The final moments of the Nazi leader will be revealed to the public in the new documentary.
The final hours of the Nazi leader, culminating in his marriage to his mistress Eva Braun and their suicides the next day on April 30, are a source of endless fascination. Now a new drama-documentary, including unseen interviews with key witnesses who were part of Hitler’s inner circle, sheds new light on those gripping events.
The Nazi leader was last seen in public on his 56th birthday on April 20, 1945, awarding medals to conscripts. But within days his world had shrunk to a few dank rooms 30ft below the ruins of Berlin. The programme, The Day Hitler Died, reveals how the increasingly volatile Führer spent the last week of his life planning his own death.
The original interviews were recorded in 1948 by Michael Musmanno, a US judge who presided at the Nuremberg war crime trials. Frustrated by persistent rumours that Hitler had escaped from the bunker he set out to track down witnesses to the Führer’s last days. He traced more than 100 witnesses who spoke freely about everything from Hitler’s hasty marriage to the disposal of his body.
In the bunker Hitler was surrounded by a dozen generals and aides who were required to provide updates twice daily about the war. They dreaded these meetings knowing that the remnants of the German army were outnumbered by three to one. Among the military men trapped with him was Major Bernd von Loringhoven, a former tank commander and winner of the Iron Cross. He noticed how Hitler’s conviction that the war could still be won was gradually ebbing away and he began focussing on suicide.
It was the refusal of his soldiers to launch an offensive against the Soviet juggernaut that tipped Hitler over the edge. Hitler’s press attaché Heinz Lorenz tells Musmanno, whose unique material was lost for decades before being found in an archive in Pittsburgh: “His armies were defeated on all fronts but he ordered his troops forward.
Also on Hitler’s mind was marriage to his mistress of 14 years, Eva Braun. With Soviet troops only a few hundred yards away the pair tied the knot in the bunker, on April 29, in a bizarre ceremony. Braun was wearing a black dress and the guests drank champagne. The lights flickered due to nearby explosions, which also showered the rooms with dust.
Less than 40 hours later both bride and groom would be dead, because 33-year-old Braun was determined to commit suicide with Hitler. His propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels took the same decision, along with his family.
In his will Hitler gave instructions that his body should be burned and that the fight against the Allies must continue. By now he was suspicious of everyone and feared that if he took poison the dose could be tampered with. After killing his beloved German shepherd dog, Blondi, he resolved to shoot himself.
Secretary Traudl Junge told the US judge how the Führer behaved during the final 24 hours, adding: “Hitler moved about like a living dead man. He couldn’t bear to be alone. Before everybody had an awe of him. Now he excited no fear or sensation.”
Recalling the last time she saw Hitler, the secretary says: “He offered his hand. He looked at me but I don’t think he saw me.”