Unseen photos of bunker where Hitler killed himself unveiled
William Vandivert was the first Western photographer to be granted access into the bunker carved beneath the pompous Reich Chancellery which was reduced to brick-dust by Allied bombs and Russian artillery shells, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
Hitler's Reich, which once stretched from Calais to the shores of the Volga in Russia and from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, was reduced to a few spartan rooms in a stinking cement submarine where the couple committed suicide on Apr 30, 1945.
"These pix were made in the dark with only a candle for illumination ... our small party of four beat all rest of mob who came down about forty minutes after we got there," said Vandivert. One of the pictures shows war correspondents examining the sofa upon which the couple ended their days and the spreading dark stain of the dictator's blood upon the fabric after he shot himself in the mouth with his service pistol.
Another picture is that of a rare 16th century painting, looted from Italy to adorn a wall of the bunker's study where self-appointed 'artist' Hitler issued his final commands to non-existent armies in the dying days of his rule. On the floor of one room, a badly scarred SS officer's cap with it's grinning death's head skull caught in Vandivert's lens.
Another previously unpublished picture shows LIFE magazines correspondent Percy Knauth sifting through debris in the shallow trench in the garden of the Chancellery where the bodies of Hitler and his wife - he married her hours before their suicide pact - were doused with petrol and set ablaze.
Other never-before-seen pictures are those of the ventilation tower of the bunker, pockmarked with shrapnel from bombs and shells, a desk used by Hitler strewn with papers. A particularly poignant shot are the empty jerry cans of petrol used for the Fuehrer's funeral pyre, lying abandoned in the rubble of the Chancellery garden.