Hermann Wilhelm Goering (3 of 4)

July 14, 1944 Churchill to Foreign Secretary Eden:

...This requires careful handling. It is quite possible that rich Jews will pay large sums of money to escape being murdered by the Huns. It is tiresome that this money should get into the hands of ELAS (Greek Communist partisans), but why on Earth we should go and argue with the United States about it I cannot conceive. We should take a great responsibility if we prevented the escape of Jews, even if they should be rich Jews. I know it is the modern view that all rich people should be put to death wherever found, but it is a pity that we should take up that attitude at the present time. After all, they have no doubt paid for their liberation so high that in the future they will only be poor Jews, and therefore have the ordinary rights of human beings...

July 20, 1944: Hitler survives an assassination attempt (bomb explosion) during a war conference.

July 20, 1944: Hitler addresses the Reich by radio:

...The claim by these usurpers that I am no longer alive, is at this very moment proven false, for here I am talking to you, my dear fellow countrymen. The circle which these usurpers represent is very small. It has nothing to do with the German armed forces, and above all nothing to do with the German army. It is a very small clique composed of criminal elements which will now be mercilessly exterminated...

July 23, 1944: Majdanek is liberated.

September 15, 1944: A US Colonel in the War Department's Special Project Branch, Murray Bernays, proposes the most controversial part of the approach that will be used by the prosecution at Nuremberg; that of treating the Nazi regime as a criminal conspiracy.

September 15, 1944: At the Quebec summit conference between Roosevelt and Churchill, the Treasury Plan for the Treatment of Germany, known as the Morgenthau Plan, is adopted. Its three main points are: 1) Germany is to be partitioned into two independent states. 2) Germany's main centers of mining and industry, including the Saar area, the Ruhr area and Upper Silesia are to be Internationalized or annexed by neighboring nations. 3) All heavy industry is to be dismantled or otherwise destroyed. Note: The Morgenthau Plan, along with the Allied policy of Unconditional Surrender, will fuel Nazi propaganda. Opposition among some Allies to the plan, as well as Cold War realities, will ultimately cause most of its provisions to be ignored.

September 17, 1944: Operation Market Garden, a combined American, British and Polish invasion, begins.

September 30, 1944 Stalin to Churchill:

...I share your conviction that firm agreement between the three leading powers constitutes a true guarantee of future peace and answers to the best hopes of all peace-loving peoples. The continuation of our governments in such a policy in the postwar period as we have achieved during this great war will, it seems to me, have a decisive influence. Of course, I have a great desire to meet with you and the President. I attach great importance to it from the point of view of the interests in our common business. But, as far as I am concerned, I must make one reservation. The doctors advise me not to undertake long journeys...

October 9, 1944 Churchill arrives in Moscow. Soon, he and Stalin are discussing spheres of influence in the Balkans. Churchill’s account:

The moment was apt for business, so I said, "Let us settle our affairs in the Balkans. Your armies are in Rumania and Bulgaria. We have interests, missions, and agents there. Don’t let us get at cross-purposes in small ways. So far as Britain and Russia are concerned, how would it do for you to have ninety per cent predominance in Rumania, for us to have ninety per cent of the say in Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?" While this was being translated I wrote out on half a sheet of paper: Rumania Russia 90% The others 10% Greece Great Britain 90% (in accord with USA) Russia 10% Yugoslavia 50-50% Hungary 50-50% Bulgaria Russia 75% The others 25% I pushed this across to Stalin, who had by then heard the translation. There was a slight pause. Then he took his blue pencil and made a large tick upon it, and passed it back to us. It was all settled in no more time than it takes to sit down…After this there was a long silence. The penciled paper lay in the center of the table. At length I said, "Might it not be thought rather cynical if it seemed we had disposed of these issues, so fateful to millions of people, in such an offhand manner? Let us burn the paper." "No, you keep it," said Stalin.

October 12, 1944 Beleidigender Ardennes: Adolf "the Riverboat Gambler" Hitler takes Speer aside at the daily situation conference. He confides that he is planning a decisive move; a great, surprise offensive in the West utilizing all available forces. "For that you must organize a special corps of German construction workers, one sufficiently motorized to be able to carry out all types of bridge building even if rail transportation should be halted. Stick to the organizational forms that proved their value in the western campaign of 1940," Hitler continues: "Everything else must be put aside for the sake of this. No matter what the consequences. This will be the great blow which must succeed." (Speer)

October 22, 1944 Churchill to FDR:

...Major War Criminals. UJ (Churchill and FDR refer to Josef Stalin as Uncle Joe, or UJ, in their correspondence) took an unexpectedly ultra-respectable line. There must be no executions without trial otherwise the world would say we were afraid to try them. I pointed out the difficulties in international law but he replied if there were no trials there must be no death sentences, but only life-long confinements...

October 22, 1944 FDR to Churchill:

...Your statement of the present attitude of Uncle J. towards war criminals, the future of Germany, and the Montreux Convention is most interesting. We should discuss these matters, together with our Pacific war effort, at the forthcoming three-party meeting...

October 30, 1944: Goering visits Peenemuende to view the latest anti-aircraft rockets. Goering is dressed in "bright red, soft morocco leather riding boots with silver spurs...wearing an amply cut thick fur coat of Australian oppossum, the fur outwards," according to the account of the rocket sites commander, General Dornberger: "He pretended to be studying the drawings on the walls, but he was no longer looking at them. He was totally disinterested...About every five minutes his eyes started to turn until one could only see the whites. He staggered, reached into the pocket of his coat, and swallowed a small, round, rose red pill. Instantly, he straightened and appeared to be quite normal again. After five minutes, the same process...When he climbed the stairs to the roof of the small tracking building of the 'waterfall' project, he pulled a heavy revolver out of its holster, threw it up in the air several times and caught it again. His adjutant took the weapon away from him with the remark that it was loaded and not on safety." (Read)

November 28, 1944: Himmler orders the gas chambers at Auschwitz destroyed.

December 16, 1944 Beleidigender Ardennes: Hitler's big gamble in the West, the Battle of the Bulge, gets underway in Belgium and Luxembourg.

December 17, 1944: From a Goebbels article in Das Reich:

...The time to make history is short, and he who does not use the opportunity fails. The burdens of such a time certainly may seem unbearable, but those burdens decide which nation is called to victory and which is damned to defeat...

January 4, 1945 Churchill to Eden:

Treatment of Germany after the war. It is much too soon for us to decide these enormous questions. Obviously, when the German organized resistance has ceased the first stage will be one of severe military control. This may well last for many months, or perhaps for a year or two, if the German underground movement is active.

2. We have yet to settle the practical questions of the partition of Germany, the treatment of the Rhur and Saar industries, etc. These may be touched upon at our forthcoming meeting, but I doubt whether any final decision will be reached then. No one can foresee at the present moment what the state of Europe will be or what the relations of the Great Powers will be, or what the tempers of their peoples will be. I am sure that the hatreds which Germany has caused in so many countries will find their counterpart here.

3. I have been struck at every point where I have sounded opinion at the depth of the feeling that would be aroused by a policy of ‘putting poor Germany on her legs again.’ I am also well aware of the arguments about ‘not having a poisoned community in the heart of Europe’…I remember so well last time being shocked at the savage views of the House of Commons and of the constituencies, and being indignant with Poincare when he sent the French into the Ruhr.

In a few years however the mood of Parliament and the public changed entirely. Thousands of millions of money were lent to Germany by the United States. I went along with the tolerant policy towards Germany up to the Locarno Treaty and during the rest of Mr. Baldwin’s Government on the grounds that Germany had no power to harm us. But thereafter a swift change occurred. The rise of Hitler began. And thereafter I once again found myself very much out of sympathy with the prevailing mood…

From Goering's IMT testimony: When, after 12 January 1945, the Russian offensive pushed forward to the Oder and at the same time the Ardennes offensive had not penetrated, it was then that I was forced to realize that defeat would probably set in slowly. Up to that time I had always hoped that, on the one side, the position at the Vistula toward the East and, on the other side, the position at the West Wall towards the West, could be held until the flow of the new mass produced weapons should bring about a slackening of the Anglo-American air war ...

I knew that enemy propaganda emphasized that under no circumstances would there be negotiations with Hitler. That Hitler did not want to negotiate under any circumstances, I also knew, but not in this connection. Hitler wanted to negotiate if there were some prospect of results; but he was absolutely opposed to hopeless and futile negotiations. Because of the declaration of the enemy in the West after the landing in Africa, as far as I remember, that under no circumstances would they negotiate with Germany but would force on her unconditional surrender, Germany's resistance was stiffened to the utmost and measures had to be taken accordingly. If I have no chance of concluding a war through negotiations, then it is useless to negotiate, and I must strain every nerve to bring about a change by a call to arms ... As long as Hitler was the Fuehrer of the German people, he alone decided whether the war was to go on. As long as my enemy threatens me and demands absolutely unconditional surrender, I fight to my last breath.

January 16 1945: Hitler departs Bad Nauheim and arrives for the final time in Berlin. He will spend the next few days above ground in his embattled capital before moving permanently into the Fuehrerbunker.

January 17, 1945: The Red Army liberates Warsaw, whose prewar population of 1,300,000 has been reduced to almost nothing, with 90% of the city destroyed. At Mlawa, 320 Poles, mostly partisans, are shot by the Germans in one of many last-minute executions around Warsaw. In the next 18 days, Soviet troops will advance a further 300 miles into German-held territory.

January 18, 1945: An internal accounting is made of the remaining prisoners in the assorted labor and concentration camps: Birkenau; 15,058 Jews remain. Auschwitz: 16,226 people remaining, mostly Poles. Monowitz; 10,233 Jews, Poles and assorted prisoners remaining. Factories of Auschwitz: Another 16,000 Jews, Poles and prisoners. The order for immediate evacuation--by forced march, if necessary--is given.

January 18, 1945: The Red Army drive against Berlin begins. Hitler, along with his cooks, adjutants, two or three dozen support, medical and administrative staff, his senior military staff and even his dog, Blondi, move into the Fuehrerbunker, which is located underneath the Chancellery garden in Berlin.

January 20, 1945: FDR, is inaugurated to his record fourth term in office as 32nd president of the United States. Harry S Truman is sworn in as Vice President. FDR:

We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage--of our resolve--of our wisdom--our essential democracy. If we meet that test--successfully and honorably-we shall perform a service of historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time. As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my fellow countrymen--in the presence of our God--I know that it is America's purpose that we shall not fail. In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war. We can and we will achieve such a peace...

January 21, 1945: Hitler orders that all commanding generals down to divisional level must inform him in advance of any operational movements by the units under their command. "They must ensure that I have time to intervene in their direction if I think fit, and that my counter-orders can reach the front-line troops in time." (Read)

January 24, 1945: Hitler approves Panzer Leader General Heinz Guderian's plan to create a new, emergency army group to be known as Army Group Vistula. Bormann had suggested to Hitler that he give the Reichsfuehrer SS the command, knowing that the chances that Himmler, his rival, will distinguish himself are nonexistent. SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who has no operational talent or experience, is now appointed by Hitler to lead Army Group Vistula, the main function of which will be to oppose the main Soviet thrusts. This is seen as an extreme insult by the German General Staff and Guderian, who blows up at the idea of 'such an idiocy being perpetrated on the Eastern Front.' (Read)

January 24, 1945: General Guderian meets with Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. He tells him that the war is lost, and urges him to negotiate an immediate armistice in the West. Ribbentrop acts sympathetic, swears him to secrecy, and then subsequently runs to Hitler with a squealers version of Guderian's views. Two days later, Hitler will express his fury to Keitel within earshot of Guderian: So, when the Chief of the General Staff goes to see the Foreign Minister and informs him of the situation in the East with the object of securing an armistice in the West, he is doing neither more nor less than committing high treason .... In the future, anyone who tells anyone else that the war is lost will be treated as a traitor, with all the consequences for him and his family. I will take action without regard to rank and reputation! (Read, Kershaw)

January 25, 1945 Beleidigender Ardennes: Hitler's big gamble, the Battle of the Bulge, collapses. The last of the German reserves are now gone.

January 27, 1945: Advancing Soviet troops, after losing 250 soldiers fighting against the camps guards, enter the Monowitz camp of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. They find nearly 600 sick and dying Jews, Poles and Gypsies remaining of the 850 inmates that had been left behind when the camp was evacuated on January 17. The Lithuanian port of Memel falls to the Soviets.

January 27, 1945: From the notes of a Fuehrer conference:

Hitler: Do you think the English are enthusiastic about all the Russian developments?

Jodl: No, of course not. They have quite different plans. Perhaps we'll discover the full extent of their plans later.

Goering: They certainly didn't plan that we hold them off while the Russians conquer all of Germany... If this goes on we will get a telegram (from the English) in a few days. They were not counting on us defending ourselves step by step...holding them off like madmen while the Russians drive deeper and deeper into Germany, and practically have all of Germany now...

Jodl: The English have always regarded the Russians with suspicion.

Hitler: I have given orders that we shall play a trick on the English—an information sheet telling them the Russians are organizing 200,000 of our men (German POWs) led by German officers, all of them infected with Communism, and they will be marched into Germany. I have ordered this report to be delivered to the English. I have discussed it with the Foreign Minister (Ribbentrop). That will be like sticking them with a needle.

Goering: They entered the war to prevent us from going East, not to have the East reaching out to the Atlantic.

Hitler: That's quite clear. It is something abnormal. The English newspapers are already saying bitterly: Is there any sense in this war?

Goering: On the other hand I have read a report in Braune Blaetter that they can support the Russians with their air force. They can reach the Russian forces with their heavy bombers, even though it is a long flight. But the information comes from an absurd source.

Hitler: Tactically, the English cannot support them. Since we don't know where the Russians are and where we are, how on earth can the English know?

Hitler then assures the assembled participants that this strategy--instilling the fear of unchecked Russian expansionism in the hearts of the British and Americans--will yet prevail. However, the conference ends with no decision being made as to the defense of the Oder. (Payne, Shirer, Read)

January 27, 1945: After the conclusion of the daily situation conference, Hitler receives an unpleasant communication from General Schoerner at Army Group Center requesting that the evacuation of the industrial and mining region of Silesia be ordered. Hitler is silent on the other end. Schoerner continues: "These troops have been fighting a heavy battle for two weeks, and now they're finished. If we don't relieve them, we're going to lose the whole Seventeenth Army, and the road to Bavaria will be wide open. We're moving back to the Oder, and there we will stop." The silence on the other end of the line continues. Eventually Hitler wearily replies, "Yes, Schoerner. If you think it's right I'll have to agree." This is perhaps one of the last examples of Hitler actually making a rational decision. (Read)

January 28, 1945: From the diary of a German soldier lost and hiding in Hungary:

I've now finally given up hope that the war will be won. What an enormous guilt Hitler bears. If I can't see my family again, I don't want to live any longer. Above all, a quick death would be better for them than to be deported or otherwise tortured. I've buried one hope after another in this war. But now is the worst time. What will happen? ... The biggest mistake was the war with Russia. Whatever the courage and readiness for sacrifice, you can't take on an entire world...We just bit off too much to chew. Above all our leadership. (Kershaw)

January 29, 1945: Zhukov, more or less ignoring Himmler's army group, reaches the Oder. Himmler soon orders a counter-attack that immediately fails miserably. Bischofsburg falls to the Soviets as the Red Army continues its advance. (Read)

January 30, 1945: On the twelfth anniversary of Hitler's rule, and after intense lobbying by Goebbels, Hitler gives his last annual message by radio:

...I particularly address myself to German youth. In vowing ourselves to one another, we are entitled to stand before the Almighty and ask Him for His grace and His blessing. No people can do more than that everybody who can fight, fights, and that everybody who can work, works, and that they all sacrifice in common, filled with but one thought: to safeguard freedom and national honor and thus the future of life. However grave the crisis may be at the moment, it will, despite everything, finally be mastered by our unalterable will...

January 31, 1945: The Czechoslovakian Government in London recognizes the Lublin Government in Poland. The US First Army enters Germany east of St. Vith and the French First Army gains ground in Alsace near Colmar. Zhukov's forces on the Oder River are now less than 50 miles from Berlin.

February 1, 1945: The US Army arrives at the Siegfried line (Siegfriedstellung), a line of defensive forts and tank defenses opposite the French Maginot Line that had been built by Germany during the 1930's. Note: The Germans themselves call this the Westwall.

February 2, 1945: Suspected of participation in the July 20th plot against Hitler, Mayor Karl F. Goerdeler of Leipzig is hanged. Jesuit priest Alfred Delp (a convert to Catholicism) is put to the rope and his cremated his ashes are scattered about. Klaus Bonhoeffer is sentenced to death by the German People's Court of 'Judge' Roland Freisler.

February 3, 1945: Allied Operation Thunderclap begins as US aircraft drop nearly 3,000 tons of explosives on the Zentrum (Berlin's city center). Nazi jurist Roland Freisler is killed running for shelter during a session of the "Peoples Court" and Gestapo headquarters is damaged so badly that the prisoners have to be moved to quarters that still actually boast walls. The Reich Chancellery suffers a number of direct hits. Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry is wrecked. Not one of Goering's Luftwaffe fighters is observed defending the city. Goering is roundly denounced by almost everyone in the bunker, and Speer will later recall that "For a long time he (Goering) had been made the scapegoat for all the failures of the Luftwaffe. At the situation conferences, Hitler habitually denounced him in the most violent and insulting language before the assembled officers. He must have been even nastier in the scenes he had with Goering privately. Often, waiting in the ante-room, I could hear Hitler shouting at him." (Read, Speer)

From Keitel's SBS interview: After the attack on Hamburg and the joint attacks which killed all the cultural monuments in Germany, it was quite obvious that there was no defense against it. The concentration of flak only meant that flak had to be withdrawn from some other place. We all had to admit that the Fuehrer was right in demanding more and more flak back in the days when he argued with Todt. In that manner, he proved the predictions which we didn't take seriously enough. He was saying the only defense id flak and more flak, and this must be supplemented by extremely fast bombers that hit back with the same type of attack ... There were trains of thought which the Fuehrer would entirely keep to himself. We could not exercise any influence especially because it was well known that the Fuehrer himself knew all the reasons very well and had discussed all these things with Goering alone. If somebody else than Goering had been the Supreme Commander of the Air Force, he would have taken a different attitude.

February 4-11, 1945 Yalta Conference: President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin meet near Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula, for the second of three wartime conferences among the major Allied Power leaders. The three leaders agree that: 'The establishment of order in Europe, and the rebuilding of national economic life, must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice.'

February 9, 1945 Yalta Conference: Near the end of this day's session, Stalin inquires about Hess. An annoyed Churchill replies that "events would catch up with Hess." Churchill, in complete contrast to the Soviets, does not at this point any longer consider Hess a major war criminal. He tells Stalin that Hess and the rest of "these men should be given a judicial trial." (Taylor)

February 13, 1945: At the afternoon situation conference in the Fuehrerbunker--the first since the Germans received the text of the Yalta Communiqué--the anger of Hitler's generals over Himmler's command of Army Group Vistula boils over. Himmler, answering General Guderian's demand that a counter-attack immediately be launched against Rokossovsy, meekly stammers that it simply can't be done as he needs more fuel and supplies.

Guderian explodes: We can't wait until the last can of petrol and the last shell has been issued! By that time the Russians will be too strong!

Hitler snaps back: I will not allow you to accuse me of procrastination!

Guderian: I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm simply saying that there's no use in waiting until the last load of supplies has been issued - and the favorable moment to attack has been lost.

Hitler: I just told you that I won't allow you to accuse me of procrastinating!

Guderian: I want General Wenck at Army Group Vistula as Chief of Staff. Otherwise there is no guarantee that the attack will be successful. (Glaring at Himmler) The man can't do it. How could he do it?

Hitler: The Reichsfuehrer is man enough to lead the attack on his own.

Guderian: The Reichsfuehrer doesn't have the experience or the right staff to lead the attack without help. The presence of General Wenck is absolutely necessary.

Hitler: How dare you criticize the Reichsfuehrer! I won't have you criticize him!

Guderian: I must insist that General Wenck be transferred to the staff of Army Group Vistula to lead the operation properly.

The argument goes on for hours as most of the conference participants slip out of the room one by one. Finally, with only Hitler, Guderian, Himmler, Wenck and their adjutants remaining in the room, Hitler suddenly relents. Stopping in front of Himmler's chair he declares:

Well, Himmler, General Wenck is going to Army Group Vistula tonight, to take over as Chief of Staff. (Turning to Guderian and flashing his most charming smile) Now let us please continue with the conference. Today, Colonel-General, the General Staff has won a battle. (Read, Guderian)

From Speer's IMT testimony: Among the military leaders there were many who, each in his own sphere, told Hitler quite clearly what the situation was. Many commanders of army groups, for instance, made it clear to him how catastrophic developments were, and there were often fierce arguments during the discussions on the situation. Men like Guderian and Jodl, for instance, often talked openly about their sectors in my presence, and Hitler could see quite well what the general situation was like. But I never observed that those who were actually responsible in the group around Hitler, ever went to him and said, "The war is lost." Nor did I ever see these people who had responsibility endeavor to unite in undertaking some joint step with Hitler. I did not attempt it for my part either, except once or twice, because it would have been useless, since at this stage, Hitler had so intimidated his closest associates that they no longer had any wills of their own.

February 13-15, 1945 Dresden Firestorm: 1,300 heavy bombers drop over 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices in four raids on the city of Dresden. Estimates vary widely, but recent scholarship has determined that somewhere between 24,000 and 40,000 civilians perished in the resulting firestorm. Himmler is informed of the first raid by the Dresden Police Chief on the 14th and writes to SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Alvesleben in Dresden: "The attacks were obviously very severe, but every first air raid always gives the impression that the town has been destroyed. Take all necessary steps at once... All the best."

Alvesleben reiterates the vast extent and horrific effect of the raid in a subsequent communications to Himmler, and requests permission to move SS headquarters elsewhere. On the 15th the Reichsfuehrer gives him permission to move only as far as the suburbs, saying: "Any further would make a rotten impression. Now is the time for iron steadfastness and immediate action to restore order. Set me a good example of calm and nerve!" When Goebbels hears of the devastation at Dresden, he demands that Hitler shoot "10,000 or more English and American POWs" as a reprisal, one for every German citizen killed in the air raids. Keitel, Jodl, Doenitz, and even Ribbentrop advise against the idea, and Hitler reluctantly decides against it. (Read)

February 14, 1945: Soviet forces capture Budapest, Hungary as German forces surrender. The Germans suffer more than 50,000 casualties in the 49-day battle.

February 14, 1945: Goebbels meets with Himmler and conspiratorially suggests that the two of them collude to improve the situation. Concerning peace feelers to the Allies, Goebbels suggests that it is "more likely that something could be accomplished in the East" with the "more realistic Stalin. Himmler disagrees, claiming the Britain may still 'come to its senses." Goebbels suggests that Hitler is overburdened and some of the weight on his shoulders should be shifted to their own. Hitler should be the President--Head of State, Goebbels Reich Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Himmler War Minister, and Bormann as Party Minister. (Read)

February 19, 1945: While Himmler relaxes in the hospital, his Chief of Staff, General Wenck, has been planning and preparing for a counterattack against Zhukov's exposed right flank. This attack, launched this day and spearheaded by the Third Panzer Army, successfully sends Zhukov's forces reeling.

February 21, 1945: While Himmler continues to relax in the hospital, General Wenck falls asleep at the wheel while driving back to headquarters from an all-night conference with Hitler. His car is smashed into the side of a railroad bridge, trapping him inside as it busts into flames. He is pulled from the fire with five broken ribs and a fractured skull, barely surviving. Without his leadership, the counter-attack against Zhukov's Army breaks down and Himmler's stock with Hitler further plummets. (Read)

February 22, 1945: As part of the Allied Operation Clarion--the destruction of German traffic centers in the smaller cities--the marshalling yard in Hildesheim is attacked in the afternoon. Due to good weather and clear sight the marshalling yard is heavily damaged, while the city itself receives only minor damage, with about 250 people killed.

February 23, 1945: Churchill, after an evening of reflection on the massive bombing of German cites, comments ruefully to an associate: "What will lie between the white snows of Russia and the white cliffs of Dover?" (Jenkins)

February 24, 1945: Hitler addresses the Reich by radio:

...Right itself is nothing but the duty to defend the life entrusted to us by the Creator of the world. It is the sacred right of self-preservation. Whether this self-preservation will be successful depends solely on the greatness of our efforts and on willingness to make any sacrifice to preserve this life for the future...

February 25, 1945: From an order by Gauleiter and National Defense Commissioner of Westfalen-Sud, Albert Hoffman:

Fighter-bomber pilots who are shot down are in principle not to be protected against the fury of the people. I expect from all police officers that they will refuse to lend their protection to these gangster types. Authorities acting in contradiction to the popular sentiment will have to account to me. All police and gendarmerie officials are to be informed immediately of this, my attitude.

February 26, 1945: At the urging of Field Marshal Kesselring, the German consul in Lugano, Alexander von Neurath, meets on the Western Front with Rundstedt's chief of staff, General Westphal, and Field Marshal Blaskowitz, commander of Army Group G. They propose to surrender the Western and Italian Fronts in return for immunity from war crime trials. (Waller)

February 26, 1945: Berlin is subjected to very heavy bombing.

February 28, 1945: Goebbels is still furious at Goering, whom he blames for the firebombing of Dresden and the inability of the Luftwaffe to do anything against the Allied air offensive. "What a burden of guilt this parasite has brought on his own head, for his slackness and interest in his own comfort," he tells his aides. "Why didn't the Fuehrer listen to my earlier warnings? But I was always called a pessimist and an ignorant civilian, who could not understand military matters." He continues, later that night, to rage against Goering to his diary: "Fools covered with medals and vain, perfumed fops have no place in the conduct of war. Either they change or they must be eliminated." The total number of German soldiers captured in February alone is 280,000 with a death toll of 350,000. (Semmler, Read)

March 1, 1945: FDR reports to Congress on the Crimean Conference:

...When we met at Yalta, in addition to laying our strategic and tactical plans for the complete, final military victory over Germany, there were other problems of vital political consequence. For instance, there were the problems of occupational control of Germany after victory, the complete destruction of her military power, and the assurance that neither the Nazis nor Prussian militarism could again be revived to threaten the peace and civilization of the world.

Secondly, again for example, there was the settlement of the few differences which remained among us with respect to the international security organization after the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. As you remember at that time, I said afterward we had agreed 90 per cent. A pretty good percentage. I think the other 10 per cent was ironed out at Yalta.

Thirdly, there were the general political and economic problems common to all of the areas that would be in the future, or which had been, liberated from the Nazi yoke. There are special problems--we over here find it difficult to understand the ramifications of many of these problems in foreign lands. But we are trying to. Fourth, there were the special problems created by a few instances, such as Poland and Yugoslavia. Days were spent in discussing these momentous matters. We argued freely and frankly across the table. But at the end, on every point, unanimous agreement was reached.

And more important even than the agreement of words, I may say we achieved a unity of thought and a way of getting along together. Of course we know that it was Hitler's hope--and German war lords'--that we would not agree, that some slight crack might appear in the solid wall of Allied unity, a crack that would give him and his fellow-gangsters one last hope of escaping their just doom. That is the objective for which his propaganda machine has been working for many months. But Hitler has failed. Never before have the major Allies been more closely united...

March 3, 1945: Finland declares war on Germany.

March 5, 1945: Lieutenant-General Helmuth Reymann takes over as military commander of Berlin. Hitler and Goebbels have been imprisoning or executing anyone expressing the 'defeatist' idea that the Soviets will be able to fight their way to Berlin, so it is not surprising that its new commander discovers that virtually nothing whatsoever has been done to prepare the city's defenses or to look after the welfare of its residents. Meanwhile in the West, US troops enter Cologne. (Read)

March 5, 1945 Goebbels Diary:

If anyone can master the crisis, then he (Hitler) can. No one else can be found who is anywhere near touching him... The general mood in the Reich Chancellery is pretty dismal. I would rather not go again because the atmosphere is infectious. The generals hang their heads and the Fuehrer holds his head high. (Kershaw, Seward)

March 6, 1945: The first regiment of the new Romanian Nationalist Army takes a position along the Oder River and is inspected by General Platon Chirnoaga, Minister of Defense in the new Romanian government-in-exile. Meanwhile, King Michael appoints a new government dominated by the Romanian Communist Party under Petru Groza. This is the first solid proof since Yalta that Stalin may not intend to honor his assurances about doing nothing to hinder the process of democracy in Eastern Europe.

March 7, 1945: Tanks of the US Third Corps reach the Rhine River opposite the small German town of Remagen, Germany, and discover that the Ludendorff Bridge is still standing. Hitler is so furious to learn of the Americans' use of the intact Ludendorff Bridge that he fires General Gerd von Rundstedt as commander of western German forces. Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower will later state that the discovery of the intact bridge "put victory just around the corner."

March 11, 1945: Markt Schellenberg, a small Alpine village near Hitler's Berghof, holds a memorial ceremony for their war dead. From a Nazi report (filed April 4, 1945) of the incident: When the leader of the Wehrmacht unit at the end of his speech for the remembrance called for a "Sieg Heil" for the Fuehrer, it was returned neither by the Wehrmacht present, nor by the Volkssturm, nor by the spectators of the civilian population who had turned up. "This silence of the masses," commented an observer from the local police, "had a depressing effect, and probably reflects better than anything the attitudes of the population." (Kershaw)

March 13, 1945: Josef Goebbels, from his diary:

This evening's Mosquito raid was particularly disastrous for me because our Ministry was hit. The whole lovely building on the Wilhelmstrasse was totally destroyed by a bomb...The Fuehrer telephones me immediately after the raid on the Ministry. He too is very sad that it has now hit me. So far we have been lucky even during the heaviest raids on Berlin. Now, however, we have lost not only a possession but an anxiety. In future I need no longer tremble for the Ministry. All those present at the fire voiced only scorn and hatred for Goering. All were asking repeatedly why the Fuehrer does not at last do something definite about him and the Luftwaffe. The Fuehrer than asks me over for a short visit. During the interview I have with him he is very impressed by my account of things. I give him a description of the devastation which is being wrought and tell him particularly of the increasing fury of the Mosquito raids which take place every evening. I cannot prevent myself voicing sharp criticism of Goering and the Luftwaffe.

But it is always the same story when one talks to the Fuehrer on this subject. He explains the reasons for the decay of the Luftwaffe, but he cannot make up his mind to draw the consequences therefrom. He tells me that after the recent interviews he had with him Goering was a broken man. But what is the good of that! I can have no sympathy with him. If he did lose his nerve somewhat after his recent clash with the Fuehrer, that is but a small punishment for the frightful misery he has brought and is still bringing on the German people. I beg the Fuehrer yet again to take action at last, since things cannot go on like this. We ought not, after all, to send our people to their doom because we do not possess the strength of decision to root out the cause of our misfortune. The Fuehrer tells me that new fighters and bombers are now under construction, of which he has certain hopes. But we have heard it so often before that we can no longer bring ourselves to place much hope in such statements. In any case it is now plenty late--not to say too late--to anticipate any decisive effect from such measures.

March 14, 1945: The 617 Dambuster Squadron of the RAF drops the heaviest bomb of the war; the 22,000-pound Grand Slam bomb. The Grand Slam is so big that it can only be carried one at a time by powerful, specially refitted four-engine bombers.

March 15, 1945: Himmler, having managed to get himself up from his hospital bed and make his way to the Fuehrerbunker, receives "an extraordinarily severe dressing-down" from his enraged Fuehrer. Hitler has learned that one of his favorite generals, SS-Oberstgruppenfuehrer Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Sixth SS-Panzer Army--whose four crack Waffen-SS divisions include the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler--has ordered his troops to retreat from the hopeless situation in Budapest. The sputtering warlord orders a petrified Himmler to force the "traitorous" units to remove their "loyalty is my honor" armbands. When Himmler relays the order, Dietrich refuses to pass it down to the embattled soldiery. (Read)

March 18, 1945: Panzer Leader General Heinz Guderian, extremely concerned that huge numbers of Waffen SS and other German troops are in danger of being surrounded and captured (and most probably killed) by the Red Army, meets with the Reichsfuehrer SS. Himmler, with no military training or aptitude whatsoever, is in command of the endangered forces, but Guderian finds him laid up "with an attack of influenza" in a hospital. He finds him sitting up in his bed and, as the annoyed general writes in his diary, "apparently in robust health." Guderian, realizing that the lives of many German troops have no chance of rescue under Himmler, whose hospital stay in reality has been caused by the strain of being an incompetent officer faced with an impossible situation, attempts to convince Himmler to give up command by humoring him. He sympathetically points out that the SS chief has far too much responsibility, and that "such a plethora of offices was bound to be beyond the strength of any one individual."

After Guderian musters a number of further arguments, Himmler protests that he simply could not face Hitler and ask to be relieved. "He wouldn't approve of my making such a suggestion," he answers. Guderian offers to talk with the Fuehrer on Himmler's behalf, and Himmler soon gives his assent. Guderian meets with Hitler soon after and, explaining that Himmler is unwell and "overburdened," recommends that he be replaced by the commander of the 1st Panzer Army, General Heinrici. After "a certain amount of grumbling," Hitler agrees to the move. He will later comment ruefully that giving Himmler a military command had been a failed experiment. (Clark)

March 18, 1945: On a beautiful Sunday morning, 1,250 American bombers with a 700 fighter escort deliver a devastating raid on Berlin. The Luftwaffe sends 28 ME-262 jet fighters into the fray--the first significant number of these jets to see action--and they succeed in shooting down a mere 15 Allied planes. 7 more US planes are brought down by flak. (Read)

March 19, 1945 Nero Decree: Fuehrer Order:

Measures for destruction’s in Reich Territory: The struggle of our nation for existence also forces the utilization of all means to weaken the fighting power of our enemy and to prevent further advances. Advantage must be taken of all opportunities to inflict the most enduring damage to the striking power of the enemy directly or indirectly. It is a mistake to believe in the possibility of work resumption for our own purposes of undestroyed or only temporarily paralyzed traffic, communications, industrial, and supply installations after the recapture of lost territories. On his retreat the enemy will leave behind only scorched earth and refrain from any consideration for the population. I therefore command:

1. All military traffic, communications, industrial and supply installation as well as objects on Reich territory, which the enemy might immediately or later utilize for the continuation of his fight, are to be destroyed. 2. The military commands are responsible for the execution of this destruction of all military objects including traffic and communications installations. The Gauleiters and Commissioners for Reich Defense are responsible for the destruction of the industrial and supply installations as well as of other valuable objects; the Gauleiter and Commissioners for Reich Defense are to be given necessary assistance by the troops in carrying out this task. 3. This command is to be transmitted as promptly as possible to all troop commanders; orders to the contrary are null and void. Adolf Hitler.

March 23, 1945: Guderian meets again with Himmler, and again urges him to take matters into his own hands and sue for peace. He tells him: The war can no longer be won. The only problem now is finding the quickest way of putting an end to the senseless slaughter and bombing. Apart from Ribbentrop, you are the only man with contacts in foreign countries. Since the Foreign Minister is reluctant to open negotiations, you must go with me to Hitler and urge him to arrange an armistice.

March 24, 1945: FDR forbids his staff to say anything whatsoever about Soviet guilt for Katyn.

March 27, 1945: Germany launches its last V-2 rocket from the Hague in the Netherlands as General Dwight Eisenhower declares the German defenses on the Western front broken. Meanwhile, Argentina declares war on Germany and Japan.

March 28, 1945: Keitel, preparing to leave for the front, is called back to the Fuehrer Bunker for the afternoon conference. The long-running conflict between Hitler and his generals comes to a head as, in a scene reminiscent of a Mad-Hatter's Tea Party, Hitler dismisses General Heinz Guderian. Note: At this point in the war it hardly matters; the military situation is beyond hopeless, and, even though there are some Panzer’s available for action, there is little fuel for them. (Clark)

March 28, 1945 Goebbels' Diary:

But it pains me that he (Hitler) is at present not moved to do anything so that the political crisis in the enemy camp deepens. He doesn't change personnel, either in the Reich government or in the diplomatic service. Goering stays, Ribbentrop stays. All failures--apart from the second rank--are retained, and it would in my view be so necessary to undertake here in particular a change of personnel because this would be of such decisive importance for the morale of our people. I press and press; but I can't convince the Fuehrer of the necessity of these measures that I put forward. (Kershaw)

March 28, 1945: Churchill, in spite of opposition by 'Bomber' Harris and others, orders restrictions on area bombings of German population centers, telling the war cabinet: "Otherwise, we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land... The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing." (Jenkins)

March 31, 1945: A secret codicil (kept secret for over 50 years) to the Yalta agreement is completed. Stalin agrees that as the Russians liberate POW camps in Germany, American and British POW's will be turned over to the American and British forces. Likewise, as the Americans and British liberate German POW camps, Russian POWs will, in all cases, be returned to Russia. Unfortunately, while American and British POWs want to return to their own forces, Russian POWs, in the main, do not want to return to Russia because they know what awaits them. Stalin has made it clear that he considers Russian prisoners traitors to communism. Death or exile will be their fate. FDR and Churchill, aware of these facts, agree anyway; it is hard to see how they could do otherwise without running the risk of having their own troops become virtual hostages. Note: This is one of the events collectively referred to by some as the "Allied Holocaust." Ultimately, two million Soviet citizens will be sent back to the communists where they will either be immediately executed or sent to die in the Gulag.

April 8, 1945: Goebbels maintains that the Allies are in as bad a shape as Germany, and if Germany can just hold out a little longer, the enemy will collapse:

Under the fury of the enemy offensives that have been pressing down on our fronts to the west, east, and south for months, as well as the almost unceasing bombing of our German cities and provinces, some hearts are beginning to shake and tremble...

April 10, 1945: Medics of the US 3rd Armored Division report that they have discovered Nordhausen Death Camp on the way to Camp Dora. In the two adjacent camps they discover 5,000 corpses. 1,200 patients are soon evacuated, with 15 dying on their way to the hospital area and another 300 subsequently dying of malnutrition. The American Third Army liberates the prison camp at Buchenwald, where nearly 57,000 prisoners (mostly Jews) had perished. (Sellier)

April 12, 1945: Field Marshal Kesselring meets with Hitler for the last time. He will later record that Hitler "...was still optimistic. How far he was play-acting it is hard to decide. Looking back, I am inclined to think that he was literally obsessed with the idea of some miraculous salvation, that he clung to it like a drowning man to a straw." (Kershaw)

April 12, 1945: President Roosevelt dies; Truman becomes President. The Allies liberate Buchenwald and Belsen concentration camps.

April 13, 1945: Vienna, the first foreign capital to be occupied by Hitler, is liberated by the Russians under Fedor Tolbukhin. Meanwhile, American and British troops discontinue the march towards Berlin. The Soviets now have the road to Berlin to themselves.

April 13, 1945: At the daily situation conference, a newly confident Hitler--whom Ribbentrop will later recall was "in seventh heaven" this day with the news of FDR's death--announces that he has decided that the war will be won in Berlin, and he intends to stay in the city and direct the battle. He orders that units falling back from the Oder form a hard nucleus for the purpose of drawing the Soviet columns towards them, while the remaining German forces attack the columns from the sides. Most of his generals are skeptical, and a few try to talk him into moving to the relative safety of Berchtesgaden, but Hitler refuses to even consider it. He will make his last stand in Berlin. (Read)

April 13, 1945: Former US Attorney General and now Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Justice Robert Jackson, speaks before the American Society of International Law:

...All else will fail unless we can devise instruments of adjudication, and conciliation, so reasonable and acceptable to the masses of people that future governments will have always an honorable alternative to war. The time when these institutions will be most needed will probably not come until the names that signify leadership in today’s world will have passed into history...

April 14, 1945: Franz Von Papen is arrested by an American platoon in a rustic lodge in the forests of Westphalia, eating stew with a granddaughter. Papen has been constantly on the run (first from the Gestapo, then from the Allies) since returning to Germany from his diplomatic post in Turkey. The Americans wait patiently as he packs a small rucksack. (Tusa)

April 16, 1945: The Battle of the Seelow Heights begins as General Zhukov launches his final attack on Berlin. His forces soon run into trouble, and the battle just west of the River Oder proves to be no cake-walk as the Germans, under no illusions as to their probable fate under the Soviets, fight with dogged and fanatic determination. Stalin soon orders Koniev, Zhuvok's rival, to direct his armored forces directly at the Nazi capital with the result that three competing Soviet Fronts are now advancing on Berlin: 2.5 million men, 41,600 guns and mortars, 6,250 tanks and self propelled guns, over a million multiple rocket launchers, and 7,500 aircraft. In contrast, Heinrici's Army Group Vistula has 250,000 poorly armed men, 850 tanks, 500 anti-aircraft batteries doubling as artillery, and 300 aircraft with no fuel. (Clark, Read)

April 16, 1945: As the Soviets near Berlin and the Americans enter Nuremberg, Hitler addresses what's left of his forces:

...The Jewish Bolshevik arch-enemy has gone over to the attack with his masses for the last time. He attempts to smash Germany and to eradicate our nation. You soldiers from the east today already know yourselves to a large extent what fate is threatening, above all, German women, girls and children. While old men and children are being murdered, women and girls are humiliated to the status of barracks prostitutes. Others are marched off to Siberia. We have anticipated this thrust, and since January of this year everything has been done to build up a strong front. Mighty artillery is meeting the enemy. Our infantry's casualties were replenished by countless new units. Reserve units, new formations and the Volksturm reinforce our front. This time the Bolsheviks will experience Asia's old fate. That is, he must and will bleed to death...

April 16, 1945: In his first speech to Congress, President Harry S. Truman pledges to carry out the war and peace policies of his late predecessor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

...So that there can be no possible misunderstanding, both Germany and Japan can be certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that America will continue the fight for freedom until no vestige of resistance remains! We are deeply conscious of the fact that much hard fighting is still ahead of us. Having to pay such a heavy price to make complete victory certain, America will never become a party to any plan for partial victory! To settle for merely another temporary respite would surely jeopardize the future security of all the world. Our demand has been, and it remains-Unconditional Surrender! We will not traffic with the breakers of the peace on the terms of the peace.

The responsibility for making of the peace-and it is a very grave responsibility-must rest with the defenders of the peace. We are not unconscious of the dictates of humanity. We do not wish to see unnecessary or unjustified suffering. But the laws of God and of man have been violated and the guilty must not go unpunished. Nothing shall shake our determination to punish the war criminals even though we must pursue them to the ends of the earth. Lasting peace can never be secured if we permit our dangerous opponents to plot future wars with impunity at any mountain retreat - however distant. In this shrinking world, it is futile to seek safety behind geographical barriers. Real security will be found only in law and in justice...

April 18, 1945: German forces in the Ruhr surrender.

April 21, 1945: Goering cleans out his vast Prussian estate, Karinhall (or, variously, Carinhall). He loads up twenty trucks and cars with files, equipment, and his remaining riches (he'd already sent off two trainloads full). Next, he calls his four pet bison to him by name and kills them with his hunting rifle, leaving instructions that the meat be distributed to the endless columns of refugees streaming away from the Soviet advance. After spending some time in the mausoleum on the grounds that hold the remains of his beloved first wife (a Swedish baroness), he leaves at the head of the line of vehicles after pushing the plunger himself and blowing Karinhall to bits. Parking the convoy in front of Luftwaffe headquarters at Werder, he drives on to the days situation conference at the Fuehrerbunker. (Read)

April 21, 1945: Before the daily situation conference, Goering takes Keitel aside and pleads with him to talk Hitler into leaving Berlin for Berchtesgaden while there is still an open road. For the last ten days, all non-vital personnel have been transported to the Berchtesgaden area (the so-called Alpine Redoubt), and a fleet of planes is standing by to evacuate the big shots. Keitel will later relate that he agreed to talk to Hitler because "my own absolutely firm belief at that time (was) that the Fuehrer and the OKW staff would...also be transferring their supreme command to Berchtesgaden." Keitel is joined by other generals in urging the Fuehrer to abandon Berlin, but he resists the idea, saying only: "I leave it to fate whether I die in the capital or fly to Obersalzberg at the last moment." (Read)

April 20, 1945: Hitler celebrates his 56th birthday in his Berlin bunker. With the Russians at the gates of Berlin, the increasingly deranged dictator receives the murmured birthday greetings of his entourage with a limp handshake and a vacant expression. Present to wish their Fuehrer well are Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, Doenitz, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, and various generals. After breakfast--in late afternoon--Hitler makes his last trip to the surface in order to award Iron Crosses to some 20 'soldiers' of the Hitler Youth who had distinguished themselves in combat. Hitler mutters a few words to the teenagers, pats a few on the cheek, and within minutes makes his way haltingly back to his Bunker. (Shirer, Read)

April 21, 1945: Before leaving the Fuehrerbunker, Goering takes Himmler aside and urges him to extend peace feelers to the West. Himmler mockingly informs him of his negotiations with Swedish Red Cross envoy Bernadotte and tells him that he is meeting with him again in the evening. He tauntingly tells Goering; "You know, he must be the man sent by Eisenhower to negotiate," but Goering responds coolly; "Don't take offense, but I doubt that they'll find YOU acceptable as a negotiating partner." "Sorry to contradict you," the smug SS leader replies, "But I have incontrovertible proof that I am considered abroad to be the only person capable of maintaining order."

Before Goering can find the words to respond to this ridiculous contention, Himmler asks him whether or not he will appoint him as Chancellor should Hitler meet his demise. Goering says that that is impossible, as the office of Chancellor is not a separate office, but bound up in the office of the Fuehrer. Himmler pushes on, perhaps in an attempt to get his rival to lose his temper: "Herr Reich Marshal," Himmler needles, "if anything should prevent you from succeeding the Fuehrer--say you are eliminated--can I have the position?" Goering keeps his cool: "My dear Himmler, we shall have to wait and see. That will depend upon circumstances. I can't for the life of me see what might prevent me from taking up office." (Read)

April 20, 1945: Hitler appoints Doenitz (a naval officer) commander of German ground forces in the North, and appoints Kesselring (an air officer) as commander of German ground forces in the South. (Read)

April 21, 1945: The Red Army reaches Berlin.

April 21, 1945: Dr. Goebbels laments the last decisive break-through of the Russians near Berlin:

After all, the German people did not want it otherwise. The German people by a great majority decided through a plebiscite on the withdrawal from the League of Nations and against a policy of yielding and chose, instead, a policy of courage and honor; thereby the German people themselves chose the war which they have now lost."

April 21, 1945 Death: Field Marshal Walter Model (AKA the "Fuehrer's Fireman") learns that the USSR has indicted him for the deaths of 577,000 people in concentration camps in Latvia, the deportation of 175,000 others as slave labor, and other war crimes. Model tells his staffers: "Has everything been done to justify our actions in the light of history? What can there be left for a commander in defeat? In antiquity they took poison". After his attempts to seek death on the front line do not succeed, he commits suicide this day by shooting himself in the head. (Newton)

April 22, 1945: From the last of Goebbels' articles in Das Reich:

...This is the age of wars between nations. When whole peoples are threatened, whole peoples must defend themselves. The enemy does not want to take a province from us or push us back to more favorable strategic borders; he wants to cut our very arteries by destroying our mines and factories, destroying our national substance. If he succeeds, Germany will become a cemetery. Our people will starve and perish, aside from the millions who will be deported to Siberia as slave labor. In such a situation, any means is justified...

April 22, 1945: At 11:30 AM, the Red Air Force (the RAF and Americans have already made their last attacks on Berlin, leaving the Soviets to deal with the Nazi capital unencumbered) and Red Army artillery begins a fierce bombardment of Berlin's city center (the Zentrum), with shells and bombs falling at a rate of one every 5 seconds. The Brandenburg Gate is hit and the Reichstag and old Royal Palace catch fire. Heavy explosions rock the Fuehrerbunker, causing Hitler to experience flashbacks to his WW1 days in the trenches. Hitler never does recover from the unnerving barrage, and issues frantic and contradictory orders throughout the day. He furiously calls Koller, demanding why there is no air cover. When the Luftwaffe officer replies that there is no fuel for the jets, Hitler explodes: "Then we don't need the jets anymore! The Luftwaffe is superfluous. The entire Luftwaffe leadership should be hanged immediately!"

After slamming down the phone and steaming for awhile, he calls poor Koller back and demands that he round up all Luftwaffe personnel--including Goering's paratroops in his personal bodyguard--and muster them for inclusion in new "combat formations." The hard-pressed Koller--working through the night--manages to assemble nearly a division's worth; 12-15,000 untrained and unarmed ground staff. When he later somewhat fearfully relates the results of his recruitment effort, Hitler responds with a surprising amount of optimism: "You will see, the Russians will suffer the greatest defeat, the bloodiest defeat in their history, at the gates of Berlin." (Read)

April 23, 1945: By the afternoon situation conference (3 PM), Hitler shows all the signs of a man going through drug withdrawal. For the first time in many months, he is without his daily dose of an amphetamine cocktail that is usually administered by his just dismissed "doctor." After learning that Soviet forces have taken Eberswalde without a fight, and that Steiner has refused to give the order for a futile counterattack north of the city, Hitler listens in silence. Then, in an episode some historians will describe as a nervous breakdown, Hitler suddenly leaps up and, while flushed in the face and trembling violently, rants and raves against them all, declaring that they are guilty of every evil attribute from cowardice to incompetence. "The war is lost," he screams. "Everything is falling apart." He states that suicide is now his only recourse: "Alive or dead," he declares, "I shall not fall into the hands of the enemy. I can no longer fight on the battlefield; I'm not strong enough. I shall shoot myself." He then slumps into his seat and begins to sob: "The war is lost. I shall shoot myself." (Read)

April 23, 1945: For a full five minutes after Hitler declares that he shall stay in Berlin and commit suicide, no one in the Bunker speaks. Then, with the encouragement of the others, Jodl--in an attempt to salvage at least some of his Fuehrer's until-now-unbounded confidence--makes a proposal. He suggests that the German Twelfth Army under General Walther Wenck, now facing the Americans, should move to Berlin. He proposes that this can now be done because the Americans, already on the Elbe River, are unlikely to move further east any time soon. Hitler immediately grasps the straw Jodl presents and orders Wenck to disengage from the Americans and move the Twelfth Army north-east to support Berlin. He later gives further orders that Twelfth Army should attempt a link-up with Ninth Army.

At some point, Hitler orders Bormann, Keitel and Jodl to fly to Berchtesgaden. All three refuse. Keitel, in Jodl's presence, declares: "In seven years I have never refused to carry out an order from you, but this is one order I shall never carry out. You cannot and should not leave the Wehrmacht in the lurch at a time like this." "I am staying here," Hitler stubbornly replies, "and that is that. Goering can take over the leadership down there. If there has to be any negotiating with the enemy, as there has to be now, then Goering is better at that then I am. Either I fight and win the Battle of Berlin of Berlin--or I am killed in Berlin. That is my final and irrevocable decision." (Clark, Read, Keitel)

April 23, 1945: In Berchtesgaden, Goering hears the news of Hitler's breakdown from a phone call from Koller. He orders Koller to join him at Obersalzberg. Upon arriving, Koller tells Goering of Hitler's resolve to stay in Berlin, as well as of and his statement that Goering would be a better choice to take over leadership in the south and direct negotiations with the enemy. Goering remarks that Hitler has played a "mean trick" on him and put him in a very difficult position. Koller will later write an account of the meeting: "Then he asked me whether I thought that Hitler was still alive or whether he had, perhaps, appointed Martin Bormann as his successor. I told him Hitler was alive when I left Berlin." Koller urges him to seize the moment, but Goering is wary. "Bormann is my deadly enemy," Goering explains. "He is only waiting to get at me. If I act, he will call me a traitor. If I don't, he will accuse me of having failed at the most difficult hour."

The Fuehrer decree concerning Hitler's successor is located and read aloud: "Should I have my freedom of action curtailed or be otherwise incapacitated, Reich Marshal Hermann Goering is to be my deputy and successor in all offices of State, Party, and Wehrmacht." The State Secretary of the Reich Chancellery is reached on the phone (remarkably, the telephone system will continue to function through most of the Battle for Berlin) for a legal opinion; Lammers: "The law of 29 June 1941 is valid and legally binding. The Fuehrer has made no other order. If he had, I would have known. He could not have changed the decree legally without me." Koller suggests that Goering send a message to Hitler seeking his approval. Keeping Lammers on the line, the three of them draft a carefully worded message to their Fuehrer. (Read)

April 23, 1945: Goering sends a message to Hitler:

My Fuehrer, Since you are determined to remain at your post in Fortress Berlin, do you agree that I, as your deputy in accordance with your decree of 29.6.41, assume immediately total leadership of the Reich with complete freedom of action at home and abroad? If by 2200 hours no answer is forthcoming, I shall assume that you have been deprived of your freedom of action. I will then consider the terms of your decree to have come into force and act accordingly for the good of the people and the Fatherland. You must realize what I fell for you in these most difficult hours of my life, and I am quite unable to find words to express it. God bless you and that you may come here (to Berchtesgaden) after all as soon as possible. Your most loyal Herman Goering.

April 23, 1945: Albert Speer, in his best selling books about the period, claimed to have been present at a remarkable number of key moments and events. This is perhaps one of the moments he actually witnessed first hand. He will later write: "Perhaps this was Bormann's last effort to induce Hitler to fly to Berchtesgaden and take control there." Speer then relates that Bormann--waving the printout of Goering's message in his hand--declares it proof that Goering is staging a coup d'etat. He fails to get a reaction from a still apathetic Fuehrer. However, the text of a further message from Goering addressed to Reich Foreign Minister Ribbentrop--with a copy intended for Keitel--is delivered to Bormann, who immediately reads it aloud to Hitler and Speer. (Speer, Read)

April 23, 1945: Hermann Goering's radio message to Ribbentrop: I have asked the Fuehrer to provide me with instructions by 10 PM 23 April. If by this time it is apparent that the Fuehrer has been deprived of his freedom of action to conduct the affairs of the Reich, his decree of 29 June 1941 becomes effective, according to which I am heir to all his offices as his deputy. (If) by 12 midnight, 23 April 1945, you receive no word either from the Fuehrer or from me, you are to come to me at once by air.

April 23, 1945: From Albert Speer's later account:

"Goering is engaged in treason!" Bormann cried. "He's already sending telegrams to members of the government and announcing that on the basis of his powers he will assume your office at twelve o'clock tonight, my Fuehrer!" ...An outburst of wild fury (from Hitler) followed, in which feelings of bitterness, helplessness, self-pity and despair mingled. With flushed face and staring eyes, Hitler ranted on as if he had forgotten the presence of his entourage: "I've known it all along. I know that Goering is lazy. He let the air force go to pot. He was corrupt. His example made corruption in our state. Besides, he's been a drug addict for years. I've known it all along." As suddenly as it had begun, the tantrum ends with a statement of resignation: "Well, all right. Let Goering negotiate the surrender, it doesn't matter who does it." He will soon change his mind again. (Speer)

April 23, 1945: At 5 PM, Goering receives a message from Bormann in Hitler's name: "The decree of 29.6.41 only comes into effect on my specific agreement. There can be no talk of lack of freedom to act. I forbid you to take any steps in the direction you have indicated." Goering immediately orders that a signal go out to Ribbentrop and Keitel canceling his previous message. However, just minutes later a further communication from the Fuehrerbunker . He is told that because of his long service his life is to be spared, but he must immediately resign from all his official offices, titles, and duties. Goering does so within the next half an hour. (Read)

April 24, 1945: Hermann Goering is officially placed under house arrest by a squad of 30 SS men.

April 24, 1945: Speer meets with Himmler, and fills him in on the events in Berlin and of Goering's fall. Himmler maintains that Goering's fall is temporary: "Goering is going to be the successor now. We've long had an understanding that I would be his Premier. Even without Hitler, I can make him Head-of-State .... You know what he's like--naturally, I'll be the one to make the decisions. I've already been in touch with various persons I mean to take into my Cabinet. Keitel is coming to see me shortly .... Europe cannot manage without me in the future, either. It will go on needing me as Minister of Police. After I've spent an hour with Eisenhower, he'll appreciate that fact. They'll soon realize that they're dependant on me--or they'll have a hopeless chaos on their hands. After telling Speer of his recent negotiations with Swedish Red Cross envoy Bernadotte, Himmler hints that there may be a place for Speer in his cabinet. Speer will later write that he countered this by offering the Reichsfuehrer SS the use of Speer's own private plane for the purpose of flying to Berlin to see Hitler one last time. Himmler declines: "Now I must prepare my new government. And besides, my person is too important for the future of Germany for me to risk the flight." (Speer, Read)

April 25, 1945 Elbe Day: US and Soviet forces link up at Torgau, Germany, on the Elbe River, a meeting that dramatizes the collapse of Nazi Germany's defenses. Arrangements are made for the formal "Handshake of Torgau" between Robertson and Silvashko in front of photographers the following day. Statements are released simultaneously in London, Moscow, and Washington in the evening reaffirming the determination of the three Allied powers to complete the destruction of the Third Reich.

April 26, 1945: After his villa is bombed by the RAF, Goering convinces Bernhard Frank--the leader of the SS squad holding him under house arrest--that it would be better if they all moved to Goering's castle in Mauterndorf. Early this morning, Goering, Lammers, Koller, and their SS guard leave for the castle. (Read)

April 26, 1945: As the party makes their way to Goering's castle in Mauterndorf, an announcement is made on German radio:

Reich Marshal Hermann Goering has been taken ill with his long-standing chronic heart condition, which has now entered an acute stage. At a time when the efforts of all forces are required, he has therefore requested to be relieved of his command of the Luftwaffe and all duties connected thereto. The Fuehrer has granted this request. The Fuehrer has appointed Colonel-General Ritter von Greim as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe while simultaneously promoting him to Field Marshal.

April 26, 1945: In the evening a small plane containing famed test pilot Hanna Reitsch and Luftwaffe General Ritter von Greim lands on an improvised air strip in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate following a daring flight in which Greim had been wounded in the foot by Soviet ground fire. Reitsch will later write that Hitler's "head drooped heavily on his shoulders, and a continual twitching affected both his arms. His eyes glassy and remote, he greets us with an expressionless voice." The wounded Greim--who could just as well have been appointed by phone--is informed personally by Hitler that he is now a Field-Marshal and Goering's successor. Hitler tells them of Goering's "treachery": "Nothing is spared me! Nothing! Every disillusion, every betrayal, dishonor, treason has been heaped upon me. I have had Goering placed under immediate arrest, stripped him of all his offices, expelled him from every party organization." Hitler abruptly ends the meeting and leaves the room. Note: Payne places this meeting on the 24th, while Kershaw maintains that it occurred on the 26th. (Kershaw, Payne)

April 28, 1945: Allied occupation forces set up a provisional occupation government in Austria as the first step towards re-establishing the Austrian republic.

April 28, 1945: On this Saturday night, the bodies of Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci, are brought to Milan in a truck and dumped on the town square. The next day they will strung up by the heels from lampposts as Italian mobs celebrate by desecrating their corpses. Italian guerrillas had captured them while they were trying to escape to Switzerland and executed after a brief trial the previous day.

April 28, 1945: Sometime between 7 and 9 PM, a BBC report picked up in the Fuehrerbunker announces that Himmler has just offered to surrender Germany unconditionally to the Allies.

April 28, 1945: SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein--the brother-in-law of Eva Braun and also Himmler's liaison officer in the bunker--is arrested in civilian clothes while preparing to leave the country. He is brought back to Hitler's bunker, but is temporarily saved by Eva's pleas for mercy on behalf of her pregnant sister. The reprieve proves short-lived as Hitler soon becomes convinced that Fegelein's escape attempt is part of Himmler's treachery. Within an hour Fegelein is tried, sentenced to death, taken up to the Reich Chancellery Garden, and executed with a bullet in the back of his head. (Read)

April 29, 1945: Hitler dictates his Political Testament in his bunker in besieged Berlin:

...Many very brave men and women have resolved to link their lives to mine to the very end. I have requested them, and finally ordered them, not to do so, but instead to take part in the continuing struggle of the nation. I ask the commanders of the army, navy, and air force to strengthen by all possible means the spirit of resistance of our soldiers in the spirit of National Socialism, emphasizing especially that I too, as founder and creator of this movement, have preferred death to cowardly flight or even capitulation. May it be one day a part of the code of honor; as it is already in the navy, that the surrender of an area or of a town is impossible, and above all in this respect the leaders should give a shining example of faithful devotion to duty unto death...

April 29, 1945: Hitler and Eva Braun exchange marriage vows.

April 29, 1945: At 6 PM, Hitler announces to his staff that he and his wife, Eva, are going to commit suicide together unless some miracle intervenes. He then passes out vials of cyanide. At 9 PM, the news of the murder and the public humiliation of Mussolini and his mistress reaches the Bunker. Hitler vows that he will not share a similar fate.

April 30, 1945: In the early morning hours, Bormann dispatches a message to Doenitz:

DOENITZ! Our impression grows daily stronger that the divisions in the Berlin theater have been standing idle for several days. All reports we receive are controlled, suppressed, or distorted by Keitel .... The Fuehrer orders you to proceed at once, and mercilessly, against all traitors .... The Fuehrer is alive, and is conducting the defense of Berlin ... (Shirer)

April 30, 1945 Death: At 3:30 PM, Adolf Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, commit suicide in their private quarters under the Chancellery. Their bodies are taken above ground by Hitler's aides, burned with difficulty due to the conditions and the limited supply of gasoline, and buried in a shallow grave formed from a bomb crater. Kempka, Goebbels, Bormann, Krebs, Linge, and Burgdorf give one last Nazi salute to their Fuehrer, before an exploding Soviet shell sends them scurrying back down into the Bunker. (Read)

April 30, 1945: Bormann and Goebbels again radio Doenitz, without informing him that Hitler is already dead:

The Fuehrer has appointed you, Herr Admiral, as his successor in place of Reichsmarschall Goering. Confirmation in writing follows. You are hereby authorized to take any measures which the situation demands. (Shirer)

April 30, 1945: The bizarre turn of events catching him completely off guard, Doenitz, in shock, has absolutely no desire to succeed Hitler. Believing that Hitler is still alive, he replies to the previous message from the Fuehrer Bunker with as much encouragement as he can muster:

MY FUEHRER! My loyalty to you will be unconditional. I shall do everything possible to relieve you in Berlin. If fate nevertheless compels me to rule the Reich as your appointed successor, I shall continue this war to an end worthy of the unique, heroic struggle of the German people. (Shirer)

April 30, 1945: The Red Army captures the Reichstag.

May 1, 1945: An announcement is made on the German wireless:

Announcer: It has been reported from the Fuehrer's headquarters that our Fuehrer Adolf Hitler has died this afternoon in his battle headquarters at the Reich Chancellery, fallen for Germany, fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism. On the 30th of April the Fuehrer nominated Grossadmiral Doenitz to be his successor. The Grossadmiral and Fuehrer's successor will speak to the German nation." Doenitz: "German men and women, soldiers of the German Armed Forces. Our Fuehrer Adolf Hitler is dead. The German people bow in deepest sorrow and respect. Early he had recognized the terrible danger of Bolshevism and had dedicated his life to the fight against it. His fight having ended, he died a hero's death in the capital of the German Reich, after having led an unmistakably straight and steady life.

May 1, 1945: Doenitz receives another radio message signed by Goebbels and Bormann: The Fuehrer died yesterday, 1530 hours. In his will dated April 29 he appoints you as President of the Reich, Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, Bormann as Party Minister, Seyss-Inquart as Foreign Minister. The will, by order of the Fuehrer, is being sent to you and to Field Marshal Schoerner and out of Berlin for safe custody. Bormann will try to reach you today to explain the situation. Form and timing of announcement to the Armed Forces and the public is left to your discretion. Acknowledge.

May 1, 1945: After murdering their children, Joseph and Magda Goebbels commit suicide mere feet away from the partially burned and buried body of their Fuehrer.

May 2, 1945: The Soviets capture what's left of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

May 2, 1945: Executive Order of US President Truman:

...Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson is hereby designated to act as the Representative of the United States and as its Chief of Counsel in preparing and prosecuting charges of atrocities and war crimes against such of the leaders of the European Axis powers and their principal agents and accessories as the United States may agree with any of the United Nations to bring to trial before an international tribunal...

May 4, 1945: Goering, having finally talked his SS captors into letting him go, writes a letter to Doenitz complaining of Bormann's intrigues against him and his resultant loss of status. He offers his services as official German negotiator to Eisenhower--"as one marshal to another"--and reminds him of how well he had done in the past "in all the important negotiations abroad with which the Fuehrer always entrusted me before the war." "Moreover," he continues, "both Great Britain and America have proved through their press and radio, and in the declarations of their statesman over the last few years, that their attitude toward me is more favorable than toward all other political leaders in Germany." Doenitz never replies. (Read)

May 4, 1945: The US 7th Army captures Hitler's country retreat of Berchtesgaden as General LeClerc's French 2nd Armored Division discovers Hermann Goering's private train, loaded with priceless art objects, on a siding at the railway station.


May 4, 1945: Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering surrenders to the Allies.

From The Face Of The Third Reich by Joachim C Fest: In the final phase of his life he (Goering) suffered from profound illusion. In April 1945 he had been dismissed with ignominy from all his posts, arrested, and bequeathed a curse. But when he heard of Hitler's death, he was, his wife recalled, "close to despair" and exclaimed, "He's dead, Emmy. Now I shall never be able to tell him that I was true to him till the end!" In much the same way as Himmler, he hoped to be accepted by the Allies as a partner in negotiations. As General Bodenschatz has testified, soon after his capture by the Americans his main concern was the proclamation which he intended to make to the German people as soon as he had reached a satisfactory agreement with Eisenhower. His claim to the leadership of the Reich after Hitler's death was indisputable in his view. Even at Nuremberg he compelled his fellow prisoner the Grand Admiral Doenitz to admit that he owed his own 'nomination as the Fuehrer's successor solely to coincidence'. And if Goering defended himself before the International Court of Justice with striking skill and some aggressiveness, behind which some of the old elemental force of his personality could be felt, it was because of his conviction that his role as leader placed greater responsibility upon him than upon the other prisoners. Obstinately and at times not without success, he tried to command them, to influence their statements, and to establish a regime which Speer referred to angrily as "Goering's dictatorship." At last, after so many years, so many blows and humiliations, for a brief and fruitless span he had reached his goal: to be the First Man and "Nazi Number One." as he called himself.

May 4, 1945: Hans Frank is captured by American troops at Tegernsee near Berchtesgaden. Upon his capture, and after a severe beating from two American soldiers, he tries to cut his own throat. Two days later, he will lacerate his left arm in a second unsuccessful suicide attempt. Note: Only Streicher, of all the other defendants, will be similarly mistreated in captivity. (Maser)

May 6, 1945: Constantin von Neurath is arrested in the French occupation zone; the only Nuremberg defendant captured by the French. Note: The Americans now have ten defendants in custody, the British five, while three are in joint US/UK custody and the Soviets hold two.)

May 7, 1945: Alfred Jodl signs the instruments of unconditional surrender in Reims as representative for Karl Doenitz. Jodl receives permission to make a statement: With this signature the German people and the German Armed Forces are, for better or worse, delivered into the hands of the victors...In this hour I can only express the hope that the victor will treat them with generosity.

May 7, 1945: The Allies formally accept the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany as Keitel signs an unconditional surrender in Berlin.

May 8, 1945 VE Day: Churchill announces the end of the war in Europe:

...The Germans are still in places resisting the Russian troops, but should they continue to do so after midnight they will, of course, deprive themselves of the protection of the laws of war, and will be attacked from all quarters by the Allied troops. It is not surprising that on such long fronts and in the existing disorder of the enemy the orders of the German High Command should not in every case be obeyed immediately. This does not, in our opinion, with the best military advice at our disposal, constitute any reason for withholding from the nation the facts communicated to us by General Eisenhower of the unconditional surrender already signed at Rheims, nor should it prevent us from celebrating to-day and to-morrow (Wednesday) as Victory in Europe days. Today, perhaps, we shall think mostly of ourselves. Tomorrow we shall pay a particular tribute to our Russian comrades, whose prowess in the field has been one of the grand contributions to the general victory. The German war is therefore at an end...

May 9, 1945 Stalin to Truman:

I thank you with all my heart for your friendly congratulations on the unconditional surrender of Hitler Germany. The peoples of the Soviet Union greatly appreciate the part played by the friendly American people in this liberation war. The joint effort of the Soviet, US, and British Armed Forces against the German invaders, which has culminated in the latter’s complete rout and defeat, will go down in history as a model military alliance between our peoples. On behalf of the Soviet people and Government I beg you to convey my warmest greetings and congratulations on the occasion of this great victory to the American people and the gallant US Armed Forces.

May 10, 1945: Churchill to Field-Marshal Alexander (Italy):

I have seen the photograph. The man who murdered Mussolini made a confession, published in the Daily Express, gloating over the treacherous and cowardly method of his action. In particular he said he shot Mussolini’s mistress. Was she on the list of war criminals? Had he had any authority from anybody to shoot this woman? It seems to me the cleansing hand of British military power should make inquiries on these points.

May 14, 1945: The Allies recognize the reestablishment of the Democratic Republic of Austria.

May 19, 1945: Major Kubala, commandant of the Seventh Army Interrogation Center at Augsburg:

He (Goering) is by no means the comical figure he has been depicted so many times in newspaper reports. He is neither stupid nor a fool in the Shakespearean sense, but generally cool and calculating. He is able to grasp the fundamental issues under discussion immediately. He is certainly not a man to be underrated. Although he tried to soft-pedal many of the most outrageous crimes committed by Germany, he said enough to show that he is as much responsible for the policies within Germany and for the war itself as anyone in Germany.

Goering took great pride in claiming that it was he who was responsible for the planning of the paratroop landing in Crete, that it was he who had drawn up plans for a capture of Gibraltar...that it was he who was responsible for the development of the Luftwaffe. On the other hand, he denied having anything to do with the racial laws and with the concentration camps, with the SS and the atrocities committed both in Germany and outside. Goering is at all times an actor who does not disappoint his audience...behind his spirited and often witty conversation, is a constant watchfulness for the opportunity to place himself in a favorable light.

May 23, 1945: SS Reichsfuehrer Himmler commits suicide after being captured by the Allies.

June 5, 1945: The Allies divide up Germany and Berlin and take over the government.

June 7, 1945: Justice Jackson sends off a progress report to President Truman:

...The custody and treatment of war criminals and suspects appeared to require immediate attention. I asked the War Department to deny those prisoners who are suspected war criminals the privileges which would appertain to their rank if they were merely prisoners of war; to assemble them at convenient and secure locations for interrogation by our staff; to deny them access to the press; and to hold them in close confinement...

June 14, 1945: By His British Majesty's Command, Regulations for the Trial of War Criminals is issued by Royal Warrant:

...If it appears to an officer authorized under the Regulations to convene a Military Court that a person then within the limits of his command has at any place whether within or without such limits, committed a war crime he may direct that such person if not already in military custody shall be taken into and kept in such custody pending trial in such manner and in the charge of such military unit as he may direct. The commanding officer of the unit having charge of the accused shall be deemed to be the commanding officer of the accused for the purposes of all matters preliminary and relating to trial and punishments. But such commanding officer shall have no power to dismiss the charge or deal with the accused summarily...

June 21, 1945: During a joint US-UK conference, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe presents a list of ten defendants for consideration. Chosen mainly because their names are well known to the public, they are assumed to be criminals; little effort has yet to be made to determine the actual evidence that will be available against them. The initial ten: Goering, Hess (though the British warned that he was possibly insane), Ribbentrop, Ley (see October 25, 1945, below), Keitel, Streicher, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank and Frick. (Taylor)

June 26, 1945 International Conference on Military Trials: From the minutes of this days Conference Session:

...Justice Jackson: Our first task as prosecutors, as we see it, is to get the evidence in the case. We would not wait for any court to be set up to do that because we think of that as a prosecutor's function, and therefore we have already started work on it and have many people trying to examine captured orders and reports. We have interrogated prisoners of war, interrogated civilian prisoners taken since the surrender, interrogated witnesses, and gathered all of the evidence we can get in proof of the charges. Then we envisage the preparation of an indictment or bill of accusation you can call it by various names--in which we would select persons indicated by the evidence to be guilty, they would be charged with crimes, and that indictment would then be presented to the court. That would be the first time there would be any contact between the prosecutors and the court in our system--when the charges are presented. That brings the case into court--when you have an indictment. The Court would then have nothing before it except the indictment but it would fix the time of trial and might assign counsel. On the trial date we would produce in court all of our evidence. The court would not have the evidence merely as a result of its being gathered by the prosecutors but it would have received it in open session. Documentary proof, as we call it, would be offered and some facts would be established by "judicial notice", which means it would not be necessary to prove them...

June 26, 1945: The United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco.

July 1, 1945: US, British, and French occupying forces move into Berlin. HQ USFET, with main headquarters at Frankfurt, Germany, is established.

July 7, 1945: US Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jackson visits a city 91% destroyed by Allied bombs: Nuremberg. He inspects the Palace of Justice and decides to recommend it as a site for the upcoming trials, even though the Soviets much prefer that the trials take place in Berlin, within their own zone of occupation.

July 14, 1945: SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) is dissolved and, concerning the US forces, is replaced by USFET (US Forces, European Theater).

July 16, 1945 International Conference on Military Trials: From the minutes of this days Conference Session:

...Justice Jackson: ...we have a considerable group of people who we think come under this classification as major war criminals. I think we have various listings running as high as 350 which the Judge Advocate General's office has classified as such. Our list runs into quite a number of people. I don't want them left on our hands. We have tried to group them to avoid more than one trial. The complication is in trying to reach in a single trial a very large number of people, but we do not want to go through a large number of trials if we can avoid it...

July 16, 1945: Since May, the Allies have been collecting Nazis and tossing the high-ranking ones into a former hotel in Mondorf, Luxemburg, affectionately referred to as 'Ashcan.' On this day, Ashcan's commander, Colonel Burton C. Andrus, takes representatives of the world's Press on a tour of the facility to squash rumors that the prisoners are living the high-life. "We stand for no mollycoddling here," Andrus proclaims. "We have certain rules and the rules are obeyed...they roll their own cigarettes." Meanwhile: First US atomic bomb test; the Potsdam Conference begins. (Tusa)

July 17, 1945 International Conference on Military Trials: From the minutes of this days Four Power conference session: Niktchenko:

...Local crimes should be tried locally. We only gave Frank as an example, but there are other main, criminals who ought to be charged by the international court but still whose activities refer mainly to certain countries and can be localized, and we had those in mind when we made the amendment to the draft. There are criminals who may be claimed by different governments, like France or Britain, those who have committed mainly crimes against their governments. For example, Goering was mainly responsible for the attacks on London, and therefore the British Government might claim that his trial should take place in London.

Justice Jackson: Where does the Soviet Delegation think Goering's trial should take place?

Niktchenko: I would not like to suggest a place where Goering should stand trial. He may be charged as one of the main criminals in Nuremberg. On the other hand, if Britain should think he should stand trial in England, I do not think we should have the power to refuse such a claim if reasonable.

Sir Thomas Barnes: But Goering is a major war criminal. In respect to his local crimes, that ought to be subsidiary to the main trial.

Mr Troyanovsky: He would be tried as a major criminal, but perhaps in London?

Niktchenko: I quite agree he should be tried as a main war criminal and by the International Military Tribunal, but the place of that Tribunal may be London if the British Government should think it satisfactory.

Sir Thomas Barnes: We had come to think all major war criminals should be tried in Germany...

July 19, 1945 International Conference on Military Trials: From the minutes of today’s Conference Session:

Niktchenko: ...The definition of "war criminals" was set forth in the Moscow and Crimea declarations, and it is our opinion we should act on those declarations. If we turn once again to the terms of the Moscow declaration, we see that apparently the conception of what is a war criminal is quite clear. But the difficulty is in trying to confine this definition to a legal formula which would form the basis of a trial of these war criminals. In my opinion we should not try to draw up this definition for the future. The critics will try to find any inconsistencies and any points that are not clear and to turn these points against those who draw up the definition in the charter. In my opinion our task should be to form the basis for the trial not of any criminals who may commit international crimes in the future but of those who have already done so...

July 21, 1945: Justice Jackson returns to Nuremberg to inspect possible housing accommodations with British and French representatives.

July 25, 1945 International Conference on Military Trials: During this days Four Power conference session: Justice Jackson: ...I think that every one of the top prisoners that we have is guilty...

July 31, 1945 From the letters of Thomas Dodd, Executive Trial Counsel for the Prosecution at Nuremberg:

...Much gossip is abroad about friction between the US, Great Britain, France and Russia over these trials. The truth is there is no trouble between US, Britain and France--but the Russians are just holding up the whole proceeding. They are impossible, in my opinion. I do not know the details but I do know they are not cooperative on this problem so far. I believe they want to put on another Russian farce for a trial. If that happens, I go home, and promptly! The English appointed their chief counsel 21 days after the US appointed Jackson (who was the first to be appointed). The French followed soon after. Thus far no one has been appointed for Russia. Our people meet with certain Russian representatives but nothing happens. When representatives of the United Nations went to Nuremberg to look it over as a possible site for the trial only the Russians failed to make the trip...

August 1, 1945 Potsdam Conference: At the Twelfth Plenary Session, the subject of trying Nazi war criminals is raised:

...Truman: You are aware that we have appointed Justice Jackson as our representative on the London Commission. He is an outstanding judge and a very experienced jurist. He has a good knowledge of legal procedure. Jackson is opposed to any names of war criminals being mentioned and says that this will hamper their work. He assures us that the trial will be ready within thirty days and that their should be no doubt concerning our view of these men. Stalin: Perhaps we could name fewer persons, say three. Bevin: Our jurists take the same view as the Americans. Stalin: And ours take the opposite view. But perhaps we shall agree that the first list of war criminals to be brought to trial should be published not later than in one month...

August 2, 1945 International Conference on Military Trials: During this days Four Power conference session:

General Nikitchenko: There is one question. What is meant in the English by "cross-examination"?

Lord Chancellor: In an English or American trial, after a witness has given testimony for the prosecution he can be questioned by the defense in order that the defense may test his evidence verify his evidence, to see whether it is really worthy of credit. In our trials the defendant or his counsel is always entitled to put questions in cross-examination. And I think the same situation prevails in the courts of France.

Judge Falco: Yes, the same.

General Niktchenko: According to Continental procedure, that is very widely used too. The final form would be then, "The Defendant shall have the right to conduct his own defense before the Tribunal, to cross-examine any witness called by the prosecution..."

August 6, 1945: The United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

August 8, 1945: The London Agreement is signed. The Soviets declare war on Japan and invade Manchuria.

August 12, 1945: Justice Jackson releases a statement to the American press:

...The representatives of the United Kingdom have been headed by the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General. The Soviet Republic has been represented by the Vice President of its Supreme Court and by one of the leading scholars of Soviet jurisprudence. The Provisional Government of France has sent a judge of its highest court and a professor most competent in its jurisprudence. It would not be a happy forecast for the future harmony of the world if I could not agree with such representatives of the world's leading systems of administering justice on a common procedure for trial of war criminals...

August 12, 1945: Colonel Andrus and his 15 Ashcan prisoners are loaded onto a US C-47 transport plane bound for Nuremberg. When Andrus emphasizes the importance of the safety of the prisoners, the lieutenant in charge of the guards screws up his mouth and nods, "You mean no leaving the plane without a chute, sir?" As they fly above Germany, Goering continually points out various geographical features below, such as the Rhine, telling Ribbentrop to take one last look as he is unlikely to ever get the opportunity again. Streicher becomes air-sick. (Tusa)

August 15, 1945: Proclamation of V-J Day.

August 15, 1945: The High Court of Justice finds Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain guilty of plotting against the French republic and of intelligence with the enemy. The court sentences the former Vichy France leader to death. His sentence will later be commuted to life imprisonment.

August 15, 1945 From the letters of Thomas Dodd:

...I am able to report the most fascinating days of my life...Finally, at about 4 PM, in strutted Hermann Goering--wearing a long light blue outside coat, a cap, and a light blue tunic and trousers, and black shoes. He has lost a lot of weight, his color is good, eyes blue, thin brown hair, thin lips, a large mouth. He was in a bad mood--shouted and pounded the desk--calmed down some when he learned our attitude about his loud voice and desk pounding...

August 21, 1945: The US government officially ends Lend-Lease assistance to the Allies.

August 23, 1945: The four Chief Prosecutors meet in London. Even though Trevor-Roper's findings are not yet known, they determine that Hitler is dead. They also decide, however, that Bormann may very well be alive, but the Russian member is uncertain whether or not he is a captive of the Red Army; it is being investigated.

August 25, 1945: Representatives of the Big Four (Jackson, Fyfe, Gros, and Niktchenko), agree on a list of 22 defendants (from the original list of 122), 21 of which are in custody. The 22nd, Martin Bormann, is presumed to be in Soviet custody, but Niktchenko cannot confirm it. The list is scheduled to be released to the press on October 28. (Conot)

August 28, 1945: Just in time to stop the release of the names of the 22, Niktchenko informs the other three Allied representatives that, unfortunately, Bormann is not in Soviet custody. However, he announces that the valiant Red Army has captured two vile Nazis, Erich Raeder, and Hans Fritzsche, and offers them up for trial. Though neither man was on anyone's list of possible defendants, it emerges that their inclusion has become a matter of Soviet pride; Raeder and Fritzsche being the only two ranking Nazis unlucky enough to have been caught in the grasp of the advancing Russian bear. (Conot)

August 30, 1945: The final list of defendants is released to the press. Bormann, though not in custody, is still listed; Raeder and Fritzsche are now included, though there is no longer a Krupp represented. (Conot)

August 30, 1945: The Manchester Guardian reacts to the release of the list of defendants:

Grave precedents are being set. For the first time the leaders of a state are being tried for starting a war and breaking treaties. We may expect after this that at the end of any future war the victors--whether they have justice on their side or not, as this time we firmly believe we have--will try the vanquished.


August 30, 1945: The Glasgow Herald reacts to the release of the list of defendants:

Scanning this list, one cannot but be struck by the completeness of the Nazi catastrophe. Of all these men, who but a year ago enjoyed wide influence or supreme power, not one could find a refuge in a continent united in hate against them.

September 5, 1945: President Truman proposes naming former attorney general Francis Biddle as the American judge at Nuremberg during a meeting in Washington, DC with Justice Jackson. The Justice, who does not think highly of Biddle, suggests alternatives, but Biddle will ultimately get the appointment.

September 10, 1945: A Norwegian court finds Vidkun Quisling guilty of treason.

September 17, 1945 From the letters of Thomas Dodd:

Yesterday, Jackson told the press that the US would be ready to start the trial on November 1. By the way, the Russian representative (Niktchenko) had been suddenly withdrawn. No explanations--mere notice that he will no longer represent Russia in this matter. After weeks of negotiating, weeks of work with him as chief counsel for Russia, he simply goes home and does not come back. These Russians are impossible. What effect this will have on the trial or the trial; date no one knows, but you can imagine the confusion that may arise out of it.

October 5, 1945: Andrus loses his first German prisoner to suicide; Dr Leonard Conti, Hitler's "Head of National Hygiene."

October 6, 1945: Letter of reservation from Justice Robert Jackson to M. Francois de Menthon, Sir Hartley Shawcross, and General R. A. Rudenko:

Dear Sirs: In the Indictment of German War Criminals signed today, reference is made to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and certain other territories as being within the area of the USSR. This language is proposed by Russia and is accepted to avoid the delay which would be occasioned by insistence on an alteration in the text. The Indictment is signed subject to this reservation and understanding: I have no authority either to admit or to challenge on behalf of the United States of America, Soviet claims to sovereignty over such territories. Nothing, therefore, in this Indictment is to be construed as a recognition by the United States of such sovereignty or as indicating any attitude, either on the part of the United States or on the part of the undersigned. toward any claim to recognition of such sovereignty. Respectfully submitted, Robert H. Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States.

October 8, 1945 From the letters of Thomas Dodd:

...It is a secret--but Dr (Leonardo) Conti, one of those who worked medical experiments on concentration camp inmates, hung himself in the jail Saturday morning. No announcement has been made so far so keep this to yourself.

October 9, 1945: A French court sentences Pierre Laval, the Vice Premier of Vichy France, to death for collaborating with the Germans.

October 9, 1945 From the letters of Thomas Dodd:

...Rudolf Hess arrived yesterday from England, so he was called up for an interview. He is completely balmy--and was when he flew to England. He has no memory at all. We had Goering, von Papen, Haushofer and Bohle--all old friends--confront him. He didn't know one of them--and it was no fake. I watched him. He has suffered a complete mental collapse. Goering said to him, 'Don't you recall me, your old companion and friend?' Then he mentioned many personal experiences with no sign of recollection from Hess, who said, "I am really very sorry--I realize you must be an old friend. But I cannot remember you." It is genuine--believe that when I tell you so. And so we mark off in tragic terms another of these Nazis...

October 14, 1945: British representative Sir Geoffrey Lawrence is elected The President of the IMT (International Military Tribunal).

October 15, 1945: Pierre Laval, the former Vice Premier of Vichy France, is executed.

October 19, 1945: Airey Neave presents each defendant in turn with a copy of the Indictment. Gilbert, the Nuremberg psychologist, asks the accused to write a few words on the documents margin indicating their attitude toward the development. Goering: "The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished always the accused." (Heydecker)

October 21, 1945 From the diary of the British Alternate Judge, Mr. Justice Birkett:

He (Jackson) feared the Tribunal was taking on functions which it was not able to carry out...The prosecutors had been prepared to do these things and had written orders ready. They had planned to assign counsel to the defendants if necessary. He felt the problem of interpretation was important and that the General Secretary could not handle it...He would emphasize that the court should avoid to the utmost the taking on of administrative responsibilities...This is not an ordinary trial. Some of the proprieties went by the way when General Niktchenko, who had been the Soviet Prosecutor, was made a member of the Tribunal...He (Jackson) did not think the defense would want many witnesses. They did not dispute the fact that crimes had been committed. Their defense would be that a particular individual did not participate. They would attempt to lay everything on Hitler.

October 24, 1945: A Norwegian court finds Vidkun Quisling guilty of treason.

October 24, 1945: The United Nations is officially established when 29 nations sign the United Nations Charter.

October 25, 1945: Andrus loses yet another Nazi as the defendant Dr Robert Ley, Hitler's head of the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), commits suicide in his Nuremberg cell.

October 29, 1945: Only seven of the defendants have obtained counsel by this date. Dr Hans Flachsner, Speer's counsel, will later say that he was given the choice of defending Rudolf Hess, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, or Speer and that he chose Speer. Note: Flachsner was a self-described liberal and did not fit with the Nazis, despite the fact that when very young, in 1924, he had served briefly as Goering's lawyer. He defended Goering when he was sued for failing to pay doctors who attempted to cure him of his addiction to morphine. Only eighteen of the forty-eight German lawyers who eventually participate in the trial will have Nazi backgrounds. (Conot, Maser, Taylor)

October 30, 1945: The Soviets deliver Raeder and Fritzsche to Nuremberg.

October 31, 1945: During this days preliminary session, the Tribunal rules that the defendants will not be allowed to converse with each other prior to the trial. Rosenberg requests that he be defended by fellow defendant Hans Frank. The Tribunal discusses the notion: de Vabres: "If we admit that Frank can be Rosenberg's lawyer, the result is that he can have conversations with him." Birkett: "And we should also have to pay him 4,000 marks." The Tribunal rules against the idea. (Conot)

September 5, 1945: President Truman proposes naming former attorney general Francis Biddle as the American judge at Nuremberg during a meeting in Washington, DC with Justice Jackson. The Justice, who does not think highly of Biddle, suggests alternatives, but Biddle will ultimately get the appointment.

September 10, 1945: Vidkun Quisling is executed for treason.

1945: Prior to the trial, the defendants are given an IQ test. Administered by Dr. Gilbert, the Nuremberg Prison psychologist, and Dr. Kelly, the psychiatrist, the test includes ink blots and the Wechsler-Bellevue test. Goering scores 138. Note: After the testing, Gilbert comes to the conclusion that all the defendants are 'intelligent enough to have known better.' Andrus is not impressed by the results: "From what I've seen of them as intellects and characters I wouldn't let one of these supermen be a buck sergeant in my outfit." (Tusa)

November 19, 1945: After a last inspection by Andrus, the defendants are escorted individually into the empty courtroom and given their assigned seats. Goering, as the top defendant, is given the first seat in the first row; one of four defendants blessed with an armrest for the long trial to come. Goering will utilize his prominent place to mug for the crowd, alternately frowning, scowling, or nodding his head in agreement. (Tusa)

November 19, 1945: The day before the opening of the trial, a motion is filed on behalf of all defense counsel:

... During the last decades public opinion in the world challenged with ever-increasing emphasis the thesis that the decision of waging war is beyond good and evil. A distinction is being made between just and unjust wars and it is asked that the Community of States call to account the State which wages an unjust war and deny it, should it be victorious, the fruits of its outrage. More than that, it is demanded that not only should the guilty State be condemned and its liability be established, but that furthermore those men who are responsible for unleashing the unjust war be tried and sentenced by an International Tribunal. In that respect one goes now a days further than even the strictest jurists since the early middle ages. This thought is at the basis of the first three counts of the Indictment which have been put forward in this Trial, to wit, the Indictment for Crimes against Peace. Humanity insists that this idea should in the future be more than a demand, that it should be valid international law. However, today it is not as yet valid international law...

November 20, 1945: The Allied Control Council approves the transfer of almost 7 million Germans from Hungary, Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and the German regions east of the Oder-Niesse Line. Through the expulsion of the Germans, these East European countries hope to avoid future problems with German minorities in their territories. Estimates of deaths associated with the expulsions are in the range of 1-3 million, including deaths from all causes. Note: Many of these deaths are the result of the privations of a forced and hasty migration in a postwar environment characterized by chaos, famine, crime, disease, and cold winter conditions, as well as ill-prepared evacuation plans and mindless homicide by vengeful mobs and individuals taking out their frustration on anyone smelling of the Swastika.

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