Hitlerâs Bunker, April 1945: Rare and Previously Unpublished LIFE Magazine Photos
In April, 1945, as Russian and German troops fought â savagely, street-by-street â for control of the German capital, it became increasingly clear that the Allies would win the war in Europe. Not long after the two-week battle ended, 33-year-old LIFE photographer William Vandivert was on the scene, photographing Berlinâs devastated landscape.
Hundreds of thousands perished in the Battle of Berlin â including untold numbers of civilian men, women, and children â while countless more wereÂ left homeless in the ruins. But it was two particular deaths, that of Hitler and his longtime companion and (briefly) wife, Eva Braun, in a sordid underground bunker on April 30, 1945, that truly signaled the end of the Third Reich.
Vandivert was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitlerâs FĂźhrerbunker (translation: âshelter for the leaderâ) after the fall of Berlin, and a handful of his pictures of the bunker and the ruined city were published in LIFE in July, 1945. A few of those images are re-published here; most of the pictures in this gallery, however, went unpublished â until now â and illustrate the surreal, disturbing scenes Vandivert encountered in the bunker itself, and in the streets of the ruined, vanquished city beyond the bunkerâs concrete walls.