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World War II
A Narrative History


"Hitler's Final Hours"
(1945)
John Toland
The Last 100 Days (1966)


Time Magazine reports the death of Hitler


[Hitler] now realized that ... the time had come at last to prepare for the end. This began in the little map room of the bunker with an extraordinary act of normalcy -- a wedding. Hitler had often told friends he couldn't undertake "the responsibility of marriage." Perhaps he had also feared that it might diminish his uniqueness as Fuhrer; to most Germans he was almost a Christlike figure. But now all that was over and his bourgeois impulse was to reward his faithful mistress with the long-delayed sanctity of matrimony.
A minor official was found in a nearby Volkssturm  unit and brought underground to officiate -- appropriately, his name was Wagner. With Goebbels and Bormann present as witnesses, both Hitler and Eva swore they were of pure Aryan descent. After the brief ceremony, Eva started to sign the register "Eva B ... " Corrected, she crossed out the "B" and wrote "Eva Hitler, nee Braun."
Then Hitler invited Bormann, the Goebbels, two of his secretaries, Fray Christian and Frau Junge, to his quarters for champagne, and for over an hour he reminisced .... Finally Hitler said it was the end of his life and National Socialism; death would be a relief after the betrayal of his closest comrades. He went to another room and began dictating his political testament to Frau Junge.
He charged that neither he nor anyone else in Germany wanted war and that it had been "provoked exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests." He blamed the English for forcing him to invade Poland "because the political clique in England wanted war, partly for commercial reasons, partly because it was influenced by propaganda put out by international Jewry."
He declared that he had stayed in Berlin "to choose death voluntarily at that moment when I believe that the position of the Fuhrer and the Chancellor itself can no longer be maintained," and that he would die "with a joyful heart" but had ordered his military commanders "to continue to take part in the nation's struggle." Surrender of any district or town, he said, was out of the question and he called on his commanders to "set a shining example of faithful devotion to duty until death."
....The testament ended, as it began, with an attack on the Jews .... To the death he remained true to his obsession.
Frau Junge dated the document 29 April 1945, 0400 hours. Hitler scratched his signature at the bottom and Goebbels, Bormann, Burgdorf and Krebs signed as witnesses.
The Fuhrer then dictated his personal will. He left his possessions to the Party "or if this no longer exists, to the state," and appointed "my most faithful Party comrade, Martin Bormann," the executor of his will ....
...."My wife and I choose to die in order to escape the shame of overthrow or capitulation. It is our wish that our bodies be burned immediately in the place where I have performed the greater part of my daily work during the twelve years of service to my people."
These somber preparations eventually led to a violent argument. When the Fuhrer told Goebbels to leave the bunker with his family, Goebbels took this as a slight, not a privilege. How could the Defender of Berlin possibly leave! he shouted. Hitler insisted, and the wrangle became so heated that he finally said, "Not even the most faithful of my followers will obey me!" and went off to bed ....
....The afternoon of April 29 was a time of morbid preparation in the bunker. The Fuhrer's favorite Alsatian wolf dog, Blondi, was poisoned by Dr. Hasse, Hitler's former surgeon, and the other two dogs were shot. Hitler himself supplied poison capsules to his two secretaries, Frau Junge and Frau Christian. It was a poor parting gift, he said apologetically, and praised their courage; it was unfortunate, he added, that his generals weren't as reliable.
....By late morning of April 30 the Tiergarten was overrun by the Soviets and one advance unit was even reported in the street next to the bunker. But it was difficult to see that this news had any effect on Hitler. During lunch with Frau Junge, Frau Christian and Fraulein Manzialy, he chatted as if it were just another "inner circle" gathering without problems.
But it was no ordinary day, and soon after the ladies had left Hitler asked Gunsche to call them back, as well as Bormann, Goebbels, Burgdorf, Krebs, Voss, Hewel, Naumann, Rattenhuber and Fraulein Else Kruger, Bormann's secretary. Hitler shook hands with everyone and said good-bye. Eva embraced the ladies. Hitler took Gunsche aside and said that he and his wife were going to commit suicide and that he wanted their bodies burned. "After my death," he explained, "I don't want to be put on exhibition in a Russian Panoptikum [wax museum]."
....At 3:30 P.M. Hitler picked up a Walther pistol. He was alone in the anteroom of his quarters with Eva Braun. She was already dead. She was on a couch, slumped over the arm rest, poisoned. A second Walther lay on the red carpet, unfired.
Hitler sat at a table. Behind him was a picture of Frederick the Great. In front, on a console, was a picture of Hitler's mother as a young woman. He put the pistol barrel in his mouth and fired. He pitched forward and sent a vase flying. It hit Eva's body, soaking part of her dress with water, and dropped to the carpet.
In the conference room Bormann, Gunsche and Linge heard the shot. They hesitated momentarily, then broke into Hitler's anteroom. Gunsche saw him sprawled face-down across the table. Unnerved, Gunsche stumbled back into the conference room and was accosted by [Hitler's chauffeur,] Kempka.
"For God's sake, Otto," the chauffeur said, "What's going on? You must be crazy to have me send men to almost certain death for two hundred liters of gasoline."
Gunsche brushed past him and slammed the door to the cloakroom so that no one else could wander in. Then he closed the door to the Fuhrer's suite and turned, eyes wide. "The Chief is dead!" .... It took Gunsche several minutes to stammer out the whole story.
Linge peered out of Hitler's anteroom. "Gasoline," he cried, "where is the gasoline?" Kempka said he had about one hundred seventy liters in jerricans at the garden entrance.
Linge and Dr. Stumpfegger carried out Hitler's body in a dark brown army blanket. The Fuhrer's face was half-covered, his left arm hung down. Bormann followed, carrying Eva. She wore a black dress and her blond hair was hanging down loose. The sight of her in Bormann's arms was too much for Kempka. She had always hated Bormann and he thought, "Not one more step." He called to Gunsche, "I'll carry Eva." Kempka silently took her away from Bormann .... Halfway up the four flights of steps to the garden, her body almost slipped out of his grasp. Kempke stopped, unable to continue, but Gunsche quickly moved to his aid and together they carried Eva into the garden.
Another Russian barrage had begun and shells smashed into the rubble. Only the jagged walls of the Chancellery remained and these trembled with each shattering explosion.
Through a cloud of dust Kempka saw Hitler's body not ten feet from the bunker entrance. It was in a shallow depression next to a large cement mixer....
Kempka and Gunsche stretched out Eva's body on Hitler's right. The artillery barrage suddenly increased in tempo, forcing them to take cover in the entrance. Kempka waited a few minutes, then seized a jerrican of gasoline and ran back to the bodies .... A gust of wind moved Hitler's hair. Kempka opened the jerrican. A shell exploded, showering him with debris; shrapnel whizzed past his head. Again he scrambled back for refuge.
Gunsche, Kempka and Linge waited in the entrance for a lull in the shelling. When it came they returned to the bodies. Shivering with revulsion, Kempka sprinkled them with gasoline. He thought, I can't do it but I'm doing it. He saw the same reaction in the faces of Linge and Gunsche, who were also pouring gasoline on the bodies. From the entrance Goebbels, Bormann and Dr. Stumpfegger peered out with morbid concern.
The clothing became so soaked that even the strongest gusts of wind couldn't stir it. The shelling resumed, but the three men emptied can after can until the shallow depression in which the bodies lay was filled with gasoline. Gunsche suggested igniting it with a hand grenade but Kempka said no. The idea of blowing up the bodies was too repugnant. He saw a large rag lying near a fire hose at the entrance. He pointed it out to Gunsche, who grabbed it and doused it with gasoline. "Match!" called Kempka.
Goebbels handed him a pack. Kempka lit the match and put it to the rag. Gunsche ran with the burning rag, tossed it onto the bodies. A boiling ball of fire mushroomed above the bodies, followed by dark clouds of smoke. Against the backdrop of a burning city it was a small blaze, but it was the most horrifying. They watched, hypnotized.
The fire slowly began to consume the bodies. Shaken, they stumbled back into the entrance. More jerricans of gasoline were delivered, and for the next three hours Gunsche, Linge and Kempka kept pouring the liquid on the burning bodies.
The Last 100 Days is available from AMAZON