By April 1945, Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War 2 was a matter of time as the Red Army surrounded Berlin and the Allies advanced from the West. Hitler insisted the fight must go on and the ever-loyal Joseph Goebbels issued a proclamation urging Germans to battle to the death in defence of the capital. However, the reality of the situation was there for all to see and even Hermann Goering – one of Hitler’s closest and most loyal supporters – wrote to his leader arguing that he should take over as Fuhrer.
Before this point, Hitler’s inner circle had stood by him through thick and thin and several of the most senior Nazis had been on a journey with the far-right fanatic ever since the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.
Nazi high command was a collection of the most loyal and devoted followers of Hitler’s deranged ideology and this coalition of brutality remained steadfast in the early days of the war as Germany celebrated almost unrivalled military success.
Somewhat inevitably, though, it began to fall apart as the German war machine ground to a halt when the Soviet Union turned the conflict on its head at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.
From that point on, the Red Army began to capitalise on its superior manpower and the Wehrmacht was, slowly but surely, driven back.
Adolf Hitler committed suicide as the Red Army advanced on Berlin
Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering were with Hitler from the start
With the Red Army advance, the true horrors of the Holocaust began to be unravelled as Soviet troops liberated concentration camps – most notably Auschwitz in January 1945.
The hopelessness of Hitler’s position was well and truly exposed on D-Day – when the Allies invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Much like World War 1, Germany was crippled by having to fight a war on two fronts and the sense of desperation was felt by every Nazi in the end – even Heinrich Himmler.
Like Goering, Himmler betrayed his Fuhrer in the final days of the war and sought a last-ditch peace with the Allies.
On April 21, 1945, he met with Norbert Masur – a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress – to discuss the release of concentration camp inmates.
Himmler unashamedly lied in the meeting, claiming the crematoria at the concentration camps had been built to deal with the bodies of prisoners who had died in a typhus epidemic while boasting of very high survival rates at both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
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Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering
Days later, he represented himself as the provisional leader of Germany – on the assumption that Hitler would be dead within days – and informed Dwight D Eisenhower that Germany wished to surrender to the West.
He hoped that British and US forces would fight the Soviet Union alongside what remained of the German army but, unsurprisingly, Himmler’s request fell on deaf ears.
When Hitler found out about Himmler’s secret negotiations, he flew into an astonishing rant and dubbed it the worst treachery he had ever known while ordering for his arrest.
However, by this point it was too late.
Upon hearing the news that the Soviets had advanced to Potsdamerplatz, just 300 metres from the Reich Chancellory in Berlin, Hitler decided to pen his last will and testament.
He branded both Goering and Himmler traitors in a document that became more a deranged ramble of bitter resentment than a legal will.
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Adolf Hitler with Heinrich Himmler
Himmler wrote to Eisenhower seeking peace
In his eyes, two men who had been by his side from the very beginning had turned their backs on him – Goering by making moves to take over as Fuhrer and Himmler by negotiating with the Allies behind his back.
In the will, Hitler denied charges of warmongering and expressed his thanks to Germany’s citizens – appealing to them to continue in their “struggle”.
He blamed “international Jewry” for the war and claimed he had chosen death as a means to avoid “falling into the hands of enemies” in a “spectacle arranged by Jews”.
He then set out his plan for a new government to be formed under Karl Donitz.
Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun and their dog Blondi
Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge, later recalled that he was reading from notes as he dictated the will and noted that Joseph Goebbels helped him write it.
On April 30, 1945, Hitler shot himself in the head and his girlfriend, Eva Braun, bit into a cyanide capsule.
Their bodies were carried outside to the garden behind the Reich Chancellory where they were placed in a bomb crater, doused in petrol, and set on fire.
Berlin surrendered on May 2 and records in the Soviet archives claim that the remains of Hitler, Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, the six Goebbels children, General Hans Krebs and Hitler’s dog, Blondi, were repeatedly buried and exhumed.
Joseph Goebbels is said to have helped Hitler with his will
According to Professor Ian Kershaw, Hitler’s corpse was fully burned when the Red Army found it and only a lower jaw with dental work could be identified as his remains.
Himmler was captured by British forces on May 23, 1945, but committed suicide by biting into a hidden cyanide capsule before he could be interrogated.
Goering surrendered to US forces on May 6 and was one of the most high-profile Nazis interrogated at the Nuremberg trial.
He was sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity but committed suicide with a cyanide capsule the night before his planned execution.