Hitler, Adolf

Downfall

Defeats piled up in North-Africa, on the Eastern Front and Europe itself was attacked by the Allies in Italy in September 1943. This did not mean however that Hitler changed his approach. He kept drawing in all authority, even in the military sphere although he had made some grave mistakes there. In his opinion though, none of this was his responsibility: all defeats and setbacks were the result of betrayal, incapability and weakness of his generals and other associates. Even though the situation was hopeless, capitulation and an repetition of 1918 were simply unthinkable. Time and time again, Hitler build his hopes on new weapons like the V 2, new offensives. A gigantic kind of self-deceit. Hitler lived in a world of illusions more and more.

Despite his inner conviction it was unmistakably clear however that the war and the many setbacks had a negative influence on Hitler. He looked old and tired, walked crookedly and could control his shaking left hand less and less. He suffered from stomach and intestinal problems, his heart disease had become worse and he propably suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Despite the many drugs he took daily, mainly prescribed by his private physician Theodor Morell (Bio Morell), Hitler’s physical condition deteriorated from day to day. In addition he was overwhelmed by a never ending stream of military problems and setbacks that came to him. As he was the pivotal point of the entire Nazi system and did not want to yield an inch of power in any sphere, it was he who had to take all decisions in every sector. He did this ever more indiscriminately or simply not at all.

Meanwhile the German population, which once had put all its trust in Hitler, was more than sick and tired of the war. In particular after D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944, the German propaganda machine lost its impact. Apart fromn the fanatic loyals, Hitler did not reach anyone anymore with his rare speeches. The population though lacked any opportunity to do something about its fate. This was only open to those who were close to the Führer. A group of officers and high ranking officials, who saw the hopelessness of the entire war, wanted to eliminate Hitler and save Germany from complete destruction. The assassination attempt and the coup of July 20th, 1944 (Assault 20-07-1944), failed however. This strengthened Hitler’s distrust in the General Staff and his Messianic notion that he was Germany’s saviour.

Reality however looked a lot less optimistic. There was the continuous bombing of German cities and the Allied advance on the Western as well as on the Eastern front was unstoppable. Hitler however refused to consider any suggestion of entering into peace negotiations. On the contrary, he considered it his historical task to fight to the bitter end, even when that meant total destruction of his country and its population. If we are to believe Albert Speer, the Führer even dropped the suggestion that the German population was too weak, not worthy of him and maybe therefore had brought its destruction upon themselves.

Each new action that was launched, such as the establishment of the Volkssturm (People’s Army) and the offensive in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944 - 1945 were the last convulsions of a dying empire that only prolonged the suffering of its own population. Even in those days, Hitler’s authority remained unchallenged but at the same time, some of his closest associates tried to find their way out of the hornet’s nest. For instance, even Heinrich Himmler, whose nickname was, not for nothing faithful Heinrich, attempted to contact the Allies in an attempt to save his own skin.

It all proved in vain. One after the other, Germany’s allies fell away: Benito Mussolini was disposed of and murdered in April 1945, Bulgaria (1944) and Romania (August 1944) were conquered and Finnland entered into an armistice with the Soviet Union. The only thing that continued almost undiminished was the final solution. Even though many concentration and extermination camps were closed down before the advancing forces of the Red Army, the suffering did not end there. Hundreds of thousands of camp inmates were marched westwards in so called death marches: about one third of them would not survive this last journey. Between five and six million people, predominantly Jews but also Jehova’s Witnesses, Gypsies and other ‘undesirables’ lost their lives as a result of this Final Solution.

In 1945, Hitler’s health deteriorated considerably: high blood presuure, clogging of veins, acute stomach cramps and jaundice frequently kept him in bed for days. Meanwhile he was also clearly aware of the inevitable defeat and even talked about committing suicide but surrender was no option. "I know we have lost the war. The superiority is too overwhelming. I am betrayed […] I’d rather put a bullet through my head […] We will not surrender. Never. We may go down but we will take a world with us." This typifies Hitler’s logic: a repetition of 1918 and a new humiliation in the form of a dictate was out of the question. The Nazi leader was convinced that the will of a population could overcome any obstacle. If the German population was not up to this, its destruction was, in his opinion, nothing more than a logical and inevitable consequence.

In this period, Hitler had withdrawn into his subterranian bunker beneath the Reichskanzlei in Berlin where he was to spend the last months of his life. The Soviets stood at the gates of the capital but he still believed that everything was not yet lost. Hitler hoped for instance that the alliance between the Soviets and the West would not last and that Germany could make use of this discord. It all proved in vain.

In April 1945, the German western front was on the brink of collapse and the Red Army tightened its grip on the German capital. Defeat was inevitable: even the death of the American president, Franklin Roosevelt on April 12th, 1945 (Bio Roosevelt) could not avert that. In this totally hopeless situation though, time was still found to ‘celebrate’ the Führer’s 56th birthday. The mood in the bunker was depressive however. Hitler, exhausted and apathetic was hardly able to receive the congratulations. The majority of the Nazi leaders, including Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, left and headed for safer havens. Adolf Hitler was left behind, practically on his own. Some of his most faithful and fanatic followers, such as Martin Bormann (Bio Bormann) and Joseph Goebbels, stayed with him.

On April 22nd Hitler acknowledged for the first time that the war was lost. He would remain in Berlin himself to ‘lead the defence of the city’ and indicated he would committ suicide at the last moment. The rest was free to go where ever they liked.

A few days afterwards he married Eva Braun, the woman who had stood beside him until the last moment, even though she never had had a place in the foreground. In marrying her, Hitler rewarded her for her loyalty. To his secretary Traudl Junge, he dictated his political testament, mainly reverting to his classic retorics in an attempt to justify himself. He appointed a new government under Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz (Bio Dönitz) and ordered him to expand the nationalsocialist state.

In the morning of April 30th, a staff meeting with Wilhelm Keitel made it clear that no relief could be expected and that it would only be a matter of hours before Soviet forces would reach the bunker. Adolf Hitler bid farewell to his staff. Around 15:30 he retired to his study with Eva Braun. Goebbels, Bormann and the remainder of the staff stayed behind in the corridor. A few minutes later, SS officer Heinz Linge went in: Braun and Hitler were sitting side by side on the couch. She had poisoned herself with cyanide while he had shot himself throught the head. The Nazi leader, once so applauded and feared, was no more. Their bodies were burned in the grounds of the Reichskanzlei, their ashes were later scattered over a river by the Soviets.

A week later, Germany’s new leader Karl Dönitz, accepted the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces.

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Afbeeldingen


Hitler, early 1945, surrounded by his generals.
(Source: The History Factor)


A clearly aging Adolf Hitler in 1945.
(Source: The History Factor)


In April 1945, Hitler meets a few members of the Hitler Youth who participated in the defence of Berlin.
(Source: Public domain)


The dishonorable end of one of Hitler’s allies, Benito Mussolini.
(Source: Public domain)


Karl Dönitz, Adolf Hitler’s successor.
(Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1976-127-06A / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Informatie

Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Gerd Van der Auwera
Published on:
24-05-2016
Last edit on:
25-07-2017
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