HITLER TAKES SANCTUARY IN UNDER­GROUND BUNKER

Berlin, Germany January 16, 1945

The Soviet Union’s offensive that began on the Vistula River, the princi­pal river in Poland, on Janu­ary 12, 1945, spread out over the following days to engulf Nazi Ger­many’s entire East­ern Front, running from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Carpa­thian Moun­tains in South­ern Poland. Four days later, on this date in 1945, Adolf Hitler moved his entourage into the Fuehrer­bunker under the Old Reich Chan­cel­lery in Berlin, where he lived and directed the last months of the war in Europe.

The Fuehrer­bunker, or “Leader’s bunker”—a maze of living quar­ters, con­fer­ence rooms, offices, and utili­ties spreading two stories deep some 25 ft beneath the chan­cel­lery gardens—had been greatly expanded from the original 1936–37 “air raid cellar,” where Hitler had found refuge during the first British bombing raids on Berlin in August 1940. After the Luft­waffe’s loss of con­trol of Ger­man air­space, Hitler gave archi­tect Albert Speer the assign­ment to design a new, stronger bunker with 3.5 meter-thick ceilings and 3.5–4.0 meter-thick walls one level below the existing shelter. The interior dimen­sions of both the Vor­bunker (forward bunker) (old) and the Fuehrer­bunker (new) were about 15 meters by 20 meters wide and a bit over 3 meters high. Com­pleted in October 1944, another meter-thick layer of so-called “smash-cover” was being added to rein­force the ceiling of the Fuehrer­bunker when the war ended.

Hitler was joined in this subterranean, clammy, claustro­phobic environ­ment by his senior staff; Martin Bormann, his private secre­tary and power­ful head of the Nazi Party Chan­cellery; Eva Braun, his mis­tress of nearly 15 years; and Joseph Goeb­bels, Nazi propa­ganda minis­ter and Hitler diarist who, with his wife and six children, took up residence in the upper Vorbunker.

On March 20, 1945, above the Fuehrerbunker a motley col­lec­tion of roughly 50 Hitler Youth and SS troops gathered in the deso­late gar­den of the Reichs Chan­cellery. In the pre­sence of camera­men and photo­graphers from the Wochen­schau News, a visibly ailing Hilter made his last public appear­ance, awarding the men the Iron Cross for their heroic deeds in defending the capital.

As Red Army troops fought their way into the last square mile of Nazi-held Berlin at the end of April 1945, the Fuehrer­bunker became the wedding venue and the grave­site of Hitler and Braun. On April 29, 1945, the two lovers were married in a brief civil cere­mony; he was 56, she was 33. Less than 40 hours later in Hitler’s personal study, Braun bit into a capsule of cya­nide and her hus­band fired a bullet into his right temple. Per the Fuehrer’s prior instruc­tions, pall bearers bore the corpses up the stairs and out the bunker’s emer­gency exit, poured gaso­line over them, and set them afire in the chan­cellery garden. After rendering their dead leader a last “Heil Hitler,” the pall bearers scurried back into their underground sanctuary.





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 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 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 personal study (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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