Adolf Hitler [Misc.]
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

The Brief Luxurious Life of Adolf Hitler, 50 Feet Below Berlin

Jan 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

After the Fall: Photos of Hitler's Bunker and the Ruins of Berlin

Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945
Not published in LIFE. Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945
A new view of a photograph that appeared, heavily cropped, in LIFE, picturing Hitler's bunker, partially burned by retreating German troops and stripped of valuables by invading Russians.
In typed notes that William Vandivert sent to LIFE's New York offices after getting to Berlin, he described his intense, harried visit to Hitler's bunker: "These pix were made in the dark with only candle for illumination ... Our small party of four beat all rest of mob who came down about forty minutes after we got there." Above: A 16th century painting reportedly stolen from a Milan museum.
With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler's bunker.
Abandoned furniture and debris inside Adolf Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.
Papers (mostly news reports dated April 29, the day before Hitler and Eva Bruan killed themselves) inside Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.
A Russian soldier stands in Adolf Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.
Desk inside Adolf Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.
An SS officer's cap, with the infamous death's-head skull emblem barely visible.
A ruined, empty and likely looted safe inside Hitler's bunker.
LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth, left, sifts through debris in the shallow trench in the garden of the Reich Chancellery where, Knauth was told, the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were burned after their suicides.
In the garden of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.
Bullet-riddled sentry pillbox outside Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.
An unidentified hand on the destroyed hinge of the door to Hitler's bunker, burned off by advancing Russian combat engineers, Berlin, 1945.
Empty gasoline cans, reportedly used by SS troops to burn the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun after their suicides in the bunker, Berlin, 1945.
Russian soldiers and a civilian struggle to move a large bronze Nazi Party eagle that once loomed over a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.
An American soldier, PFC Douglas Page, offers a mocking Nazi salute inside the bombed-out ruins of the Berliner Sportspalast, or Sport Palace. The venue, destroyed during an Allied bombing raid in January 1944, was where the Third Reich often held political rallies.
At the Reichstag, evidence of a practice common throughout the centuries: soldiers scrawling graffiti to honor fallen comrades, insult the vanquished or simply announce, I was here. I survived. Berlin, 1945.
An image almost too perfectly symbolic of Berlin in 1945: A crushed globe and a bust of Hitler amid rubble outside the ruined Reich Chancellery.
The first of the approximately 20 pages of notes that William Vandivert typed for LIFE's editors in New York, describing not only the pictures he took but also the atmosphere pervading his examination of Hitler's bunker and the Reich Chancellery grounds. (An example of Vandivert's terse, vivid notations: "... view of chancellery palace ... completely bombed, burned and shelled to hell.")
Not published in LIFE. Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Sov
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William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
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