Towards the end of World War Two in the west, Soviet military might was concentrated against Berlin. On April 22nd 1945, Hitler had announced to his inner circle based at his bunker in Berlin that he had decided to remain in the city until the bitter end. With the chaos that took place in Berlin, any details of life in the city during these final few days of the war are hard to come by. For the citizens in Berlin, survival was the most important factor, preferably in the zone further west of the city under the control of the Allies. Few people had any incentive to keep a diary then but General Helmuth Weidling, General Officer Commanding 56th Panzer Corps, did and it is from these diary entries that historians can get some idea as to what was going on in the city itself and amongst Hitler’s inner sanctum. As the last commanding officer of the Berlin Defence Zone, Weidling had direct access to Hitler’s bunker and while there is little way of confirming what he wrote as being accurate, his diary is one of just a few sources about the last days of the Battle of Berlin. Soviet sources would have been written with Stalin in mind. Weidling must have known that all was lost for Nazi Germany and for this reason he had no reason to fear an accusation of treason for writing as he did. His account of life in Berlin during the battle started on April 23rd and finished on May 1st. General Helmuth Weidling was captured by the Red Army and held as a POW. He died in captivity in 1955.
April 27th: The Defence Zone HQ was under heavy fire. The accounts for the sins of past years had arrived. Brick and stone dust hung in the air like a thick fog. The car in which I was driving could only make slow progress. Shells were bursting on all sides. We were showered with splinters of stone. We walked the last part of the way to the Alexanderplatz. Everywhere the streets were full of craters and streets and squares lay desolate. To reach cover from a Russian heavy mortar bombardment, we had to cross the Alexanderplatz to the Underground in short rushes. In the spacious, two-level Underground station the populace had taken refuge. Masses of scared people were standing and lying packed together. It was a shattering sight.
April 28th: At the end of my situation report (SitRep) I indicated that the troops could not hold out for more than another two days, because by then they would have run out of ammunition. Therefore I suggested a breakout from the Berlin pocket. I emphasised particularly that if the troops broke out of Berlin the incredible suffering of the people of Berlin would come to an end. The Führer remained sunk in thought for some time. He judged the overall situation as hopeless. (Weidling explained that Hitler did not want to have to hide out in farms and farmyards to wait for the end and told those assembled that he was prepared to stay in Berlin.) That is how the Führer turned down the idea for a breakout. Once again, Dr. Goebbels obsequiously flattered the Führer. Once again, I felt it was a waste of time to talk to this bunch.
April 29th: Catastrophe was inevitable if the Führer did not reverse his decision to defend Berlin to the last man, and if he sacrificed all who were still alive and fighting in this town for the sake of a crazy idea. Surely the Führer must realise that even the bravest soldier cannot fight without ammunition. The German soldier could see no way out of this situation. I once again mentioned the possibility of a breakout, and drew attention to the general situation. Like a man fully resigned to his fate, the Führer answered me and pointed to his map. The completely broken man got up from his chair with a great effort, with the purpose of allowing me to leave. (Hitler then gave Weidling his permission to breakout of Berlin himself.)
April 30th: It took us nearly an hour to get to the Chancellery through house-ruins and half-collapsed cellars. In the Chancellery I was taken straight to the Führer’s room, where there were Reichsminister Goebbels, Reichsleiter Bormann and General Krebs, Army Chief of Staff. The latter gave me the following information:
Today, April 30th, about 1515, the Führer had committed suicide. His body had already been cremated in the garden of the Chancellery. The strictest silence must be maintained about the Führer’s suicide. I was made personally responsible for keeping the secret pending subsequent developments. General Krebs was to give the Russian High Command the following information: the Führer’s suicide, the contents of his will, a request for an armistice, and the government’s wish to open negotiations with Russia about the surrender of Germany.
I was deeply shocked. So this was the end.
May 1st: The situation was extremely acute by afternoon. The defenders of Berlin were crowded into an extremely small space. There could no longer be any hope of a successful breakout. Any attempt at a breakout would have cost more valuable blood, and would have had not the least success. It was perfectly clear to me what the decision must be. Regardless of that, however, I was not going to take this responsible decision on my own, and I asked my closest collaborators to state their views frankly. They all agreed with me: there was only one solution – surrender.