This Day In History: Hitler Withdraws To His Bunker (1945)

ADN-ZB/Archiv Berlin Der sogenannte "Führerbunker" im Garten der im II. Weltkrieg zerstörten Reichskanzlei. Links der Eingang, in der Mitte der Bombenunterstand für die Wache. Aufn. Juli 1947

On this day, in 1945 Adolf Hitler takes to his massive underground bunker, here he was to remain for over one hundred days until he committed suicide. Hitler at this stage must have known that he and his country was all-but-defeated, despite his public protestations. He also knew that Soviets were sending massive armies to capture Berlin. Hitler had ordered all his remaining forces to defend the capital of the Reich and he as determined to stay in the city in what was expected to be a long siege.

Hitler withdrew to his bunker for what he knew would surely be the last great battle of the war. The reinforced concrete bunker was over fifty feet under the ground. It was located under the Chancellery. The shelter had some eighteen rooms and it was entirely self-sufficient. It had its own water and electricity supply. The bunker could also communicate with the outside world via telephones. The bunker was mainly staffed by SS officers and die-hard Nazis.

The site of the bunker in Berlin today

Hitler only left the bunker only once and that was to decorate some members of the Hitler Youth. By this time he was a frail old man and he looked way older than his years. It is believed that Parkinson’s disease was ravaging his body.

In the bunker, Hitler tried to direct the defense of his capital and he held meetings with the Nazi leadership including  Heinrich Himmler, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. He was accompanied in the bunker by Eva Braun, his long-term companion and his beloved dog, Blondi. The Soviets attacked Berlin in April and they pounded the city by night and day. Berlin was defended by an army of old men, boys and foreign SS volunteers. The German army had been all but annihilated.

On April the 29th Hitler married Eva Braun. She had been with him since the 1930s and gave him some form of a family life. Braun was loyal to him until the end and she refused to leave the bunker. Stalin had promised to publicly hang Hitler in Moscow and Hitler was determined not to be taken alive.  Some die-hard Nazis had urged Hitler and Eva Braun to escape to the Black Forest in the South of Germany. Hitler was now too old and sick. The newlyweds were only married for a few hours and as the Red Army closed in they both committed suicide.

Hitler and his wife swallowed cyanide pills.  He apparently shot himself to make sure that he died. Before he had killed himself he had ordered the killing of his beloved pet dog and her litter of pups. It is believed that some Nazis took the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun outside the bunker and set them on fire. This was to prevent the Soviets from parading the body of the German leader and his wife in public as had happened with Mussolini and his mistress. The fact that Hitler’s body was never found fueled conspiracy theories that claimed that the Nazi leader escaped.

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