Hitler's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly is a gripping account of the death of one of the most reviled villains of the 20th century—a man whose regime of murder and terror haunts the world even today. Adapted from Bill O'Reilly's historical thriller Killing Patton, this book will have young readers—and grown-ups, too—hooked.
This thoroughly-researched and thrilling historical account is standout middle-grade nonfiction that can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.
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About the Author
In addition, he has authored an astonishing 12 number one ranked non-fiction books including the historical "Killing" series. Mr. O'Reilly currently has 17 million books in print.
Bill O'Reilly has been a broadcaster for 42 years. He has been awarded three Emmy's and a number of other journalism accolades. He was a national correspondent for CBS News and ABC News as well as a reporter-anchor for WCBS-TV in New York City among other high profile jobs.
Mr. O'Reilly received two other Emmy nominations for the movies "Killing Kennedy" and "Killing Jesus."
He holds a history degree from Marist College, a masters degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, and another masters degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Bill O'Reilly lives on Long Island where he was raised. His philanthropic enterprises have raised tens of millions for people in need and wounded American veterans.
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Hitler's Last Days
The Death of the Nazi Regime and the World's Most Notorious Dictator
By Bill O'Reilly
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2015 Bill O'Reilly
All rights reserved.
THE WOLF'S LAIR
EAST PRUSSIA * OCTOBER 21, 1944 * 9:30 A.M.
In 190 days the Wolf will be dead.
Today he limps through the woods. The autumn air is chill and damp. As he does each morning at just about this time, Adolf Hitler, Führer of Germany and leader of the Nazi Party, emerges from the artificial light of his concrete bunker into the morning sun. He holds his German shepherd, Blondi, on a short leash for their daily walk through the thick birch forest. A fussy man of modest height and weight who is prone to emotional outbursts, Hitler wears his dark brown hair parted on the right and keeps his mustache carefully combed and trimmed. When Hitler was a young soldier, he preferred a long mustache and would curl the ends, but in World War I that style interfered with the seal on the gas mask he was required to wear. He cut off the ends, leaving only the center patch — called a toothbrush mustache.
Hitler spends more time at the Wolf's Lair, his extensive headquarters in the far eastern outpost of Germany called East Prussia, than in Berlin — some eight hundred days in the last three years. The Führer is fond of saying that his military planners chose the "most marshy, mosquito-ridden, and climatically unpleasant place possible" for this hidden headquarters when they scouted its location in 1940 — a fact that is quite real on humid summer days. The air is so heavy and thick with clouds of mosquitoes that Hitler prefers to remain in the cool confines of his bunker all day long.
But autumn is different. The forests of East Prussia have a charm all their own this time of year, and Hitler needs no convincing to venture outside for his daily walk. These long morning strolls are a vital part of the Führer's day, offering him a chance to compose his thoughts before long afternoons of war strategizing and policy meetings. Sometimes he amuses himself by teaching Blondi tricks, such as climbing a ladder or balancing on a narrow pole.
The journey through the dictator's six hundred-acre wooded hideaway takes Hitler and Blondi past concrete bunkers, personal residences, soldiers' barracks, a power plant, and even the demolished conference room where just three months ago Hitler was almost killed by an assassin's bomb. But despite all these visible reminders that the Wolf's Lair is a military headquarters, and despite the fact that his country is on the verge of losing the greatest war the world has ever known, the fifty-five-year-old Nazi dictator, who likes the nickname Wolf, strolls with an outward air of contentment, utterly lost in thought.
But Hitler is not tranquil. His right eardrum was ruptured by the blast of the assassin's bomb and has only recently stopped bleeding. That same blast hurled him to a concrete floor, bruising his buttocks "as blue as a baboon's behind" and filling his legs with wooden splinters as it ripped his black uniform pants to shreds.
However, the failed assassination plot, engineered by members of the German military, did not cause all of Hitler's health issues. His hands and left leg have long trembled from anxiety. He is prone to dizziness, high blood pressure, and stomach cramps. The skin beneath his uniform is the whitest white because he does not spend time in the sun. And his energy is often so low that Theodor Morell, his longtime personal doctor, makes it a practice to inject Hitler each day with the stimulant methamphetamine. The doctor also places drops containing cocaine in each of the Führer's dark blue eyes in order to give the dictator a daily rush of euphoria.
Adolf Hitler does not seem to have been a sickly child, although the reality and the myths of that childhood are vastly different. While he told people that he had struggled up from poverty, in fact he was born into a middle-class household and never expected that he would have to work for a living but would live on his family's savings. While he had dreams of being a famous architectural artist, he had not done well enough in school to get into the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. This man, who would later command thousands with horrible charisma, was shy and usually silent as a child.
And so the reality and the myths of the current situation reflect this lifelong dichotomy. Despite recent German setbacks on the battlefield, the Wolf still has hope that his plans for global domination will be realized. His greatest goal is the eradication of the Jewish people, with whom he is obsessed. "This war can end two ways," he said in January 1942, addressing a mass rally at the Berlin Sportpalast. "Either the extermination of the Aryan [term used by the Nazis to mean non-Jewish Caucasians with Nordic features] people or the disappearance of Jewry from Europe."
Hitler fancies himself a military strategist, despite no formal training in field tactics. He takes full credit for the great U.S. General George S. Patton's recent defeat at Fort Driant in occupied France, in a long close-range battle that caused Patton to retreat south to the town of Nancy to regroup his vast Third Army. Hitler is cheered by the news that Nazi scientists are very close to developing a bomb with nuclear capacity, a weapon that would allow him to wipe his enemies off the face of the earth. In addition, he is quite sure that the audacious surprise attack he will unveil to his top commanders in a few short hours will push the Allied armies back across France and will allow Germany to regain control of Europe.
And most of all, Adolf Hitler is finally rid of those top generals who have long despised him. SS death squads hunted down each of the men who took part in the July 20 assassination plot. Some were shot immediately, which infuriated Hitler because such a death was far too quick. So on his orders, the others were hanged. A cameraman filmed the events for Hitler's enjoyment.
Among those accused of treason was Hitler's favorite general, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Just seven days ago, his house was surrounded by SS soldiers. Although he did not take an active part, Rommel knew of the plot to assassinate Hitler but did not warn him. This made him as guilty as the man who concealed the bomb in a briefcase and carried it into Hitler's conference room. Rommel kept silent because he had grave doubts about Hitler's ability to lead the war effort and favored suing for peace with the Allies rather than continuing a conflict that was destroying all of Germany. Because of his extraordinary service to the Third Reich, Rommel was given discretionary treatment. He was offered the option of swallowing a cyanide pill rather than going through a public trial.
The SS troopers drove Rommel away from his home, stopped in a quiet forest, surrounded the car, and handed him the pill. Fifteen minutes later, the general whom the Allied leaders — Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, U.S. General George Patton, and U.S. General Omar Bradley — respected for his intelligence and military trade craft and considered their true opponent is dead.
The Wolf could have waited until after his new offensive plan was completed to pass judgment on his favorite field marshal. From a tactical perspective, it would have been the smart thing to do. But Adolf Hitler needed his revenge. Nothing — not even winning the war — mattered more.
Hitler and Blondi finish their walk and reenter the massive concrete fortress that serves as his home away from Berlin. It is almost time for lunch — and the unveiling of his brilliant new campaign.
Or, as it will soon become known around the world: the Battle of the Bulge.CHAPTER 2
GENERAL PATTON'S HEADQUARTERS
NANCY, FRANCE * OCTOBER 21, 1944
George S. Patton thinks so highly of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel that he keeps a copy of Rommel's book on infantry tactics near his bedside. Often, when he is unable to sleep, Patton opens it to reread a chapter or two. But while the two great generals did not collide in the North African desert, the contest between Rommel, the Desert Fox, and another Allied commander, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, ended in Tunisia in May 1943 with the Axis troops surrounded.
Patton's Third Army did not become active on the European front until two months after D-day, June 6, 1944. He then directed the successful U.S. Third Army march across France and is now in position near the southern border between France and Germany. Patton considers the effort stalled because General Dwight D. Eisenhower has ordered him to stop his army and regroup. And so begins the October pause. The lull in the action is a foolish move on Eisenhower's part. The American army might be using the lull to reinforce, but so are the Germans. Unbeknownst to the Americans, Adolf Hitler is planning a major attack of his own.CHAPTER 3
THE WOLF'S LAIR
EAST PRUSSIA * OCTOBER 21, 1944
Hitler is meeting in private with one of his devoted followers, SS officer Otto Skorzeny. At six feet four, the legendary commando stands a half foot taller than the Führer. If Erwin Rommel was once Hitler's favorite general, then the Long Jumper, as Skorzeny is nicknamed, is Hitler's favorite commando. Time and again, the gruff Austrian has shown his loyalty to the Führer by accepting missions that other men would refuse on the grounds that they were impossible or suicidal.
The Führer turns to Skorzeny and says, "In December, Germany will start a great offensive which may well decide her fate. The world thinks Germany is finished, with only the day and the hour of the funeral to be named. I am going to show them how wrong they are. The corpse will rise and throw itself at the West."
The Führer has done away with those who might be disloyal to him, and he is building his battle plans around loyal worshippers like Otto Skorzeny. So even though Erwin Rommel, with his unmatched prowess as a commander of panzer troops, is gone forever, Hitler is confident of success. He is also well aware that his tank commanders will not have to face George S. Patton and his Third Army, because the secret offensive is deliberately being launched in a battlefield too far north for Patton and his brilliant tactical mind to reach in time.
Hitler then tells his favorite commando and fellow Austrian the details of the coming offensive. He is sure that Skorzeny and his men are more than capable of playing a pivotal role in this surprise attack, known as Operation Watch on the Rhine, but that is not how Hitler intends to use them.
Hitler directs Skorzeny and his men to infiltrate enemy lines by dressing in American uniforms and pretending to be U.S. soldiers. They will all speak English and will sow confusion by spreading false rumors, capturing vital bridges, and killing Americans caught by surprise. The most important rumor is one meant to cause fear and distraction in the highest levels of Allied leadership: that Skorzeny is en route to Paris to kidnap General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"I am giving you unlimited power to set up your brigade. Use it, colonel!" Hitler says triumphantly.
Skorzeny breaks into a broad smile as he realizes that he has just risen in rank.CHAPTER 4
TRIANON PALACE HOTEL
VERSAILLES, FRANCE * OCTOBER 21, 1944 * EARLY AFTERNOON
At the exact moment that Hitler is briefing Skorzeny, General Dwight Eisenhower lights a cigarette in his first-floor office. His headquarters, a white stone French château one thousand miles west of the Wolf's Lair, is spotless and regal. The only challenge Eisenhower should be facing right now is how best to celebrate a major turning point in the war. The American army has spent weeks leveling the German city of Aachen. Any moment now, Eisenhower should be receiving word that the city has become the first German municipality to fall into Allied hands. There is widespread hope that this marks the beginning of the end for the Nazi war machine and that the fighting will end by New Year's Eve.
Eisenhower smokes and paces. The fifty-four-year-old general played football back in his days at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but now he carries a small paunch and walks with his shoulders rolled forward. For security purposes, there is not a situation map tacked to the plywood partition in his office. Instead, he carries details of the German, British, and American armies in his head.
Eisenhower is plagued by a daily list of worries. If anything, his life since becoming supreme commander of the Allied force in Europe has been one headache after another, punctuated by moments of world-changing success. But these new expectations about the war's end worry Ike deeply right now. He is well aware that the proposed New Year's date to end the war will be impossible. Yet his boss, army Chief of Staff George Marshall, has set this date in stone. Hence the deep frown lines on Eisenhower's high, bald forehead. Marshall is back in Washington, thirty-nine hundred miles from the front. He is chief of staff of the army and chief military adviser to President Roosevelt. No other officer in the combined Allied armies has more power and influence than he does.
Marshall just returned to the United States after a weeklong tour of the European theater of operations, whereupon he cabled Eisenhower his great displeasure about the strategic situation. The October pause brought on by poor logistics, which so enrages George Patton, infuriates Marshall, too. He is demanding an end to the stalemate. Everything possible must be done to attack deep into Germany and end the war by the new year.
Per Marshall's orders, this is to include using weapons currently considered top secret and placing every single available American, British, and Canadian soldier on the front lines. Nothing must be held back.
Eisenhower must find a way. Orders are orders. And his success has been largely based on obeying them. So Ike paces and smokes. A few top American generals are coming over for dinner tonight. The celebration of Aachen can wait until then.
So Eisenhower is faced with the stark reality that the lack of gas, guns, and bullets afflicts all the Allied forces up and down the five hundred miles of front lines. They are, for the most part, stuck and immobile. Eisenhower knows that Adolf Hitler and the armies of Nazi Germany are far from conquered.
* * *
What Eisenhower doesn't know is that German soldiers, guns, and tanks are quietly grouping near the German border. They do so under strict radio silence, lest the Americans hear their chatter and anticipate the biggest surprise attack since Pearl Harbor.
The Germans face west, toward the American lines and the thick wilderness of a place in Belgium known as the Ardennes Forest. It is here that U.S. forces are weakest because it is assumed that an attack through this dense wood is impossible. To tilt the odds even further in the Germans' favor, they know that George Patton and his Third Army are more than one hundred miles southeast, still in dire need of gas, guns, and soldiers.
So Operation Watch on the Rhine will be a successful counterattack that not even the great George Patton can thwart — of that Hitler and his generals are sure.
The Nazis are poised to turn defeat into victory with this counterattack and the development of a new atomic weapon that Hitler believes is almost ready.
The Führer is still certain of ultimate victory.
Very certain.CHAPTER 5
WAR ROOM, U.S. THIRD ARMY HEADQUARTERS
NANCY, FRANCE * DECEMBER 9, 1944 * 7 A.M.
Colonel Oscar Koch thinks that Hitler is up to something.
The G-2, as General George Patton's top intelligence officer is known in military vocabulary, is also certain that the German army is far from defeated. In fact, he is the only intelligence officer on the Allied side who is quite sure that Germany is poised to launch a withering Christmas counterattack.
Only nobody will listen to him.
The sun has not yet risen on what promises to be another bitter cold and wet day in eastern France. Koch stands amidst the countless maps lining the walls of the war room, sixty miles south of the front lines. The forty-seven-year-old career soldier is bald and stands ramrod straight, with thick glasses that give him a professorial air.
Just a few feet away, George S. Patton sits in a straight-backed wooden chair as Koch begins the morning intelligence briefing. Patton wears a long overcoat and scarf to ward off the cold, even indoors. He is pensive, and eager to once again be on the attack. In just ten short days, Patton is launching Operation Tink, which will take his Third Army into Nazi Germany for the first time. The invasion of Germany now awaits. Patton plans to cross the Rhine and press hard toward Frankfurt, then on to Berlin.
Unlike many generals, who plan an attack without first consulting with their G-2, Patton relies heavily on Koch.
And with good reason. A humble veteran soldier who made his way up through the ranks, Koch is perhaps the hardest-working man on Patton's staff. He is consumed with the task of collecting information about every aspect of the battlefield. Koch arranges for reconnaissance planes to fly over enemy positions, and then has a team of draftsmen construct precise terrain maps of the towns, rivers, railway lines, fence lines, creeks, farm buildings, bridges, and other obstacles that might slow down the Third Army's advance.
Excerpted from Hitler's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly. Copyright © 2015 Bill O'Reilly. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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Table of Contents
A Note to Readers,
Part 1 THE WOLF'S LAIR,
Chapter One: The Wolf's Lair,
Chapter Two: General Patton's Headquarters,
Chapter Three: The Wolf's Lair,
Chapter Four: Trianon Palace Hotel,
Chapter Five: War Room, U.S. Third Army Headquarters,
Part 2 THE LAST DESPERATE EFFORT,
Chapter Six: German Front Lines,
Chapter Seven: General Patton's Headquarters,
Chapter Eight: The Ardennes,
Chapter Nine: Twelfth Army Group Headquarters,
Chapter Ten: Bastogne, Belgium,
Chapter Eleven: Bastogne, Belgium,
Chapter Twelve: Fondation Pescatore,
Chapter Thirteen: Adlerhorst,
Chapter Fourteen: Third Army Headquarters,
Chapter Fifteen: Washington, D.C.,
Chapter Sixteen: Auschwitz-Birkenau,
Part 3 IN THE FUHRERBUNKER,
Chapter Seventeen: Berlin, Germany,
Chapter Eighteen: Remagen, Germany,
Chapter Nineteen: Trier, Germany,
Chapter Twenty: Berlin, Germany,
Chapter Twenty-One: Bad Hersfeld, Germany,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Berlin, Germany,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Waldenburg, Germany,
Chapter Twenty-Four: Wiesenburg Forest,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Berlin, Germany,
Chapter Twenty-Six: The Führerbunker,
Epilogue: The Battle of Berlin,
The Rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party,
The Symbol of the Swastika,
Hitler's Stature, Health, and Diet,
The Toothbrush Mustache,
German Soldiers and Police: The Wehrmacht, SS, and Gestapo,
Joseph Stalin and the Russian Army,
The Red Ball Express,
The Eagle's Nest,
Inside Hitler's Bunker,
Nazi Cash, Art, and Stolen Possessions,
Concentration Camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau,
The Nuremberg Trials,
Last Will of Adolf Hitler,
The Author Recommends ...,
About the Author,