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75 years later, Hitler’s suicide remembered — by those in the bunker

75 years ago, in a cramped Berlin bunker, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, his bride of one day, consumed cyanide tablets. Then, the Führer of Nazi Germany, who terrorized the world for nearly six years. shot himself in the head. The Russian Army was advancing and Germany was overwhelmed. Their deaths were hardly a surprise.

“Hitler was sitting and waiting for some rescue, but he made very clear that if he couldn’t get a victory in Berlin he wouldn’t leave, but he would die in Berlin, he would stay and make suicide,” Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge told BBC reporter Zina Rohan in 1989.

“When he told us on the 22nd of April 1945 that we could leave Berlin and we should leave Berlin, there were two secretaries, Eva Braun and the cook Fraulein Manziarly,” Junge recalled. Braun, who would marry Hitler a week later, refused to leave. And Junge did likewise.

Hitler dictated his last will and testament to Junge, but while he appeared to trust her, he became paranoid in his final moments.

“Hitler’s dog died before Hitler,” Junge recalled. “She had to test the cyanide capsule, because Hitler was so distrustful of Himmler who gave him the cyanide capsules, which he also gave to Eva Braun, so he tried to test the effect of this and he used Blondi for that.”

Those in the bunker heard a gunshot at around 3:30 PM.

“Suddenly I heard somebody shouting to Hitler’s attendant: ‘Linge, Linge, I think it’s happened,’” Hitler’s bodyguard, Rochus Minsch, recalled in 2009. “At that moment Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, ordered everyone to be silent. Everyone began whispering. I was speaking on the telephone and I made sure I talked louder on purpose because I wanted to hear something. I didn’t want it to feel like we were in a death bunker.”

Hitler’s valet, Hans Linge and Bormann opened Hitler’s study door, where they detected the tell-tale almond smell native to prussic acid.

Otto Günsche found Braun lying near Hitler, who was “sunken over, with blood dripping out of his right temple.”

“I saw Hitler slumped with his head on the table,” said Minsch, “Eva Braun was lying on the sofa, with her head towards him. Her knees were drawn tightly up to her chest. She was wearing a dark blue dress with white frills. I will never forget it.”

“We realized that either we stay in this mousetrap and take our cyanide capsules and commit suicide too or we wait until the Russians open the door and then terrible things will happen,” Junge remembered. “So everybody decided we’d try to break out and that is what we did in the night of the first of May.”

“I watched as they wrapped Hitler up,” Minsche told the BBC. “His legs were sticking out as they carried him past me. Someone shouted to me: ‘Hurry upstairs, they’re burning the boss!’ I decided not to go because I had noticed that Mueller from the Gestapo was there – and he was never usually around. I said to my comrade Hentschel, the mechanic: ‘Maybe we will be killed for being the last witnesses.’”

An unidentified witness at the Nuremberg trials told US prosecutor Thomas J. Dodd that he carried Braun’s corpse out of the bunker and set it on fire. Asked if he saw Hitler’s body, he said he only saw legs hanging out of the blanket — it was too short to cover his body.

While men remained behind to douse the bodies with more petrol, eventually hiding them in a bomb crater, Junge made her escape.

“Outside it was just war,” Junge said of the world outside the bunker. “The houses were ruined, everywhere were refugees and soldiers and running for shelter of bombs and we crept in the tunnel of the underground train to the next exit and then we heard the gunfire and the artillery and it was just a wonder that we survived.”

A week after Junge’s escape, the war in Europe was over. Whether Hitler died of the gunshot or the poison remains a matter of debate.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected].


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