How Did Hitler Die? The True Story Of His Final Days And Suicide In His Berlin Bunker

Published March 25, 2020
Updated May 8, 2020

From the mysterious fate of his remains to the conspiracy theories and hidden truths about his demise, this is the full story of Adolf Hitler's death.

Hitler Death

Corbis/Getty ImagesNazi Party members salute German Chancellor Adolf Hitler as he emerges from a party meeting after a speech on Feb. 5, 1935.

Adolf Hitler’s death by suicide on April 30, 1945, turned the page on one of the darkest moments in human history. The horrors of the preceding 12 years, from Kristallnacht to the Holocaust, loom so menacingly over the 20th century that it’s easy to forget that it all happened comparatively fast.

Adolf Hitler rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and quickly established himself as an absolute dictator. Within months of taking control of Germany, the Nazis banned other political parties and suppressed all political opposition.

Hitler saw himself as Germany’s savior after the country’s humiliating defeat in World War I led to the harsh monetary penalties in the Treaty of Versailles. While building the Nazi Party, Hitler promised to return Germany to a position of strength.

The Great Depression, which hit Germany particularly hard, provided fertile soil for Hitler to plant his seeds of hate. According to Mein Kampf, the screed Hitler penned in prison in 1924, Germany’s problems could be pinned on two enemy groups: surrounding countries like France who exacted punitive measures after World War I, and Jewish people, who “polluted” the purity of Hitler’s fetishized white Aryan “master race.”

Between the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and the beginning of World War II, Hitler executed his political rivals, persecuted Germany’s Jews, and laid the foundations for his future concentration camps.

On Sept. 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. In 1940, Hitler continued his promise to expand Germany’s borders by invading France, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The next year, Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

By April 1945, however, Germany was mere weeks away from defeat and Hitler was nowhere to be seen.

The German War Effort By 1945

The Battle Of Stalingrad

Public DomainThe Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad marks the high watermark for Nazi Germany. With the loss of momentum, Germany would remain on the defensive until its defeat in 1945.

By 1945, the tides of World War II had shifted strongly against Germany. The writing had been on the wall since 1943, when the Soviet Union destroyed a German army at the Battle of Stalingrad. The next year, Allied forces landed at Normandy and began pushing the Nazis back toward Berlin.

In July 1944, a handful of top military commanders even plotted to overthrow Hitler, all but certain of their defeat. By casting aside the dictator, they hoped to negotiate favorable peace terms. But after an assassination attempt failed, Hitler executed 4,000 Germans he believed were involved.

As the Soviet army planned its invasion of Germany and the U.S. and other Allied forces closed in, Hitler appeared to vanish. American military forces believed Hitler was hiding away in the Bavarian Alps at his mountain-top fortress known as the “Eagle’s Nest.”

American Troops Posing At Eagles Nest

U.S. ArmyAmerican troops posing at Hitler’s retreat in the Alps, known as “Eagle’s Nest.”

In March 1945, American forces in southern Germany heard reports that as many as 300,000 Nazi loyalists were hiding in the mountains, supplied by an underground weapons factory. Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower feared that they would carry out a guerrilla campaign and drag the war out for years rather than surrender.

Nazi propaganda concealed the true whereabouts of the Nazi Führer as Germany’s war effort disintegrated. Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels took to the radio to declare that Hitler’s Werewolves would defend the dictator to the death. “We Werewolves consider it our supreme duty to kill, to kill, and to kill,” Goebbels vowed.

None of it was true. In fact, Hitler had never left Berlin, squirreling himself away in an underground bunker for most of 1945. When Allied forces captured Wehrmacht officer Kurt Dittmar, he revealed that Hitler was still in Berlin and predicted “Hitler will either be killed there or commit suicide.”

Hitler Hid Underground As The Soviets Stormed Berlin


Unknown/German Federal Archives
The Führerbunker in Berlin, from a 1947 photograph just before Soviets destroyed it.

With Allied forces pushing toward Berlin from the west and the Red Army storming in from the east, Hitler knew he would lose the war.

On Jan. 16, 1945, Hitler retreated to his underground bunker, known as the Führerbunker, hidden more than 50 feet below the Chancellery in Berlin. The bunker covered 2,700 square feet, had a well to provide fresh water, and had generators to supply electricity. Hidden away, surrounded by luxurious furniture and expensive oil paintings, Hitler directed the war from underground.

The reinforced concrete bunker withstood Allied bombing raids and protected Hitler along with important Nazi leaders like Goebbels.

After years of war, Hitler’s hair had turned grey. A tremor appeared on his left side, and Hitler’s eyesight grew poor. Now a 55-year-old man, Hitler appeared even older than that.

By April 1945, the Wehrmacht had collapsed and the Soviets had reached Berlin with a force of 2.5 million soldiers with the goal of hunting down the monster responsible for so much suffering. The end had finally come.

The Final Days In The Führerbunker

Hitler Admiral

Unknown/German Federal ArchivesHitler meets with Admiral Karl Dönitz in the Führerbunker. Dönitz would become the head of state for Germany after Hitler’s death.

Hitler dismissed the idea of trying to escape as Soviet troops entered Berlin, fearing capture more than death. Plus, rumors had reached Hitler that the Soviets wanted to lock him in a cage and parade him through Berlin’s streets. The humiliation was more than Hitler could bear.

As the end of April drew near, the Red Army pushed to within 300 yards of the Führerbunker.

Hitler knew the hopelessness of the situation. Still, he ordered German troops to fight to the death, issuing orders from the Führerbunker proclaiming a death sentence on any military commanders who retreated from the Soviet advance.

On April 22, Hitler called his two secretaries, Christa Schroeder and Johanna Wolf, into his office. “He received us in his room looking tired, pale, and listless,” Schroeder reported.

Hitler told his secretaries, “Over the last four days the situation has changed to such an extent that I find myself forced to disperse my staff. As you are the longest-serving, you will go first. In an hour a car leaves for Munich.”

Hitler’s Wedding To Eva Braun

Braun Hitler Berghof

Unknown/Deutsches BundesarchivEva Braun and Adolf Hitler at Berghof with Hitler’s dog Blondi, who he killed in 1945.

On April 29, 1945, one day before Hitler’s death, the dictator married Eva Braun, his mistress of 16 years.

Braun and Hitler met in 1929, while the 17-year-old worked in a Munich photography studio. Braun described the leader of the Nazi Party as “a gentleman of a certain age with a funny moustache and carrying a big felt hat.”

Throughout their 16 years together, Hitler hid his relationship with Braun from the outside world. When Hitler survived an assassination attempt in 1944, Braun vowed, “From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere – even unto death – I live only for your love.”

Hitler Nap

Keystone/Getty ImagesEva Braun watches over German dictator Adolf Hitler while he naps.

Braun joined Hitler in his bunker in April 1945. With the Red Army steps away, the two exchanged wedding vows underground.

Before their wedding, Hitler ordered Braun to leave but she refused, promising loyalty until the end. Braun told her friends, “Better that ten thousand others die than he be lost to Germany.”

Hitler’s Decision To Commit Suicide

Mussolini Hitler

Unknown/National ArchivesHitler and his Italian ally, Benito Mussolini, in June 1940.

With Braun by his side, Adolf Hitler learned of the execution of his former Axis compatriot Benito Mussolini. Vowing to avoid the same fate, Hitler decided to commit suicide.

On April 29, Hitler began preparing for his death. He ordered his bodyguards to destroy his personal papers. He also tested out a cyanide capsule on his beloved dog Blondi. The next morning, April 30, a staff member overheard Braun crying, “I would rather die here. I do not want to escape.”

The Red Army was nearly on top of the Führerbunker. Hitler ate his final meal – pasta with tomato sauce – as Goebbels tried to convince the Führer not to kill himself.

“Doctor, you know my decision,” Hitler declared, “There is no change! You can of course leave Berlin with your family.” Goebbels would not, and neither would his family. Goebbels and his wife would soon poisoned their own children and killed themselves as well.

Hitler assembled his personal staff and shook everyone’s hand. To one of Hitler’s secretaries, Braun said, “Please do try to get out. You may yet make your way through. And give Bavaria my love.”

The Death of Hitler and Braun

Hitler Last Days

ullsetein bild/Getty ImagesHitler surveying the ruins of Berlin on April 29, 1945, the day before he committed suicide.

In a calm voice, Hitler told his valet, SS officer Heinz Linge, “I am going to shoot myself now. You know what you have to do.”

Before leaving, Hitler gave a Nazi salute and announced, “It is finished, goodbye.”

Hitler and Braun locked themselves in their private room. It was early afternoon on April 30, 1945. Eva took a cyanide capsule and waited for it to kill her. Hitler also swallowed a cyanide pill. Then he shot himself in the temple.

Outside the room, Hitler’s loyalists waited for the sound of a gunshot.

“Suddenly… there is the sound of a shot, so loud, so close, that we all fall silent,” said Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge. “It echoes on through all the rooms.”

When Junge entered the room with Linge, she said, “I saw Hitler slumped by the table. I didn’t see any blood on his head. And I saw Eva with her knees drawn up lying next to him on the sofa – wearing a white and blue blouse, with a little collar: just a little thing.”

After Hitler’s Death, Loyalists Cremated His Body

An analysis of teeth captured by Soviet forces purportedly belonging to Adolf Hitler point to conclusive proof that the German dictator took his own life on April 30, 1945.

Shortly after the death of Hitler, his Führerbunker loyalists carried the bodies of Hitler and Braun to a small garden just outside the bunker. The sounds of battle surrounded them, including the sharp retort of Soviet small arms fire.

Goebbels and Bormann doused the bodies in petrol. Alongside the bunker guards, they lit the pyre and withdrew to safety.

Hitler’s inner circle wanted to completely destroy Hitler’s body. They didn’t want their enemies to use Hitler’s death – or his body – for propaganda purposes.

The fire didn’t completely destroy Hitler’s body, though. Russian reports revealed after the collapse of the Soviet Union revealed that Soviet troops did in fact recover what remained of the body concluded that Hitler was dead. But — in the final days of war and for decades after — rumors swirled that Hitler still lived.

Rumors That Hitler Survived The War

Hitler Dead

US Army/Wikimedia CommonsA May 2, 1945 newspaper headline declares Hitler dead.

On May 1, 1945, Karl Dönitz, a German admiral who briefly succeeded Hitler as the country’s head of state following Hitler’s death, addressed the German people on the radio and made the announcement. Hesitant to tell the truth to the German people, Dönitz said that the Nazi Führer had died in battle, fighting “at the head of his troops.”

But without a body and with little official word regarding Hitler’s death, conspiracy theories spread quickly. Hitler had escaped and was living in a cave in the Italian Alps, some claimed, while others reported seeing the dictator at a French casino.

The Soviets added to the confusion by publicly announcing in June 1945 that they had not found Hitler’s remains – implying to many that he still lived.

After a credible report, the U.S. Government tried to hunt down Hitler in Argentina, where he was supposedly living in an underground hideout. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover personally investigated the report, finally concluding “no serious indication has been received that Adolf Hitler is in Argentina.”

In 2018, French scientists proved that the death of Hitler took place in 1945. By analyzing remains of the dictator’s teeth and skull, preserved by the Russians, the scientists conclusively identified the remains as authentic.

The lead author Philippe Charlier says, “We didn’t know if he had used an ampule of cyanide to kill himself or whether it was a bullet in the head. It’s in all probability both.” Either way, Charlier declares, “our study proves that Hitler died in 1945.”

While Adolf Hitler’s death in 1945 is assured, his family survived him. Learn about the Hitler descendants who vowed to end the bloodline and then read about the wildest conspiracy theories about Hitler’s death.

Genevieve Carlton
Genevieve Carlton is a freelance writer with a Ph.D in history.