- Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute tells amazing story of tyrant's final fall
- Finally marries mistress of 14 years Eva Braun as Berlin crumbles above
- Barks orders and final twisted 'political testament' while Russian guns rage
- Agony of Joseph Goebbels' wife as they prepare to kill their six children
Soon, her long fringe has been carefully pinned up on the right, just the way she likes it. In deference to her fiance, Adolf Hitler, who dislikes make-up, she has carefully made herself up to look natural.
She has already chosen what she’s going to wear: a long black silk taffeta dress, black suede Ferragamo shoes, a gold bracelet set with pink tourmaline gems, a topaz necklace and her favourite diamond watch. Tonight, 14 years after the start of their secret affair, she will at last be marrying the man she loves.
Adolf Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun, whom he finally married after 14 years in his bunker beneath Berlin
Of course, she never imagined her wedding would take place in the Fuhrerbunker, which lies under the garden of the old Reich Chancellery in Berlin. But Russian army tanks are now pouring into the centre, so it’s no longer safe to be above ground.
The Fuhrerbunker, which is protected by a 10ft-thick concrete roof, is linked by a staircase to an older bunker higher up, and also by a passageway to the Chancellery cellar, where there is an emergency hospital, garages and a network of rooms for secretaries and officers. At least there’s a little room for Eva to move around.
She has been here since January and has the most comfortable room, furnished with pieces designed specially for her by the bunker’s architect, Albert Speer. As well as her dressing table and chair, there is a wardrobe, a single bed and a straight-backed sofa upholstered in a floral fabric.
All the furniture, as well as her clothes, jewellery and silver-backed brushes, is marked with her monogram, also designed by Speer — a four-leaf clover created from a curved E facing a curved B.
As she completes her late-night toilette, Eva can hear explosions from the heavy Russian artillery bombardment.
The entrance to Hitler's bunker in the garden of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. The Fuhrer spent his final hours cowering below ground beneath a 10ft-thick concrete roof as the Russian army swept through the city
Twenty-eight feet above her head, gravediggers have braved the firestorms currently illuminating the sky. At this very moment, they are heaving the body of her brother-in-law, Hermann Fegelein, into a shallow grave. He was executed just half an hour ago, under the orders of Eva’s fiance.
For the sake of her younger sister Gretl, who is expecting Fegelein’s child, Eva had pleaded for his life. But Hitler was furious at her intervention. Fegelein, a cavalry officer attached to the bunker, was picked up last week after making a run for it; on top of that, he was caught with money, jewellery and a woman who wasn’t his wife.
In the end, Eva had bowed to the inevitable, saying: ‘You are the Fuhrer.’
Hofbeck acts out what he has just witnessed: raising an imaginary machine gun, he takes aim at shoulder height and shouts: ‘Ratatatata!’
Adolf Hitler is standing in the conference room of the Fuhrerbunker, leaning on the empty map table. He is dictating his ‘political testament’ to Traudl Junge, one of his two remaining secretaries, who is taking his words down in shorthand.
There are no revelations, no justifications nor expressions of guilt — just the same old accusations against the Jews that she has heard so many times before.
Hitler (right) jokes with his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels as they share a meal in the Führerbunker
He continues: ‘I and my wife choose death in order to escape the shame of deposal and surrender. It is our will that our bodies be burned immediately.’
After a pause, Hitler moves away from the table. ‘Type that out for me in triplicate, then bring it in to me.’
The conference room is being prepared for the ceremony. Five chairs are positioned at the large map table. Walther Wagner, a magistrate, arrives in the bunker clutching the required paperwork. Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge, reckons that Wagner is as excited as the bride.
Just a few hours ago, the plane that flew him into Berlin was raked by Russian gunfire and he was seriously wounded. Still, there’s a consolation: Hitler has just made him the new head of the Luftwaffe.
A diagram of Hitler's underground lair bunker. For the final few weeks of his life he seldom left the stuffy confines of his concrete tomb with its inadequate communications and cramped quarters
For half an hour he ranted without pause, screaming about failure, lies, corruption and betrayal.
Then he collapsed sobbing into an armchair, sacked the then head of the Luftwaffe — and declared that the war was lost. It was the first time he had actually admitted it.
Hitler has now ordered Von Greim to launch a counter-attack by the German air force. The new Luftwaffe chief has also been entrusted with Eva’s final letter to her pregnant sister Gretl, who is staying with their parents in Hitler’s mountain home in Obersalzberg.
The letter makes no mention of the death of Gretl’s husband. (Gretl will give birth on May 5, and name her baby after her sister. In 1971, Eva’s namesake will commit suicide at the age of 27, following the death of her boyfriend in a car crash.)
Magda, the wife of propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, is dressing in her bedroom in the upper bunker. The room is small, with concrete walls and minimal furnishings: a single bed, a chest of drawers and only a bare bulb for light.
Proudly, she pins the golden party badge that Hitler gave her two days ago to the front of her dress. It’s his personal badge, marked with the number 1, which he has worn on his uniform for the past 12 years.
This gift, Magda feels, not only represents the greatest honour of her life but also confirms her status. After all, she has often stood in as an unofficial first lady, accompanying the Fuhrer on formal occasions while Eva Braun remained hidden away.
For a fervent Nazi, Magda has an unconventional past.
A soldier of the US Occupation Forces photographed in Hitler's bedroom in the tyrant's bunker. While the Fuhrer lay in the early hours of April 29, 1945, the Russian bombardment of Berlin intensified
Her mother was an unmarried chambermaid who went on to have a long-term relationship with a Jewish hotel manager, Richard Friedlander.
So the future Mrs Goebbels attended a Jewish school and celebrated Jewish festivals.
Friedlander, who later died at Buchenwald concentration camp, was not invited to her wedding to Joseph Goebbels in 1931.
Later, Magda’s husband — a very short, thin man with a deformed foot — spearheaded the exclusion of all Jews from Berlin.
The couple now have six children — Helga, Hilde, Helmut, Holde, Hedda and Heide, aged between four and 12 — all asleep in the three bunk beds in the room next door. Goebbels has his own bedroom in the Fuhrerbunker.
When the children arrived here a week ago, they were told that Germany was on the verge of winning the war and they would soon be joining in the victory celebrations.
They have no inkling that their parents have brought them here because defeat is imminent. Or that they plan to kill them all and end their own lives.
Magda, who suffers from angina, has spent much of the past week in bed. She can bear to see the children only for brief periods, so the secretaries and orderlies have been looking after them. To other women in the bunker, she has confided that she is terrified that she will be too weak to bring herself to kill her beloved offspring.
Hitler is in his study — where he spends most of his time — with his valet Heinz Linge. It is a small room with a very low ceiling, containing a desk, a side table, a stiff upright sofa upholstered in blue-and-white linen and another table where the Fuhrer eats his meals with the secretaries.
The study opens out onto a concrete corridor lined with comfortable armchairs in which Hitler’s generals often drink and sleep. Across the corridor is a droning diesel generator that fills the Fuhrerbunker with the stench of fuel.
Hitler turns to his valet. ‘I’d like to let you return to your family,’ he says. Linge replies: ‘Mein Fuhrer, I’ve been with you in good times, and I want to stay with you in the bad.’ Now 32, the valet is a former bricklayer with a large, round face and pale blue eyes. He is devoted to the Fuhrer and often tells people: ‘I couldn’t have a better master.’
The ventilating tower of Hitler's underground shelter lies in ruins (right) after the Russians took Berlin
‘You should put two blankets in my bedroom and get hold of enough petrol for two cremations,’ he says.
‘I’m going to shoot myself here, together with Eva Braun. You will wrap our bodies in woollen blankets, carry them up to the garden and burn them there.’
Linge is trembling. He stutters: ‘Jawohl, mein Fuhrer!’ and leaves the study.
Following Hitler’s instructions, Linge puts through a call to Hitler’s driver, Erich Kempka, in the underground car park to ask him to find 200 litres of petrol — which is now desperately scarce. ‘A mere 200 litres?’ Kempka replies sarcastically. ‘Is this a joke? What are you going to do with 200 litres of petrol?’
‘Believe me, Erich, this is not a joke. Do whatever you need to do to get hold of it.’
Kempka orders an assistant to syphon off whatever petrol he can find in the cars in the underground garages, whose concrete roofs have fallen in.
She is wearing her black dress, decorated around the neck with sequins. Hitler hasn’t changed out of his usual black trousers and grey military jacket.
Walther Wagner, the magistrate, greets them nervously as they take their seats on one side of the empty map table.
There are 23 years between Hitler and Eva, who met in October 1929 when she was a 17-year-old assistant in a Munich photographic studio. One day, he came into the studio just as she was climbing a ladder to reach some files from a top shelf. Eva was embarrassed because she could tell that the man with the ‘funny moustache’ was looking at her legs.
The Reichstag after Berlin's fall. Hitler ranted and raved when he heard the Luftwaffe had done nothing to stop the Russians reaching the city's suburbs
Within two years, Hitler had started inviting Eva to cafes, the opera and eventually to stay with him. But the first four years of their relationship were very difficult for her, because he rarely called and frequently let her down.
Twice she attempted suicide. It was after the second attempt in May 1935, when an overdose sent her into a coma, that Hitler decided to accept her as his official mistress.
Although their relationship was always hidden from the public, he bought her a house in Munich and had a suite of rooms refurbished for her in the Berghof, his mountain home in Obersalzberg.
Eva has always known that her job is to keep him relaxed, and she has been good at it.
Hitler tells people: ‘She keeps my mind off things I don’t want to think about.’
His nickname for her isn’t very complimentary: he calls her ‘Tschapperl’, which translates as ‘wench, bumpkin or idiot’, while she calls him ‘the Chief’.
At least they are finally getting married. The magistrate asks both bride and groom to confirm that they are of ‘pure Aryan descent and free of any hereditary diseases that would exclude them from marriage’.
Hitler and Eva Braun had separate bedrooms in the bunker. In the past, she complained the Fuhrer only loved her when they were in bed together
Both give satisfactory responses.
(Is Hitler lying? Later, it will be reported that Hitler had two forms of genital abnormality: an undescended testicle and a rare condition called penile hypospadias, in which the urethra opens on the underside of the penis or, in some cases, on the perineum. It’s possible that the popular British Army marching song which began ‘Hitler has only got one ball / The other is in the Albert Hall’ didn’t even tell half the story.)
It’s time for the exchange of gold rings — both of which have been filched from the bodies of murdered Gestapo prisoners. Unfortunately, they are too big. Then Wagner declares: ‘This marriage is legal before the law.’
Ruthlessly ambitious, they have been locked in a battle for primacy of position since 1933, when Hitler swept to power as Chancellor. Their final reward is witnessing Hitler’s marriage — and facing death at his side.
Robert Ritter von Greim, pale with pain, has landed safely at Rechlin airfield, just under 100 miles north of Berlin.
As the new head of the Luftwaffe, he now addresses the handful of staff still there, ordering all aircraft to head straight for Berlin.
His words are pointless. The airport has been devastated by Allied bombing, and the few planes that remain won’t make any difference to their assault on the German capital.
(Captured by the Americans on May 9, Von Greim will commit suicide by taking cyanide two weeks later after learning that he is about to be handed over to the Russians.)
After the ceremony, the newlyweds go back to their private rooms for champagne, tea and sandwiches with senior staff.
Most unusually, as Hitler is all but teetotal, he accepts a small glass of Hungarian wine, sweetened with sugar. Eva is knocking back champagne, while General Krebs, the monocle-wearing army chief of staff, and chief army adjutant General Burgdorf are on cognac.
The magistrate has a glass of champagne and a liver sausage, then heads back to his post as a Home Guard soldier in a wine cellar.
He will be shot in the head two days later, caught in the crossfire of a street battle.
For a moment, she lays her hand on his forearm and smiles.
Hitler’s mind is still on his work: he sends both Bormann and Goebbels away from the party to add more names to the list of new appointments that Junge is still typing. She is getting very frustrated by the constant changes.
‘The Fuhrer wants me to leave Berlin, Frau Junge!’ he chokes out.
‘He has ordered me to take a leading post in the new government. But I can’t. I can’t leave Berlin. I can’t leave the Fuhrer’s side! I can’t see the point of carrying on living if the Fuhrer is dead.’
He asks her to take down his own final testament. As she picks up her shorthand pad, he starts to dictate.
Authors Emma Craigie and Jonathan Mayo have meticulously recreated every detail of Hitler's last day
‘For the first time in my life, I must categorically refuse to obey an order of the Fuhrer. My wife and children join me in this refusal,’ he begins.
He ends with a vow ‘to end a life which will have no further value to me if I cannot spend it in the service of the Fuhrer, and by his side.’
In the past, she has complained that he only loves her when they’re in bed together.
He would prepare for sex with injections of bovine testosterone, and she would take medication to stop her periods whenever she stayed with him. But those days are over.
Hitler is alone, getting himself ready for bed. He doesn’t like help; indeed, he doesn’t like being touched. Always fastidious about cleanliness, he washes himself carefully, changes into a white cotton nightshirt and hangs his clothes carefully on a clothes horse.
Her maid Liesl Ostertag, who is waiting for Eva in her bedroom, helps her into an Italian blue silk nightgown.
Sleep is elusive. As dawn approaches, the Russian bombardment of the city intensifies. Many buildings are ablaze — and the Russians are now only a few hundred yards from the bunker.
But as we shall see on Monday, as doomsday approached, those cloistered in the bunker descended into an orgy of drunkeness and debauchery before death claimed them.
Hitler’s Last Day: Minute By Minute, by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie, is published by Short Books at £14.99. © 2015 Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie. To buy a copy for £12.74 (discount until April 18), visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0808 272 0808. p&p is free for a limited time.