Hitler’s birthday as Red Army guns hit Berlin

Soviet artillery in front of Berlin, the first shells hot central Berlin on 20th April.
Soviet artillery outside Berlin, the first shells hit central Berlin on 20th April.
Probably the last public appearance of Adolf Hitler, on the 20th March he awards medals to  Hitler Youth members of the "Volkssturm".
Probably the last public appearance of Adolf Hitler, on the 20th March he awards medals to Hitler Youth members of the “Volkssturm”.

Some argue that it was the psychological turning point of reaching 50 years old that led Hitler to war in 1939. Six years later his thousand year Reich was in ruins, yet somehow the Nazi regime clung to power, with loyal Nazis still believing that some miracle would give them victory. The ruthless suppression of any form of dissent had now become commonplace.

German housewife Dorothea von Schwanenfluegel describes the circumstances in Berlin at the time:

Friday, April 20, was Hitler’s fifty-sixth birthday, and the Soviets sent him a birthday present in the form of an artillery barrage right into the heart of the city, while the Western Allies joined in with a massive air raid.

The radio announced that Hitler had come out of his safe bomb-proof bunker to talk with the fourteen to sixteen year old boys who had ‘volunteered’ for the ‘honor’ to be accepted into the SS and to die for their Fuhrer in the defense of Berlin. What a cruel lie!

These boys did not volunteer, but had no choice, because boys who were found hiding were hanged as traitors by the SS as a warning that, ‘he who was not brave enough to fight had to die.’ When trees were not available, people were strung up on lamp posts. They were hanging everywhere, military and civilian, men and women, ordinary citizens who had been executed by a small group of fanatics.

It appeared that the Nazis did not want the people to survive because a lost war, by their rationale, was obviously the fault of all of us. We had not sacrificed enough and therefore, we had forfeited our right to live, as only the government was without guilt.

The Volkssturm was called up again, and this time, all boys age thirteen and up, had to report as our army was reduced now to little more than children filling the ranks as soldiers.

See Dorothea von Schwanenfluegel Lawson: Laughter Wasn’t Rationed : A Personal Journey Through Germany’s World Wars and Postwar Years

On the evening of 19th April Josef Goebbels had made his customary radio broadcast to the German people on the eve of Hitler’s birthday. He was still promising victory, somehow the Fuhrer would achieve this despite the apocalyptic scenes facing Germany. The speech was reproduced in German newspapers on the 20th April, casting Hitler’s role as a pseudo-religious ‘saviour’:

He will be the man of this century — who was sure of himself despite terrible pain and suffering — who showed the way to victory. He is the only one who remained true to himself, who did not cheaply sell his faith and his ideals, who always and without doubt followed his straight path toward his goal. That goal may today be hidden behind the piles of rubble that our hate-filled enemies have wrought across our once-proud continent, but which will once again shine before our burning eyes once the rubble has been cleared.

Once more the armies of the enemy powers storm against our defensive fronts. Behind them is the slavering force of International Jewry that wants no peace until it has reached its satanic goal of world destruction. But its hopes are in vain!

As he has done so often before, God will throw Lucifer back into the abyss even as he stands before the gates of power over all the peoples. A man of truly timeless greatness, of unique courage, of a steadfastness that elevates the hearts of some and shakes those of others, will be his tool.

Who will maintain that this man can be found in the leadership of Bolshevism or plutocracy? No, the German people bore him. It chose him, it by free election made him Führer. It knows his works of peace and now wants to bear and fight the war that was forced upon him until its successful end.

The whole address can be read at German Propaganda Archive.

One man who had a different view of Hitler was junior Wehrmacht officer Gerhardt Boldt, who had recently had an audience with Hitler in his bunker:

Hitler stands alone in the centre of the huge room, turned towards the ante-room. They approach in their order of entry, and he greets nearly everyone by a handshake, silently, without a word of welcome. Only once in a while he asks a question, which is answered by “Yes, Fuhrer” or “No, Fuhrer.”

I remain standing near the door and wait for the things that are bound to come. It is certainly one of the most remarkable moments of my life. General Guderian speaks with Hitler apparently concerning myself, for he looks in my direction. Guderian beckons, and I approach Hitler.

Slowly, heavily stooping, he takes a few shuffling steps in my direction. He extends his right hand and looks at me with a queerly penetrating look. His handshake is weak and soft without any strength. His head is slightly wobbling. (This struck me later on even more, when I had the leisure to observe him.) His left arm hangs slackly and his hand trembles a good deal. There is an indescribable flickering glow in his eyes, creating a fearsome and totally unnatural effect. His face and the parts round his eyes give the impression of total exhaustion. All his movements are those of a senile man.

See Gerhardt Boldt: Hitler’s Last Days: An Eye-Witness Account

Two napalm bombs being loaded into the 452nd Bomb Group's veteran B-17G 'E-Raticator', April 1945.
Two napalm bombs being loaded into the 452nd Bomb Group’s veteran B-17G ‘E-Raticator’, April 1945.
Berlin, Elderly members of the Volkssturm who are building tank barriers on the streets of Berlin are brought food by their families, April 1945.
Berlin, Elderly members of the Volkssturm who are building tank barriers on the streets of Berlin are brought food by their families, April 1945.

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