During April 1945 Germany’s Third Reich was collapsing amidst apocalyptic scenes as invading Russian, British and American forces progressively tightened their grip on the capital city of Berlin.
The Chancellor of Germany, Adolph Hitler, had retreated to an underground bunker near the Brandenburg Gate, surrounded by his personal staff, and his mistress Eva Braun. Increasingly divorced from reality Hitler realised that he was defeated and planned suicide rather than trust fate to his captors – or a very unhappy German people who were traumatised by the route the war was taking. He married Eva Braun on the morning of the 29th April and then began the last 24 hours of his life the next day.
At 1 am reports came in that the entire German Ninth Army was encircled and would not be able to reach Berlin as planned. This was the last chance Hitler had to extricate himself from the escalating disaster.
Three hours later German officials in the bunker fed cyanide pills to Hitler’s dog Blondi to test their potency. The dog died quickly.
At 10.30 am Hitler was advised by General Helmuth Weidling that Russian forces were closing fast across Berlin and that the situation was irretrievable. At this stage the Russians were less than a kilometre from the bunker.
Hitler’s last meal was held at 2 pm when he lunched with his female staff, including his new wife Eve Braun. He advised them that they would be provided with cyanide if they wished.
At 3.30 pm, Hitler and Braun retreated to his study, deep within the bunker. Braun committed suicide by ingesting cyanide, and Hitler died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Their bodies were taken to an outside garden by bunker staff, doused with petrol and incinerated. The deaths were reported to the German people by radio later the next day – indicating that Hitler had died heroically defending the capital.
Image: Adolf hitler, April 1937, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.