How Did Adolf Hitler Die and How Old Was He?

Jessica Redhead

3 mins

25 Jun 2018

Born in the Austro-Hungarian town of Braunau am Inn on 20 April 1889, Adolf Hitler went on to become the leader of the Nazi Party and possibly the most reviled figure in history. He established fascism in Germany and Europe, led Germany to war in 1939 and presided over the Holocaust.

Hitler’s goal of eliminating all Jews ultimately failed, however, and he died in Berlin on 30 April 1945.

How old was Hitler when he died?

Hitler died at the age of 56, 10 days after his birthday. Most of his last ever birthday was spent in the so-called “Führerbunker”, an air raid shelter located in Berlin near the Reich Chancellery. By that point it was clear that Germany had lost the war and so his birthday was not celebrated with the same ceremony and splendour as earlier ones.

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On the day of his birthday, Hitler also made his last ever trip outside the bunker to award Iron Crosses to members of the Hitler Youth who had fought the Soviet Union’s Red Army.

Later that evening, Hitler’s partner, Eva Braun, threw a small party. The Nazi leader did not attend, however, instead withdrawing to his bedroom.

What happened in the days before his death?

Hitler knew that Germany was on the verge of collapse in the days before his death: the Battle for Berlin had started on 16 April and the Allies were closing in.

With the Nazis lacking the forces and power to counterattack, Hitler launched a verbal attack against his commanders and declared the war was lost. He subsequently asked an SS physician, Dr Werner Haase, how he should commit suicide. Haase suggested that he take cyanide and a gunshot to the head.

Hermann Göring, the commander of the Luftwaffe and one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party, is seen here in military uniform in 1918.

Other Nazi leaders were now trying to take control of the dire situation. Hermann Göring learnt of Hitler’s possible plans to kill himself and requested to take leadership of the party. But Hitler believed this move to be an attempted coup and he ordered Göring to resign or face execution.

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Heinrich Himmler, meanwhile, offered the Nazis’ surrender to the Allies. They rejected the offer but Hitler nonetheless ordered Himmler’s arrest.

Despite this, Hitler knew that hope was lost. Sometime after midnight on 29 April, he married Braun in a small ceremony in the Führerbunker. He then dictated his final will and testament to his private secretary, Traudl Junge, before retiring to bed.

Hitler’s suicide

After learning that his Italian ally, Benito Mussolini, had been summarily executed by partisans, Hitler decided to take his own life. He tested his cyanide pills on his dog Blondi.

Hitler and Braun had known each other for 17 years before marrying on 29 April 1945.

Hitler then learnt that no German forces were available to rescue Berlin. After lunch on 30 April, Hitler and Braun said goodbye to those left in the Führerbunker and retreated into the Nazi leader’s personal study.

No one else was in the room when Hitler and Braun died but witnesses in the Führerbunker claimed they heard a loud gunshot at 3.30pm. The room reportedly smelled of burnt almonds, which is associated with the smell of cyanide. Hitler had shot himself in the head, while Braun had taken cyanide.

What happened next?

After Hitler and Braun were found dead, other residents of the Führerbunker carried their bodies to the garden behind the Reich Chancellery, doused them with petrol and set them alight. The first attempt to burn the bodies failed and so Hitler’s chief valet, Heinz Linge, retrieved paper from the bunker and used this to set light to them again.

The fire still did not fully incinerate the bodies, however, and so the remains were moved into a shallow bomb crater. The Soviets continued to bomb Berlin and hit areas around the Reich Chancellery.

Dan Plesch is director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London. He is the author of 'America, Hitler and the UN', co-editor of 'Wartime Origins and the Future United Nations', and has been a frequent contributor to the Guardian and other media. His latest book is entitled 'Human Rights After Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes'.Listen Now

German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz announced Hitler’s death the following day via radio. Dönitz called on Germans to mourn Hitler and stated that he had died a hero.

When Stalin learnt of Hitler’s suicide, he wanted confirmation. Tasked with finding the Nazi’s leader’s body, the Red Army intelligence agency SMERSH reportedly discovered Hitler and Braun’s remains in a shell crater outside the Führerbunker on 2 May.

Hitler’s death essentially marked the end of Nazi Germany, with the Germans declaring unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.

Though most people accept that Hitler died in the Führerbunker on 30 April 1945, some have suggested that he in fact survived the war and escaped capture.