What the Führer‘s Aides saw
Adolf Hitler is in his bunker. The Russians are virtually on the doorstep and Berlin has essentially fallen.The Führer has just told his personal staff and fellow Nazi leaders that he would kill himself rather than be captured and put on display by Stalin in Moscow.
The business of war limps to an end as those who have served Hitler and the Third Reich come to terms with defeat and Hitler's proposed suicide. Hitler tells them he has considered shooting himself, slitting his wrists and taking poison. "The war is lost,'' he screams. "I will never leave Berlin ... I would prefer to put a bullet in my head.''
He commands that after his death his body is to be destroyed: nothing is to be left for the Russians.
There are many others. All are hard men of the Third Reich, architects of the Holocaust and a war machine that killed tens of millions of soldiers and civilians and devastated Europe. They are stunned by the anticipated suicide of one man.
Among them are war criminals and some of them cry for Hitler. There is cognac on the table. Many take a few swigs. Others are so shocked by the imminent loss of their Führer they are too overcome to speak clearly.
They know they are to be part of yet another of the great dramas of the 20th century: the last living moments and death of Adolf Hitler.
Later, about 40 people, including those directly outside the door of Hitler's quarters when he and his wife, Eva Braun, killed themselves, would be questioned about what happened.
The conclusion by a tribunal that exhaustively examined the last days in the bunker was that Hitler and Braun killed themselves on April 30, 1945: Hitler shot himself in the right temple with his personal pistol, a Walther 7.65. Braun took cyanide. Hitler's other weapon, a Walther 6.35, believed to have been prepared for use by Braun, had not been fired.
The final moments inside the bunker are disputed by historians and by the witnesses who were there when Hitler died. The truth of Hitler's death has always been laced with political and personal interest; witnesses from the bunker who gave accounts of the dying days of the Third Reich to Allied interrogators and in biographies could not always agree on what had happened.
Hitler Youth Leader Artur Axmann recalls in That Can't Be The End standing in a room in the bunker with Göbbels and Martin Borman, with Göbbels saying:
"Was that a shot?"
Otto Günsche came out and said: "The Führer is dead". It was 15.30. With Göbbels and Bormann, I followed Günsche into Hitler's living room ... Later Otto Günsche told me Hitler had shot himself in the right temple ... Eva Hitler had poisoned herself.
Otto Günsche gave me the 7.65mm pistol, with which Hitler had shot himself, and also the 6.35mm pistol which in recent times, he had carried always in his pocket.
Axmann later revealed he hid them on a railway line but could not find the spot when he returned years later.
Heinz Linge was also arrested by the Russians. In Until The End, he recalls smelling gunpowder outside Hitler's room. "I went into the room where a number of people were standing around Martin Bormann. I did not know what they were talking about. In any case, they did not know what had happened. I signalled to Bormann to come with me to Hitler's study. I opened the door and went in,'' writes Linge, who died in 1980, aged 67.
Bormann followed me. He was chalk-white and stared helplessly and questioningly at me. On the sofa sat Adolf and Eva Hitler. Both were dead. Hitler had shot himself with the 7.65. The 7.65 and his 6.35 pistol, which he had in reserve should the larger weapon fail, lay near his feet on the ground.
Ulrich Völklein wrote Hitler's Death: The Last Days in the Führer Bunker after examining Soviet records on the interrogation of Günsche and Linge. He quotes the records as saying Günsche picked up the revolvers and unloaded them.
He saw that the shot had come from the 7.65 ... Günsche put both revolvers into his pocket and gave them later to Axmann's adjutant, Lieutenant Hamann.
Göbbels and Axmann were called.
Völklein and others refer to the commander of Reich security and head of Hitler's personal bodyguard, the SS officer Hans Rattenhuber, who told his Russian jailers in May, 1945:
Hitler had poisoned himself with cyanide, and his valet Linge, 10 minutes later, shot him to ensure he was dead.
In The Last Days with Adolf Hitler, Hitler's driver, Erich Kempka, writes:
Bormann, Linge and me heard the shot and stormed into the room. Dr Stumpfegger came to examine the body.
The 'death room' had concrete walls two feet thick, a reinforced concrete ceiling sixteen feet thick, and there were two four inch thick hermetically gas-proofed doors between the bodies and the witnesses. If the shot was fired in Hitler's sitting room it was an absolute impossibility for those in the map room to have heard it. After all, a 7.65 mm Walther makes a sound about equal to bursting a child's party balloon.
However if a blank round was fired on the spiral staircase between floors, the sound would have reverberated through both levels of the tomb-like bunker and would have been heard by all.
Why did none of the witnesses mention the smell or cordite or gunpowder in the 'death room'?
Why do none of the witnesses report an exit wound on Hitler's head?
They appear unanimous on the small "German silver mark" size bullet hole in "Hitler's right temple" but no one makes mention of an exit wound.
Representatives of the Walther firm which manufactured the pistol concerned are adamant. If the muzzle was placed against the forehead as it was discharged an exit wound the size of a closed fist should be on the other side of the victim's head. The only way the corpse could be in the condition described by the witnesses was if the shot was fired from a distance of ten or twelve feet.
Stalin had never been able to shake off the nightmare of Adolf Hitler. Just as in 1941 he refused to understand that Hitler had broken their non-aggression pact, he was in 1945 unwilling to believe that the dictator had committed suicide in the debris of the Berlin bunker. In his paranoia, Stalin ordered his secret police, the NKVD, precursor to the KGB, to explore in detail every last vestige of the private life of the only man he considered a worthy opponent, and to clarify beyond doubt the circumstances of his death.
For months two captives of the Soviet Army - Otto Günsche, Hitler's adjutant, and Heinz Linge, his personal valet - were interrogated daily, their stories crosschecked, until the NKVD were convinced that they had the fullest possible account of the life of the Führer. In 1949 they presented their work, in a single copy, to Stalin. It is as remarkable for the depth of its insight into Adolf Hitler--from his specific directions to Linge as to how his body was to be burned, to his sense of humor--as for what it does not say, reflecting the prejudices of the intended reader: Josef Stalin. Nowhere, for instance, does the dossier criticize Hitler's treatment of the Jews.
Today, the 413-page original of Stalin's personal biography of Hitler is a Kremlin treasure and it is said to be held in President Putin's safe. The only other copy, made by order of Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1959, was deposited in Moscow Party archives under the code number 462A.
"So that's it then, the end--pour petrol over the Führer's body and set fire to it," thought Günsche with a shudder. It was not as if Bormann's order came as a surprise to him, however. It had been bound to end like that. Hitler had neither the strength nor the courage to die the soldier's death to which, right up until the end, he had condemned German soldiers and officers, even women and children....
Hitler's eyes, which once had exuded fire, seemed extinguished; his face was the colour of earth. There were black rings beneath his eyes. The shaking in his left hand seemed to have spread to his head and whole body. The words came almost silently from his mouth: "I have ordered that my body be burnt after my death. Make sure that you carry out the order exactly. I do not wish my corpse to be taken to Moscow and put on display like a waxwork."
With some effort Hitler raised his right hand in a gesture of farewell and turned about. Baur and Rattenhuber called out. Rattenhuber made to grab Hitler's hand but the Führer retreated and vanished behind the door of his office. Mechanically but hurriedly Günsche began to make preparations for carrying out Bormann's order to burn the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun. He called Hitler's chauffeur, Kempka , who was staying in the bunker in Hermann-Göring Strasse next to the Reich Chancellery garage, and ordered him to bring 10 canisters of petrol round to the "Führerbunker" straight away and leave them by the emergency exit to the garden.
When that was done, Günsche told Kempka of Hitler's intention to take his own life. Then Günsche ordered the men from the security service and the bodyguards who were using the little room next to the emergency exit to leave. He also ordered the guards posted at the armour-plated door by the stair leading to the emergency exit to go back into the bunker. Only one man, SS-Sturmbannführer Hock was left by the emergency exit with strict orders to let no one past. Then Günsche went back into the entrance hall of the bunker and took up his position by the door in the antechamber to wait for the sound of the decisive shot. The clock showed 10 minutes past three.
Shortly afterwards Eva Braun came out of Hitler's office and sadly took Linge's hand: "Farewell Linge," she said. "I hope you get out of Berlin. If you come across my sister Gretl, don't tell her how her husband died."
Then she went to see Frau Göbbels who was in her husband's room. A few minutes later Eva Braun came out of Göbbels's room to the switchboard, where she found Günsche. "Please tell the Führer Frau Göbbels would like him to come and see her one more time." Günsche went to Hitler's office and as there was no sign of Linge, knocked on the door himself and went in. Hitler was standing by the table and started when Günsche appeared unannounced.
"What is it?" he mumbled irritably.
"Mein Führer, your wife asked me to tell you that Frau Göbbels would like to see you one more time. She is with your wife in her room."
Hitler hesitated for a moment and then went over to Göbbels's room. At 4:20 p.m. Linge came to the switchboard where Hitler's servant Krüger was standing with a guard. In the nearby sitting room next to Göbbels's bedroom Hitler was standing with Göbbels who was making one last attempt to get him to leave Berlin.
But Hitler was arguing with him hysterically: "No, Doctor. You know my decision; it is unchangeable."
Hitler went into Göbbels's bedroom where Frau Göbbels and Eva Braun were talking and said farewell to Frau Göbbels. Then he went back to his own rooms, followed by Linge and Krüger. At the door to his office Linge asked for permission to say his own farewell. Exhausted and distracted, Hitler told him: "I have given the order for a breakout. Take a small group and try to break through to the West."
Hitler Death and Survival Legends - Index
Hitler Death and Survival Legends - Index