Der Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, dictator of Germany, burrowed away in a refurbished air-raid shelter, consumes a cyanide capsule, then shoots himself with a pistol, on this day in 1945, as his "1,000-year" Reich collapses above him.
Hitler had repaired to his bunker on January 16, after deciding to remain in Berlin for the last great siege of the war. Fifty-five feet under the chancellery (Hitler's headquarters as chancellor), the shelter contained 18 small rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. He left only rarely (once to decorate a squadron of Hitler Youth) and spent most of his time micromanaging what was left of German defenses and entertaining such guests as Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. At his side were Eva Braun, whom he married only two days before their double suicide, and his dog, an Alsatian named Blondi.
Warned by officers that the Russians were only a day or so from overtaking the chancellery and urged to escape to Berchtesgarden, a small town in the Bavarian Alps where Hitler owned a home, the dictator instead chose suicide. It is believed that both he and his wife swallowed cyanide capsules (which had been tested for their efficacy on his "beloved" dog and her pups). For good measure, he shot himself with his service pistol.
The bodies of Hitler and Eva were cremated in the chancellery garden by the bunker survivors (as per Der Fuhrer's orders) and reportedly later recovered in part by Russian troops. A German court finally officially declared Hitler dead, but not until 1956.