April 30th 1945–79 Years Ago Today

SPOILER: I am very familiar with theories of Hitler fleeing Germany to South America or other proposals. The series “Hunting Hitler” is one of my favorites. But THIS is not about that–it is about a place and a time–and a MAN, who embodied the figure in Isaiah 14 as close as one could imagine in your wildest dreams.

Seventy-nine years ago today, April 30th 1945, Adolf Hitler and his newly wedded wife of one day, Eva Braun, took their lives in his Berlin bunker–she by cyanide, he with a self-inflicted pistol shot to the head. In April 1995 I read an article in Der Spiegel, Germany’s premium national newsmagazine, with a cover story on the bunker, its various rooms and contents, as well as a map of Berlin showing its precise location–under a modern parking lot. I decided, right after reading that story, that I was going to fly to Berlin to be present on that day–April 30th–on the 50th anniversary. There was no official recognition of the site or the date–it was my singular and personal decision. I wanted to stand in that parking lot and read out loud the following text from Isaiah 14–an ancient taunt of celebration against the King of Babylon:

 “How you are fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. 16 Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, 17 who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ 18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; 19 but you are cast out, away from your sepulchre, like a loathed untimely birth, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the Pit, like a dead body trodden under foot. 20 You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people.

I booked a flight from Charlotte and flew over. Fortunately, my dearest lifelong friend, now passed all too early, James Olof Ribb, was living in Berlin as a student–so he joined me in my determined task. We found the spot, based on the maps published in Der Spiegel, and I carried out my grim task. We spoke few words on that cloudy morning, and Olof snapped this photo of me. No one was around, just the parked cars you see. I found the words ominous–as this modern “Babylonian” conqueror–once again imagined he could ascend to heights never dreamed of with his Third Reich to last 1000 years.

Other than visiting my friend Olof, that act was my sole purpose in making this international trip. I stayed a few days in Berlin, and we traveled then to Sweden, Denmark, and Holland, where most appropriately, we went to the house in Amsterdam, where Anne Frank spent her last days. That was 29 years ago today. I have always found April 30th to have an ominous feel to it. I made this small image of the NYTimes front page on May 1, 1945, and carry it now in my personal Bible–between the pages of Isaiah 14.

In 2006 an information panel was put up at the site, and many tourists visit the spot–not to mention modern Nazi sympathizers, still seeking to stir hatred of the Jewish people. It is 200 meters from the new Holocaust Memorial, designed by Peter Eisenman, brother of my friend Robert Eisenman, the Dead Sea Scroll Scholar whose work many of my readers have read. You can read all about it in this article from Der Spiegel-and if you have not seen the film, Der Untergang, I highly recommend it.


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