Hans-Erich Voss (or Voß) (30 October 1897 – 18 November 1969) was a German Vice Admiral and one of the final occupants of the Führerbunker during the battle of Berlin in 1945. He was also among the last people to see both Adolf Hitler and Josef Göbbels alive before they committed suicide.
Voss was born in Angermünde, Brandenburg on 30 October 1897. He graduated from the German Naval Academy in 1917. He served in the German Navy through the Weimar Republic and Nazi periods. In 1942, he was commander of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, and met Josef Goebbels, then Reich Propaganda Minister, when Göbbels accompanied a party of journalists on a tour of the ship. As a result of this meeting, Göbbels arranged to have Voss appointed Naval Liaison Officer to Hitler's headquarters in March 1943.
Voss was present during the bomb plot against Hitler on 20 July 1944. He was in the conference room at Hitler's Rastenburg Headquarters Wolfsschanze ("Wolf's Lair") as Kriegsmarine representative. Around 12:30 hours as the conference began, plotter Claus von Stauffenberg made an excuse to use a washroom in Wilhelm Keitel's office where he used pliers to crush the end of a pencil detonator inserted into a 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) block of plastic explosive wrapped in brown paper. The detonator, which consisted of a thin copper tube containing acid , took ten minutes to silently eat through wire holding back the firing pin from the percussion cap. The primed bomb was then placed in a briefcase under a table around which Hitler, Voss and more than 20 officers had gathered. Between 12:40 and 12:50 the bomb detonated, destroying the conference room.
In his capacity as Kriegsmarine Liaison Officer, Voss accompanied Hitler, Göbbels, and their entourages into the Führerbunker under the Reich Chancellery building in central Berlin in January 1945. In the final months of the Third Reich, Voss became a close confidante of Göbbels and his wife Magda Göbbels. He was aware that the Göbbels had decided that they would not leave the bunker, but would kill their children and then themselves once Hitler was dead.
On 30 April, Voss was among the group of officers whom Hitler informed that he had decided to commit suicide rather than attempt to escape from Berlin, which was surrounded by the Red Army. One of Hitler's security officers, Johann Rattenhuber, later testified:
In Hitler's reception room at 10 o'clock in the morning there assembled Generals Burgdorf and Krebs, Admiral Voss, Hitler's personal pilot General Baur, Standartenführer Beetz, Obersturmbannführer Hegel, his personal servant Sturmbannführer Linge, Günsche and myself. He came out to us and said: 'I have decided to abandon this life. Thank you for your good and honest service. Try to escape from Berlin with the troops. I am staying here'. Saying goodbye he shook hands with each of us.
Interrogated by Soviet officers on 6 May, Voss recounted:
When Göbbels learned that Hitler had committed suicide, he was very depressed and said: 'It is a great pity that such a man is not with us any longer. But there is nothing to be done. For us, everything is lost now and the only way out left for us is the one which Hitler chose. I shall follow his example'.
Before the breakout from the bunker began, about ten generals and officers, including myself, went down individually to Göbbels's shelter to say goodbye. While saying goodbye I asked Göbbels to join us. But he replied: 'The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it'.
Voss then joined the group led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke which broke out of the bunker and tried to escape from Berlin. Most of the group were captured by Soviet forces the same day. Voss was brought back to the bunker for questioning, and to identify the partly burned bodies of Josef and Magda Göbbels, and also the bodies of their six children, who had been poisoned. The Soviet account states:
Vice-Admiral Voss, being asked how he identified the people as Göbbels, his wife and children, explained that he recognised the burnt body of the man as former Reichsminister Göbbels by the following signs: the shape of the head, the line of the mouth, the metal brace that Göbbels had on his right leg, his gold NSDAP badge and the burnt remains of his party uniform.
Voss was made a Soviet prisoner of war. In August 1951, he was prosecuted by the Soviet authorities on charges that "he held a command post in Hitler's war fleet, that was involved in an aggressive war in breach of international laws and treaties." In February 1952, the Court Martial of the Moscow Military District sentenced him to 25 years' imprisonment. By a decree of the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet in December 1954, however, he was released and handed over to the German Democratic Republic authorities.
Voss died at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria in 1969.
Rattenhuber was born in Munich, where he made a career as a police officer. During World War I he served in the 16th and 13th Bavarian Infantry Regiments. He also served in the Freikorps. In March 1933 he was appointed head of Hitler's personal bodyguard the Reichssicherheitsdienst or RSD. The unit should not to be confused with the Sicherheitsdienst or SD. However, the unit was technically on the staff of Reichsführer-SS Himmler with the member's wearing the uniform of the SS with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) diamond on their lower left sleeve. His was a unit created to provide personal security to members of the top Nazi leadership. Members of his unit were initially drawn exclusively from Bavarian police officers. Rattenhuber was promoted to SS General (Gruppenführer) on 24 February 1945. He was head of Hitler's bodyguard at the time of the unsuccessful July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler during the summer of 1944.
Naumann was born in Guhrau in Silesia, Prussia, Germany. After finishing school, he studied political economics. Naumann joined the NSDAP in 1928. Naumann became a member of the SA where he rose to the rank of Brigadeführer by 1933. Thereafter, Naumann joined the SS. In 1937 he was Chief of the Propaganda Office in Breslau.
He was appointed Propaganda Minister in the Flensburg government of Karl Dönitz by Hitler's Testament of 29 April 1945. On 1 May 1945, he was the leader of break-out group number 3 from the Führerbunker. The group included Martin Bormann, Hans Baur, Ludwig Stumpfegger and Artur Axmann. Erich Kempka testified at Nuremberg that he had last seen Naumann walking a metre in front of Martin Bormann when the latter was hit by a Soviet rocket while crossing the Weidendammer Bridge under heavy fire in Berlin. However, according to Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann, the group followed a Tiger tank which spearheaded the first attempt to storm across the bridge, but it was destroyed. Bormann, Stumpfegger and himself were "knocked over" when the tank was hit. Axmann crawled to a shellhole where he met up again with Naumann, Bormann, Baur and Stumpfegger and they all made it across the bridge. From that group, only Naumann and Axmann escaped the Soviet Army encirclement of Berlin and made it to western Germany. Then Naumann fled to Argentina.
Högl was born near Dingolfing in Bavaria. After he left school he worked as a miller in Landshut until he joined the 16th Bavarian Infantry Regiment in 1916; there, he then saw active service in World War I and reached the rank of Unteroffizier. He left the army in 1919 and joined the Bavarian police, transferring to the criminal police in 1932.
He joined the SS and became a member of Adolf Hitler's bodyguard in 1933 and attained the rank of SS-Obersturmführer (first lieutenant) in 1934. From April 1935 he became the deputy to Johann Rattenhuber in the Reichssicherheitsdienst (Reich Security Service-RSD) and was appointed Chief of Department 1 (responsible for the personal protection of Hitler). In this capacity he was posted to the Obersalzberg, Munich and Berlin. From November 1944 forward, he was stationed in Berlin and held the title of Criminal Director. Beginning in January 1945, Högl spent time in the Führerbunker located below the Reich Chancellery gardens in central Berlin. In April 1945, it became a de facto Führer Headquarters during the Battle of Berlin, and ultimately, the last one of Hitler's headquarters.
On 27 April, Högl was sent to find Heinrich Himmler's liaison man in Berlin, SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS Hermann Fegelein who had left the bunker complex. Högl caught Fegelein at his apartment apparently preparing to flee Berlin with his Hungarian mistress to Sweden or Switzerland. Fegelein had cash, forged passports and was wearing civilian clothes. Högl also uncovered a briefcase containing documents with evidence of Himmler's attempted peace negotiations. Fegelein, by that time was Eva Braun's brother-in-law. A military tribunal was ordered by Hitler to court-martial Fegelein. Waffen-SS General Wilhelm Möhnke presided over the tribunal which, in addition to General Johann Rattenhuber, included Generals Hans Krebs and Wilhelm Burgdorf. On the evening of 28 April, the BBC broadcast a Reuters news report about Himmler's attempted negotiations with the western Allies via Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden. Hitler thereafter condemned Fegelein to death.
After Hitler's death on 30 April, Högl, Ewald Lindloff, Hans Reisser, and Heinz Linge carried his corpse up the stairs to ground level and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery. There, Högl witnessed the cremation of Hitler and Eva Braun. On the following night of 1 May, Högl joined the break-out from the Soviet Red Army encirclement. After midnight on 2 May 1945, he was wounded in the head while crossing the Weidendammer Bridge and died of his injuries. Högl was 47 years old.
Betz was born in Kolbermoor near Rosenheim (Bavaria). He attended college for mechanical engineering in Munich. Betz then trained as a pilot. In 1932, he became a captain and flew European routes for Lufthansa. He joined the SS and was transferred to the staff of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Betz was appointed captain of the reserve aircraft of Die Fliegerstaffel des Führers. Betz served as Hitler's personal co-pilot and Hans Baur's substitute. Betz was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer on 30 January 1944. He further held the rank of Oberstleutnant der Reserve in the Luftwaffe.
By 30 April 1945, the Soviet Red Army was less than 500 metres from the bunker complex. That afternoon, Betz was present in the Führerbunker during the time when Hitler committed suicide. In one of Hitlers last orders, he had given permission for the Berlin forces to attempt a breakout of the Soviet encirclement after his death. General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Area, and SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke, the (Kommandant) Battle Commander for the centre government district, devised a plan to escape out from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. Möhnke split up the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker soldiers and personnel into ten main groups. Betz left the Reich Chancellery as part of one of the groups attempting to break out. After midnight on 2 May 1945, Betz was part of a large group of German soldiers and civilians who crossed the Weidendammer Bridge while under heavy fire from Soviet tanks and guns. Betz was wounded during the crossing.
According to Erich Kempka, he came across Betz and left him in the care of Käthe Hausermann. Other sources give more details as to Betz's fate, stating that he died from his wounds received in the area of the Weidendammer bridge. Betz was age 42.
Ewald Lindloff was born in Stuba near Danzig. Lindloff attended engineering college during the years 1928 to 1933. He joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) on 1 May 1932. On 15 July 1933, Lindloff was accepted into the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). He married Ilse Borchert, a secretary for Hitler's staff officers on 4 February 1938. He was promoted to the officer rank of SS-Untersturmführer on 30 January 1941. From 20 October 1942 until 10 May 1943, Lindloff was on active combat duty with the LSSAH. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmführer on 9 November 1941; and promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) on 30 January 1945.
By 30 April 1945, the Soviet Army was less than 500 metres from the bunker complex. In one of Hitlers last orders, he had given permission for the Berlin forces to attempt a breakout of the Soviet encirclement after his death.] General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Area, and SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Möhnke, the (Kommandant) Battle Commander for the centre government district, devised a plan to escape out from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. Möhnke split up the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker soldiers and personnel into ten main groups. Lindloff left the Reich Chancellery as part of one of the groups attempting to break out. After midnight on 2 May 1945, Lindloff was part of a large group of German soldiers and civilians who crossed the Weidendammer Bridge while under heavy fire from Soviet tanks and guns. Lindloff and Högl were both killed during the crossing of the bridge. Lindloff was age 36.
Following Hitlers death, the decision was taken by the officers and men of Sturmartillerie Brigade 249 to break out of the doomed capital. Shortly before midnight on the 3rd, what remained of the unit fought to the edge of the city at Spandau. By this time the brigade had been split into two elements, the first under Hauptmann Herbert Jaschke successfully punched their way out to the west. The second group was not so lucky, and its survivors fell into Soviet captivity.