On this date in 1945, Adolf Hitler’s 56th birthday, a stooped, jowly-faced Führer in a field-gray overcoat tottered out from the bowels of his command bunker under Berlin’s Old Reich Chancellery into the wasteland of his chancellery garden. A news camera recorded him, a shaking left arm behind his back, awarding Iron Crosses to a detachment of Hitler Youth who had knocked out Soviet tanks on Berlin’s eastern approaches
The youngest recipient, a 12-year old boy soldier Alfred Czech , received an affectionate caress. He was awarded the Iron Cross after saving the life of 10 comrades on the Oder front. Alfred Czech died on June 13, 2011 in Hückelhoven, age 78. Another was 16 years old Hitlerjunge Wilhelm “Willi” Hübner.
All these boys were selected by their Hitler Youth leader Arthur Axmann from different front locations..
After that Hitler scurried back into subterranean safety to receive a second round of birthday congratulations from his dwindling circle of never-say-die Nazi big-wigs Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reich Chancellery head and personal secretary Martin Bormann, Gestapo chief and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW) Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command Alfred Jodl, and technocrat and Armaments Minister Albert Speer. There was even a telegram from Benito Mussolini, a telegram sent just days before his death on April 28 at the hands of Italian partisans . As Hitler accepted birthday congratulations with a limp handshake and vacant expression, the first Soviet units reached the southern edge of Berlin, the city now a moonscape of bomb craters and ruined buildings . Hitler seemed undecided about whether to flee his capital for Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps. Not his henchmen, who lost little time in scattering, Dönitz, Himmler, and Speer to the northwest, Goering to the south. In her Old Reich Chancellery apartment, Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, threw a last little improvised party, where her guests were boisterous, drinking champagne, laughing, and dancing as they tried to ignore the imminent end to Nazism . Two million mostly cave-dwelling Berliners, aware of the Soviets’ fast-closing dragnet, relished the extra rations of jam, sugar, coffee, and meat dispersed on April 22 as part of their leader’s birthday festivities, which presaged by eight days Hitler’s and Braun’s suicides. Their suicides were just two of nearly four thousand reported in Berlin in April 1945.
Hitler and Eva’s bodies were burnt in the Führerbunker garden and buried in some bomb crater. Hitler didn’t like to end like Mussolini, trampled and spit on by people who were out of their mind, hanging from a gas station.