On April 23, 1945 Hitler appointed General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling as the commander of the Berlin Defense Area.
During the morning of April 30, SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke, 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 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.
By the end of that same day, 30 April, or during 1 May the Soviets had captured the Reichstag, which was of huge symbolic importance to the Soviets, and one of the last German strong-points defending the area around the Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker.
Weidling gave 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.
They divided into three groups (a trio of higher-ranking military men, including General Hans Krebs, stayed behind to drink, sing, and commit suicide). The three groups left on the evening of May 1, each waiting a period of time after the others left. Their plan was to head underground, in the city's subway line, to emerge to the northwest, outside of the Russian-occupied zone of Berlin. The three groups were:
Group 1, led by Wilhelm Möhnke.This group awkwardly made its way north to a German army hold-out on the Prinzenallee, and included Dr. Schenck and the female secretaries. The secretaries, upon reaching the outpost, broke off with the help of a Luftwaffe lieutenant; they were all later raped numerous times by Russian soldiers, although they eventually made it to the British/American lines. Möhnke and several other men stayed and were captured by the Russians, then treated to dinner with General Vladimir Alexei Belyavski, who tried to get them drunk with vodka to get information on Hitler's death. They didn't talk, and were shipped off to Moscow.
Group 2, led by Johann Rattenhuber. This group made it to Invalidenstrasse northwest of the bunker, but many of its members were captured by the Russians.
Group 3, led by Werner Naumann, and is most notable for including Martin Bormann. This group completely missed a turn off Friedrichstrasse and walked right into Russian gunfire. Bormann and his companion, Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger, were almost certainly intoxicated, and apparently committed suicide with cyanide capsules after realizing the group had run into trouble (this was confirmed by the 1972 discovery of their bodies, which was cinched by DNA tests in 1999).
Most surviving members of this group were captured by the Russians. Hans Baur, Hitler’s pilot was severely wounded and almost committed suicide. Instead, he was captured, and the Russians put him through many brutal interrogations based on speculation that he might have flown Hitler or Bormann to safety at the last minute.
Rochus Misch and Johannes Hentschel remained behind in the bunker. Misch left (with Hitler's portrait of Frederick the Great) on the morning of May 2, but was soon captured by the Russians. Hentschel stayed in the bunker, helping some female Russian army officers loot Eva Braun's room around noon before he too was taken by the Russians and flown to Moscow.
Constanze Manziarly (14 April 1920 – disappeared c. 2 May 1945) served as a cook/dietitian to Adolf Hitler.
Manziarly was born in Innsbruck, Austria. She began working for Hitler from his 1943 stays at the Berghof until his final days in Berlin in 1945. The Reich Chancellery bunker complex in Berlin was made up of two bunkers, the lower Führerbunker and the older upper bunker known as the Vorbunker. Two rooms in the Vorbunker were used for food supply. Another room was the kitchen which had a refrigerator and a wine store. Frau Manziarly, used the kitchen to prepare Hitler's meals while he stayed in the Führerbunker.
Together with Gerda Christian and Traudl Junge, Manziarly was personally requested to leave the bunker complex by Hitler on 22 April. However, all three women decided to stay with Hitler until his death.
Manziarly left the bunker complex on 1 May. Her group was led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke, and awkwardly made its way north to a German army hold-out at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer brewery on the Prinzenallee. The group included Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck and the female secretaries, Gerda Christian, Else Krüger, and Traudl Junge.
Despite claims that she took a cyanide capsule to kill herself on 2 May, the day after the majority of Führerbunker staff abandoned the stronghold to avoid impending Soviet capture, Junge recounts Manziarly leaving with her group, "dressed too much like a soldier". In 1989, Junge recalled the last time Manziarly was seen was when the group of four women who had been given the task of delivering a report to Karl Dönitz split up, and Manziarly tried to blend in with a group of local women. In her 2002 autobiography Until the Final Hour, Junge alluded to seeing Manziarly, "the ideal image of Russian femininity, well built and plump-cheeked", being taken into a U-Bahn subway tunnel by two Soviet soldiers, reassuring the group that "[T]hey want to see my papers." She was never seen again.
(February 23, 1896 in Berlin-Charlottenburg - January 26 1963 in Düsseldorf )
Kannenberg graduated from high school to Werder in Berlin and began apprenticing in 1912 in the catering business of his father, Oskar Kannenberg. From 1915 he served in Telegraph Battalion I and was discharged in 1918 as a private first class. From 1924 he led the operations of his fathers, "Restaurant Kannenberg“, "Hotel Stadt Berlin" and in Grünewald the tourist restaurant "Onkel Toms Hütte", which went bankrupt in 1930.
As CEO of "Pfuhl’s Wein- und Bierstuben" frequented by well-known Nazi leaders like Josef Göbbels and Hermann Göring, he became acquainted with Hitler, who offered him the supervision of the Kasinos of the Parteizentrale Braunes Haus in München. He accepted this position in 1931. As a result, he also assumed the management of the Kantine of the Reichsführerschule of the NSDAP in Schwanthalerstraße..
After Hitler in 1933 became Reichskanzler, Kannenberg became Hausintendant in the Reich Chancellery. Supported by his wife Freda, he organized the Führer's household. In particular, this not only included staff recruitment, the provision of food and beverages and the preparation of the meal plans, but also the organization of the entertainment at state receptions at the Reich Chancellery, as well as occasionally at the Berghof. During the war, he was then at FHQ Wolfsschanze and last in the bunker of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin .
In May 1945 he was interned by the Americans and released in July 25, 1946. Der Spiegel reported in Issue 39/1948, that Kannenberg after his denazification managed to become chief reptionist and chef in in the American officers' mess at Schloss Stein near Nürnberg. Schloss Stein was at that time serving U.S. court officials.
The next few years of his life are obscure. According to some sources, he later opened a New York City restaurant under the name Steve Neanteus.
In 1957 he took over the "Schneider-Wibbel-Stuben" in Düsseldorf. According to contemporary accounts, he had "superb cuisine" and entertained his guests by singing and accordion playing. When interrogated by the CIC , he testified that he had also entertained Hitler frequently with the accordion.
Christa Schröder, one of Hitler's secretaries, describes Kannenberg in her memoirs as an "excellent solo entertainer, blessed with the proverbial wit and humor of the Berliners."
On October 18, 1940 Hitler's adjutant Wilhelm Brückner because of a dispute with Kannenberg was unexpectantly dismissed by Hitler.
Wilhelm Brückner (11 December 1884 in Baden-Baden – 18 August 1954 in Herbsdorf, Upper Bavaria) was until 1940 Adolf Hitler's chief adjutant.
Brückner grew up in Baden-Baden and also did his Abitur there. Afterwards he studied law and economics in Strasbourg (then Straßburg, Germany), Freiburg, Heidelberg and Munich.
In the First World War, Brückner was an officer in a Bavarian infantry regiment and was discharged as a lieutenant. After the war, he joined the Freikorp Epp and participated in Schützenregiment 42 as a member of the Reichswehr in suppressing the Bavarian Soviet Republic.
Towards the end of 1919 Brückner was once again going to university, but became for three years a film recording technician. Already in late 1922 he joined the NSDAP and a few months later, on 1 February 1923, became leader of the Munich SA Regiment. He was among those who were active in spurring on the Putsch. He also delivered the quote: "The day is coming when I cannot hold the people. If nothing happens now, then the people will slip away."
On 9 November 1923 Brückner took part in the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, as a result of which he was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. He was, however, released only four and a half months later and once again took over his old SA regiment's leadership. Shortly thereafter, he worked until 1927 as the third general secretary at the Association for the German Community Abroad (Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland or VDA). Over the next few years he lived on his income as a sales representative, until 1929 when he found a steady job at the German Foreign Institute.
By the next year, however, Brückner had become Adolf Hitler's adjutant and bodyguard, later rising to chief adjutant. He thereby counted among those who were in Hitler's innermost personal circle, playing as one of Hitler's closest confidants next to Joseph Göbbels and Sepp Dietrich in the propaganda film Hitler über Deutschland (1932).
On 9 November 1934, Brückner was appointed SA Obergruppenführer by Hitler. It was through a car accident later that same year that Brückner managed to procure for Hitler his personal doctor, Karl Brandt, who stayed with Hitler for years.
Brückner, who was well liked by applicants and everyday visitors at the Reich Chancellery for his straightforwardness and affability, lost ever more importance with the war's outbreak. He found that he had to yield more and more ground to Wehrmacht and SS adjutants. On 18 October 1940, he was suddenly fired for having an argument with Hitler's house manager Arthur Kannenberg. The string puller in all this was most likely Martin Bormann.
He was succeeded by Julius Schaub. Brückner went into the Wehrmacht, becoming a colonel by war's end.
Else Krüger was born on 9 February 1915 in Hamburg-Altona. She later was Martin Bormann's secretary (and, allegedly, mistress) during World War II.
She was in the Führerbunker during the Battle of Berlin. Krüger was with Eva Braun, Gerda Christian, Traudl Junge, and Constanze Manziarly when German dictator Adolf Hitler told them that they must prepare to leave for the Berghof like the others. However, she instead volunteered to remain in the Berlin Führerbunker. She was there when Braun indicated that she would never leave Hitler's side and they embraced. In a gesture of kindness, Hitler gave each of the women a cyanide capsule.
Krüger left the Führerbunker on 1 May 1945 in a group led by Waffen-SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke. On the morning of 2 May, the group was captured hiding in a cellar at the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery on Prinzenallee.
After the war Else was interrogated by the British. She later married her British interrogator, Leslie James (1915-1995), on the 23 December 1947 in Wallasey, Cheshire UK. She lived under the name Else James in Wallasey. Leslie James became a university lecturer in England and later died 18 August 1995 in Staufen im Breisgau in Germany.
Otto Günsche (24 September 1917 – 2 October 2003) was a Sturmbannführer (Major) in the Waffen-SS and a member of 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler before he became Adolf Hitler's personal adjutant.
Günsche was born in Jena in Thuringia. After leaving secondary school at 16 he volunteered for the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and joined the Nazi Party. He first met Adolf Hitler in 1936. He was Hitler's SS orderly officer from 1940 to 1941. He then had front-line combat service until January 1943 when Günsche became a personal adjutant for Hitler. In 1944, Günsche fought on the eastern front and then in France until March 1944 when he again was appointed a personal adjutant for Hitler. He was present at the 20 July 1944 attempt to kill Hitler at the Wolf's Lair in Rastenburg. The bomb explosion burst Günsche's eardrums and caused him to receive a number of contusions.
As the end of the Third Reich became imminent, Günsche was tasked by Hitler with ensuring the cremation of his body after his death on 30 April 1945. He stood guard outside the room as Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide. Having ensured that the bodies were burnt using fuel supplied by Hitler's chauffeur Erich Kempka, Günsche left the Führerbunker after midnight on 1 May. He was captured by Soviet troops encircling the city on 2 May 1945 and flown to Moscow for interrogation by the NKVD.
He was imprisoned in Moscow and Bautzen in East Germany. After various prisons and labor camps in the USSR, he was released from Bautzen Penitentiary on 2 May 1956. During imprisonment, Günsche and Heinz Linge were primary sources for Operation Myth, the biography of Hitler that was prepared for Josef Stalin. The dossier was edited by Soviet NKVD (later known as the MVD, the forerunner of the KGB) officers. The report was received by Stalin on 30 December 1949. The report was published in book form in 2005 under the title: The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Hitler's Personal Aides.
Günsche died of heart failure at his home in Lohmar, North Rhine-Westphalia in 2003.
Heinz Linge (23 March 1913 – 9 March 1980) was an SS officer who served as a valet for German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Linge was born in Bremen, Germany. He was employed as a bricklayer prior to joining the SS in 1933. He served in the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH), Hitler's bodyguard. In 1934 when he was part of No. 1 Guard to Hitler's residence on the Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden, Linge was selected to serve at the Reich Chancellery. By the end of the war he had obtained the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant colonel).
On 24 January 1935, Linge was chosen to be a valet for Hitler. He was one of three valets at that time. In September 1939, Linge replaced Karl Wilhelm Krause as chief valet for Hitler. Linge worked as a valet in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, at Hitler's residence near Berchtesgaden, and at Wolfsschanze in Rastenburg. He stated that his daily routine was to wake Hitler each day at 11.00am and provide morning newspapers and dispatches. Linge would then keep him stocked with writing materials and spectacles for his morning reading session in bed. Hitler would then dress himself to a stopwatch with Linge acting as a 'referee'. He would take a light breakfast of tea, biscuits and an apple and a vegetarian lunch at 2.30pm. Dinner with only a few guests present was at 8.00pm.
Linge was one of many soldiers, servants, secretaries, and officers who moved into the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker in Berlin in 1945. There he continued as Hitler's chief valet and protocol officer and was one of those who closely witnessed the last days of Hitler's life during the Battle of Berlin. He was also Hitler's personal ordinance officer. Linge delivered messages to Hitler and escorted people in to meet with Hitler.
In his memoirs, Linge stated that Hitler, two days before his suicide on 30 April with Eva Braun, had confided his suicide plan and asked Linge to have their bodies wrapped in blankets and taken up to the garden to be cremated. He said that following his marriage to Eva, Hitler spent the last night of his life lying awake and fully clothed on his bed. In the 1974 video documentary The Two Deaths of Adolf Hitler, part of The World at War collection, Linge, along with Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, narrates Hitler's very last moments in the bunker. He tells with vivid details how the Führer said farewell to each of his servants and subordinates. He explains that Hitler and his wife committed suicide in Hitler's private room in the bunker. He tells how he went into Hitler's private study after hearing a sudden bang and found both Hitler and Eva Braun dead.
Thereafter, the two bodies were carried up the stairs to ground level and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery where they were doused with petrol. After the first attempts to ignite the petrol didn't work, Linge went back inside the bunker and then returned with a thick roll of papers. Martin Bormann lit the papers and threw the torch onto the bodies. As the two corpses caught fire, a small group, including Bormann, Linge, Otto Günsche, Peter Högl, Ewald Lindloff, Hans Reisser and Joseph Goebbels raised their arms in Nazi salute as they stood just inside the bunker doorway, thus attempting to keep Hitler’s corpse from being captured by the Soviet Red Army; as the Führer had commanded. On and off during the afternoon, the Soviets shelled the area in and around the Reich Chancellery. SS guards brought over additional cans of petrol to further burn the corpses. Linge later noted the fire did not completely destroy the remains, as the corpses were being burned in the open, where the distribution of heat varies.
Linge was one of the last to leave the Führerbunker in the early morning hours of 1 May 1945. He teamed up with SS-Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka. Linge was later captured near See-Strasse. On 2 May, the badly burned remains of Hitler, Braun, and two dogs (thought to be Blondi and her offspring Wulf) were discovered in a shell crater by a unit of SMERSH. On 5 May, they secretly removed the remains. Several days later, after his identity was revealed, two Russian officers escorted Linge by train to Moscow where he was thrown into the notorious Lubjanka Prison.
Linge was interrogated by the Soviet NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB) about the circumstances of Hitler's death. He spent ten years in Soviet captivity and was released in 1955. He died in Bremen in West Germany in 1980. His memoir, With Hitler to the End, was published by Frontline Books-Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. (London) in July 2009 with an introduction by Roger Moorhouse, author of Killing Hitler.