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Haunting Photos of Hitler's Bunker and the Ruins of Berlin by William Vandivert

Photographer William Vandivert worked for LIFE from the late 1930s until 1948. When Russian and German troops fought street-by-street to control the German capital in April 1945, it became increasingly clear that the Allies would win the war. Immediately following the battle’s end, Vandivert was on the scene, photographing the devastated landscape of Berlin.

Thousands of civilians perished in the Battle of Berlin, including men, women, and children, and countless others were left homeless. On April 30, 1945, two deaths marked the end of the Third Reich: that of Hitler and that of Eva Braun, his long-time companion, and (briefly) wife.

Several Vandivert was the first western photographer who got access to Hitler’s bunker. His photographs were published in LIFE in July 1945, after he gained access to the bunker after Berlin fell. Here are a few of those republished images; however, most of these pictures have never been published before and illustrate the surreal, disturbing scenes Vandivert experienced both inside the bunker and beyond its concrete walls in the streets of the ruined, vanquished city.

#1 Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945.

Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945.

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#2 Hitler’s bunker partially burned by retreating German troops and stripped of valuables by invading Russians.

Hitler's bunker partially burned by retreating German troops and stripped of valuables by invading Russians.

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#3 A 16th century painting reportedly stolen from a Milan museum.

A 16th century painting reportedly stolen from a Milan museum.

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#4 With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler’s bunker.

With only candles to light their way, war correspondents examine a couch stained with blood (see dark patch on the arm of the sofa) located inside Hitler's bunker.

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#5 Abandoned furniture and debris inside Adolf Hitler’s bunker, Berlin, 1945.

Abandoned furniture and debris inside Adolf Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.

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#6 Papers (mostly news reports dated April 29, the day before Hitler and Eva Bruan killed themselves) inside Hitler’s bunker, Berlin, 1945.

Papers (mostly news reports dated April 29, the day before Hitler and Eva Bruan killed themselves) inside Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.

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#7 A Russian soldier stands in Adolf Hitler’s bunker, Berlin, 1945.

A Russian soldier stands in Adolf Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.

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#8 Desk inside Adolf Hitler’s bunker, Berlin, 1945.

Desk inside Adolf Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.

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#9 An SS officer’s cap, with the infamous death’s-head skull emblem barely visible.

An SS officer's cap, with the infamous death's-head skull emblem barely visible.

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#10 A ruined, empty and likely looted safe inside Hitler’s bunker.

A ruined, empty and likely looted safe inside Hitler's bunker.

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#11 LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth, left, sifts through debris in the shallow trench in the garden of the Reich Chancellery where, Knauth was told, the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were burned after their suicides.

LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth, left, sifts through debris in the shallow trench in the garden of the Reich Chancellery where, Knauth was told, the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were burned after their suicides.

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#12 In the garden of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.

In the garden of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.

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#13 Bullet-riddled sentry pillbox outside Hitler’s bunker, Berlin, 1945.

Bullet-riddled sentry pillbox outside Hitler's bunker, Berlin, 1945.

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#14 An unidentified hand on the destroyed hinge of the door to Hitler’s bunker, burned off by advancing Russian combat engineers, Berlin, 1945.

An unidentified hand on the destroyed hinge of the door to Hitler's bunker, burned off by advancing Russian combat engineers, Berlin, 1945.

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#15 Empty gasoline cans, reportedly used by SS troops to burn the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun after their suicides in the bunker, Berlin, 1945.

Empty gasoline cans, reportedly used by SS troops to burn the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun after their suicides in the bunker, Berlin, 1945.

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#16 Russian soldiers and a civilian struggle to move a large bronze Nazi Party eagle that once loomed over a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.

Russian soldiers and a civilian struggle to move a large bronze Nazi Party eagle that once loomed over a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.

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#17 An American soldier, PFC Douglas Page, offers a mocking Nazi salute inside the bombed-out ruins of the Berliner Sportspalast, or Sport Palace.

An American soldier, PFC Douglas Page, offers a mocking Nazi salute inside the bombed-out ruins of the Berliner Sportspalast, or Sport Palace.

The venue, destroyed during an Allied bombing raid in January 1944, was where the Third Reich often held political rallies.

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#18 At the Reichstag, evidence of a practice common throughout the centuries: soldiers scrawling graffiti to honor fallen comrades, insult the vanquished or simply announce.

At the Reichstag, evidence of a practice common throughout the centuries: soldiers scrawling graffiti to honor fallen comrades, insult the vanquished or simply announce.

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#19 An image almost too perfectly symbolic of Berlin in 1945: A crushed globe and a bust of Hitler amid rubble outside the ruined Reich Chancellery.

An image almost too perfectly symbolic of Berlin in 1945: A crushed globe and a bust of Hitler amid rubble outside the ruined Reich Chancellery.

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#20 The first of the approximately 20 pages of notes that William Vandivert typed for LIFE’s editors in New York.

The first of the approximately 20 pages of notes that William Vandivert typed for LIFE's editors in New York.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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