On this day in 1945, Adolph Hitler kills himself by gunshot in his Führerbunker in Berlin with his new bride Eva Braun, who took her own life via cyanide. In accordance with Hitler’s prior written and verbal instructions, that afternoon their remains were carried up the stairs through the bunker’s emergency exit, doused in gasoline, and set alight in the Reich Chancellery garden outside the bunker. So ended the 1000-year Reich, after 12 years.
Since at least 1943, it had become increasingly clear that Germany would fold under the inexorable pressure of the Allied forces. In February of that year, the German 6th Army, lured deep into the Soviet Union, was annihilated at the Battle of Stalingrad, and German hopes for a sustained offensive on both fronts evaporated. Then, in June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed at Normandy, France, and began to systematically push the Germans back toward Berlin.
By July 1944, several German military commanders acknowledged their imminent defeat and plotted to remove Hitler from power so as to negotiate a more favorable peace. Their attempts to assassinate Hitler failed, however, and in his reprisals, Hitler exterminated over 4,000 fellow countrymen, including Gen. Erwin Rommel.
In January 1945, facing a siege of Berlin by the Soviets, Hitler withdrew to his bunker to live out his final days. Located 55 feet under the Chancellery, the shelter contained 18 rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. Though he was growing increasingly mad, Hitler continued to give orders and meet with such close subordinates as Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbels.
After completing his will on April 30, Hitler then retired to his private quarters with Braun, where he and Braun poisoned themselves, first testing the cyanide on their dogs; Hitler then shot himself with his service pistol. Only eight days later, all German forces issued an unconditional surrender, leaving the deluded and devastated remains of a nation to be carved up by the Allied powers.