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Welcome to Dan Snow's History Hit to listen to all of our episodes ad-free, get bonus content, and watch hundreds of history documentaries. Download the History Hit app or go to historyhit. Com/subscribe. And if you're an Apple listener, you can subscribe for new ad-free episodes within the Apple app. It's the 30th of April 1945. The Battle of Berlin has been raging for two weeks. The city that's symbolized Hitler's Third Reich has been reduced to a smoldering ruin. The Red Army is rampaging through the streets from the east, exacting bloody, savage revenge for the brutal Nazi occupation of their homeland. To the west, battle-hardened Allied troops have smashed through lines. A desperate defense is underway. Men, women, and children are forced to pick up arms and fight the invaders. But it's pointless. The writing is already on the wall. Eight feet below the shattered city lies the Fuehrer bunker, a cavernous, subterraining complex built of cold concrete and steel. This has been Hitler's home. It's been the headquarters of the Third Reich since January. He's joined by his close confidant, Martin Bourman, his old friend Joseph Goebbels, who lives there with his wife and six children. There's a skeleton staff of officers, typists and aides chosen to remain with their Fuehrer.


Their eyes nervously dart up towards the dull thud of artillery resonates through the chamber. Dust, a piece of mortar cascade from the ceiling. It seems as if the roof will cave in at any minute. Everyone is terrified, but they can't show it. Hitler is apoplectic with rage. Anyone showing weakness is liable to attract the ire of his unpredictable outbursts. They try and distract themselves with the tasks at hand. They log reports, they update troop positions on a map. It's a fantasy, it's futile. The officers sending the reports have mostly been killed or captured. The armies that they push about solemnly on the map have long since disintegrated. An air of unruliness has taken over many of the bunker's staff are now drunk, disheveled. Against this strange atmosphere, the 16-year-old boy standing smartly to attention before the Fuehrer is something of a contrast. His sharp Hitler uniform is bleached white by a thick layer of dust. His forearms have been torn and blooded by flying debris. His eyes are red with exhaustion. He is a messenger, farrying letters, orders, reports from the front line troops back to the bunker. It's an enormously dangerous task. The boy has already been awarded a medal for heroism.


But even as the world around him comes crashing down, he remains bolt, upright, proud, unquestioningly loyal to his Fuhre. But the man in front of him, that Fuhre, is not the headstrong, determined, confident leader of five or six years before. He's a shadow of the man who marched through Munich 20 years earlier. There are no more speeches to give now to packed stadiums full of people, hunched over, his pallied skin stretched tightly over his face, his hands shaking. Hitler has met with the fate that he deserved. It wasn't the end that Hitler had been expecting. At the outbreak of war in 1939, his armies had swept across Europe. It seemed likely for a few months that he'd become Fuehrer of the entire continent. You're listening to Dan Snow's history, and this is part three of our Hitler series. Today, the story of Hitler's war and his deterioration as the world closed in on him. Nazism had always looked east for its two key needs, labor and living space. As the Third Reich grew and prospered, it would need new, fertile lands to settle. The Arabian land of the east was a natural fit, but that would have to wait.


Hitler was pragmatic, and for now, an alliance with the Soviet Union would better serve his purposes. If we're going to look at Hitler's big moments of the Second World War, first big one is that extraordinary decision to ally himself with Stalin, his worthwhile nemesis. What's going on there in 1939?


That's amazing, isn't it? He allies himself with Stalin, the head of the Soviet Union. He said in mind camp that he's going to break the Soviet Union. That's the place he'll get his labor drawn and set up his 1,000 year reich. And here he is, he's got a deal with Stalin. He hates communism. He wants rid of communism from the world. And why does he do it? And the answer is that he's also pragmatic. He also sees that Stalin can open the door for him to invade Poland, and he can see a map and he realizes that the French and the British can't do anything about it. The chances of the French, he says there's no chance of the French going on the offensive. They don't know how to do it now. The only way they walk is backwards. It's a compromise, and we see that compromise a few times. He compromises over Czechoslovakia, signs the Munich agreement, says he'll never sign any international agreement, but he does. I think that it's just a compromise. He finds himself with the wrong ally at the start of the war, but for a reason, he knows now he can crush Poland.


And so on the first September 1939, three German thrusts pushed into Poland. The Poles fought valiantly, but they were overwhelmed by German numerical and air superiority. The Polish military was pushed back, and by the 12th, all of Western Poland had capitulated, except for Warsaw. Now that, of course, left the east of Poland free, except that on the 17th September, the Soviets invaded in a coordinated attack. The Germans and Soviets had swamped the country. They then divided it between themselves. Poland never stood a chance. What on Earth, though, was Stalin thinking? How could these two diametrically opposed regimes end up on the same side? For as long as anyone could remember, Hitler had professed the inevitability of a German invasion of the Soviet Union. Nazi propaganda famously portrayed the Russians as racially inferior, a people whose sole purpose was to be conquered and enslaved. How could Stalin have turned a blind eye to this?


Stalin thinks he can buy time. I mean, he thinks he wants to buy time. He thinks Hitler is going to eventually attack him, I think. But he thinks I can buy time if I can buy a couple of years and creates a buffer zone in Poland. He'll have to go through my buffer zone to get to attackers in the Soviet Union. I think he's pragmatic as well, but he does believe in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Stalin. He's shocked when Hitler invades the Soviet Union in 1941.


Now, whilst all this is going on, Hitler is also keeping an eye on the West. Hitler had always wanted to get the British on side. He was very disappointed when they joined the war to support the Poles. He saw the British as fellow Arians. They too had a vast empire. What's not to like? And he was keen to overemphasize the cultural and historic links between the two nations. There was a pragmatic side to this as well. The British up to now had been the world superpower. They had the world's strongest navy. To Hitler, they were a natural, valuable ally, and they would be a very troublesome enemy. Did he think that Britain wouldn't go to war for Poland?


He did. He did right up until the last moment. He thought that they wouldn't. That was a bit of a shock. He got the wrong war. He wanted Britain on side in some way. Some way he thought he could get Britain to be neutral over what happened in Europe, but that was never going to happen. That was complete pie in the sky.


He didn't mind the Isle of the British Empire, did he?


He loved the British Empire. And in fact, he said it was a model for other empires. It was run on the cheap. He said, There's a massive continent, India, ruled by about 3,000 administrators. He said, Fantastic. Let's hope we can do that. He said. He did talk about the British that he felt as though the British were Arians and he'd like them to be on his side. He had a soft spot for Britain, really.


But once Britain and France had declared war on Germany, he was forced to accept that an alliance with Britain was a pipe dream. He now knew yet to conquer the West, yet to knock out Germany's most immediate threats. That would be the priority. For all its military strength, Germany was not going to start a war on two fronts. They'd learn that in the First World War. He had hopes that by defeating the coalition in the West, Britain could be isolated and would join him once the rest of Europe had fallen. So 1989 doesn't go completely right because he ends up fighting Britain. And France and their respective empires. He then has to make a big decision, I suppose, doesn't he? Does he continue pursuing his gender in the East, or does he have to deal with Western Europe first?


He's got to deal with Western Europe. He says that to his generals, We've got to knock out France. And he says that even earlier, before then, that France is going to stand in the way of German expansionism on the continent. He said, We've got to deal with France.


That's weird, isn't it? It's like Echoes in 1914. You smash France first, then you turn Eastern.


-yeah, yeah. -it's so weird. Exactly. It's implanted in his brain. He's got to take out France. He hopes then that when France is knocked out, the British will retreat back to Britain and somehow he'll come to an arrangement with them. He'll keep offering them, which he does, actually. He keeps offering them an alliance, doesn't he? I'll leave the British Empire alone in return for you leave me alone. The British and the French go to war initially not to save Poland, but to save their position in the world order. They are the two big empires and they want to save that position in the world. It would be now like America. America sees itself, doesn't it? It's like part of the world order. If anyone's going to threaten the world order, America is going to be stopping them.


By the end of 1939, all-out war was underway in Europe for the second time in 25 years. In May 1940, a blinding German assault tore through France and Northwest Europe. Within a matter of weeks, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium had fallen to the Nazis. The remnants of the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force that had been sent to support them was beating an undignified retreat back to the English channel. The invasion showcased Nazi Germany's fearsome new fighting techniques: rapid, hard-hitting tank divisions, panza divisions backed up by infantry punched holes in Allied lines and caused havoc in their rear. The German forces were well-trained and highly motivated. Their military doctrine made room for individual officers to make autonomous decisions on the battlefield. They could be responsive in the face of slow-moving and poorly coordinated allied forces. With their backs to the ocean on the beach of Dunkirk, the remaining allied forces waited for their inevitable capture or deaths. But Hitler was about to make a fateful tactical error. He is successful in evading Denmark and Norway, then Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg. Stunning, stunning successes. Did he deserve any credit for those?


I think he did in Germany. I think when you look at it, it was a remarkable series of victories on the European continent. He knocks France out.


But was that his... When Manstein's meeting with him and Gwdydyryon, is he saying, I think that plan looks.


Like a good one. Again, you could say that he had a bit of luck. On paper, Britain and France could have held Germany on the Western front. They had the equipment. They just had it in the wrong place. Manstein's plan was to go through the Ardenne, the impenetrable Ardenne, as it was called, the forest area in Belgium, and to bridge the River Merse and then to move on to Seyane. That was his plan, and it worked fantastically. Really, the French and the British were outwitted by this because what he did was he thrust a dagger through the two armies because some of them had gone to meet the invasion of Belgium and the others have been then camped further down in France. It was like a wonderful corridor he created with these tanks. They drove all the way to the channel and they ended up at the port of Duncair.


A matter of days. The ally has been sliced in half. The Northern ramp is slowly reduced and he evacuated through Dunkir. Now, Hitler, does he deliberately let them escape? What's your thought on this old question that gets argued over again and again?


I think he did. I think he did let them escape. I think so. The evidence suggests that he could have intervened. He could have given orders to smash them on the beach. It was really half-hearted effort to stop the British getting out. Later on, he says at a meeting with his general, something like, It's good. It's good for the British to go back, he said, because they'll have that humiliation, he said, and they won't want to fight again.


But it didn't pan out the way he expected. The British were emboldened by the success of the Duncan evacuations and could still rely on a world-class Navy to protect them from a cross-channel invasion. And so with invasion out of the question for now, Hitler turned his attention to the skies. He ends up having to launch the Battle of Britain, which he didn't want to.


Do, did he? He didn't want to do it, yeah. It's like, You made me hate you. I didn't want to do it. He didn't want to invade Britain and he was pushed into it, really. Operation Sea Lion. The plan was to gain air superiority over Britain first, aerial superiority, which was, of course, the Battle of Britain. They didn't achieve it. It was a defeat. People have underestimated this defeat, and I don't underestimate it because I think the Battle of Britain is crucial. I call my book a second volume of the Hitler years disaster. And the disaster starts with the Battle of Britain because he didn't take superiority over Britain. He didn't mount the invasion. Britain was free from invasion. It was never remotely in danger of being invaded. Why? Because the British Navy was too strong. All he had was barges bobbing around. Have you ever seen these barges bobbing around in the channel? Or have you ever been on a boat in the channel? It's sorts of bobs up and down all the way. It's not by any means an easy gig, if you like. But when you've got like-The.




Fleet in the world. -272 crews, for example, the Germans have got what, 20? It was never feasible that they could get them onto the beach. It was never feasible that we'd be overtaken by our Navy, battleships being destroyed. It wasn't possible.


So the Battle of Britain is a major reverse.


For Hitler. Yes, and it also leaves open the possibility of Britain being used as an aircraft carrier if the Americans eventually come into the war.


Hitler was forced to accept stalemate in the west and he turned eastwards towards the Soviet Union. This was perhaps the most fateful decision he would make in the war. On the one hand, it made sense. Things were not looking good for the Russians. In a fit of paranoia, Starnard purged the senior leadership of his army. He decapitated his best safeguard against Hitler. His troops were and experienced, they were poorly supplied, and now they were very poorly led. By contrast, Germany was riding high off the back of sweeping victories. Its forces were experienced. They had tried and tested Kitt and they were led by men who'd won victories on the battlefield. On the other hand, however, Hitler was not the first would-be hegemon who thought he could take a bite out of Russia. Historically speaking, it doesn't tend to end well for the invaders. The scale of Russia, its sheer size, its savage climate has made it the graveyard of many armies and imperial ambitions. The Russians were also able to draw on an enormous population to overwhelm their enemy with sheer numbers. Hitler was well aware of the example of Napoleon marching to Moscow in 1812 and the fate that befell his army.


He was certain he would avoid that fate. Germany has now gone undefeated Britain on its Western flank with, as you say, all that amazing potential, biggest Navy in the world, lots of help coming from the rest of the world, huge empire. And yet he decides to turn east, doesn't he, and focus. So rather than try and subdue Britain, take his time, build some battleships, panel them.


He should have done that, really. I mean, that was his major strategic mistake was not to stop then and to really try and build up his forces and invade Britain. That was the way to go. Because unless he invaded Britain, he left over the possibility that the Americans would come into the war. And of course, he dismissed the Americans too much. Churchill didn't. Roosevelt said himself that from 1938, he knew what the stakes were. And he'd already said to Churchill when he met him and put out the Atlantic Charter. Churchill said to him, What happens if the Soviet Union goes? And he says, Well, then he says it's a big power struggle, isn't it? We've got to come in. He said at that stage, America will enter this war. He said if the Russians are beaten, we'll enter the war. And he said we'll supply the Russians with military equipment to beat them. So with America's military equipment, could Russia have lost that war? When you think about it? And we now know, don't we, that the Americans supplied much more armaments than we ever thought? Now we've got the Russian archives have opened, haven't they?


We can see how much they supplied them with.


So when we're talking about hit this big decision in the summer of the autumn of 1940, Britain hasn't been defeated. Hitler is thinking about what to do next. It looks like going to Moscow is easier than crossing the channel.




Soviet Army is in a bit of a disarray. The purges have taken out senior officers. That's what he thinks. He's worried about this new tank coming in if they attacked before the equipment's up to par, he might be able to get a quick victory. Is Hitler making that decision alone? I mean, is he a dictator? Is there a foreign policy establishment helping him? Or is this just him sitting there thinking about it?


He's got his general staff, isn't he? By now, he's encamped with his military generals in the Wolf Slair in Rasterberg in Poland, and they are discussing the idea of attacking the Soviet Union. Interestingly enough, they fall in line with what he wants. They agree. They think it is a pack of cards. They have been boyed up by these victories themselves. They think, Yes, it's doable. It will just collapse. It can be done. It's doable in two or three months. They bolster him up in that way.


It's funny, after the war, the generals will go, Oh, Hitler was a terrible meddler. We lost the war because of him. But at this stage, 1940, '41, they're all on the same hymn sheet.


Yes, because I think the victories in Western Europe did lead even those generals to think he was a bit more than a corporal, that perhaps he did have some military genius and he thought it himself. He definitely thought it could be done. They told him, If we break it up into three armies, we can have objectives at the end of those three armies. They thought they could win in about three months.


And so in June of 1941, three separate German army groups poured into the Soviet Union along an 1,800 miles front line. One group heading for Leningrad, the other to Moscow, and another to the riches of the Ukraine. Something like three million Germans and 700,000 German Allied troops marched, supported by 3,000 tanks, 7,000 artillery pieces. Well, above them, two and a half thousand aircraft crisscrossed the skies. Together, this force smashed through Russian lines in the largest land invasion in human history. They faced enormous Soviet force, which on paper was around five and a half million soldiers. It's worth pausing to get a sense of the scale here. From day one, something like 10 million human beings mobilized to fight each other. The Western European Theater, the fight in the Pacific and the North Africa are tiny in terms of the numbers of people involved on the Eastern Front. And even at the time, people like Churchill and the American President, who also, as he felt, knew that the outcome of the war in the East would play a huge part in shaping the fate of the war at large. In the initial invasion, things did not look good for the Soviets.


The Red Army was taken by surprise. It was in complete disarray. Their superiority in numbers mattered little as frontline Russian divisions were overwhelmed by German tactics and kid. Some three million Russian soldiers were taken as prisoners of war in the initial months of the invasion, with a further million killed or wounded in action. In one enormous encirclement in Kiev, something like 700,000 Soviets killed, captured, or wounded in one fell swoop. The situation looked dire for the Soviets, and the Germans emboldened by these victories, pushed on towards the capital, Moscow. Behind these blinding military successes, another war was being waged. In episode two, we saw how Hitler's began persecution the Jews. Laws were passed that excluded them from public life. Their property was seized. They were in prison in getos and work camps. But once all-out war was underway, things got significantly worse. The conflict gave Hitler the cover he needed, and he began ramping up his vile anti-Semitism. His quote, final solution to the Jewish problem was a sinister euphemism, what would become the wholesale genocide of Europe's Jewish population. From 1941 to 1945, millions of Jews were rounded up from German occupied territories and sent to specially constructed concentration camps: Ausfitz, Bergen, Belsen, Treblinkau, Sobibur, just a few of the infamous examples etched onto European memory.


The Holocaust, as it came to be known, was a well-oiled and efficient machine of death. In those camps, there were gas chambers that ultimately killed some six million Jews, as well as hundreds of thousands of Romane, homosexuals, people with disabilities and political opponents. But at first, the mass of Europe's undesirables was carried out by hand. In the wake of the German invasion, the Soviet Union specially created SS units hunted down Russia's Jewish and Romane populations. A place like Babiyar, Kyiv, SS execution shot some 33,000 Jewish men, women and children in two days. By the time the German occupation was over, somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000Mauves and Jews, Romane, and Soviet POWs had been executed by hand at this one site alone. Let's be clear, this was not something that happened without Hitler's knowledge. This was a very natural result of the anti-Semitic, anti-Slamic battle and policies that he had been pushing for decades. Remember back to all that angry shouting and gesticulating in beer cellars about the inevitable war in the east in which the great Arian race would prevail over the Slavic subhumans? Well, this was that war, and these execution squads were simply enacting the Fuehrer's policy promises.


This was a politician doing the things he campaigned about. The Holocaust was sanctioned. It was pushed. It was overseen by the angry Austrian, Hitler, who had been blaming all of his own problems and that of his country on these groups for decades. Amidst all the chaos of late 1941 with the fate of Germany, the Soviet Union, Europe and the world, and the balance, things were getting heated in Nazi headquarters. Hitler's preoccupation with waging an ideological war of extermination in tandem with a military campaign was beginning to wear his generals down. At what stage does he start becoming a real drag on the military effort?


I think what he injects into the campaign is something that the military don't like. He injects this war of annihilation. It's not just going to be a military war. They want to fight a military war. They don't want to really fight a war of annihilation where you've got this group in the SS called the Einstein's group and we're going to go about destroying people, civilians, Communists, Jews. They don't really think that's a good idea, but he wants that. He has this idea that it's got to be two wars. One is a war to destroy the Soviet regime, but the other is to destroy the Jews, destroy the communists as well, and he creates this Einstein group. I think you could say that is added on nasty bit of the campaign, which the Nazis add to it. That's a Nazi innovation, really. But of course, they went along with it. And, of course, at the Nuremberg trial and all the rest of it, they tried to say they weren't privy to that. I think the generals at the end of the war, they try and lie their way out. They try and say, Oh, if we'd been winning the war, we'd have won the war.


But when you look at the actual decisions, they always take the decisions or agree with the decisions. There's a.


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As the German.


Generals tried to tiptoe around Hitler's genocide back at headquarters, the invasion had been ground to a halt on the outskirts of Moscow. The Germans were tantalizingly close to their objective, but the vast distances in Russia made their progress a logistical nightmare. Motor vehicles have become bogged down all through the autumn in the vast Russian wilderness. The German Army was relying on hundreds of thousands of horses to cart provisions up to the front lines, which definitely wasn't the quickest way to supply a modern army. Hitler also brought strategic dissonance to the campaign. He was always concerned with Germany's lack of fuel and so he wanted to move south towards the oil fields in the Caucasus. But he also wants to knock out the seat of Soviet power, Moscow. At the last minute, he swayed by his generals to switch back to something more resembling the initial plan and launch a giant thrust at the Soviet capital. The prospect of Hitler succeeding when Napoleon had failed felt like a tantalizing triumph that Hitler's ego simply couldn't resist.


The army want to go straight to Moscow. The adamant about this, Go straight to Moscow, knock Stalin, and then the whole thing will collapse. Hitler says, No, we need to go south where the oil is, so we need to move through the Ukraine and we need to go through the oil fields. That's where the money is here, the economic side of it. Hitler puts forward the economic plan, really, not the joyous plan. He said also we've got to be aware that if we don't take Moscow, it's going to be a psychological war. We all know who didn't take Moscow and people will be looking at me said that I didn't take Moscow as well. In the end, they go for the plan, which is the army's plan, not Hitler's plan. Hitler's plan is to go for the economic targets in the Ukraine. They go with the army's plan. And of course, they don't take Moscow.


Well, Hitler argued with his generals, his troops were in broad in a savage battle just outside the Russian capital. By October, both sides were battered. They were belligat after months of fighting. And the famed General Zoukov had been put in charge of the city's desperate defense. He had put a wall of men and machines around Moscow's Western approach. They had held on by the skin of their teeth while hundreds of thousands of women and children dug trenches and anti-tank ditches and bunkers throughout the city. But by December, Kukov had also managed to mobilize a strategic reserve, infantry from the far east, a million men ready to launch a counter-offensive to drive the Germans back, and these included specialist ski troops who thrived in the freezing cold of the Russian winter. While the Soviets defended, gathered their strength and prepared to launch a mighty counterattack around their capital, the Germans were having terrible problems supplying their troops at the front line. Their logistics network failed to get warm clothing and fuel up to the front, leaving the fighting men to tear clothes off their fallen comrades or their enemy. Many fighting units were down to half strength.


It was clear that while rapid victory was no longer on the cards, the Soviets just had too much time and space in which to recover. Finally, in December, Kukov launched his counter-offensive. The German generals knew instantly they would not be able to rebuff this attack. They would have to fall back. They'd have to take up new positions if they want to have a chance of weathering the storm at all. But their commander-in-chief, whose military experience did not extend beyond that of a corporal, refused to give ground to the Soviets. To Hitler whose ego was so easily bruised, retreat meant shame. And I think Hitler, the politician, the spindoch to the showman, knew what retreat meant in a way that the generals couldn't understand seeing it from a purely technical point of view. And deep down, Hitler believed in the superiority of the Arian race. He believed that his boys would be able to stand up to the overwhelming odds against these subhuman slaves. Thousands of soldiers would die at the gates of Moscow. Like so many others, they were ideological pawns on a chessboard that really only existed in Hitler's head. At one point, two of his generals defied his orders.


They began a tactical retreat. Hitler found out. He canceled the order and he commanded his troops to hold every inch of ground, quote, digging trenches with howitzers shells if necessary. I think if there's one moment that's spelt the beginning of the end for the Third Reich, for Nazi Germany, I think it probably is December 1941. With the Germans so close to Stalin's capital, the Soviet Goliath woke up. It drew on those infantry reserves from across the country. It rebuilt virtually a new army of enormous proportions. Russian industry kicked into gear. Thousands of tanks were churned out, planes, artillery pieces, supplies from the Allies came pouring in. And in that same month, far away in the Pacific, another industrial superpower was stirring. The devastating Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor brought a very angry United States America into the war. Hitler's war on two fronts had just got a lot more serious. Even the most optimistic German general would have thought that fighting the Soviets, the British Empire, the Americans, and others all at the same time was now an impossible task.


Zoukov, the most famous general of the Second World War, the Russian general, he mounted this amazing counter-offensive outside Moscow in December 1941. At that point, that's the real turning point of the war on the battlefield, because from then on, Hitler is fighting a losing battle, really, on the Eastern Front. Actually, it takes another 18 months before the whole thing starts to collapse. But the.


Writing's on the wall outside Moscow in late '41, and particularly because it's the most dramatic week in world history, because just as Hitler's troops are clawing their way towards the outskirts, allegedly one unit can see the spires, the Kremlin, whether or not they could, we don't know. As that's happening, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and Hitler makes a very strange decision at this point. What's he doing?


He decides that he'll declare war on the USA. I mean, he has got a pact with Japan, and I think it was inevitable that, wasn't it, Roosevelt who said he saved me the task of declaring war on him? Roosevelt would have declared war on Germany probably the next week anyway if he'd done nothing. I think he had to stand by his ally. He did have some hopes. He said, No, the Japanese, they're unconquerable. They've never been defeated. He said, That war is by no means over. They'll tie down the Americans for quite a while. They've got a very good Navy. He just felt as though he had to get on board with his axis allies, including, of course, the useless Mussolini.


Over the next year, the war in the east grew even more violent, even more destructive. Several Soviet counter-offenses were launched. They didn't recapture much territory, but they inflicted losses on the German Army that were tough to replace. In June 1942, Hitler launched Case Blue, a summer offensive to capture the oil fields of the Caucasus. They fell short of those oil fields, instead found themselves locked in an infamous battle at Stalingrad, a symbolic struggle that foretold the fate of Germany's Eastern invasion. The city was utterly leveled over the next four months. Hitler forbid his men to retreat, turning the siege into a fight to the death, catastrophic loss of human life. Eventually surrounded, the Germans fought long after the logical decision would be to have surrendered. Russia lost over a million men captured, killed or wounded in the battle for this one city. That's about the same as the total US, British, French, and Commonwealth casualties combined for the entire war. Around 800,000 Axis soldiers were also killed, wounded, or captured. Of the 91,000 men who did eventually surrender, only 5,000 or so would ever return to their homes. All of this to capture a city of little strategic value beyond the fact that it bore Stalin's name.


The destruction of the German force at Stalingrad showed the world that the German army was not superhuman. They were beatable. It gave Germany's many enemies hope, and it marked the point at which the tide of the war had decisively turned. Even Hitler was forced to reconsider the German situation. His second great offensive into Ukraine and Russia is bogged down. It's been very disappointing. He's about to get annihilated in Stalingrad. His army is bogged down there. You've got the Americans have arrived in the Mediterranean Theater. The Battle of the Atlantic is going badly. The Soviets have survived. The Japanese are in trouble in the Pacific. How does Hitler get out of bed in the morning and get... How does that stress not break him? He can't, or does he believe he can still win?


Well, I think there's an inability to look defeat in the face, really. I think if you see the meetings that he has with Gerbles, they're all in his diaries. Geble is quite pragmatic. He thinks they have lost the war, and he keeps saying to him, You've got to decide who you're going to have a peace settlement with. They have little meetings in the right chance and Gebles are saying, You've got to come to peace with Stalin somehow, or the West. And he says, Well, the West, he said, They're not going to come to a deal with me. He said, The Americans and the British have built up this idea of themselves as morally superior. They're fighting a moral war, so they're not going to come to me. And he said, Stalin doesn't have to come to me. He's winning. He said, What a peace settlement do you get out of somebody who's winning? It's not a peace settlement. It's a capitulation. Then he said, Now they're saying they want unconditional surrender. In those conversations, you can see that he does know that the game is up, really. He does sometimes reveals that he is losing, but he's going to fight on doggedly right to the end and something might turn in his favor.


He always had this idea. Events have always turned in my favor, and he was lucky, wasn't he? The Wall Street crash, Hindenburg being old and elderly and deciding to pick him as the Chancellor, Chamberlain being stupid enough to sign the Munich Agreement. He always believed that someone would pull his chestnut out of the fire.


And after all, change of regime saved Frederick the Great, it's bacon, didn't it? So these things happen in history, I suppose. This is probably a good time to step back and assess Hitler's mental state. It should be pretty clear by now that Hitler was not a well-adjusted person at the best of times. From a preening narcissistic teenager to a despotic cult leader, Hitler had always been prone to emotional outbursts. He had a distinct lack of self-control. He would rant and rave when things didn't go his way. He'd lash out at anyone but himself, of course. Jews, Slabs, cowardly generals, Communists, these people were all at the root of his problems. As the situation slowly deteriorated, he had a physician on hand to provide him with a constant supply of experimental drugs to pep him up. When does his health start to deteriorate and the use of drugs and all this stuff?


I think his health was always bad. If we go through him talking to people and he had his own personal doctor who was with him all the time, Dr. Theodore Morel, he specialized in homeopathic cures and things like that. He gave Hill of all kinds of stuff and he had these sorts of preparations, but at the core of some of this was amphetamines and speed. But he didn't think he was taking amphetamine, if you see what I mean. He thought he was taking vitamin boosters, as he called them. But the only thing that was going to get you up out of them, it wasn't the beetroot juice or anything. It was the amphetamines. And he said, God, I love that. I love that concoction that you've got. And it gave him more energy. Now, we know, don't we, that lots of people were taking amphetamines. I mean, one of the most famous amphetamine addicted people in the government was Anthony Eden. He lived on them. They didn't do him any good because, of course, they bring paranoia and stuff like that, don't they? And strange moods. He was definitely hooked on amphetamine to begin with.


It was called Pervert and they started giving it to the troops as well. Then there was his stomach trouble. He was like endlessly having stomach troubles. That's why he was a vegetarian. It was like that. He had gas, excessive gas, and he used to get these gas pills. He'd also have pills made from the excrements of a Bulgarian peasant who supplied the excrements for these pills and he used to take these pills. Yeah, and of course, they didn't work, did they? In the end, all of his homeopathic medicines didn't work.


By the summer of 1944, even the drug adult Hitler could see the writing on the wall. Germany was fighting a three-front war against the combined strength of the world's greatest superpowers. There was no way that Germany could have won the war even with the best decision making in the world at that point, was there? 43, 45.


Even if you transferred Roosevelt over and like a lucky Debbie, even Roosevelt couldn't have got Germany out of that situation.


Fighting fighting on three sides.


I mean, it was literally, revived President Kennedy after that assassination attempt in the hospital. No team of surgeons could have saved Kennedy the best in the world if they'd been in that operating room. His head had been blown off, hadn't he? And really, Hitler's head had been blown off much later than he blew his own head off. It was starting really through '43. He was losing heavily by then. The overwhelming power of the Allies meant that Germany never stood the chance. And that's where we need to be aware that Germany was not a major power. It was trying to be a major power, but it didn't really have the resources in the long term or the planning needed to do it. And I don't think you could have beat that. I don't think any major power could have took on America, Russia, and Britain at the same time. I don't think it was possible.


By April of 1945, the Soviets had invaded from the east, the Allies from the south and west. Germany had lost the war. That much was very, very clear. But Hitler wasn't ready to give up. As the enemy pressed into the outskirts of Berlin, his Wolfstab, or People's Storm, went into battle. In the ultimate act of total war, boys as young as 16 and men as old as 60 were told to take up arms against hardened, well-supplied Allied troops. Towards the end of the war, Soviet and Allied troops are marching over German soil. Did he ever think about trying to come to surrender or come to an agreement that would spare the lives of millions and the millions of women raped and people brutalized?


No, he kept on clinging to that idea that there was no deal on the table that he could get, that the Allies were not going to give him a deal. He knew that, really. It was people like Gearbles who thought, We can get a deal. Let's do a deal with Stalin. Maybe he'll come on our side. Let's do a deal with the Allies on the basis that we'll turn against the communists. He was weighing those things up, but he really didn't think that there was any way out of the war. Then he was resigned to his fate, really.


As the fighting raged on the streets of the capital, Hitler and a skeleton crew of staff officers and confidence hid in a bunker complex eight feet below the Reich Chancery. Whatever empathy Hitler had once had was now well and truly stamped out. He blamed military setbacks on the cowards his own soldiers. He blamed the advance of the Allies on unarmed civilians who hadn't believed enough in his Reich. His final days were spent in solemn contemplation as the officers ran and got drunk and tried to wile away whatever life they had left. On the 29th of April, he married his long-term partner, the adoring Eva Brown, but their marriage was short-lived. Adolf and Eva killed themselves rather than face Soviet captivity. In his last will and testament, Hitler blamed the Jews one last time for all his woes.


He goes into a ritual which people are going to die, go into in the few days before the end of his life, doesn't he? Like he's planned it. Let's find the guns, let's find the sign. That sounds like a person who's really thought about killing himself.


And he orders every German fight to the last.


And they've got to fight to the last. Why they fought to the last is still a mystery, only explained by that they were loyal to Hitler. The German people have got to come to accept this. They were loyal to Hitler. They wanted to stand by him right to the end because they thought that all that would follow would be humiliation, slavery, and there was no other way out. There was no peace settlement. No one was going to believe them anymore when they said, We've got an unjust peace settlement. The Allies were determined that they had to suffer.


Talk me through the last few hours of his life.


The plan was that he would take a cyanide capsule and shoot himself at the same time, and she would take just a cyanide capsule and they'd die like that in his living room in the bunker, the Berlin bunker, the Fiora bunker. That's what they did. About 2:30, they went into the room. I think Mrs. Gerbles Magda girl has created a commotion because she wanted a knock on the door and the door was half opened and people had to drag her away. She was saying, Please, Fiora, don't kill yourself. I can't live without you and all this. There was a bit of a kerfuffle. They then went in the room and then you could hear a shot go off. One of the Gerber's children thought it was a firecracker. Then they opened the door. All the eyewitnesses say he was on the couch and there was a bullet through his head. The surviving autopsy suggested that he actually didn't take the cyanide capsule or it didn't work because there was no presence of cyanide. Obviously, the bullet killed him. She was ashenfaced and dead. She'd just taken the cyanide capsule and then they carried them upstairs to the the right Chancery Garden and they set fire to them.


And so some of their child remains were taken away later by the Soviets. Pretty sure that some of the things like the jawbone was recovered so that his dentist could look at it and they identified him... That's the end of the story. I think we can do that. And so.


Ends the story of Adolf Hitler. A shot that pretty much marked the end of the war in Europe. There'd be no trial, no moment of retribution for the millions of people whose lives were destroyed by his tyrannical rule. Instead, the man who dragged the entire planet through the fire of war would die on his own terms. The war had cost the lives of between 50 and 20 million people in Europe alone. Europe's historic cities lay in ruins, smashed as the Allies took on a Nazi war machine, one that had to ironically set out to build the greatest empire in history. Many of those who survived the war were living in rubble, brutalized, traumatized. They had no homes to return to. The Holocaust had left a terrible scar across the face of the continent. Millions of Jews and other people had been torn from the fabric of European society and slaughtered in the concentration camps of the Third Reich. Generations of Germans and collaborators who'd stood by or helped would carry the shame of this to their graves. Such was the appalling legacy of Adolf Hitler. The scars, the trauma of his despotic regime would be felt long after his death, is still being felt.


You've been listening to our series on the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler. For subscribers, we have a special bonus episode coming out this Friday all about Germany after the war and the process of denazification. If you want, you can subscribe by clicking the link in the show notes. If you've enjoyed the series so far, do leave us a review and rating wherever you get your podcasts. It was written and produced by James Hickman, edited by Dugald, Pat Moore, and supervised by Freddie, Chick, and Mariana de Forge. Goodbye. Thank you for listening to this episode of Dan Snow's History Hit. Please follow this show wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps us. You're doing us a big favor. You can listen to all our episodes ad-free and watch hundreds of history documentaries when you subscribe. Download the app on AppStores and Smart TV or go to historyhit. Com/subscribe as a special gift for listening this far. Proper tenacity there. If you use the code Dan Snow at checkout, you get 50% off your first three months. And if you're an Apple listener, you can subscribe for new ad-free podcast episodes within the Apple app.