“You are sure this is the course of action you wish to take, my love?”
Eva’s soft voice felt like it filled the entire room with emotion, though he would never admit to such feelings. He had long put emotion aside, as he had done with any hope of painting. He turned to her, his devoted creature, a solemn expression on her face. He had never truly loved her, if he was honest with himself. She had been loyal to a fault. That was why she stood here now, alone with him in their soon-to-be mausoleum. Her reward for being stalwart in her belief in him. How ironic that they die now.
“It is the only way. I will not be made a fool of as they did with Mussolini. This is my final word on it.”
A revolver hung loosely in one hand, a small capsule in the other. Eva’s hands shook ever so slightly as she held them out, and felt that tiny pill drop into her palm. Such a small item, such a final impact. She looked upon the face of the Fuhrer, and studied it for a moment.
She knew him better than herself, and to this she was not sure she was proud of or not. Her entire life had been devoted to this man, but … for what? He had married her, as a token of his appreciation, he said. She could care less for the token, she had belonged to him since her teenage years. And now here they were, about to commit their final victory against the enemy, though she would never call it that aloud. Adolf had become particular about victories and losses as of late, with good cause.
“You first.” Adolf’s voice was low, and she barely heard him. He looked less of the charismatic leader than he had been before, and more like a tired old man. She nodded once and popped the cyanide into her mouth. She had a moment to register the bitter taste as she bit down into it, before she could feel her breathing coming up short. Her throat felt dry, as if she had not had water in years, and it felt as if her very body was on fire. The last thing she saw was Adolf raising a gun to his head before the world turned black.
Johanna sat by the radio, her nails digging into her palms as she waited with all the patience of a runner at the starting line. Six years, she thought, that familiar feeling of determination and desperation filling her once more. Six years we have all been working towards this. If there is a god, let him shine through now.
She looked out into the night, through the grime streaked windows, and saw the Red Army pushing through the fallen walls of homes, stepping over the rude protruding angles of lost bodies and misplaced dogs. The closer they got to the Chancellery garden, the faster her heart beat. She sat back in her chair, the crackle of the radio white noise for the moment.
It felt like decades had passed since she had first met Gustav Bruhn, in her small editorial office. He had come armed to the teeth with knowledge and a purpose, and murmurs of a resistance group being formed trailed behind him when he left. He was charismatic, almost fiery, and it had been contagious, like wild fire in a dry wood. Men of all walks of life flocked to him and his partners, all eager to put the Fuhrer down in their own way. She herself had committed to the cause without truly understanding the consequences that might take place; she only knew that she wanted Germany to be at peace once more. But that was almost 5 years ago. She had worked her way through the ranks of the resistance to where she was now, as lead communications officer. The title felt overbearing to her, but the role was supremely important. Working in editorial had infused in her the importance of communication, and if she had learned anything during her time in the Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen, it was that this was more critical than anything else. And that duty was why she sat where she was now, waiting.
She cast a wary eye at the radio once more, but it gave no clues as to what was happening outside. She heaved a sigh, and lowered her head into her hands. They had murdered him, last year. Gustav. And his wife. The Nazis had carted him and Elisabeth off to Neuengamme, one of their numerous concentration camps, to be executed. All of the Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen group held fear in their hearts for the Bruhns, until word came from a family friend. Alfred Baumbach had driven to Neuengamme to see what he could do for them, hope very slim – it was for naught. A message was sent out, and in the early hours of February 15th, 1944, the resistance learned that Gustav Bruhn and his wife Elisabeth had been hung by the Nazis. They had mourned greatly for them, Johanna included. It had been a wounding blow, though not fatal, and a terrible reminder of what they were up against. She heard later that Baumbach had gone underground after he had informed the resistance of the Bruhn’s fate. No one knew if he was still alive. She prayed he was safe.
It had been because of their leader’s actions, including Gustav’s, that had led them here. The resistance had undermined companies that supplied the regime, whisked away hidden funds and caches, taken every back door – legal or not – to ensure supplies would not reach the Fuhrer and his fanatics. And they had largely succeeded. The linch pin of their operations fell into place when Karl Wolff, an SS-General, had shown up on their doorsteps several weeks before with his hat in hand. He heard of them, and had come to them for aid. Johanna had been going through reports with fellow members when the knock on the door had brought them back to the present. Surprise was an understatement if used to describe the expressions on their faces, before a deep-seeded suspicion settled over them.
Wolff was taken in for intense interrogation, and Johanna learned afterward that he had come to seek their help in surrendering the German forces in Italy. Johanna didn’t want to believe it for a moment, but her superiors seemed to be convinced with the evidence Wolff had provided with him. From then on, they went in deep to help Wolff achieve his goal. She heard very little about any of that business, and wondered what had come from it. The only request Wolff had asked of them was to send cyanide capsules to the garden, but refused to say why. She found it highly suspicious, besides dangerous, but she carried out the orders to their group to be done, and left it at that.
The memory of the Bruhn’s fate in her mind, she bitterly thought about Hitler, wondering what he was doing now that he knew he had lost. Would he surface from his bunker, a prisoner of war? Would he point fingers at all those around him? Or would he go quietly? She didn’t have to wait long for her answer.
The radio began to crackle with a choked voice, and it felt like the entire night had come to a stand still. Johanna froze in her chair, every sound gone but the radio frequency that she turned up as the words fell forth.
“Unser Führer ist mit seinem letzten Atemzug für Deutschland gegen den Bolschewismus gestorben. Ich wiederhole, unser Führer ist gestorben.”
She felt her ears ring with the sudden announcement, and for a moment, she didn’t move. Then, a swooping feeling of utter relief crashed through her, and she leaped to her feet, tears in her eyes and a laugh on her face. They had won – they had won. Hitler was dead. A sickening feeling of betrayal and anger rode over her for a moment: He had chosen the coward’s way out. A double suicide, she would learn later. He had shot himself in the head, while his new wife had taken cyanide. Johanna knew she was not the only one who felt swindled out of justice, but she would take it. So that’s what the capsules were for, she thought, remembering Wolff’s request. She put the General to the side – that was for another time. Instead, she grabbed her own radio, and concentrated on sending out the most important message of the year to the many who had waited, to the many that had died, and to the many who were lost.
Adolf Hitler was dead.