Never-before-seen documents from the last days of Adolf Hitler in his underground bunker in Berlin have emerged – more than seven decades after they were found and kept as a souvenir by a French soldier.
The letters, telegrams and documents include the Fuhrer's last military order, commanding what was left of his forces across Europe to rescue Berlin.
He also revealed his intention to commit suicide, along with his wife Eva Braun.
In one telegram, Hitler's private secretary Martin Bormann admits: "Things are screwed here."
The fascinating documents had never been seen before they were handed to historian Xavier Aiolfi by the son of the French soldier, Captain Michel Leroy, who broke into the bunker in November 1945 – seven months after Hitler committed suicide – and held onto them until his death.
The Nazis were known for setting fire to anything that could be seized by the Allies and used as evidence in war crimes trials – but these scorch-marked documents narrowly avoided this fate.
Now, Mr Aiolfi and his colleague, Paul Villatoux, have presented the documents to the public in their book, The Final Archives of the Fuhrerbunker, after combing through the 70 papers.
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Until recently historians had to rely on the post-war testimonies and documents from elsewhere in Germany to shed light on the final days of Adolf Hitler.
Official communications from the collection reveal the hopelessness and paranoia of Hitler's entourage as it became clear that Germany would lose the Second World War.
In stark contrast to these harrowing documents, however, is a poignant drawing of colourful flowers and insects by Bormann's daughter, Eike, which was also salvaged from the wreckage.
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One telegram, sent by Bormann, reveals how Hitler had announced he would rather kill himself than flee Berlin.
It reads: "Things are screwed here. Chief will remain here no matter what. The mood is clear."
This was followed by the Third Reich's final military order given to Bormann on 25 April, five days before his suicide.
He commanded the remaining German army stationed in Denmark, Norway to Latvia to head back to Berlin and deliver a "victory in the battle of Berlin" – but this was impossible as the military units were either destroyed or cut off by enemy forces.
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Mr Aiolfi described the documents as "real witnesses to history".
He said: "They are exceptional because almost everything in the bunker was burned so that it would not fall into the hands of the Soviet troops.
"More than 75 years after the events, they still smell of moisture and have traces of burns. They are real witnesses.
"The most emblematic document remains the telegram in which Hitler gives his last orders for the defence of Berlin.
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"He maneuvered units that no longer existed or were no longer able to reach the city, yet he remained convinced Providence would save his army.
"It is clear from these orders that he still believed he could win the Battle of Berlin and defeat the Soviets.
"He thought this would place him in a position of strength to negotiate a peace treaty and turn the Allies against Russia."
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Bormann shot himself on 2 May 1945, just days after Hitler, when he was close to being captured whilst attempting to flee the German capital.
The Russians never admitted to finding his body, fuelling rumours that he survived and escaped to South America.
These rumours persisted until 1972 when his remains were found in Berlin.
When it became clear that the Nazis had been defeated, Hitler killed himself on 29 April, 1945, after marrying Eva Braun and signing his last will and testament.
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It stated that they had chosen death over capitulation and the following day Hitler shot himself beside Eva who swallowed cyanide.
The pair were discovered beside each other and their bodies set alight in the garden outside the bunker according to Hitler's instructions.
The Final Archives of the Fuhrerbunker is published by Casemate and costs £22.50.
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