How to get to Hitler’s Former Bunker
This post is a guide to finding the location of Hitler’s last bunker in Berlin. We also offer a free self-guided tour of Third Reich sights in Berlin.
In between Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor, you find some typical 1980s East German concrete slab residential buildings. The more privileged citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) lived here, such as Katarina Witt, the figure skating World Champion of the 1980s and Olympic gold medal winner of 1984 and 1988 as well as members of the higher administration of the GDR. And there is a parking lot. And people gathering, listening to sightseeing guides and trying to get a glimpse of an information board. The board was installed by “Berliner Unterwelten”, an NGO that provides visits and information about NS architecture in Berlin, during the lead up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Under the parking lot was one entrance to Hitler’s former bunker, the so-called “Führerbunker” (“Leader’s bunker”). There are no signs or plaques installed, because there is nothing worth commemorating. It’s just there, underneath the ground, inaccessible for good reason. There are, however, other bunkers throughout Berlin, which can be visited on a tour. Check out our post on Berlin Bunker tours.
The Hitler bunker was completed in two phases, 1936 and 1944. This air-raid shelter was the center of the Third Reich’s government from January 16, 1945, when Hitler retreated into the bunker, until Mai 2nd 1945, when General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defense Area, surrendered to General Chuikov of the Soviet Army.
The bunker was a highly sophisticated product of German war technology. It had 30 rooms on 2,700 square feet (250 square meters) and several exits, one to the garden of the New Reich Chancellery, where the parking lot is now. The facility was 5 meters below the surface, which in Berlin means also below the groundwater, so there was a lot of pumping necessary. The cover and the walls where made of two layers of armored concrete and the ventilation had a filter system against lethal gas. The bunker was independent from the Berlin grid as it had its own diesel generator.
When Hitler arrived in the bunker in January 1945 as the Anglo-American air raids became fiercer, he took with him his adjutants and his staff as well as his closest assistant Martin Bormann. Eva Braun, Hitler’s companion, joined him in February. In April, Josef Goebbels, minister of public enlightenment propaganda and head of the NSADP, the Nazi party, in Berlin, arrived with his wife and 6 children.
During the last days of the month of April, Hitler learned about the hopeless situation for the German army and about Heinrich Himmler’s attempts to negotiate with the Western allies. Heinrich Himmler was the leader of the SS and at the end of the war he was an important commander of the army in the Rhine Valley. In the early hours of April 29th, Hitler married Eva Braun and then dictated his last will and political testament to his secretary Traudl Junge. In his will he stipulated his body and Eva Braun’s to be cremated and organized his private bequest. In his political testament, he expressed his intent to choose death rather than ‘fall into the hands of enemies’. He named a new government, namely Josef Goebbels as his successor as the Chancellor of the Reich. Even though Hitler had always been referred to as the “Führer” (“Leader”), the constitution of the Weimar Republic of 1919 had never been abolished and his official title was Chancellor of the Reich.
On April 30th 1945, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun took their lives and were cremated in the garden of the New Reich Chancellery. Josef Goebbels term as chancellor was very short: On May 1st, he and his wife Magda Goebbels poisoned their children with potassium cyanide and committed suicide. The next day, Berlin surrendered and the Soviet Army occupied all government buildings and the bunker. The Soviets tried unsuccessfully to blow up the bunker, but they managed to destroy all the facilities at the surface. The residential buildings and the parking lot were designed to cover most of the area of the former bunker in the hope that people forget about it. After the German Democratic Republic collapsed, the idea is rather to discuss things openly. But also today, there are people such as Wolfgang Benz, a leading scholar on anti-Semitism, opting for total coverage: “There is nothing to remember and nothing to learn”.
In the year 2004, the German movie (with Italy, Russia and Austria) “Downfall” (“Der Untergang”) about the last days in the bunker was released. It is based on the memories of his secretary Traudl Junge and the works of a German historian. At the end of her life, Traudl Junge agreed to talk to the Austrian artist André Heller, who lost Jewish family members at the death camps. The documentary “Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary” (Im toten Winkel”) is partly integrated into the movie.
Only steps away is Peter Eisenman’s famous Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.
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We also offer a free self-guided tour of Third Reich sights in Berlin.
Written by Gundula Schmidt-Graute