On this day in 1945, holed up in a bunker under
his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler commits suicide by swallowing a
cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head. Soon after, Germany
unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces, ending Hitler's dreams of a
"1,000-year" Reich.

Since at least 1943, it was becoming increasingly
clear that Germany would fold under the pressure of the Allied forces. In
February of that year, the German 6th Army, lured deep into the Soviet Union,
was annihilated at the Battle of Stalingrad, and German hopes for a sustained
offensive on both fronts evaporated. Then, in June 1944, the Western Allied
armies landed at Normandy, France, and began systematically to push the Germans
back toward Berlin. By July 1944, several German military commanders
acknowledged their imminent defeat and plotted to remove Hitler from power so
as to negotiate a more favorable peace. Their attempts to assassinate Hitler
failed, however, and in his reprisals, Hitler executed over 4,000 fellow

In January 1945, facing a siege of Berlin by the
Soviets, Hitler withdrew to his bunker to live out his final days. Located 55
feet under the chancellery, the shelter contained 18 rooms and was fully
self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. Though he was
growing increasingly mad, Hitler continued to give orders and meet with such
close subordinates as Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbels. He
also married his long-time mistress Eva Braun just two days before his suicide.

In his last will and testament, Hitler appointed
Admiral Karl Donitz as head of state and Goebbels as chancellor. He then
retired to his private quarters with Braun, where he and Braun poisoned
themselves and their dogs, before Hitler then also shot himself with his service

Hitler and Braun's bodies were hastily
cremated in
the chancellery garden, as Soviet forces closed in on the building. When
Soviets reached the chancellery, they removed Hitler's ashes,
changing their location so as to prevent Hitler devotees from creating a
memorial at his final resting place. Only eight days later, on May 8,
1945, the
German forces issued an unconditional surrender, leaving Germany to be
up by the four Allied powers.


The spear of destiny

The Spear of Destiny, also known as
the Holy Lance, is in Christian tradition the spear that the Roman
soldier Longinus thrust into the side of Jesus (c. 6 B.C.E.–c.
30 C.E.) as he hung on the cross. ("Then
came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first and of the other which
was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was
dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a
spear pierced his side and forthwith came out blood and water" [John 19:
32–34 KJV]). Christian knights discovered the Holy Lance at Antioch
during the First Crusade in 1098. The sight of the sacred artifact in
the Church of St. Peter so inspired the beleaguered Christian soldiers
that they rallied and routed the Saracens from the city. From that time
forth, according to legend, whoever claims the spear and solves its
secret holds the destiny of the world in his hands for good or evil.

there are a number of relics in various European churches that claim to
be the genuine Holy Lance, the spear that is on display in the
Weltliches Schatzkammer Museum (the Hapsburg Treasure House Museum) in
Vienna has been considered the most authentic and it has found a home
there for 250 years. It is also known as Constantine's Lance, and it was
employed as a symbol of the imperial power of Holy Roman emperors at
the time of their coronation in much a similar manner as the orb and
scepter are used in the coronation of the monarchs of Great Britain.
According to Trevor Ravenscroft in The Spear of Destiny (1997), a
19-year-old Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was first led to the lance in 1908
and from the moment of his first encounter with it in the museum, it
became "the central pivot" in his life and the "very source of his
ambitions to conquer the world." In addition to Constantine (d. 337),
Hitler found that as many as 45 emperors had owned the lance before the
great Charlemagne (742–814) had possessed it. Frederick the Great of
Germany (1194–1250), who founded the Teutonic Knights on which Hitler
allegedly based his SS, had also been an owner of the Spear of Destiny
at one time. Ravenscroft claimed in his book that Hitler would often
visit the museum, stare at the Holy Lance, and enter into a trance state in which he would view his future glory as
the master of the Third Reich.

The spear of Longinus with Templar cross. (FORTEAN PICTURE

The spear of Longinus with Templar cross.

Thirty years later, on March 14, 1938,
Hitler arrived in Vienna to oversee the annexation of Austria. He also
observed the transfer of the Hapsburg Crown Jewel collection, which
included the Holy Lance, from Vienna to Nuremberg, the Nazis' favorite
city. With the Spear of Destiny now safely ensconced in Germany, Hitler
declared that the war could begin in earnest. The lance would be well
protected in the hall of St. Katherine's Church, where it had once
rested for nearly 400 years.

However, later in the war when Allied
bombers damaged a portion of St. Katherine's, the many treasures looted
by the Nazis and stored there were taken to another hiding place. In
the chaos and confusion, the Holy Lance was inadvertently left behind.

Spear of Destiny fell into the hands of U.S. soldiers on April 30,
1945. A few hours after the Holy Lance passed from Nazi possession on to
its next claimant to world power, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his
Berlin bunker. Later, the United States officially returned the Holy
Lance to Austria, along with the other treasures that the Nazis had
stolen. Today, the Spear of Destiny stands again in the Hapsburg
Treasure House Museum in Vienna.


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