Last days of Nazis in Berlin

This SS officer will fight no more

Review of "The Fall of Berlin, 1945" by Anthony Beevor (

If anything, German resistance was surprisingly feeble, or as a German prisoner quoted by Beevor phrased it, "Morale is being completely destroyed by warfare on German territory ... we are told to fight to the death, but it is a complete blind alley." There are no real surprises here -- if you didn't know anything about World War II, you could guess from the first couple of chapters that Germany is doomed. And yet, Beevor has wrenched a better book from the fall of Berlin than he was able to from the siege of Stalingrad.
A Tiger Panzer lies desolate near the Potsdam station

During the withdrawal into the centre of Berlin, the SS execution squads went about their hangman's work with an increased urgency and cold fanaticism. Around the Kurfürstendamm, SS squads entered houses where white flags had appeared and shot down any men they found. Goebbels, terrified of the momentum of collapse, described these signs of surrender as a 'plague bacillus'. Yet General Mummert, the commander of the Muncheberg Panzer Division, ordered the SS and Feldgendarmerie squads out of his sector round the Anhalter Bahnhof and Potsdamerplatz. He threatened to shoot executioners on the spot.
From Berlin Downfall 1945 by ANTONY BEEVOR

One of the last photos of Hitler. On his left is the head of Hitler Youth, Arthur Aksmann

The last days of Nazi rule in Berlin is a grim saga of hopelessness and desperation.

Battle for Berlin

The forces available for the city's defense included several severely depleted Army and Waffen-SS divisions, supplemented by the police force, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and the Volkssturm which consisted of elderly men, many of whom had been in the army as young men and some were veterans of World War I.

To the west the XX Infantry Division, to the north the IX Parachute Division, to the north-east Panzer Division Müncheberg, XI SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland were to the south-east, (east of Tempelhof Airport) and XVIII Panzergrenadier Division, the reserve, were in the central district.
Berlin's fate was sealed, but the resistance continued. The Soviet advance to the city centre was along these main axes: from the south-east, along the Frankfurter Allee (ending and stopped at the Alexanderplatz); from the south along Sonnen Allee ending north of the Belle Alliance Platz, from the south ending near the Potsdamer Platz and from the north ending near the Reichstag. The Reichstag, the Moltke bridge, Alexanderplatz, and the Havel bridges at Spandau were the places where the fighting was heaviest, with house-to-house and hand-to-hand combat. The foreign contingents of the SS fought particularly hard, because they were ideologically motivated and they believed that they would not live if captured.

On April 28 Heinrici rejected Hitler's command to hold Berlin at all costs, so he was relieved of his command and replaced by General Kurt Student the next day. On April 30, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself. General Weidling, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on May 2.

Also by 28 April, troops of the 3rd Shock Army, advancing from the northern districts,were in sight of the Siegessäule column in the Tiergarten. Red Army soldiers nicknamed it the 'tall woman' because of the statue of winged victory on the top. The German defenders were now reduced to a strip less than five kilometres in width and fifteen in length. It ran from Alexanderplatz in the east to Charlottenburg and the Reichssportsfeldin the west, from where Artur Axmann's Hitler Youth detachments desperately defended the bridges over the Havel. Weidling's artillery commander, Colonel Wöhlermann, gazed around in horror from the gun platform at the top of the vast concrete Zoo flak tower.'One had a panoramic view of the burning, smouldering and smoking great city, a scene which again and again shook one to the core

A German soldier on the steps of Rayhskantselyarii. In its basement was a hospital with some 500 seriously wounded SS soldiers, as well as civilian women and children, who harassed the Red Army which demolished the building
When Traudl Junge was finally released from her typing at around 4 a.m. on Sunday 29 April, and the Führer and Frau Hitler retired, she went upstairs to find some food for the Goebbels children. The scenes which she encountered,not far from where the wounded lay in the Reich Chancellery's underground field hospital, shocked her deeply. 'An erotic fever seemed to have taken possession of everybody. Everywhere, even on the dentist's chair, I saw bodies locked in lascivious embraces. The women had discarded all modesty and were freely exposing their private parts.' SS officers who had been out searching cellars and streets for deserters to hang had also been tempting hungry and impressionable young women back to the Reich Chancellery with promises of parties and inexhaustible supplies of food and champagne

These children were Hitler's last line of defence for Berlin. A pathetic sight.

Many other women also 'conceded' to one soldier in the hope of protecting themselves from gang rape. Magda Wieland, a twenty-four-year-old actress, found the arrival of Russian troops in Giesebrechtstrasse, just off the Kürfurstendamm, 'the most frightening moment of the whole war'. She hid in a huge, ornately carved mahogany cupboard when they burst in. A very young soldier from Central Asia hauled her out. He was so excited at the prospect of a beautiful young blonde that he suffered from premature ejaculation.By sign language, she offered herself to him as a girlfriend if he would protect her from other Russian soldiers. He was clearly thrilled at the idea of having a blonde girlfriend,and went out to boast to his friends, but another soldier arrived and raped her brutally.In the cellar, Ellen Goetz, a Jewish friend of Magda's who had sought shelter there when she escaped from the Lehrterstrasse prison after a heavy bombardment, was also dragged out and raped. When other Germans tried to explain to the Russians that she was Jewish and had been persecuted, they received the terse retort, ' Frau ist Frau. ' Russian officers arrived later. They themselves behaved very correctly, but they did nothing to control their men.

The once proud German soldiers stumble through the streets of Berlin


The French 'tank destroyer squads' had played a particularly effective role in the defence.They accounted for about half of the 108 tanks knocked out on the whole sector. Henri Fenet, their battalion commander, described a seventeen-year-old from Saint Nazaire,called Roger, who fought alone with his panzerfausts 'like a single soldier with a rifle'.Unterscharführer Eugene Vanlot, a twenty-year-old plumber nicknamed 'Gegene', was the highest scorer, with eight tanks. He had knocked out two T-34s in Neukolln and then destroyed another six in less than twenty-four hours. On the afternoon of 29 April,Krukenberg summoned him to the subway car in the wrecked LJ-Bahn station, and there,'by the light of spluttering candle stubs', he decorated him with one of the two last Knight's Crosses to be awarded. The other recipient was Major Herzig, the commander of the 503rd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion.

This was not lucky enough to be alive


"White flags were hanging out of windows..."

In the closing days of the war, Charles Lindbergh was dispatched to Germany to gather information on the new aircraft the German Luftwaffe had developed such as the jet fighter and the rocket plane. He arrived in Germany just days after its surrender and roamed the countryside looking for information. He kept a journal of of his experience that provides us a glimpse of a nation that had aspired to conquer the world but was pulverized into defeat.

"Friday May 18, 1945

White flags were hanging out of windows in villages we passed on the way, just as they had been hanging out of many of the windows in Munich. At one point we stopped to ask directions from a group of young German soldiers - in uniform but disarmed and apparently plodding along on their way home - a half-dozen young men, courteous, giving us directions as best they could, -showing no trace of hatred or resentment, or of being whipped in battle. They looked like farmers' sons.

We were on the wrong road. We turned around, and I dropped a package of cigarettes as we passed them by. Regulations forbid our giving rides to Germans. There is to be 'no fraternization.' One is not supposed even to shake hands with them or give a bit of food or candy to the children...

The winding, stone-paved road up the mountain­side to Hitler's headquarters was filled with American military vehicles - jeeps and trucks filled with soldiers, WACS, and Army nurses, apparently bent on seeing where der Fuhrer had lived and operated.

...Hitler's quarters and the surrounding buildings had been heavily bombed - gutted, roofs fallen, in ruins. Craters from misses dotted the nearby hillsides. The pine forest around the buildings was stripped of limbs-trunks broken off, split, shattered...

We parked our jeep at the side of the building and climbed up over rubble to a gaping doorway. A few yards up the road I watched a German officer (in charge of the soldiers cleaning up) salute an American officer who passed nearby, bowing his head slightly as he did so. The American officer sauntered by, obviously taking no notice whatever, although the German held the salute until he had passed. I shall never forget the expressions of those two men.

Most of the walls of the building, being thickly built of stone, were standing firmly. Inside, rubble covered the floors, and part of the wooden furnishings had burned. We made our way over the debris on the floor of the room said to be Hitler's office to the great oblong gap which was once filled with a plate-glass window. It framed almost perfectly a high Alpine range - sharp crags, white fields of snow, saw-tooth peaks against a blue sky, sunlight on the boulders, a storm forming up the valley. It was one of the most beautiful mountain locations I have ever seen.

...We made our way back into the rear chamber. There was the stench of the dead-bodies somewhere only partly buried. We climbed up the mortar-strewn stairs, the end open to the sky where the roof had been blown off. Down again and to the kitchen, edging past a line of doughboys coming in, rifles over shoulders. The floor was covered with twisted utensils and broken dishes; the stoves, with rubble thrown up by the bombs and fallen down from the ceiling."

"There was no hostility in her eyes..."

"As we approached Zell-am-See we entered territory still ruled by the German Army. Officers and soldiers were still armed and still directing what little traffic passed over the roads. Groups of soldiers stared at us as we passed but made no gesture. I could detect neither friendship nor hostility. In every instance where we asked directions, they responded with courtesy. The two of us in an American jeep drove through divisions of the Germany Army as though there had been no war.

On arriving at Zell-am-See in the late afternoon, we stopped at the newly installed local American Army headquarters to arrange for billets for the night... We were assigned a room in a nearby house which had been occupied by a German doctor. The family had been given notice to evacuate only a few hours before. (When our Army moves into an occupied village, the most desirable houses are selected and the occupants ordered out. They are permitted to take their clothing and certain household utensils and furniture - not essential furniture or beds. Where they go for food or shelter is considered none of the conquering army's concern. One of our officers told me that the G.I.'s in his organization simply threw out of the windows any articles they didn't want to keep in the rooms they were occupying.)

As I carried my barracks bag in through the door I met a young German woman carrying her belongings out. There was no hostility in her eyes as they met mine, simply sadness and acceptance. Behind her were three children, two little girls and a little boy, all less than ten years old. They stole glances at me, angry and a little frightened, like children who had been unfairly punished. Their arms were full of childhood belongings or light articles they were carrying out to help their mother."

This eyewitness account appears in: Lindbergh, Charles, A., The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970); Ziemke, Earl F., The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946 (1975).
Neither were these


In the spring of 1944, a Soviet invasion of Germany became a real possibility, as Soviet troops pursued the retreating German army. Hitler ordered the citizens of Germany to destroy anything that the enemy could put to good use. Embittered by defeats, he later turned against the Germans themselves. 'If the German people lose the war, then they will have proved themselves unworthy of me.'
Hitler suffered his greatest military setback of the war in the summer of 1944. More destructive by far than the D-Day landings, Stalin's Operation Bagration in Belorussia eliminated three times more German army divisions than the Allies did in Normandy. Hitler retaliated by demanding specific divisions of the German army stand fast to the last man - the very tactic that Stalin had deployed so disastrously in the early days of the war. Defeat for Germany was only months away.
Source: BBC

The lower bunker was then cleared, but instead of sepulchral silence, a loud noise of partying came from upstairs in the Reich Chancellery canteen. Rochus Misch, the SS telephonist, was ordered to ring to stop this levity, but nobody answered. Another guard was sent up to stop the festivities. Giinsche and two other SS officers stood in the corridor with instructions to preserve the Führer's final privacy, but again it was broken,this time by Madga Goebbels begging to see him. She pushed past Günsche as the door was opened, but Hitler sent her away. She returned to her room sobbing.

Nobody seems to have heard the shot that Hitler fired into his own head. Not long after 3:15 p.m., his valet, Heinz Linge, followed by Giinsche, Goebbels, Bormann and the recently arrived Axmann, entered Hitler's sitting room. Others peered over their shoulders before the door was shut in their faces. Giinsche and Linge carried Hitler's corpse,wrapped in a Wehrmacht blanket, out into the corridor and then up the stairs to the Reich Chancellery garden. At some point, Linge managed to take his master's watch, although it did him little good because he had to get rid of it before Soviet troops took him prisoner.Eva Hitler's body - her lips were apparently puckered from the poison - was then carried up and laid next to Hitler's, not far from the bunker exit. The two corpses were then drenched in petrol from the jerry cans. Goebbels, Bormann, Krebs and Burgdorf followed to pay their last respects. They raised their arms in the Hitler salute as a burning torch of paper or rag was dropped on to the two corpses. One of the SS guards, who had been drinking with the party in the canteen, watched from a side door. He hurried down the steps to the bunker. 'The chief's on fire,' he called to Rochus Misch. 'Do you want to come and have a look?'

The commandant of Berlin Defense, Lieutenant General Helmut Reiman (in trench)

In the centre of Berlin that night the flames in bombarded buildings cast strange shadow sand a red glow on the otherwise dark streets. The soot and dust in the air made it almost unbreathable. From time to time there was the thunder of masonry collapsing. And to add to the terrifying effect, searchlight beams moved around above, searching a night sky in which the Luftwaffe had ceased to exist.

An exhausted group of foreign Waffen SS soldiers sought shelter in the cellars of the Hotel Continental. The place was already full of women and children who eyed the battle-worn soldiers uneasily. The manager approached them and asked if they would go instead to the air-raid shelter in the Jakobstrasse. The SS volunteers felt a bitter resentment that they who had been sacrificing their lives were now cold-shouldered.They turned and left. Fighting soldiers found themselves treated as pariahs. They were no longer brave defenders, but a danger. In hospitals, including one of the military Lazarette,nurses immediately confiscated weapons so that when the Russians arrived, they had no excuse to shoot the wounded.
A anti-aircraft gun lies near the Reichstag


'It's all over with the children,' she told him. 'Now we have to think about ourselves.''Let's be quick,' said Goebbels. 'We're short of time.'

Magda Goebbels took both the gold party badge which Hitler had given her on 27 Aprilin token of his admiration and also her gold cigarette case inscribed 'Adolf Hitler, 29 May1934'. Goebbels and his wife then went upstairs to the garden, accompanied by his adjutant, Günther Schwaegermann. They took two Walther pistols. Joseph and Magda Goebbels stood next to each other, a few metres from where the bodies of Hitler and his wife had been burned and then buried in a shell crater. They crunched on glass cyanide ampoules and either they shot themselves with the pistols at the same moment, or else Schwaegermann shot both of them immediately afterwards as a precautionary coup de grace

The two pistols were left with the bodies, which Schwaegermann doused in petrol from jerry cans, as he had promised. He then ignited the last funeral pyre of the Third Reich.

At 1.55 a.m. on 2 May, the eighteen-year-old announcer Richard Beier made the very last broadcast of the Grossdeutscher Rundfunk from its studio in the bunker on the Masurenallee. The transmitter at Tegel had been overlooked by the Russians. 'The Führer is dead,' he announced, according to his script. 'Long live the Reich!'


1945. People of Berlin suffer.WW2: After Germany lost the war

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. 1945

Berlin, after it fell to the Russians in 1945: WW2

Last days of Nazis in Berlin

When Berlin fell in 1945: Second World War

Berlin in 1945: First hand account: Notes from the diary of Charles Deutmann

The making of the Berlin Wall in 1961

A broken Berlin. 1945. After Germany lost WW2

Share this PostPin ThisShare on TumblrShare on Google PlusEmail This

Popular Articles On This Site

Quotes about war....

"War grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man."
--Napoleon Hill

"We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide."
--Havelock Ellis

'Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
--Mao Tse-Tung (1893 - 1976)

"I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."
--George McGovern

"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."
--Joseph Stalin

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
--Voltaire, War

In war, truth is the first casualty.
-- Aeschylus

"The ability and inclination to use physical strength is no indication of bravery or tenacity to life. The greatest cowards are often the greatest bullies. Nothing is cheaper and more common than physical bravery."
--Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."
--Adolf Hitler

"To walk through the ruined cities of Germany is to feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilization."
--George Orwell

"Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country."
--Bertrand Russell

Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.
--Francis Meehan

Snippets From History

German Soldiers in Russia: Part 1

Hubert Menzel was a major in the General Operations Department of the OKH (the Oberkommando des Heers, the German Army headquarters), and for him the idea of invading the Soviet Union in 1941 had the smack of cold, clear logic to it: 'We knew that in two years' time, that is by the end of 1942, beginning of 1943, the English would be ready, the Americans would be ready, the Russians would be ready too, and then we would have to deal with all three of them at the same time.... We had to try to remove the greatest threat from the East.... At the time it seemed possible.'

Battle for Berlin, 1945

'We started to fire at the masses,' says one former German machine gunner. 'They weren't human beings for us. It was a wall of attacking beasts who were trying to kill us. You yourself were no longer human.'


Berlin after it fell to the Russians, 1945

"Vladlen Anchishkin, a Soviet battery commander on the 1st Ukrainian Front, sums up the horror of the whole event, when he tells how he took personal revenge on German soldiers: 'I can admit it now, I was in such a state, I was in such a frenzy. I said, 'Bring them here for an interrogation' and I had a knife, and I cut him. I cut a lot of them. I thought, 'You wanted to kill me, now it's your turn.'
Read More


Dramatic Pictures: Battle For Stalingrad
"...Effective command no longer possible... further defense senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops."
General Paulus' radio message to Hitler on January 24, 1943

"...Capitulation is impossible. The 6th Army will do its historic duty at Stalingrad until the last man, the last bullet..."

Hitler's response to General Friedrich Paulus' request to withdraw from the city


Points To Ponder....

The fall of France was shocking. It reduced France to virtually a non-player in the Second World War. The efforts of Charles de Gualle were more symbolic than material. But the martial instincts of the French must never be doubted. Under Napoleon they were a formidable military power. The French definitely have more iron in their blood then say, the Italians [I do not mean it in a derogatory sense. War never makes sense]


Bias Of Western Historians

Soviet resistance made possible a successful Allied invasion of France, and ensured the final Allied victory over Germany.

It can hardly be called mere 'resistance'! If it hadn't been for the Russians, Hitler would have made mincemeat of British forces in Africa and landed on British shores in no time. Hitler attacked Russia first because it had more land and resources than Britain. It is as simple as that.

Eastern Front: Bias Of Western Historians