1940 October 23
Gerda Bormann gives birth to Gerda Bormann.
1941 April 21
Bormann to Rosenberg (Document 072-PS
Dear party member Rosenberg! In connection with the received draft of the decree, I attended as ordered, a speech made by SS Brig. Gen. Heydrich. The latter called attention to the fact that the sentence, "In the confiscations undertaken, or to be undertaken in the Reich area, of the property of ideological opponents, the same rules apply", anticipates a regulation which has so far not been introduced and would for the first time set a precedent through this decree-draft. Moreover, the regional governments [Gauleitungen] are never allowed to carry out confiscations.
Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich further pointed out that he could under no circumstances recognize the attempted regulation in the final sentence of your decree-draft, since there existed some objections to it. The scientific treatment of the ideological opposition could only be done in conjunction with the political police work. Only the material should be handed over to you, and the seminar respectively. If a speedier treatment through your office is necessary, duplicates and photocopies should be put at your disposal.
The Fuehrer emphasized that, in the Balkans, the use of your experts would not be necessary, since there were no art-objects to be confiscated. In Belgrade only the collection of Prince Paul existed, which would be returned to him completely. The remaining material of the lodges, etc. would be seized by the agencies of Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich.
The libraries and art objects of the monasteries, confiscated in the Reich, were to remain for the time being in these monasteries, insofar as the Gauleiters had not determined otherwise. After the war, a careful examination of the stock could be undertaken. Under no circumstances, however, should a centralization of all the libraries be undertaken, the Fuehrer has repeatedly rejected this suggestion.
From Rosenberg's IMT testimony: Document 075-PS [not shown] is a special circular letter by the Chief of the Party Chancellery, setting forth his personal views on the relationship of National Socialism to Christendom. As well as I remember, this document deals with the following: I had once heard that Bormann had sent a letter of such contents to a certain Gauleiter, and also copies of it to all the Gauleiter. I asked him to let me know about it. After much delay I finally received this circular letter. I considered it improper in form and substance [as a Party circular]. I wrote Bormann‑-and I believe the letter I sent to him should be found in my records‑-that I did not consider a circular letter of that sort suitable or proper, and I added in my own handwriting, so that it would be taken more seriously, that in my opinion the Fuehrer would not approve a circular letter of this sort. Later, I spoke with Bormann about this personally and told him that each one of us had the right to define his position towards this problem, but official Party circulars, and especially in this form, were impossible in my opinion. After this conversation, Bormann was greatly embarrassed and, as I incidentally heard from my co-defendant Schirach, this circular letter, according to him, was rescinded, and declared null and void. I can make no statement about this, however.
Document 072-PS [above] is a letter from Bormann with reference to the matter of investigating the libraries (of monasteries) confiscated by the State. I was not told the political reasons involved in each case; but I did hear that the police were demanding the additional right to take over the investigation of this sort of thing. This was a problem that brought me into conflict with Himmler in those years. I considered it completely impossible that such investigation was to be brought under police control as well, and that motivated me, as can be seen from Document 071-PS, to place myself in opposition to Bormann in this matter.
This Document 072-PS gives Bormann's answer to me, in which he points out that Heydrich insisted absolutely on continuing this research and said‑-I quote‑-"The scientific refutation of antagonistic philosophy can only be carried out after preliminary police and political preparation." I considered this attitude absolutely untenable, and I protested against it.
These are the pertinent comments that I have to make on these numerous documents. I refused to write official Party tracts of religious semblance or to have catechisms written by my Party offices. I always strove to take what I considered to be a National Socialist attitude in not considering my office a "spiritual" police force; but the fact remained that the Fuehrer had charged Bormann with the official representation of the Party's attitude toward the Church.
My answer to all of these letters is missing, and I do not recall whether I replied to everything, or whether I gave these answers orally to Bormann at conferences. But despite the fact that all of these answers are lacking, the Prosecution have stated that both of us‑-that is Bormann and I‑-had issued decrees for religious persecution, and had misled other Germans into participating in these religious persecutions.
I would like to summarize, and state on principle that this is ultimately a thousand-year-old problem of the relationship between secular and Church power, and that many states have taken measures, against which the Churches have always protested. When, in modern times, we look at the laws of the French Republic under the ministry of Combes, and when we look at the legal system of the Soviet Union, we see that both have supported the officially promoted atheist propaganda, in tracts, newspapers, and caricatures. Lastly, I would like to say that, in all cases, the National Socialist State‑-so far as I know‑-gave to the Churches more than 700 million marks annually, out of the [the proceeds of taxation] for the maintenance of their organizational work, and that up to the end . . . .
It is difficult to say just which reasons [for the enmity between Bormann and myself] played a role here. That this hostility was as deep as it finally revealed itself to be, specifically when dealing with Eastern problems, I realized only later: much later. Ultimately [of course], I had to admit that, in a large movement, many temperaments and many views may exist, and I did not except myself from having shortcomings and faults which could be criticized by others. I did not believe that differences and opinions could lead to a hostility of such proportions that it would result in undermining the official position of the opponent.
From Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-45 by Alan Clark: After Hitler, the two most powerful figures in the Reich were Himmler and Bormann. Each was a direct claimant to his succession, and each saw, in the limitless potentialities of an Eastern empire, the means to tip the balance in his own favor. Their rivalry and their mutual personal dislike lie at the root of all the inconsistencies in German Ostpolitik, for first one, then the other would use the bewildered Rosenberg as an indignant pig in the middle, blocking, perverting, or exploiting his policies to achieve their own long-term ambitions.
1941 April 25:
Rosenberg's great weakness was that he had no personal corps d' elite, and the quality of the material from which he was compelled to draw‑-to staff his Ministry and execute its policy‑-has already been the subject of remark. Bormann, on the other hand, had at his disposal the mass of the SA, decapitated by the purge of 1934, but still substantial, frustrated, and experienced in politics and administration. From the very first day when the Ostministerium was incorporated, it was subject to a double stress: from Himmler, who wished to sterilize it completely; and from Bormann, who tried to staff its higher posts with his own nominees.
As early as April 1941, talks had begun between the SS and OKW concerning the operation of the SD detachments in the rear of the advancing troops. Himmler rapidly forced the pace and tried to extend the "talks" into a general agreement that the Army would be left as undisturbed master of the forward zone, "with the SS as a free corps, in effect responsible for the New Order in the East . . . . the SD would be advance teams of the future commissariats." At the last moment the Army took fright and started to back away: "These demands must be refused," Halder noted grimly in his diary. Bormann, who had got wind of the scheme, persuaded Hitler to "discuss the affair with everyone concerned," not in conference, but one by one.
When his turn came, Bormann had warned Hitler that an accommodation between the SS and the Army would result in "a measure of power which was inconvenient, perhaps even dangerous, to the Party." Rosenberg put things more formally, and unlike Bormann, was not reticent about declaring his views to anyone who would listen. Hitler threw the scheme out, although he reserved "police matters" to the SS;, and Himmler blamed his defeat on Rosenberg's duplicity.
In yet another letter from Bormann's office to Rosenberg, Bormann declares that he has achieved progressive success in reducing and abolishing religious services in schools, and in replacing Christian prayers with National Socialist mottoes and rituals. In this letter, Bormann also proposes a Nazified morning service in the schools in place of the existing confession and morning service.
1941 May 10:
Hess flies to Glasgow, Scotland, in a Messerschmitt ME-110. At 6,000 feet, Hess bails out and parachutes safely to the ground. He encounters a Scottish farmer and addresses him in English: "I have an important message for the Duke of Hamilton."
1941 May 14:
Following the flight of Hess to Scotland, Bormann takes over as Head of the Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei). He will also manage Hitler's finances.
From Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny: "The battle for Hitler's favor was almost something out of the Borgias," Speer said to me in 1979 . . . . "This was doubly strange in that the men principally involved in this‑-Himmler, Bormann, Lammers‑-really had none of the 'qualities' (in quotes) which are historically associated with such figures. How can I tell you? These three were--bourgeois hardly describes them. They really were very gross men."
1941 May 29:
Bormann, he said, was "definitely the most dangerous of them all. He came to have quite unique power over Hitler's life. From very early life, 1935 I think, when he was on Hess's (Fuehrer's Deputy) staff, he very carefully administered Hitler's finances: his income from Mein Kampf, which was of course enormous, the buying and selling of land on the Obersalzberg and‑-a brilliant financial coup‑-the royalties Hitler received for the use of his picture on postage stamps.
"Of course, Bormann's power grew immeasurably after Hess's flight to England in 1941," said Speer. "Long before then, he had succeeded in virtually eliminating Hess from contact with Hitler, which was no doubt one of the reasons for his crazy trip. After he had gone, Bormann (who, incidentally, then behaved appallingly toward Hess's wife) very quickly, really within days, took over his functions and had himself appointed Fuehrer's Secretary, which meant he was in charge of Hitler's environment and thereby really controlled his daily life. He was always with or near him, the only one who was in such continuous and permanent contact."
That didn't mean that other people, including Speer, could not see Hitler privately . . . . "Hitler was his own man; Bormann's control and power only went as far as Hitler allowed it to go. Hitler trusted him implicitly but, although Bormann was always there, he had no personal relationship with him. He valued him immensely for his quite incredible diligence and as a totally loyal vassal, but always as a vassal. In all my years near Hitler, and the countless days and evenings on the Berghof, I don't think I ever heard Hitler make a private remark to him."
A Hitler decree officially orders that Bormann should take over all powers and all offices formerly held by Rudolf Hess
Hitler: I know that he [Bormann] is brutal. But there is a sense in everything he does, and I can absolutely rely on my orders being carried out by Bormann immediately, and in spite of all obstacles. Bormann's proposals are so precisely worked out that I have only to say yes or no. With him, I deal in ten minutes with a pile of documents for which, with another man, I should need hours. If I say to him, remind me about such-and-such a matter in half a year's time, I can be sure he will really do so.
1941 May 31:
Bormann decrees (3354-PS) an extension of the discriminatory Nuremberg laws into the annexed Eastern territories (the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia, Danzig, and the Corridor).
1941 June 6:
A secret Bormann decree entitled "The Relationship of National Socialism to Christianity" (Exhibit Number USA-348) is promulgated. In this decree, Bormann bluntly declares that National Socialism and Christianity are incompatible, and indicates that the ultimate aim is to assure the elimination of Christianity itself.
1941 June 22: Unternehmen Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa begins as 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invade the USSR along an eighteen hundred mile front.
1941 July 16:
A comprehensive Bormann report (Document L-221), just 3 weeks after the invasion of the territory of the Soviet Union by Germany, gives details of a 20-hour conference at Hitler's field headquarters with Goering
, Rosenberg, Keitel
, and Reich Minister Lammers. This conference results in the adoption of detailed plans and directives for the enslavement, depopulation, Germanization, and annexation of extensive territories in the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern Europe. In his report on this conference, Bormann includes numerous proposals of his own for the execution of these plans.
1941 November 5:
From a Bormann letter (Document D-163) addressed to all Reichsleiter, Gauleiter, and Kreisleiter, (county leaders) transmitting to these officials the instructions of the Reich Minister of the Interior prohibiting decent burials with religious ceremonies for Russian prisoners-of-war:
To save costs, service departments of the Army will generally be contacted regarding transport of corpses (furnishing of vehicles) whenever possible. No coffins will be indented for the transfer and burial. The body will be completely enveloped with strong paper (if possible, oil, tar, asphalt paper) or other suitable material. Transfer and burial is to be carried out unobtrusively. If a number of corpses have to be disposed of, the burial will be carried out in a communal grave. In this case, the bodies will be buried side by side‑-not on top of each other‑-and in accordance with the local custom regarding depth of graves. Where a graveyard is the place of burial, a distant part will be chosen. No burial ceremony or decoration of graves will be allowed.
1941 November 25:
A decree (3241-PS) signed by Bormann orders the confiscation of the property of all Jews who had left Germany or who had been deported.
1941 December 6:
German forces are pushed back by a major Russian counter-attack near Moscow. With supply lines badly over-stretched‑-and temperatures of -34C (-29F) and below making German equipment nearly useless‑-even Adolf Hitler himself begins to realize that he has drastically underestimated Soviet strength.
1941 December 7:
Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor.
1941 December 11:
Doubling down, Hitler declares war on the United States.
1942 January 24:
It is decreed that all legislation and government appointments and promotions must be undertaken exclusively by Bormann. He is to take part in the preparation‑-as well as the enactment and promulgation‑-of all Reich laws and enactments; and further, he has to give his assent to all enactments of the Reich Lander, that is the states, as well as all decrees of the Reich governors. All communications between state and Party officials must pass through his hands.
From Hitler, A Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock: The last of the great feudatories of the Nazi Court to carve out his demesne was Martin Bormann. It was Hess's flight to Scotland in May 1941 which gave him his chance. Himmler's empire was the SS and the police; Goering's, the Four-Year Plan, and the Luftwaffe; Ley's, the Labor Front; Bormann's was the Party. Succeeding to Hess's position as Head of the Party Chancery, as early as January 1942 he was able to secure a directive laying down that he alone was to handle the Party's share in all legislation; "personnel questions of civil servants" (in plainer terms, jobs for Party members in the State administration), and all contacts between the various ministries and the Party. Direct communication between the supreme authorities of the Reich and other offices of the Party was not permitted.
1942 March 4:
This could be made into a powerful position, and Bormann was indefatigable in working to enlarge his claims. His agents were the Gauleiters, who were directly responsible to him. In December 1942, when all Gaue became Reich Defense Districts, the Gauleiters, now Reich Defense Commissioners as well, gained an effective control over the whole of the civilian war effort. The decentralization of administration made necessary by the heavy bombing concentrated still further power in their hands. After Himmler became Minister of the Interior in 1943 a clash between the two empires of the SS and the Party was inevitable. To the surprise of most people, Bormann not only held his own against the powerful Reichsfuehrer-SS, but by the end of 1944 had gained a lead in the struggle for power.
While both men controlled powerful organizations, Bormann grasped the importance of making himself indispensable to Hitler. In constant attendance on him, he succeeded in drawing most of the threads of internal administration into his hands. Hitler, preoccupied with the war, was glad enough to be relieved of the burden of administration which he had always disliked, and in April 1943 Bormann was officially recognized as Secretary to the Fuehrer. It was Bormann who decided whom the Fuehrer should or should not see, what he should and should not read, who was present at nearly every interview, and [who] drafted the Fuehrer's instructions . . . . In this way Bormann, a brutal and much-hated man, acquired immense power.
Gerda Bormann gives birth to Fred Hartmut Bormann.
Bormann is promoted to Reichsminister.
Hitler, Bormann, Goering, Saukel.
1942 March 21: Fritz Sauckel
is appointed General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labor (Generalbevollmaechtigter fuer den Arbeitseinsatz).
From Fritz Sauckel's IMT testimony: The reason why I was chosen for this office was never known to me and I do not know it now. Because of my engineering studies and my occupation, I took an interest in questions concerning labor systems, but I do not know whether that was the reason. Reichsleiter Bormann stated that [my appointment was made at Speer's suggestion] in the preamble to his official decree. I do not know the actual circumstances.
1942 May 27:
Heydrich is wounded in an assassination attempt in Prague.
1942 June 4:
Heydrich dies a painful death at the age of 38. Although the exact cause of death has not been definitively established, the autopsy states that his death was most likely caused by bacteria and toxins from bomb splinters received in the recent assassination attempt.
1942 June 10:
All 192 men over 16 years of age in the village of Lidice are murdered by the Germans in reprisal for the assignation of Heydrich.
1942 August 1:
Bormann, in a memo (Document R- 36), writes:
The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we don't need them, they may die. They should not receive the benefits of the German public health system. We do not care about their fertility. They may practice abortion and use contraceptives; the more the better. We don't want them educated; it is enough if they can count up to 100. Such stooges will be the more useful to us. Religion we leave to them as a diversion. As to food, they will not get any more than is absolutely necessary. We are the masters; we come first.
1942 September 4:
From a conference report (Document 025-PS) which states that the recruitment, importation, mobilization, and processing of 500,000 female domestic workers from the East would be handled exclusively by Sauckel, Himmler, and Bormann:
The Fuehrer has ordered the immediate importation of 400,000 to 500,000 female domestic eastern workers from the Ukraine between the ages of 15 and 35 and has charged the Plenipotentiary for Allocation of Labor with the execution of this action which is to end in about 3 months. In connection with this‑-this is also approved by Reichsleiter Bormann‑-the illegal bringing of female housekeepers into the Reich by members of the Armed Forces, or various other agencies is to be allowed subsequently and, furthermore, irrespective of the official recruiting, is not to be prevented . . . . Generally, one gathered from this conference that the questions concerning the recruitment and mobilization, as well as the treatment of female domestic workers from the East, are being handled by the Plenipotentiary for Allocation of Labor, the Reichsfuehrer-SS, and the Chief of the German Police, (Mueller) and the Party Chancellery; and that the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories is in these questions considered as having no, or only limited, competence.
1942 October 9
Bormann promulgates a decree (Document 3244-PS) prescribing that "the permanent elimination of the Jews from the territories of Greater Germany can no longer be carried out by emigration, but by the use of ruthless force in the special camps of the East." Bormann starts out in this decree by saying: "Recently rumors have been stimulated throughout the Reich as to ''violent things' we are doing with respect to the Jews. These rumors are being brought back to the Reich by our returning soldiers who have [witnessed] them in the East. If we are to combat the effect of these rumors, then our attitude, as I now outline it to you officially, must be communicated to the German civil population."
Bormann then reviews what he terms "the two-thousand-year-old struggle against Judaism," and he divides the Party's program into two spheres: the first, the effort of the Party and the conspirators to excommunicate and expel the Jews from the economic and social life of Germany. Then he adds: "When we started rolling with our war, this measure by itself was not enough; we had to resort to forced emigration and set up our camps in the East." He then goes on to say that: "As our armies have advanced in the East, we have overrun the lands to which we have sent the Jews and now, these emigration measures, our second proposal, are no longer sufficient." Then he comes to the proposal, the considered proposal of himself and the Party Chancellery: "We must transport these Jews eastward and farther eastward and place them in special camps for forced labor." The last sentence of Bormann's decree: "It lies in the very nature of the matter that these problems, which in part are very difficult, can be solved only with ruthless severity in the interest of the final security of our people."
1942 October 23:
An order (3243-PS) signed by Bormann announces a Ministry of Food decree, issued at Bormann's instigation, which deprives Jews of many essential food items, all special sickness and pregnancy rations for expectant mothers, and orders confiscation of food parcels sent to the beleaguered Jews.
1942 November 16:
By a decree of the Ministerial Council for Defense of the Reich, all Gauleiter‑-who are under Bormann by virtue of his position as Chief of the Party Chancellery‑-are appointed Reich Defense Commissars, and charged with the co-ordination, supervision, and management of the Nazi war effort. From this point on, the Party, under Bormann, becomes the decisive force in planning and conducting the Nazi war economy.
1942 December 22:
Harro Schulze-Boysen, a German officer, commentator, and German Resistance fighter, is executed at Ploetzensee Prison in Berlin. Schulze-Boysen was a member of the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle), a Soviet espionage group. Martin Bormann had long been suspected of being a Rote Kapelle agent, but absolutely no proof of this has ever been found.
From The German Army at War, 1939-1945 , by Samuel J. Newland: Louis Kilzer, an investigative reporter, attempts to take readers to another level of war with his examination of the politics and personalities in Hitler's headquarters, in his book, Hitler's Traitor: Martin Bormann and the Defeat of the Third Reich. Since the war's end, students of the Third Reich's history have been fascinated both by a supposed traitor in the Nazi hierarchy, a Soviet agent code-named "Werther," and the personality and politics of Hitler's Party Secretary, Martin Bormann. Kilzer, with the techniques of his craft, attempts to prove that Bormann was, in fact, the traitor Werther‑- who fed countless pieces of information to the Soviets‑-thus making him one of Nazi Germany's most notorious turncoats.
1943 January 29:
Bormann remains an interesting personality in Hitler's inner circle. His confidential letters to his wife‑-published after the war‑-proved him to be a totally amoral person, dedicated only to the maintenance of his personal power and pleasures. That he might have been a Soviet spy is not an original accusation. Earlier writers, and members of the inner council of the National Socialist regime questioned Bormann's loyalty. Some, indeed, accused him of being a Soviet agent. Kilzer's book adds little if anything to our understanding of Bormann, or to the validity of these charges. A review of the bibliography in many respects reveals why. There are no citations from any German sources other than English translations, and none from any German archive. [Generally], all of Kilzer's sources are well-used postwar books and studies. Only the "Black Bertha file" in Moscow shows any real original primary research in the overseas archives, where any new revelations on this subject undoubtedly lie, if they exist.
As a consequence, the reader is presented with a rehash of the Soviet spy rings that penetrated German security, (most notably the notorious "Rote Kapelle" that fed Stalin key intelligence information) and a rather rambling account of Germany's war against the Soviets. In the end, the author attempts to validate that the key spy in the highest echelons of the German command was Martin Bormann. But Kilzer fails to provide proof for his accusations. In the end the proof seems to be: "Who else could it have been?" No smoking gun is produced, a factor that has caused earlier writers to question whether there even was an agent named Werther. The discriminating reader is again left with the same questions that have existed since the end of the war: Was there a Soviet agent code-named Werther? If so, who was he? Was it Martin Bormann, or possibly General Hans Oster, [a] German officer dedicated to destroying Hitler? We still don't know the answers.
From a secret Bormann circular, (Document 656-PS) transmitting instructions of the Nazi High Command, providing for the enforcement of labor demands on Allied prisoners-of-war through the use of weapons and corporal punishment:
Should the prisoner of war not fulfill his order, then he [that is the guard unit, the guard personnel] has , in the case of very exceptional need and extreme danger, the right to force obedience with weapons, if he has no other means. He may use the weapon insofar as this is necessary to attain his goal. If the assistant guard is not armed, then he is authorized in forcing obedience by other appropriate means.
1943 February 2:
Paulus surrenders at Stalingrad.
After the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad, Bormann exploits the disaster to persuade Hitler to create a Committee of Three, representing the State (Hans Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery), the Army (Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the OKW), and the Party (Bormann). Goebbels, Speer, Goering and Himmler, who all view this action as a power grab by Bormann‑-and a threat to their own power‑-unsuccessfully combine to block it. While the Committee of Three will soon decline into irrelevance, Bormann, with his daily access to Hitler, will emerge stronger than ever.
From The Unseen War in Europe by John H Waller: Enjoying the Fuehrer's favor was a sometime thing. As much time and effort were devoted to maneuvering and scheming by Hitler's closest courtiers as were devoted to doing their jobs. The chosen few at the top were incessantly intriguing; Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Bormann, and Ribbentrop all hated one another, or so said Himmler's masseur, Felix Kersten, who called Hitler's court "a true theater of the absurd."
1943 April 6:
German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a participant in the Abwehr-centered German resistance movement and a founding member of the Confessing Church, is arrested. He will be executed by hanging at dawn on April 9, 1945, just three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin, and a month before the capitulation of Nazi Germany.
From Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas: The [Abwehr] conspirators' plans were roughly the same as before: Hitler would be assassinated; General Beck, who had resigned in protest four years earlier, would lead the coup and likely become the head of a new government. According to Gisevius, Beck "stood above all parties ... [as] the only general with an unimpaired reputation, the only general who had voluntarily resigned." Having Beck as the leader of a new German government gave many generals the courage to move forward.
1943 April 12:
Meanwhile, the larger conspiracy went ahead on several fronts, with the Abwehr planning to send Bonhoeffer on a mission to Norway in early April. For the first time, though, in February 1942, Dohnanyi learned that the Gestapo was watching him and Bonhoeffer. Dohnanyi's telephone had been tapped, and his correspondence was being intercepted. Martin Bormann and . . . Heydrich were likely behind it. Aware of the increasing danger, Bonhoeffer drew up a will, which he gave to Bethge; he did not want to alarm his family.
Bonhoeffer was meeting regularly with his brother Klaus who, as the top lawyer for Lufthansa, had many high-level business contacts. Klaus was able to bring his colleague Otto John into the conspiracy, and John drew in the Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand. The number of people involved became quite large. There were roughly two main groups conspiring against Hitler. The first was centered on Canaris and Oster and the Abwehr. But another group, led by Count Helmuth von Moltke, was now beginning to form. It was called the Kreisau Circle.
The publication The Greater German Reichstag, 1943 edition, states that Bormann was appointed Secretary of the Fuehrer on this day.
1943 July 1:
Bormann decrees (Document 1422-PS) that all Jews be completely withdrawn from the protection of the ordinary courts, that they be handed over to the exclusive jurisdiction of Himmler's police, and that Adolf Eichmann is to wield absolute powers over the Jews. The effect of this decree is to remove all alleged Jewish offenders from the jurisdiction of the courts of law, and to turn them over to the police. The police are to have jurisdiction over alleged Jewish offenders, not the tribunal of law.
1943 July 24:
The large port city of Hamburg is hit by a large raid of 740 aircraft, killing about 1,500 people. Only 12 aircraft are lost, 1.5% of the force.
Himmler is appointed Minister of the Interior.
From Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile by Paul Manning: But to Bormann the most telling event of 1943 was the appointment of Himmler‑-Reichsfuehrer of the SS and chief of police‑-to the additional position of minister of the interior of the Third Reich. This was seen by Bormann as a threat to his control of the 42 Gaue, or districts, whose leaders reported directly to him. Albert Speer also perceived it as a potential dissolution of Bormann's domestic power base, so he looked anew to Himmler as the one who could accomplish what he had failed to do: win out over Bormann in the political infighting for control of the domestic economy. Himmler attempted to pull the Gauleiters into line, by sending them orders through district SS commanders. The Gauleiters complained to Bormann, who had Hitler prohibit any more such steps. Himmler immediately pulled out, and the Himmler-Speer alliance came to an end.
1943 September 3:
Martin Bormann was now sole leader on the domestic front, and he went further to strengthen his hold over the economy. The aging, old-line Gauleiters were replaced with his new breed of administrators, typically with legal training, to handle the complex matters of an economy that, since the fall of Stalingrad on February 1, was moving rapidly into full war production. Each district leader had committees constantly surveying the entire spectrum of his regional economy. There were committees on insurance, electric power, steel, coal, and industry in general. Their reports went directly to Bormann, who dictated the directives that kept the economy in tune with his thinking. Whenever Albert Speer would try to expand his area of armament production, he would receive a curt memorandum from Martin Bormann to desist. Speer attempted to bring into his ministry's jurisdiction the Peenemuende rocketry production, and sent Hitler a request to this effect. The reply was negative and bristling, and came, not from Hitler, but from Reichsleiter Bormann.
The Allied invasion of Italy begins.
1943 September 8:
Italy surrenders to the Allies.
1943 September 10:
German forces occupy Rome.
1943 September 18:
Gerda Bormann gives birth to her last of ten children, Volker Bormann.
1943 October 13:
Pietro Badoglio declares that the Kingdom of Italy is now at war with its former ally, Nazi Germany. Note: Italy has the distinction of being the only nation that ended neither World War on the same side on which it had begun the war.
Ribbentrop, Hitler, Bormann
1943 November 25:
From a Bormann circular issued from the headquarters of the Fuehrer, demanding harsher treatment of prisoners-of-war and the increased exploitation of their manpower:
In reports, individual Gaue administrations often refer to over-indulgent treatment of prisoners-of-war on the part of the guard personnel. In many places, according to these reports, the guarding authorities have even developed into protectors and caretakers of the prisoners-of-war. I informed the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of these reports, with the comment that the productive German working population absolutely cannot understand it if, in a time when the German people is fighting for existence or non-existence, prisoners-of-war‑-hence our enemies‑-are leading a better life than the German working man; and that it is an urgent duty of every German who has to do with prisoners-of-war, to bring about a complete utilization of their manpower. The chief of prisoner-of-war affairs in the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces has now given the unequivocal order, attached hereto in copy form, to the commanders of prisoners-of-war in the military districts. I request that this order be brought orally to the attention of all Party office holders in the appropriate manner. In case, in the future, complaints about unsuitable treatment of prisoners-of-war still come to light, they are to be immediately communicated to the commanders of the prisoners-of-war, with a reference to the attached order.
1944 January 11:
From a secret letter from Bormann, (Document 061-PS) disclosing the existence of large-scale operations to drain off commodities from German-occupied Europe for delivery to the bombed-out population in Germany. It should be noted that the Hague Regulations and the Laws of War permit the requisitioning of goods and services, only for the use of the Army of Occupation, and for the needs of the administration of the area. This proposal and this action represent the requisitioning of materials in occupied areas for the use of the folk at home, of the home front:
Since the supply of textiles and household goods for the bombed population is becoming increasingly difficult, the proposition was made repeatedly to effect purchases in the occupied territories in greater proportions.
1944 May 30:
Various Gauleiter proposed to let these purchases be handled by suitable private merchants who know these districts and have corresponding connections. I have brought these proposals to the attention of the Reich Minister of Economics and am quoting his reply of 16 December 1943 on account of its fundamental importance: "I consider it an especially important task to make use of the economic power of the occupied territories for the Reich. You are aware of the fact that, since the occupation of the Western territories, the buying out of these countries has been effected to the greatest extent possible. Raw materials, semi-finished products, and stocks in finished goods have been rolling into Germany for months; valuable machines were sent to our armaments industry. Everything was done at that time to increase our armament potentialities. Later on, the shipments of these important economic goods were replaced by the so-called transfer of orders from industry to industry."
A conference is held at which the question is discussed of how the office of the Plenipotentiary General for the Allocation of Labor came to be established.
From Speer's IMT testimony: I should like to say that I wanted a delegate to deal with all labor allocation problems connected with my task of military armament production. My chief concern in the allocation problem, at the beginning of my term of office, was with the Gauleiter, who carried on a policy of Gaue particularism. The nonpolitical offices of the Labor Ministry could not proceed against the Gauleiter, and the result was that manpower inside Germany was frozen. I suggested to Hitler that he should appoint a Gauleiter whom I knew to this post: a man named Hanke. Goering, by the way, has already confirmed this. Hitler agreed. Two days later, Bormann made the suggestion that Sauckel be chosen. I did not know Sauckel well, but I was quite ready to accept the choice. It is quite possible that Sauckel did not know anything about the affair and that he assumed‑-as he was entitled to do‑-that he was chosen at my suggestion.
1944 May 30:
Bormann instructs (Document 057-PS) the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party to prohibit any police measures or criminal proceedings against German civilians who had lynched or murdered Allied airmen.
1944 June 6: D-Day
Allied forces invade Normandy in tremendous strength.
1944 July 20:
Hitler survives an assassination attempt (bomb explosion) during a war conference.
1944 July 23:
Majdanek is liberated.
Himmler's mistress, Hedwig Potthash (Himmler refers to her as 'Haschen,' 'little hare,' or 'bunny') takes up residence in the Obersalzberg. Haschen, the daughter of a sergeant-major in the Army, is 12 years younger than Himmler. She has two children by Himmler: a son Helge, and a daughter, Nanette Dorothea. Nearby neighbors are the Bormanns and their eight children, and Haschen and Gerda Bormann become fast friends.
Gerda Bormann writes a letter to her husband, Martin, from the Obersalzberg:
Helge is a lot taller than our Hartmut, but much slimmer and thinner. In his movements and general build, he is as much like Heinrich [Himmler] as Hartmut is like you, but I can't see the facial likeness any more. The little girl, however, is ridiculously like her father. Haschen has some photos from Heinrich's childhood where he looks exactly the same. The baby has grown big and sturdy, and is so sweet . . . . Oh, Daddy, it doesn't bear imagining what would happen if you and Heinrich [Himmler] didn't see to everything. The Fuehrer would never be able to do it all alone. So you two must keep well and take care of yourselves, because the Fuehrer is Germany, but you are his selfless comrades-in-arms.
1944 September 9:
Bormann writes a letter to his wife, Gerda, from Berlin:
I have told HH [Heinrich Himmler], who telephones once a day, that you are glad to know he's there, because you think this will solve the problem. It gladdened his heart, and he send you his warmest regards . . . . Himmler is always quite shocked at our unhealthy way of living. He says he has to be in bed by midnight, at least as a rule. And we go on working till four in the morning, though we do stay on bed a little longer. But this is just the old, old story.
Keitel, Goering, Hitler, Bormann
1944 September 13:
From a Bormann decree (Document 232-PS) addressed to all Reichsleiter, Gauleiter, Kreisleiter, and leaders of the Nazi affiliated organizations: establishing Nazi Party jurisdiction over the use of prisoners-of-war for forced labor:
The regulations valid until now on the treatment of prisoners-of-war and the tasks of the guard units are no longer justified in view of the demands of the total war effort. On my suggestion therefore, the OKW issued the regulation, a copy of which is enclosed. The following observations are made on its contents:
1944 September 30:
I. The understanding exists between the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, and myself, that the co-operation of the Party in the commitment of prisoners-of-war is inevitable. Therefore, the officers assigned to the prisoner-of-war organization have been instructed to cooperate most closely with the Hoheitstrager. The commandants of the prisoner-of-war camps must immediately assign liaison officers to the Kreisleiter. Thu s, the Hoheitstrager will be afforded the opportunity to alleviate existing difficulties locally, to exercise influence on the behavior of guards units, and better to assimilate the commitment of prisoners-of-war to the political and economic demands.
Bormann promulgates a decree, (Document 058-PS) removing jurisdiction over all prisoners-of-war from the Nazi High Command, and transferring it to Himmler. The decree also provides that all POW camp commanders should be under the orders of the local SS commanders. By virtue of this order, Hitler is enabled to proceed with his program of inhuman treatment—and even extermination—of Allied prisoners-of-war.
Bormann writes a letter to his wife, Gerda, from Berlin:
Heinrich [Himmler] told me yesterday that he has been hanging pictures, doing things about the house, and playing with the children the whole day long. He didn't accept any telephone calls either, but devoted himself quite comfortably with his family for once . . . . Uncle Heinrich apparently is very pleased at the way Heige bosses everybody; he regards this as a sure sign of a leader of the future.
1944 October 17:
From a letter from Rosenberg to Bormann:
In order not to delay the liquidation of companies under my supervision, I beg to point out that the companies concerned are not private firms but business enterprises of the Reich, so that directives with regard to them, just as with regard to Government offices, are reserved to the highest authorities of the Reich. I supervise the following companies . . . . Seizure of all agricultural products as well as commercial marketing and transportation thereof . . . .
1944 October 18:
During this period, the Z.O.[Central Trading Corporation East] together with its subsidiaries has seized: grain 9,200,000 tons, meat and meat products 622,000 tons, linseed 950,000 tons, butter 208,000 tons, sugar 400,000 tons, fodder 2,500,000 tons, potatoes 3,200,000 tons, seeds 141,000 tons, other agricultural products 1,200,000 tons, and 1,075,000,000 eggs. The following was required for transportation: 1,418,000 freight cars and 472,000 tons shipping space.
As the Allies are about to invade the Reich, Bormann is appointed political and organizational commander of the Volkssturm (People's Army), a desperate grouping of elderly men unfit for combat, and boys. At the IMT, the Prosecution will charge that, by virtue of his leadership of the Volkssturm, Bormann becomes instrumental in needlessly prolonging the war, with a consequential destruction of the German and the European economy and a loss of life and destruction of property.
1944 November 28:
Himmler orders the gas chambers at Auschwitz destroyed.
1944 December 16:
Beleidigender Ardennes Hitler's big gamble in the West, the Battle of the Bulge, gets underway in Belgium and Luxembourg.
1944 December 29:
Himmler hosts a reception for Rundstedt and Bormann, after which many of the participants meet elsewhere for, as Bormann writes to his wife, "music, dancing, and gaiety . . . . I did not dance, but you should have seen Jodl."
1945 January 1:
From a letter from Lammers to Bormann:
[It is a fact that] our former harmonious cooperation has, for a long time, been a thorn in the flesh of various persons who would like to play us off one against the other.
From Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis, by Ian Kershaw: Bormann's position, dependent upon the combination of his role as head of the Party organization and, especially, his proximity to Hitler as the Fuehrer's secretary and mouthpiece, guarding the portals and restricting access, was particularly strengthened. He was one of the winners from the changed circumstances after 20 July. Another was Goebbels who, like Bormann, had seized the opportunity to enhance his own position of power, as the Party increased its hold over practically all walks of life within Germany. Mobilization and control had been the essence of Party activity since the begriming. Now, as the regime tottered, the Party returned to its elements.
Speer was one of the losers in the aftermath of the bomb plot. He could no longer depend upon his special favor with Hitler. Without a Party base, he began to feel the cold. So, too, as the Party reasserted itself, did Lammers, the only point of coordination between the work of the various Reich ministries and Hitler. Though his relations with Bormann had never been free of tension, they had functioned after a fashion, and had sometimes formed the basis of a pragmatic alliance against other forces in the regime. In autumn 1944, the balance in their positions had started to tip as Bormann's position strengthened. Contact between the two waned. More important still: Lammers lost his access to Hitler. The chief orchestrator of government business was no longer in a position to discuss that business with the Head of State. In a letter to Bormann on 1 January 1945, Lammers, pointing to the early good cooperation, lamented the fact that his last audience with Hitler had been three months earlier, that he had had to give up at the end of October his quarters close to Hitler's field headquarters, and that Reich Ministers would inevitably have to seek other channels of approach to the Fuehrer if he could not provide them. He had often been, he [lamented], in the embarrassing situation that he had had to carry responsibility for decisions of the Fuehrer that had simply been transmitted to him, without any possibility of his affecting them and bringing about a different outcome. His [complaint] ended with a pathetic request to Bormann to arrange a brief audience with the Fuehrer, so that he could address the many issues which had accumulated in the meantime. With the end of the regime in sight, Hitler had, it seemed obvious, little time for or interest in the normal business of government.
From the IMT testimony of Hans Heinrich Lammers: The Reichsleiter Bormann was a successor to Reich Minister Hess. He was appointed secretary to the Fuehrer by the Fuehrer and was thereby directly included in the State sector. As Chief of the Party Chancellery, he was merely the successor to Reich Minister Hess, who was supposed to represent the wishes and ideas of the Party. The fact that he was appointed secretary to the Fuehrer, which meant that in the State sector a considerable number of things would have to go through Bormann's hands, gained him a strong position in the State affairs. I had to experience this personally to a large extent, since I, who originally had at least been able, on occasion, to report to the Fuehrer alone, could no longer do that, and could get to the Fuehrer only by way of Bormann. Most of my reports were given in Bormann's presence, and everything which I formerly had been able to dispatch to the Fuehrer directly, even pure and simple matters of State, had now to go through the Secretary of the Fuehrer, through Bormann.
Yes, he had . . . influence [in the various ministries], for all department matters [that] I could not settle by reporting them to the Fuehrer directly, or by asking for his decision, had to be made in writing and had to go through Bormann. I would then receive word from Bormann, saying this or that is the Fuehrer's decision. The possibility of a personal report, which would have enabled me to speak on behalf of the minister for whom I was reporting, was lacking. They were not my own affairs; they were always complaints or protest or differences of opinion among the members of the Cabinet which I finally could no longer take to the Fuehrer personally.
Gauleiter, as such, had of course, to go through the Party Chancellery; that was the prescribed channel for them. Since the Gauleiter as a rule, however, were at the same time heads of Prussian provinces or Reichsstatthalter, these two positions were, of course, somewhat mixed up; and a number of matters, instead of going through the prescribed channels from the minister concerned, and through me, went directly from the Gauleiter to Reichsleiter Bormann. There are, in fact, cases where this channel was chosen deliberately.
From The Labyrinth by Walter Friedrich Schellenberg: Himmler‑-"The Fuehrer has become so accustomed to Bormann that it's very difficult indeed to lessen his influence. Again and again, I have had to come to terms with him, though it's really my duty to get him out. I hope I can succeed in out-maneuvering him without having to get rid of him. He's been responsible for many of the Fuehrer's misguided decisions; in fact, he's not only confirmed his uncompromising attitude, he's stiffened it."
H. Trevor Roper: Bormann was a man of enormous power, for he controlled the whole party machine through which Germany was governed . . . . The more adventurous figures around Hitler despised Bormann as a plodding bureaucrat, an uncultured lout. The more colorful, more intellectual figures around Lenin despised Stalin on precisely the same grounds. But we know who won.
1945 January 16:
Hitler departs Bad Nauheim, and arrives for the final time in Berlin. He will spend the next few days above ground, before moving permanently into the Fuehrerbunker.
1945 January 18:
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.
1945 January 18:
The Red Army drive against Berlin begins. Hitler, along with his cooks, adjutants, two or three dozen support, medical and administrative staff, Bormann, his senior military staff, and even his dog, Blondi, move into the Fuehrerbunker, which is located underneath the Chancellery garden in Berlin.
1945 January 24:
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 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 by Guderian, who blows up at the idea of 'such an idiocy being perpetrated on the Eastern Front.' (Read)
From Panzer Leader by Heinz Guderian: Next to Himmler the most sinister member of Hitler's entourage was Martin Bormann. He was a thick-set, heavy-jowled, disagreeable, conceited, and bad-mannered man. He hated the Army‑-which he regarded as the eternal barrier to the limitless supremacy of the Party‑-and he attempted, with success, to do it harm whenever he could, to sow distrust . . . . to drive all decent persons away from Hitler's entourage and from positions of authority, and to replace them with his creatures.
1945 January 25: Beleidigender Ardennes
Hitler's big gamble, the Battle of the Bulge, collapses. The last of the German reserves are now gone.
1945 January 27:
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.
1945 February 1:
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. The Germans themselves call this the Westwall.
1945 February 3:
Martin Bormann writes a letter from the bunker to his 'beloved Mummy-girl' (his wife, Gerda) in Obersalzberg:
The Reich Chancellery garden is an amazing sight: deep craters, fallen trees, and the paths obliterated by a mass of rubble and rubbish. The Fuehrer's residence was badly hit several times; of the winter gardens and the banquet hall, only fragments of the walls are left; and the entrance hall on the Wilhelmstrasse, where the Wehrmacht guard was usually mustered, has been completely destroyed . . . .
In spite of it all, we have to go on working diligently, for the war continues on all fronts! Telephone communications are still very inadequate, and the Fuehrer's residence and the Party Chancellery still have no connection with the outside world . . . . And to crown everything, in this so-called government quarter, we still have no light, power, or water supplies! We have a water cart standing in front of the Reich Chancellery, and that is our supply for cooking and washing up! And worst of all, so Mueller tells me, are the water closets. These Kommando pigs use them constantly, and not one of them thinks of taking a bucket of water with them to flush the place.
Bormann's 'beloved Mummy-girl' pens him a letter from the rarified air of the Obersalzberg:
The Reich of our dreams will emerge . . . . In some ways, you know, this reminds me of the Goetterdaemmerung [the twilight of the gods] in the Edda [the ancient Norse saga] . . . . The monsters are storming the bridge of the Gods . . . the citadel of the Gods crumbles, and all seems lost; and then, suddenly, a new citadel arises, more beautiful than ever before . . . . We are not the first to engage in mortal combat with the powers of the underworld; and that we feel impelled‑-and are also able‑-to do so should give us a conviction of ultimate victory.
1945 February 9: 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, no longer considers Hess a major war criminal. He tells Stalin that Hess and the rest of "these men should be given a judicial trial." (Taylor)
1945 February 14:
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, Party Minister. Himmler is noncommittal, telling Goebbels nothing of his own ripening plans to open negotiations with a Swedish Count. (Read)
From The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler by Robert Payne: The real power was now passing more and more into the hands of Martin Bormann, who had come to occupy the place, in Hitler's affections, once held by Rudolf Hess. Heavy and bull-necked, abrupt in manner, coarse in features; and so short that he only came up to Hitler's shoulder, Bormann, as head of the party secretariat, was now reading and commenting on all documents presented to Hitler, and sometimes signing the replies without bothering to inform his master. One of his tasks was to see that all Hitler's spoken words were recorded for posterity, and we owe to him a vast collection of stenographic reports of Hitler's monologues and conversations. Amid the rubble of Berlin, Hitler still had time to gaze at himself in historical perspective and compare himself with Napoleon. At the end of February, 1945, while the noose was being tightened, he said:
1945 March 5: Goebbels Diary
"I have been Europe's last hope. She proved incapable of refashioning herself by means of voluntary reforms. She showed herself impervious to charm and persuasion. To take her, I had to use violence.
Europe can be built only on a foundation of ruins. Not material ruins, but ruins of vested interests and economic coalitions, of mental rigidity and narrow-mindedness. Europe must be refashioned in the common interest of all, and without regard for individuals. Napoleon understood this perfectly.
I, better than anyone else, can well imagine the torments suffered by Napoleon, longing‑-as he was‑-for the triumph of peace, and yet compelled to continue waging war without ceasing and without seeing any prospect of ceasing; and still persisting in the hope eternal of at last achieving peace."
Hitler presented himself to the unquestioning Bormann as the man of peace doomed to wage war, and took comfort from this strange picture of himself.
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)
1945 March 15:
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. One of Hitler's favorite generals, he has learned, 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)
1945 March 18:
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 Reichsfuehrer‑SS Himmler who, 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)
1945 March 19:
Hitler's "Scorched Earth" Decree:
Our nation's struggle for existence forces us to utilize all means, even within Reich territory, to weaken the fighting power of our enemy and to prevent further advances. Any opportunity to inflict lasting damage on the striking power of the enemy must be taken advantage of. It is a mistake to believe that undestroyed‑-or only temporarily paralyzed‑-traffic, communications, industrial, and supply installations will be useful to us again after the recapture of lost territories. During his retreat, the enemy will leave behind only scorched earth, and will abandon all concern for the population. I therefore command:
1. All military traffic, communications, industrial and supply installations as well as objects within Reich territory that might be used by the enemy in the continuation‑-either now or later‑-of his fight, are to be destroyed.
2. It is the responsibility of the military command posts to execute this order to destroy all military objects, including traffic and communications installations. The Gauleiters and Commissioners for Reich Defense are responsible for destroying the industrial and supply installations, as well as of other [objects of strategic value]; the troops must give the Gauleiters and Commissioners for Reich Defense the assistance they need to carry out this task.
3. This command is to be transmitted to all troop commanders as promptly as possible; orders to the contrary are null and void.
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer: It [Hitler's "Scorched Earth" Decree] was followed on March 23 by an equally monstrous order by Martin Bormann, the Fuehrer's secretary, a mole-like man who had now gained a position at court second to none among the Nazi satraps. Speer described it on the stand at Nuremberg:
1945 March 23:
The Bormann decree aimed at bringing the population to the center of the Reich from both East and West, and the foreign workers and prisoners-of-war were to be included. These millions of people were to be sent upon their trek on foot. No provisions for their existence had been made, nor could it be carried out in view of the situation. It would have resulted in an unimaginable hunger catastrophe.
And had all the other orders of Hitler and Bormann, (there were a number of supplementary directives) been carried out, millions of Germans who had escaped with their lives up to then might well have died. Speer tried to summarize for the Nuremberg court the various "scorched earth" orders. To be destroyed, he said, were:
all industrial plants, all important electrical facilities, water works, gas works, food stores and clothing stores; all bridges, all railway and communication installations, all waterways, all ships, all freight cars and all locomotives.
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.
1945 March 27:
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.
1945 March 27:
Hitler, enraged by the failure of Busse's relief attack, is fuming as Guderian defends Busse's failure, citing the high casualty rate of the failed attack. Keitel proposes to visit the front himself, to determine whether a further relief attack is 'a practical proposition.' (Clark)
1945 March 27: Goebbels Diary
Bormann is not doing very well at the moment. His ideas, particularly on the question of radicalization of the war, are not what I would have expected of him. As I have already said, these people are semi-bourgeois. Their thinking may be revolutionary but they do not act that way. Now, however, the revolutionaries must be brought to the top.
1945 March 28:
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. At this point in the war it hardly matters: the military situation is beyond hopeless and, even though there are some Panzers available for action, there is little fuel for them. (Clark)
From Barbarossa by Alan Clark: To avoid interruption from air attack, it had been customary for some time for these afternoon 'briefings,' as they were called, to be held in the corridor of Hitler's personal underground bunker, and into this confined space there crowded, at 2 pm on 28th March, Guderian and Busse, Keitel, Jodl, Burgdorf, Hitler, Bormann; and sundry adjutants, staff officers, stenographers, and men of the SS bodyguard. Soon, the conference took on the character, which was to be a recurrent feature of the 'bunker period,' of a hysterical multipartite shouting match. Busse had barely started on his report when Hitler began to interrupt him with the same accusations of negligence, if not cowardice, which Guderian had protested against the previous day.
1945 April 3: Goebbels Diary
Guderian then began to interrupt, using unusually strong and dissenting language, drawing in turn murmurs of reproof from Keitel and Burgdorf. Finally, Hitler brought the company to order by dismissing everyone except Guderian and Keitel, and, turning to Guderian he said, 'Colonel-General, your physical health requires that you immediately take six weeks' convalescent leave.' With the dismissal of Guderian, the last rational and independent influence was removed from the direction of military affairs in Germany. Only the 'Nazi soldiers' remained, all of them now in timid conformity with Brauchitsch's 'office boy' image, and tied to the execution of the Fuehrer's wayward policies. It was one more paradox of the Russian campaign that, at the end, when Hitler had mastered the General Staff and finally extinguished the evasions and insubordinations which had persisted among them, (albeit in diminishing strength) since 1941, he began to take on all the characteristics [that] the generals had so long ascribed to him, and [that] they had used to excuse their own intermittent disobedience.
Once more, a mass of new decrees and instructions issues from Bormann. Bormann has turned the Party Chancellery into a paper factory. Every day, he sends out a mountain of letters and files, which the Gauleiters, now involved in battle, no longer even have time to read. In some cases too, it is totally useless stuff of no practical value in our struggle. Even in the Party, we have no clear leadership in contact with the people.
1945 April 9:
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, former head of the Abwehr, General Hans Oster, and Pastor Dietrich Boenhoeffer, are hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp.
1945 April 12: Death
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest serving president in American history, of a cerebral hemorrhage (3:45 pm) in Warm Springs, Georgia, three months into his fourth term and less than one month before the surrender of Germany.
1945 April 13:
At the daily situation conference, a newly confident Hitler who‑-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)
1945 April 15:
Eva Braun moves into the Fuehrerbunker.
1945 April 16:
The Battle of the Seelow Heights begins, as General Zhukov launches his final attack on Berlin.
1945 April 18:
German forces in the Ruhr surrender.
1945 April 20:
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 Bormann, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, Doenitz
, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner
, and various generals. After breakfast‑-in the 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)
1945 April 21:
The Red Army reaches Berlin.
1945 April 21:
The last Western air raid strikes Berlin. After the raid, Eva Braun, the secretaries and the other support staff go above ground to the ruins of the Chancellery for a sort of midnight birthday party, in honor of the already retired Fuehrer. A wind-up phonograph is located, but only one surviving record can be found to play on it: 'Red Roses Bring You Happiness.' With the rumble of Soviet artillery in the air, the party gets underway as the celebrants drink champagne to excess and repeatedly dance to that single solitary song. When the phone rings, and then an artillery shell explodes nearby, the rest of the party also heads back into the safety of the Fuehrerbunker. Traudl Junge will later tell Gitta Sereny:
Everybody came, even Bormann and Dr. Morell. We drank champagne and danced to the accompaniment of a single record somebody had brought. People laughed hysterically. It was horrible; soon I couldn't stand it and went back down, to bed. (Read, Sereny)
1945 April 21:
While Hitler's entourage parties in Berlin, Himmler meets with a representative of the World Jewish Conference, Norbert Mauser. After a long discussion stretching into the wee hours of the morning, Himmler makes many concessions. He promises that no more Jews will be killed, all the camps will be handed over intact to the Allies, and the 15,000 women prisoners of Ravensbrueck will be released to the Red Cross. (Read)
1945 April 23:
Hitler wakes in a foul mood. When his quack doctor, Theodor Morell, offers to give him an injection of morphine to calm his nerves, the paranoid Fuehrer accuses him of attempting to knock him out, so that he can be transported to Berchtesgaden against his will; and abruptly dismisses [Morell]. (Read)
1945 April 23:
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 was 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, sputteringly 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)
1945 April 23:
For a full five minutes after Hitler declares that he will stay in Berlin and commit suicide, no one in the Bunker speaks. Then, with the encouragement of the others, Alfred 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 the 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)
1945 April 23:
After Hitler's tantrum, the telephone lines from Berlin to what is left of the Reich buzz with the news. Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, upon hearing of his Fuehrer's breakdown, calls to buck him up, promising a great diplomatic breakthrough to win the day. Himmler calls, and makes an impassioned plea for Hitler to not give up hope. After replacing the receiver Himmler mutters, 'They're all mad in Berlin. What am I to do?'
The one thing he does not do is go the Fuehrerbunker himself. Instead, he sends Dr. Gebhart to offer Hitler the services of Himmler's own 600-man SS escort squad. He then sends Schellenberg to Luebeck, to meet with unofficial back channel Red Cross envoy Bernadotte. Schellenberg is instructed to officially request‑-in Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler's name‑-that Bernadotte approach Eisenhower with an immediate offer of surrender in the West (but, of course, not in the East).
This is a very dangerous move by Himmler. Had he put out this feeler with Hitler's approval, it would have been merely a cynical ploy to cause dissention among the Allies. Were it handled correctly and cleverly leaked, it might have done much to further distrust between the Allies, whichever way the 'negotiations' go. But his doing this behind Hitler's back is clearly treason, and will give the Allies the opportunity to turn the tables, and sow dissension in the Nazi ranks. (Read)
1945 April 23:
In Berchtesgaden, Goering hears the news of Hitler's breakdown in 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 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)