Adolf Hitler's command center conference room partially burned out by SS troops and stripped of evidence by invading Russians, in bunker under the Reichschancellery after Hitler's suicide
William Vandivert—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
By Jennifer Latson
January 16, 2015

The Russians were closing in and Berlin was under a barrage of bombing raids when, on this day, Jan. 16, 70 years ago, Adolf Hitler went underground. In a structure that still remains, about fifty feet below the gardens of the Reich Chancellery, he lived out his remaining 105 days in the Führerbunker.

For an air-raid shelter, it was practically luxurious. Equipped with its own heating, electricity and water, according to Ian Kershaw’s Hitler: A Biography, the 3,000-square-foot reinforced bunker was accessible via a red-carpeted corridor lined with paintings re-hung from Hitler’s grander chambers in the Chancellery under which it was location. In his study hung his most revered piece of art: a portrait of Frederick the Great.

For the first month or two, at least, Hitler’s daily life changed little in the bunker, as Robert Payne depicts it in The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler; running a war, it seemed, looked much the same below as above ground. After meeting with his generals and strategizing until early in the morning, sometimes as late as 5 a.m., Payne writes:

“[Hitler] got up about 11:30 a.m., bathed quickly, took a hurried breakfast, and held his first conference at noon. The rest of the day was entirely taken up with conversations with political and military leaders. He took lunch in the late afternoon. It consisted of vegetable soup, corn on the cob, jellied omelets, and whatever delicacies Fräulein Manzialy, his vegetarian cook, could provide for him.”

A few factors prevented the bunker’s residents from feeling like everything was business as usual, however. For one: The constant threat of death, and the dissolution of Hitler’s dream of empire. For another: The sense of claustrophobia as the underground offices filled with officers and support staff, as well as Eva Braun and the wife and six children of Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, according to a report from one of the SS guards who was inside.

The sense of impending doom, as Russian troops marched on Berlin, kept any festive feelings at bay when Hitler and Braun married in the bunker’s map room during the early hours of April 29. According to Britain’s MI5, Hitler’s personal secretary, Gerda Christian, was invited to the “wedding breakfast” after the ceremony but left early, telling another of his secretaries, Gertrud Junge, that “she had been unable to stand the atmosphere of gloom and despondency.”

The bunker became gloomier still the next day, when the newlyweds committed suicide. Before they did, Hitler’s dog was fed a cyanide capsule, partly to test its lethality. Since the dog died almost instantly, both Junge and Christian asked Hitler for capsules themselves. Per MI5, “Hitler gave them one each, saying as he did so that he was sorry he had no better parting gift.”

Read the original 1945 report on Hitler’s death, here in the TIME archives: Adolf Hitler’s Last Hours

Contact us at editors@time.com.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

You May Like

EDIT POST