Hitler’s Bunker

Hitler returned to Berlin after the failed Ardenner offensive in mid-January 1945. At that time Berlin had for years been affected by heavy allied bombing raids and Hitler was forced to seek shelter daily after his retrun to Berlinn. Because of these frequent bombings, Hitler decided to move into the bunker permanently sometime in late February or early March 1945. Already in 1935, a bunker was built under the bank hall adjacent to the old Reich Chancellery. The fact that a bunker was built shows that Hitler already in 1935 knew he couldn’t rule out future bombings of Berlin. At the beginning of 1943, another bunker was built adjacent to the first one. The new bunker was about nine meters below ground level and was thus about two meters deeper than the old one. It was reinforced with a 4.5 meter thick concrete roof and 3.5 meter thick walls. Both bunkers were linked together via a staircase. The new BUnker had a length of just over fifteen meters and a width of just under twenty meters and had nineteen small rooms. The new bunker was called the main bunker while the old one was called the ante bunker. Together they formed what is known as the Führer bunker (Hitler’s Bunker).

Rooms in both ante bunker and main bunker were small and sparingly decorated because their original purpose was not accommodation. But in the absence of other safe places corresponding to the circumstances, the main bunker was Hitler’s and his fiancee Eva Braun’s last refuge. Eva Braun had come from Obersalzberg and moved into the bunker against Hitler’s will on March 7, 1945. On the south side of the corridor in the main bunker, Hitler and Eva Braun had their own rooms with their own bedrooms and bathrooms. Hitler also had a small living room, reception room and meeting room. On the north side, Goebbels had his bedroom and study. There was also something called the doctor’s room and a couple of guard rooms. When Goebbels family moved into the bunker, they were housed in the ante bunker and it was also there that the couple’s six children were murdered by their mother, Goebbel’s wife, Magda Goebbels. Only on a few occasions did Hitler leave the bunker and then only for a short while. In addition to the Führer bunker, several more shelters and bunkers were built in connection with the government quarters of other ministries. These were not linked to the Führer bunker.

The Soviet Red Army launched its final assault on Berlin, April 16, 1945, (the same day Lenin would have turned 75) with a huge bombardment. From then up til Hitler’s suicide, April 30th, life for the inhabitants in the bunker shifted between hope and despair. The difference between night and day was erased and the topics of conversation varied from how best way to commit suicide to the latest fashion. Hitler himself oscillates between melancholy and rage. Eva Braun had also decided that she too would stay in Berlin and face the same fate as Hitler. Hitler’s attempts to induce her to travel down to Obersalzberg were ignored. They married on April 29 in tragic and bizarre circumstances and a small wedding dinner was held. After that, Hitler withdrew to dictate his political and private testament. The next day, the newlyweds committed a joint suicide in Hitler’s living room and their bodies were cremated in the Reich Chancellery garden.

Hitler’s remains was found by the Russians on May 4. It did not take long to identify the bodies but the Russians found no reason to publish the findings. The Russians denied all knowledge of the findings and instead spread rumors that Hitler could very well have fled to the west. In fact, the remains, along with the remains of the spouses Goebbels, their children and General Hans Krebs, had been buried in a wooded area outside Rathenow west of Berlin in early June 1945. In February 1946, the bodies were dug up and transported to Magdeburg where they were buried in a safer area. They remained there until 1970 when they were again dug up, cremated and the ashes were spread in a nearby river.

After the war, the area around the bunker became a tourist destination for Westerners. Therefore, the Soviet Union tried to destroy the bunker for the first time in 1947, but they only managed to partially destroy it. This is because of the bunker’s massive construction. In 1959, East Germany tried to demolish it, but they also failed and the area was covered with excavated masses. In connection with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the entire bunker area was examined as it was located along the border between East and West Berlin. The purpose of this was to investigate whether it was possible to escape from east to west via the bunkers. In the seventies East Germany carried out some explorations of the bunker and in 1988 it was dismantled/destroyed further to make room for new housing. In the late nineties, other bunkers adjacent to Hitler’s bunker were excavated to make room for other buildings.

Current status: Demolished with information board (2006).

Address: Gertrud-Kolmar Strasse, 101 17 Berlin.

Get there: Metro to Mohrenstrasse Station.

My comment:

About 150 meters from Hitler’s bunker was something called the ministerial garden. There is now, Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, the world’s largest memorial to the Holocaust. Below the monument there is a large museum about the Holocaust. In connection with the preparation of the monument the Reich Chancellery vechile garage was excavated. The garage was examined before it was filled again in favor of the monument. Another interesting bunker found in connection with the construction of the monument was Goebbels personal bunker which had been located adjacent to his house (the house was destroyed at the end of the war, today US Embassy is located there). For a while it was discussed whether Goebbels bunker would be included in the museum, but that didn’t happen so it was refilled and closed.

There were historians who wanted to make Hitler’s bunker a museum, but this was considered too controversial despite its historical significance. The risk had been imminent that historical significance had been overshadowed by the cult of personality that could have resurrected around Hitler if tourists had been allowed to visit the bunker. Does this mean that the bunker is gone completely? Yes and no. The ante bunker could be removed completely in the late eighties by the East German government. It was not that massive as the Führer bunker and easier to demolish. But Hitler’s bunker turned out to be a different story ’cause it was simply to massive to be completely removed. With difficulties the roof and the inner walls could be demolished and removed. But the bunker floor and the exterior walls remain, however, everything is filled with earth masses, well hidden (or not) under the parking lot between the residential buildings and the information board. So, if we, sometime, in a distant future wants to uncover the floor and the walls, it’s just below ground level. But at the moment this is not possible because we are not ready to face Hitler yet and thus it is too controversial to uncover the bunker where he ended his days. 

In connection with the film, The Downfall (2004), that depicts the downfall of Hitler and the Third Reich, the bunker got a renaissance. In connection with the football World Cup that was played in Germany in 2006, an information board was put up on the site. The bunker is no longer the worst kept secret in the world. By openly highlighting the bunker’s location, parts of the mystery that characterized it have been demystified.

Follow up in books: Fest, Joachim: Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich (2004).