On this day in history - April 30th, 1945

On this day in history - April 30th, 1945

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Adolf Hitler kills himself with a gunshot to the head inside the Führerbunker.

After the failed Battle of the Bulge ended in January 1945, Nazi Germany's situation was dire, but Hitler refused to admit defeat. He retreated into the Führerbunker and committed himself to planning the defense of Berlin. It was not until late April that Hitler began to understand that the Battle of Berlin would be the end of fighting in the Western Theater of World War II. Hitler announced that he would kill himself before he could be "made a spectacle of." He may have been influenced by the April 28th death of Benito Mussolini, the former fascist dictator of Italy. Mussolini was shot and hung, his body openly viewed in public.

Hitler married his longtime girlfriend Eva Braun on April 29th. He then gave his secretary his last will and testament.

On April 30th the Red Army was less than 1,600 feet from the Führerbunker. That morning he and Eva Braun wished the staff of the Führerbunker farewell and went into Hitler's personal study. About an hour later after hearing a gunshot, Hitler's adjutant went into the study and discovered Hitler with a gunshot wound in his temple. Eva Braun had taken cyanide. The two corpses were taken out of the bunker into the Reich Chancellery garden and burned with gasoline. The Soviets found the bodies and over the next decades buried, exhumed and reburied them several times according to the political climate.

There remains today some controversy about whether or not Hitler really killed himself at all, and if he did, what happened to his remains. Some of this controversy is attributable to Joseph Stalin: for years he passed a story that Hitler never died and the Western Allies were protecting him. The governments at the time knew that any publicly acknowledged Hitler burial site could become a potential shrine for Neo-Nazis. The most probable truth is that Hitler's remains were crushed and destroyed and thrown into the Biederitz river in 1970.