“Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Ares comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man.” – J.D. Salinger, “Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters”
This week in 1945, in Germany’s capital city of Berlin, Russian soldiers encountered minimal Nazi resistance as they fought their way into Potsdamer Platz (plaza), just blocks from the Reich Chancellery, where deep in an underground bunker the bridegroom contemplated his fate. After five years of war, Nazi Germany was in ruins, its armed forces destroyed, and its citizens prostrate before British and American armies occupying German territory from the West and Soviet armies doing likewise from the East.
Finally realizing that no miraculous reversal of the war’s fortunes would occur, the bridegroom, who had led Germany for those five years, decided that April 29 would be his wedding day. For a dozen years he had been married to Germany but that marriage had crumbled. He would now marry his long-suffering companion, Eva Braun, who had stuck by him to the end.
Before the ceremony, the bridegroom dictated a “political testament,” in which he blamed the entire war on “international Jewry” and predicted that out of the ashes of the current German nation would arise, Phoenix-like, a new Germany dedicated to the principles of National Socialism. He then named a new leader to succeed him — Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, the former head of the German navy. As it would turn out, Doenitz’s time in his new office would be very short.
Just after midnight on April 29, the groom finished his official business and exchanged vows with his bride in a ceremony conducted by a Berlin city councilman who had been driven to the bunker in an armored car and ordered to don a Nazi uniform to perform the wedding. Two of the bridegroom’s most dedicated followers, Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann, were witnesses to the marriage.
With the ceremony completed the bride and groom “celebrated” with staff, drinking champagne, eating sandwiches, reminiscing about past triumphs and periodically bracing themselves against the shock waves from nearby explosions of Soviet artillery. Shortly thereafter, the bride and groom retired for the night. Whether they consummated their marriage or had ever engaged in sexual union is not known.
The next day, with Soviet troops within hours of capturing the Chancellery, the newlyweds bid their farewells to their friends and followers, retreated into their room and shut the door. Minutes later, Bormann entered the room and found them dead. She had been poisoned. He had shot himself in the head.
As the groom had earlier ordered, the newlyweds were then doused with gasoline and cremated. Eva Braun and her husband, Adolf Hitler, would spend their honeymoon in Hell.