the Party treasurer, just as the Party membership records which were also kept in the Brown House revealed every individual who belonged to the Party."
Louis L. Snyder has written: "Hitler rose from peasant origin to become dictator of Germany and conqueror of most of Europe. Taking advantage of the wave of European fascism after World War !, he constructed a German regime unparralled as an instrument of tyranny. He won startling success in identifying his own morbid emotions in temporary advantage for a rearmed Germany, the ruin of much of the European structure, and the extermination of some 6 million Jews. He was eventually smashed down by a global alliance, but not before he had brought Western civilization to the brink of destruction."
Hitler's dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. His was the first dictatorship in the present period of technical development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical means for the domination of its own country. Through technical means like the radio and the loud-speaker, eighty million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man.
Hitler declared that he had decided to stay in Berlin, lead its defence and then at the last moment shoot himself. For physical reasons he was unable to take part in the fighting personally, nor did he wish to, for he could not run the risk of falling into enemy hands. We all attempted to bring him over from this decision and even offered to move troops from the west to fight in the east. His answer was that everything was falling to pieces anyway, and that he could do no more: that should be left to the Reichsmarshal (Goring). When someone remarked that no soldier would fight for the Reichsmarshal, Hitler retorted: `What do you mean, fight ? There's precious little more fighting to be done and, if it comes to negotiating, the Reichsmarshal can do better than I can.' The latest development of the situation had made the deepest impression on him, he spoke all the time of treachery and failure, of corruption in the leadership and in the ranks. Even the S.S. now told him lies.
For almost two years, until the arrival of Theodor Morell, Hitler's personal physician and a former ship's doctor, Brandt remained the unchallenged authority and first point of call in all questions relating to Hitler's health and well-being and that of his staff. In practical terms this had little meaning, because there was hardly anything to do in the early years of Brandt's assignment, except that Hitler became increasingly concerned with his own mortality. Hitler must have felt a sense of exhaustion after those frantic years in opposition, and the need to press on if he wanted to achieve his monumental goals. Despite an unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise, his health remained relatively good, except for the stomach spasms which plagued him for years. In December 1934, Hitler poisoned himself with neo-Ballistol, a kind of oil hunters use to clean their rifle barrels. A medical variant of this oil existed, and Hitler must have been under the impression that it would help him to overcome his constant gastrointestinal troubles. His symptoms were headaches, double vision, dizziness and tinnitus. The SS physician, Ernst Robert Grawitz, who later became the President of the German Red Cross, diagnosed neo-Ballistol poisoning. In total secrecy, Hitler was rushed to the Westend Sanatorium, where he was X-rayed and his stomach was emptied. 133 It was one of the few instances where Hitler readily complied with his doctor's advice.
Hitler generally exhibited an extraordinary shyness when it came to undressing in front of physicians. To be examined by Brandt or any other of his doctors became a major undertaking; he, the man in charge of Germany's future, could hardly bear the idea of being the object of a medical examination. Whenever Hitler fell ill, Brandt and his colleagues needed all available diplomatic skills to rescue a situation which could easily develop into a national crisis. By 1942, the health of Hitler had reached such a level of strategic importance that every person who came into direct contact with the Fuhrer, or was working in his immediate vicinity, needed to prove themselves absolutely free of illnesses or disease-causing agents.
Hanni Morell, the wife of Theodor Morell, compared his eccentricities in all matters concerned with his body with those of an old virginal spinster. To conduct a thorough medical examination was almost impossible; X-ray pictures were out of the question. Morell had enormous difficulties in fulfilling his medical duties. Comprehensive neurological or internal examinations were never carried out. Hitler's lungs and abdomen were never examined. Until the last days of the Reich, Morell tried persistently, but unsuccessfully, to persuade Hitler to have a full X-ray of his body. Whenever Hitler was in pain, Morell would arrive with his doctor's bag in Hitler's sleeping quarters, the only place where examinations were permitted, and felt or touched the area of Hitler's body where it hurt. Further chemical and radiological tests could only be carried out after persistent persuasion. To a limited extent the measuring of blood pressure, pulse, heartbeat and temperature were possible, as were standard reflex tests. Yet Hitler disliked finding himself in a potentially compromising position, for example when he needed to vomit. The administration of drugs by injection (because parts of his body had to be exposed) needed great diplomatic skill. Even being measured by a tailor produced major problems because Hitler hated to be touched. All such eccentricities suddenly had no meaning when parts of his head or face were injured, especially those organs such as his voice or eyes which Hitler regarded as instrumental in controlling the people and the masses. He was hypersensitive to the slightest idea that these organs might be defective - and undermine the popular image and impact of the Fuhrer cult - so the best experts in the country would be ordered to treat him with all available skills. At these times Hitler made no fuss.
Himmler summarises the situation correctly when he says that his mind tells him that we have little hope of winning the war militarily but instinct tells him that sooner or later some political opening will emerge to swing it in our favour. Himmler thinks this more likely in the West than the East. He thinks that England will come to her senses, which I rather doubt. As his remarks show, Himmler is entirely Western-oriented; from the East he expects nothing whatsoever. I still think that something is more likely to be achieved in the East since Stalin seems to me more realistic than the trigger-happy Anglo-American (Roosevelt).
Hitler declared that he had decided to stay in Berlin, lead its defence and then at the last moment shoot himself. For physical reasons he was unable to take part in the fighting personally, nor did he wish to, for he could not run the risk of falling into enemy hands. We all attempted to bring him over from this decision and even offered to move troops from the west to fight in the east. His answer was that everything was falling to pieces anyway, and that he could do no more.
Hanna, you belong to those who will die with me. Each of us has a vial of poison such as this. I do not wish that one of us falls into the hands of the Russians alive, nor do I wish our bodies to be found by them.
In the situation that has now arisen I consider my hands free. I admit that Germany is defeated. In order to save as great a part of Germany as possible from a Russian invasion I am willing to capitulate on the Western Front in order to enable the Western Allies to advance rapidly towards the east. But I am not prepared to capitulate on the Eastern Front.
On 27th April Count Bernadotte returned from the north with the news that the Western Allies refused to consider a separate peace and insisted on unconditional surrender... Hitler was beside himself at the news... It served to crystallize the decision to commit suicide which Hitler had threatened on the 22nd, but which he had not yet made up his mind to put into effect. This final decision followed the pattern of all the others: a period of hesitation, then a sudden resolution from which he was not to be moved.
After the meal Eva Hitler came to me to take her leave. Pale, having remained awake all night but careful to maintain her composure, she thanked me for "everything you have done for the Führer". With a sad look she begged me at the finish: "Should you meet my sister Gretl, do not tell her how her husband, Hermann Fegelein, met his death." I never saw Gretl Fegelein again. Next she went to Frau Goebbels while Hitler retired to his study. Magda Goebbels wanted another "personal conversation with the Führer", as Günsche told me. I approached Hitler and he allowed her to come. They were alone for a while. When I entered, Hitler was thanking her for her commitment and services. He asked me to remove the gold Party badge from one of his uniforms and pinned it on her in "especial recognition". Immediately after this Hitler and I went into the common room where Goebbels appeared and begged Hitler briefly to allow the Hitler Youth to take him out of Berlin. Hitler responded brusquely: "Doctor, you know my decision. There is no change! You can of course leave Berlin with your family." Goebbels, standing proudly, replied that he would not do so. Like the Führer he intended to stay in Berlin - and die there. At that Hitler gave Goebbels his hand and, leaning on me, returned to his room.
Immediately afterwards followed the last personal goodbyes. Flugkapitan Baur and SS-Sturmbanntführer Otto Günsche came, two men who had dedicated their lives to Hitler. My mouth was dry. Soon I would have to carry out my last duty. Anxiously I gazed at the man whom I had served devotedly for more than ten years. He stood stooped, the hank of hair, as always, across the pale forehead. He had become grey. He looked at me with tired eyes and said he would now retire. It was 1515 hours. I asked for his orders for the last time. Outwardly calm and in a quiet voice, as if he were sending me into the garden to fetch something, he said: "Linge, I am going to shoot myself now. You know what you have to do. I have given the order for the break-out. Attach yourself to one of the groups and try to get through to the west." To my question what we should fight for now, he answered: "For the Coming Man". I saluted. Hitler took two or three tired steps towards me and offered his hand. Then for the last time in his life he raised his right arm in the Hitler salute. A ghostly scene. I turned on my heel, closed the door and went to the bunker exit where the SS bodyguard was sitting around.
As I assumed that Hitler would put an end to his life at any moment I did not stay there long, but returned to the ante-room. I smelt the gas from a discharged firearm. Thus it had come to pass. Although I was beyond surprises, everything in me resisted opening the door and entering alone. I went to the map room where a number of people were gathered around Martin Bormann. What they were discussing I have no idea. They had no knowledge of what had happened. I gave Bormann a signal and asked him to come with me to Hitler's room, which he did.
I opened the door and went in, Bormann following me. He turned white as chalk and stared at me helplessly. Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were seated on the sofa. Both were dead. Hitler had shot himself in the right temple with his 7.65-mm pistol. This weapon, and his 6.35-mm pistol which he had kept in reserve in the event that the larger gun misfired, lay near his feet on the floor. His head was inclined a little towards the wall. Blood had spattered on the carpet near the sofa. To his right beside him sat his wife. She had drawn up her legs on the sofa. Her contorted face betrayed how she had died. Cyanide poisoning. Its "bite" was marked in her features. The small box in which, the capsule had been kept lay on the table. I pushed it aside to give myself room.
It was towards midday on 30 April 1945. Russian shelling was hitting the Reich Chancellery and the government district continuously. The struggle to hold out had become fiercer. With a thunder and a crack, whole blocks of dwellings collapsed, and the streets around the Reich Chancellery were reduced to deserts of rubble.
The Führer took his leave of his staff, shaking the hand of each and thanking them for their work and loyalty to him. Secretaries Frau Junge, Frau Christian and the dietician-cook Fraulein Manziarly were invited to lunch. Hitler sat next to his wife. As he had done in the good times, he tried to keep the conversation unforced, with everybody participating. When this last meal had ended and the three ladies had withdrawn, Hitler had them recalled by his adjutant SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Otto Günsche. In the doorway to his ante-chamber, he and Eva Braun took their leave of the three again. Frau Hitler embraced the long-scrving secretaries and shook the hand of all three in parting.
Hitler also said farewell to Bormann and his SS adjutant Günsche. The latter received an express order to contact me and arrange for enough fuel to immolate the bodies of Hitler and his wife: "I do not wish to be displayed after my death in a Russian panopticon like Lenin."
At the time I was in one of the less damaged rooms of the underground garages, having just arrived there from outside to supervise the change of the guard. At that moment my telephone rang. I lifted the receiver and announced myself. It was Günsche. "Erich, I am desperately in need of a drink. Haven't you got a bottle of schnapps there?" This question surprised me greatly, for the last thing we wanted nowadays was alcohol. His voice was urgent. "Well, do you?" Whatever was up - something was obviously afoot. Well, I would soon find out, for he promised to come straight over and so I got a bottle of cognac ready for him.
I waited and waited. What was wrong now? Günsche did not arrive. I had no idea from where he had called nor where I could reach him. More than a half hour passed, then the telephone rang again. Günsche. His voice hoarse with excitement he said, "I must have 200 litres of petrol immediately!" At first I thought this was a bad joke and told him it was out of the question. Now he began shouting, "Petrol - Erich - petrol!"
"OK, and why would you need a mere 200 litres of petrol?"
"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!"
I told him that the only source was the zoo bunker, where we had a few thousand litres buried. Under the present artillery bombardment it would be certain death for my men to go there and I was not prepared to give the order. "Wait until at least 1700, because the firing generally dies down a bit around then," I advised.
Günsche would not agree. "I cannot wait another hour. See how much you can collect from the fuel tanks of your damaged vehicles, and send your men at once to the exit to the Führer-bunker. And then come yourself immediately!" With that, he hung up.
With a few exceptions, the vehicles - in the garage-bunkers were not burnt - out but crushed and covered with masonry from the caved-in concrete roof. In great haste I authorised my deputy to take some men at once and siphon out what petrol could be found and bring it to the place ordered. Then I hurried by the quickest route over rubble and wrecked vehicles to Günsche, to find out what had happened. At the moment I entered the Fuhrer-bunker, Günsche was leaving Hitler's sitting room, and we met in the lobby to the situation conference room. His features had changed visibly. As white as chalk and distraught, he stared at me.
"For God's sake, Otto, what is it?" I cried, "you must be mad, asking me to endanger the lives of a half dozen of my men to bring you petrol under this kind of artillery bombardment!" He seemed not to have heard me, went to the two outer doors and shut them. Then he turned and said: "The chief is dead."
It was a dreadful shock. "How could that happen, Otto? I spoke to him only yesterday! He was healthy and calm!" Günsche was still so overcome that he could not speak. He merely raised his right arm, imitated holding a pistol grip with his fist and pointed to his mouth.
"And where is Eva?" Günsche indicated the door to Hitler's room with his hand. "She is with him." With some difficulty, I extracted from him the events of the final hours. Hitler had shot himself in his study with his pistol and had then fallen head first across the table surface. Eva Hitler sat at an angle, sunk against the arm of the sofa beside him. She had taken poison, but had been holding a pistol. Her right arm was hanging over the side of the sofa, and on the ground nearby was the gun. "Bormann, Linge and I heard the shot and rushed into the room. Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger arrived in support. Goebbels and Axmann were summoned." Günsche was stumbling over his words as he spoke.
"Who is with him now?" I wanted to know.
"Goebbels, Bormann and Linge, also Dr Stumpfegger who certified the death of them both. Axmann has left."
At that moment one of my own men came into the ante-chamber to report the placing of between 180 and 200 litres of petrol at the bunker exit. I sent the man back. As I did so, the door of Hitler's sitting room opened and personal manservant Linge shouted desperately for the fuel: "The petrol... where is the petrol," I replied: "It is in position!"
Linge returned hurriedly into the sitting room. Seconds later the door opened again, and Stumpfegger and Linge emerged carrying the body of Adolf Hitler wrapped in a dark field blanket. His face was covered as far as the bridge of his nose. Below the greying hair the forehead had the waxy pallor of death. The left arm was dangling out of the blanket as far as the elbow. Behind these two followed Bormann with the dead Eva Hitler in his arms. She was dressed in a black dress of light material, her head and blonde tresses inclined backwards. This shocked me almost more than the sight of the dead Hitler. Eva had hated Bormann. He had caused her a great deal of aggravation. Its intrigues for power had long been clear to her. Now in death her greatest enemy carried her to the pyre. I could not allow this and said to Günsche: "You help carry the chief, I will take Eva!" Then without speaking I took Eva's body from Bormann's arms. Her side was wet Instinctively I assumed that she had also shot herself. (Later Günsche told me that when Hitler's body collapsed across the table, it overturned the vase, and the water it contained flowed over Eva.)
There were twenty steps up to the bunker exit. I had not reckoned with the weight and my strength tailed. I had to stop. Halfway up Günsche hurried to assist me, and together we carried the body of Eva Hitler into the open.... The Reich Chancellery was being shelled by the Russians. There were explosions very close by. Numerous fountains of soil plumed up. The air was filled with mortar dust.
In haste, Dr Stumpfegger and Linge had placed the dead Hitler on the ground about three metres half-right of the bunker exit, very close to the giant cement mixer which was to have been used to thicken the Fuhrer-bunker roof by one metre. Just as we had carried Hitler out of his sitting room, now he lay there still wrapped in the grey blanket, legs towards the bunker stairway. The long black trousers legs were pushed up, his right foot turned inwards. I had often seen his foot in this position when he had nodded off beside me on long car drives.
Günsche and I lay Eva Hitler beside her husband. In the enormous excitement of the moment we put her at an angle to him. Russian shells were exploding around us - it seemed that their artillery had suddenly doubled its bombardment of the Reich Chancellery garden and Führer-bunker at that instant. I rushed back to the shelter of the bunker, stopping for a moment, panting, waiting for the next salvoes to arrive. Then I seized a canister of petrol, ran out again and placed it near the two bodies. Quickly I bent low to place Hitler's left arm closer to his body. His untidy hair fluttered in the wind. I took off the cap of the petrol can. Shells exploded close by, spattering us with earth and dust, metal splinters whirred and whistled above us. Again we ran to the bunker entrance for cover, our nerves stretched to breaking point. Tensely we waited for the shelling in our area to die down before pouring petrol over the corpses. Then I ran out speedily and grabbed the canister. I was trembling as I poured the contents over the two bodies, and repeatedly I told myself that I could not do it, but I was conscious of it being Hitler's last order and my sense of duty overcame my sensitivity. Alongside me, Günsche and Linge carried out the same duty for Eva Hitler. Her dress moved in the wind until finally drenched by the fuel. From the look on the faces of Günsche and Linge I saw that they were having a grim internal struggle to obey the chief's last order.
Only when Eva Braun comes over to me is the spell broken a little. She smiles and embraces me. "Please do try to get out. You may yet make your way through. And give Bavaria my love," she says, smiling but with a sob in her voice. She is wearing the Führer's favourite dress, the black one with the roses at the neckline, and her hair is washed and beautifully done. Like that, she follows the Führer into his room - and to her death. The heavy iron door closes.
I am suddenly seized by a wild urge to get as far away from here as possible. I almost race up the stairs leading to the upper part of the bunker. But the Goebbels children are sitting halfway up, looking lost. They felt they'd been forgotten in their room. No one gave them any lunch today. Now they want to go and find their parents, and Auntie Eva and Uncle Hitler. I lead them to the round table. "Come along, children, I'll get you something to eat. The grown-ups have so much to do today that they don't have any spare time for you," I say as lightly and calmly as I can. I find ajar of cherries, butter some bread and feed the little ones. I talk to them to distract them. They say something about being safe in the bunker, and how it's almost fun to hear the explosions when they know the bangs can't hurt them. Suddenly there is the sound of a shot, so loud, so close that we all fall silent. It echoes on through all the rooms. "That was a direct hit," cried Helmut, with no idea how right he is. The Führer is dead now.
I want to be on my own. The children, satisfied, go back to their room. I stay sitting by myself on the narrow bench at the round table on the landing. There is a bottle of Steinhager standing there, with an empty glass beside it. Automatically, I pour myself a drink and swallow the strong liquor. My watch says a few minutes after three in the afternoon. So now it's over.
I don't know how long I sit like that. Men's boots have passed me by, but I didn't notice. Then the tall, broad figure of Otto Günsche comes up the stairs, and with him a strong smell of petrol. His face is ashen, his young, fresh features look gaunt. He drops heavily to sit beside me, reaches for the bottle too, and his large, heavy hand is shaking. "I've carried out the Führer's last order ... his body is burned," he says softly. I don't answer, I don't ask any questions.
Günsche goes down again to make sure that the bodies are burned without trace. I stay sitting there for a while motionless, trying to imagine what will happen now. Then, after all, I suddenly feel an urge to go down to those two empty rooms. The door to Hitler's room is still open at the end of the corridor. The men carrying the bodies had no hands free to close it. Eva's little revolver is lying on the table with a pink chiffon scarf beside it, and I see the brass case of the poison capsule glinting on the floor next to Frau Hitler's chair. It looks like an empty lipstick. There is blood on the blue-and-white upholstery of the bench where Hitler was sitting: Hitler's blood. I suddenly feel sick. The heavy smell of bitter almonds is nauseating. I instinctively reach for my own capsule. I'd like to throw it as far away as I can and leave this terrible bunker. One ought to be able to breathe clear, fresh air now, feel the wind and hear the trees rustling. But freedom, peace and calm are out of reach.
Suddenly I feel something like hatred and helpless anger rise in me. I'm angry with the dead Führer. I'm surprised by that myself, because after all, I knew he was going to leave us. But he's left us in such a state of emptiness and helplessness! He's simply gone away, and with him the hypnotic compulsion under which we were living has gone too.
Footsteps are approaching the entrance door now. The last men to prop up the Reich have been present at the pyre and are now coming back. Goebbels, Bormann, Axmann, Hewel, Günsche, Kempka. I don't want to see anyone now, and once again I go over to my bunker room in the New Reich Chancellery, down the damaged corridor. Other women have taken up their quarters here now secretaries from the adjutancy office; I know them too. They don't yet know what has happened over there, they're talking about holding out and showing courage, they're laughing and still working. As if there were any point in that!