The movie Downfall (2004) offered a compelling dramatization of Hitler’s final days in his Berlin bunker – and the one scene when Hitler discovers that the war is truly lost has spawned any number of YouTube parodies. The Smithsonian Channel, however, has recently produced “The Day Hitler Died,” an actual documentary featuring interviews with surviving bunker dwellers. From the National Post:
‘The bunker became a mortuary’: Hitler’s cronies macabrely awaited his suicide for eight days
PITTSBURGH — American television viewers get their first chance to see and hear Adolf Hitler’s inner circle describe the dictator’s final hours in filmed interviews when “The Day Hitler Died” premieres on the Smithsonian Channel.
The documentary marks the first time viewers outside Germany will see the filmed interviews by Michael Musmanno, a Navy attorney who presided at one of the Nuremberg war crimes trials and later became a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice.
After the trials, Musmanno spent more than two years tracking down witnesses and re-interviewing them on camera in 1948 to prove Hitler was dead, hoping to thwart rumours spawned when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin claimed Hitler had escaped his underground Berlin bunker….
“The Nazis were like the generic villains of the 20th century, but that’s the real danger,” White said. “We tend to forget that some people found them charming and how they got there and came to power.”
The interviews also vividly describe Hitler’s volatile moods as the Russian Red Army moved into Berlin in April 1945.
Buoyed by news that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt died April 12, 1945, “Hitler went into a dance and congratulated himself as if he had himself had brought about this event,” Hitler’s press attache, Heinz Lorenz, told Musmanno. “He exclaimed, ‘This will mean I will win the war.’”
But 10 days later, Hitler’s mood permanently darkened upon learning one of his generals refused to lead a suicidal counter-attack with a rag-tag collection of German army units.
“He collapsed and said, ‘It’s all over, and I’ll shoot myself,’” Lorenz recalled.
But it would be eight days before Hitler would shoot himself alongside Eva Braun, the longtime mistress who took a poison capsule and died beside Hitler the day after they were married.
In the meantime, the 16-room bunker — with its nearly four-metre thick concrete ceilings and walls some nine metres below ground — became a macabre Neverland as Hitler’s confidants and staff awaited his suicide.
“After April 22, he talked about it constantly,” said Traudl Junge, the secretary to whom Hitler dictated his last will and testament.
Or, as German Army Major Baron von Loringhoven told Musmanno, “The bunker became a mortuary and the people in it living corpses.”
More at the link. “The Day Hitler Died” premieres on the Smithsonian Channel on Monday at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT.