ELBE Day or April Apocalypse?
Elbe Day was an occasion for celebration as it was the historic moment when Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany. It was a projected link-up; the American President had sent a prepared statement for the expected triumph to his Soviet counterpart:
“The Anglo-American Armies under the command of General Eisenhower have met the Soviet Forces where they intended to meet—in the heart of Nazi Germany. The enemy has been cut in two. This is not the hour of final victory in Europe, but the hour draws near, the hour for which all the American people, all the British people and all the Soviet people have toiled and prayed so long. The union of our arms in the heart of Germany has a meaning for the world which the world will not miss. It means, first, that the last faint, desperate hope of Hitler and his gangster government has been extinguished. The common front and the common cause of the Powers allied in this war against tyranny and inhumanity have been demonstrated in fact as they have long been demonstrated in determination.
Nothing can divide or weaken the common purpose of our veteran armies to pursue their victorious purpose to its final Allied triumph in Germany. Second, the junction of our forces at this moment signalizes to ourselves and to the world that the collaboration of our nations in the cause of peace and freedom is an effective collaboration which can surmount the greatest difficulties of the most extensive campaign in military history and succeed. Nations which can plan and fight together, shoulder to shoulder, in the face of such obstacles of distance and of language and of communications as we have overcome, can live together and can work together in the common labor of the organization of the world for peace. Finally, this great triumph of Allied arms and Allied strategy is such a tribute to the courage and determination of Franklin Roosevelt as no words could ever speak, and that could be accomplished only by the persistence and the courage of the fighting soldiers and sailors of the Allied Nations. But, until our enemies are finally subdued in Europe and in the Pacific, there must be no relaxation of effort on the home front in support of our heroic soldiers and sailors as we all know there will be no pause on the battle fronts.” [To Marshal Stalin from the President, personal and top secret, Received on April 25, 1945]
But for the Nazis in general and Hitler in particular as well as the Fascists in general and Mussolini in particular, the last week of April of 1945 was the bitter end of their rampage. “MILAN, April 29, 1945 (United Press) – Italian Patriots executed Benito Mussolini Saturday, and Sunday a howling mob is kicking and spitting on his remains lying in the center of this city where Italian Fascism was born…He died shouting ‘No! No!’ to a firing squad which took his life, and that of his mistress, near the village of Dongo on Lake Como near the Swiss border at 4:10 p.m.
“Along with Mussolini, the Patriots killed his mistress, Claretta Petacci, and 16 other Fascists, many of them members of his cabinet. The bodies of all were brought to Milan, which American Fifth Army troops entered Sunday. A mob of more than 5,000 persons immediately set upon the corpses marking the final end to Fascism which carried Italy to its doom.” [https://www.upi.com/Archives/1945/04/29/Mussolini-mistress-executed-by-firing-squad/7511360114334/]
“Without hesitation, a tribunal, presided over by the Communist Partisan leader Cino Moscatelli, dispensed working-class justice against the vicious dictator whose hands were stained with the blood of innumerable Italian working people done to death by the infamous Fascist regime…Having failed to halt the execution of the Fascist despots, the leaders of the Committee of Liberation gave their sanction, after the act, to the stern deed of working-class justice. ‘It was necessary as a proof of Italy’s severance from the past,’ the Committee declared.” [“Partisans Drive Out Nazis, Execute Dictator Mussolini,” The Militant, 05 May 1945]
That’s life, err, that’s death. As for the other Axis chieftain, with the rolling fact of Soviet Red Army-men having captured Potsdam and liberated the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Hitler decided to kill himself: “I myself and my wife—in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation—choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of twelve years’ service to my people.” [Private Will and Testament, Given in Berlin, 29th April 1945, 4:00 o’clock]
He had written a long goodbye: “I have decided therefore to remain in Berlin and there of my own free will to choose death at the moment when I believe the position of the Fuehrer and Chancellor itself can no longer be held…Although a number of these men, such as Martin Bormann, Dr. Goebbels, etc., together with their wives, have joined me of their own free will and did not wish to leave the capital of the Reich under any circumstances, but were willing to perish with me here, I must nevertheless ask them to obey my request, and in this case set the interests of the nation above their own feelings.” [My Political Testament, Given in Berlin, this 29th day of April 1945. 4:00 a.m.]
How did he die? Eyewitness accounts, collected by UK’s MI5, summarized: “By the morning of 30 April Russian forces had reached the nearby Potsdamer Platz and the sounds of battle were all around. One version on record suggests that Eva was overheard crying, ‘I would rather die here. I do not want to escape.’ She and Hitler later emerged from their suite, their personal staff having been assembled, and went round the room shaking hands silently. Everyone knew that the time had come.
(Gertrud “Traudl”) Junge recalled that she and Christian both asked Hitler for a poison capsule, having noted the rapid effect that the poison had had on Hitler’s dog. Hitler gave them one each, saying as he did so that he was sorry he had no better parting gift and that he wished his generals had been as poised and brave as they were. Eva embraced Junge and, in what seems to have been her last recorded words said, ‘Take my fur coat as a memory. I always like well-dressed women’. Then, saying ‘It is finished, goodbye’, Hitler took Eva back into their rooms for the last time. During the afternoon Hitler shot himself and Eva took the poison capsule that he had given her.” [https://www.mi5.gov.uk/hitlers-last-days]
Hitler evaded Soviet justice, and among the reactions: According to Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who led the Red Army, when Joseph Stalin was informed of the death of his enemy, the Soviet leader said: “It’s a pity we didn’t manage to take him alive.” [https://www.rbth.com/history/328769-hitler-death-red-army-berlin]