April 1945

Apr

30

1945

Adolf Hitler commits suicide as Reichstag burns

Hitler wore his grey tunic emblazoned with the Gold Party Badge, the Iron Cross First Class and the Wounded Badge of the First World War — as he had done constantly in recent days. He was wearing a white shirt with a black tie, black trousers, black socks and black leather slippers. Eva Braun’s legs were drawn up under her on the sofa. Her brightly coloured high-heeled shoes lay on the floor. Her lips were firmly pressed together. She had poisoned herself with cyanide.

Apr

29

1945

US troops liberate Dachau concentration camp

… this first image of the liberation was truly out of an American western … this soldier of the 3rd Battalion, 45th Combat Division was the very incarnation of the American hero … we will never forget those first few seconds … the memory of the unique, magnificent moment of your arrival … you had come at the risk of your life, into an unknown country, for the sake of an unknown people, bringing us the most precious thing in the world, the gift of freedom …

Apr

28

1945

SS fanatics guard the bunker as Hitler marries

Hitler and Eva Braun left their apartment hand in hand and went into the conference room. Hitler took each step with a great effort. His face was ashen, his gaze wandered restlessly. He was wearing the crumpled tunic in which nowadays he lay on his bed all day. He had pinned on to it the Gold Party Badge, the Iron Cross First Class and the Wounded Medal of the First World War.

Eva Braun, also pale from sleepless nights, wore a dark-blue silk dress under a fleecy grey fur cape. Goebbels and Bormann were waiting for them in the antechamber. The latter had put on the grey uniform of an SS-Obergruppenfuhrer. Goebbels wore the brown Party uniform.

Apr

27

1945

Italian partisans triumph – and capture Mussolini

The medal of the Iron Cross, its ribbon stained crimson brown above its red, black and white, lay amongst the papers. The Hauptmann’s book was full of photographs of Storm Troops and of soldiers, of sisters in white blouses and dark skirts, of a heavy-built father with close-cropped hair, of other young officers with the same relentless faces.

This was the type Hitler had loosed on Europe, brave, desperate, efficient. And now he had come to his end in an Italian field, shot down by an Italian farmer’s boy with a Sten gun, shot in the back, I learned later, as he crouched in hiding.

Apr

25

1945

The Royal Scots Fusiliers enter Bremen

Bremen is a fine testimonial of the accuracy of the RAF. Those areas that have been military targets are well and truly flattened in to bricks and rubble. After the barrage we sent over it was quite impossible to decide, as leading troops, which was the street and which the buildings. Everything was burning merrily that could burn and what couldn’t was just another dump of rubble and mortar. It was equally easy to walk over what was once a factory in error for what one thought might be a main street or what one thought might be a square. And yet in purely residential quarters most of the windows were not even cracked let alone the houses damaged.

Apr

24

1945

Germans v Nazis as the US Army approaches

I have just been outside. A clear, starry sky. What extra-ordinary people the Germans are, to go on killing one another up to the very last minute and to destroy their country with their own hands.

We were told that the SS man had accused the mayor of cowardice because he had hoisted a white flag. He told him to get up against a wall and was going to shoot him, but then he changed his mind and took him, the Ortsgruppenleiter, the policeman and the parson off to another village. When they got there somebody suddenly shouted, ‘Here come the tanks!’ and they let all four of them go. They came back white as sheets.

Apr

23

1945

Seventeen year olds hold defences in burning Berlin

The roaring resumes and we throw ourselves down, pressing tight against the brick wall and wait, wait as we have already done so often. Then come the bangs and splintering as the bombs strike the stone colossus next to us. Splinters and masonry shower down around us, falling on our steel helmets and our bodies. The explosions in the street go on and on. The lights in the stairwell of the building across the street suddenly come on. We shout, and it goes dark again, except for the fires burning everywhere, lighting up the street.

Apr

22

1945

Allied breakout and pursuit by tanks in Italy

Now there was not time to think, for the Germans, having recovered somewhat, began to shell and mortar the place. A bunch of German prisoners who were making their way to a hastily prepared P.O.W. compound, hands above their heads, suddenly disappeared in a wave of smoke and dust as their own shells crashed down among them. When the air cleared, few got up: those who did, moved more swiftly still, their faces a mask of petrified fear. This was war also. There was no doubt about it, this sudden swoop by a British crack cavalry regiment had taken the enemy completely by surprise!

Apr

21

1945

Irish Guardsman takes on battalion of Panzer Grenadiers

Daylight came, the sections “stood down” and began to think seriously of breakfast. Out of the wood rolled two self-propelled guns; their first shots hit the tank posted as a sentry on the road. Behind the self-propelled guns came a company of infantry. The tank went on fire as soon as it was hit, and the crew baled out. Guardsman E. Charlton, the driver, stopped to look at the German infantry running down the road. He climbed on to the burning tank, unhooked the Browning machine gun from the turret and jumped back into the road to meet the Germans. He faced them four-square, firing steadily.

Apr

20

1945

Hitler’s birthday as Red Army guns hit Berlin

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.