The Second World War
Allied forces propaganda poster, 1943
With its attack on Poland in September 1939, the German
Nazi regime under Hitler initiated the most devastating military
conflict in world history to date. Before the unconditional
surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, World War II claimed the
lives of some 62 million people. The heavily ideological aspect
of the war led to incomprehensible crimes against humanity.
World War II fundamentally altered the international political
situation. The victorious United States and the Soviet Union
became the leading world powers.
The Military Collapse of Germany
Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8,1945, only
after the Allied forces had conquered the entire country. Hitler
avoided capture by committing suicide.
The last German offensive in the Ardennes in southern France
failed in December 1944. American, British, and French troops
pushed from the west onto German soil at the beginning of 1945
and, despite desperate resistance, conquered the contested
cities one after another. On April 25, American and Soviet
soldiers shook hands at Torgau on the Elbe. The Red Army crossed
the German eastern frontier on January 1945 and launched its
attack on Berlin. In the course of this assault, brutal acts of
revenge for German atrocities committed on the Russian front
were carried out on the German civilian population, particularly
on women. Despite overwhelming Soviet superiority, the Germans
continued to offer heavy resistance.
Hitler now had 1 children,
the aged, and the sick armed and sent to the front.
1 9 March 1945 photo of Joseph Goebbels
hands Iron Cross II class to 16 year old Hitler Youth Willi
Hübner after capture of Lauban;
1 Members of the Hitler Youth are arrested by the
Berlin fell on May 2 after a brutal 13-day battle for every
street and building; on April 30 the 2
Soviet flag flew over the Berlin Reichstag.
2 Soviet flag flying
over the German Reichstag, April 30, 1945
Hitler and 5 Goebbels
had committed suicide in an underground bunker of the
3 German chancellery:
Hitler on April 30, Goebbels the day after.
Goebbels's body in Hitler's underground bunker, 1945
soldiers in the ruins of the Reich Chancellery in
Berlin, May 1945
The Suicide of Maria Goebbels and Joseph
Joseph Goebbels; Goebbels family; Johanna Maria Magdalena
Johanna Maria Magdalena "Magda" Goebbels
(11 November 1901 – 1 May 1945) was the wife of Nazi
Germany's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. A prominent
member of the Nazi party, she was a close ally and political
supporter of Adolf Hitler.
As Berlin was being overrun by the Red Army at the end of
World War II, she murdered her six children with Goebbels and
then committed suicide.
In late April 1945, the Soviet Red Army entered Berlin, and
the Goebbels family moved into the Führerbunker, beneath the
bombed out Reich Chancellery. One of the rooms they occupied had
been recently vacated by Hitler's personal physician Theodor
Morell. The only bathroom with a bath was Adolf Hitler's own,
and he gladly made it available to Magda and her children.
Meanwhile, reports of Soviet troops looting and raping as they
advanced were circulating in Berlin. Hitler and his bride Eva
Braun committed suicide on the afternoon of 30 April.
Two days earlier, Magda wrote a farewell letter to her son
Harald Quandt, who was in a POW camp in North Africa. This
letter is her only handwritten bequest.
“ My beloved son! By now we have been in the Führerbunker for
six days already — daddy, your six little siblings and I, for
the sake of giving our national socialistic lives the only
possible honorable end ... You shall know that I stayed here
against daddy's will, and that even on last Sunday the Führer
wanted to help me to get out. You know your mother — we have the
same blood, for me there was no wavering. Our glorious idea is
ruined and with it everything beautiful and marvelous that I
have known in my life. The world that comes after the Führer and
national socialism is not any longer worth living in and
therefore I took the children with me, for they are too good for
the life that would follow, and a merciful God will understand
me when I will give them the salvation ... The children are
wonderful ... there never is a word of complaint nor crying. The
impacts are shaking the bunker. The elder kids cover the younger
ones, their presence is a blessing and they are making the
Führer smile once in a while. May God help that I have the
strength to perform the last and hardest. We only have one goal
left: loyalty to the Führer even in death. Harald, my dear son —
I want to give you what I learned in life: be loyal! Loyal to
yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country ... Be
proud of us and try to keep us in dear memory ... ”
Joseph Goebbels' last will and testament, dictated to
Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, directed that Magda and their
children support him in his refusal to leave Berlin and his
resolution to die in the bunker. He later qualified this by
saying that the children would support the decision [to commit
suicide] if they were old enough to speak for themselves.
The following day, on 1 May 1945, Magda and Joseph Goebbels
drugged their six children with morphine and killed them by
breaking cyanide capsules in their mouths. Accounts differ over
how involved Magda Goebbels was in the killing of her children.
Some accounts claimed that the SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger
crushed the cyanide capsules into the children's mouths, but as
no witnesses to the event survived it is impossible to know
this. O'Donnell concluded that although Stumpfegger was probably
involved in drugging the children, Magda Goebbels killed them
herself. O'Donnell suggested that witnesses blamed the deaths on
Stumpfegger because he was a convenient target, having
disappeared (and died, it was later learned) the following day.
Moreover, as O'Donnell recorded, Stumpfegger may have been too
intoxicated at the time of the deaths to have played a reliable
Meissner claims that Stumpfegger refused to take any part in
the deaths of the children, and that a mysterious "country
doctor from the enemy-occupied eastern region" appeared and
"carried out the fearful task" before disappearing again.
Magda appears to have contemplated and talked about killing
her children at least a month in advance. She also refused
several offers from others, such as Albert Speer, to spirit the
children out of Berlin. There was evidence, in the form of
bruises, that the eldest child, 12-year-old Helga, had awakened
and struggled before she was killed. The children's bodies, in
nightclothes, with ribbons tied in the girls' hair, were found
in the two-tiered bunk beds where they were killed when Soviet
troops entered the bunker a day later.
The last survivor of Hitler's bunker, Rochus Misch, gave this
eyewitness account of the events to the BBC:
"Straight after Hitler's death, Mrs Goebbels came down to the
bunker with her children," Mr Misch recalls. "She started
preparing to kill them. She couldn't have done that above ground
— there were other people there who would have stopped her.
That's why she came downstairs — because no-one else was allowed
in the bunker. She came down on purpose to kill them. "The kids
were right next to me and behind me. We all knew what was going
to happen. It was clear. I saw Hitler's doctor, Dr Stumpfegger
give the children something to drink. Some kind of sugary drink.
Then Stumpfegger went and helped to kill them. All of us knew
what was going on. An hour or two later, Mrs Goebbels came out
crying. She sat down at a table and began playing patience. This
is exactly how it was."
After their children were dead, Magda and Joseph Goebbels
walked upstairs to the bombed-out garden, avoiding the need for
anyone to carry their bodies. By some accounts, she was shaking
uncontrollably. The details of their suicides are uncertain. One
SS officer later said they each took cyanide and were shot by an
SS trooper. An early report said they were machine-gunned to
death at their own request. According to another account, Joseph
Goebbels shot Magda and then himself. This idea is presented in
the film Downfall. Their bodies were doused in petrol, only
partially burned and not buried. The charred corpses were found
on the afternoon of 2 May 1945 by Russian troops and a
photograph of Goebbels' burned face was widely published. Their
remains and those of their children were later secretly buried
by the Soviets, and in April 1970 all were burned and the ashes
scattered in the Elbe river.
The Suicide of Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler
Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The generally accepted cause of the death of Adolf Hitler on 30
April 1945 is suicide by gunshot and cyanide poisoning. The lack
of public information concerning the whereabouts of Hitler's
remains, confused reports stemming from the dual method and
other circumstances surrounding the event encouraged rumours
that Hitler may have survived the end of World War II. Records
kept by the Soviet KGB and Russian FSB were opened in 1992 and
mostly matched the widely accepted version of Hitler's death as
described by Hugh Trevor-Roper in his book The Last Days of
Hitler published in 1947. However, the Russian archives yielded
more detailed autopsy information along with what happened to
Hitler took up residence in the Führerbunker on 16 January 1945
where he presided over a rapidly disintegrating Third Reich as
the Allies advanced from both east and west. By late April
Soviet forces had entered Berlin and were battling their way to
the centre of the city where the Chancellery was located.
On 22 April, Hitler had what some historians later described
as a nervous breakdown during one of his military situation
conferences, admitting defeat was imminent and Germany would
lose the war. He expressed his intent to kill himself and later
asked physician Werner Haase to recommend a reliable method of
suicide. Haase suggested combining a dose of cyanide with a
gunshot to the head.
Hitler had a supply of cyanide capsules which he had obtained
through the SS. Meanwhile, on 28 April Hitler learned of
Heinrich Himmler's attempt to independently negotiate a peace
treaty. Hitler considered this treason and began to show signs
of paranoia, expressing worries the cyanide capsules he had
received through Himmler's SS were fake. He also learned of the
execution of his ally Benito Mussolini and vowed not to share a
similar fate. To verify the capsules' potency he ordered Dr.
Haase to try them on his dog Blondi and the animal died as a
After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a
small civil ceremony in a map room within the bunker complex.
Antony Beevor states that after hosting a modest wedding
breakfast with his new wife Hitler took secretary Traudl Junge
to another room and dictated his last will and testament. He
signed these documents at 04:00 and then retired to bed (some
sources say Hitler dictated the last will and testament
immediately before the wedding, but all sources agree on the
timing of the signing).
Hitler and Braun lived together as husband and wife in the
bunker for fewer than 40 hours. Late in the morning of 30 April,
with the Soviets less than 500 metres from the bunker, Hitler
had a meeting with General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the
Berlin Defence Area, who informed Hitler the Berlin garrison
would probably run out of ammunition that night. Weidling asked
Hitler for permission to break out, a request he had made
unsuccessfully before. Hitler did not answer at first and
Weidling went back to his headquarters in the Bendlerblock where
at about 13:00 he got Hitler's permission to try a breakout that
night. Hitler, two secretaries and his personal cook then had
lunch consisting of spaghetti with a light sauce, after which
Hitler and Eva Braun said their personal farewells to members of
the Führerbunker staff and fellow occupants, including the
Goebbels family, Bormann, the secretaries and several military
officers. At around 14:30 Adolf and Eva Hitler went into
Hitler's personal study.
Some witnesses later reported hearing a loud gunshot at
around 15:30. After waiting a few minutes, Hitler's valet, Heinz
Linge, with Bormann at his side, opened the door to the small
study. Linge later stated he immediately noted a scent of burnt
almonds, a common observation made in the presence of prussic
acid, the gaseous form of cyanide. Hitler's SS adjutant, Otto
Günsche, entered the study to inspect the bodies, which were
found seated on a small sofa, Eva's to Hitler's left and slumped
away from him. Owing to an exit wound towards the top, left side
of his head Hitler appeared to have shot himself in the right
temple with a Walther PPK 7.65 mm pistol which lay at his feet.
According to Hitler's bodyguard, Rochus Misch, Hitler's head was
lying on the table in front of him. Blood dripping from his
temple and chin had made a large stain on the right arm of the
sofa and was pooling on the floor/carpet. Eva's body had no
visible physical wounds and Linge assumed she had poisoned
Günsche exited the study and announced that the Führer was
dead. Immediately afterwards, several people in the bunker began
smoking cigarettes (which had been forbidden, given Hitler's
strong dislike for smoking). Several witnesses said the two
bodies were carried up to ground level and through the bunker's
emergency exit to a small, bombed-out garden behind the
Chancellery where they were doused with petrol and set alight by
Linge and members of Hitler's personal SS bodyguard. Someone was
heard to shout: 'Hurry upstairs, they're burning the boss!' The
SS guards and Linge later noted the fire did not completely
destroy the corpses but Soviet shelling of the bunker compound
made further cremation attempts impossible and the remains were
later covered up in a shallow bomb crater after 18:00.
As many as 200,000 Red Army soldiers and around 50,000
Germans lost their lives in the 4
battle for Berlin alone.
The German army signed the unconditional surrender of Germany
first on May 7 at Allied Headquarters in Reims, and a day later
at Soviet Headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst; it came into effect
the next day.
All of Germany was occupied, and the entire armed forces became
6 prisoners of war.
World War II in Europe had ended. Japan, however, surrendered
only after the first atomic bombs had been dropped in early
4 Rubble at
the Brandenburg Gate in the capital of Berlin, 1945
6 German prisoners of war are
transported to the Soviet Union,
The "Nero Order"
In mid March 1945, Hitler issued the so-called
Nero Order, instructing Armaments Minister Albert Speer
to destroy Germany completely.
With no regard for the civilian population, any
installation in Germany that could be used by the enemy
in any way—industrial complexes, supply and transport
systems—was to be destroyed as the army retreated.
The order was generally ignored.
German Instrument of Surrender
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The German Instrument of Surrender was the legal
instrument that established the armistice ending World War II in
Europe. It was signed by representatives of the Oberkommando der
Wehrmacht, the Allied Expeditionary Force and Soviet High
Command on May 7 and May 8, 1945. The date is known in the West
as Victory in Europe Day.
General Alfred Jodl signing the capitulation papers in Rheims.
The Instrument of Surrender was signed at Rheims, France, at
02:41 hours on 7 May 1945. The signing took place in a red brick
schoolhouse that served as the Supreme Headquarters Allied
Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). It was to take effect at 2301 hours
Central European time on 8 May, 1945.
The unconditional surrender of the German armed forces was
signed by Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, on behalf of the
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German language: High Command of
armed forces) and as the representative for the new Reich
President, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. Walter Bedell Smith signed
on behalf of the Western allies, and Ivan Susloparov on behalf
of the Soviets. French general François Sevez signed as the
Although this act of surrender was recognized by all parties
as binding, it was nevertheless followed by an act of
ratification on May 8, which was agreed at the time of the May 7
signing (see text below). Only during the Cold War was the first
surrender in Rheims hushed up or reduced to a preparatory
GIVEN BY CERTAIN GERMAN EMISSARIES
TO THE ALLIED HIGH COMMANDS
It is agreed by the German emissaries
undersigned that the following German officers will
arrive at a place and time designated by the Supreme
Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, and the Soviet
High Comand prepared, with plenary powers, to execute
a formal ratification on behalf of the German High
Command of this act of Unconditional Surrender of the
German armed forces.
Chief of the High Command
Commander-in-Chief of the Army
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces.
Representing the German High Command
DATED 0241 7th May 1945
Marshal Georgy Zhukov reading the German capitulation in Berlin.
Seated on his right is Arthur Tedder, Marshal of the Royal Air
A second Act of Military Surrender was signed shortly after
midnight Central European time on May 8 at the seat of the
Soviet Military Administration in Berlin-Karlshorst, now the
location of the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.
This ratification was a response to both Soviet and British
concerns. The Soviets desired a signature in the presence of the
Soviet Supreme Commander (Major General Susloparov, who had
accepted the May 7 surrender for the Soviets, was only liaison
officer at the Western Headquarters). The British wanted the
surrender to be signed by the highest military and civilian
representatives of the German Reich, in order to avoid a repeat
of the "stab in the back" legend which had been cultivated by
the Germans after World War I because the armistice had been
signed only by a civilian politician and an unknown general.
(Jodl, who signed in Rheims, was an officer without the power of
command). Since the Dönitz government was not recognized, it was
agreed to have the May 7 act ratified with the signatures of the
commanders in chief of the Wehrmacht, army, air force and
marines, who were brought to Karlshorst, the seat of the Soviet
Supreme Commander. The representatives of the Western
Headquarters, the United Kingdom, France and the United States
entered the dining room of the officers' mess in Karlshorst
shortly before midnight. The German delegation, which had been
flown in from Flensburg to Tempelhof in a U.S. airplane, entered
the room shortly after midnight after Marshal Georgy Zhukov, the
Soviet representative, had opened the ceremony. The ratification
of the German Act of Unconditional Surrender was signed around
00.15 o'clock, after its regulations had already been in effect
for over an hour (23:01 Central European Time).
Soviet Union: Marshal Georgy Zhukov on behalf of the
Supreme High Command of the Red Army
United Kingdom: Air Chief Marshal Arthur William Tedder
as Deputy Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force,
United States: General Carl Spaatz, Commanding United
States Strategic Air Forces, as witness
France: General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, Commanding
First French Army, as witness
Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg as Commander-in-Chief of the
Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff as the representative of the
air force (Luftwaffe)
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel as the Chief of Staff of the German
Armed Forces and as representative of the army (Oberkommando der
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signing the ratified surrender
terms for the German military in Berlin.
Text of the Instrument of
Only this text in English is authoritative
Act of Military
1. We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High
Command, hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme
Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to the
Soviet High Command all forces on land, sea, and in the air who
are at this date under German control.
2. The German High Command will at
once issue orders to all German military, naval and air
authorities and to all forces under German control to cease
active operations at 2301 hours Central European time on 8 May
and to remain in the positions occupied at that time. No ship,
vessel, or aircraft is to be scuttled, or any damage done to
their hull, machinery or equipment.
3. The German High Command will at
once issue to the appropriate commanders, and ensure the
carrying out of any further orders issued by the Supreme
Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and by the Soviet High
4. This act of military surrender is
without prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general
instrument of surrender imposed by, or on behalf of the United
Nations and applicable to Germany and the German armed forces as
5. In the event of the German High
Command or any of the forces under their control failing to act
in accordance with this Act of Surrender, the Supreme Commander,
Allied Expeditionary Force and the Soviet High Command will take
such punitive or other action as they deem appropriate.
Signed at Rheims at 0241 France on the 7th day of May, 1945.
On behalf of the German High
Command. Alfred Jodl
in the presence of
On behalf of the Supreme Commander,
Allied Expeditionary Force. Walter Bedell Smith
On behalf of the Soviet High
Command. Ivan Sousloparov
Major General, French Army (Witness)
The instrument of surrender signed at Reims May 7, 1945.
Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov
Marshal Georgy Zhukov
born Dec. 1 [Nov. 19, Old Style], 1896, Kaluga province, Russia
died June 18, 1974, Moscow
marshal of the Soviet Union, the most important Soviet military
commander during World War II.
Having been conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army during
World War I, Zhukov joined the Red Army in 1918, served as a
cavalry commander during the Russian Civil War, and afterward
studied military science at the Frunze Military Academy
(graduated 1931) as well as in Germany. He rose steadily through
the ranks, and as head of Soviet forces in the Manchurian border
region he directed a successful counteroffensive against
Japanese forces there in 1939.
During the Winter War, which the Soviet Union fought against
Finland at the outset of World War II, Zhukov served as chief of
staff of the Soviet army. He was then transferred to command the
Kiev military district and in January 1941 was appointed chief
of staff of the Red Army. After the Germans invaded the Soviet
Union (June 1941), he organized the defense of Leningrad (St.
Petersburg) and was then appointed commander in chief of the
western front. He directed the defense of Moscow (autumn 1941)
as well as the massive counteroffensive (December 1941) that
drove the Germans’ Army Group Centre back from central Russia.
The Supreme Commanders on June 5, 1945 in Berlin:
Bernard Montgomery, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Georgy Zhukov and Jean
de Lattre de Tassigny.
In August 1942 Zhukov was named deputy commissar of defense
and first deputy commander in chief of Soviet armed forces. He
became the chief member of Joseph Stalin’s personal supreme
headquarters and figured prominently in the planning or
execution of almost every major engagement in the war. He
oversaw the defense of Stalingrad (late 1942) and planned and
directed the counteroffensive that encircled the Germans’ Sixth
Army in that city (January 1943). He was named a marshal of the
Soviet Union soon afterward. Zhukov was heavily involved in the
Battle of Kursk (July 1943) and directed the Soviet sweep across
Ukraine in the winter and spring of 1944. He commanded the
Soviet offensive through Belorussia (summer-autumn 1944), which
resulted in the collapse of the Germans’ Army Group Centre and
of German occupation of Poland and Czechoslovakia. In April 1945
he personally commanded the final assault on Berlin and then
remained in Germany as commander of the Soviet occupation force.
On May 8, 1945, he represented the Soviet Union at Germany’s
formal surrender. He then served as the Soviet representative on
the Allied Control Commission for Germany.
Marshal Zhukov and Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky during the
Victory Parade, June ,1945 in Moscow
Upon Zhukov’s return to Moscow in 1946, however, his
extraordinary popularity apparently caused him to be regarded as
a potential threat by Stalin, who assigned him to a series of
relatively obscure regional commands. Only after Stalin died
(March 1953) did the new political leaders, wishing to secure
the support of the army, appoint Zhukov a deputy minister of
defense (1953). He subsequently supported Nikita Khrushchev
against the chairman of the Council of Ministers, Georgy
Malenkov, who favoured a reduction in military expenditures.
When Khrushchev forced Malenkov to resign and replaced him with
Nikolay Bulganin (February 1955), Zhukov succeeded Bulganin as
minister of defense; at that time he was also elected an
alternate member of the Presidium.
Zhukov then undertook programs to improve the professional
calibre of the armed forces. Because this effort involved a
reduction in the role of the party’s political advisers and,
consequently, in the party’s control of the army, his policies
brought him into conflict with Khrushchev. Nevertheless, when a
majority of the Presidium (called the “anti-party” group) tried
to oust Khrushchev, Zhukov provided the airplanes that
transported members of the Central Committee from distant
regions of the country to Moscow, thus shifting the political
balance in Khrushchev’s favour (June 1957). As a consequence,
Zhukov was promoted to full membership in the Presidium (July
1957). But Khrushchev could not tolerate the marshal’s
persistent efforts to make the army more autonomous; as a
result, on Oct. 26, 1957, Zhukov was formally dismissed as
minister of defense and a week later was removed from his party
posts. Remaining in relative obscurity until Khrushchev fell
from power (October 1964), Zhukov was later awarded the Order of
Lenin (1966) and allowed to publish his autobiography in 1969.