Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is the first piece in a four-part series.
The National Archives and Records Administration plans to place Adolf Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate (National Archives identifier 6883511) on exhibit beginning March 21, 2014. This series of posts traces these documents from the time of their creation to their first exhibition at NARA in 1946.
In The Washington Post on April 28, 1946, there appeared a list of things going on in Washington, D.C. At the National Archives, it was noted, one could see the World War II surrender documents and the “last documents signed by Hitler, including his marriage certificate and will.” A year beforehand, those documents had not even been created, and even four months earlier the documents were still hidden in German hands. The travels of the Hitler documents from his bunker in Berlin to the National Archives a year later began in Berlin in late April 1945 with the Russian forces on the verge of capturing the city.
The marriage certificate of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (double-click to enlarge):
On the evening of April 28, 1945, deep in his underground bunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Reich Chancellor and President, had a lot on his mind. News arrived during the day that there had been an uprising in upper Italy, Mussolini had been arrested by the Partisans, armistice negotiations were being initiated by commanders in Italy, as well as news of an attempted coup in Munich. Russian forces were only some 1,000 yards from the bunker and news had arrived that day the German Ninth Army ordered to break through the Russian-encircled capital of the Reich to rescue Hitler would most not likely to be able to accomplish their mission. Still, Hitler held a slim hope that General Wenck’s Twelfth Army, heading towards Potsdam and then into Berlin to rescue him, would succeed. Nevertheless, Hitler knew that he soon would have to commit suicide. Before doing so, he desired to marry his long-time mistress Eva Braun and write his final political testament and personal will. As the evening progressed, Hitler received confirmation that Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was negotiating with the western allies. This news led Hitler, around 11pm, to having Eva Braun’s brother-in-law, SS-Gruppenfuehrer Hermann Fegelein, Himmler’s Liaison to Hitler, executed for desertion and treason.
Hitler’s secretary, 25-year-old Gertrude Junge, tried that evening to sleep for an hour. Sometime after 11pm she woke up. She washed, changed her clothes, and thought it must be time to drink tea with Hitler, the other remaining secretary (31-year-old Frau Gerda Christian), and Hitler’s vegetarian cook (25-year-old Fraulein Constanze Manzialy), a nightly occurrence.When she opened the door to Hitler’s study, Hitler came toward her, shook her hand and asked “‘Have you had a nice little rest, child?’” Junge replied “Yes, I have slept a little.” Thereupon he said, “Come along, I want to dictate something.” This was between 11:30pm and midnight.
They went into the little map, or conference, room near Hitler’s quarters. She was about to remove the cover from the typewriter, as Hitler normally dictated directly to the typewriter, when Hitler said “Take it down on the shorthand pad.” She sat down alone at the big table and waited. Hitler stood in his usual place by the broad side of the table, leaned both hands on it, and stared at the empty table top, no longer covered that day with maps. For several seconds Hitler did not say anything. Then, suddenly he began to speak the first words: “My political testament.” As Hitler began speaking, she had the impression that he was in a hurry. “In tones of indifference, almost mechanically, the Fuehrer,” Junge would later observe, “comes out with the explanations, accusations and demands that I, the German people and the whole world know already.”
After finishing his political testament, according to Junge, Hitler paused a brief moment and then began dictating his private will. Hitler’s personal will was shorter. It explained his marriage, disposed of his property, and announced his impending death.
The dictation was completed. Hitler had not made any corrections on either document. He moved away from the table on which he had been leaning all this time, and “suddenly there is an exhausted, hunted expression in his eyes.” Hitler said, “Type that out for me at once in triplicate and then bring it in to me.” Junge felt that there was something urgent in his voice, and thought the most important, most crucial document written by Hitler was to go out into the world without any corrections or thorough revision. She knew that “Every letter of birthday wishes to some Gauleiter, artist, etc., was polished up, improved, revised–but now Hitler had no time for any of that.”
Junge took her notepad and typewriter across the hall to type up the political and personal wills. The room she used was next to Joseph Goebbels’ private room. There she began typing up her shorthand notes of the two documents, knowing that Hitler wanted her to finish as fast as possible. As she began typing the wedding at this point had not taken place.
The next item of business was the Hitler-Eva Braun marriage. Once Junge departed the conference, guests began entering to attend the wedding ceremony. In the meantime Hitler was in his sitting room with a few people, trying to get the wedding ready in a dignified way, while the conference room was turned into a registry office and set up for the wedding ceremony. SS-Major Heinz Linge (Hitler’s valet since 1935) began getting things ready for the post-wedding ceremony, including gathering up food and drink for Hitler’s inner circle.
Meanwhile, Josef Goebbels, in his capacity of Gauleiter of Berlin, knew of someone authorized to act as a registrar of marriage who was still in Berlin, fighting with the Volkssturm. He was a 50-year-old municipal councilor named Walter Wagner. A group of SS men was dispatched across the city to bring him back. Wagner appeared shortly before 1am April 29 in the uniform of the Nazi Party and the arm-band of the Volkssturm. The ceremony took place in the small conference room or map room, probably at some point between 1am and 2am. Hitler and Eva Braun left their apartment hand in hand and went into the conference room. Hitler’s face was ashen, his gaze wandered restlessly. Eva Braun was also pale from sleepless nights. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, and Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and private secretary to Hitler, were waiting for them in the antechamber.
In the conference room Hitler and Eva greeted the functionary who had taken up his position at the table. Then they sat down in the first two chairs, and Bormann and Goebbels too went to their assigned places. The door was closed. The two parties declared that they were of pure Aryan descent and were free from hereditary disease. In a few minutes the parties had given assent, the register had been signed, and the ceremony was over. When the bride came to sign her name on the marriage certificate she began to write “Eva Braun,” but quickly struck out the initial letter B, and corrected it to “Eva Hitler, nee Braun.” Bormann and Goebbels and Wagner also signed the register as witnesses. The ceremony lasted no longer than ten minutes.
Bormann opened the door again when Hitler and Eva were signing the license. Hitler then kissed Eva’s hand. They went into the conference passage where they shook hands with those waiting. They then withdrew into their private apartments for a wedding breakfast. Shortly afterwards, Bormann, Goebbels, Frau Goebbels, and Hitler’s two secretaries, Frau Gerda Christian and Frau Junge, were invited into the private suite. Junge would not come right away as she was typing across the hall. Wagner lingered for some 20 minutes at the reception. He munched a liverwurst sandwich, had one or two glasses of champagne, chatted with the bride, and headed back to the front lines.
For part of the time General of Infantry Hans Krebs, Lt. Gen. Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Lt. Col. Nicholaus von Below (Hitler’s Luftwaffe Adjutant since 1937) came in and joined the party, as did Werner Naumann (State Secretary in Ministry of Propaganda since 1944), Arthur Axmann (Reich Youth Leader since 1940), Ambassador Walter Hewel (permanent representative of Foreign Ministry to Hitler at Fuehrer headquarters since 1940), Heinz Linge (Hitler’s valet), SS-Major Otto Guensche (personal adjutant to Hitler), and Fraulein Manzialy, the vegetarian cook. There they sat for hours, drinking champagne and tea, eating sandwiches, and talking. Hitler spoke again of his plans of suicide and expressed his belief that National Socialism was finished and would never revive (or would not resurrect so soon again), and that death would be a relief to him now that he had been deceived and betrayed by his best friends.
While Junge was busy typing the two documents, the wedding took place and the party had begun. At some point during the party Junge stopped her typing and walked across the corridor to the room where the party was taking place to express her congratulations to the newlyweds and wish them luck. She stayed for less than fifteen minutes and then returned to her typing.
And during the time she was typing, Hitler left the party and came in three times in order to ask how far she had gotten. According to Junge, Hitler would look in and say “Are you ready?” and she said, “No my Fuehrer, I am not ready yet.” Bormann and Goebbels also kept coming to see if she was finished. Not only did these comings and goings make Junge nervous and delay the process, but being upset about the whole situation, Junge made several typographical errors. Those were only crossed out in ink.
Also complicating the finishing of the typing was that the names of some appointments of the new Doenitz government needed to be added to the political testament. During the course of the wedding party, Hitler discussed and negotiated the matter with Bormann and Goebbels. While she was typing the clean copies of the political testament from her shorthand notes, Goebbels or Bormann came in alternately to give her the names of the ministers of the future government, a process that lasted until she had finished typing the three copies.
Towards 5am, Junge finished typing the three copies each of the political testament and personal will. They were timed at 4am as that was when she had begun her typing of the first copy of the political testament. Just as she finished, Goebbels came to her and wanted the documents, almost tearing the last piece of paper from the typewriter. She gave them to Goebbels without having a chance to review the final product because Goebbels was in such a hurry. She asked Goebbels whether they still wanted her. Goebbels said “no, lie down and have a rest.” Junge went into one of the room where there were sleeping accommodations and lay down. At that point Eva Braun had already retired and the wedding party had ended or just about to end. Goebbels, meanwhile, took the copies of the documents to Hitler.
The documents were ready to be signed. First Hitler asked Goebbels and Bormann whether everything was correct. Apparently they answered in the affirmative. The personal will was signed by Hitler and signed by the witnesses: Bormann, Goebbels, and von Below. The political testament was also signed at the same time by Hitler and the witnesses Goebbels, Bormann, Burgdorf, and Krebs. After signing the wills, sometime before 6am, Hitler retired to rest.
Junge believed that Hitler would send the documents out by courier and then his suicide would only be a question of a short time. He only wanted to wait, she thought, for a confirmation that the wills had arrived at their destination before committing suicide. By 6am with her work completed, Junge slept for some hours in the bunker and then retreated to the shelter room of the New Chancellery, which she shared with Frau Christian, Miss Krueger (Bormann’s secretary), and three Reich Chancellery secretaries.
The marriage certificate in translation:
Bibliographic information will furnished at the end of the final post in this series.