© William Vandivert, April 1945, Inside Hitler’s bunker: Unpublished photos
Vandivert was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker (translation: “shelter for the leader”) after the fall of Berlin, and a handful of his pictures of the bunker and the ruined city were published in LIFE in July, 1945.
#1: An image almost too-perfectly symbolic of Berlin in the last weeks of April 1945: a crushed globe and a bust of Hitler lying amid rubble and debris outside the Reich Chancellery building.
#2: With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler’s bunker. In his typed notes Vandivert wrote: “Pix of [correspondents] looking at sofa where Hitler and Eva shot themselves. Note bloodstains on arm of soaf [sic] where Eva bled. She was seated at far end …. Hitler sat in middle and fell forward, did not bleed on sofa. This is in Hitler’s sitting room.” Remarkable stuff — but, it turns out, only about half right. Historians are now quite certain that Braun actually committed suicide by biting a cyanide capsule, rather than by gunshot — meaning that the blood stains on the couch might well be Hitler’s, and not Eva Braun’s, after all.
#3: This is the first of the 20 or so pages of notes that Vandivert typed up for LIFE’s editors back in New York, describing not only the pictures that were taken on each roll of film, but also the mood and the atmosphere pervading his experience of examining Hitler’s bunker and the Reich Chancellery grounds. (An example of Vandivert’s terse, vivid notations: “… view of chancellery palace … This is completely bombed, burned, and shelled to hell.”)
#4: This is a new view of a photograph that appeared, heavily cropped, in LIFE, picturing Hitler’s command center in the bunker, partially burned by retreating German troops and stripped of valuables by invading Russians
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