The Battle for Berlin: The Final Moments of the Third Reich
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General Hans Krebs, the Chief of the Army General Staff

By José Carlos Palma*

Berlin, April 30, 1945 – As the clock struck 10 PM, General Hans Krebs, the Chief of the Army General Staff, made a desperate attempt to negotiate a cease-fire with the advancing Soviet forces. The message was relayed to General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the 8th Guards Army, entrenched in a semi-suburban house on the west side of Tempelhof.

Entering Chuikov’s tactical headquarters at 4 AM, Krebs delivered a somber announcement. “What I am about to say is secret. You are the first foreigner to know that on April 30, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.” Chuikov, unfazed, responded with a calculated lie, “We know that,” seeking to unsettle Krebs.

Krebs proceeded to read Hitler’s political testament, emphasizing Joseph Goebbels’s plea for “a satisfactory way out for the nations who have suffered most from the war.” Without hesitation, Chuikov contacted Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who in turn, roused Stalin from his sleep.

Stalin, upon hearing the news, remarked, “Now he’s had it. Pity we couldn’t take him alive. Where’s Hitler’s corpse?”

“According to General Krebs, his body was burned,” Zhukov replied.

Stalin’s response was decisive. “No negotiations except for unconditional capitulation, with either Krebs or any others of Hitler’s lot. And don’t ring me until the morning if there is nothing urgent. I want to have some rest before the parade.”

Stalin’s reference to the parade was a reminder of the impending May Day celebrations, a detail Zhukov had momentarily forgotten amidst the chaos.

Back in Berlin, the situation grew increasingly tense. General Chuikov, now joined by General Vasily D. Sokolovsky, Zhukov’s deputy, pressured Krebs for an unconditional surrender. Krebs, however, sought recognition for the new government under Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, attempting to buy time. Chuikov and Sokolovsky saw through the ploy.

Sokolovsky updated Zhukov, highlighting the Germans’ reluctance. “Krebs declares that he is not empowered to make decisions concerning unconditional surrender. According to him, only the new government headed by Dönitz can. I think we should send them to the devil’s grandmother if they don’t agree to unconditional surrender immediately.”

Zhukov’s response was unyielding. “You’re right. Tell him that if Goebbels and Bormann do not agree to unconditional surrender, we’ll blast Berlin into ruins.” He issued an ultimatum with a deadline set for 10:15 AM.

As the deadline passed with no response, the Soviet forces prepared for a final assault. At 10:35 AM on May 1, the 1st Belorussian Front unleashed a devastating barrage on Berlin’s remaining defenses, shattering the uneasy calm that had momentarily prevailed.

The “hurricane of fire” marked the definitive end of the Third Reich’s futile resistance. With Berlin in ruins, the once-mighty Nazi regime crumbled, paving the way for the Allied victory in Europe. The Soviet’s relentless advance symbolized the closing chapter of World War II in Europe, sealing the fate of a city and a regime that had wrought unprecedented destruction and suffering.

* Expert in international relations, such as foreign policy, international trade, domestic security, international security, developing nations, domestic security, intelligence, IT Consultant, world history, political consultant, and military analysis.

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