- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology»
- History of the Modern Era»
- Twentieth Century History
World War II: The Downfall Of Fascism
A Grisly End
Mussolini's Ignominious End
Italy, The 28th April 1945 was a day that saw Mussolini's twenty three year Fascist rule over the country come to a rather ignominious end; for on that day, near the lakeside village of Dongo, Mussolini was shot dead by Italian partisans. Also shot, in reprisal for the killing of fifteen Italian partisans in Milan nine months previously, were fifteen of those who had been captured with Mussolini, including Alessandro Pavolini, the Secretary of the Fascist Party, four Cabinet Ministers, and several of Mussolini's friends. His mistress, Clara Petacci, was also shot. Her body, and that of Mussolini were taken to Milan and hanged there, upside down on the morning of the 29th April. Shortly after midday, the same say, at Caserta, General von Vietinghoff's representatives signed the unconditional surrender of all German troops fighting on the Italian Peninsula.
Mussolini's End- The Official Newsreel
The Next Fuhrer
Hitler's Final Testament
As Mussolini's body was being taken from Dongo to Milan, Hitler, now confined to his bunker in Berlin, was writing his political testament and making plans to marry Eva Braun. In his testimony, he explained how much her loyalty, and her decision to stay with him in the bunker had meant to him. He also wrote that he was expelling both Goering and Himmler from the Nazi Party, and announced the setting up of a new Government, with Admiral Donitz as President and Dr. Goebbels as Chancellor.
Much of Hitler's testimony consisted of his reflections on the origins of the war. Neither he, nor 'anyone else in Germany,' he wrote, had wanted a second war against Britain and America, and he went on to explain: 'Centuries will go by, but from the ruins of our towns and monuments the hatred of those ultimately responsible will always grow anew against the people whom we have to thank for all this: international Jewry and its henchmen.'
Hitler then declared that the war had been caused solely by those international statesmen 'who either were of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests.' The Jews were 'the real guilty party in this murderous struggle' and would be 'saddled' with the responsibility for it. Hitler added: 'I left no one in doubt that this time not only would millions of children of European Aryan races starve, not only would millions of grown men meet their death, and not only would hundreds of thousands of women and children be burned to death in cities, but this time the real culprits would have to pay for their guilt even though by more humane means than war.'
The 'more humane means' had been the gas chambers.
Stating that he could not 'abandon' Berlin, and that the city's resistance was being 'debased by creatures who are as blind as they are lacking in character,' Hitler explained that he wished to share his fate 'with that which millions of others have also taken upon themselves by remaining in this city.' He therefore had decided to remain in Berlin 'and there to choose death voluntarily when I determine that the position of the Fuhrer and the Chancellery itself can no longer be maintained. I die with a joyful heart in the knowledge of the immeasurable deeds and achievements of our peasants and workers and of a contribution, unique in history, of our youth which bears my name,'
Hitler added: 'Though the sacrifices of our soldiers and my own fellowship with them unto death, a seed has been sown in German history that will one day grow to usher in the glorious rebirth of the National Socialist movement in a truly united nation.'
After setting out the names of the members of the new Government, Hitler ended his testimony with one more denunciation of the Jews. 'Above all,' he concluded, 'I enjoin the Government and the people to uphold the race laws to the limit and to resist mercilessly the poisoner of all nations, International Jewry.'
In American Hands
When The Americans Encountered Horror
Nazi Horrors Revealed
What those race laws had led to was once again brutally revealed, later that same day, when, shortly after three o'clock in the afternoon, American forces entered the concentration camp at Dachau. An inmate in the camp, the Belgian doctor and British agent, Albert Guerisse, later recalled how, as the first American officer, a major, descended from his tank, 'the young Teutonic Lieutenant, Heinrich Skodzensky, emerges from the guard post and comes to attention before the American officer. The German is blond, handsome, perfumed, his boots glistening, his uniform well-tailored. He reports, as if he were on the military parade grounds near Unter den Linden during an exercise, then very properly raising his arm he salutes with a very respectful “Heil Hitler!” and clicks his heels. “I hereby turn over to you the concentration camp of Dachau, 30,000 residents, 2340 sick, 27,000 on the outside and 560 garrison troops”.'
The American major did not return the German lieutenant's salute. 'He hesitates for a moment,' Albert Guerisse later recalled, 'as if he were trying to make sure that he is remembering the adequate words. Then, he spits into the face of the German, “Du Schweinhund!” And then, “Sit down here!”- pointing to the rear seat of one of the Jeeps which in the meantime have driven in. The major turns to me and hands me an automatic rifle. “Come with me,” But I no longer had the strength to move. “No, I stay here...” The major gave an order, and the Jeep with the young German officer in it went outside the camp again. A few minutes went by, my comrades had not yet dared to come out of their barracks, for at that distance they could not tell the outcome of the negotiations between the American officer and the SS men. Then I hear several shots,'
Lieutenant Skodzensky was dead. Within an hour, all five hundred of his garrison troops were to be killed, some by the inmates themselves, but more than three hundred of them by American soldiers who had been literally sickened by what they saw of rotting corpses and desperate starving inmates. In one incident, an American lieutenant machine-gunned 346 of the SS guards after they had surrendered, and were lined up against a wall. The lieutenant, who had entered Dachau a few moments earlier, had just seen the corpses of the inmates piled up around the camp crematorium, and at the railway station.
There were 2539 Jews among the 33,000 survivors in Dachau. Of those survivors, 2466 were to die in the following month and a half.
Husband And Wife
Hitler's Death As Depicted In Downfall
The End Of Hitler
Meanwhile, in Berlin, General Weidling reported to Hitler on the evening of the 29th April that the Russians had reached the nearby Potsdam Station. In addition, there were no longer any anti-tank guns available for the defence of the Chancellery area. What, asked Weidling, were his men to do once they had run out of ammunition? 'I cannot permit the surrender of Berlin,' Hitler replied. 'Your men will have to break out in small groups.'
That same afternoon, the Citadel Commandant of Hitler's bunker, a certain SS Major-General Wilhelm Mohnke- who, you may remember from my previous article was involved in the massacre of British prisoners of war at Wormhout, northern France in 1940- made the last two presentations of the Knight's Cross. One was to the French SS volunteer, Eugene Vaulot, for destroying six Russian tanks on the previous day, the other was to the commander of the tank troops defending the Chancellery, Major Herzig. That night, at eleven o'clock, Hitler telegraphed from the bunker: 'Where are Wenck's spearheads? When will they advance? Where is the Ninth Army?' British cryptographers at Bletchley Park, ever vigilant, read these last desperate questions on their Enigma machine.
At one o'clock on the morning of the 30th April, Field Marshal Keitel that General Wenck's forces were 'stuck fast' south of the distant Schwiechlow Lake, and had no way of moving towards the capital, while the Ninth Army was completely encircled.
At a little past half past two in the afternoon, a Red Army soldier, a Sergeant Kantariya, proudly waved the Red Banner from the second floor of the Reichstag, German troops were still fighting on the floor above.
Not long after that very prominent symbol of Russian victory; Adolf Hitler, less than a mile away in his bunker committed suicide. He had spent the morning listening yet again to reports from his staff, completing and correcting his political testament, and arranging for it to reach Admiral Donitz, the man whom he had earlier nominated as his successor.
He took lunch at two o'clock in the company of his two secretaries and his cook, then he fetched Eva Braun or Eva Hitler, as she was now known, having married the Fuhrer the previous day. He bade farewell to Goebbels, Bormann and the others who had remained in the bunker, before returning to his room. A crowd of his nearest and dearest waited in silence for a few minutes, then a shot rang out. When they entered the room they found Hitler lying on a sofa, soaked in blood; he had shot himself through the head. On his right hand side lay the body of his wife who had taken poison. Hitler's death had occurred at half past three on Monday 30th April 1945.
He was undoubtedly a man of enormous but demonic gifts; a man who had lifted his country from weakness and chaos to unparalleled power, now, he had left Germany virtually in the same state as he has found it, as a land of chaos- all of this was achieved in just 12 years. He had possessed the attributes of greatness, while remaining destitute of human quality. At the moment of his death, the world became a better place.
Stop The Presses
© 2014 James Kenny