On April 22, 1945, Adolf Hitler, learning from one of his generals that no German defense was offered to the Russian assault at Eberswalde, admits to all in his underground bunker that the war is lost and that suicide is his only recourse.
Almost as confirmation of Hitler’s assessment, a Soviet mechanized corps reaches Treuenbrietzen, 40 miles southwest of Berlin, liberates a POW camp and releases, among others, Norwegian Commander in Chief Otto Ruge.
Beginning in 1933, the SS had operated a network of concentration camps, including a notorious camp at Dachau, near Munich, to hold Jews and other targets of the Nazi regime.
After war broke out, the Nazis shifted from expelling Jews from German-controlled territories to exterminating them. Einsatzgruppen, or mobile death squads, executed entire Jewish communities during the Soviet invasion, while the existing concentration-camp network expanded to include death camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland.
In addition to forced labor and mass execution, certain Jews at Auschwitz were targeted as the subjects of horrific medical experiments carried out by eugenicist Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death.” Mengele’s experiments focused on twins and exposed 3,000 child prisoners to disease, disfigurement and torture under the guise of medical research.
Though the Nazis also imprisoned and killed Catholics, homosexuals, political dissidents, Roma (gypsies) and the disabled, above all they targeted Jews—some 6 million of whom were killed in German-occupied Europe by war’s end.
End of World War II
With defeats at El-Alamein and Stalingrad, as well as the landing of U.S. troops in North Africa by the end of 1942, the tide of the war turned against Germany.
As the conflict continued, Hitler became increasingly unwell, isolated and dependent on medications administered by his personal physician.
Several attempts were made on his life, including one that came close to succeeding in July 1944, when Col. Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb that exploded during a conference at Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia.
Within a few months of the successful Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Allies had begun liberating cities across Europe. That December, Hitler attempted to direct another offensive through the Ardennes, trying to split British and American forces.
But after January 1945, he holed up in a bunker beneath the Chancellery in Berlin. With Soviet forces closing in, Hitler made plans for a last-ditch resistance before finally abandoning that plan.
How Did Adolf Hitler Die?
At midnight on the night of April 28-29, Hitler married Eva Braun in the Berlin bunker. After dictating his political testament, Hitler shot himself in his suite on April 30; Braun took poison. Their bodies were burned according to Hitler’s instructions.
With Soviet troops occupying Berlin, Germany surrendered unconditionally on all fronts on May 7, 1945, bringing the war in Europe to a close.
In the end, Hitler’s planned “Thousand-Year Reich” lasted just over 12 years, but wreaked unfathomable destruction and devastation during that time, forever transforming the history of Germany, Europe and the world.
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