Erich Kempka

Berchtesgaden, 20 June 1945
Testimony of Erich Kempka on the last days of Hitler

I, Erich Kempka, was born on 16.9.1910 at Oberhausen/Rhineland as the son of a miner. I have 9 brothers and sisters. Whereas my father died in January 1945, my mother is living at Oberhausen. attended the elementary school up to my 14th year of age and served an apprenticeship as electrician. After my apprenticeship I worked for one year as a practical apprentice with the automobile-distributers of DKW at Essen. Then I got a position as a driver with the "Essener NationaIzeitung," which Position I held until 1932.

Being a member of the NSDAP since May 1930 I came as a chauffeur to Adolf Hitler by recommendation of Gauleiter Terboven for whom I had done very much driving. In the years of 1932 to 1936 I, besides Brigadeführer Schreck, was a chauffeur for about 95% of all the trips of the Führer. Since 1936 I was the sole chauffeur of the Führer. The Führer himself never drove a car. When Hitler stayed in Berlin with his headquarters I was supervisor of the Reichs-Chancellery garage, to which about 40 vehicles belonged. I was in charge of about 60 drivers. Already in the days before 20 April 1945 I also passed the nights in the garage situated in the basement of the Reichs-Chancellery.

On 20 April 1945 I went for about one-quarter of an hour to the Führer's Bunker in order to congratulate the Führer upon his birthday. There was no special ceremony in the Führer's Bunker.

In the evening of 20 April 1945 I got the order to get ready about 12 vehicles by mean.......of which persons belonging to the Führer's headquarters and partly their relatives were taken to the Berlin airfields Staaken, Tempelhof, Schönwalde, Gatow. These were about 80 persons, among them Rear-Admiral v. Puttkamer (adjutant of the navy with the Führer), SS-Sturmbannführer [Johannes] Göhler (representative of SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein), Miss Schröder and Miss Wolf (two Personal secretaries of the Führer). Also on 21 April 1945 a number of vehicles was readied with which were driven 40 to 50 persons to several airfields. Cars for a direct drive from Berlin to Munich were not dispatched by me before or after this date. During the night of 22 to 23 of April 1945 the personal physician of the Führer, Prof. Dr. Morell, two stenographers of the Führer, the consulate-secretary Döhler and several women were driven to the airfield of Gatow. Though I did not get any definite statement from authorized sources, I supposed that the Führer would remain in Berlin after the 22.4.1945. During the days before 20 April 1945 I often heard the utterance of the Führer that he would remain in Berlin in any case.

Bernd Freiherr von Freytag-Löringhoven lived a fascinating life. He joined the Wehrmacht in 1933, under a commission to become an officer, just after the Nazis gained power. He spent the next 12 years involved in many of the most interesting aspects of World War II: including the invasion of Poland [as a staff member under Walter Wenck, who would later command the German 12th Army and become the focus of Hitler's famous "Where is Wenck?" calls at the end of the war], the invasion of France, and the invasion of the Soviet Union [working under Blitzkrieg specialist Heinz Guderian] where he eventually becomes promoted to major and in command of a tank battalion that was part of the troops encircled at Stalingrad [he escaped after he is selected to be flown out to take a message personally to Field Marshal Erich von Manstein essentially asking for immediate aid from von Manstein's Army Group Don, for the imperiled Sixth Army of Paulus]. 

Löringhoven was invited to live in the Bunker toward the end of April 1945, responsible for drafting battle front maps for Adolf Hitler's daily briefings [an invitation he considered a death sentence, however, he is miraculously allowed to leave by Hitler the day before Hitler commits suicide for a plan to try to get through the Soviet encirclement to reach German army generals west of Berlin].

"Hitler swore by his doctor, Theodor Morell, a charlatan who gave him glucose injections and stimulants. Morell made a lot of money during the war, not least with a louse powder we were given on the eastern front which smelt awful and was useless.'" The Baron also holds Morell in particular contempt: "I shall never forget how he begged, on 22 and 23 April, when the women were allowed to leave [the Bunker]. He sat there like a fat sack of potatoes and begged to fly out. And he did".

In the days after 20 April 1945 I repeatedly asked Sturmbarmführer Günsche (adjutant of the Führer) whether I was to secure the vehicles because they were gradually destroyed by artillery-fire. SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche told me that would not make any difference, we had to go on with the vehicles as long as possible; the Führer at any rate would stay at the Reichs-Chancellery.

I do not know very much about the military situation in the town-district because I did not leave the Reichs Chancellery. The buildings of the Reichs Chancellery in the days after 22 April 1945 were repeatedly set afire. The fires were extinguished only very primitively. Communications to the outside were cut since about 25 April 1945. In these days a story, was distributed by the German press-bureau that Himmler had turned to the western powers and had stated the Führer was suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage, was completely ill and would not be able to live for much longer. I had not read myself this story which was said to have been printed in the newspapers.

As far as I could see Himmler did not appear in the Reichs Chancellery during the days around 20 April 1945 or later.

(Remark of reporter: Himmler wanted to see the Führer on 22.4.1945. The Führer who did not want to be swayed from his resolution to stay in Berlin by anybody, declared that Himmler should not come.)

Only on the 1 May 1945 I heard that the Russians had infiltrated into the Tiergarten on which the Reichs Chancellery borders and had advanced to the Reichstag. The minister of foreign affairs von Ribbentrop did not see the Führer as far as I recollect at any rate not after the 20.4.1945. After 22.4.1945 the following still stayed with the Führer: General Krebs (chief of general-staff of the Army), General Burgdorf (chief adjutant of the Wehrmacht and chief of the army personnel department), vice-admiral Voss (representative of Grand-Admiral Dönitz), Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels with his wife, secretary of state in the ministry for propaganda Dr. Naumann, SS - Hauptsturmführer Schwegermann as adjutant of Dr. Göbbels, SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein (representative of Reichsführer SS with the Führer). SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche (adjutant of the Führer), SS Sturmbarmführer Linge (valet of the Führer), SS-Gruppenführer Rattenhuber (leader of the SD in the Führer's headquarters), SS-Standartenführer Dr. Stumpfegger (the Führer's first physician after Prof. Dr. Morell. had left).

I personally. saw Reichsleiter Martin Bormann several times up to the morning of 2 May 1945. It is impossible that he could have been at Berchtesgaden or vicinity between 22 April 1945 and 2 May 1945. The children of Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels who were brought to the bunker of the Reichs-Chancellery on 22.4.1945, were taken away with a nurse only on 1 May 1945 from the Reichs-Chancellery. Fieldmarshall Keitel and Col. General Jodl according to what I have seen and heard must have left Berlin already on 22 April 1945.

SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein telephoned me, I believe, in the afternoon of 28.4.1945 and asked me to come to see him in the Führer Bunker in the evening in order to receive there important papers concerning the Führer, the Reichsführer SS and himself personally in order to destroy all or to hide them so well that they coud not be found in case the Russians should come through to the ReichsChancellery. I went to the Führer Bunker towards evening in order to meet SS-Guppenführer Fegelein. I did not meet Fegelein.

Reichsleiter Martin Bormann asked me where Fegelein was. I could tell Reichsleiter Bormann that SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein had ordered a car and had driven to his dwelling. They endeavored to find Fegelein. Later on I heard that SS-Gruppenführer Fegelein had reappeared at the Reichs Chancellery in civilian clothes and had been interrogated there by a SS-Gruppenführer Müller whom I had never seen before and who was said to belong to the SS-Hauptamt or to the SD. Fegelein is said to have admitted before Müller that he before several times had been at Nauen in order to meet the Reichsführer SS there; he had endeavoured to get out of the Reich Chancellery and let the Russians pass him and try to get through to the Reichsführer SS in civilian clothes. According to what I had been told Fegelein was declared guilty of high treason and shot by order of SS-Gruppenführer Müller.

In the days after the 20.4.1945 I have still seen Hitler several times in his Bunker in the Reichs Chancellery. He had not changed in his behaviour and gave a quiet impression. Eva Braun stayed with the Führer. After 28.4.1945 there were rumours in the Reichs Chancellery that the Führer had been married during the night from 28 to 29.4.1945 to Eva Braun. A Regierungsrat or Oberregierungsrat of the ministry for propaganda had performed the official ceremony. At the same time two orderlies had been married. There was no publication of the marriage of the Führer to Eva Braun. I also did not congratulate the Führer. Only on 1 May 1945 secretary of state Dr. Naumann confirmed the fact of the marriage of the Führer.

I spoke to the Führer for the last time on 29 April 1945. I reported to him that I was engaged in bringing food into the inner part of Berlin in order not to let the food fall into the hands of the Russians and in order to provide the hospitals situated in the government-district. In the Reichs-Chancellery itself there was a Hauptverbandsplatz [Battalion aid-station]. The hotel "Adlon," the building of the Gauleitung of the NSDAP of Berlin, and other buildings had been converted into hospitals. The Bunkers of the Reichs Chancellery where several hundreds of wounded had been quartered had not suffered any damage by the artillery-fire. There was no enemy infantry attack against the Reichs Chancellery until the morning of 2 May 1945.

On 30 April 1945 at 1430 hours SS-Sturmbarmführer Günsche telephoned me and asked me to come to the Führer Bunker. Besides that I was to take care that 5 cans of gasoline, that is to say 200 ltr., were brought along at once. It took along two or three men carrying the cans. More men were following because it took some time to collect 200 ltr. of gasoline. By order of SS-Sturmbarmführer Günsche the cans were brought by these men to the entrance of the Führer Bunker located in the garden of the Reichs Chancellery, which was next to the so-called tower-home and about 20 m beside the so-called Haus Kempka, my quarters. The men at once returned after deposing the cans. There was a sentry of the SS at the entrance of the Bunker. I then went into the ante-chambre of the briefingroom where I met Sturmbannführer Günsche.

On 20 June 1945 Kempka was captured by U.S. troops at Berchtesgaden.

Despite claims made to the contrary during his interrogation, Kempka later admitted that when Hitler and Eva Braun locked themselves in a room to commit suicide, he lost his nerve and ran out of the Führerbunker, returning only after Hitler and Braun were dead. By the time he returned to the Bunker, Hitler and Braun's bodies were already being carried upstairs for cremation.

Günsche told me that the Führer was dead. He did not tell me any details about the death of the Führer. He only explained he had got the order from the Führer to burn him at once after his death, "so that he would not be exhibited at a Russian freak-show." A short time after that SS-Sturmbannführer Linge (valet of the Führer) and an orderly whom I do not remember came from the private room of the Führer carrying a corpse wrapped in an ordinary field-gray blanket. Based on the previous information from SS-Obersturmbannführer Günsche, I at once supposed that it was the corpse of the Führer. One could only see the long black trousers and the black shoes which the Führer usually wore with his field-gray uniform jacket. Under these circumstances there was no doubt that it was the corpse of the Führer. I could not observe any spots of blood on the body wrapped in the blanket.

Thereupon came Reichsleiter Martin Bormann from the living-room of the Führer and carried in his arms the corpse of Mrs. Eva Hitler, nee Braun. He turned the corpse over to me. Mrs. Hitler wore a dark dress. I did not have the feeling that the corpse was still warm. I could not recognize any injuries on the body. The dress was slightly damp only in the region of the heart. Behind Reichsleiter Bormann there came also Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels. SS-Sturmbannführer Linge and the orderly now went upstairs with the corpse of the Führer to the Bunker exit towards the garden of the Reichs Chancellery Turmhäuschen.

I followed with the corpse of Mrs. Hitler. Behind me came Reichsleiter Bormann, Dr. Göbbels and SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann wore uniform. According to my recollection Dr. Göbbels also wore uniform. It was shortly before 1500 hours, if I remember that I received the first notice from Günsche at 1430 hours and needed 5 to 10 minutes to reach the Führer Bunker. Linge and the orderly carried the corpse of the Führer from the westwardly directed Bunker exit in the tower-house and put the wrapped corpse on the flat ground in a small depression which was about 4 to 5 m distant from the bunker exit. There was no lawn, rather bare sand; in the last period construction work was being done in the Reichs-Chancellery. I put the corpse of Mrs. Hitler next to the Führer's. Immediately SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche poured the complete contents of the five cans over the two corpses and ignited the fuel. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsminister Dr. Göbbels, SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche, SS-Sturmbannführer Linge, the orderly and I stood in the Bunker entrance, looked towards the fire and all saluted with raised hands.

The stay in the Bunker exit lasted only a short time because the garden of the Reichs Chancellery was under heavy artillery-fire. The short-lasting leaving of the bunker exit already meant a danger to our lives. The ground of the garden of the Reichs-Chancellery was ploughed by shell holes. Besides us the event could only have been observed by the tower post of the SD). This one however was not notified of what had happened. Upon returning into the Führer Bunker no words were exchanged. Günsche, Linge and another person went into the living-room of the Führer.

In order to return to the garage I had to pass through the Führer Bunker and wanted to look once more at the rooms in which the Führer had lived last. I followed the personnel mentioned into the living-room of the Führer. Opposite the entrance of the room the dimensions of which are only 3 x 4 m stood a narrow sofa. Before the right front leg of the sofa lay a Walther Pistol, 6.35 mm cal., which, as I knew, belonged to Miss Eva Braun. Also on the floor approximately before the middle of the sofa lay a Walther-Pistol, 7.65 mm cal. I supposed that this pistol belonged to the Führer. I myself did not touch anything in the room, but silently stood there only for a few seconds. I did not put any questions and no one else spoke to me. According to the situation it was clear to me that the Führer and Miss Eva Braun shot themselves. From the location of the two pistols I concluded that the Führer sat about on the middle of the sofa before firing the shot and that Eva Braun had sat on the right part of the sofa.

After returning to the garage I notified my men that the Führer was dead. A ceremonial was not held. I can not say for which reason the date of death of the Führer was given as 1 May 1945 over the radio. I can not say with complete sureness that the death of the Führer, as previously described, took place on 30 April 1945. For on the same evening General Krebs had led negotiations for the return of the wounded with the Russian general Tschukow. It may be expected, that General Krebs regarded the continuation of the fight after the death of the Führer as futile. So far as I know nothing was done later on to remove any traces of the corpses at the place of their burning. This also was not necessary, because the traces had been wiped out by the uninterrupted artillery-fire on the government district.

In the late afternoon of 1 May 1945 I received official notice from SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche, who was the commandant of the Reichs Chancellery, that on the same evening at 21:00 hours the break from the Chancellery was to take place. All men who were able to walk and wanted to go along as well as the women who had belonged to the Führer's surroundings were to take part. SS-Brigadeführer Möhnke was destined as the leader of the group to break out: he had previously a combat group within the government district. The persons included in the break assembled at 21:00 hours in the coal-bunker of the new Reichs Chancellery, before the Hauptverbandsplatz. The number of persons assembled there may have amounted from 500 to 700, among them a number of women. All available weapons, rifles, submachineguns, pistols, automatic carbines, light machine-guns and Panzerfäuste were distributed to the combat-groups I to 6. Brigadeführer Mohnke took the lead and led combat-group 1. Ambassador Hewel (representative of the Foreign-minister in the Führer's headquarters), SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche as well as the Mrs. Christian (wife of Brig. Gen. Christian of the Luftwaffe), Mrs. Junge, Miss Krüger. the secretaries of the Führer, belonged to combat-group 1, about 50 to 60 persons. The men and women singly left the Chancellery through a narrow hole in the wall along Wilhelm-Strasse near the corner of Wilhelm-Strasse and Voss-Strasse.

Because of the heavy artillery-fire everyone ran as quickly as possible to the next entrance of the subway in reach. The next entrance of the Kaiserhof-stop about 50 m from the building of the Reichs-Chancellery had collapsed after a direct artillery-hit. Therefore we went to the entrance approximately 200 m distant from the Reichs-Chancellery which was located opposite the Hotel Kaiserhof. This entrance was open. At the subway-station the single groups gathered again and went to the subway-station Friedrichstrasse along the tracks of the subway. There were many civilians on the platforms of the subway-station Friedrichstrasse, soldiers sat around on the stairs of the station.

As leader of my group which consisted of approximately 60 drivers I left the subway-station through one of the exits which are located north of the city railway-station Friedrichstrasse in the Friedrichstrasse. Outside everything was quiet. Without danger I went about 200 m up to the road-lock on the Weidendammer bridge (about 300 m north of the railway-station Friedrichstrasse). A few meters behind the road-lock I came upon a group of soldiers who told me that shortly before a group of. 50 to 60 persons had passed this spot towards north. This was the leading-group Mohnke. The soldiers declared that they had already tried to break through, but that they had been beaten back. Russian troops had occupied the houses and basements to both sides of the Friedrichstrasse north of the Weidendammer bridge. I now returned and fetched my men from the subway-station in order to let them take cover in the Admiralspalast which was located in front of the subway-exit. After several groups had arrived in the meantime another break-through was decided upon. I made one break-through attempt with my group. Without being fired upon we came through the second road-tylock on the Weidendammer bridge. But 10 or 20 m behind the second roadblock we received strong machine-gun fire from all sides and had to retreat again. Further break-out attempts which failed were undertaken. The break-through of the first group probably succeeded only because of the surprise of our opponents.

Later on I met Mrs. Junge on a march. She told me that the leading-group under Brigadeführer Möhnke had had to stop after a few hundred meters. About 0530 hours a negotiator appeared and had made known that General Tschukow wished a temporary armistice until 0615 hours. During these negotiations Mrs. Junge together with the other women had left the basement. Ambassador Hewel had taken poison. SS-Gruppenführer Rattenhuber who also belonged to Group I had received a serious injury.

Mohnke's group had awkwardly made its way north to a German army hold-out on the Prinzenallee. The secretaries, upon reaching the outpost, broke off with the help of a Luftwaffe lieutenant. In James Preston O'Donnell's account, "The Bunker" they were all raped by Russian soldiers, Traudl Junge suffering a fractured skull as a result of her resistance. While Junge was later held for several months as the "personal prisoner" of a high-ranking Russian officer, Gerda Christian and Else Krüger, smuggled across Soviet-occupied territory by sympathetic British soldiers, eventually made it to the British/American lines; Krüger, questioned extensively about her then-"missing" boss, later married one of her interrogators. Mohnke and several other men stayed and were captured by the Russians, then treated to dinner with General Vladimir Alexei Belyavski, who tried to get them drunk with vodka to get information on Hitler's death. They didn't talk, and were shipped off to Moscow.

During our stay in the Admiralspalast Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Brigadeführer and State's secretary Dr. Naumann, the adjutant of Dr. Göbbels, Schwegermann, and other higher personalities appeared about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. I declared to Reichsleiter Bormann that it was impossible to push through without heavy weapons. Later on 5 to 6 tanks and armoured recogn. cars arrived which were manned by soldiers. It was decided that the tanks were to attempt the break-through and that the men who had broken out of the Reichs-Chancellery were to advance under the protection of the tanks. Behind one tank State's secretary Dr. Naumann went as the first in the top of the tank-turret, behind him Reichsleiter Martin Bormann followed by SS-Standartenführer Dr. Stumpfegger. I went behind Dr. Stumpfegger. More men joined us. After the tank had gone about 30 to 40 m he received a direct hit with a Panzerfaust. The tank flew apart. I saw a short flash of lightning and flew to the ground where I remained lying unconsciously. My last impression was that Dr. Naumann, Bormann and Dr. Stumpfegger fell together and remained lying. I could no longer recognize any injuries. Because Dr. Stumpfegger who preceded me was 30 cm taller than I he protected me from the full blast and I escaped with splinter injuries at my thigh and my upper arm. After an undetermined period I regained consciousness, saw only fire around me and crept back on the ground. I got up behind the road block and sat down on the street because just then I could not see correctly.

SS-Standartenführer Beetz (after SS Gruppenführer Baur the second command pilot of the Führer) was the first whom I saw. He had a serious head injury. Just then I saw a new attack started from our side, but 1 decided not to go along any more because of its futility. I returned to the Admiralspalast, assembled my men and declared them that they were dismissed. Each one could go on on his own, join a combat group or go home. I also advised them to procure for themselves civilian clothes. I myself returned to the Friedrichstrasse railway station with 7 men, among them the lieutenant of the armoured troop Jörke who had been assigned to us with 3 armoured half tracks. We crossed the Spree river on the foot path directly under the city railroad. were able to reach a house on the northern bank of the Spree river without being fired upon and from there across several elevations up to a spot in the region of Albrechtstrasse, Karlstrasse or Ziegelstrasse. The city railroad runs along there. We reached a band of the city railroad in which a dump of medical equipment was located. There we met two Jugoslavs and 2 Russian civilians who had chosen the city railway band as their quarters. These at once sympathized with us and promised to procure civilian clothes for us. When a part of us had already civilian clothes the first Russian soldiers arrived at the yard. Lieutenant Jörke who still had no civilian clothes was hidden by us. We others quickly changed clothes. The Russians demanded that we come into the yard. A Jugoslav woman introduced me as her husband, while the others were designated as camp labourers. We decided to form small groups and thus to go into the street.

At this attempt I was recognized by a Russian soldier and had to return again. The Russian soldiers procured food and drinks. I have participated at this ceremony which lasted until 2 o'clock of the following night. After the ceremony the Jugoslav woman left, but returned in the morning and brought me a coat. In this disguise I was able to leave the house and walked via Tegel to Henningsdorf. In Henningsdorf I was stopped by Russian soldiers and brought into a yard. There were German soldiers who all wore civilian clothes. We spent a few hours there. We were asked for papers. Nine-tenths of the men had no papers. Nevertheless all of us were dismissed. I joined three men who walked towards Kremmen. In the afternoon we were again arrested in a village before Kremmen and locked up in a chicken stable. We were not given any food.

On the next morning about 5 o'clock we were brought before the commanding officer of the troops. The commander was told that we had been arrested at night as partisans with weapons in a forest. We were then brought to Velten to the regional commandant there, a colonel. He was told the same thing. One of my German escorts understood Russian and notified the commandant that we had not been in the forest that night, but had been arrested without weapons in the afternoon at 6 o'clock in the middle of a village. The commandant had sent for an interpreter. The negotiation lasted about half an hour. Probably inquiries were made. Then we were searched. All articles of ordinary use, knives, razors, fountain pens, pencils, etc. were taken away from us. We were then dismissed with a pass in the direction of Bernau. However, we four men again marched off in the direction of Kremmen. 2 men went ahead. With my escort I passed north of Fehrbellin via Neustadt a.d. Dosse towards Havelberg. About 10 km before Havelberg. in the village of Kümmeritz, we were again stopped by a sentry beside whom a closed car was standing. He asked us whether we were "Wehrwolf". We denied it. After he had asked several times he went to the car and brought a carbine. He took it off safety, aimed at us and once more repeated his question. Then we were loaded upon a car. We were driven through the vicinity for a long time. About six times we were taken out of the car and interrogated like before with rifles aimed at us. Again we were searched. Things that could be used were kept. Other things were thrown away. My wallet which at first was taken from me was returned. We were told that we could go. Before leaving a Russian soldier gave me a cigarette. With the uncertain feeling that one would fire at us we left.

In the evening of 2 May 1945 we arrived in Havelberg. We looked for the next best barn in order to sleep. On the next morning we were again thrown out very early; this was a camp for various foreigners. These were led to work in the morning. We were able to leave with the water carriers. We went through Havelberg to a farm. There we received milk and went to sleep. We awoke at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. 2 other Germans who wanted to cross the Elbe river, but could no longer cross it, had been living with this farmer for one or two days. We conferred to make an attempt to cross the Elbe River together on the following day. We remained with the farmer for one or two days. In the morning of 3 May 1945 we crossed the Havel River near Havelberg in the direction of Sandau and reconnoitered the situation there. Boys declared us that the Elbe was situated behind the woods. We would only have to go through a swamp. When we came there on the next morning about 11 o'clock the woods were heavily occupied. However, we crept through the woods and landed in the swamp. All the day long until about 2 o'clock at night we stayed in the swamp. Then we crossed the dam, went into the water at once and swam to the other side. After we had dressed we were stopped by the Russians about 300 m farther. This had really been only one arm of the Elbe river. We were returned to Havelberg to a camp. In Havelberg we were held for 16 days together with 30 to 40 men and transported to Kyritz via Golewen.

On the next day I left Kyritz again with a Marine. We walked to the next railway station and from there rode with a workers' train to Wittenberge. In Wittenberge we tried to receive permission to stay for three days. However, we were denied it with the reason that Wittenberge could not feed itself and that for the time being no food would be provided for transients. We continued in the direction of the Elbe River. On our way we were stopped by a Cossack. There we worked for a whole day, carted dung, swept the yard and cleaned dishes. On the same day we left the Cossack and went to the edge of the city of Wittenberge where we spent the night with Germans. On the next day we looked at the situation on the Elbe River and agreed to swim across the Elbe River at the point of this house. We procured the upper part of a baby car in order to store our things in it while swimming across the Elbe River. Thus we swam across the Elbe River at 0130 hours. We reported to the Bürgermeister in Gottberg. The locality was occupied by Americans. The Bürgermeister told us that a change of command between Americans and English was just taking place and advised us to move on until a new command had been established. We then went to Vorsfelde. There I received a march order to Salzburg from an English command post. I still remember the following details.

On the morning of 2 May 1945 SS-Hauptsturmführer Schwegermann notified me that Dr. Göbbels and his wife were dead. They had both died in the Führer's bunker. Thereupon the Führer's Bunker had been ignited. I did not ask any further question, but I suppose that Dr. Göbbels and his wife had committed suicide. General Burgdorf and SS-Sturmbannführer Schädle of the Führer Escort Command still remained in the Reichs-Chancellery. Schädle told me that he would shoot himself if the Russians were to push through to the Reichs Chancellery. So far as I know further members of the Führer Escort Command did not remain there. It is possible that some returned after futile breakthrough attempts.

After 20 April 1945 Reichsminister Speer came to the Reich Chancellery with a Stork which was flown by Thea Rasche. I expect that the plane had landed on the Hofjägerallee (a cross road to the East-West axis). However, the Führer at once sent Speer away. I do not believe that aircraft have landed and started on the East West axis. Soon after 22 April 1945 heavy artillery fire was laid on the East West axis.

Speer managed to reach a relatively safe area near Hamburg as the Nazi regime finally collapsed, but decided on a final, risky visit to Berlin to see Hitler one more time. Speer stated at Nuremberg, "I felt that it was my duty not to run away like a coward, but to stand up to him again." Speer visited the Führerbunker on April 22. Hitler seemed calm and somewhat distracted, and the two had a long, disjointed conversation in which the dictator defended his actions and informed Speer of his intent to commit suicide and have his body burned. In the published edition of "Inside the Third Reich", Speer relates that he confessed to Hitler that he had defied the Nero Decree of 19 March 1945 ordering a scorched earth policy in both Germany and the occupied territories but, then assured Hitler of his personal loyalty, bringing tears to the dictator's eyes. Speer biographer Gitta Sereny argued, "Psychologically, it is possible that this is the way he remembered the occasion, because it was how he would have liked to behave, and the way he would have liked Hitler to react. But the fact is that none of it happened; our witness to this is Speer himself." Sereny goes on to note that Speer's original draft of his memoirs lacks the confession and Hitler's tearful reaction, and contains an explicit denial that any confession or emotional exchange took place, as had been alleged in a French magazine article.

The following morning, Speer left the Führerbunker, with Hitler curtly bidding him farewell. Speer toured the damaged Chancellery one last time before leaving Berlin to return to Hamburg. On 29 April, the day before committing suicide, Hitler dictated a final political testament which dropped Speer from the successor government. Speer was to be replaced by his own subordinate, Karl-Otto Saur.

4 July 1945
Supplementary statement of Mr. Erich Kempka

After Herman Karnau's story was read to me, which was written by Staff Writer Daniel DeLuce on 6/30/45 at Montgomery's headquarters, I state:

1. I am sure that the story of the death of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, as I have given it, as well as the burning of both of them on 4/30/45, happened. I can give a few reasons for my positive statement. The escape of the troops of the Reichs-Chancellery happened on 5/1/45 at 2100. More than a day's time elapsed between Hitler's death and escape of the troops. After Hitler and Eva Braun were cremated, there was a meethig in the Bunker of the Reichs Chancellery between Gen. Krebs, Gen. Burgdorf and Reichs Minister Dr. Göbbels. As a result of this meeting, Gen. Krebs, as Chief of Staff of the German Army, received an order from Dr. Göbbels to make contact with the Russians in order to confer about the fate of the German wounded in the district of Greater Berlin. At the same time, it also became known that the rest of the troops were to leave the Reichs Chancellery on the evening of 4/30/45. Gen. Krebs wasn't able to leave the Reichs-Chancellery until 1800. The conference between Gell. Krebs and the Russians dragged away into the evening. For this reason, the departure from the Reichs Chancellery was delayed. The cooks and kitchen personnel who were ready to leave with the rest already had their belongings packed and had to unpack again. I didn't see Gen. Krebs after 4/30/45. But we did not have to worry about the fate of the wounded, since the Russians assured us they would abide by International Law.

I can remember the happenings of 5/1/45 in the Reichs Chancellery. Since there was heavy artillery fire on the whole Government settlement, not much could be done. In the afternoon of 5/1/45, the Commander of the Government settlement, SS-Brigadeführer Mohnke gave the order that in the evening of 5/1/45 at 21:00 the departure from the Reichs-Chancellery was to take place.

2. To the statement of Karnau that at 1600 on 5/1/45 he saw Hitler still alive, and that 18:30 he witnessed the cremation of the two bodies, I can't agree. I remember surely that I was called by SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche on 4/30/45 by telephone to come over and have some gasoline brought there. From that I conclude that the cremation happened around 15:00. It is possible that Karnau witnessed other cremations. During these days, many times two, three, four or five cans of gasoline were asked for. the contents with which important papers were burned in the vicinity of the Bunker exit.

3. To a great part of the story Karnau, Herman, gave about the cremation, I agree, but to a small part, I do not agree. I don't know Herman Karnau personally, nor did I ever hear his name before. But this is no reason for me to doubt the existence of his person or of his name. I only knew part of the members of the SD Police at the Führer Headquarters. Karnau could have been the guard who was at the exit of the Führer's Bunker leading into the garden of the Reichs-Chancellery. This guard had to be present there at the cremation, also. Because of the heavy artillery fire, he could not have been in the garden of the Reichs Chancellery, but be had to be by the entrance of the Bunker. He must nave been standing close to the rest of them during the cremation. I think it is impossible that Karnau recognized the Führer by his moustache shortly before the cremation. The upper part of Hitler's body was fully covered by a blanket. I don't think it possible that, by laying the body on the ground, the blanket was blown back sufficiently to uncover the head of the body. All that could be seen were the feet, which stuck out fifteen to twenty centimeters. The black low-cut shoes, black socks. black pants, which the Führer usually wore, could be seen. Eva Braun, as I said before, was easy to recognize. She was not covered by a blanket. She wore shoes with a high heel, and it is possible that the shoes had a cork sole. Hitler's body was laid on its back, as Karnau said. It is the truth that Hitler's knees were pulled up a bit. Contrary to Karnau's statement, I remember that Eva Braun was also laid on her back so that her face was upwards. I still remember that, because of the wind, her skirt was blown up so that her garters could be seen. The place where both were lain out was about three or four meters away from the exit of the bunker. Hitler and Eva Braun were not laying parallel to each other, but Eva Braun's body was at an angle to Hitler's. Hitler's body was on the left, and Eva Braun's body was on the right, as seen from the exit of the Bunker. Karnau's statement that next to the bodies there were four empty gasoline cans could be true. There were at least five cans brought there. One can holds twenty liters. Two hundred liters were not available in the garage any more. That amount was brought there. It could be that eight cans of approximately 160 liters, at the most, were brought to the place of the cremation. Karnau gave the distance from the place of cremation to the Bunker as two meters, whereas, I think it was three to four meters. Karnau's statement that Dr. Stumpfegger was present at the cremation of Hitler's and Eva Braun's bodies could be true. I said in my statement of 6/20/45 that SS-Sturmführer Linge and an "orderly" carried Hitler's body. Now I believe that it is possible that the person named as "orderly" by me could have been Dr. Stumpfegger, since it was Dr. Stumpfegger who pronounced Hitler and Eva Braun dead. The belief of Karnau that Dr. Stumpfegger, who was the assistant and follower of Dr. Morell, last with the rank of SS-Standartenführer, poisoned Hitler and Miss Eva Braun, is untrue from my observations. I saw a wound on the body of Eva Braun, and I also saw in Hitler's private room. the two pistols described by me. Besides that, SS-Sturmführer Günsche told me after the cremation of both bodies (I believe on 5/1/45) that the rug which was in Hitler's private room was burned because it was full of blood spots.

At around 16:15, Linge ordered SS-Untersturmführer Heinz Krüger and SS-Oberscharführer Werner Schwiedel to roll up the rug in Hitler's study to burn it. The two men removed the blood stained rug, carried it up the stairs and outside to the Chancellery garden. There the rug was placed on the ground and burned. On and off during the afternoon, the Soviets shelled the area in and around the Reich Chancellery. SS guards brought over additional cans of petrol to further burn the corpses. Linge later noted the fire did not completely destroy the remains, as the corpses were being burned in the open, where the distribution of heat varies. The burning of the corpses lasted from 16:00 to 18:30. The remains were covered up in a shallow bomb crater at around 18:30 by Ewald Lindloff and Hans Reisser.

This I did not observe during my stay in Hitler's private room in the afternoon of 4/30/45 shortly after the cremation, because it was a multi-colored rug-that Hitler's shepherd bitch which was poisoned three days before 4/30/45 used, as I saw during my stay at the Reichs Chancellery. Who did the poisoning, I can not say.

During the course of 29 April 1945, Hitler learned of the death of his ally Benito Mussolini who had been executed by Italian partisans. This, along with the fact the Soviet Army was closing in on his location, led Hitler to strengthen his resolve not to allow himself or his wife to be captured. That afternoon, Hitler expressed doubts about the cyanide capsules he had received through Heinrich Himmler's SS. To verify the capsules' potency, Hitler ordered Dr. Werner Haase to test them on his dog Blondi, and the dog died as a result. Hitler became completely inconsolable after the fact and took his own life very shortly after.

That in a newspaper statement reported to have been made by the Russian Marshall Chukov that Hitler and Eva Braun could have escaped from the Berlin area by air, I can't agree. On 4/30/45 and two or three days previous, no one could possibly have left the inner parts of Berlin by air. There was a heavy artillery fire on all the inner parts of Berlin during those days. Neither did I hear about a plane arriving or leaving after the 25 or 26 April 1945.

Unfortunately for Kempka, one of the best-attested events of the last days of the Third Reich is that of a flight piloted by General Robert Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch that arrived in Berlin on the morning of 26 April. The same pair took off from Berlin in the early hours of 29 April. Reitsch herself not only spoke about the two flights on numerous occasions between 1945 and her death in 1979 but also devoted a chapter to them in her autobiography "Flying Is My Life". Given that the evidence from other sources is abundant enough to establish that they actually took place, there is something extremely suspicious about Kempka's assertion that no such flights would have been possible. There is no reason to jump to the conclusion, however tempting, that Kempka must have lied about being in the Chancellery during the regime's final days. He could have been temporarily absent from the Bunker on a mission. If so, he had returned by the afternoon of 30 April. Several eyewitnesses have provided evidence establishing Kempka's presence at a cremation held in the Chancellery garden at around 3.00 pm that afternoon. SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Schneider acknowledged speaking to Kempka at the Chancellery garage on the evening of 1 May. He told the Soviets on 19 May 1945 that on this occasion Kempka had told him that Hitler was "allegedly dead".

After the 22 April 1945, the usual briefing didn't take place. On the 25 or 26 of April 1945 Dr. Speer, the Reichsminister, arrived with the Storch. On orders of the Führer, he had to leave immediately. It was told that the Storch landed in the vicinity of the Siegessäule. I believe that he was standing at the Hofiägerallee (Cross-road to the East-West Axis). I am changing my statement of 6/20/45 on grounds of later recollection, to the effect that I carried Eva Braun's body through different rooms of the Bunker to the beginning of the steps. There SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche took Eva Braun's body away from me. Günsche then placed Eva Braun's body next to Hitler's, on the outside.

4. SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche told me shortly after the cremation on 4/30/45 was publicized, that Hitler had ordered that the Bunker in the Reichs Chancellery was to remain the way he left it. He meant that the Russians were to see that he was down there till the last moment. But, in fact, the Bunker was set afire. On the night of 1-2 May, 1945, Dr. Göbbel's chauffeur, SS-Obersturmbannführer Alfred Rach, who, together with State Secretary Dr. Naumann, arrived at the railroad station, Friedrichstrasse, said that the Bunker was set afire on orders of Dr. Göbbels, From the talking of Rach, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Göbbels and his wife either shot or poisoned themselves at the Reich Chancellery, and gave orders previously to have the Reich Chancellery set afire. Dr. Göbbels and his wife didn't make any attempt to leave the Reich Chancellery. It is possible that Dr. Göbbels did not know about the Führer's will to keep the Führer's Bunker intact. Hitler's valet, SS-Sturmbannführer Linge I saw a few times during the night 1-2 May, 1945, on the place of escape and at the railroad station, Friedrichstrasse. Where he went to, I don't know. The SS-Sturmbannführer, Schedule, named in the newspaper report of Daniel de Luce, is the SS-Sturmbannlführer Schädle. the leader of the Führer's guard command named by me, who, together with Gen. Burgdorf, remained at the Reichs Chancellery. Although it was said in the press report that Hitler and Eva Braun had two children, I must say is impossible. I knew Eva Braun since 1932, and I know of no indications that she brought a child into the world. 
 

Erich Kempka, "I Was Hitler's Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka" (1951):

It was towards midday on 30 April 1945. Russian shelling was hitting the Reich Chancellery and the government district continuously. The struggle to hold out had become fiercer. With a thunder and a crack, whole blocks of dwellings collapsed, and the streets around the Reich Chancellery were reduced to deserts of rubble.

The Führer took his leave of his staff, shaking the hand of each and thanking them for their work and loyalty to him. Secretaries Frau Junge, Frau Christian and the dietician-cook Fraulein Manziarly were invited to lunch. Hitler sat next to his wife. As he had done in the good times, he tried to keep the conversation unforced, with everybody participating. When this last meal had ended and the three ladies had withdrawn, Hitler had them recalled by his adjutant SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche. In the doorway to his ante-chamber, he and Eva Braun took their leave of the three again. Frau Hitler embraced the long-serving secretaries and shook the hand of all three in parting.

Hitler also said farewell to Bormann and his SS adjutant Günsche. The latter received an express order to contact me and arrange for enough fuel to immolate the bodies of Hitler and his wife: "I do not wish to be displayed after my death in a Russian panopticon like Lenin."

At the time I was in one of the less damaged rooms of the underground garages, having just arrived there from outside to supervise the change of the guard. At that moment my telephone rang. I lifted the receiver and announced myself. It was Günsche. "Erich, I am desperately in need of a drink. Haven't you got a bottle of Schnapps there?" This question surprised me greatly, for the last thing we wanted nowadays was alcohol. His voice was urgent. "Well, do you?" Whatever was up - something was obviously afoot. Well, I would soon find out, for he promised to come straight over and so I got a bottle of cognac ready for him.

I waited and waited. What was wrong now? Günsche did not arrive. I had no idea from where he had called nor where I could reach him. More than a half hour passed, then the telephone rang again. Günsche. His voice hoarse with excitement he said, "I must have 200 litres of petrol immediately!" At first I thought this was a bad joke and told him it was out of the question. Now he began shouting, "Petrol - Erich - petrol!"

"OK, and why would you need a mere 200 litres of petrol?"

"I cannot tell you on the phone. But believe me, Erich, I simply must have it. Whatever it takes, it must be here right now at the exit to the Führerbunker!"

I told him that the only source was the zoo bunker, where we had a few thousand litres buried. Under the present artillery bombardment it would be certain death for my men to go there and I was not prepared to give the order. "Wait until at least 1700, because the firing generally dies down a bit around then," I advised.

Günsche would not agree. "I cannot wait another hour. See how much you can collect from the fuel tanks of your damaged vehicles, and send your men at once to the exit to the Führer-bunker. And then come yourself immediately!" With that, he hung up.

With a few exceptions, the vehicles - in the garage-bunkers were not burnt-out but crushed and covered with masonry from the caved-in concrete roof. In great haste I authorized my deputy to take some men at once and siphon out what petrol could be found and bring it to the place ordered. Then I hurried by the quickest route over rubble and wrecked vehicles to Günsche, to find out what had happened. At the moment I entered the Führer-bunker, Günsche was leaving Hitler's sitting room, and we met in the lobby to the situation conference room. His features had changed visibly. As white as chalk and distraught, he stared at me.

"For God's sake, Otto, what is it?" I cried, "you must be mad, asking me to endanger the lives of a half dozen of my men to bring you petrol under this kind of artillery bombardment!" He seemed not to have heard me, went to the two outer doors and shut them. Then he turned and said: "The chief is dead".

It was a dreadful shock. "How could that happen, Otto? I spoke to him only yesterday! He was healthy and calm!" Günsche was still so overcome that he could not speak. He merely raised his right arm, imitated holding a pistol grip with his fist and pointed to his mouth.

"And where is Eva?" Günsche indicated the door to Hitler's room with his hand. "She is with him". With some difficulty, I extracted from him the events of the final hours. Hitler had shot himself in his study with his pistol and had then fallen head first across the table surface. Eva Hitler sat at an angle, sunk against the arm of the sofa beside him. She had taken poison, but had been holding a pistol. Her right arm was hanging over the side of the sofa, and on the ground nearby was the gun. "Bormann, Linge and I heard the shot and rushed into the room. Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger arrived in support. Goebbels and Axmann were summoned." Günsche was stumbling over his words as he spoke.

"Who is with him now?" I wanted to know.

"Göbbels, Bormann and Linge, also Dr Stumpfegger who certified the death of them both. Axmann has left."

At that moment one of my own men came into the ante-chamber to report the placing of between 180 and 200 litres of petrol at the bunker exit. I sent the man back. As I did so, the door of Hitler's sitting room opened and personal manservant Linge shouted desperately for the fuel: "The petrol... where is the petrol," I replied: "It is in position!"

Linge returned hurriedly into the sitting room. Seconds later the door opened again, and Stumpfegger and Linge emerged carrying the body of Adolf Hitler wrapped in a dark field blanket. His face was covered as far as the bridge of his nose. Below the greying hair the forehead had the waxy pallor of death. The left arm was dangling out of the blanket as far as the elbow. Behind these two followed Bormann with the dead Eva Hitler in his arms. She was dressed in a black dress of light material, her head and blonde tresses inclined backwards. This shocked me almost more than the sight of the dead Hitler. Eva had hated Bormann. He had caused her a great deal of aggravation. His intrigues for power had long been clear to her. Now in death her greatest enemy carried her to the pyre. I could not allow this and said to Günsche: "You help carry the chief, I will take Eva!" Then without speaking I took Eva's body from Bormann's arms. Her side was wet Instinctively I assumed that she had also shot herself. Later Günsche told me that when Hitler's body collapsed across the table, it overturned the vase, and the water it contained flowed over Eva.

There were twenty steps up to the Bunker exit. I had not reckoned with the weight and my strength tailed. I had to stop. Halfway up Günsche hurried to assist me, and together we carried the body of Eva Hitler into the open.... The Reich Chancellery was being shelled by the Russians. There were explosions very close by. Numerous fountains of soil plumed up. The air was filled with mortar dust.

In haste, Dr Stumpfegger and Linge had placed the dead Hitler on the ground about three metres half-right of the Bunker exit, very close to the giant cement mixer which was to have been used to thicken the Führer-bunker roof by one metre. Just as we had carried Hitler out of his sitting room, now he lay there still wrapped in the grey blanket, legs towards the bunker stairway. The long black trousers legs were pushed up, his right foot turned inwards. I had often seen his foot in this position when he had nodded off beside me on long car drives.

Günsche and I lay Eva Hitler beside her husband. In the enormous excitement of the moment we put her at an angle to him. Russian shells were exploding around us - it seemed that their artillery had suddenly doubled its bombardment of the Reich Chancellery garden and Führerbunker at that instant. I rushed back to the shelter of the Bunker, stopping for a moment, panting, waiting for the next salvoes to arrive. Then I seized a canister of petrol, ran out again and placed it near the two bodies. Quickly I bent low to place Hitler's left arm closer to his body. His untidy hair fluttered in the wind. I took off the cap of the petrol can. Shells exploded close by, spattering us with earth and dust, metal splinters whirred and whistled above us. Again we ran to the bunker entrance for cover, our nerves stretched to breaking point. Tensely we waited for the shelling in our area to die down before pouring petrol over the corpses. Then I ran out speedily and grabbed the canister. I was trembling as I poured the contents over the two bodies, and repeatedly I told myself that I could not do it, but I was conscious of it being Hitler's last order and my sense of duty overcame my sensitivity. Alongside me, Günsche and Linge carried out the same duty for Eva Hitler. Her dress moved in the wind until finally drenched by the fuel. From the look on the faces of Günsche and Linge I saw that they were having a grim internal struggle to obey the chief's last order.


I was Hitler's chauffeur... and I was at the Bunker to hurl a flaming rag on his Petrol-soaked corpse
By Erich Kempka
23 January  2010

Adolf Hitler looked composed. Even I, who'd known him for 13 years, could not tell that he'd already decided to end his life.

Dressed in his usual field-grey tunic with black trousers, he held a map of Berlin in his right hand. His left trembled. It was 29 April 1945 and Soviet troops were closing in on the city centre and the Führer Bunker.

'How do you see things, Kempka?' he asked. I reported that my men were defending the Reich Chancellery against the Russians, while awaiting relief from our 12th Army. He retorted that everyone was waiting for that and offered me his hand. It was the last time I saw him alive.

I was born in 1910, one of ten children in a family descended from Polish immigrants. In 1930, I became a driver for the Nazi leadership in Essen, joining Hitler's staff two years later.

I had been summoned to Munich, where I was interviewed by Hitler, along with 30 other hopefuls. From habit we formed a semi-circle, with me, the smallest, on the left flank.

We were called forward individually to be questioned by Hitler on our technical knowledge and personal details. Finally came my turn. 'Erich Kempka... father Ruhr mineworker from Oberhausen, 21 years old.'

Then he snapped out rapidly: 'What types of vehicle have you driven? Do you know the eight-litre compressor motor? What is the horsepower of this vehicle? Where did you learn to drive? You are on a blind zigzag bend doing 50 miles an hour when you see an oncoming car. What are your next actions?'

I had not expected this man to have such a degree of technical knowledge. After I answered the last question to his apparent satisfaction, Hitler offered me his hand. I felt elated to have done so well. Just the idea of driving alongside such a man thrilled me.

In 1932 alone I drove 132,000 kilometres [82,000 miles], crossing all over Germany by day and night.
 

Hitler rarely spoke to me about politics, but said I could come to him with my personal problems. He would always see that his drivers had the best accommodation and food, emphasising: 'My drivers and pilots are my best friends! I entrust my life to these men!'  

Hitler, a great motor enthusiast, would sit with me when I drove him, chatting and reading a road atlas, calculating our timings so he always arrived on the dot.

When Hitler's top driver suddenly died in 1936, I was appointed his successor. I was later promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer, equivalent to lieutenant-colonel, and appointed one of the eight original members of Hitler's bodyguard.

Apart from my few journeys home and abroad on official duty, I spent virtually the entire war within the closest circle at Führer-HQ.

Hitler moved into the Führerbunker in Berlin as the last phase of the war began in 1945. It received direct hits but the thick concrete roof held.

Street fighting raged in the north of Berlin, with the few German troops putting up a desperate defence against the Red Army.
 
A few weeks before Hitler's last birthday on April 20, his girlfriend Eva Braun had come to Berlin. Against his will, she spent his birthday with him and the last days until his death.

It wasn't until 26 April  that I had a chance to have a long talk with Eva, whom I had known well since 1932.

She told me: 'Under no circumstances will I leave the Führer and, if I have to, I shall die at his side. Initially he insisted that I should take an aircraft out of Berlin. I told him, "I shall not. Your fate is also mine."
 
Hitler gave one of his physicians the grim task of testing the cyanide capsules that Nazi Interior Minister Heinrich Himmler had given him. After discovering that Himmler was trying to negotiate with the Allies, Hitler wondered if the poison might be ineffective.

It was visibly a difficult decision for Hitler to test the cyanide on his favourite dog, Blondi. Hitler's suspicions were unfounded, and immediately after being injected the Alsatian lay dead on the carpet.

For days there had been talk of the impending marriage of Hitler and Eva. The first preparations were made on April 28. The ceremony was to be held in his study. Hitler dictated his personal and political will to secretary Traudl Junge.

The ceremony was conducted against a backdrop of exploding shells. Nevertheless there was a festive mood as Hitler and Eva stood before a table flanked by Propaganda Minister Josef Göbbels and Hitler's private secretary Martin Bormann as witnesses.

By 30 April, Russian shells were hitting the Reich Chancellery and the government district continuously. The streets around the Chancellery were deserts of rubble.

Hitler's adjutant Otto Günsche phoned me in the underground garages. His voice hoarse with excitement, he said: 'I must have 200 litres of petrol immediately.'

I thought it was a joke and told him it was out of the question. He began shouting: 'Petrol - Erich - Petrol!'

'Why would you need a mere 200 litres of Petrol?' I asked.

'I cannot tell you on the phone. But believe me, Erich, I simply must have it. Whatever it takes, it must be here right now at the exit to the Führer Bunker!'

The only source was the Berlin Zoo Bunker, where we had a few thousand litres buried. It would be certain death for my men to go there under bombardment. 'Wait until at least 5pm, because the firing generally dies down a bit around then,' I said.

'I cannot wait another hour. See how much you can collect from your damaged vehicles and send your men at once to the exit to the Führerbunker. And then come yourself immediately!' Günsche hung up.

With a few exceptions, the vehicles in the underground garages were covered with masonry from a cavedin concrete roof. I ordered my deputy to siphon out what Petrol could be found. Then I hurried over to Günsche. As I entered the Führerbunker, he was leaving Hitler's sitting room. He was as white as chalk.

'For God's sake, Otto, what is it?' I cried. 'You must be mad, asking me to endanger the lives of a half-dozen of my men to bring you petrol under this kind of bombardment!'

He went to the two outer doors and shut them. Then he turned and said: 'The chief is dead.'

I was shocked. 'How could that happen, Otto? I spoke to him only yesterday. He was healthy and calm.' Günsche raised his right arm, imitated holding a pistol with his fist and pointed to his mouth.

'And where is Eva?' I asked. Günsche indicated the door to Hitler's room: 'She is with him.'

With some difficulty, I extracted from him the events of the final hours.

Hitler had shot himself in his study with his pistol and had then fallen head first across the table. Eva sat at an angle beside him. She had taken poison but had been holding a pistol. Her right arm was hanging over the side of the sofa and on the ground nearby was the gun.

At that moment, one of my men came in to report the placing of between 180 and 200 litres of petrol at the Bunker exit. I sent the man back.

As I did so, the door of Hitler's sitting room opened and his manservant Heinz Linge shouted desperately for the fuel: 'The Petrol... where is the Petrol?'

I replied: 'It is in position.'

Hitler had told Günsche to contact me and arrange for enough fuel to burn his body and that of his wife, telling him: 'I do not wish to be displayed after my death in a Russian panopticon like Lenin.'

Linge returned to the sitting room. Seconds later the door opened again. Ludwig Stumpfegger, Hitler's doctor, and Linge emerged carrying Hitler's body in a blanket.

His face was covered as far as the bridge of his nose. Below greying hair, the forehead had the waxy pallor of death. The left arm was dangling out from under the blanket.

Bormann followed with Eva in his arms. She was wearing a black dress, her head and blonde tresses inclined backwards.

This shocked me almost more than the sight of the dead Hitler. Eva had hated Bormann, the eminence grise in Hitler's personal circle. His intrigues for power had long been clear to her.

Now her greatest enemy carried her to the pyre. I could not allow this and said to Günsche: 'You help carry the chief, I will take Eva!'

I took Eva's body from Bormann's arms. Her side was wet. I assumed that she had also shot herself, but later Günsche told me that when Hitler's body collapsed across the table it overturned a vase and the water flowed over Eva.

There were 20 steps up to the Bunker exit. My strength failed. I had to stop. Halfway up, Günsche hurried to help me and together we carried Eva's body into the open. It was around 4pm. The Reich Chancellery was being shelled. The explosions sent up fountains of soil.

Stumpfegger and Linge had placed Hitler's body on the ground about three metres from the Bunker exit. He lay there wrapped in the blanket, legs towards the Bunker stairway. The long black trousers legs were pushed up, his right foot turned inwards. I had often seen his foot in this position when he had nodded off beside me on long car journeys.

Günsche and I placed Eva at an angle to her husband as Russian shells exploded around us.

I rushed back to the Bunker. Panting, I seized a canister of Petrol, ran out again and placed it near the two bodies. Hitler's untidy hair fluttered in the wind. I took off the cap of the petrol can. Shells exploded close by, spattering us with earth and dust.

Again we ran to the Bunker entrance for cover. Günsche, Linge and I waited for the shelling to die down before returning to pour petrol over the corpses.

Eva Hitler's dress moved in the wind until it was drenched by fuel. Watching from the bunker entrance were Göbbels, Bormann and Stumpfegger.

I protested at a suggestion that we ignite the bodies with a hand grenade. My glance fell on a large piece of rag at the bunker exit.

'Get that cloth!' I shouted. Günsche tore it in half. It took only a second to open the petrol can and soak the rag with the contents.

'A match!' Göbbels took a box of matches from his pocket and handed it to me. I set light to the rag and lobbed it towards the petrol-soaked corpses.

In seconds a bright flame flared up, accompanied by billowing black smoke. Slowly the fire nibbled at the corpses. For the last time, we gave the Hitler salute to the dead Führer and his wife.

We had to keep pouring more Petrol over the bodies and then set fire to them again. During the afternoon, under the most difficult conditions, my men supplied several hundred more litres of Petrol.

It is interesting to note that in 1950 Kempka, who previously had always talked about a lack of Petrol, wrote in his book "Ich habe Adolf Hitler verbrannt":

"
The cremation lasted from about 1400 to approximately 1930 in the evening. Under the most difficult conditions, I had had my men fetch several hundred [!] additional litres of Petrol during the afternoon ..."

SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Schneider, the supervisor of the garages, had stated that, when Günsche originally ordered him to provide Petrol, he had only been able to supply eight cans, because that was all he had available. However, that was not all the Petrol there was in the vicinity of the Chancellery and the Führerbunker. Hans Fritzsche, Director and Head of the Radio Department in Göbbels' Propaganda Ministry, made the following statement on 5 February 1948 in Nuremberg:

"May I add something at this point? I know that many people have debated the question whether it was possible to cremate Hitler's and Eva Braun's corpses with only 180 litres of Petrol. I do not understand this objection at all, because during the final weeks in Berlin I had more Petrol available to me than during the whole of the war. It had been brought over from the airports that had had to be evacuated. And I had 20 to 30 or even more barrels filled with Petrol in the garden of the Propaganda Ministry. On 27 or 28 April I called the Chancellery and asked if they needed Petrol because I had so much and actually thought it could be a bit dangerous. Those in the Chancellery told me, 'We have too much ourselves.' I then had the barrels taken to the Tiergarten through Voss Strasse in order to get rid of them. When the Russians later brought me to the garden near the Führerbunker, I saw with my own eyes many cans standing about". 

Many testimonies (including Russian) put the conservative figure at twelve 20 litre cans (240 litres) utilised on the "'bonfire".

This is more than enough [According to Anton Joachimsthaler, up to 300 litres of gasoline were used on Hitler and Braun] to reach a temperature where adipose tissue becomes an accelerant in the cremation process. When this point has reached, further fuel is not required.

SS-Hauptsturmführer Edwald Lindloff testified that after only 30 minutes the corpses were already "charred and torn open".

The fire burnt for another two hours.

All that remained of Hitler "was some charred bones with burnt particles of tissue attached".

Back in the Bunker, the staff had gathered. Many went up to give the dead leader and his wife a last salute.

Günsche and I went to Hitler's sitting room. The traces of the suicides were still visible. The pistols of Adolf and Eva lay on the red carpet. The Führer's blood lay pooled on the table and floor coverings. To one side was an image of Hitler's mother as a young woman.

I left the room to resume my duties. Outside the medical room I saw Magda Göbbels at a table. She told me of her leave-taking from the Führer: 'I fell to my knees and begged him not to take his own life. He lifted me up benevolently and explained to me quietly that he had no choice.'

The charred remains of the bodies were gathered up and interred in a shallow grave at the side of the house fronting the garages.

The decision was made to break out forcibly at 9 pm on May 1. We had no alternative but to go through enemy lines or die as soldiers in the attempt. Our 100-strong group got away with the help of a Panzer company. At one point I was knocked unconscious by an explosion, leaving me temporarily blind.

Later, having destroyed my documents and donned civilian clothes, I was helped through Russian lines by a Yugoslav girl who introduced me as her husband. It remains a mystery to me why this strange girl helped me.

Eventually I made it to Berchtesgaden, near Hitler's mountain retreat. There I spent a day with my wife, recovering from the shock of recent events.

It was my plan - after convalescence - to report myself to the Allies as the head of the motor pool of the Führer and Reich Chancellor. However, I was fingered. The US Counter-Intelligence Corps came for me. After 12 hours of interrogation I was thrown into jail at Berchtesgaden.

I was moved from one prisoner-of-war camp to another. The Allies thought Hitler was alive and every interrogation tried to establish what had become of him. The same questions over and over. Always the same traps. But I was not badly treated.

At the end of June 1946, I was taken from the POW camp at Darmstadt to the Nuremberg war crime trials. I gave evidence in the trial of Bormann, who was tried in his absence (his body had not been found at the time). They were astonished that I knew so much.

From Nuremberg I went to Regensburg camp for transfer from POW to internee status. On a drive from Regensburg to Ludwigsburg I was involved in a serious accident in the transport vehicle. As a result, following court proceedings, I was released in October 1947.

I will always remember a conversation I had with Hitler in 1933, shortly after he seized power. I was driving him from the Reich Chancellery. At the time his words struck me as strange and I never forgot them: 'Do you know, Kempka, I shall never leave here alive.'

Interrogation of Erich Kempka
Nuremberg Tribunal

Erich Kempka was called as a witness by the defence attorney representing Martin Bormann in absentia. The attorney had chosen the unusual route of arguing that the Tribunal couldn't charge Bormann because he had been killed during the fall of Berlin, a fact that was largely disputed. Kempka testified that he had seen Bormann's vehicle hit by a Soviet rocket.


3 July 1946

Bergold: (counsel for the defendant Bormann): Gentlemen of the Tribunal, I shall call the witness Kempka.

Swearing In

ERICH KEMPKA, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:

Judicial President Lawrence: Will you state your full name, please.

Kempka: My name is Erich Kempka.

Judicial President Lawrence: Will you repeat this oath after me: "I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing."

Kempka: I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

Judicial President Lawrence: You may sit down.

Direct Examination

BY DR. BERGOLD:

Bergold: Witness, in what capacity were you employed near Hitler during the war?

Kempka: During the war I worked for Adolf Hitler as his personal driver.

Bergold: Did you meet Martin Bormann in that capacity?

Kempka: Yes, I met Martin - Reichsleiter Martin Bormann in that capacity at that time.

Bergold: Witness, on what day did you see the defendant Martin Bormann for the last time?

Kempka: I saw the Reichsleiter, the former Reichsleiter Martin Bormann on the night of 1st and 2nd May, 1945, near the Friedrichstrasse railway station at the Weidendamm Bridge. Reichsleiter Bormann - former Reichsleiter Bormann asked me what the general situation was near the Feiedrichstrasse Station, and I told him that at the station it was hardly possible -

Judicial President Lawrence: (interrupts) You are going too fast. He asked you what?

Kempka: He asked me what the situation was and whether one could get through at the Friedrichstrasse Station. I told him that was practically impossible, since the defensive fighting there was too heavy. Then he went on to ask whether it might be possible to do so with armoured vehicles. I told him that that could only be proved by trying to do so.

Then, a few tanks and SPW cars came along, and small groups began to cling to them. Then the armoured vehicles pushed their way through the anti-tank trap and afterwards the leading tank, beside which Martin Bormann was walking along about at the middle of the tank on the left-hand side, suddenly received a direct hit, I imagine from a bazooka fired from a window, and was blown up. A flash of fire suddenly shot up on the very side where Bormann was walking, and I saw -

Judicial President Lawrence: You are going too fast. You are still going much too fast. The last thing I heard you say was that Bormann was walking in the middle of the column. Is that right?

Kempka: Yes, at the middle of the tank, on the left- hand side, Martin -

Then, after it had got forty to fifty metres through the anti-tank trap, this tank received a direct hit, I imagine from a bazooka fired from a window. The tank was blown to pieces right there where Martin - Reichsleiter Bormann was walking.

I myself was flung to one side by the explosion and by having a person thrown against me who had been walking ahead - I think it was Standartenfuehrer Dr. Stumpfecker - and I became unconscious. When I came to myself, for a time I could not see anything; I was blinded by the flash. Then I crawled back again to the tank trap, and since then I have not seen Martin Bormann.

Bergold: Witness, did you see Martin Bormann collapse in the flash of fire when it occurred?

Kempka: Yes, indeed, I still saw a movement which was a sort of collapsing. You might call it a flying away.

Bergold: Was this explosion so strong that according to your observation Martin Bormann must have been killed?

Kempka: Yes, I assume for certain that the strength of the explosion was such that it killed him.

Bergold: How was Martin Bormann dressed at that time?

Kempka: Martin Bormann was wearing a leather coat, an SS leader's cap, and the insignia of an SS Obergruppenführer.

Bergold: Do you therefore believe that if he had been found wounded on that occasion he would have been immediately identified by these clothes as being one of the leading men of the movement?

Kempka: Yes, indeed.

Bergold: You said that another man was walking either beside or ahead of Martin Bormann, namely a Herr Naumann of the Propaganda Ministry?

Kempka: Yes, it was the former State Secretary, Dr. Naumann.

Bergold: Was he approximately at the, same distance from the explosion?

Kempka: No, he was about one or two metres ahead of Martin Bormann.

Bergold: Have you seen anything of this State Secretary Naumann subsequently?

Kempka: No, I have not seen him again either. The same applies to Standartenführer Dr. Stumpfecker.

Bergold: At that time you crawled back, did you not?

Kempka: Yes.

Bergold: Did not anyone follow you?

Kempka: Yes. Always, when you passed behind that anti-tank trap, you would run into defensive fire, and a few would remain lying on the spot and the rest always went back, but those who were with that tank I have never seen again.

Bergold: Gentlemen of the Tribunal, I have no further questions for this witness.

Dodd: I have no questions, Mr. President.

Judicial President Lawrence: Do the defence counsel want to ask him any questions?

Judicial President Lawrence: How many tanks were there in this column?

Kempka: That I cannot say at the moment - possibly two or three. There may have been four, but there were more SPW cars, armoured personnel carriers.

Judicial President Lawrence: How many were there of them?

Kempka: More and more came up, and then some of them drove away again. They tried to break through at that point. Possibly one or two tried. The others withdrew after the tank was blown up.

Judicial President Lawrence: Where did the column start from?

Kempka: That I would not know. They came quite suddenly - there they were. I assume that they were tanks which had withdrawn into the middle of the town and were also trying to break out in a southerly direction.

Judicial President Lawrence: When you say they were there suddenly, where do you mean they were? Where did they pick you up?

Kempka: I was not picked up. I left the Reich Chancellery

Judicial President Lawrence: Well, where did they join you? Where did you first see them?

Kempka: At the Weidendamm Bridge, behind the Friedrichstrasse Station. They came up there during the night.

Judicial President Lawrence: Where was it that Bormann first asked you whether it would be possible to get through?

Kempka: That was at the tank block behind the Friedrichstrasse Station at the Weidendamm Bridge.

Judicial President Lawrence: Do you mean that you met him in the street?

Kempka: Yes. Martin Bormann was not present when we left the Reich Chancellery; he did not appear at the bridge until between 2 and 3 in the morning.

Judicial President Lawrence: You met him there just by chance, do you mean?

Kempka: I only met him by chance, yes.

Judicial President Lawrence: Was there anybody with him?

Kempka: State Secretary Dr. Naumann from the Ministry of Propaganda was with him, as well as Dr. Stumpfecker who had been the last doctor with the Führer.

Judicial President Lawrence: How far were they from the Reich Chancellery?

Kempka: From the Reich Chancellery to the Friedrichstrasse Station is approximately a quarter of an hour's walk under normal circumstances.

Judicial President Lawrence: And then you saw some tanks and some other armoured vehicles coming along, is that right?

Kempka: Yes, yes, indeed.

Judicial President Lawrence: German tanks and German armoured vehicles?

Kempka: Yes, German armoured vehicles.

Judicial President Lawrence: Did you have any conversation with the drivers of them?

Kempka: No, I did not talk to the drivers. I think State Secretary - former State Secretary Dr. Naumann did.

Judicial President Lawrence: And then you did not get into the tanks or the armoured vehicles?

Kempka: No, we did not get in - neither State Secretary Dr. Naumann nor Reichsleiter Bormann.

Judicial President Lawrence: You just walked along?

Kempka: I just walked along, yes.

Judicial President Lawrence: And where were you with reference to Bormann?

Kempka: I was behind the tank, about - on the left-hand side behind the tank.

Judicial President Lawrence: How far from Bormann?

Kempka: It was perhaps three or four metres.

Judicial President Lawrence: And then some missile struck the tank, is that right?

Kempka: No, I believe the tank was hit by a bazooka fired from a window.

Judicial President Lawrence: And then you saw a flash and you became unconscious?

Kempka: Yes, I suddenly saw a flash of fire and in the fraction of a second I also saw Reichsleiter Bormann and State Secretary Naumann both make a movement as if collapsing and flying away. I myself was thrown aside with them at that same moment and subsequently lost consciousness.

On 1 May 1945, Werner Naumann was the leader of break-out group number 3 from the Führerbunker. The group included Martin Bormann, Hans Baur, Ludwig Stumpfegger and Artur Axmann. Erich Kempka testified at Nuremberg that he had last seen Naumann walking a metre in front of Martin Bormann when the latter was hit by a Soviet rocket while crossing the Weidendammer Bridge under heavy fire in Berlin. However, according to Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann, the group followed a Tiger tank which spearheaded the first attempt to storm across the bridge, but it was destroyed. Bormann, Stumpfegger and himself were "knocked over" when the tank was hit. Axmann crawled to a shellhole where he met up again with Naumann, Bormann, Baur and Stumpfegger and they all made it across the bridge. From that group, only Naumann and Axmann escaped the Soviet Army encirclement of Berlin and made it to western Germany.

Judicial President Lawrence: And then you crept away?

Kempka: When I came to myself I could not see anything and then I crawled away, and crawled until I knocked my head against a tank block.

Judicial President Lawrence: Where did you go to that night?

Kempka: Then I waited there for a while and then I said farewell to my drivers, some of whom were still there, and then I stayed in the ruins of Berlin, and then the following day I left Berlin.

Judicial President Lawrence: Where were you captured?

Kempka: I was captured at Berchtesgaden.

Questioning by the Tribunal

Biddle: How near were you to the tank when it exploded?

Kempka: I estimate three to four metres.

Biddle: And how near was Bormann to the tank when it exploded?

Kempka: I assume that he was holding on to it with one hand.

Biddle: Well, you say you assume it. Did you see him or did you not see him?

Kempka: I did not see him on the tank itself. I had done the same thing in order to keep up with the tank and had held on to the tank behind.

Biddle: Did you see Bormann trying to get on the tank just before the explosion?

Kempka: No, I did not see that. I did not see any effort on Bormann's part which indicated that he wanted to climb on to the tank.

Biddle: How long before the explosion were you looking at Bormann?

Kempka: All this happened in a very brief period. When I was still talking to Bormann the tanks arrived and we went through the tank trap right away and after thirty or forty metres the tank was hit.

Biddle: What do you call a brief period?

Kempka: Well, during the conversation, that was perhaps only a few minutes.

Biddle: And how long between the conversation and the explosion?

Kempka: I cannot tell you the exact time, but surely it was not a quarter of an hour, or perhaps rather not half an hour.

Biddle: Had you been in the Chancellery just before this?

Kempka: I left the Reich Chancellery in the evening about nine o'clock.

Biddle: Have you ever told this story to anyone else?

Kempka: I have been interrogated several times about this and have already made the same statement.

Biddle: And who took your interrogation, some officers?

Kempka: Yes.

Biddle: Of what army, what nation?

Kempka: I have been interrogated by various officers of the American Army, the first time at Berchtesgaden, the second time at Freising and the third time at Oberursel.

Dodd: As a result of the Tribunal's inquiry there are one or two questions that occur to me that I think perhaps should be brought out which I would like to ask the witness, if I may.

Judicial President Lawrence: Certainly.

Cross-Examination

BY MR. DODD:

Dodd: You were with Bormann, were you, at 9 o'clock in the Bunker in the Reich Chancellery, on that night?

Kempka: Yes, indeed. I saw him for the last time about 9 o'clock in the evening. When I said farewell to Dr. Göbbels, I also saw Martin Bormann down in the cellar and then I saw him again during the night about two or three o'clock in the morning.

Dodd: Well, maybe you said so but I did not get it if you did. Where did you see him at two or three in the morning prior to the time that you started to walk with him along with the tank?

Kempka: Before that I saw him at the Friedrichstrasse Station between two or three in the morning and before that I saw him for the last time at 21 hours in the Reich Chancellery.

Dodd: Well, I know you did. But did not you and Bormann have any conversation about how you would get out of Berlin when you left the Reich Chancellery Bunker at about nine o'clock that night?

Kempka: I took my orders from former Brigadeführer Mohnke. I was not receiving direct orders from Reichsleiter Bormann any more.

Dodd: I did not ask you if you got an order from him. I asked if you and Bormann had not, and whoever else was there had not, discussed how you would get out of Berlin. It was nine o'clock at night and the situation was getting pretty desperate. Did you not talk about how you would get out that night? There were not many of you there.

Kempka: Yes, there were about four to five hundred people in all still in the Reich Chancellery and those four or five hundred people had been divided into separate groups, and these groups left the Chancellery one by one.

Dodd: I know there may have been that many in the Chancellery. I am talking about that Bunker that you were in. You testified about this before, did you not? You told people that you knew that Hitler was dead as well as Bormann. And you must have been in the Bunker if you knew that.

Kempka: Yes, I have already testified to that effect.

Dodd: Well, what I want to find out is whether or not you and Bormann and whoever was left in that Bunker talked about leaving Berlin that night before you left the bunker?

Kempka: No, I did not speak about it any more to Reichsleiter Bormann at that time. We only had marching orders, which instructed us, if we were successful, to report at Fehrbellin to a combat group which we were to join.

Dodd: You are the only man who has been able to testify that Hitler is dead and the only one who has been able to testify that Bormann is dead; is that so, so far as you know?

Kempka: I can state that Hitler is dead, and that he died on the 30 April in the afternoon between two and three o'clock.

Dodd: I know, but you did not see him die either, did you?

Kempka: No, I did not see him die.

Dodd: And you told the interrogators that you believe you carried his body out of the Bunker and set it on fire. Are you not the man who has said that?

Kempka: I carried Adolf Hitler's wife out and I saw Adolf Hitler himself wrapped in a blanket.

Dodd: Did you actually see Hitler?

Kempka: Not himself any more. The blanket in which he was wrapped was rather short and I only saw his legs hanging out.

Dodd: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

Bergold: I have no further questions either.

Judicial President Lawrence: The witness can retire.

Site Meter