In April 1945 the Red Army conducted severe battles in the streets of Berlin conquering the capital of Reich meter by meter. It was obvious who will win the war in Europe. Soon after the siege that lasted 2 weeks was raised, 33-years-old photographer of LIFE magazine William Vandivert arrived to Berlin. We present his photos of Hitler’s bunker and destroyed Berlin that have never been published before.
The center of Berlin saw most severe battles in spring 1945. Thousands of people died while fighting for the capital including victims among peaceful population that weren’t registered by anybody. Too many people lost their houses. But the end of the Third Reich occurred on 30 April 1945 with the death of two people: Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
Vandivert was the first Western photographer who managed to obtain access to the bunker of Hitler. Some photos taken by him were published in LIFE in July 1945 though the most part of these photos has never been published. You look at the photo of one room in the bunker that was burnt by the retreating Germans. Things that were restored were taken by the Red Army men (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures)
The picture of the 16th century was captured by the Germans in Milan. Vandivert had to take photos in the dark using one candle only as there was no light available. His group was the first group that arrived to the place. Others came 40 minutes later (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
The first of 20 pages of records made by Vandivert for the magazine. He described every photo, mood and atmosphere in the bunker of Hitler (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
Moving along dark corridors with candles, journalists examined the sofa all covered in blood. Vandivert writes that this is the place where Hitler and Eva Braun were shot. Hitler sat in the middle while Eva occupied a bit remote position. Then Hitler fell down. That was half-truth, however. Eva Braun committed a suicide with the help of cyanide and not a gun that is why it was not Eva’s blood on the floor (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
Journalists on the photo examine the place where the bodies of Hitler and Broun are believed to be burnt after their death. There were many broken bird boxes in the trees that could have meant a lot to Hitler (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
The famous dead head is an emblem of SS hardly visible under the layer of dirt. The floor of the bunker is flooded (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures)
No army in the war history could avoid violence and looting. The Red Army was not an exception (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures)
All famous buildings of Berlin were ruined. In the center of the city one could cover a considerable distance and meet nobody feeling just the odor of death. From August 1940 to March 1945 Soviet and British bomber aircrafts attacked the city for over 350 times. Ten thousands of peaceful inhabitants died (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
Soviet, British, American and French troops gained control over Berlin. They tried hard to restore the order. Soldiers who just wanted to go back home had to cope with troubles of the entire nation (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
The huge eagle that used to decorate the Reich Chancellery is loaded to the car as a trophy (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
The columns and lower part of the building are covered with names of those who died and survived who wanted to bring their enemy to shame and honor memory of the deceased (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
The broken globe and Hitler’s bust among the ruins of the Chancellery illustrate the best the condition of Berlin in April 1945. The song Berlin Kommt Wieder (Berlin Will Be Back Soon) was very popular that time. It was considered revolutionary not even because of the text but because of the way it was sung by the city inhabitants (William Vandivert/TIME & LIFE Pictures).
W. Vandivert worked for LIFE magazine since 1930 till 1948. He died in 1992.