April 30, 1945 — Goodbye to Adolf Hitler (if not to Nazism)
Adolf Hitler had claimed that his Third Reich would last for a thousand years. Instead, he went down in history as the ultimate evil tyrant. Hitler killed himself on this day, shooting himself while aware that his 12-year-old regime was coming to an end and that his capital city was reduced to ruins and rubble.
World War II was ending, and the desperate Hitler still tried to wage war via telephone from his bunker beneath the Chancellery building in Berlin, issuing futile orders to his defeated Nazi officers.
The 3,000-square-foot underground bunker, completed in 1942, was an extension of the Chancellery building’s air raid shelter. It consisted of two levels and 18 rooms. Hitler had his favorite architect, Albert Speer, build an additional top-secret bunker under the Chancellery’s garden, known as the Führerbunker. Completed in late 1944, this is where, alongside his wife of just a few hours, Hitler ended it all.
In the previous three months, Nazi military advisers had continued urging the Führer to abandon the bunker and flee to the Eagle’s Nest, his retreat in the Bavarian Alps at Berchtesgaden. But he refused to leave, hiding out in the Führerbunker for 100 days. He was afraid of being captured and put on display, dead or alive, by the Russians.
Just before Hitler’s 56th (and final) birthday on April 20, the Russian army arrived at the outskirts of Berlin. Within days, they had the city surrounded as American and British troops began to arrive. Knowing all was lost, Hitler was preparing for death. Earlier in April, his girlfriend, 33-year-old Eva Braun, had flown to Berlin from Munich to stand by her man. They had been a couple since 1932. Hitler begged her to leave the bunker for her own safety. She refused, supposedly saying:
“Do you think I will let you die alone?”
At the start of the war, Speer was having dinner with Germany’s fun couple, Hitler and Braun, when the Führer announced that a highly intelligent man should always choose a stupid woman:
“Imagine if on top of everything else I had a woman who interfered with my work! In my leisure time I want to have peace. I could never marry.”
Never say never, Mein Führer; shortly after midnight on April 29, 1945, Hitler and Braun exchanged wedding vows. Some minor Nazi official from the Ministry of Propaganda conducted the ceremony in the bunker. Minister of Propaganda Josef Göebbels and Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, acted as witnesses.
Hitler had been loved by Braun. She had been his lover and confidante. She had tried to kill herself twice for his attentions. But he had waited until the day before their deaths to marry her.
Next, Hitler dictated his last will and a Political Testament, where he blamed the war on “international Jewry” and urged all Germans to continue the good fight. Hitler:
“Posterity cannot place the responsibility on me. The world I leave will have no doubt about the fact that Jewry will have to pay.”
His price was six million lives.
Nothing quite as romantic as ruthless dictator, Hitler’s will declared:
“As I did not consider that I could take responsibility, during the years of struggle, of contracting a marriage, I have now decided, before the closing of my earthly career, to take as my wife that girl who, after many years of faithful friendship, entered, of her own free will, the practically besieged town in order to share her destiny with me. I myself and my wife – in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation – choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”
The next day, April 30, with the Russians less than a city block away, Hitler and Braun enjoyed a final meal of pasta and tomato sauce prepared by his personal cook, Constanze Manziarly. Manziarly was only 23 years old when she started working for Hitler in 1943. Shortly after 3pm, the newlyweds said goodbye to their staff in the bunker and retired to their private chambers, bringing revolvers and two thin glass vials of cyanide with them. He wore his Nazi uniform jacket and black trousers. She wore a pretty blue dress trimmed in white.
There was a loud gunshot at about 3:30pm. After waiting a few minutes, Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge, opened the door and saw the Führer upright in a sitting position on a blood-soaked sofa.
That evening, the young chef was busy cooking fried eggs and mashed potatoes for Hitler, without knowing he was already dead.
Only the day before, April 29, American soldiers had liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. There they had found railroad boxcars filled with dead bodies, and corpses piled high outside the camp crematorium.
A few days later, Manziarly, along with Hitler’s aide, Traudl Junge, and a group of nasty Nazis led by SS leader Wilhelm Mohnke, fled. Junge later reported seeing the cook being captured by a pair of Russian soldiers who took her away. She was never seen again.
Most historians assume that Hitler had made his death certain by using his pistol on himself after biting a cyanide vial. He was found with blood trickling from a small hole in his right temple. The pistol lay on the floor where it had dropped from his right hand. Braun lay beside him, but she had not used the revolver at her side, preferring to just take the poison.
Later, Radio Hamburg announced:
“….our Führer Adolf Hitler died for Germany in his command post in the Reich Chancellery this afternoon, fighting to his last breath against Bolshevism“.
The dead Hitler and Braun were wrapped in blankets and carried to the Chancellery garden. There, one of the Führer’s personal assistants, SS Officer Otto Günsche, doused their bodies with gasoline and burned them, in accordance with Hitler’s final orders.
Hitler’s men buried the charred remains in a nearby shallow bomb crater where they were discovered by the Russians. The remains were moved to Magdeburg, a town outside of Berlin, after being buried and exhumed several times by Russian soldiers.
The story goes that they were buried in the courtyard of the Russian counter-intelligence agency’s headquarters in Magdeburg and remained there for 25 years. When control was handed to East Germany in 1970, the KGB exhumed and fully cremated the remains fearing that Hitler’s burial site would probably become a place of worship for supporters of fascist ideas. The ashes were scattered in the River Elbe. But nobody knows for sure.
Manziarly, nicknamed Miss Marzipani by the SS, claimed in letters to her family that Hitler was a vegetarian and a fussy eater, and in his last few days survived on a cake, mushrooms and millet.