HITLER DIRECTS WAR FROM UNDERGROUND

Berlin, Germany · January 16, 1945

On this date in 1945 Adolf Hitler moved his entourage into the “Fuehrer Bunker” under the Old Reich Chan­cel­lery in Berlin, where he lived and directed the last months of the war in Europe. The bunker—a maze of living quar­ters, con­fer­ence rooms, offices, and utili­ties spreading two stories deep some 25 feet beneath the chan­cel­lery gardens—had been spe­cially built the pre­vious fall prior to Hitler vacating for good his Wolf’s Lair head­quar­ters in Rasten­burg, East Prussia, now in Poland. An aide recalled hearing Hitler say in mid-Novem­ber 1944 that the war was lost, but Hitler soldiered on any­way, moving his head­quarters to the “Eagle’s Eyrie” near Bad Nau­heim in Hessen, from where he directed the Ar­dennes Offen­sive (Battle of the Bulge). Ar­dennes was intended to turn the tide of war by splitting the Allied armies in the west when the Wehr­macht retook the strategically vital Bel­gian port of Ant­werp. After it became clear that his high-stakes Ar­dennes gamble had failed, the Berlin bunker beckoned. Eva Braun, his long-standing girl­friend, joined him there “in this cri­tical hour,” as Minis­ter of Pro­pa­ganda Joseph Goebbels con­fided to his diary. The bunker survived a 900‑bomber raid on Berlin on Febru­ary 3 that destroyed the govern­ment district and partly reduced the Old Reich Chan­cellery to rubble. Several days later Goeb­bels found pas­sage into the bunker “totally blocked with moun­tains of rubble.” On March 19 Hitler issued his so-called Nero Order, his “scorched earth” direc­tive to de­stroy Ger­man infra­structure lest it fall into enemy hands. (Both the Ger­mans and the Soviets had used “scorched earth” in their see-saw battle for con­trol of the Eastern Front.) By this date in the war, how­ever, little of mate­rial value remained in Ger­many after that coun­try had been pum­meled from all directions by land-based artil­lery and in­ces­sant aerial bom­bard­ments. Now Hitler’s closest lieu­ten­ants were drawing away. Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler and Foreign Minis­ter Joachim von Ribben­trop were in secret con­tact with West­ern powers via Swe­den, shaking Hitler to the core when he dis­covered their per­fidy. When Eva Braun bit into the cya­nide cap­sule and Hitler blew his brains out on April 30, 1945, even Hermann Goering, Hitler’s desig­nated suc­cess­or since June 1941, stood accused of trea­son and, on Hitler’s order, was under house arrest in the Reichs­marschall’s own castle near Salzburg, Austria.





The Fuehrerbunker: Hitler’s and Braun’s Initial Gravesite

3-D representation of Vorbunker and Fuehrerbunker

Above: 3-D representation of the Vorbunker and the Fuehrerbunker. The Vor­bunker (“forward bunker”) was located behind the large reception hall, or marble gallery, that was added onto the Old Reich Chancellery in 1939. It was meant to be a temporary air-raid shelter for Hitler, his guards, and servants. The bunker was officially called the “Reich Chancellery Air-Raid Shelter” until 1943, when construction began that expanded the complex with the addition of the Fuehrerbunker located one level below.

Rear entrance to Fuehrerbunker Hitler’s sitting room and place of suicide

Left: Taken in July 1947, this photo shows the massive first emer­gency exit of the main bunker (erster Notaus­gang des Haupt­bunkers), or the rear entrance to the Fuehrer­bunker (num­ber 21 in 3‑D repre­sen­tation, above). Hitler and Eva Braun were cremated in a shell hole in front of the emer­gency exit. The cone-shaped structure in the center of the photo served as the exhaust tower and bomb shelter for the guards. An unfinished tower (num­ber 38 in 3‑D repre­sen­tation), a ventilation tower, is partially hidden behind the tree.

Right: A young Soviet soldier stands amid the scattered remains of Hitler’s sitting room (num­ber 26 in 3‑D repre­sen­tation, above), the place of his and his wife’s suicides. On December 5, 1947, Soviet engineers blew up the Fuehrer­bunker. Both ven­tilation towers and the entrance structure seen in picture on the left were destroyed in the blast.

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler

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