As the Allies advanced on Berlin, Adolf Hitler married his loyal mistress, Eva Braun, in a civil ceremony in his bunker under the Reich Chancellory on 29 April, 1945. The next day at 3.30pm, they took cyanide from glass vials. Hitler also shot himself in the head with a 7.65mm Walther pistol.
1945 German Newsreels
The generally accepted cause of the death of Adolf Hitler on April 30, 1945 is suicide by gunshot and cyanide poisoning. The dual method and other circumstances surrounding the event encouraged rumours that Adolf Hitler may have survived the end of World War II along with speculation about what happened to his remains. The 1993 opening of records kept by the Russian KGB and FSB confirmed the widely accepted version of the death of Hitler as described by Hugh Trevor-Roper in his book The Last Days of Hitler published in 1947. The Russian archives did however shed new light on what happened to the cadaver.
During Hitler's last lunch of spaghetti with a "light sauce," according to the secretaries who ate with him, conversation revolved around dog breeding and how lipstick was made from sewer grease. Both were topics Hitler had brought up on numerous past mealtime occasions. Eva preferred not to eat lunch on that day.
In 1945, the burned body of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was found in a bunker in the ruins of Berlin. Also that day, Soviet troops captured the Reichstag building in Berlin.
First details about the real circumstances of his death emerged on 20 June.
One of Hitler's bodyguards who escaped to the British side of Berlin said he had seen the partly burned bodies of Eva Braun and Hitler lying side by side in the grounds of the Reich Chancery near the entrance of his bunker.
Hitler had married Eva Braun on 29 April and they committed suicide the next day.
Hitler's "Thousand-Year Reich" lasted 12 years and three months.
Heinrich Himmler, whose attempts at peace talks with the Allies had convinced Hitler the war was over for Germany, offered to serve under Admiral Doenitz but was rejected.
After Germany surrendered on 7 May, Himmler tried to escape, was captured and committed suicide on 23 May.
Doenitz was sentenced to ten years' in prison at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
1945: Germany announces Hitler is dead
Adolf Hitler has been killed at the Reich Chancery in Berlin, according to Hamburg radio.
At 2230 local time a newsreader announced that reports from the Fuhrer's headquarters said Hitler had "fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany".
It said he had appointed Grand Admiral Doenitz as his successor.
There followed an announcement by Admiral Doenitz in which he called on the German people to mourn their Fuhrer who, he said, died the death of a hero in the capital of the Reich.
Reports from Washington say US officials are suspicious of the announcement and are certainly not celebrating as yet.
In London, Prime Minister Winston Churchill would not make a statement to the Commons about the war situation in Europe except to say it was "definitely more satisfactory than it was this time five years ago".
Admiral Doenitz, famous for his U-boat victories in the first three years of the war, vowed to continue the battle against the Soviets and their western Allies.
"The British and the Americans do not fight for the interests of their own people but for the spreading of Bolshevism," he said.
As new head of state and supreme commander of the Wehrmacht - the German armed forces - he demanded discipline and obedience and urged German soldiers, "Do your duty. The life of our people is at stake."
There is now speculation in the British press as to whether the weakened German forces will follow Doenitz or Heinrich Himmler, head of the home army, the Volkssturm, the SS and the Gestapo.
He has made peace overtures to the Allies in recent days in meetings with Count Folke Bernadotte, a nephew of the King of Sweden, but so far these have come to nothing.
The Death of Hitler
In April of 1945, Hitler moved into the Führerbunker, located 50 feet below the Chancellery buildings in Berlin. In this underground complex containing nearly thirty rooms on two separate floors, Hitler held daily briefings with his generals amid reports of the unstoppable Soviet advance into Berlin. He issued frantic orders to defend Berlin with armies that were already wiped out or were making a hasty retreat westward to surrender to the Americans.
On April 22, during a three hour military conference in the bunker, Hitler let loose a hysterical, shrieking denunciation of the Army and the 'universal treason, corruption, lies and failures' of all those who had deserted him. The end had come, Hitler exclaimed, his Reich was a failure and now there was nothing left for him to do but stay in Berlin and fight to the very end.
His staff attempted without success to convince him to escape to the mountains around Berchtesgaden and direct remaining troops and thus prolong the Reich. But Hitler told them his decision was final. He even insisted a public announcement be made.
Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels then brought his entire family, including six young children, to live with Hitler in the bunker. Hitler began sorting through his own papers and selected documents to be burned.
Personnel in the bunker were given permission by Hitler to leave. Most did leave and headed south for the area around Berchtesgaden via a convoy of trucks and planes. Only a handful of Hitler's personal staff remained including his top aide Martin Bormann, the Goebbels family, SS and military aides, two of Hitler's secretaries, and longtime companion Eva Braun.
On April 23, Hitler's friend and Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer, arrived for his final meeting with the Führer. At this meeting Speer bluntly informed Hitler that he had disobeyed the Führer's scorched earth policy and had preserved German factories and industry for the post-war period. Hitler listened in silence and had no particular reaction, much to the surprise of Speer.
That afternoon Hitler received a surprise telegram from Göring who had already reached safety in Berchtesgaden.
In view of your decision to remain in the fortress of Berlin, do you agree that I take over at once the total leadership of the Reich, with full freedom of action at home and abroad as your deputy, in accordance with your decree of June 29, 1941? If no reply is received by 10 o'clock tonight, I shall take it for granted that you have lost your freedom of action, and shall consider the conditions of your decree as fulfilled, and shall act for the best interests of our country and our people. You know what I feel for you in this gravest hour of my life. Words fail me to express myself. May God protect you, and speed you quickly here in spite of all.
An angry Hitler, prompted by Bormann, sent Göring a return message saying he had committed "high treason." Although the penalty for this was death, Göring was to be spared, due to his long years of service, if he would immediately resign all of his offices. Bormann then transmitted an order to the SS near Berchtesgaden to arrest Göring and his staff. Before dawn on April 25, Göring was locked up.
The next day, April 26, Soviet artillery fire made the first direct hits on the Chancellery buildings and grounds directly above the Führerbunker. That evening a small plane containing female test pilot Hanna Reitsch and Luftwaffe General Ritter von Greim landed in the street near the bunker following a daring flight in which Greim had been wounded in the foot by Soviet ground fire.
Once inside the Führerbunker the wounded Greim was informed by Hitler he was to be Göring's successor, promoted to Field-Marshal in command of the Luftwaffe.
Although a telegram could have accomplished this, Hitler had insisted Greim appear in person to receive his commission. But now, due to his wounded foot, Greim would be bedridden for three days in the bunker.
On the night of April 27, Soviet bombardment of the Chancellery buildings reached its peak with numerous direct hits. Hitler sent frantic telegrams to Keitel demanding Berlin be relieved by (now non-existent) armies.
The final blow came on the 28th when Hitler received word via Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry that British news services were reporting SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had sought negotiations with the Allies and even offered to surrender German armies in the west to Eisenhower.
According to eyewitnesses in the bunker, Hitler "raged like a madman" with a ferocity never seen before. Himmler had been with Hitler since the beginning and had earned the nickname "der treue Heinrich" (faithful Heinrich) through years of fanatical, murderous service to his Führer, who now ordered Himmler's arrest.
As an act of immediate revenge, Hitler ordered Himmler's personal representative in the bunker, SS Lt. Gen. Hermann Fegelein, who was also the husband of Eva Braun's sister, to be taken up to the Chancellery garden above the bunker and shot.
Now, with the desertions of Göring and Himmler and the Soviets advancing deep into Berlin, Hitler began preparing for his own death.
Late in the evening of the 28th he dictated his last will and a two-part political testament (shown below) in which he expressed many of the same sentiments he had stated in Mein Kampf back in 1923-24. He essentially blamed the Jews for everything, including the Second World War. He also made a reference to his 1939 threat against the Jews along with a veiled reference to the subsequent gas chambers...
"I further left no one in doubt that this time not only would millions of children of Europe's Aryan people die of hunger, not only would millions of grown men suffer death, and not only hundreds of thousands of women and children be burnt and bombed to death in the towns, without the real criminal having to atone for this guilt, even if by more humane means."
Just before midnight he married Eva Braun in a brief civil ceremony. There was then a celebration of the marriage in his private suite. Champagne was brought out and those left in the bunker listened to Hitler reminisce about better days gone by. Hitler concluded, however, that death would be a release for him after the recent betrayal of his oldest friends and supporters.
By the afternoon of April 29, Soviet ground forces were about a mile away from the Führerbunker. Inside the bunker the last news from the outside world told of the downfall and death of Mussolini, who had been captured by Italian partisans, executed, then hung upside down and thrown into the gutter.
Hitler now readied himself for the end by first having his poison tested on his favorite dog, Blondi. He also handed poison capsules to his female secretaries while apologizing that he did not have better parting gifts to give them. The capsules were for them to use if the Soviets stormed the bunker.
About 2:30 in the morning of April 30, Hitler came out of his private quarters into a dining area for a farewell with staff members. With glazed eyes, he shook hands in silence, then retired back into his quarters. Following Hitler's departure, those officers and staff members mulled over the significance of what they had just witnessed. The tremendous tension of preceding days seemed to suddenly evaporate with the realization that the end of Hitler was near. A lighthearted mood surfaced, followed by spontaneous displays of merry-making even including dancing.
At noon, Hitler attended his last military situation conference and was told the Soviets were just a block away. At 2 p.m. Hitler sat down and had his last meal, a vegetarian lunch. His chauffeur was then ordered to deliver 200 liters of gasoline to the Chancellery garden.
Hitler and his wife Eva then bid a final farewell to Bormann, Goebbels, Generals Krebs and Burgdorf, other remaining military aides and staff members.
Hitler and his wife then went back into their private quarters while Bormann and Goebbels remained quietly nearby. Several moments later a gunshot was heard. After waiting a few moments, at 3:30 p.m., Bormann and Goebbels entered and found the body of Hitler sprawled on the sofa, dripping with blood from a gunshot to his right temple. Eva Braun had died from swallowing poison.
As Soviet shells exploded nearby, the bodies were carried up to the Chancellery garden, doused with gasoline and burned while Bormann and Goebbels stood by and gave a final Nazi salute. Over the next three hours the bodies were repeatedly doused with gasoline. The charred remains were then swept into a canvas, placed into a shell crater and buried.
Back inside the bunker, with the Führer now gone, everyone began smoking, a practice Hitler had generally forbidden in his presence. They next began collectively plotting daring (but fruitless) escapes out of Berlin to avoid capture by the Soviets.
On the following day, May 1, Goebbels and his wife proceeded to poison their six young children in the bunker, then went up into the Chancellery garden where they were shot in the back of the head at their request by an SS man. Their bodies were then burned, but were only partially destroyed and were not buried. Their macabre remains were discovered by the Soviets the next day and filmed, the charred body of Goebbels becoming an often seen image symbolizing of the legacy of Hitler's Reich.
The Last Will of Adolf Hitler
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. At her own desire she goes as my wife with me into death. It will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people.
What I possess belongs - in so far as it has any value - to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary.
My paintings, in the collections which I have bought in the course of years, have never been collected for private purposes, but only for the extension of a gallery in my home town of Linz on Donau.
It is my most sincere wish that this bequest may be duly executed.
I nominate as my Executor my most faithful Party comrade,
He is given full legal authority to make all decisions.
He is permitted to take out everything that has a sentimental value or is necessary for the maintenance of a modest simple life, for my brothers and sisters, also above all for the mother of my wife and my faithful co-workers who are well known to him, principally my old Secretaries Frau Winter etc. who have for many years aided me by their work.
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.
Given in Berlin, 29th April 1945, 4:00 A.M.
[Signed] A. Hitler
Dr. Joseph Goebbels
Colonel Nicholaus von Below
How Hitler Died
It was April 30, 1945, and Berlin, the capital of Adolf Hitler's tottering Third Reich, was a shattered, flaming inferno. Tanks and troops of Soviet General Vasily Chuikov's Eighth Guards army had fought to within a few blocks of the Reich Chancellery. The end was clearly at hand. Some time after lunch that day, Hitler and his wife of one day, Eva Braun, retired to their suite in the Führer's underground bunker to take their lives. They left instructions that their bodies be burned.
The war was over seven days later. Yet for two decades, mystery shrouded the exact circumstances of the dictator's death. In the West it was surmised, from testimony by Germans who were in the bunker at the time, that Hitler had shot himself. The Soviets said nothing. In a book published last week, Lev Bezymenski, a former Red army intelligence officer, reveals that the Russians not only found Hitler's body after taking the bunker but that they also performed an exhaustive autopsy. It showed that Hitler had died by cyanide poisoning, not by a bullet.*
In The Death of Adolf Hitler (Harcourt, Brace & World; $3.95), Author Bezymenski, now a Soviet journalist, says that on May 4, 1945, a Soviet private came across two partially burned, badly disfigured bodies in a shell crater outside the Führerbunker. The Russians, having mistaken another corpse for Hitler's, at first buried the two bodies, but unearthed them again when a Soviet counterintelligence officer had second thoughts. On May 8, a team of Russian forensic experts performed autopsies in a Berlin hospital mortuary. Their full reports are reproduced verbatim in grisly detail that even notes the discovery that Hitler had only one testicle. Glass splinters, apparently from poison ampoules, were found in the mouths of both bodies. There were no visible gunshot wounds—although part of Hitler's cranium was missing—and "the marked smell of bitter almonds and the presence of cyanide compounds in internal organs" led the Soviet doctors to conclude that the deaths of both Hitler and Eva were caused by cyanide. A meticulous comparison of Hitler's dental records and the teeth found on the corpse convinced the Soviets that they had found the body of the Führer. Eva was similarly identified. Stalin showed "considerable interest in the fate of Hitler," Bezymenski observes with seemingly unconscious irony. Yet the Soviets kept their findings secret. The Kremlin wanted to hold the autopsy reports back, the author claims, "in case someone might try to slip into the role of 'the Führer saved by a miracle,' " and to continue the investigation in order to rule out all possibility of error. Clearly, neither reason matters any longer—as proved by the fact that Bezymenski was allowed to publish his book.
Hitler with his friends on vacation
How Hitler cheated death in 1943 coup... thanks to the Allies
DER Führer Adolf Hitler ist tot. These six words, announcing the death of the Nazi leader, should have brought the Second World War to an end in November 1943.
The sentence was part of a press release drafted by disaffected German officers who hatched an audacious plot to kill Hitler and then use a secret army to seize control of key sites before suing for peace with the Allies.
The full story - which surpasses any Hollywood war movie for drama, farce and ironic twists - has been uncovered by a German academic who closely examined detailed records left behind by the plotters.
Major General Henning von Tresckow created a new force of around 20,000 troops based in German-controlled territory in the east, telling High Command it was needed to protect against a potential revolt by slave labourers.
Tresckow then organised a 'fashion parade' at which Hitler was to inspect new uniforms, little suspecting one of the models was a suicide bomber. Once the Führer was dead, Tresckow planned to blame the killing on rogue SS elements, use his secret army to take command, and end the war.
But the putsch was foiled days before it was due to be launched, thanks to the RAF. The uniforms were among the casualties from two nights of bombing raids on Berlin, so the plot was abandoned.
Documents minutely detailing every moment of the overthrow of Nazi Germany and its aftermath were immediately buried by the panicked plotters. They were uncovered by the victorious Soviets in 1945 and lay in Moscow archives until a recent study by Professor Peter Hoffmann of the McGill University, Montreal.
Hoffman, a world authority on wartime resistance to Hitler within the German army, believes another of the plotters was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who earned his place in history by almost killing the Führer with a briefcase bomb in 1944.
Interest in the subject of anti-Hitler plotting is likely to reach new heights later this year when Hollywood actor Tom Cruise begins shooting a major movie in which he plays Stauffenberg.
The new research shows Tresckow was an equal, if not greater, threat to Hitler. Among a close-knit group of conspirators, he worked on the demise of a man he called "the enemy of the world" and a "dancing dervish".
At least two earlier plots have been uncovered, both involving cognac bottles packed with explosives. After they failed, Tresckow began work, in the summer of 1943, on a far more ambitious scheme.
Trescow's plan was to kill Hitler at his war HQ, dubbed the 'Wolf's Lair', in East Prussia, now part of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Hitler would be shown new German army winter uniforms, one of them modelled by Axel von dem Bussche, a decorated war hero who had vowed to kill the Führer after witnessing a massacre of Soviet Jews. Bussche would pose in the new uniform while holding two hand grenades, fully aware he too would die.
Meanwhile, Tresckow and his colleagues used their power to assign divisions to a new internal security force. The cover story for creating the army was to put down any attempts to rebel by enemies of the Reich such as slave workers.
It was planned that the army would begin an exercise 12 hours before the assassination and move in on Hitler's East Prussian HQ, with other troops deploying near government offices in Berlin.
Seven hours before the assassination, commanders would establish the exact location of SS troops and two hours after that be fully prepared for combat against them.
Within 10 minutes of Hitler's death, the code-words for a successful operation would be given, and the next phase of the plan would begin.
At "X plus 25 minutes" Tresckow's army would occupy the Wolf's Lair, along with the East Prussian HQs of Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, and Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.
After 30 minutes, a news statement was to be read on German radio, saying that Hitler was dead and accusing a "a traitorous clique" of SS and party leaders for trying to take personal advantage of the dismal situation on the Eastern Front. The statement would reassure the nation that a group of army officers had taken control and would bring stability.
But then disaster struck. On the nights of November 22 and 23, a series of bombing raids destroyed the trains containing the fashion show uniforms.
Hoffmann told Scotland on Sunday: "The plans demonstrate, and give details of, a thorough and promising preparation of a coup to seize control of Germany that was to accompany the assassination. This would have been followed by immediate armistice talks, or surrender. The plans show that the preparations of autumn 1943 were more thorough and promising of success than any other plans."
He added: "The plans demonstrate Tresckow's central role in these preparations, and his role as the driving force and leader of the movement to remove Hitler and his regime."
Professor David Stafford, of Edinburgh University's Centre for Second World War Studies, said: "The timing is very significant. It was after the great defeats of 1943 and the German Army knew the writing was on the wall. It is fascinating that we are still learning new things about the Second World War."
Stauffenberg was executed for his role in the July 1944 attempt to kill Hitler, and Tresckow killed himself with a grenade because he feared being tracked down. Bussche - the only one of the three who was meant to die in the plots - survived the war and died in 1993.
Russia displays 'Hitler skull fragment'
An exhibition has opened in Russia showing visitors part of a skull which officials claim was Adolf Hitler's.
The fragment, with a bullet hole through it, has been kept in a secret vault for decades.
The exhibition at the Federal Archives Service in Moscow is called "The Agony of the Third Reich: The Retribution" and marks the 55th anniversary of the end of the war.
The exhibition includes documents on Soviet work to identify Hitler's remains, an investigation into his suicide, and some of his belongings recovered from his bunker.
The authenticity of the claim has been questioned since Moscow first announced it had the fragment in 1993.
Hitler biographer, Werner Maser, said the fragment was fake.
However, director of the exhibition Aliya Borkovets insisted that "no doubts remain" about its origin.
Officials from the Federal Security Service - the main successor to the KGB - were non-committal about how the alleged remains came to be in Moscow.
The archivists also claim to have Hitler's jaw, but say it is too fragile to be displayed. They have put photographs on show instead.
Hitler shot himself in his Berlin bunker on 30 April, 1945. His longtime companion Eva Braun, whom he had married hours earlier, also killed herself with cyanide.
The bodies were then taken outside by staff, doused with petrol and set ablaze. They were buried in a shallow grave.
There have long been unconfirmed and conflicting reports about what happened to Hitler's body next.
Soviet troops dug up the remains after they entered Berlin in 1945, and reburied them in Magdeburg, East Germany, according to Russian reports.
In 1970, then-KGB chief Yuri Andropov ordered the bones dug up to "permanently destroy them through incineration," according to some reports.
Other reports suggest that some skull fragments were found separately in Hitler's bunker by the KGB and may have been brought to Moscow.
Five years ago, Russia displayed some of Hitler's uniforms, boots and other relics of Nazi Germany taken from the ruins of Berlin by a Soviet unit charged with collecting war trophies.
The exhibition sparked criticism at the time from some war veterans, who said it was improper to put Nazi memorabilia on display.
Aliya Borkovets rejected such criticism, and said that the exhibition "is not dedicated to Adolf Hitler, after all, but to victory".
Adolf Hitler's skull went on display in Moscow recently showing the bullet hole where, 55 years ago, he shot himself. Rochus Misch, a member of the Fuhrer's personal staff, witnessed the suicide. He tells his story, for the first time, to SIMON FINCH.
IT looks like any children's sandpit, surrounded by the building sites of 21st Century Berlin. But for the old man at my side, this deserted playground on the edge of Potsdammer Platz has a very different resonance.
Rochus Misch has paced out the distance - 140m from Zimmerstrasse and 90m from Wilhelmstrasse. Here, he says, was the garden of the German Chancellery, in whose bomb-cratered morass Hitler's impromptu funeral pyre was lit. And just here, beneath this building site, was the place Misch had spent his war: Hitler's underground bunker, the concrete heart of the Third Reich, where the Fuhrer took his own life as his dreams were ground beneath the Allied advance.
"Everyone was waiting for the shot. We were expecting it. I had just said to the technicians, 'I am going over (to Hitler's office), can I fetch you anything?' And they said no. Then came the shot. I was just six metres away from him when he did it.
"Linge (Hitler's valet) took me to one side and we went in, just after the shot. I saw Hitler slumped by the table. I did not see any blood on his head. And I saw Eva with her knees drawn up lying next to him on the sofa - wearing a white and blue blouse, with a little collar: just a little thing. I was just a young man then. That is why it stays with me so strongly."
For five years, Rochus Misch was a member of Hitler's personal staff, living in Hitler's bunker; he finished the war as Chief of Communications, in charge of the bunker switchboard. It was 55 years ago on April 30, 1945, when Russian troops were closing in, that he heard that shot. Hitler's skull, the bullet hole clearly visible, went on display in Moscow for the first time recently - part of the "Agony of the Third Reich: Retribution" exhibition organised by the Russian State archives to mark the anniversary of the Russian conquest of Berlin.
"After the shot, it all happened very quickly. The door was opened, then closed again, then someone else came, then the blankets were brought in. I ran away, then I came back. I wanted to tell my boss that the Fuhrer was dead - I wanted to make a report, but just after I left the front bunker I ran back. It all happened in seconds. Not minutes, seconds. Then some other people came and they wrapped the bodies up in the blankets.
"They took Hitler out of the emergency exit and put him in a bomb crater. Petrol was poured over him and he was burnt. Not completely burnt, but the corpse was charred. That was the end of Adolf Hitler and along with him, the end of the Third Reich - here, in this place."
Misch's descriptions of the last days of the Reich have a hauntingly intimate intensity. Hitler's bunker, after all, was not a large place. Misch describes it as 15m long, with very small rooms. Hitler's study, sitting room and bedroom on one side; on the other, the bedroom of Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress whom he married in those last hours.
"And then my room, relax, telephone - all that was done from there. It was 120050 - that was the telephone number of the bunker and Hitler's living quarters. That day, I said it loudly on the telephone on purpose, just to break the silence. Everyone was walking quietly by. People were whispering - it was deathly silent down there. It was a coffin for the dead, a concrete coffin.
"The last time I saw Hitler alive he walked out into the corridor and along to the machine room past me, and we looked at each other. He was a broken man, quite hunched up, like a dead man. I do not think it was hard for him to die.
"We knew when Hitler said he was staying in Berlin that he would shoot himself. He said this to his valet, his adjutant and so on, who told us that the boss was staying here. We were suspended between hope and death.
"We had always been waiting for it, we just did not know when it would happen. It all went wrong from one day to the next. One adjutant told Hitler he was leaving and Hitler said to the others 'What am I doing wrong? An adjutant has announced his departure. He wants to leave. Why are people running away from me?' And a secretary said, 'Mein Fuhrer, you are doing nothing wrong. But the adjutants here are front-line soldiers. They want to go back to the front. They do not want to just walk about here in their patent leather shoes'."
After the bodies of Hitler and Braun had been removed, the afternoon continued in a crescendo of the macabre. Into Misch's office came Magda, wife of the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, with her six children: she had decided the whole family should die together.
"The children were prepared for their deaths in my work room. Their mother combed their hair - they were all dressed in white night shirts - and then she went up with the children. There were kitchen workers and secretaries who went down on their knees to Magda and cried for the children - they said they would look after them." But all six were poisoned. "After the children were dead, Magda came down again, walked past me, and sat down at a table two metres away and started playing patience, she started laying down cards. She was crying."
Misch, fearing his own death was imminent, wanted to leave the bunker. "I kept saying to Goebbels, 'I want to go. I want to go away to meet my comrades.' But he said to me, 'There are still telephone calls to make.'
"There were still people there - General Krebs [Army Chief of Staff], General Burgdoff [Chief Adjutant], Martin Bormann [Hitler's deputy] - they were all still there and the telephone lines had to work. We were still receiving phone calls - we were negotiating with the Russians, there were civilians who phoned us up, who knew our number. I still had to carry out my duty."
But eventually even the propaganda minister accepted the inevitable. Goebbels said to me, "We understand how to live, so we also understand how to die. You can stop now." Then I dealt with my things. I took out all the cables, all the connections.
Joseph and Magda Goebbels committed suicide and Misch finally fled from the bunker, but a day later he was captured by the Russians. When the authorities realised who he was, he was sent, on Stalin's orders, to Moscow. The Russian leader could not accept that his rival was finally dead.
"They thought what I had described was not true. 'What if the body you saw was someone else?' 'But it was not someone else, no one else came in.' 'Ah, you are lying, you are lying', always the same. I knew Hitler for five years, I saw him two or three hours before his death and no one else came in."
Misch and the other witnesses to Hitler's last days were ordered to be tortured as Stalin's paranoia raged. "They stripped me and then they whipped my testicles and I lost consciousness. I lost a lot of blood. After a while I ceased to be a human being. I despaired of life, of everything that had happened. There was no heating in the basement, even the urine was frozen. I was laid on an iron bed without a blanket, without anything, nothing. That is why I wrote to Beria [Stalin's head of secret police] that I wanted to be shot, because I could not go on."
To test the statements of their German prisoners, the Russian authorities staged a reconstruction of Hitler's suicide and the burning of his corpse, complete with the original eyewitnesses. The "Reich Chancellery Group" was assembled, bundled onto a train, and then onto a plane bound for Germany. A disoriented Misch looked on as the re-enactment took place.
But if the Charade finally satisfied the Soviets that their prisoners were telling the truth, it now suited Stalin to keep the mystery over Hitler's death alive. Misch was flown back to the Soviet Union, where he was sent to the Gulags.
"There was order in the prison camps, I have to admit that. We were given our food, one was simply a prisoner. I was mostly in the so-called 'regime camps' where they held people such as the atomic physicists, the people who had taught in the university in Moscow.
"You had to survive on hope. You had to live on very little - little food, little sleep; but it was better for us than for much of the population of Russia. We had our 600 or 400 grams of bread per day - the Russian people did not always have that."
After Stalin's death in 1953, Misch was released under Khrushchev's general amnesty and sent back to East Germany. There he lived a life of quiet anonymity with his wife Gerda and their daughter Birgitta, who had been born during the war (Eva Braun had given them a pushchair back in the days of the Reich). Together, they ran a small home-decorating shop.
It was just by chance that Rochus Misch had so unusual a war. A member of the SS Leibstandarte elite guards, he was wounded during the invasion of Poland in 1939.
"That was a lucky break for me because it was through my injury that I came to work for Hitler." Still in his early twenties, Misch was taken out of active service and, following a recommendation from one of his commanding officers, was summoned to the Reich Chancellery.
"The head adjutant interviewed me. He had to know who would be living in Hitler's apartment. Then he stood up and went to the door. And who was standing behind the door? Hitler. I got in a state, freezing cold one moment, hot the next. We were one metre apart. He had been listening to the interview behind the door.
"Hitler asked where I came from and I said, 'Mein Fuhrer, I come,' - in the meantime I had composed myself a little - 'I come from Upper Silesia.' He asked, 'Do we have any Silesians here?' and the head adjutant said, 'I do not know, I do not know.' Hitler went on, 'Well, the young man can do something for me straight away.' And he gave me a letter and said, 'Please take this to my sister Paula in Vienna.' "
It was May 1940. This was Misch's first task as one of the Fuhrer-Begleitung (Hitler's personal staff). Until this promotion, Misch had been living obscurely in an army barracks and at first this new position left him awestruck.
"Hitler was acclaimed, celebrated everywhere. This was the Fuhrer. I was scared. But after 10 days or so I got used to the fact that Hitler was a human being, like any other. Then he was no longer the great Fuhrer, but simply 'the boss'.
"He was a very good boss, very loyal. We who were closest to him tried to carry out our duties properly. We were bodyguards, telephonists, whatever; we did everything that would have to be done for the head of any firm, whoever he may be. There is nothing to complain about when you have such a boss. He always asked how we all were. Those who claim Hitler was not interested in ordinary people are talking nonsense."
* * *
A FEW months ago, builders digging the foundations for a new government office block next to the sandpit on the edge of Potsdammer Platz accidentally exposed part of the bunker roof. It rekindled a debate: should the bunker be left buried, destroyed, or maintained as a museum? Despite a substantial lobby, running the gamut from archaeologists and historians to Holocaust campaigners and the inevitable neo-Nazi groups, the Berlin authorities decided to rebury their past. Misch, however, believes the bunker should have been excavated.
"It should be preserved for the sake of history. This is where the Nazi era happened and where Hitler died. It was a momentous event. It should be kept for the world to see."
The latest scholarship suggests that by the end of 1942, a large percentage of the German population knew that the "Jewish problem" - as Nazi ideology had it - had been radically solved and millions put to death. Coming to terms with Hitler's crimes and the Holocaust has been a struggle for the German people; for Misch, it has been harder than for most.
To him, Hitler was not just a distant leader. He was the kind boss who joked with his staff; the film buff who loved Charlie Chaplin and watched "Gone With The Wind" three times. The man who always said that he was too busy for a wife and yet, Misch believes, married Eva Braun the day before their deaths so that "he took her to the grave as a married woman solely out of consideration for her parents". And for Misch, this dichotomy is made more extraordinary by the fact that, despite being at the heart of Hitler's operation, he insists he never heard any talk of the mass murder of Jews.
"How could we fail to find this out - my God, we knew nearly everything that was going on - us in the inner circle - we were always there, day and night. We saw Hitler in his nightshirt. We received the dispatches and brought them to Hitler to read. He would have them under his arm and tear out a report and hand it to me, and I would get rid of it in a waste-paper basket. There was never anything on this subject."
And yet, he does not deny the Holocaust happened. "Yes, it happened, but I cannot imagine it. I cannot imagine Hitler as a murderer. It is simply impossible. He was so friendly, nice.
"If I met him today, I would say, 'Mein Fuhrer, I did not really get to know you that well. For five years we could look each other straight in the eye and smile and ... all these things that have been written about, where did that all come from? I never knew you to be like that, Mein Fuhrer'."
(c) The Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2000
The Russians drove across the Baltic states, Poland and Hungary and by February 1945, they were 100 miles from Berlin. By April, American, British and Russian troops were moving toward Berlin from all sides. On April 30, 1945, Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide and one week later, May 7, a demoralized and near destroyed Germany surrendered unconditionally. Finally, on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima -- 78,000 perished within fifteen minutes of the blast. Three days later, another bomb fell on Nagasaki and on August 14, Japan surrendered.
Germany Gives Up
End of World War II
The legacy of World War Two was dramatic. 50 million lost their lives, 20 million Russians alone. The war also meant a vast number of people left Europe for either England or the United States in an exodus which has come to be known as the Great Sea Change. Hundreds of cities were destroyed, some of them centuries-old. Only 5% of Berlin remained intact, 70% of Dresden, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt were destroyed. The war also revealed the existence of two superpowers -- the United States and the Soviet Union, countries which would determine the fate of Europe and the world for the next four decades. The world now had to atomic bomb. The world also had its Satan: Hitler. Vast imperialist empires were destroyed and then there was the Holocaust. In the intellectual realm and in the world of art, the European war created a Second Lost Generation with its own philosophy: existentialism.