July 21, 1944:
From a speech by Doenitz, following the attempt on Hitler's life the day before:
Men of the Navy! Holy wrath and unlimited anger fill our hearts because of the criminal attempt which was to have cost the life of our beloved Fuehrer. Providence wished it otherwise, watched over and protected our Fuehrer, and did not abandon our German fatherland in the fight for its destiny." Note: Doenitz had spoken directly after Hitler, but before Goering, something Goering no doubt noticed.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: The word 'Putsch' has been used frequently in this court-room by a wide variety of people. It is easy to say so, but I believe that one would have had to realize the tremendous significance of such an activity. The German nation was involved in a struggle of life and death. It was surrounded by enemies almost like a fortress. And it is clear, to keep to the simile of the fortress, that every disturbance from within would without doubt perforce have affected our military might and fighting power. Anyone, therefore, who violates his loyalty and his oath to plan and try to bring about an overthrow during such a struggle for survival must be most deeply convinced that the nation needs such an overthrow at all costs and must be aware of his responsibility. Despite this, every nation will judge such a man to be a traitor, and history will not vindicate him unless the success of the overthrow actually contributes to the welfare and prosperity of his people.
This, however, would not have been the case in Germany. If, for instance, the Putsch of 20 July had been successful, then a dissolution, if only a gradual one, would have resulted inside Germany—a fight against the bearers of weapons, here the SS, there another group, complete chaos inside Germany—for the firm structure of the State would gradually have been destroyed and disintegration and a reduction of our fighting power at the front would have inevitably resulted... From 20 July 1944 on, I did not see Hitler alone, but only at the large discussions of the military situation. He never spoke to me about the question of a successor, not even by way of hinting. This was entirely natural and clear since, according to law, the Reich Marshal was his successor; and the regrettable misunderstanding between the Fuehrer and the Reich Marshal did not occur until the end of April 1945, at a time when I was no longer in Berlin.
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: ...the Admiral's attitude was not considered to be political fanaticism. To them, it meant that he was carrying out his ordinary duty as a soldier to the last. I am convinced that this was the view of the great majority of the entire Navy, the men and the non-commissioned officers as well as the officers.
August 19, 1944:
From a suicide letter to Adolf Hitler from Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge:
When you receive these lines I shall be no more. I cannot bear the reproach that I have sealed the fate of the West through faulty measures, and I have no means of defending myself. I draw a conclusion from that and am dispatching myself where already thousands of my comrades are. I have never feared death. Life has no more meaning for me, and I also figure on the list of war criminals who are to be delivered up. Our applications were not dictated by pessimism but by sober knowledge of the facts. I do not know if Field-Marshal Model, who has been proved in every sphere, will still master the situation. From my heart I hope so. Should it not be so, however, and your cherished new weapons not succeed, then, my Fuhrer, make up your mind to end the war. The German people have borne such untold suffering that it is time to put an end to this fnghtfulness. There must be ways to attain this end, and above all to prevent the Reich from falling under the Bolshevist heel.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: Until 2 or 3 months before the collapse, when the Fuehrer was in Berlin, I flew to his headquarters about every 2 or 3 weeks, but only if I had some concrete Navy matter for which I needed his decision. On those occasions I participated in the noontime discussion of the general military situation, that is, the report which the Fuehrer's staff made to him about what had taken place on the fighting fronts within the last 24 hours. At these military discussions, the Army and Air Force situation was of primary importance, and I spoke only when my naval expert was reporting the naval situation and he needed me to supplement his report. Then at a given moment, which was fixed by the Adjutant's Office, I gave my military report which was the purpose of my journey. When rendering this report only those were present whom these matters concerned, that is, when it was a question of reinforcements, et cetera, Field Marshal Keitel or Generaloberst Jodl were generally present.
When I came to his headquarters every 2 or 3 weeks, later in 1944 there was sometimes an interval of 6 weeks, the Fuehrer invited me to lunch. These invitations ceased completely after 20 July 1944, the day of the attempted assassination. I never received from the Fuehrer an order which in any way violated the ethics of war. Neither I nor anyone in the Navy—and this is my conviction—knew anything about the mass extermination of people, which I learned about here from the Indictment, or, as far as the concentration camps are concerned, after the capitulation in May 1945. In Hitler, I saw a powerful personality who had extraordinary intelligence and energy and a practically universal knowledge, from whom power seemed to emanate and who was possessed of a remarkable power of suggestion. On the other hand, I purposely very seldom went to his headquarters, for I had the feeling that I would best preserve my power of initiative that way and, secondly, because after several days, say 2 or 3 days at his headquarters, I had the feeling that I had to disengage myself from his power of suggestion. I am telling you this because in this connection I was doubtless more fortunate than his staff who were constantly exposed to his powerful personality with its power of suggestion.
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: The chief reason for the frequent visits (Doenitz made to Fuehrer Headquarters), which became even more frequent toward the end of the war, was the desire to keep up with the development of the general war situation so that he, Doenitz, could lead the Navy and carry on the naval war accordingly. Beyond that, questions usually came up which the Admiral could not decide for himself out of his own authority and which, because of their importance, he wanted to bring up personally or to discuss with the representatives of the OKW and of the General Staff... Most of the problems and reports for the Fuehrer were taken care of during the conference (Lagebesprechung) in connection with the Admiral's report on the naval warfare situation... The Admiral took part at least in the discussion of the main session every day... At noon every day there was a military conference which lasted several hours. This was the main conference. In addition, for months, sessions, including special sessions, were held in the evening or at night, at which the Admiral participated only when very important matters were to be discussed—matters of special importance for the conduct of the war. Then, as I said, he participated... Personal reports on the part of the Grossadmiral to Hitler took place very seldom; on the other hand, personal discussions with the OKW and the other military offices at the headquarters took place daily.
August 21, 1944:
Allied representatives meet at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington to discuss plans for postwar security. American, British, Soviet, and Chinese representatives lay the basis for future discussions leading to the foundation of the United Nations. Meetings will continue until October. Edward Stettinius, Jr., leads the American delegation.
The Military Service Law is changed to allow active-duty soldiers to also become members of the Party.
September 15, 1944:
At the Quebec summit conference between Roosevelt and Churchill, the Treasury Plan for the Treatment of Germany, known as the Morgenthau Plan, is adopted. Its three main points are: 1) Germany is to be partitioned into two independent states. 2) Germany's main centers of mining and industry, including the Saar area, the Ruhr area and Upper Silesia are to be internationalized or annexed by neighboring nations. 3) All heavy industry is to be dismantled or otherwise destroyed. Note: The Morgenthau Plan, along with the Allied policy of unconditional surrender, will fuel Nazi propaganda. Opposition among some Allies to the plan, as well as Cold War realities, will ultimately cause most of its provisions to be ignored.
October 22, 1944
Churchill to FDR:
Major War Criminals. UJ (Churchill and FDR refer to Josef Stalin as Uncle Joe, or UJ, in their correspondence) took an unexpectedly ultra-respectable line. There must be no executions without trial otherwise the world would say we were afraid to try them. I pointed out the difficulties in international law but he replied if there were no trials there must be no death sentences, but only life-long confinements...
October 22, 1944
FDR to Churchill:
December 4, 1944:
Your statement of the present attitude of Uncle J. towards war criminals, the future of Germany, and the Montreux Convention is most interesting. We should discuss these matters, together with our Pacific war effort, at the forthcoming three-party meeting.
From a memorandum signed by Doenitz and distributed to Hitler, Jodl, Speer, and the Supreme Command of the Air Force:
Furthermore, I propose reinforcing the shipyard working parties by prisoners from the concentration camps, and as a special measure for relieving the present shortage of coppersmiths, especially in U-boat construction, I propose to divert coppersmiths from the reduced construction of locomotives to shipbuilding...Since, elsewhere, measures for exacting atonement taken against whole working parties amongst whom sabotage occurred have proved successful, and, for example, the shipyard sabotage in France was completely suppressed, possibly similar measures for the Scandinavian countries will come under consideration.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I had nothing to do with shipyards and consequently I do not know how those responsible for the work in the shipyards received their additional workers. I just do not know... First of all, I do not know whether they (the additional workers) came. Secondly, if they did come, I can very well imagine that they had orders not to talk; and thirdly, I do not even know what camps they came from and whether they were not people who had already been put into other camps on account of the work they accomplished. At any rate, I did not worry about the execution or methods, et cetera, because it was none of my business; I acted on behalf of the competent non-naval departments which required workmen in order to carry out repairs more quickly, so that something could be done about repairs for the merchant navy. That was my duty, considering the arrangements which I had to make for the re-transport of these refugees. I would do exactly the same thing again today. That is the position...
December 16, 1944
Agencies outside the Navy connected with shipbuilding stated at that meeting that sabotage had been prevented in France by the introduction of certain measures for exacting atonement. Through an affidavit by an officer who attended the meeting and drafted the minutes or the short memorandum, I have now ascertained that these measures at that time meant the withholding of the additional rations issued by the management of the shipyard. That is what that meant. And, secondly, to come to Norway and Denmark, I told these people: "It is impossible for us to build ships there with our foreign currency and our materials, only to have them smashed up by sabotage—and assuredly with the co-operation of the shipyard workmen-when they are nearly ready. What can we do against that?" The answer I received was that the only way was to keep them away from saboteurs and to round them up in camps... I have to add that the workmen were to be treated in exactly the same way as our own workmen who were also housed in barracks. The Danish and Norwegian workers would not have suffered the slightest discomfort.
Hitler's big gamble in the West, the Battle of the Bulge, gets underway in Belgium and Luxembourg.
January 16 1945:
Hitler departs Bad Nauheim and arrives for the final time in Berlin. He will spend the next few days above ground in his embattled capital before moving permanently into the Führerbunker.
January 17, 1945:
The Red Army liberates Warsaw, whose prewar population of 1,300,000 has been reduced to almost nothing, with 90% of the city destroyed. At Mlawa, 320 Poles, mostly partisans, are shot by the Germans in one of many last-minute executions around Warsaw. In the next 18 days, Soviet troops will advance a further 300 miles into German-held territory.
January 18, 1945:
The Red Army drive against Berlin begins. Hitler, along with his cooks, adjutants, two or three dozen support, medical and administrative staff, his senior military staff and even his dog, Blondi, move into the Fuehrerbunker, which is located underneath the Chancellery garden in Berlin. An internal accounting is made of the remaining prisoners in the assorted labor and concentration camps: Birkenau; 15,058 Jews remain. Auschwitz: 16,226 people remaining, mostly Poles. Monowitz; 10,233 Jews, Poles and assorted prisoners remaining. Factories of Auschwitz: Another 16,000 Jews, Poles and prisoners. The order for immediate evacuation—by forced march, if necessary—is given.
January 20, 1945:
FDR, is inaugurated to his record fourth term in office as 32nd president of the United States. Harry S Truman is sworn in as Vice President.
January 21, 1945:
Hitler orders that all commanding generals down to divisional level must inform him in advance of any operational movements by the units under their command. "They must ensure that I have time to intervene in their direction if I think fit, and that my counter-orders can reach the front-line troops in time." (Read)
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: The participants at the conferences were generally the following: Regular participants: from the OKW, Field Marshal Keitel, General Jodl, General Buhle, Post Captain Assmann, Major Buchs, and a few more Chiefs of Staff. Then the Chief of the General Staff of the Army with one or two aides, and as a rule also the Chief of the General Staff of the Air Force with one aide. Further regular participants were: the Chief of the Army Personnel Office, who was Chief Adjutant to the Fuehrer; General Bodenschatz, until 20 July 1944; Vice Admiral Voss who was the permanent deputy of the Grossadmiral; Gruppenfuehrer Fegelein, as Himmler's permanent deputy; Ambassador Hewel; Minister Sonnleitner, permanent deputy of the Foreign Minister; Reich Press Chief Dr. Dietrich. Frequently, the following participated: the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe; less frequently, Himmler. In addition to these, there was a varying participation on the part of special officers, mainly from the General Staff of the Army, and on the part of higher front commanders of the Army and of the Air Force who happened to be in headquarters. Beyond that, toward the end of the war Reich Minister Speer in his capacity as Armament Minister also participated in an increasing measure, and in rare cases the Reich Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop, both as listeners at the conferences. I believe that is the complete list...
January 24, 1945:
These sessions were for the sole purpose of informing Hitler about the war situation, about the Eastern situation through the General Staff of the Army; and through the OKW about the situation in all other theaters of war, and concerning all three branches of the Wehrmacht. The report took place as follows: First of all, the Chief of General Staff of the Army reported about the Eastern situation; then Generaloberst Jodl reported on the situation in all other theaters of war on land. Next, Post Captain Assmann of the OKW reported on the naval situation. In between, frequent, often hour-long, conversations took place which dealt with special military problems, panzer problems, aerial problems and such. And after the aerial problems were dealt with the discussion was at an end, and we left the room. I frequently saw that Ambassador Hewel went in to Hitler with a batch of reports, apparently from the Foreign Office, and reported on them without the rest of us knowing what they contained.
Hitler approves Panzer Leader General Heinz Guderian's plan to create a new, emergency army group to be known as Army Group Vistula. Bormann had suggested to Hitler that he give the Reichsfuehrer SS the command, knowing that the chances that Himmler, his rival, will distinguish himself are nonexistent. SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who has no operational talent or experience, is now appointed by Hitler to lead Army Group Vistula, the main function of which will be to oppose the main Soviet thrusts. This is seen as an extreme insult by the German General Staff and Guderian, who blows up at the idea of 'such an idiocy being perpetrated on the Eastern Front.' (Read)
January 25, 1945:
Hitler's big gamble, the Battle of the Bulge, collapses. The last of the German reserves are now gone.
February 25, 1945:
A new electric-powered U-boat sinks its first ship and easily escapes underwater at 20 knots.
January 28, 1945:
The liberation of Aushwitz occurs.
January 30, 1945:
Hitler delivers a radio address:
January 30, 1945:
I particularly address myself to German youth. In vowing ourselves to one another, we are entitled to stand before the Almighty and ask Him for His grace and His blessing. No people can do more than that everybody who can fight, fights; and that everybody who can work, works, and that they all sacrifice in common, filled with but one thought: to safeguard freedom and national honor and thus the future of life. However grave the crisis may be at the moment, it will, despite everything, finally be mastered by our unalterable will...
Speer to Hitler:
After the loss of Upper Silesia, the German armament production will no longer be in a position to cover even a fraction of the requirements of the front as regards munitions, weapons and tanks, losses on the front, and equipment needed for new formations...The material superiority of the enemy can therefore no longer be compensated, even by the bravery of our soldiers.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I cannot remember that he was present in person at the discussions of the military situation. Actually Minister Speer as a civilian had nothing to do with a discussion of the military situation. But it is possible that he was there on some occasions, for instance, when tank production and other, matters were discussed which were directly connected with the Fuehrer's military considerations... Supply questions of the Navy were never discussed at the large conferences on the military situations I discussed these matters with the Fuehrer alone, as I have already said, usually in the presence of Jodl and Keitel. I submitted these matters to the Fuehrer after I had come to an understanding with Minister Speer, to whom I had delegated all matters of naval armament when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. That, in general, was the situation...
January 30, 1945
I tried to bring it about that, by a decision of the Fuehrer, Minister Speer would be given the order to build the largest possible number of new U-boats which I had to have at the time. But there were limitations as to the quantities to be allotted to each branch of the Armed Forces by Speer's Ministry... I never knew, and I do not know today, how many workers Speer was using for the armament supply for the Navy. I do not even know whether Speer can give you the answer, because construction of submarines, for instance, was taking place all over the German Reich in many industrial plants. Parts were then assembled in the shipyards. Therefore I have no idea what the labor capacity allotted to the Navy was.
The German troopship Wilhelm Gustloff
is torpedoed off Danzig by Soviet sub S-13
. Between 4,800 and 9,343 are killed. Note: Operation Hannibal was a German military operation involving the evacuation of between 800,000–900,000 German troops and civilians across the Baltic Sea to Germany and German-occupied Denmark. (Sellwood)
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: At the end of the war I was given the task of organizing large-scale transports in the Baltic Sea. Gradually the necessity arose to move the hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken refugees out of the coastal areas of East and West Prussia where they were exposed to starvation, epidemics, and bombardment and to bring them to Germany. For this reason, I made enquiries about merchant shipping, which was not actually under my jurisdiction; and in so doing I learned that out of eight ships ordered in Denmark, seven had been destroyed by saboteurs in the final stage of construction. I called a meeting of all the departments connected with those ships and asked them, "How can I help you so that we get shipping space and have damaged ships repaired more quickly?" I received suggestions from various quarters outside the Navy, including a suggestion that repair work, et cetera, might be speeded up by employing prisoners from the concentration camps. By way of justification, it was pointed out, in view of the excellent food conditions, such employment would be very popular. Since I knew nothing about the methods and conditions in the concentration camps, I included these proposals in my collection as a matter of course, especially as there was no question of making conditions worse for them, since they would be given better food when working. And I know that if I had done the opposite I could have been accused here of refusing these people an opportunity of having better food. I had not the slightest reason to do this, as I knew nothing about any concentration camp methods at the time.
February 1, 1945:
The US Army arrives at the Siegfried line (Siegfriedstellung), a line of defensive forts and tank defenses opposite the French Maginot Line that had been built by Germany during the 1930's. Note: The Germans themselves call this the Westwall.
February 2, 1945:
Suspected of participation in the 'July 20th plot' against Hitler, Mayor Karl F. Goerdeler of Leipzig is hanged. Jesuit priest Alfred Delp (a convert to Catholicism) is put to the rope and his cremated his ashes are scattered about. Klaus Bonhoeffer is sentenced to death by the German People's Court of 'Judge' Roland Freisler.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: ...after 20 July, as far as I can remember, an order was issued specifically stating that the SD were to-give to branches of the Armed Forces the names of those soldiers who had participated in the Putsch and that these soldiers were then to be dismissed from the branches of the Armed Forces, particularly to keep the principle of non-interference in the branches of the Armed Forces from being violated, and that then the SD would have the right to take action... I can only judge as to the two cases which I had in the Navy. I received information that these two officers had participated. I had questions put to them, and they confirmed it Thereupon these officers were dismissed from the Navy. After that, the interrogation was, of course, not carried out by the Navy; but I know that my Navy court judges still concerned themselves about the officers and the interrogation.
February 3, 1945:
Allied Operation Thunderclap begins as US aircraft drop nearly 3,000 tons of explosives on the Zentrum (Berlin's city center). Nazi jurist Roland Freisler is killed running for shelter during a session of the 'Peoples Court' and Gestapo headquarters is damaged so badly that the prisoners have to be moved to quarters that still actually boast walls. The Reich Chancellery suffers a number of direct hits. Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry is wrecked. Not one of Goering's Luftwaffe fighters is observed defending the city. Goering is roundly denounced by almost everyone in the bunker, and Speer will later recall that 'For a long time he (Goering) had been made the scapegoat for all the failures of the Luftwaffe. At the situation conferences, Hitler habitually denounced him in the most violent and insulting language before the assembled officers. He must have been even nastier in the scenes he had with Goering privately. Often, waiting in the ante-room, I could hear Hitler shouting at him.' (Read, Speer)
February 4, 1945
At Stalin's insistence, FDR opens the first plenary session, complimenting Stalin on his hospitality and stating hopefully that 'We understand each other much better now' that they can 'frankly and freely' speak their minds face to face. At an evening dinner, the conversation leads to a discussion of the rights of the smaller, occupied nations. When Stalin opines that the idea that little Albania, for instance, should be given an equal voice with the great powers is ridiculous, Churchill takes issue with him, saying: "The eagle should permit the small birds to sing and care not wherefore they sang." FDR does not comment. (Harriman) Note: Churchill is paraphrasing Shakespeare:
Is the sun dimm'd, that gnats do fly in it?
February 9, 1945
The eagle suffers little birds to sing,
And is not careful what they mean thereby,
Knowing that with the shadow of his wings
He can at pleasure stint their melody
In a meeting of the Foreign Ministers, US Secretary of State Stettinius accepts the Soviet position that the countries who bore the heaviest burdens of the war are entitled to the first priority concerning reparations to be extracted from Germany. Molotov is delighted when Stettinius further accepts the USSR's figure of $20 billion in reparations, half of which should go to the Soviet Union. Eden, however, objects, saying that an Allied Reparations Commission should be set up in Moscow to crunch the numbers. (Harriman)
February 9, 1945
The Steuben, evacuating between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel and civilians to Swinemuende, is sunk by S-13
, just after midnight; only 300 survive. Note: The German troopship Wilhelm Gustloff
had been sunk by the S-13
on January 30. (Sellwood)
February 11, 1945
The Big Three sign the official Yalta
Communique at lunch. FDR suggests that the host of the conference sign first, but Stalin declines, explaining that it will be said that he had 'led' the conference. Churchill jokingly argues that he should sign first for alphabetical reasons, and the other two agree.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: In the spring of 1945, I was not head of the State; I was a soldier. To continue the fight or not to continue the fight was a political decision The head of the State wanted to continue the fight. I as a soldier had to obey. It is an impossibility that in a state one soldier should declare, "I shall continue to fight," while another declares, "I shall not continue the fight." I could not have given any other advice, the way I saw things; and for the following reasons:
February 13-15, 1945
First: In the East the collapse of our front at one point meant the extermination of the people living behind that front. We knew that because of practical experiences and because of all the reports which we had about this. It was the belief of all the people that the soldier in the East had to do his military duty in these hard months of the war, these last hard months of the war. This was especially important because otherwise German women and children would have perished. The Navy was involved to a considerable extent in the East. It had about 100,000 men on land, and the entire surface craft were concentrated in the Baltic for the transport of troops, weapons, wounded, and above all, refugees. Therefore the very existence of the German people in this last hard period depended above all on the soldiers carrying on tenaciously to the end.
Secondly: If we had capitulated in the first few months of the spring or in the winter of 1945, then from everything we knew about the enemy's intentions, the country would, according to the Yalta Agreement, have been ruinously torn asunder and partitioned and the German land occupied in the same way as it is today.
Thirdly: Capitulation means that the army, the soldiers, stay where they are and become prisoners. That means that if we had capitulated in January or February 1945, 2 million soldiers in the East, for example, would have fallen into the hands of the Russians. That these millions could not possibly have been cared for during the cold winter is obvious; and we would have lost men on a very large scale, for even at the time of the capitulation in May 1945, that is, in the late spring, it was not possible in the West to take care of the large masses of prisoners according to the Geneva Convention. Then, as I have already said, since the Yalta Agreement would have been put into effect, we would have lost in the East a much larger number of people who had not yet fled from there.
1,300 heavy bombers drop over 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices in four raids on the city of Dresden. Estimates vary widely, but recent scholarship has determined that somewhere between 24,000 and 40,000 civilians perished in the resulting firestorm. Himmler is informed of the first raid by the Dresden Police Chief on the 14th and writes to SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Alvesleben in Dresden: 'The attacks were obviously very severe, but every first air raid always gives the impression that the town has been destroyed. Take all necessary steps at once... All the best.' Alvesleben reiterates the vast extent and horrific effect of the raid in a subsequent communications to Himmler, and requests permission to move SS headquarters elsewhere. On the 15th the Reichsfuehrer gives him permission to move only as far as the suburbs, saying: 'Any further would make a rotten impression. Now is the time for iron steadfastness and immediate action to restore order. Set me a good example of calm and nerve!' When Goebbels hears of the devastation at Dresden, he demands that Hitler shoot '10,000 or more English and American POW's' as a reprisal, one for every German citizen killed in the air raids. Keitel, Jodl, Doenitz, and even Ribbentrop advise against the idea, and Hitler reluctantly decides against it. (Read)
February 14, 1945:
Soviet forces capture Budapest, Hungary as German forces surrender. The Germans suffer more than 50,000 casualties in the 49-day battle.
February 14, 1945:
Goebbels meets with Himmler and conspiratorially suggests that the two of them collude to improve the situation. Concerning peace feelers to the Allies, Goebbels suggests that it is 'more likely that something could be accomplished in the East' with the 'more realistic Stalin. Himmler disagrees, claiming the Britain may still 'come to its senses.' Goebbels suggests that Hitler is overburdened and some of the weight on his shoulders should be shifted to their own. Hitler should be the President—Head of State, Goebbels Reich Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Himmler War Minister, and Bormann as Party Minister. Himmler is noncommittal, telling Goebbels nothing of his own ripening plans to open negotiations with a Swedish Count. (Read)
February 17, 1945:
A nephew of the King of Sweden and Vice-Chairman of the Swedish Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, arrives in Germany. His official mission is to negotiate the repatriation of a group of widowed or deserted Swedish woman married to Germans, as well as any Norwegian and Danish nationals interned in German concentration camps. On this account, he will soon meet with both Ribbentrop and Kaltenbrunner.
February 19, 1945:
While Himmler relaxes in the hospital, his Chief of Staff, General Wenck, has been planning and preparing for a counterattack against Zhukov's exposed right flank. This attack, launched this day and spearheaded by the Third Panzer Army, successfully sends Zhukov's forces reeling.
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: In these conferences all military questions were discussed and frequently decisions were reached by the Fuehrer, that is, if no further preparations were necessary for a decision... I only saw Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop perhaps five or six times at these conferences, and I cannot remember that he ever said anything during the entire session. He was only present at the conference for his own information... Minister Speer also very seldom brought in armament problems during the discussion. I know that questions of armament were always discussed between Hitler and Speer in special discussions. However, some exceptions may have occurred... During the military conference security problems were never discussed. Himmler and his deputy appeared very frequently in connection with the Waffen-SS, and Fegelein had always to give reports about the setup, organization, arming, transportation and engagement of the SS divisions. At this time the SS divisions, according to my impression, still played a very important part, for ostensibly they represented a strategic reserve and were much discussed... I cannot remember one single utterance on Kaltenbrunner's part during one of these military conferences... Even when Grossadmiral Doenitz was present, the naval situation was reported by the deputy from the OKW, Commodore Assmann. However, the Admiral used this occasion to present, in connection with the individual theaters of war, or in summary at the end, those questions which he had in mind. The Admiral was neither asked, nor did he give any opinion on, questions dealing with air or land warfare which had no connection with the conduct of the naval war. In his statements he strictly confined himself to the sphere of the Navy, and very energetically objected if someone else during the session tried to interfere in questions of naval warfare.
February 19–20, 1945:
From notes of a conferences between the Doenitz and Hitler:
The Fuehrer is considering whether or not Germany should renounce the Geneva Convention...The Fuehrer orders the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to consider the pros and cons of this step and to state his opinion as soon as possible. The Fuehrer is considering whether or not Germany should renounce the Geneva Convention... Not only the Russians, but also the Western Powers are violating international law by their actions against the defenseless population and the residential districts of the towns. It therefore appears expedient to adopt the same course in order to show the enemy that we are determined to fight with every means for our existence and, also, through this measure to urge our people to resist to the utmost.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: They are measures against our own troops. I had heard, or I was told that the Fuehrer intended, or had said, that because the front was yielding in the West and he feared that American and British propaganda might induce men to desert, he intended to leave the Geneva Convention, so I said to my staff, "How is it possible in this connection to contemplate abandoning lock, stock, and barrel a system of international law almost a century old?" I may have said something like this, "The necessary measures must be taken." There was no thought of concrete measures in that connection and no such measures were introduced. My own views on the treatment of prisoners of war can best be heard from the 8,000 British prisoners of war who were in my camps. That is the situation regarding this matter. All the chiefs of the Wehrmacht branches protested against the idea of renouncing the Geneva Convention. They were not in favor of this idea...
February 20, 1945:
The witness who drew up these two records will be able to explain exactly where and when this information was given. I myself was only told, just as the Reich Marshal testified, that the Fuehrer was upset because our Western Front was not holding, and men were quite pleased to become American and English prisoners of war. That was how the whole thing began; and that was the information which I originally received. I cannot give an opinion on these minutes which were drawn up by an officer. The best thing would be for Admiral Wagner to give more exact details of these matters. I cannot say more than that under oath. I was of the opinion that the renunciation of the Geneva Convention was in principle a great mistake and was wrong. I have given practical proof of my views on the treatment of prisoners of war. Everything else is wrong...
If measures are taken against desertion, they must be made public. They must have a deterrent effect; and so it never entered my head to keep them secret. On the contrary my only thought was, "How is it possible to leave the Geneva Convention at all?" And that is what I was expressing... I did not hear this question or suggestion (Germany should renounce the Geneva Convention) of the Fuehrer from his own lips, but I was told about it by a naval officer who regularly took part in these situation conferences. Therefore I do not know for certain whether the date is correct, and I also do not know who was present when the Fuehrer first made that statement. In any case, I remember the matter was again discussed the next day or two days later; and then I believe the Reich Marshal, and of course Jodl and Field Marshal Keitel, were present. At any rate, the whole of the Wehrmacht were unanimously against it; and to my recollection, the Fuehrer, because he saw our objection, did not come back to this question again.
From notes of a conferences between the Doenitz and Hitler: Doenitz:
On the contrary, the disadvantages (of renouncing the Geneva Convention) outweigh the advantages. Even from a general standpoint it appears to the Commander-in-Chief that this measure would bring no advantage. It would be better to carry out the measures considered necessary without warning, and at all costs to save face with the outer world.
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: According to my first impression at the time, the intention was evidently to express to the troops and the German people that captivity would no longer bring any advantage. Thereupon, I immediately telephoned to the Naval Operations Staff, since I considered the intention to be completely wrong, and I asked them for a military opinion and an opinion from the point of view of international law. On the 19th, when taking part in the situation discussion, Hitler once more referred to this question, but this time not in connection with happenings on the western front; but in connection with the air attacks by the western enemies on open German towns- attacks had just been made on Dresden and Weimar. He ordered the Admiral to examine the effects of leaving the Geneva Convention from the point of view of naval warfare. An immediate answer was not expected and it was not given. Generaloberst Jodl was also quite strongly opposed to these intentions and he sought the Admiral's support... The subject was the Fuehrer's intention of renouncing the Geneva Convention. The result was the unanimous opinion that such a step would be a mistake. Apart from military consideration we especially held the conviction that by renouncing the Geneva Convention both the Armed Forces and the German people would lose confidence in the leadership, since the Geneva Convention was generally considered to be the conception of international law...
February 21, 1945:
That sentence means that on no account should there be any irresponsible actions. If the leaders considered it necessary to introduce countermeasures against air attacks on open German towns, or against the propaganda for desertion in the West, then one should confine oneself to such countermeasures which appear necessary and justifiable. One should not put oneself in the wrong before the world and one's own people, by totally repudiating all the Geneva Conventions and announce measures which went far beyond what appeared to be necessary and justifiable... I can remember very well that no specific measures were discussed at all during the various conferences. We were mainly concerned with the total question of whether to repudiate the Geneva Convention or not... In my opinion it was certain that there was no question of secrecy, for neither the countermeasures against air attacks nor the measures of intimidation against desertion could be effective if they were concealed... One became convinced that Hitler, as soon as he put his questions to the Admiral, could gather from the Admiral's expression and the attitude of the others that they rejected his plans. We passed our views on to the High Command of the Armed Forces in writing and heard no more about the whole matter.
While Himmler continues to relax in the hospital, General Wenck falls asleep at the wheel while driving back to headquarters from an all-night conference with Hitler. His car is smashed into the side of a railroad bridge, trapping him inside as it busts into flames. He is pulled from the fire with five broken ribs and a fractured skull, barely surviving. Without his leadership, the counter-attack against Zhukov's Army breaks down and Himmler's stock with Hitler further plummets. (Read)
February 23, 1945:
Churchill, after an evening of reflection on the massive bombing of German cites, comments ruefully to an associate: "What will lie between the white snows of Russia and the white cliffs of Dover?" (Jenkins)
February 24, 1945:
OSS chief Allen Dulles receives intelligence that German Ambassador Rahn and Field Marshal Kesselring are prepared to surrender and possibly "fight against Hitler, if the Allies can make it worth their while." (Waller)
February 26, 1945:
At the urging of Field Marshal Kesselring, the German consul in Lugano, Alexander von Neurath, meets on the Western Front with Rundstedt's chief of staff, General Westphal, and Field Marshal Blaskowitz, commander of Army Group G. They propose to surrender the Western and Italian Fronts in return for immunity from war crime trials. (Waller)
February 28, 1945:
Goebbels is still furious at Goering, whom he blames for the firebombing of Dresden and the inability of the Luftwaffe to do anything against the Allied air offensive. 'What a burden of guilt this parasite has brought on his own head, for his slackness and interest in his own comfort,' he tells his aides. 'Why didn't the Fuehrer listen to my earlier warnings? But I was always called a pessimist and an ignorant civilian, who could not understand military matters.' He continues, later that night, to rage against Goering to his diary: 'Fools covered with medals and vain, perfumed fops have no place in the conduct of war. Either they change or they must be eliminated.' The total number of German soldiers captured in February alone is 280,000 with a death toll of 350,000. (Semmler, Read)
March 5, 1945:
Lieutenant-General Helmuth Reymann takes over as military commander of Berlin. Hitler and Goebbels have been imprisoning or executing anyone expressing the 'defeatist' idea that the Soviets will be able to fight their way to Berlin, so it is not surprising that its new commander discovers that virtually nothing whatsoever has been done to prepare the city's defenses or to look after the welfare of its residents. Meanwhile in the West, US troops enter Cologne. (Read)
March 7, 1945:
Tanks of the US Third Corps reach the Rhine River opposite the small German town of Remagen, Germany, and discover that the Ludendorff Bridge is still standing. Hitler is so furious to learn of the Americans' use of the intact Ludendorff Bridge that he fires General Gerd von Rundstedt as commander of western German forces. Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower will later state that the discovery of the intact bridge 'put victory just around the corner.'
March 11, 1945:
Hitler tells Goebbels: "It must be our ambition also in our times to set an example for later generations to look to in similar crisis and anxieties, just as we today have to look to the past heroes of history. The year 1918 will not repeat itself." (Kershaw)
March 15, 1945:
The White Buses expedition gets underway as seven transports with some 2200 Danes and Norwegians are transported from captivity in Germany.
March 15, 1945:
Himmler, having managed to get himself up from his hospital bed and make his way to the Fuehrerbunker, receives 'an extraordinarily severe dressing-down' from his enraged Fuehrer. Hitler has learned that one of his favorite generals, SS-Oberstgruppenfuehrer Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Sixth SS-Panzer Army—whose four crack Waffen-SS divisions include the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler—has ordered his troops to retreat from the hopeless situation in Budapest. The sputtering warlord orders a petrified Himmler to force the 'traitorous' units to remove their 'loyalty is my honor' armbands.' When Himmler relays the order, Dietrich refuses to pass it down to the embattled soldiery. (Read)
March 18, 1945:
Panzer Leader General Heinz Guderian, extremely concerned that huge numbers of Waffen SS and other German troops are in danger of being surrounded and captured (and most probably killed) by the Red Army, meets with the Reichsfuehrer SS. Himmler, with no military training or aptitude whatsoever, is in command of the endangered forces, but Guderian finds him laid up 'with an attack of influenza' in a hospital. He finds him sitting up in his bed and, as the annoyed general writes in his diary, 'apparently in robust health.' Guderian, realizing that the lives of many German troops have no chance of rescue under Himmler, whose hospital stay in reality has been caused by the strain of being an incompetent officer faced with an impossible situation, attempts to convince Himmler to give up command by humoring him.
He sympathetically points out that the SS chief has far too much responsibility, and that 'such a plethora of offices was bound to be beyond the strength of any one individual.' After Guderian musters a number of further arguments, Himmler protests that he simply could not face Hitler and ask to be relieved. 'He wouldn't approve of my making such a suggestion,' he answers. Guderian offers to talk with the Fuehrer on Himmler's behalf, and Himmler soon gives his assent. Guderian meets with Hitler soon after and, explaining that Himmler is unwell and 'overburdened,' recommends that he be replaced by the commander of the 1st Panzer Army, General Heinrici. After 'a certain amount of grumbling,' Hitler agrees to the move. He will later comment ruefully that giving Himmler a military command had been a failed experiment. (Clark)
March 18, 1945:
On a beautiful Sunday morning, 1,250 American bombers with a 700 fighter escort deliver a devastating raid on Berlin. The Luftwaffe sends 28 ME-262 jet fighters into the fray—the first significant number of these jets to see action—and they succeed in shooting down a mere 15 Allied planes. 7 more US planes are brought down by flak. (Read)
March 20, 1945:
Newly appointed commander of the Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, correctly anticipates that the main Soviet thrust will be made over the Oder River and initiates defensive preparations on the outskirts of Berlin.
March 26, 1945:
Hitler, concerned about the fate of the SS regiments surrounded by the Red Army, had ordered a breakthrough rescue mission. The attempt, launched this day, fails to provide any relief to the doomed soldiers. (Clark)
March 27, 1945:
Hitler, enraged by the failure of Busse's relief attack, is fuming as Guderian defends Busse's failure, citing the high casualty rate of the failed attack. Keitel proposes that he himself visit the front to determine whether a further relief attack is 'a practical proposition.' (Clark)
March 31, 1945:
A secret codicil (kept secret for over 50 years) to the Yalta agreement is completed. Stalin agrees that as the Russians liberate POW camps in Germany, American and British POW's will be turned over to the American and British forces. Likewise, as the Americans and British liberate German POW camps, Russian POW's will, in all cases, be returned to Russia. Unfortunately, while American and British POW's want to return to their own forces, Russian POW's, in the main, do not want to return to Russia because they know what awaits them. Stalin has made it clear that he considers Russian prisoners traitors to communism. Death or exile will be their fate. FDR and Churchill, aware of these facts, agree anyway; it is hard to see how they could do otherwise without running the risk of having their own troops become virtual hostages. Note: This is one of the events collectively referred to by some as the 'Allied Holocaust.' Ultimately, two million Soviet citizens will be sent back to the communists where they will either be immediately executed or sent to die in the Gulag. (Harriman)
April 9, 1945:
Admiral Wilhelm Franz Canaris, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance, his deputy General Hans Oster, military jurist General Karl Sack, theologian Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ludwig Gehre, are executed in Flossenburg concentration camp. Note: Canaris had been decorated with the Iron Cross First and Second Class, the Silver German Cross, the Cross of Honor and the Wehrmacht's Twelve and Twenty-Five Year Long-Service Ribbons.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I knew Admiral Canaris from the time when he was still a member of the Navy... After I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, he visited me and he made a report about information matters which he thought he could place at the disposal of the Navy, my sphere of interest. But that was his last report to me. After that, of course, I received from him or his department written information reports which concerned the Navy... Of course, he worked for the entire Armed Forces, all three branches of the Armed Forces; and I must say in that connection, if you ask me about the importance, that I was of the opinion that the information which we received from him and which interested the Navy was very meager indeed... Admiral Canaris, while he was in the Navy, was an officer in whom not much confidence was shown. He was a man quite different from us—we used to say he had seven souls in his breast.
April 10, 1945:
Medics of the US 3rd Armored Division report that they have discovered Nordhausen Death Camp on the way to Camp Dora. In the two adjacent camps they discover 5,000 corpses. 1,200 patients are soon evacuated, with 15 dying on their way to the hospital area and another 300 subsequently dying of malnutrition. The American Third Army liberates the prison camp at Buchenwald, where nearly 57,000 prisoners (mostly Jews) had perished. (Sellier)
April 11, 1945>:
From a Wehrmacht decree:
April 11, 1945:
Capitulation means for certain the occupation of the whole of Germany by the Allies along the lines of partition discussed by them at Yalta. It also means, therefore, the ceding to Russia of further considerable parts of Germany west of the river Oder. Or does anyone think that at that stage the Anglo-Saxons will not keep to their agreements and will oppose a further advance of the Russian hordes into Germany with armed forces, and will begin a war with Russia for our sake? The reasoning, 'Let the Anglo-Saxons into the country; then at least the Russians will not come,' is faulty, too.
From a speech by Doenitz:
Only the Fuehrer has for years realized with what danger Bolshevism threatens Europe. Perhaps even this year, Europe will realize that Adolf Hitler is the only statesman of stature in Europe. Europe's blindness will one day come to a sudden end and thereby bring Germany's psychological help and political possibilities arising therefrom.
April 12, 1945
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest serving president in American history, of a cerebral hemorrhage (3:45 PM) in Warm Springs, Georgia, three months into his fourth term and less than one month before the surrender of Germany. Vice President Harry S. Truman is sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States.
April 12, 1945:
Field Marshal Kesselring meets with Hitler for the last time. He will later record that Hitler "...was still optimistic. How far he was play-acting it is hard to decide. Looking back, I am inclined to think that he was literally obsessed with the idea of some miraculous salvation, that he clung to it like a drowning man to a straw." (Kershaw)
April 13, 1945:
Former US Attorney General and now Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Justice Robert Jackson, speaks before the American Society of International Law:
April 13, 1945:
All else will fail unless we can devise instruments of adjudication, and conciliation, so reasonable and acceptable to the masses of people that future governments will have always an honorable alternative to war. The time when these institutions will be most needed will probably not come until the names that signify leadership in today’s world will have passed into history...
At the daily situation conference, a newly confident Hitler, who Ribbentrop will later recall was 'in seventh heaven' this day, with the news of FDR's death, announces that he has decided that the war will be won in Berlin, and he intends to stay in the city and direct the battle. He orders that units falling back from the Oder form a hard nucleus for the purpose of drawing the Soviet columns towards them, while the remaining German forces attack the columns from the sides. Most of his generals are sceptical, and a few try to talk him into moving to the relative safety of Berchtesgaden, but Hitler refuses to even consider it. He will make his last stand in Berlin. (Read)
April 13, 1945:
Speer contacts the manager of the Berlin Philharmonic and tells him to change the program for the evening performance to include Wagner's Goetterdaemmerung. This is a signal to the groups' members that Speer will have transportation on hand after the performance to allow the 105 musicians to escape the fate Goebbels has planned for them; forced conscription in the Volkssturm. Speer has been planning this move to save the musicians for many weeks, but has been delaying it to allow the orchestra to continue their regular performances as a morale booster to the war-weary populace.
The plan is set in motion when Goebbels informs Speer that the time is near. When Speer protests against the move, Goebbels coldly replies: 'I alone raised this orchestra to its special level. My initiative and my money have made it what it has become, what it represents to the world today. Those who follow have no right to it.' Despite Speers' preparations, in the event only one member of the orchestra will take him up on it; the orchestra's conductor, Gerhard Taschner, and his family. The rest resolve to stay. (Read, Sereny)
Nicolaus von Below: It was unforgettable. I sat with Speer and Admiral Doenitz and listened to Beethoven's Violin Concerto, the finale from the Goetterdaemmerung and Bruckner's symphony. Can there ever have been such a moment, such an experience? Silently the three of us walked afterwards across the totally destroyed Potsdamer Platz back to the Reich Chancellery. (Sereny)
April 16, 1945:
The Battle of the Seelow Heights begins as General Zhukov launches his final attack on Berlin. His forces soon run into trouble, and the battle just west of the River Oder proves to be no cake-walk as the Germans—under no illusions as to their probable fate under the Soviets—fight with dogged and fanatic determination. Stalin soon orders Koniev, Zhuvok's rival, to direct his armored forces directly at the Nazi capital with the result that three competing Soviet Fronts are now advancing on Berlin: 2.5 million men, 41,600 guns and mortars, 6,250 tanks and self propelled guns, over a million multiple rocket launchers, and 7,500 aircraft. In contrast, Heinrici's Army Group Vistula has 250,000 poorly armed men, 850 tanks, 500 anti-aircraft batteries doubling as artillery, and 300 aircraft with no fuel. (Clark, Read)
April 16, 1945:
As the Soviets near Berlin and the Americans enter Nuremberg, Hitler addresses what is left of his forces:
April 16, 1945
The Jewish Bolshevik arch-enemy has gone over to the attack with his masses for the last time. He attempts to smash Germany and to eradicate our nation. You soldiers from the east today already know yourselves to a large extent what fate is threatening, above all, German women, girls and children. While old men and children are being murdered, women and girls are humiliated to the status of barracks prostitutes. Others are marched off to Siberia. We have anticipated this thrust, and since January of this year everything has been done to build up a strong front. Mighty artillery is meeting the enemy. Our infantry's casualties were replenished by countless new units. Reserve units, new formations and the Volkssturm reinforce our front. This time the Bolsheviks will experience Asia's old fate. That is, he must and will bleed to death...
, evacuating German soldiers and civilians, is torpedoed and sunk by L-3
, with the loss of over 6,000 lives; 183 survived. (Sellwood)
April 18, 1945:
Over 1,000 Allied bombers attack the tiny island of Heligoland, Germany, leaving nothing standing. The remaining German forces in the Ruhr pocket surrender. Himmler names Kaltenbrunner Commander in Chief of all German forces remaining in southern Europe.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: That Totenkopf divisions were used in concentration camps, I learned here in Nuremberg. It wasn't mentioned there. I have already said that during the military discussions only military matters were discussed... It is not correct that Kaltenbrunner was there only once. As far as I remember, he was there two, three, or four times; at any rate, during the last months of the war I saw him two, three, or four times. Kaltenbrunner never said a word there; as far as I remember, he just listened and stood about.
April 20, 1945:
Hitler celebrates his 56th birthday in his Berlin bunker. With the Russians at the gates of Berlin, the increasingly deranged dictator receives the murmured birthday greetings of his entourage with a limp handshake and a vacant expression. Present, to wish their Fuehrer well are: Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, Doenitz, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, and various generals. After breakfast—in late afternoon—Hitler makes his last trip to the surface in order to award Iron Crosses to some 20 'soldiers' of the Hitler Youth who had distinguished themselves in combat. Hitler mutters a few words to the teenagers, pats a few on the cheek, and within minutes makes his way haltingly back to his Bunker. (Shirer, Read)
April 20, 1945:
Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front breaks through the last formations of Army Group Center. Soviet tanks reach the outskirts of Berlin. Marshal Georgy Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front begins shelling Berlin's Zentrum. German defences, most of which are commanded by Helmuth Weidling, consist only of a couple of depleted and poorly equipped Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, supplemented by Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Meanwhile, US troops capture Leipzig, Germany, but will later have to hand the city over to the Soviets.
April 21, 1945:
Goering cleans out his vast Prussian estate, Karinhall (alternatively, Carinhall). He loads up twenty trucks and cars with files, equipment, and his remaining riches (he'd already sent off two trainloads full). Next, he calls his four pet bison to him by name, and kills them with his hunting rifle, leaving instructions that the meat be distributed to the endless columns of refugees streaming away from the Soviet advance. After spending some time in the mausoleum, in the grounds, that holds the remains of his beloved first wife (a Swedish baroness), he leaves at the head of the line of vehicles, after pushing the plunger himself and blowing Karinhall to bits. Parking the convoy in front of Luftwaffe headquarters at Werder, he drives on to the day's situation conference at the Führerbunker. (Read)
April 21, 1945:
Before the daily situation conference, Goering takes Keitel aside and pleads with him to talk Hitler into leaving Berlin for Berchtesgaden, while there is still an open road. For the last ten days, all non-vital personnel have been transported to the Berchtesgaden area (the so-called Alpine Redoubt), and a fleet of planes is standing by to evacuate important figures. Keitel will later relate that he agreed to talk to Hitler because 'my own absolutely firm belief at that time (was) that the Fuehrer and the OKW staff would ... also be transferring their supreme command to Berchtesgaden.' Keitel is joined by other generals in urging the Fuehrer to abandon Berlin, but he resists the idea, saying only: 'I leave it to fate whether I die in the capital or fly to Obersalzberg at the last moment.' (Read)
April 21, 1945:
Hitler appoints Doenitz (a naval officer) commander of German ground forces in the North, and appoints Kesselring (an air officer) as commander of German ground forces in the South. General der Artillerie Helmut Wielding becomes commander of the LVI Panzer Corps. Hitler gives further orders that German army formations under SS General Felix Steiner (above) are to immediately counter-attack and disrupt the two massive Soviet pincers encircling Berlin. Steiner tries to explain to his superiors that the only offensive capability he has is two battalions of the 4th SS Police Division, without any combat weapons. At this point, however, no one has the nerve to present bad news to the erratic Fuehrer, and Steiner's factual concerns are never passed up the chain of command to Hitler, who actually believes he has issued a sane and actionable command. (Clark, Read)
From Hitler, A Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock: Preparations were in train for the government to leave Berlin and move to the 'National Redoubt' in the heart of the Bavarian Alps, around Berchtesgaden, the homeland of the Nazi movement, where the Fuehrer was expected to make his last stand. Various ministries and commands had already been transferred to the redoubt area, and the time had come when Hitler himself must follow it if he was still to get through the narrow corridor left between the Russian and American armies. Hitler's original plan was to leave for the south on 20 April, his fifty-sixth birthday, but at the conference on the 20th, following the reception and congratulations, he still hesitated. For the last time, all the Nazi hierarchs were present: Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Bormann, and Speer, together with the chiefs of the three Services. Their advice was in favor of his leaving Berlin. The most Hitler would agree to, however, was the establishment of Northern and Southern Commands, in case Germany should be cut in two by the Allied advance. There and then he appointed Admiral Doenitz to assume the full responsibility in the north, but, although Kesselring was nominated for the Southern Command, Hitler left open the possibility that he might move to the south and take direction of the war there into his own hands.
April 21, 1945:
Before leaving the Fuehrerbunker, Goering takes Himmler aside and urges him to extend peace feelers to the West. Himmler mockingly informs him of his negotiations with Swedish Red Cross envoy Bernadotte and tells him that he is meeting with him again in the evening. He tauntingly tells Goering; 'You know, he must be the man sent by Eisenhower to negotiate,' but Goering responds coolly; 'Don't take offense, but I doubt that they'll find YOU acceptable as a negotiating partner.' 'Sorry to contradict you,' the smug SS leader replies, 'But I have incontrovertible proof that I am considered abroad to be the only person capable of maintaining order.'
Before Goering can find the words to respond to this ridiculous contention, Himmler asks him whether or not he will appoint him as Chancellor should Hitler meet his demise. Goering says that that is impossible, as the office of Chancellor is not a separate office, but bound up in the office of the Fuehrer. Himmler pushes on, perhaps in an attempt to get his rival to lose his temper: 'Herr Reich Marshal,' Himmler needles, 'if anything should prevent you from succeeding the Fuehrer—say you are eliminated—can I have the position?' Goering keeps his cool: 'My dear Himmler, we shall have to wait and see. That will depend upon circumstances. I can't for the life of me see what might prevent me from taking up office.' (Read)
April 21, 1945
Field Marshal Walter Model (AKA the 'Fuehrer's Fireman') learns that the USSR has indicted him for the deaths of 577,000 people in concentration camps in Latvia, the deportation of 175,000 others for slave labor, and other war crimes. Model tells his staffers: "Has everything been done to justify our actions in the light of history? What can there be left for a commander in defeat? In antiquity they took poison". After his attempts to seek death on the front line do not succeed, he commits suicide this day by shooting himself in the head. (Newton)
April 22, 1945:
At 11:30 AM, the Red Air Force (the RAF and Americans have already made their last attacks on Berlin, leaving the Soviets to deal with the Nazi capital unencumbered) and Red Army artillery begins a fierce bombardment of Berlin's city center (the Zentrum), with shells and bombs falling at a rate of one every 5 seconds. The Brandenburg Gate is hit and the Reichstag and old Royal Palace catch fire. Heavy explosions rock the Fuehrerbunker, causing Hitler to experience flashbacks to his WW1 days in the trenches. Hitler never does recover from the unnerving barrage, and issues frantic and contradictory orders throughout the day. He furiously calls Koller, demanding why there is no air cover. When the Luftwaffe officer replies that there is no fuel for the jets, Hitler explodes: 'Then we don't need the jets anymore! The Luftwaffe is superfluous. The entire Luftwaffe leadership should be hanged immediately!'
After slamming down the phone and steaming for awhile, he calls poor Koller back and demands that he round up all Luftwaffe personnel—including Goering's paratroops in his personal bodyguard—and muster them for inclusion in new 'combat formations.' The hard-pressed Koller, working through the night, manages to assemble nearly a division's worth; 12–15,000 untrained and unarmed ground staff. When he later somewhat fearfully relates the results of his recruitment effort, Hitler responds with a surprising amount of optimism: 'You will see, the Russians will suffer the greatest defeat, the bloodiest defeat in their history, at the gates of Berlin.' (Read)
April 22, 1945:
German General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling, due to a misunderstanding concerning a retreat order, is sentenced to be executed by firing squad.
April 23, 1945:
By the afternoon situation conference (3 PM), Hitler shows all the signs of a man going through drug withdrawal. For the first time in many months, he is without his daily dose of an amphetamine cocktail that is usually administered by the 'doctor' whom he has just dismissed After learning that Soviet forces have taken Eberswalde without a fight, and that Steiner has refused to give the order for a futile counterattack north of the city, Hitler listens in silence.
Then, in an episode some historians will describe as a nervous breakdown, Hitler suddenly leaps up and, while flushed in the face and trembling violently, sputteringly rants and raves against them all, declaring that they are guilty of every evil attribute from cowardice to incompetence. 'The war is lost,' he screams. 'Everything is falling apart.' He states that suicide is now his only recourse: 'Alive or dead,' he declares, 'I shall not fall into the hands of the enemy. I can no longer fight on the battlefield; I'm not strong enough. I shall shoot myself.' He then slumps into his seat and begins to sob: 'The war is lost. I shall shoot myself.' (Read)
April 23, 1945:
For a full five minutes after Hitler declares that he will stay in Berlin and commit suicide; no one in the Bunker speaks. Then, with the encouragement of the others, Jodl makes a proposal in an attempt to salvage at least some of his Fuehrer's until-now-unbounded confidence. He suggests that the German Twelfth Army under General Walther Wenck, now facing the Americans, should move to Berlin. He proposes that this can now be done because the Americans, already on the Elbe River, are unlikely to move further east in the near future. Hitler immediately grasps the straw Jodl presents, and orders Wenck to disengage from the Americans and move the Twelfth Army north-east to support Berlin. He later gives further orders that Twelfth Army should attempt a link-up with Ninth Army.
At some point, Hitler orders Bormann, Keitel and Jodl to fly to Berchtesgaden. All three refuse. Keitel, in Jodl's presence, declares: 'In seven years I have never refused to carry out an order from you, but this is one order I shall never carry out. You cannot and should not leave the Wehrmacht in the lurch at a time like this.' 'I am staying here,' Hitler stubbornly replies, 'and that is that. Goering can take over the leadership down there. If there has to be any negotiating with the enemy, as there has to be now, then Goering is better at that then I am. Either I fight and win the Battle of Berlin, or I am killed in Berlin. That is my final and irrevocable decision." (Clark, Read, Keitel)
April 23, 1945:
After Hitler's tantrum, the telephone lines from Berlin to what is left of the Reich buzz with the news. Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, upon hearing of his Fuehrer's breakdown, calls to encourage him, promising a great diplomatic breakthrough to win the day. Himmler calls and makes an impassioned plea for him to not give up hope. After replacing the receiver he mutters, 'They're all mad in Berlin. What am I to do?'
The one thing he does not do is go the Führerbunker himself. Instead, he sends Dr. Gebhart to offer Hitler the services of Himmler's own 600-man SS escort squad. He then sends Schellenberg to Luebeck to meet with unofficial back channel Red Cross envoy Bernadotte. Schellenberg is instructed to officially request—in Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler's name—that Bernadotte approach Eisenhower with an immediate offer of surrender in the West (but, of course, not in the East).
Note: This a very dangerous move by Himmler. Had he put out this feeler with Hitler's approval, it would have been merely a cynical ploy to cause dissention among the Allies. Had it been handled correctly and cleverly leaked, it might have done much to further the distrust between the two, which way the negotiations might go. But his doing this behind Hitler's back is clearly treason, and will give the Allies the opportunity to turn the tables and sow dissention in the Nazi ranks. (Read)
April 23, 1945:
In Berchtesgaden, Goering hears the news of Hitler's breakdown from a phone call from Koller. He orders Koller to join him at Obersalzberg. Upon arriving, Koller tells Goering of Hitler's resolve to stay in Berlin, as well as his statement that Goering would be a better choice to take over leadership in the south and direct negotiations with the enemy. Goering remarks that Hitler has played a 'mean trick' on him and put him in a very difficult position. Koller will later write an account of the meeting: 'Then he asked me whether I thought that Hitler was still alive or whether he had, perhaps, appointed Martin Bormann as his successor. I told him Hitler was alive when I left Berlin.' Koller urges him to seize the moment, but Goering is wary. 'Bormann is my deadly enemy,' Goering explains. 'He is only waiting to get at me. If I act, he will call me a traitor. If I don't, he will accuse me of having failed at the most difficult hour.'
The Fuehrer decree concerning Hitler's successor is located and read aloud: Should I have my freedom of action curtailed or be otherwise incapacitated, Reich Marshal Hermann Goering is to be my deputy and successor in all offices of State, Party, and Wehrmacht.' The State Secretary of the Reich Chancellery is reached on the phone for a legal opinion (remarkably, the telephone system will continue to function through most of the Battle for Berlin). Lammers: 'The law of 29 June 1941 is valid and legally binding. The Fuehrer has made no other order. If he had, I would have known. He could not have changed the decree legally without me.' Koller suggests that Goering send a message to Hitler seeking his approval. Keeping Lammers on the line, the three of them draft a carefully worded message to their Fuehrer. (Read)
April 23, 1945:
Goering sends a message to Hitler:
My Fuehrer, Since you are determined to remain at your post in Fortress Berlin, do you agree that I, as your deputy in accordance with your decree of 29.6.41, assume immediately total leadership of the Reich with complete freedom of action at home and abroad? If by 2200 hours no answer is forthcoming, I shall assume that you have been deprived of your freedom of action. I will then consider the terms of your decree to have come into force and act accordingly for the good of the people and the Fatherland. You must realize what I fell for you in these most difficult hours of my life, and I am quite unable to find words to express it. God bless you and that you may come here (to Berchtesgaden) after all as soon as possible. Your most loyal Herman Goering.
April 23, 1945:
While the other paladins are fleeing the Nazi capital, Goebbels' family moves into the Bunker.
April 23, 1945:
Albert Speer, in his bestselling books about the period, claimed to have been present at a remarkable number of key moments and events. This is perhaps one of the moments he actually witnessed firsthand. He will later write: 'Perhaps this was Bormann's last effort to induce Hitler to fly to Berchtesgaden and take control there.' Speer then relates that Bormann, waving the printout of Goering's message in his hand, declares it proof that Goering is staging a coup d'etat. He fails to get a reaction from a still apathetic Fuehrer. However, the text of a further message from Goering addressed to Reich Foreign Minister Ribbentrop—with a copy intended for Keitel—is delivered to Bormann, who immediately reads it aloud to Hitler and Speer. (Speer, Read)
April 23, 1945:
Hermann Goering's radio message to Ribbentrop:
I have asked the Fuehrer to provide me with instructions by 10 PM 23 April. If by this time it is apparent that the Fuehrer has been deprived of his freedom of action to conduct the affairs of the Reich, his decree of 29 June 1941 becomes effective, according to which I am heir to all his offices as his deputy. (If) by 12 midnight, 23 April 1945, you receive no word either from the Fuehrer or from me, you are to come to me at once by air.
April 23, 1945:
From Albert Speer's later account:
'Goering is engaged in treason!' Bormann cried. 'He's already sending telegrams to members of the government and announcing that on the basis of his powers he will assume your office at twelve o'clock tonight, my Fuehrer!' ...An outburst of wild fury (from Hitler) followed, in which feelings of bitterness, helplessness, self-pity and despair mingled. With flushed face and staring eyes, Hitler ranted on as if he had forgotten the presence of his entourage: 'I've known it all along. I know that Goering is lazy. He let the air force go to pot. He was corrupt. His example made corruption in our state. Besides, he's been a drug addict for years. I've known it all along.' As suddenly as it had begun, the tantrum ends with a statement of resignation: 'Well, all right. Let Goering negotiate the surrender, it doesn't matter who does it,' He will soon change his mind again. (Speer)
April 23, 1945:
At 5 PM, Goering receives a message from Bormann in Hitler's name: 'The decree of 29.6.41 only comes into effect on my specific agreement. There can be no talk of lack of freedom to act. I forbid you to take any steps in the direction you have indicated.' Goering immediately orders that a signal go out to Ribbentrop and Keitel canceling his previous message. However, just minutes later a further communication from the Fuehrerbunker . He is told that because of his long service his life is to be spared, but he must immediately resign from all his official offices, titles, and duties. Goering does so within the next half an hour. (Read)
April 24, 1945:
Hermann Goering is officially placed under house arrest by a squad of 30 SS men.
April 24, 1945:
German General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling, commander of the 56th Panzer Corps, arrives at the Fuehrerbunker. Communications with Weidling had been cut off since the 20th, and he had been sentenced to death on the 22nd as a deserter. He has traveled to Berlin to plead his innocence to his Fuehrer, who, impressed by the effort, soon gives him a new post. (Kershaw)
April 25, 1945:
German General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling is next appointed commander of the Berlin Defense Area. Facing an advance by two and a half million battle-hardened Soviet soldiers, he has 44,600 German soldiers, 42,500 old and under-armed Volkssturm 'troops,' and 2,700 Hitler Youth with which to oppose them. (Kershaw)
April 25, 1945:
Elbe Day: US and Soviet forces link up at Torgau, Germany, on the Elbe River, a meeting that dramatizes the collapse of Nazi Germany's defenses. Arrangements are made for the formal 'Handshake of Torgau' between Robertson and Silvashko in front of photographers the following day. Statements are released simultaneously in London, Moscow, and Washington in the evening reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich. Soviet forces completely surround Berlin as the US Army blows the swastika from the top of the Zeppelintribuene. The last B-17 attack against Nazi Germany occurs. Nazi occupation army leaves Milan after a partisan insurrection—effectively, Italy is liberated. Delegates from some 50 countries meet in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.
April 26, 1945:
After his villa is bombed by the RAF, Goering convinces Bernhard Frank—the leader of the SS squad holding him under house arrest—that it would be better if they all moved to Goering's castle in Mauterndorf. Early this morning, Goering, Lammers, Koller, and their SS guard leave for the castle. (Read)
April 26, 1945:
As the party makes their way to Goering's castle in Mauterndorf, an announcement is made on German radio:
Reich Marshal Hermann Goering has been taken ill with his long-standing chronic heart condition, which has now entered an acute stage. At a time when the efforts of all forces are required, he has therefore requested to be relieved of his command of the Luftwaffe and all duties connected thereto. The Fuehrer has granted this request. The Fuehrer has appointed Colonel-General Ritter von Greim as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, while simultaneously promoting him to Field Marshal.
April 26, 1945:
The Germans evacuate the last survivors from Stutthof by sea to Luebeck. Hundreds die during the voyage.
April 27, 1945:
OSS chief Allen Dulles is ordered by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to resume negotiations with German 'peace' emissaries. Note: Waller says the 26th, Mosley the 27th. (Mosley, Waller)
April 27, 1945:
An early morning situation conference in the Fuehrerbunker concentrates on Wenck's three battalion relief force just arriving at Potsdam. Giving up on hope that Busse's 9th Army can link up with Wenck, there still remains Holste's forces north-west of Berlin. Goebbels declares: "May God let Wenck come! A dreadful situation crosses my mind. Wenck is located at Potsdam, and here the Soviets are pressing on Potsdamer Platz!" Hitler replies: "And I'm not in Potsdam, but in Potsdamer Platz." One of the generals present voices reassurances: "Wenck will get here, Mein Fuehrer! It's only a question of whether he can do it alone." Hitler opines: "You've got to imagine. That'll spread like wildfire through the whole of Berlin when it's known: a German army has broken through in the west and established contact with the Citadel (Festung)." (Kershaw)
April 28, 1945:
The Allies reject peace offers made by Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler, insisting on nothing less than unconditional surrender on all fronts. The International Red Cross, by arrangement with Himmler, begins the transport of 150 Jewish women from Ravensbrueck to Sweden; the first of 3,500 Jewish and 3,500 non-Jewish women to be transferred to safety in the last ten days of the war.
April 28, 1945:
On this Saturday night, the bodies of Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci, are brought to Milan in a truck and dumped on the town square. The next day they will strung up by the heels from lampposts as Italian mobs celebrate by desecrating their corpses. Italian guerrillas had captured them while they were trying to escape to Switzerland and executed after a brief trial the previous day.
April 28, 1945:
Doenitz, believing that Himmler will soon succeed Hitler, contacts the SS leader and assures him that he has his support. Doenitz asks the Reichsfuehrer SS about rumors of Himmler's negotiations of surrender terms with the West. Himmler denies that there is anything to the rumors. (Shirer)
From Himmler by Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel: While Schellenberg was during the morning of 28 April successfully calming Himmler with the aid of his favorite astrologer, the Allied press was pouring out the news of the Reichsfuehrer's independent attempt at negotiations. Completely unaware of this, Himmler attended a military conference in Rheinsberg convened by Keitel. At this meeting Himmler presided, which showed that he regarded himself as Hitler's deputy and successor. In the late afternoon Bernadotte heard the news of the negotiations on the clandestine radio, and realized that Himmler was finished as a negotiator.
April 28, 1945:
Doenitz also heard the report and telephoned inquiries to Himmler, who immediately denied the story as it had been put in the broadcast, but added that he had no intention of issuing any public statement himself. According to Schellenberg, he then spent part of the day deciding how best to order the evacuation of German troops from Norway and Denmark. It was not until nine o'clock that night that a monitor report on a broadcast put out by the BBC gave Himmler away to the Fuehrer in the bowels of the Bunker. According to one observer, Hitler's 'color rose to a heated red, and his face became virtually unrecognizable.' Then he began to rage at this treacherous betrayal by the man he had trusted most of all. The men and women hemmed in the Bunker were convulsed with emotion, and 'everyone looked to their poison.'
Sometime between 7 and 9 PM, a BBC report picked up in the Fuehrerbunker announces that Himmler has just offered to surrender Germany unconditionally to the Allies. Rochus Misch, the switchboard officer on duty in the Fuehrerbunker, will later tell Gitta Sereny:
He (Hitler) was sitting on that bench outside my switchboard room with a puppy in his lap when Lorenz, whom I heard arrive at a run, handed him the paper on which he had jotted down the radio dispatch. Hitler's face went completely white, almost ashen. 'My God,' I thought, 'he is going to faint.' He slumped forward holding his head with his hands. The puppy plumped to the ground—silly how one remembers such trifles, but I can still here that soft sound.
Enraged at Himmler's duplicity, Hitler rants uncontrollably about this new betrayal, then closets himself in a conference room with Bormann and Goebbels. He first orders that Otto Hermann Fegelein, Himmler's man at the Bunker, be arrested. He then orders Field Marshal von Greim and Hanna Reitsch to fly to Doenitz's headquarters at Ploen and arrest Himmler. 'A traitor must never succeed me as Fuehrer,' he screams. 'You must get out (of Berlin) to make sure he doesn't.' (Read, Sereny)
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: Fegelein was always present during the discussions of the military situation; he never missed, because he was a permanent representative. If the Reichsfuehrer was present during these discussions, he reported only on the Waffen-SS, those divisions of the Waffen-SS which were being used somewhere under the Army. I do not know the name of these individual divisions.
April 28, 1945:
Martin Bormann wires Admiral Doenitz:
Reich Chancellery (Reichskanzlei) a heap of rubble. He informs Keitel that the foreign press is reporting fresh acts of treason and 'that without exception Schoerner, Wenck and the others must give evidence of their loyalty by the quickest relief of the Fuehrer.
April 29, 1945:
Hitler dictates his Political Testament:
April 29, 1945:
May it be one day a part of the code of honor; as it is already in the navy, that the surrender of an area or of a town is impossible, and above all in this respect the leaders should give a shining example of faithful devotion to duty unto death. Before my death I expel the former Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering and deprive him of all the rights he may enjoy by virtue of the decree of June 29, 1941, and also by virtue of my statement in the Reichstag on September 1, 1939. I appoint in his place Grossadmiral Doenitz as President of the Reich and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces...
Hitler and Eva Braun exchange marriage vows.
April 29, 1945:
At 4 AM, Hitler officially signs the last will and political testament documents prepared by Traudl Junge. Signed as witnesses: Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Colonel Nicholaus von Below.
April 29, 1945:
An unconditional surrender of the German armies in Italy is signed at Caserta; Venice and Mestre are captured by the Allies.
April 29, 1945:
Dachau is liberated by the US 45th Infantry Division. Some 20-30 SS men are said to have been captured. Eyewitnesses will later relate that 34 of the 200 guards captured are murdered by the Americans after surrendering. The camp inmates tear apart 15-20 informers and kill all the Capos, who are described for the most part as common German criminals. (Waller)
April 29, 1945:
At noon, three copies of Hitler's the last will and political testament documents are sent by courier to Doenitz, General Schoerner, and the Brown House in Munich, respectively. (Payne)
April 29, 1945:
At 6 PM, Hitler announces to his staff that he and his wife, Eva, are going to commit suicide together unless some miracle intervenes. He then passes out vials of cyanide. At 9 PM, the news of the murder and the public humiliation of Mussolini and his mistress reaches the Bunker. Hitler vows that he will not share a similar fate.
April 30, 1945:
In the early morning hours, Bormann dispatches a message to Doenitz: "DOENITZ! Our impression grows daily stronger that the divisions in the Berlin theater have been standing idle for several days. All reports we receive are controlled, suppressed, or distorted by Keitel...The Fuehrer orders you to proceed at once, and mercilessly, against all traitors...The Fuehrer is alive, and is conducting the defense of Berlin..." (Shirer)
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer: The leaders of the (German) Army, the Air Force and the SS, he (Hitler) believed, had betrayed him, had cheated him of victory. So his only possible choice of successor had to be the leader of the Navy, which had been too small to play a major role in Hitler's war of conquest. This was a final jibe at the Army, which had done most of the fighting and lost most of the men killed in the war. There was also (in Hitler's Political Testament) a last parting denunciation of the two men (Goering and Himmler) who had been, with Goebbels, his most intimate collaborators since the early days of the party...Having expelled the traitors and named his successor, Hitler then proceeded to tell Doenitz whom he must have in his new government. They were all 'honorable men,' he said, 'who will fulfill the task of continuing the war with all means.' Goebbels was to be the Chancellor and Bormann the 'Party Minister', a new post. Seyss-Inquart, the Austrian quisling and, most recently, the butcher governor of Holland, was to be foreign minister. Speer, like Ribbentrop, was dropped. But Count Schwerin von Krosigk, who had been Minister of Finance continuously since his appointment by Papen in 1932, was to retain that post. This man was a fool, but it must be admitted that he had a genius for survival.
April 30, 1945
At 3:30 PM, Adolf Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, commit suicide in their private quarters under the Chancellery. Their bodies are taken above ground by Hitler's aides, burned with difficulty due to the conditions and the limited supply of gasoline, and buried in a shallow grave formed from a bomb crater. Kempka, Goebbels, Bormann, Krebs, Linge, and Burgdorf give one last Nazi salute to their Fuehrer, before an exploding Soviet shell sends them scurrying back down into the Bunker. (Read)
April 30, 1945:
Goebbels presides at his first and last situation conference as Reich Chancellor. Bormann proposes that the 300 to 500 troops around the Bunker spearhead a breakout through the Soviet lines to link up with Doenitz, but Goebbels rules it out. He decides instead to send General Krebs to the Soviet lines under a white flag with a truce proposal. (Read)
April 30, 1945:
Bormann and Goebbels again radio Doenitz: "The Fuehrer has appointed you, Herr Admiral, as his successor in place of Reichsmarschall Göring. Confirmation in writing follows. You are hereby authorized to take any measures which the situation demands." Note: Doenitz is not informed that Hitler is already dead. (Shirer)
April 30, 1945:
The bizarre turn of events catching him completely off guard, Doenitz, in shock, has absolutely no desire to succeed Hitler. Believing that Hitler is still alive, he replies to the previous message from the Fuehrer Bunker with as much encouragement as he can muster: "MY FUEHRER! My loyalty to you will be unconditional. I shall do everything possible to relieve you in Berlin. If fate nevertheless compels me to rule the Reich as your appointed successor, I shall continue this war to an end worthy of the unique, heroic struggle of the German people." (Shirer)
April 30, 1945:
The Red Army captures the Reichstag at 10:50 PM, hoisting the first of more than forty victory flags, though no photograph can be taken due to the late hour. Various Soviet military units will unfurl and photograph an assortment of flags, of which the one above is the 'official' victory flag, photographed early on the morning of May 1. German artillery will knock it down later that same morning, and it will be replaced in the afternoon only to be taken down on May 3 and eventually shipped to Moscow.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I was not active politically until 1 May 1945, when I became head of the State, not before then... I was in Holstein. Therefore, I did not have the slightest inkling, nor did the Fuehrer, that I was to become his successor... On 30 April 1945, in the evening, I received a radio message from headquarters to the effect that the Fuehrer was designating me his successor and that I was authorized to take at once all measures which I considered necessary. The next morning, that is on 1 May, I received another radio message, a more detailed directive, which said that I was to be Reich President; Minister Goebbels, Reich Chancellor; Bormann, Party Minister; and Seyss-Inquart, Foreign Minister... This radio message first of all contradicted the earlier radio message which clearly stated: "You can at once do everything you consider to be right." I did not and as a matter of principle never would adhere to this second radio message, for if I am to take responsibility, then no conditions must be imposed on me. Thirdly, under no circumstances would I have agreed to working with the people mentioned, with the exception of Seyss-Inquart. In the early morning of 1 May I had already had a discussion with the Minister of Finance, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, and had asked him to take over the business of government, insofar as we could still talk about that. I had done this because in a chance discussion, which had taken place several days before, I had seen that we held much the same view, the view that the German people belonged to the Christian West, that the basis of future conditions of life is the absolute legal security of the individual and of private property... I saw this Testament for the first time a few weeks ago here, when it was made public in the press. As I have said, I would not have accepted any order, any restriction of my activity at the time when Germany's position was hopeless and I was given the responsibility.
May 1, 1945:
An announcement is made on the German wireless: Announcer:
It has been reported from the Fuehrer's headquarters that our Fuehrer Adolf Hitler has died this afternoon in his battle headquarters at the Reich Chancellery, fallen for Germany, fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism. On the 30th of April the Fuehrer nominated Grossadmiral Doenitz to be his successor. The Grossadmiral and Fuehrer's successor will speak to the German nation." Doenitz: "German men and women, soldiers of the German Armed Forces. Our Fuehrer Adolf Hitler is dead. The German people bow in deepest sorrow and respect. Early he had recognized the terrible danger of Bolshevism and had dedicated his life to the fight against it. His fight having ended, he died a hero's death in the capital of the German Reich, after having led an unmistakably straight and steady life.
From Adolf Hitler and the German Trauma by Robert Edwin Herzstein: Bormann made sure that the news of Hitler's death was not broadcast until he had made one last desperate attempt to achieve supreme power for himself. First he attempted to manipulate and control Admiral Doenitz, who was still at liberty in northern Germany. Bormann informed Doenitz that he would soon join him in Flensburg. This never occurred... When Hitler's death was announced, it was done in the true spirit of National Socialism; false heroism and blatant lies. The slow movement of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony was played, along with Siegfried's 'Funeral Music' by Wagner. Then it was announced that 'Adolf Hitler has fallen at his command post in Berlin after fighting with his last breath against the Bolsheviks.' This was consistent with Nazi rhetoric, for in April Nazi and SS officials had scrawled all over the walls of beleaguered Berlin: 'Berlin remains German.' 'Our walls are broken but not our hearts,' 'SS believes in the Fuehrer.' If Hitler had indeed committed suicide and had not fought the Russians to the very end, it might appear as if he had irresponsibly and pusillanimously tricked and betrayed the millions who had taken an oath of allegiance to him in one form or another.
May 1, 1945:
General Krebs meets with Zhukov, but returns empty handed after refusing to agree to an unconditional surrender. Note: Only Reichskanzler Goebbels now has the authority to agree to an unconditional surrender.
May 1, 1945:
Magda Goebbels combs out the hair of each of her six children (ages 5 to 13) and dresses them for bed. After the children have fallen asleep, Magda—her husband is not present and does not participate—assists Hitler's personal physician, Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger, as he administers lethal injections to all six of the children. After ensuring their demise, and apparently struggling with her oldest daughter who, it seems, had not been slumbering sufficiently to sleep through the pain of the fatal injection, Magda leaves the room and sits down to play solitaire. (Sereny)
May 1, 1945:
Doenitz receives another radio message signed by Goebbels and Bormann: "The Fuehrer died yesterday, 1530 hours. In his will dated April 29 he appoints you as President of the Reich, Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, Bormann as Party Minister, Seyss-Inquart as Foreign Minister. The will, by order of the Fuehrer, is being sent to you and to Field Marshal Schoerner and out of Berlin for safe custody. Bormann will try to reach you today to explain the situation. Form and timing of announcement to the Armed Forces and the public is left to your discretion. Acknowledge."
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I put that question (why Hitler selected me) to myself when I received that telegram, and came to the conclusion that after the Reich Marshal had been removed, I was the senior officer of an independent branch of the Armed Forces, and that that was the reason.
May 1, 1945:
Joseph and Magda Goebbels commit suicide, only feet away from the partially burned and buried body of their Fuehrer.
May 1, 1945:
Following Goebbels' suicide, Doenitz becomes the sole representative of the crumbling German Reich. Ribbentrop offers his services, but Doenitz refuses outright (Ribbentrop will be captured by the Allies on June 14). Count Ludwig Schwerin von Krosigk, in addition to discharging his duties as Foreign Minister and Minister of Finance, is appointed by Doenitz to form the temporary government and preside over the activities of its cabinet as Reichskanzler. Himmler attempts to make a place for himself in the new regime, but ultimately to no avail. The Doenitz government will not be recognized by the Allies and will be more or less ignored. In his memoirs, Doenitz will write: "Now, most clearly, I recognized the evil side of National Socialism and so changed my attitude to the form of state created by it." (Read, Manvell)
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: When on 1 May I became head of the State, circumstances were different. By that time, the fronts—the Eastern and Western fronts—had come so close to each other, that in a few days people, troops, soldiers, armies, and the great masses of refugees could be transported, from the East to the West. When I became head of the State on 1 May, I therefore strove to make peace as quickly as possible and to capitulate, thus saving German blood and bringing German people from the East to the West; and I acted accordingly, already on 2 May, by making overtures to General Montgomery to capitulate for the territory facing his army, and for Holland and Denmark, which we still held firmly; and immediately following that I opened negotiations with General Eisenhower. The same basic principle, to save and preserve the German population, motivated me in the winter to face bitter necessity and keep on fighting. It was very painful that our cities were still being bombed to pieces and that through these bombing attacks and the continued fight more lives were lost. The number of these people is about 300,000 to 400,000, the majority of whom perished in the bombing attack of Dresden, which cannot be understood from a military point of view and which could not have been predicted. Nevertheless, this figure is relatively small compared with the millions of German people, soldiers and civilian population, we would have lost in the East if we had capitulated in the winter. Therefore, in my opinion, it was necessary to act as I did: First while I was still a soldier, to call on my troops to keep up the fight, and afterwards, when I became head of the State in May, to capitulate at once. Thereby no German lives were lost; rather were they saved.
May 1, 1945:
Doenitz issues his Order of the Day to the Armed Forces:
I expect discipline and obedience. Chaos and ruin can be prevented only by the swift and unreserved execution of my orders. Anyone who at this juncture fails in his duty and condemns German women and children to slavery and death is a traitor and a coward. The oath of allegiance which you took to the Fuehrer now binds each and every one of you to me, whom he himself appointed as his successor.
May 1, 1945:
Doenitz addresses the German people in a radio broadcast:
The Fuehrer has nominated me as his successor. In full consciousness of my responsibilities I therefore assume the leadership of the German people at this fateful hour. My first task is to save German men and women from destruction by the advancing Bolshevist enemy. It is to serve this purpose alone that the military struggle continues. For as long as the British and the Americans continue to impede the accomplishments of this task, we must also continue to fight and defend ourselves against them. The British and the Americans, in that case, will not be fighting in the interests of their own peoples, but solely for the expansion of Bolshevism in Europe.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I said quite clearly in the first order that I would fight in the East until troops and refugees could be rescued from the East and brought to the West; and that I would not fight one moment longer. That was my intention, and that is also clearly expressed in that order... From the military point of view, the war was absolutely lost, and there was then only the problem of saving as many human beings as possible, and therefore we had to continue resistance in the East. Therefore, that resistance in the East had a purpose... (Subsequent bloodshed was) extremely small, compared to the one or two millions which otherwise would have been lost... Of course, in the fighting in the East during those few days there might be further losses, but they were necessary in order to save hundreds of thousands of refugees... As head of State, from 1 May on, I was a political man...(before then) Purely a soldier... I said that before 1 May 1945 I was purely a soldier. As soon as I became the head of State I relinquished the High Command of the Navy because I became the head of State and therefore a political personality... If a soldier during the war stands firmly behind his nation and his government, that does not make him a politician...
May 1, 1945:
A mass breakout from the Fuehrerbunker occurs as Erich Kempka, Traudl Junge, Gerda Christian, Constanze Manzialy, Else Krueger, Otto Guensche, Johann Rattenhuber, Werner Naumann, Wilhelm Mohnke, Hans-Erich Voss, Ludwig Stumpfegger, Martin Bormann, Artur Axmann, Walther Hewel, Guenther Schwaegermann, and Armin D. Lehmann flee for their lives. SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger, Adolf Hitler's personal physician since 1944, commits suicide at the Lehrter Bahnhof by taking cyanide alongside Bormann. Their bodies will not be identified for decades.
May 2, 1945:
Executive Order of US President Truman:
May 2, 1945:
Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson is hereby designated to act as the Representative of the United States and as its Chief of Counsel in preparing and prosecuting charges of atrocities and war crimes against such of the leaders of the European Axis powers and their principal agents and accessories as the United States may agree with any of the United Nations to bring to trial before an international tribunal...
After forming a new government in Flensburg (near the Danish border in Schleswig-Holstein), Doenitz stretches out surrender negotiations in order to allow as many Germans as possible to avoid Soviet capture. Note: The other defendants in the Flensburg cabinet are Jodl, Speer, and Keitel. Speer, participating in what he will later call Doenitz's 'operetta government,' is appointed Minister of Economics and Production. After obtaining a signed order from Doenitz to stop all demolition activities, he travels to Hamburg to make a live radio broadcast on the subject to the nation. (Read)
May 3, 1945:
Doenitz invites all the civilian military commanders of the German occupied territories to Flensburg to coordinate a simultaneous surrender. (Heydecker)
May 4, 1945:
Goering, having finally talked his SS 'captors' into letting him go, writes a letter to Doenitz complaining of Bormann's intrigues against him and his resultant loss of status. He offers his services as official German negotiator to Eisenhower—'as one marshal to another'—and reminds him of how well he had done in the past 'in all the important negotiations abroad, with which the Fuehrer always entrusted me before the war.' 'Moreover,' he continues, 'both Great Britain and America have proved through their press and radio, and in the declarations of their statesman over the last few years, that their attitude toward me is more favorable than toward all other political leaders in Germany.' Doenitz never replies. (Read)
From The Face Of The Third Reich by Joachim C Fest: In the final phase of his life he (Goering) suffered from profound illusion. In April 1945 he had been dismissed with ignominy from all his posts, arrested, and bequeathed a curse. But when he heard of Hitler's death, he was, his wife recalled, 'close to despair' and exclaimed, 'He's dead, Emmy. Now I shall never be able to tell him that I was true to him till the end!' In much the same way as Himmler, he hoped to be accepted by the Allies as a partner in negotiations. As General Bodenschatz has testified, soon after his capture by the Americans his main concern was the proclamation which he intended to make to the German people as soon as he had reached a satisfactory agreement with Eisenhower. His claim to the leadership of the Reich after Hitler's death was indisputable in his view.
May 4, 1945:
Even at Nuremberg he compelled his fellow prisoner, Grand Admiral Doenitz, to admit that he owed his own 'nomination as the Fuehrer's successor solely to coincidence'. And if Goering defended himself before the International Court of Justice with striking skill and some aggressiveness, behind which some of the old elemental force of his personality could be felt, it was because of his conviction that his role as leader placed greater responsibility upon him than upon the other prisoners. Obstinately, and at times not without success, he tried to command them, to influence their statements, and to establish a regime which Speer referred to angrily as 'Goering's dictatorship'. At last, after so many years, so many blows and humiliations, for a brief and fruitless span, he had reached his goal: to be the First Man and 'Nazi Number One', as he called himself.
Fedor von Bock, General Field Marshal with monarchist sympathies who had been permanently retired by Hitler, is killed in an Allied bombing raid. Field Marshal Montgomery announces that all enemy forces in the Netherlands, Northwest Germany and Denmark have surrendered unconditionally.
May 5, 1945:
Himmler assembles his SS chieftains to deliver a farewell address, hinting that he still has some great destiny ahead of him. After passing out cyanide capsules all around, Himmler shaves off his mustache, puts on an eyepatch and a Field Security Police uniform, arms himself with a fake ID, and tries to slip away in the confusion. He will eventually commit suicide by cyanide capsule after he is apprehended on May 23.
May, 5 1945:
Prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller is liberated by the Allies from Nazi captivity.
May 5, 1945:
Admiral Karl Doenitz orders all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases. German Army Group G surrenders to the Americans at Haar in Bavaria. Mauthausen concentration camp, together with satellite camps at Gunskirchen and Ebensee, become the last concentration camps to be liberated by the Allies. The US War Department announces that 400,000 men will remain in Germany as an occupation force.
May 6, 1945:
Constantin von Neurath is arrested in the French occupation zone; the only Nuremberg defendant captured by the French. Note: The Americans now have ten defendants in custody, the British five, while three are in joint US/UK custody and the Soviets hold two.)
May 7, 1945:
Jodl signs the Allied terms for Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender, and receives permission to make a statement:
With this signature the German people and the German Armed Forces are, for better or worse, delivered into the hands of the victors...In this hour I can only express the hope that the victor will treat them with generosity. (Shirer)
May 8, 1945:
Reichspraesident Doenitz authorizes Keitel to sign the second instrument of unconditional surrender in Berlin. Note: 1,160 U-boats had been built during the Second World War, and more than 350 are still in service at the end of the conflict. The Allies and neutral countries lost 2,828 ships to the submarines of Germany, Italy and Japan. Between September 3, 1939 and May 8, 1945, 785 U-boats were sunk with an estimated 32,000 U-boat crew members lost.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: According to my recollection, our total losses were 640 or 670 (U-boats)... Altogether, we had 40,000 men in the submarine force. Of these 40,000 men 30,000 did not return, and of these 30,000, 25,000 were killed and only 5,000 were taken prisoner. The majority of the submarines was destroyed from the air in the vast areas of the sea, the Atlantic, where rescue was out of the question.
May 7-8, 1945
The Allies formally accept the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.
May 8, 1945:
Churchill announces the end of the war in Europe:
May 9, 1945:
The German representatives will be Field-Marshal Keitel, Chief of the High Command, and the Commanders-in-Chief of the German Army, Navy, and Air Forces. Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night (Tuesday, May 8), but in the interests of saving lives the "Cease fire" began yesterday to be sounded all along the front...
From Doenitz's final order to the German Armed Forces:
By command of Admiral Doenitz the Armed Forces have given up the hopeless struggle. A heroic fight that has lasted for nearly six years thus comes to an end...the German Armed Forces have succumbed to overwhelming superior strength...Every German soldier, sailor and airman can therefore lay aside his arms with justifiable pride and turn to the task of ensuring the everlasting life of our nation...To show obedience, discipline and absolute loyalty to our Fatherland, bleeding from innumerable wounds, is the sacred duty our dead impose upon us all.