Sixty-five years ago people all over the world were celebrating. Nazi Germany had unconditionally surrendered to Allied forces and Europe was free from war for the first time in six years. Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was May 8, 1945 and now the people of Europe could concentrate on rebuilding their battered nations.
In the spring of 1945, Allied forces were closing in on Germany from both sides. On the western front: American, British, French and other Allied forces crossed the Rhine River into the German homeland. From the east, the Soviet Red Army closed in with the ultimate goal of reaching Berlin.
• Catch the 'War Stories Classic: The Last Days of Hitler and the Third Reich,' Saturday, May 11 at 3 a.m. ET
In our production of "War Stories: The Last Days of Hitler and the Third Reich," we interviewed eyewitnesses to the fall of Nazi Germany — both ally and enemy. We met the Allies who vanquished the German army and Germans who served Adolf Hitler.
"War Stories" tracked down Hans Fehrs and Myrthe Schneider in Germany, both of whom were part of Hitler's personal staff. Hans was a member of the feared Waffen-SS who became a personal aide to Hitler after he was injured on the Eastern front. Myrthe cooked for Adolf Hitler at his hideaway in Berchtesgaden. Myrthe told "War Stories" executive producer Pamela Browne about how she used to make a special cake for the Fuehrer: "And he always very much liked to eat this but it always had to be very fresh."
We also talked to a young man who was in Hitler's Berlin bunker in the last days of the leader's life. Armin Lehmann was a member of the Hitler Youth and was working as a messenger as Berlin was falling. "Hitler was shaken so badly he couldn't even really shake your hand," he recalled. "His arm was shaking so much that he had to hold on to his jacket."
My most memorable interview was with Richard Marowitz. The self-described "skinny Jewish kid from Brooklyn" was a trumpet player before joining the U.S. Army, assigned to an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. On April 29, 1945, he saw something that he will never forget when he walked into the concentration camp at Dachau:
"Thousands of bodies. There were 30,000 in the camp. Human skeletons walking down the street dropped dead in front of you. Piles of bodies," Marowitz remembered. "When you see the pictures, you can shake your head; but if you were there, it's an unbelievable scene. Just absolutely unbelievable."
The next day, as Hitler was committing suicide with his new bride Eva Braun in Berlin, Richard Marowitz was on a mission in Hitler's Munich apartment:
"I saw something dark on an upper shelf and I pulled over a chair, climbed up and reached in and got this gorgeous silk top hat and I looked inside and I saw 'A.H.' in big gold letters," he said. "I put two and two together and I could see his head in the hat… I threw it on the floor, jumped off the chair onto the hat and stomped the hell out of it."
He then showed me the hat with the unmistakable initials. After the interview we found a picture in our "War Stories" archives of Hitler wearing a top hat, the very same one Richard had brought to our interview.
— Ayse Wieting is a producer for "War Stories"