Seventy years since the passing of the man, the word Hitler remains synonymous with unrestrained tyranny, unreasonable violence and unjustified racism. Of all the real-life villains that the world has seen in the 20th century, few can parallel the infamy, which has been associated with Adolf Hitler. The man himself was an ordinary one to begin with in his early years, average in his studies, with little talent to show for himselfand dreaming only to be an artist.
After World War I, Adolf Hitler emerged in a different avatar, where he was put on a pedestal, his oratory powers bewitching the German populace, his morals and beliefs finding a political outlet, eventually evolving him into a despotic ruler who would decimate entire populations, towns and treasures.
As many as six million Jews died as a result of the hatred propagated by Hitler, not to mention the countless other casualties in the war that Hitler started. Responsible for millions of deaths, Hitler’s own death remains shrouded in mystery, given the nature of his death.
Adolf Hitler via Wikipedia
How Adolf Hitler almost died several times
Even before he was a known name, Hitler had a brush with death, twice, during the early years of his life. Either of those occasions could have marked his end, and he may never have gotten to become the Chancellor of Germany, from which point onwards he spearheaded his anti-Semitism and war actions.Once he had risen to the position at the top, Hitler made many followers and of course a few enemies. Four attempts had been made on his life before he entered the political scene in 1933 and another ten attempts were made after 1933 on Hitler’s life.
When he was a child of four, Hitler was saved from drowning by a priest. Newspaper articles from that time, that do not name the child, emerged recently, that lead historians to believe that the child in question was indeed Adolf Hitler (The Telegraph). The account states that while playing with some other children in January of 1894, Adolf fell into an icy river with fast-flowing waters in Passau, Germany. Luckily, Johann Kuehberger, believed to be the rescuer, spotted young Adolf and saved him from drowning. Hitler however, never verified this story during his lifetime.
During World War I, as a German soldier fighting along the battle lines in France, Hitler came face to face with a British soldier, who decided to spare his life. Hitler laywounded, when a British soldier, believed to be Henry Tandey, took aim but declined to shoot him and let Hitler go. Tandey went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I, earning the Victoria Cross for the Battle at Ypres.
Oblivious to the plans that had been made for him, on 8 November 1939, Hitler stood in the Munich Beer Hall, making his annual speech. Just a little distance from him, a bomb had been planted that would go off shortly. However, as luck would have it, Hitler cut short the duration of his speech from two hours to one hour and left the venue early.The bomb exploded 13 minutes after his departure, killing eight people, injuring 62 others and causing significant damage to the Hall. The ceiling of the Hall was brought down and the gallery too suffered damage in the explosion. The conspirator behind this attempt was Georg Elser who wanted to kill some Nazi officers and of course the big man, Hitler himself. He was caught the same night, kept in a concentration camp for five years and executed in 1945.
Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a 36-year-old officer in the German army, went to Wolf’s Lair, in East Prussia in 1944 with a murderous intent – to kill Adolf Hitler. Having lost an eye, his right hand and two fingers of his left while battling in Tunisia, Stauffenberg wasn’t very different in his physical handicaps compared to the many soldiers who were serving the war front in those days. He was however, horrified by the atrocities that the Germans were inflicting and he realized that Germany was fast falling onto the losing side of the war. He was disillusioned with the idea of Hitler continuing at the helm of the German affairs. Stauffenberg fell in with a group of conspirators who wanted to see Hitler dead and the fall of the Nazi regime. In 1944, Stauffenberg got a post that gave him close access to Hitler and he was placed in a unique position to carry out the assassination plot.
The plan was for Stauffenberg to carry explosives in his briefcase and place the bomb near Hitler during the daily meeting that was held in Wolf’s Lair. Once the bomb was primed, Stauffenberg would exit, making his escape before the bomb detonated.
On 20 July 1944, Stauffenberg arrived at Wolf’s Lair to take part in the daily briefing, but was interrupted when he was trying to set up the bomb so that the briefcase carried only one of the two bombs. Stauffenberg managed to place the bomb in the room, make his excuses and leave. He saw the explosion as he was leaving and was certain that Hitler was dead.
But somehow, during the meeting, the briefcase was moved, reducing its impact when it went off, and even though four people died that day, Hitler was not one of them. A few hours later Stauffenberg along with his group were caught and shot to death.
Trousers worn by Hitler when the bomb went off via Wikimedia Commons
The decision to end Adolf Hitler’s life
Hitler had been at the helm of the political scene since 1933, when he became the Chancellor of Germany. During his reign he had unleashed terror on the world in a bid to cleanse the world of the lower races and maintain racial hygiene. The Holocaust that he unleashed claimed 6 million Jewish lives – two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe, 2 million Poles, 3 million Soviets, not to mention the countless death of communists, physically and mentally challenged, political opponents and homosexuals. Even though he set up a number of concentration camps throughout Europe, Hitler has never been reported to have visited any one of them.
By early 1945 his enemies were at his doorstep and the political wind had changed course. Hitler knew that things in Germany were on the verge of collapse. The Allies were successfully crossing into their borders and it was becoming increasingly difficulty for Germany to continue its military exploits. Poland had been taken by the Soviet army. British and Canadian forces had crossed the Rhine and the American troops had taken over Lorraine in the south.
On 16 January 1945, Hitler retreated to his 3,000 square feet bunker in Berlin. The bunker was located fifty-five under Hitler’s Chancellery, and contained 18 rooms in total. During the last months of his life, Hitler controlled his regime from this dismal underground lair, continuing to address the Government and the country via radio or newspaper.
The Fuhrerbunker via Wikipedia
Both the Soviet and American forces were approaching Berlin limits and the bunker was not far from their sights. Hitler believed that Germany had lost its rights to survive as a nation and not wanting the German industries to fall into the hands of the Allies, he ordered the destruction of the German infrastructure. Albert Speer, who was entrusted with this order, secretly refused to carry out the command.
By 18 April the path to Berlin for the American forces was clear after some 325,000 German soldiers had been captured.On his 56th birthday, on 20 April, Hitler ventured outside the bunker, his last trip to the surface, to award Iron Crosses to boy soldiers from Hitler Youth group thatwas still fighting the Allied forces.
On 21 April, tanks of the Red Army were ready on the outskirts of Berlin. Hitler ordered his SS General, Felix Steiner, to launch an attack on the approaching Allies. His orders however were not followed. This led Hitler to declare for the first time, on 22 April, that the war had been lost and he launched into an angry tirade against his officers who were treacherous and refused to follow his commands. Hitler decided to stay in Berlin until the very end after which he would shoot himself.
Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister urged the German citizens to defend themselves. Hermann Goring, a high-ranking Nazi official declared that since Hitler was isolated in his bunker in Munich, Goring would declare himself as Germany’s leader after a set deadline. This enraged Hitler even more and he ordered the arrest of Goring.
By 27 April, Berlin was completely cut-off from the rest of the country. With this came the news of Himmler, one of Hitler’s closest associates, offering to surrender to the Allies. Hitler saw this as treason and issued orders for Himmler’s arrest. Also, by this time, the Red Army was preparing to take the Chancellery.
These events led to Hitler making the final decisions of his life.
Till death do us part – Adolf Hitler’s Wife, Eva Braun
Eva Braun was wife to Hitler for less than forty hours when she committed suicide with him. Hitler initially tried to encourage her to leave the bunker but Eva refused, choosing to end her life with him. Eva however, was not the first woman in Hitler’s life. Having always kept himself single to maintain a certain public image, Hitler did have his attractions for women, whom he tried to love and lost till he found Eva.
Stefanie Rabatsch was the first woman to win Hitler’s admiration when he was a teenager, although the love remained unrequited. Hitler saw her when she passed him daily along with her mother, during their walks, starting sometime in 1905, and Hitler fell in love her. But he never worked up the courage to speak to her. He was so deeply involved in his emotions that he planned to abduct her and then commit suicide with her by jumping off a bridge into the Danube River. However, circumstances made Hitler move to Vienna and Stefanie was married to an army officer shortly after, having never known that she was once Hitler’s choice.
During the 1950s, a French woman, Charlotte Lobjoie, told her son that he was the love child of Hitler, having had a brief affair with him in June 1917, when he was serving in the Picardy region.
“On the rare occasions your father was around, he liked to take me for walks in the countryside. But these walks usually ended badly. Your father, inspired by nature, launched into speeches I did not really understand,” Miss Lobjoie told her son (Discovery).
Hitler of course, never made any mention of such a woman to his associates.
Geli Raubal, Hitler’s half-niece was another one of his romantic obsessions. The scandal caused by her death, when she was just 23, could have wrought a great deal of harm to Hitler’s political career, even before it began. Geli Raubal was found dead by a gunshot wound in Hitler’s nine-roomapartment in Munich, which he shared with her.
Geli was the daughter of Angela who was Hitler’s half-sister. He had Geli installed in his Munich apartment and enjoyed going out with her to theatres and restaurants. But their relationship seems to have been a chaotic one, with Hitler disliking Geli’s flirtatious temperament and trying to dictate her life.
On 18 September 1931, Hitler and Geli had argued with Hitler refusing to allow her to go to Vienna where she wanted to continue her singing lessons. Hitler suspected Geli of having a relationship, which he had forbidden. Following the argument, Hitler went to Nuremberg but had to return to Munich the next day because Geli had shot herself in the chest with Hitler’s pistol. Hitler was devastated by what Geli had down and was hugely depressed. He did not attend her funeral. Later on, Heinrich Himmler would say that:
Raubal’s death ‘was when the seeds of inhumanity began to grow inside Hitler’(History in an Hour).
Hitler first met Eva Braun in 1929, when Eva was 17 and was employed at Heinrich Hoffman’s studio, who was the official photographer of the Nazi Party. After Geli’s suicide, Hitler began seeing Eva more often. Eva was kept hidden from the public eye and in the initial days, Hitler did not make their relationship known. Hitler’s chauffer Erich Kempka once said (Eva Braun),
“… [Eva Braun is] the unhappiest woman in Germany. She spent most of her time waiting for Hitler.”
Eva herself tried to commit suicide by shooting herself on 10 or 11 August in 1932. Historians believe that the attempt may have been to garner more attention from Hitler, who became more devoted to Eva from that time onwards. Eva attempted a second attempt in her life in May 1935 by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
However secret their relationship may have been, Hitler was genuinely fond of Eva. He spent time with her as often as he could. In his book, The Psychopathic God, author Robert Waite has reproduced letters that were exchanged between Hitler and Eva, shortly after an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944. (Eva Braun)
“Mein Liebes Tschapperl,
Don’t worry about me. I’m fine though perhaps a little tired. I hope to come home soon and then I can rest in your arms. I have a great longing for rest, but my duty to the German people comes before everything else. Don’t forget that the dangers I encounter don’t compare with those of our soldiers at the Front. I thank you for the proof of your affection and ask you also to thank your esteemed father and your most gracious mother for their greetings and good wishes. I am very proud of the honor – please tell them that – to possess the love of girl who comes from such a distinguished family. I have sent to you the uniform I was wearing during the unfortunate day. It is proof that Providence has protected me and that we have nothing more to fear from our enemies.
From my whole heart, your A.H.”
Reply from Eva:
I am beside myself. I am dying of anxiety now that I know you are in danger. Come back as soon as possible. I feel as if I am going insane. The weather is beautiful here and everything seems so peaceful that I am ashamed of myself … You know I have always told you that I would die if anything happened to you. From our first meeting on, I have promised myself to follow you wherever you go, even to death. You know that I live only for your love.
On 29 April 1945, after a relationship of over 14 years, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small ceremony in the bunker in Berlin, shortly after midnight. After that Hitler signed his last will, dictating the contents to his secretary, Traudl Junge.In his will, Hitler declared that he was removing Goring from all the government positions, in view of the treachery that Goring had committed. This was followed by a wedding breakfast in honor of his new wife. When Eva signed the marriage document she began by signing Eva Braun, then cancelled out the B, and instead signed Eva Hitler, born Braun.
During the course of the same day, Hitler learnt of the death of his fascist ally, Benito Mussolini, in Italy. He also learnt of the ghastly way in which Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci had been treated. This made him more resolute in the idea that he would not let himself be treated that way after he died and he began to finalize the plans for his own death.
Adolf Hitler’ Death – Cyanide and Bullets
Hitler was skeptical of the potency of the cyanide capsule with which he intended to kill himself. These cyanide capsules had been supplied by Himmler’s SS and after Himmler opening up a separate dialogue with the Allies for Germany’s surrender, Hitler thought that perhaps the capsules wouldn’t work, only render him unconscious after which he would be given over to the Allied forces.
He thus decided to have them tested first, choosing his faithful dog, Blondi. Blondi’s keeper, SergeantTarnow along with Doctor Haase administered the cyanide to Blondi, and she died soon after. Blondi had given birth to five pups earlier that month and they were later shot and buried.
At around 14.30 on 30 April, Hitler went to his personal study along with Eva. Witnesses in the bunker heard a gunshot at 15.30. Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge and the SS adjutant, Otto Gunsche entered the room and found that Hitler had shot himself through the right temple while holding a cyanide capsule in his mouth. Eva Braun also ingested a cyanide capsule, not wanting to shoot herself and remain “beautiful in death.”
Hitler had laid down instructions as to the final disposal of their remains, and accordingly their bodies were wrapped in blankets, carried to the garden outside the bunker, doused with petrol and set alight.
Hitler’s death was announced to the world on May 1, 1945.
“…our Fuhrer Adolf Hitler died for Germany in his command post in the Reich Chancellery this afternoon, fighting to his last breath against Bolshevism”.
Radio Hamburg, on Hitler’s death (Eva Braun)
Earlier that same day, Magda Goebbels, the wife of one of Hitler’s closest aides, Joseph Goebbels, poisoned her six children to death in the same bunker where Hitler had killed himself. Rochus Misch, one of the last survivor’s of Hitler’s bunker and his bodyguard recounted the event to BBC News:
“Straight after Hitler’s death, Mrs. Goebbels came down to the bunker with her children,” Mr. Misch recalls. “She started preparing to kill them. She couldn’t have done that above ground—there were other people there who would have stopped her. That’s why she came downstairs—because no one else was allowed in the bunker. She came down on purpose to kill them.
“The kids were right next to me and behind me. We all knew what was going to happen. It was clear. I saw Hitler’s doctor, Dr Stumpfegger give the children something to drink. Some kind of sugary drink. Then Stumpfegger went and helped to kill them. All of us knew what was going on. An hour or two later, Mrs. Goebbels came out crying. She sat down at a table and began playing patience. This is exactly how it was.”
Soon after, she and her husband committed suicide as well. Their bodies were also burned outside the bunker, in a manner similar to Hitler’s.
When the Russians reached the bunker on May 2, they discovered the partially burnt remains of Joseph and Magda, while Hitler and Eva’s remains were found a few days later. The charred remains of the Goebbels family, Eva, Hitler and their dogs were repeatedly exhumed and buried in several locations over the next few days.
After his death, several conspiracies floated around the manner of Hitler’s death. Some said he had been killed the previous year. Some believed he had escaped to Japan. Some really believed that he and his wife had committed suicide. Witnesses to Hitler’s last rites spoke of how his and Eva’s remains were burned but some continued tobelieve that Hitler may have survived and escaped somewhere.
The TIME magazine, once having named Hitler, as the Man of the year in 1938, published a cover on May 7, 1945 with an image of a crossed-out Hitler.
“…Adolf Hitler had been buried, dead or alive, in the rubble of his collapsing Third Reich. Whether or not he had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage (as reported from Stockholm), or had “fallen in his command post at the Reich chancellery” (as reported by the Hamburg radio, which said that he had been succeeded as Führer by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz), or was a prisoner of Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler as a political force had been expunged. If he were indeed dead, the hope of most of mankind had been realized. For seldom had so many millions of people hoped so implacably for the death of one man.”
TIME Magazine, May 7, 1945
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