When 1945 arrived, most rational people knew that Germany’s war of aggression in Europe was lost. Massive gambles in Russia and Africa had failed, and a subsequent Allied onslaught of production (from the west) and tremendous manpower (from the east) overwhelmed a tottering Reich. A last gasp in the Ardennes verified that Germany could no longer sustain any offensive action.
When 1945 arrived, Adolf Hitler was clearly not rational. He lived in a bunker below the Chancellery, only venturing out on the rarest of occasions, cut off from the outside world and, apparently, from most forms of reality. In his concrete fortress of delusion, he looked at maps with his now-completely-skeptical staff and he moved little flags and figurines around. He called for attacks that couldn’t be made with forces that didn’t exist to stop a foe that wouldn’t be stopped any longer, still believing that victory was within his grasp.
Until April 22, 1945.
The day before, while meeting with his generals, he came up with Army Detachment Steiner. The “Steiner” part was real…played by SS General Felix Steiner. The “Detachment” part was also real, in that Steiner was in command of army forces. But the “Army” part?…well, that was pure fiction. Steiner’s forces in no way represented an army. Having been stripped of his finest divisions just days before, the General was left at a serious handicap, and he knew it.
But in the Chancellery, armies looked much different on a map…more powerful, more beastly. The Fuhrer moved some pieces around (which created a powerful force in his mind), liked what he saw, and ordered Steiner to attack…something that Steiner could no more do than he could himself into a tank. So there was no attack.
And, of course, during the “update with the Generals” on the 22nd, Hitler asked about how the attack was progressing. After some awkward silence and those fleeting glances that said, “You tell him…no, you tell him…I told him last time, it’s your turn…”, Hitler was informed that no attack had been made.
Adolf Hitler’s reacton was predictable. He began yelling about how his Generals were worthless and how they always plotted behind his back and how they were the ones that cost Germany the war. At this point, a moment of clarity came to the mostly delusional dictator, and he realized the war was indeed lost. And it was then that he decided that there would be no escape to Bavaria or South America for him.
The bunker had been his home…it would now be his grave.
Recommended Reading: Armageddon: The Battle For Germany, 1944-1945