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Führer's bunker
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-V04744, Berlin, Garten der zerstörte Reichskanzlei.jpg
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-V04744, Berlin, Garten der zerstörte Reichskanzlei.jpg
July 1947 photo of the rear entrance to the Führerbunker, in the garden of the Reich Chancellery; Hitler and Eva Braun were cremated in a shell hole in front of the emergency exit at left; the cone-shaped structure in the centre served as the exhaust,[1] and bomb shelter for the guards.
General information
Town or city Berlin
Country Germany
Coordinates 52°30′45″N 13°22′53″E / 52.5125°N 13.3815°E / 52.5125; 13.3815Coordinates: 52°30′45″N 13°22′53″E / 52.5125°N 13.3815°E / 52.5125; 13.3815
Construction started 1943
Completed 23 October 1944
Destroyed 5 December 1947
Cost 1.35 million Reichsmarks
Owner Third Reich
Design and construction
Architect Albert Speer, Karl Piepenburg
Architecture firm Hochtief AG

3D-Model of New Reichs Chancellery with location of the bunker complex

3D-Model of Führerbunker (left) and Vorbunker (right)

The Führerbunker (English: "Leader's bunker") was an air-raid shelter located near the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. It was part of a subterranean bunker complex which was constructed in two major phases, one part in 1936 and the other in 1943. It was the last of the Führer Headquarters (Führerhauptquartiere) to be used by Adolf Hitler.

Hitler took up residence in the Führerbunker on 16 January 1945 and it became the centre of the Nazi regime until the last week of World War II in Europe. Hitler married Eva Braun here during the last week of April 1945, shortly before they committed suicide.

After the war both the old and new Chancellery buildings were levelled by the Soviets, but despite some attempts at demolition the underground complex remained largely undisturbed until 1988–89. During reconstruction of that area of Berlin, those sections of the old bunker complex that were excavated were for the most part destroyed. The site remained unmarked until 2006, when a small plaque with a schematic was installed. Some of the corridors of the bunker still exist today, but are sealed off from the public.



The Reich Chancellery bunker was initially constructed as a temporary air-raid shelter for Hitler (who actually spent very little time in the capital during most of the war), but the increased bombing of Berlin led to expansion of the complex as an improvised permanent shelter. The elaborate complex consisted of two separate levels, the Vorbunker (the upper bunker) or "forward bunker" and the newer Führerbunker, located one level below.[2] They were connected by a stairway set at right angles (they were not spiral) which could be closed off from each other by a bulkhead and steel door.[3] The Führerbunker was located about 8.5 metres (28 ft) beneath the garden of the old Reich Chancellery building at Wilhelmstraße 77, about 120 metres (390 ft) north of the new Reich Chancellery building, which had the address Voßstraße 6. The Vorbunker was located beneath the large reception hall behind the old Reich Chancellery, which was connected to the new Reich Chancellery. The Führerbunker was located 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) lower than the Vorbunker and to the west-southwest of it.[4]

About 30 small rooms were distributed over two levels protected by approximately four metres (13 ft) of concrete with exits into the main buildings and an emergency exit into the gardens. The complex was built in two distinct phases, one part in 1936 and the other in 1943. The 1943 development was built by the Hochtief company as part of an extensive program of subterranean construction in Berlin begun in 1940.[5] The accommodations for Hitler were in the newer, lower section, and by February 1945 had been decorated with high-quality furniture taken from the Chancellery, along with several framed oil paintings. Hitler's study was decorated with a large portrait of one of his heroes:[6] Frederick the Great.[7]

Events in 1945

Plan of the Führerbunker

Plan of the Vorbunker

Hitler moved into the Führerbunker permanently on 16 January 1945. He was joined by his senior staff, Martin Bormann, and later, Eva Braun and Joseph Goebbels with Magda and their six children, who took residence in the upper Vorbunker.[8] Two or three dozen support, medical, and administrative staff were also sheltered there. These included Hitler's secretaries (including Traudl Junge), a nurse named Erna Flegel, and telephonist, Rochus Misch. Hitler would often stroll around in the chancellery garden with his dog Blondi,[9] until April 1945, when shelling became very common.

The bunker was crowded and oppressive, and air raids were occurring daily.[10] Hitler stayed mostly on the lower level of the Führerbunker, where it was quieter, and he could sleep.[11] Conferences took place for much of the night,[10] often until 05:00.[12]

On 16 April the Red Army started the Battle of Berlin by attacking German front line positions on the rivers Oder and Neisse. By 19 April Soviet spearheads had broken through and the Germans were in full retreat. The Red Army were starting to encircle Berlin.[13]

On 20 April, his 56th birthday, Hitler made his last trip to the surface and in the ruined garden of the Reich Chancellery awarded Iron Crosses to boy soldiers of the Hitler Youth.[14] That afternoon, Berlin was bombarded by Soviet artillery for the first time.[15]

In denial about the increasingly dire situation, Hitler placed his hopes on the units commanded by Waffen-SS General Felix Steiner, the Armeeabteilung Steiner ("Army Detachment Steiner"). On 21 April, Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the encircling Soviet salient and ordered the German Ninth Army, south-east of Berlin, to attack northward in a pincer attack.[16][17] By that evening, Red Army tanks reached the outskirts of Berlin.[18]

At his afternoon situation conference on 22 April, Hitler was told Steiner's forces had not moved. Hitler fell into a tearful rage when he realised that his plans of the day before were not going to be carried out. He openly declared for the first time the war was lost—and blamed the generals. Hitler announced he would stay in Berlin until the end and then shoot himself.[19] In an attempt to coax Hitler out of his rage, General Alfred Jodl speculated that the German Twelfth Army, under the command of General Walther Wenck, that was facing the Americans, could turnabout and move to Berlin because the Americans, already on the Elbe River, were unlikely to move farther east. Hitler immediately seized on the idea, and within hours Wenck was ordered to disengage from the Americans and move the Twelfth Army north-east to support Berlin. It was then realised that, if the Ninth Army moved west, it could link up with the Twelfth Army. In the evening Heinrici was given permission to make the link-up.[20]

On 23 April,[lower-alpha 1] Hitler appointed General of the Artillery (General der Artillerie) Helmuth Weidling, commander of the LVI Panzer Corps, as the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, replacing Lieutenant-Colonel (Oberstleutnant) Ernst Kaether. Only a short time before, Hitler had ordered that Weidling be arrested for desertion because he had been out of communication since 20 April.[21]

Despite the commands issuing from the Führerbunker, by April 25 the Soviets had consolidated their investment of Berlin, and leading Soviet units were probing and penetrating the S-Bahn defensive ring. By the end of 25 April there was no prospect that the German defence of the city could do anything but delay the capture of the city by the Soviets, as the decisive stages of the battle had already been fought and lost outside the city.[22]

Hitler summoned Field Marshal Robert Ritter von Greim from Munich to Berlin to take over command of the Luftwaffe from Hermann Göring. On 26 April, while flying over Berlin in a Fieseler Storch, von Greim was seriously wounded by Soviet anti-aircraft fire. Hanna Reitsch, his mistress and a crack test pilot, landed von Greim on an improvised air strip in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate.[23][24][25]

On 28 April, Hitler learned that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had contacted Count Folke Bernadotte in Lübeck to offer Germany's surrender to the western Allies; the offer had been declined.[26] Himmler had implied that he had the authority for such a surrender. Hitler considered this treason and his anger poured out into a rage against Himmler.[27] Hitler had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot,[28] and ordered von Greim (with Reitsch) to fly to Dönitz's headquarters at Ploen and arrest Himmler.[23]

General Hans Krebs made his last telephone call from the Führerbunker. He called Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel Chief of German Armed Forces High Command (OKW) in Fürstenberg.disambiguation needed Krebs told Keitel that if relief did not arrive within 48 hours, all would be lost. Keitel promised to exert the utmost pressure on Generals Walther Wenck, commander of the Twelfth Army, and Theodor Busse commander of the Ninth Army. Meanwhile, Bormann wired to German Admiral Karl Dönitz: "Reich Chancellery a heap of rubble."[23] He went on to say that the foreign press was reporting fresh acts of treason and "that without exception Schörner, Wenck and the others must give evidence of their loyalty by the quickest relief of the Führer".[29] Bormann was the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and Hitler's private secretary.

During the evening, von Greim and Reitsch flew out from Berlin in an Arado Ar 96 trainer. Field Marshal von Greim was ordered to get the Luftwaffe to attack the Soviet forces that had just reached Potsdamerplatz (only a city block from the Führerbunker).[lower-alpha 2] Fearing that Hitler was escaping in the plane, troops of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army, which was fighting its way through the Tiergarten from the north, tried to shoot the Arado down. The Soviet troops failed in their efforts and the plane took off successfully.[30][31]

During the night of 28 April, General Wenck reported to Keitel that his Twelfth Army had been forced back along the entire front. This was particularly true of XX Corps, which had been able to establish temporary contact with the Potsdam garrison. According to Wenck, it was no longer possible for his army to relieve Berlin. This was even more apparent, as support from the Ninth Army could no longer be expected.[32] Keitel gave Wenck permission to break off the attempt.[29]

After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in a map room within the Führerbunker. Thereafter, Hitler then took secretary Traudl Junge to another room and dictated his last will and testament.[33][lower-alpha 3] At approximately 04:00, Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Goebbels, and Bormann witnessed and signed the documents.[33] Hitler then retired to bed.[34]

Late in the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted Jodl by radio: "Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck's spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the Ninth Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the Ninth Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of General Rudolf Holste's spearhead."[32] In the early morning of 30 April, Jodl replied to Krebs: "Firstly, Wenck's spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, Twelfth Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of Ninth Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste's Corps on the defensive."[32][35][36][lower-alpha 4]

During the morning of 30 April, SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, commander of the centre (government) district of Berlin, informed Hitler he would be able to hold for less than two days. Later that morning Weidling informed Hitler in person that the defenders would probably exhaust their ammunition that night and again asked Hitler for permission to break out. At about 13:00 Weidling, who was back in his headquarters in the Bendlerblock, finally received Hitler's permission to attempt a break-out.[37] During the afternoon Hitler shot himself and Braun took cyanide.[38] [39] In accordance with Hitler's instructions, the bodies were burned in the garden behind the Reich Chancellery.[40] In accordance with Hitler's last will and testament, Goebbels became the new "Head of Government" and Chancellor of Germany (Reichskanzler). At 03:15, Reichskanzler Goebbels and Bormann sent a radio message to Dönitz informing him of Hitler's death. In accordance with Hitler's last wishes, Dönitz was appointed as the new "President of Germany" (Reichspräsident).

By the end of that same day, 30 April, or during 1 May the Soviets had captured the Reichstag,[41] which was of huge symbolic importance to the Soviets,[42] and one of the last German strong-points defending the area around the Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker.

At about 04:00 on 1 May, Krebs talked to General Vasily Chuikov commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army.[lower-alpha 5] Chuikov demanded unconditional surrender of the remaining German forces, but Krebs did not have the authority to do this, so he returned to the bunker.[43] In the late afternoon, Goebbels had his children poisoned. At about 20:00, Goebbels and his wife, Magda, left the bunker; close to the entrance they bit on a cyanide ampule and either shot themselves at the same time or were given a coup de grâce by the SS guard detailed to dispose of their bodies.[44]

Ruins of the bunker after demolition in 1947

Weidling had given the order for the survivors to break out to the northwest starting at around 21:00 on 1 May. The break-out started later than planned, at around 23:00. The first group from the Reich Chancellery, led by Mohnke, avoided the Weidendammer bridge, over which the mass break-out took place. His group crossed by a footbridge, but became split. Mohnke could not break through the Soviet rings and was captured the next day. Like others from the Führerbunker who were captured, he was interrogated by SMERSH. A Tiger tank that spearheaded the first attempt to storm the Weidendammer bridge was destroyed. On the third break-out attempt from the Reich Chancellery, made around 01:00 (2 May), Bormann managed to cross the Spree. Arthur Axmann, who followed the same route, reported seeing Bormann's body a short distance from the bridge.[45][lower-alpha 6]

The last defenders of the bunker complex were the French SS volunteers of the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French), who remained until the early morning of May 2 to prevent the Soviets from capturing the bunker on May Day.[46][page needed]

At 01:00 the Soviets picked up radio message from the German LVI Corps requesting a cease-fire and stating that emissaries would come under a white flag to Potsdamer bridge. Early in the morning of 2 May the Soviets stormed the Reich Chancellery. General Weidling surrendered with his staff at 06:00.[32][47]

General Burgdorf (who played a key role in the death of Erwin Rommel) and General Krebs chose to commit suicide rather than attempt to break out.[32] A few people remained in the bunker, and they were captured by Soviet troops on 2 May. Soviet intelligence operatives investigating the complex found more than a dozen bodies (including the six Goebbels children), along with the cinders of many burned papers and documents.

Post-war events

Site of Führerbunker in 2005

Site of Führerbunker in 2007

The ruins of both the old and new Chancellery buildings were levelled by the Soviets between 1945 and 1949 to destroy the landmarks of Nazi Germany but the bunker largely survived, although some areas were partially flooded. In December 1947 the Soviets tried to blow up the bunker but only the separation walls were damaged. In 1959 the East German government began a series of demolitions of the Chancellery including the bunker.[48] Because it was near the Berlin Wall, the site was undeveloped and neglected until 1988-89.[49] During extensive construction of residential housing and other buildings on the site, several underground sections of the old bunker complex were uncovered by work crews and were for the most part destroyed. Other parts of the Chancellery underground complex were uncovered, but these were ignored, filled in, or quickly resealed.[50]

Since 1945 government authorities have been consistently concerned about the site of the bunker devolving into a Neo-Nazi shrine. The strategy for avoiding this has largely been to ensure the surroundings remain anonymous and unremarkable,[citation needed] and until 2005 the location of the bunker was not marked. The immediate area was occupied by a small Chinese restaurant and shopping centre, while the emergency exit point for the bunker (which had been in the Chancellery gardens) was occupied by a parking lot.[citation needed]

On 8 June 2006, during the lead up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, an information board was installed to mark the location. The board, including a schematic diagram of the bunker, can be found at the corner of In den Ministergärten and Gertrud-Kolmar-Straße, two small streets about three minutes' walk from Potsdamer Platz. Hitler's bodyguard, Rochus Misch, one of the last people living who was in the bunker at the time of Hitler's suicide, was on hand for the ceremony.[citation needed]

Information board at the bunker site in 2007

Armin D. Lehmann, one of the last living bunker occupants, provided researchers with historical facts.[citation needed] Lehmann was a 16-year-old Hitler Youth member assigned to Artur Axmann's staff as Hitler's courier. He died on 10 October 2008 in Coos Bay, Oregon at the age of eighty.[citation needed] On 5 September 2013 at the age of 96, Rochus Misch died in Berlin, Germany.

See also


  1. Beevor 2002, p. 286 states the appointment was 23 April; Hamilton 2008, p. 160 states "officially" it was the morning of the 24 April; Dollinger 1997, p. 228, gives 26 April for the appointment.
  2. The Luftwaffe order differs in different sources. Beevor 2002, p. 342 states it was to attack Potsdamerplatz, but Ziemke states it was to support Wenck's Twelfth Army attack. Both agree that von Greim was also ordered to make sure Himmler was punished.
  3. "MI5 staff 2005: Hitler's will and marriage" on the website of MI5, using the sources available to Hugh Trevor-Roper (a World War II MI5 agent and historian/author of The Last Days of Hitler), records the marriage as taking place after Hitler had dictated his last will and testament.
  4. Dollinger 1997, p. 239, says Jodl replied, but Ziemke 1969, p. 120, and Beevor 2002, p. 537, say it was Keitel.
  5. Dollinger 1997, p. 239, states 03:00, and Beevor 2002, p. 367, 04:00, for Krebs' meeting with Chuikov.
  6. Ziemke 1969, p. 126 says that Weildling gave no orders for a break-out.
  1. Arnold 2012.
  2. Lehrer 2006, pp. 117, 119.
  3. Mollo 1988, p. 28.
  4. Lehrer 2006, p. 123.
  5. Lehrer 2006, pp. 117, 119, 121–123.
  6. Kershaw 2008, p. 97.
  7. Kershaw 2008, pp. 901–902.
  8. Beevor 2002, p. 278.
  9. Kershaw 2008, p. 902.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bullock 1999, p. 785.
  11. Speer 1971, p. 597.
  12. Kershaw 2008, p. 903.
  13. Beevor 2002, pp. 217–233.
  14. Beevor 2002, p. 251.
  15. Beevor 2002, p. 255.
  16. Beevor 2002, pp. 267–268.
  17. Ziemke 1969, pp. 87–88.
  18. Beevor 2002, pp. 255, 256.
  19. Beevor 2002, p. 275.
  20. Ziemke 1969, p. 89.
  21. Kershaw 2008, p. 934.
  22. Ziemke 1969, p. 111.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Dollinger 1997, p. 228.
  24. Beevor 2002, p. 322.
  25. Ziemke 1969, p. 98.
  26. Kershaw 2008, p. 943.
  27. Kershaw 2008, pp. 943–946.
  28. Kershaw 2008, p. 946.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Ziemke 1969, p. 119.
  30. Beevor 2002, p. 342.
  31. Ziemke 1969, p. 118.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 32.4 Dollinger 1997, p. 239.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Beevor 2002, p. 343.
  34. Kershaw 2008, p. 950.
  35. Ziemke 1969, p. 120.
  36. Beevor 2002, p. 357, last paragraph.
  37. Beevor 2002, p. 358.
  38. Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 160–180.
  39. Linge 2009, p. 199.
  40. Kershaw 2008, pp. 956–957.
  41. Beevor 2002, pp. 365–367, 372.
  42. Tissier 1999, p. 3.
  43. Shirer 1960, pp. 1135–1137.
  44. Beevor 2002, pp. 380–381.
  45. Beevor 2002, pp. 383, 389.
  46. Mabire 1975.
  47. Beevor 2002, p. 386.
  48. Mollo 1988, pp. 48, 49.
  49. Mollo 1988, pp. 49, 50.
  50. Mollo 1988, pp. 46, 48, 50–53.


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