16 January 1945, Adolf Hitler takes up residence in the Führerbunker (German: leader's bunker), an air raid shelter located near the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. There he would remain for 105 days until committing suicide.
The garden exit of the bunker, photo taken July 1947, from the German Archives.
The Reich Chancellery bunker was initially constructed as a temporary air-raid shelter for Hitler. The first portion was completed in 1936 and was located beneath the cellar of a large reception hall behind the Reich Chancellery at Wilhelmstrasse 77 in Berlin. As the war progressed and bombings of Berlin increased, the bunker complex was expanded to allow for more permanent residence. A second, deeper section was built which extended beneath the garden of the old Reich Chancellery. Besides being deeper underground, this section had significantly more reinforcement and its roof was made of 3 meter (9.8 ft) thick concrete. The first section would become known as the Vorbunker (German: Forward Bunker), while the second was the Führerbunker. The two sections could be sealed off from each other by a bulkhead and a steel door. The Führerbunker was about 8.5 meters (28 ft) underground and had a second access point in the Reich Chancellery garden.
A 3D Model of the Reich Chancellery with the location of the bunker complex in red, from the documentary film "Albert Speer's Berlin".
The Führerbunker contained Hitler's accommodations and was well decorated with high-quality furniture taken from the Chancellery and several framed oil paintings, including a large one of Hitler's personal hero, Frederick the Great. It consisted of a long corridor with rooms extending from either side. On the right were machine rooms containing generators, ventilation, a telephone switchboard and other utilities. On the left were Eva Braun's bedroom and Hitler's sitting room, office, and bedroom. There was also a large conference and map room.
The bunker complex was self contained, however the Führerbunker was below the water table which made it's conditions damp and unpleasant. Pumps had to run constantly to remove the groundwater that seeped into it. There was a diesel generator for electricity and well water for drinking. The bunker contained multiple communications systems including a telex, telephones, and a military radio set with an outdoor antenna. As conditions worsened and the Nazi command and control systems failed, Hitler acquired most of his information from BBC broadcasts received on that radio.
The bunker ruins after demolition in 1947, photo from the German Archives.
Following the war, the ruins of both Chancellery buildings and the bunkers were demolished by the Soviet Union in an effort to destroy landmarks of Nazi Germany. Due to the sites proximity to the Berlin Wall, it remained largely undeveloped until the late 1980s during which construction in the area uncovered several intact underground corridors and rooms. These were either destroyed, filled in, or resealed. The German government wished to destroy all vestiges of Nazi landmarks and hoped that the new construction would leave the are anonymous and unremarkable. However, in 2006 an information board was installed to mark the location where Führerbunker once was. Rochus Misch, the bunker's former radio operator and one of the last living people to have worked there, attended the ceremony.
Adolf Hitler during his last public appearance, 20 April 1945
Hitler moved into the bunker on 16 January 1945 along with his senior staff, Eva Braun, and around three dozen support personnel. He rarely left the bunker except to walk his dog in the Chancellery garden. The conditions were crowded, the atmosphere was oppressive, and air-raids were occurring daily. He mostly stayed on the lower level where it was quieter and he could sleep. He made his final trip to the surface on his 56th birthday, 20 April 1945, to award the Iron Cross to members of the Hitler Youth who were, by then, serving as child soldier auxiliaries. The first Soviet artillery hit the city later that day. On the night of 28-29 April, he and Eva Braun were married in the bunker. On 30 April, they committed suicide. Their bodies were carried to a bomb crater in the garden, doused in gasoline, and burned.
The 2 May 1945 cover of The Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. military.