True wisdom comes to each of us
when we realize how little we
understand about life, ourselves,
and the world around us.
when we realize how little we
understand about life, ourselves,
and the world around us.
Image from Wikipedia
Anytime Adolf Hitler’s name is mentioned, dark and disturbing images of suffering and oppression emerge in our minds. Hitler was the notorious chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945. He transformed Germany into a totalitarian autocracy based on Nazism. And he was one of, if not the, main instigator of World War II in Europe. During his time as chancellor, Hitler orchestrated the Holocaust and was not only responsible for the deaths of over six million Jews but also millions from within and outside his own country. German historian Joachim Fest writes that never before had so many lives, cities, and regions been devastated as much as those that were destroyed in the fall of the Third Reich (Fest, 2004). When the Allied forces eventually pushed Hitler back to Berlin where he and many of his chief supporters hid in a bunker, Hitler eventually lost all hope of victory. Hence, he took his own life – on April 30, 1945 – along with many of his supporters who were there with him in the bunker. In this post, I will reveal the events that occurred before and on the day Hitler took his own life.
In 1945, Germany stood on the brink of losing its war against the Allies. The Allies were forcing Germany out of France, Russia, and the Mediterranean (Roberts, 2001). The battles that occurred on the Eastern Front exhausted Germany’s armies and Hitler firmly declared in his briefings before the Ardennes and Alsace offensives that Germany was unable to continue a defensive war (Kershaw, 2008).
Their chief problem came from Russia, whose larger numbers overwhelmed Germany’s armies. Germany lost an overwhelming number of its soldiers and materials, and the German military’s motivation to fight anywhere else diminished. Hitler ordered his generals to stand firm at all cost. But when the Americans and the British invaded France in June of 1944, Germany’s defeat became inevitable.
As these devastating events occurred, Hitler’s health deteriorated further and his madness became more and more evident to his supporters (2001). Hitler’s doctor treated him with either ineffective or dangerous drugs like strychnine, belladonna, narcotics, and stimulants. Because of his poor health, Hitler appeared much older than he really was. Despite this, Hitler was fully capable of giving orders, but those orders were destroying Germany. In attempts to save their country from Hitler’s disastrous leadership, many of Hitler’s top officials, such as Erwin Rommel, tried to kill him. But all of their attempts to assassinate him failed (2001).
As the allies advanced further into Germany, Hitler came back to Berlin in November of 1944 (Wilson, 2012). As he did so, the Russians were ferociously bombing the city. Millions of the city’s inhabitants were homeless and thousands were killed by the bombing. Yet, even in the face of such a devastating nightmare, the Berliners persevered. And this is the same perseverance that Hitler showed in his final days.
Hitler first resided in the Chancellery. But when the bombing became intolerable, he moved, in January of 1945, to his Fuhrerbunker, underneath the Chancellery. He went there with his mistress, Eva Braun, a few of his friends, government officials, and his German shepherd Blondi. After that, Hitler came out of the bunker only two times to speak with different military personnel about issues he was concerned about.
In the bunker, Hitler continued to give out orders to his troops. But his orders were out of date before they were ever delivered (2012). Whenever he was told how catastrophically hopeless the war had become, he would explode in uncontrollable fits of rage. Not only that, even as Berlin was being pummeled repeatedly with bombs, Hitler continued to discuss Berlin’s reconstruction with Albert Speer, his chief architect. Hitler’s detachment from reality showed everyone that Hitler had become truly insane.
As the Russians came closer and closer to the Chancellery, Hitler began to perform the final actions of his life. In the evening of April 28th, Hitler received news that his faithful follower and head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, had tried to arrange negotiations with the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte. Hitler couldn’t believe that someone as loyal as Himmler could even think of betraying him (2008). So, in a retaliatory rage, Hitler ordered that Himmler be arrested and stripped of all his titles.
At midnight on that same day, Hitler married Eva Braun (The History Place, 1997). But it was to be one of the shortest marriages ever recorded in history.
At four p.m. on April 29 Hitler signed his Last will and testament (1997). In this document Hitler gave his followers orders to follow after he committed suicide. Here is the document in its entirety:
As I did not consider that I could take responsibility, during the years of struggle, of contracting a marriage, I have now decided, before the closing of my earthly career, to take as my wife that girl who, after many years of faithful friendship, entered, of her own free will, the practically besieged town in order to share her destiny with me. At her own desire she goes as my wife with me into death. It will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people.
What I possess belongs - in so far as it has any value - to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary.
My paintings, in the collections which I have bought in the course of years, have never been collected for private purposes, but only for the extension of a gallery in my home town of Linz on Donau.
It is my most sincere wish that this bequest may be duly executed.
I nominate as my Executor my most faithful Party comrade,
He is given full legal authority to make all decisions.
He is permitted to take out everything that has a sentimental value or is necessary for the maintenance of a modest simple life, for my brothers and sisters, also above all for the mother of my wife and my faithful co-workers who are well known to him, principally my old Secretaries Frau Winter etc. who have for many years aided me by their work.
I myself and my wife - in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation - choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years' service to my people. (1997)
From this document you can see that Hitler showed no remorse for his atrocities. And even though he sent his country into the worst catastrophe it ever experienced, he still thought of himself as a servant of his people.
On April 30, at dawn, the Soviets bombarded the Chancellery and adjacent buildings intensely (2008). Hitler asked the commandant of the “Citadel”, S.S. Brigadefuhrer Mohnke, how long he could remain alive in the bunker before the Soviets came in. Mohnke told him for two days. In a briefing he had later in the morning, Berlin’s commandant, General Weidling, was even less optimistic. German munitions were running out fast and air supplies were impossible to attain. The morale of the troops had dropped to its lowest point, and the fighting was now concentrated in a small area of the city. For these reasons, Weidling thought the battle of Berlin would be over that very evening. Mohnke asked Hitler if the remaining troops could attempt a breakout if they lost all of their ammunition. After speaking with Krebs, Hitler gave his troops the permission to do so.
Around noon, Hitler sent for Bormann, his private secretary, and told him that he and Eva Braun would commit suicide (2008). He then called Otto Gunsche, his personal adjunct, and told him to make arrangements for their cremation. Gunsche hurried to the telephone and called Hitler’s chauffer, Erich Kempka, to get as much gasoline as possible. And he told him to get it quickly because the Soviets could reach the Chancellery gardens at any moment.
Around one in the afternoon, Hitler had lunch with his secretaries, Traudi Junge and Gerda Christian, and his dietician Fraulein Manziarly. Hitler remained very calm and showed no signs of being distressed about his impending death. After the meal, Hitler, with his wife, shook hands with the most important people in the Bunker (Petrova and Watson, 1995). These include Bormann, Goebbels, Burgdorf, Krebs, Hewel, Naumann, Voss, Rattenhuber, Hoegl, Gunsche, Linge and four women, Frau Christian, Frau Junge, Fraulein Krueger, and Manziarly. After that, they both went into their own private apartment. There they both bit cyanide capsules and witnesses say they heard the sound of a gunshot.
After waiting for a little while, Otto Gunsche, with others, went into the apartment and found Hitler and Braun’s corpses on a sofa (2002). Hitler had shot himself through the mouth. His 7.65-mm Walther pistol had fallen to the floor. While Braun, dead at his side, had her knees close to her chest and held her bluish lips tightly together. The bodies of Hitler and Braun were quickly carried upstairs, covered in gasoline, and burned. And when the fire was out, their ashes were scattered.
Hitler’s death is the fate of a man who’s excessive pride and hatred, along with that of his Nazi supporters, caused the death and misery of millions of people. Even though Hitler met his fate peacefully, that doesn’t change the obvious fact that the acts he performed throughout his life were unspeakably atrocious. Hitler’s death can be viewed as a testament to what can happen to those who kill and abuse other human beings out of hatred and pride.
Fest, Joachim. (2004). Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich. 19 Union Square West, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The History Place (Ed.). (1997). The Death of Adolf Hitler. Retrieved November 15, 2013, from http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/death.htm
Kershaw, I. (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Petrova, A., & Watson, P. (1995). The Death of Adolf Hitler. New York, NY: W.W Norton and Company.
Roberts, J. (2001). Adolf Hitler: A Study in Hate (Holocaust Biographies). New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.
Wilson, A. N. (2012). Hitler. New York, NY: Basic Books.
My name is Jacob Stubbs. I have a bachelor's degree in English from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and I am a writer an an artist.