A visit to Hitler's study

Name: Neal Carter
Date: 1945
Unit: RAAF 451 Squadron
Location: Berlin

Neal Carter was stationed in Germany with RAAF 451 Squadron, British Occupation Forces, in November 1945.

He was stationed at Wunstorf, a former German night fighter base about which the Allies knew nothing before the war ended. It had been built to defend the city of Hannover but failed to do so. Hannover became known as "The City of Walls" after the heavy Allied bombing raids.

Neal Carter was part of an advance party to Berlin, finally arriving at Gatow Air Base where he was involved in the aircraft armament maintenance program for the Spitfires of 451 Squadron.

He managed to see a fair bit of Berlin during his stay, including the 1936 Olympic Games stadium, the Tiergarten Forest which had been virtually destroyed in the search for firewood, the Russian War Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate.

But the highlight was a visit to Hitler's study. He was there with a colleague and after taking a photograph of the Chancellery courtyard, was approached by a British army officer.

"He asked if we were interested in inspecting Hitler's study, stating that he had a pass for twelve persons and an extra two would never be noticed by the Russian soldiers. Naturally, we jumped at the chance and joined the group," Neal Carter recalled.

"From the office in the courtyard we were escorted by two armed Russian guards, one leading, the other at the rear, and both at the ready. We had to walk past other offices to reach the main stone entrance steps to the Chancellery but unfortunately were unable to see whether or not they were occupied or in use.

"To our left, in one section of the courtyard, between a wall and the massive four columns which dominated the front stood the skeletal remains of a German scout car, just one of the many that would have once filled the area. Then up the steps to a long porch where a metal reminder of the Nazi regime, the German eagle and the swastika now lay to one side of the entrance where it had been blown from its original position directly above the main doors.

"The Russian guard pushed open the right hand side of the huge pair of wooden doors and we were in the foyer. Our attention was immediately drawn to a large hole in the timber flooring and around which we had to carefully skirt, a hole apparently made by a bomb which had crashed through the roof above, through the floor and into the basement where it lay, unexploded at the time.

"Then we were guided along a narrow bare boarded floor passage to another wooden door, this time a single. Again the guard opened it and we were in what we were told had been Hitler's study.

"It was a room roughly twenty foot square, bare of all furniture, with ceilings approximately fifteen feet high. Apart from the way we had entered, the only other exit was through double French doors which opened onto a concrete wall. Strangely, the glass in these doors was still intact.

"Inside and opposite these doors was a fireplace with a mantel, not big, being only the size of a normal domestic style fireplace. The floors here were also wooden and littered with broken wall tiles, which, in my memory, were a fawn-brown colour, some still clinging to the walls.

"Two glass chandeliers hung overhead, most of the glass shattered, slivers mingling with the smashed pieces of tile. These were broken either by bomb vibrations or by the Russian troops.

"While we wandered around looking and wondering, one guard stood at the French doors, the other at the entrance but both watched our every move.

"It was a strange sensation being in that room, the place where so many decisions would have been made. There was excitement mingled with disappointment that there had been nothing left for us to see, no tangible evidence of the man who had spent so much time there.

"We saw the debris, the results of war and man's destruction, the only remaining symbol being that ignored eagle with its Nazi swastika that had been lying discarded outside. So much had been removed and yet this had been left. I couldn't help but wonder why.

"Once outside and in the street, I approached the British army officer and thanked him for allowing us to join his group and so enabling us to go on the inspection. He agreed it had been extremely interesting and then laughed heartily as he cheerfully informed us that it had all been carried out on a forged entry pass.

"We could well have done without that disturbing piece of news and with youthful imagination visualised being arrested and sent to Siberia!

"So the visit to the Chancellery was an experience that I have never forgotten."

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), A visit to Hitler's study, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 12 July 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/australians-wartime/visit-hitlers-study
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