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Hitler in April 1945

LAURENCE REES: By the end of April 1945, what state was Hitler in?

SIR IAN KERSHAW: Well, by the end of April, Hitler’s mental and physical state was that of an absolute wreck, and he broke down famously and notoriously on the 22nd of April 1945 in the bunker, and it’s an extraordinary thing really about him that that was the first time that those in his immediate entourage had actually heard him say the war is lost. That right through whatever had gone on, with all the catastrophes which had beset Germany until then, they’d never heard Hitler give up. And so the shock that reverberated around the bunker with this absolute tirade of Hitler's that could be at mega decibels, was because he was now saying the war is lost and basically ‘I give in.’

And this was a reflection now of his own mental state, but also that he was by then a physical wreck too. Even then he pulled himself together, after a fashion, and showed even in the last week that within the immediate entourage, within the immediate bunker confines anyway, and those people are around to take orders, nobody could contravene Hitler’s orders and his orders within those confines still counted. So a physical and mental wreck by the end, but right until he committed suicide nobody thought really to usurp these. Well, people who did or tried to usurp thought Hitler had abdicated – Goering and Himmler.

And what’s in a sense interesting as well is that as soon as Hitler’s dead the moves begin then to wind up the Third Reich and it is actually going to be capitulation then. So he’s said ‘no capitulation ever, there’ll be no repeat of 1918’ – as soon as he’s dead, with the exception maybe of Goebbels and a few others who commit suicide, the majority seek to save their own skin and immediately moves are set in to try and bring about partial capitulation until the total capitulation of the 8th of May.