Hitler's Last Day: Minute By Minute - novelonlinefull.com
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After the war, Ruffle found it hard to settle down to regular work, but in the end became a qualified coppersmith. He often told his three sons the story of his 1945 six-week winter march; the boys made the snow deeper each time he recounted it (it got up to 45 feet). Bert retired in 1975 and died on 9th November 1995 aged 85.
Together with her colleagues in the SMERSH intelligence detachment that found Hitler's bunker, Rzhevskaya was forbidden to talk about what they discovered there, and in particular about finding Hitler's body. After the war she returned to live in Moscow to work as a writer and won prizes for her fiction and journalism. Eventually, in the late 1960s, she was allowed to publish a memoir and at last help, in her own words, 'prevent Stalin's dark and murky ambition from taking root his desire to hide from the world that we had found Hitler's corpse'.
Dr Ernst Schenk
Schenck took part in the breakout from the bunker on 1st May 1945. He was quickly captured by the Russians and held until 1953. He returned to live in West Germany and tried to track down surviving patients from the emergency hospital in the Chancellery cellar. He was unable to find any. He died aged 94 in 1998.
In May 1945 Sellier started work in Munich as a cook at the Hotel Excelsior. Young German men were so scarce that the fact Claus could peel potatoes was qualification enough. He soon lost contact with his friend Fritz. Claus took English cla.s.ses and in 1953 got a job as a trainee chef in New York. Claus became a US citizen and ran a number of restaurants and clubs across the country. He now lives in California.
The people of the Soviet Union celebrated the end of the European war on 9th May 1945, but they had not won any greater freedom. If anything, Stalin's grip grew tighter over the next few years. He showed no mercy for those Red Army soldiers who had been captured by the Germans they were considered traitors, and over a million were imprisoned in Soviet gulags. There was a b.l.o.o.d.y purge of Russia's successful wartime generals, of party members, intellectuals and Jews. The scientists in the Soviet nuclear weapon project were tolerated. 'Leave them in peace. We can always shoot them later,' Stalin said.
Relations with his former Allies deteriorated further. In June 1948, furious at the Americans and British for introducing the Deutschmark as the official currency in their occupied zones in Berlin (he preferred the weaker Reichsmark), Stalin ordered a blockade of the city. To Stalin's surprise, America and her allies responded with an airlift that successfully supplied food and fuel to their occupied zones. The blockade ended in May 1949.
Always obsessed with his place in history, Stalin oversaw a film called The Fall of Berlin, made by the state-controlled Mosfilm studio as a 70th birthday present for the dictator. In the film, it is Stalin alone who directs the battle and who later is surrounded by a grateful crowd made up of many nationalities chanting, 'Thank you, Stalin!'
Stalin collapsed on 5th March 1953 after suffering a ma.s.sive cerebral haemorrhage. His daughter Svetlana said that in his final moments his eyes were 'full of the fear of death'.
Hitler's dog handler remained in the bunker and surrendered to the Russians when they arrived on 2nd May 1945. He was showing signs of post-traumatic stress. Four other people remained in the bunker including the nurse, Erna Flegel, and the doctor, Werner Haase.
President Harry Truman
The UN Charter was finally agreed and signed in San Francisco, and on 28th June was put in a safe which was put onto a plane bound for Washington. In case of an air crash, on the safe was written: 'Finder! Do Not Open. Send to the Department of State, Washington.' The safe was also wrapped in a parachute.
On 16th July 1945 President Truman was in Berlin for a conference with Stalin and Churchill. Truman was driven to the Reichstag, which by now had graffiti scratched on its stones by Russian soldiers ('Ivanov, all the way from Stalingrad'; 'Sidorov from Tambov'), and then on to the Brandenburg Gate. They pa.s.sed a park bench that still had a sign saying 'NICHT FuR JuDEN' 'Not for Jews', before heading into what was now the Russian sector. Truman was shown the Reich Chancellery and he stared at the stone balcony where Hitler had addressed the crowds so many times. Reporters cl.u.s.tered around the car. 'They brought it upon themselves. It just demonstrates what man can do when he overreaches himself,' the President told them.
Truman was President until 1953, when he was succeeded by his former Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
General Helmuth Weidling
Following the suicide of General Krebs, Helmuth Weidling, commander of Berlin, took over the negotiations with the Russian General Chuikov. He signed an unconditional surrender in the early hours of 2nd May. He was then arrested by the Russians and died in KGB custody in 1955.
See Boldt above.
General Walther Wenck
Wenck's forces spent 1st and 2nd May moving General Busse's depleted 9th Army from the forests south of Berlin to the River Elbe with the aim of enabling as many German soldiers as possible to cross over to the American zone. Hearing of Hitler's death on 3rd May, Wenck sent negotiators to the Americans and immediately gave orders that the n.a.z.i salute be replaced by the traditional German army version. He withdrew fighting troops from the Elbe.
The Americans agreed to receive the injured, unarmed soldiers but not to rebuild bridges across the Elbe to facilitate the speedy evacuation of all soldiers. US General William Stimpson felt he was under an obligation to their Russian allies not to rescue soldiers or civilians from the Soviet zone. He did not, moreover, have the resources to feed and house such a ma.s.s surrender. Wenck's 12th Army was still under attack from the Russians advancing westward, and the force of that attack was such that, on 6th May, the Americans withdrew from the Elbe to protect their troops from fire. At this point the Germans surged across the river on rafts cobbled together from fuel cans and planks of wood. Some strong swimmers swam across with signal cable in their teeth, which they fastened to trees on the west bank. Women and children, and those who couldn't swim, then tried to haul themselves along these lines. Many who couldn't cross committed suicide. On 7th May the remnants of the 12th Army blew up their guns. That afternoon Wenck was in one of the last boats to cross the Elbe. He surrendered to the Americans and was held as a prisoner of war until 1947. He died in a car crash in 1982.
After the war, Whicker worked for the Exchange Telegraph news agency covering events all over the world, including the Korean War. In 1957 he joined the BBC and his best-known series Whicker's World started soon after, running until 1988. Alan Whicker was given a CBE for services to broadcasting in 2005, and died in 2013.
See Johannmeier above.
The first Russian soldiers to enter the Reich Chancellery on 2nd May quickly established that the place was not wired to explode. They discovered the charred remains of Joseph and Magda Goebbels in the Reich Chancellery garden, and the bodies of their six children on the bunk beds in their room in the upper bunker. The intelligence officer, Yelena Rzhevskaya, found ten fat notebooks containing Joseph Goebbels' diaries, and came across one of her female colleagues trying on Eva Hitler's dresses. The Russians also found the remains of Eva and Adolf Hitler and, on 9th May, Rzhevskaya was in the team that managed to track down an a.s.sistant of Hitler's dentist who was able to provide the dental records. The corpse believed to be Hitler's had a well-preserved jawbone. Rzhevskaya expected that the whole world would be told within days that they had found Hitler's body.
However, by now Stalin refused to recognise any evidence that Hitler was dead, almost as if he was clinging onto his long-held dream of a show trial. The Soviet press published numerous articles speculating about whether Hitler had fled to the American zone in Bavaria or to Franco's Spain or Argentina. A hunt was launched. On 26th May, Stalin told Truman's representative in the Kremlin that 'Bormann, Goebbels, Hitler and probably Krebs had escaped and were in hiding'. He repeated the a.s.sertion when he arrived at the Potsdam Conference on 16th July 1945 to meet Churchill and Truman.
That day ten days before he lost the British general election Winston Churchill had visited the Reich Chancellery just ten minutes after President Truman left. Russian soldiers showed him the wreckage of Hitler's study and handed out souvenirs of bits of the Fuhrer's smashed marble desk. Sir Alexander Cadogan, one of Churchill's party, used his as a paperweight.
Churchill was then taken down into the bunker, where by torchlight, he wandered through the corridors that were littered with broken gla.s.s, upturned furniture, strewn books and papers. The debris was six feet high in places and there was a smell of death.
When Churchill emerged into the sunshine, mopping the sweat off his forehead, he stared at the spot where Hitler's body was burned, then gave a swift V sign. Before he walked away he said, 'This is what would have happened to us if they had won the war. We would have been in the bunker.'
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