INSIDE HITLERS BUNKER - BERLIN APRIL 1945 Part 3/
Suicide has always been an option in Hitler's mind. Just before their Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, he told his supporters, 'If it succeeds, very well, if it fails, we'll hang ourselves!' He has always seen the choice being between absolute success and absolute defeat. There is no middle-ground for him.
Hitler pauses for a moment, then moves away from the table, opposite from Frau Junge. Type that out for me in triplicate and then bring it to me'. He has never before ordered triplicate copies without first checking a proof copy.
Traudl Junge takes off the typewriter cover. It seems such an undignified end, the same phrases, in the same quiet tone, and then...those terrible words about the Jews. After all the despair, not one word of sorrow, of compassion'. She thinks, 'He has left us with nothing. A nothing'.
In the Führerbunker the conference room is being set up for the wedding ceremony. Five chairs are positioned at the large map table. Traudl Junge has had to take her typewriter and work into the common room outside Joseph Goebbels' room.
The civil magistrate and some Home Guard volunteer, plus Walther Wagner arrives at the bunker clutching a two-page typed document. He came to the bunker earlier in the evincing, having been summoned by Josef Goebbels.
When he discovers that he was required to conduct a civil wedding service he insisted on returning to his office to prepare the proper paperwork. Wagner is dressed in his Nazi Uniform with his Home Guard armband. Hitler's valet, Heinz Linge, reckons that Wagner is as exited as the bride.
The new commander of the Luftwaffe, Robert Ritter von Greim is struggling on his crutches as he climbs the concrete steps out of the bunker. Von Greim has just spent two days with the Führer, having been summoned so that Hitler could personally appoint him to replace the disgraced Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Göring.
Robert Ritter von Greim
Hanna Reutsch probably used most likely a' Fieseler Storch' ('stork' in English) to get Ritter von Greim out of Berlin,sic.
The long legs of the main landing gear contained oil-and-spring shock absorbers that had a travel of 40 cm (15-3/4 inches), allowing the aircraft to land on comparatively rough and uneven surfaces; this was combined with a "pre-travel" distance of 20 cm, before the oleos began damping the landing gear shock In flight, the main landing gear legs hung down, giving the aircraft the appearance of a long-legged, big-winged bird, hence its nickname, Storch. With its very low landing speed, the Storch often appeared to land vertically, or even backwards in strong winds from directly ahead
As Hanna Reitsch now tries to help Greim up the bunker steps she is protesting miserable - she wants to stay in the bunker and die at our Führer's side. Von Greim. however, looks positively jolly - whether cheered by his appointment, or by the fact that he is getting out of the bunker. Telephonist Misch feels sick as he watches them leave. He had hoped that von Greim would be asked to fly the Führer out of Berlin, and then they would all have been able to make their escape.
Hitler is sending von Greim. as Head of the Luftwaffe, on two missions. Firstly, he is to mobilize the Luftwaffe to break through the Russian encirclement: 'Every available polane must be called up by daylight!' Secondly, he is to arrest and arrange the execution of Fegelein's boss, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler. When he learned the news of Himmler's overtures to the Allies the previous day, Hitler had shouted at von Greim, 'A traitor must never succeed me as Führer! You must get out to ensure that he will not.'
As she leaves the bunker the aviatrix Hanna Reitsch is carrying a number of personal and official letters. Eva Brown has given her a final letter to her sister Gretl who is staying with their parents in Hitler's mountain home in Obersalzberg. The letter makes no mention of Fegelein's death. The Propaganda minister Josef Goebbels and his wife, Magda, have given Reitsch letters for Magda's oldest son Harald, who is being held as a British prisoner of war in Britain. Magda Goebbels is dressing in her bedroom in the upper bunker. The older bunker is starker than the Fürerbunker and her small room is typical with its concrete walls and minimal furnishings: a single bed, a chest of drawers and only a bare bulb for light. Magda proudly pins the golden Party Badge that the Führer gave her two days ago onto the front of her dress It is his personal badge, marked with number 1, the badge of the premier figure in the Nazi Party. She feels it is the greatest Honor of her life. Hitler has worn the badge on his uniform for 12 years. During his chancellorship Magda has often stood in as an unofficial first lady, accompanying the Führer on formal occasions, sitting in pride of place at official dinners while Eva Braun hidden away confined to her room. The badge confirms her status in the hierarchy.
The six Goebbels children. Helga, Hilde. Helmut, Holde, Hedda and Heide, who are aged between four and 12 are sleeping in the three bunk beds in the room next door to their mother, Josef Goebbels bedroom is separate from theirs, down the main staircase and at the far end of the Führerbunker, next door to Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun's suite. When the children arrived a week ago they were told that Germany was on the verge of winning the war and that they had to come to the bunker to be ready to join the victory celebrations with the Führer. In fact Joseph and Magda decided to join their leader when they realized that defeat was imminent. The want to face death at his side. They have come to end their lives of their children.
Magda has spent much of the week lying in bed. She suffers from angina. She can bear to see the children only for brief periods. Most of the work of looking after the children has fallen to the secretaries and kitchen orderlies. Magda has confided to the other women in the bunker hat she is terrified that when the time comes she will be too weak to bring herself to kill them.
This veining Magda has written to her oldest son, Harald. When his plane was shot down over Italy in 1944, he was missing for several months. The Goebbels were delighted when they finally learned that he had been captured by the British, which they considered the safest possible outcome, though they don't know where he is being held. He is in fact in a prisoner of-war camp in Latimer House, Buckinghamsahire, where he is very popular with the young RAF officers who interrogated him. Latimer House is a camp for high-ranking Germans and Harald who is there because of his family connections rather than his rank, is much younger and more affable than most of his fellow prisoners.
Magda Goebbels tries to explain to Harald why she has brought his younger brother and sisters to the bunker:
'The world which will succeed National Socialism is not worth living in and for this reason I have brought the children here too, They are too good for the life that will come after us and a gracious God will understand me if I myself give them release from it...
'Be proud of us...Everyone must die one day and is it not better to live a fine Honorable, brave but short life than drag out a long life of humiliation?
'My beloved Son 'Live for Germany!
Joseph Goebbels has has also written to his stepson. He tells him that he should be proud of his mother. He also wants him:
'Do not let yourself be disconcerted by the worldwide clamor which will mow begin. One day the lies will crumble away of themselves and the myth will triumph once more. That will be the moment when we shall tower over all, clean and spotless, as we have always striven to be and believed ourselves to be...
May you always be proud of having belonged to a family which, even in misfortune, remained loyal to the very end to the Führer and his pure sacred cause.'
He signs off with the words,'All good things and my heart-felt greetings,
Magda and Joseph entrust these letters to Hanna Reitsch, and Magda also gives her a diamond ring. Hitler's parting gift to Reitsch is a cyanide capsul
The Goebbels family - Harald Quandt in uniform was not present, his image was super-imposed
In his study Hitler is talking to Heinz Linge, his valet. 'I would like to get you return to your family.'
'Mein Führer, I have been with you in good times, and I want to stay with you in the bad,'Linge replies.
'I have another personal job for you. What I must do now is what I have ordered every commander to do: hold out to the death. This order applies to me, since I feel that I am here as the commandant of Berlin...'
Linge's head is swimming. 'You should two blankets in my bedroom and get hold of enough petrol for two cremations.
I am going to shoot myself here together with Eva Braun. You will wrap our bodies in woolen blankets, carry them up, to the garden, and there burn them.'
Linge is trembling. He stutters his reply: 'Jawohl mein Führer!' and leaves the room.
Picture Heinz Linge
In Berlin Robert Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch climb out of the armored vehicle which has brought them to the Brandenburg gGte, there a light aircraft is waiting. They squash into the two-seater plane, Reitsch is at the controls with von Greim behind her, his crutches jammed down by his feet. They set off down the makeshift Tiergarten runway. The plane picks up speed and soars into the night sky. It's immediately illuminated by Russian searchlight and comes under fire - but they make it into the clouds. Reitsch looks down a the cloud bank, shining into the silver moonlight, still, serene, idyllic', and thinks that it looks like a giant quilt wrapped over the flaming city. She headsfor Rechlin airfield, where von Greim will issue his first instructions for the Luftwaffe.
Following Hitler's instructions, Heinz Linge puts through a call to Hitler's driver, Erich Kempka, in the underground car park to speak to him to source.
'Yes, petrol. We need about 200 liters.'
'A mere 200 liter?' Kempka quips sarcastically. Petrol is desperately scarce. 'Is this a joke?' What are you doing with 200 liters of petrol?'
'Believe me Erich, I cannot tell you on the phone, but this is not a joke. We need 200 liters of petrol delivered to the exit of the Führerbunker as soon as possible. Do whatever you need to do to get hold of it.'
Linge puts down the phone and pours himself a couple of Schnapps to keep him get over the shock of the implication of this order.
Kempka orders an assistant to siphon off whatever remnants of petrol he can find in the cars in the underground garages. The concrete roof has fallen in and most of the cars are covered in masonry.
Erich Kempka - Hitler's driver
Continued under part 4