Germany / Biography
Hans Fritzsche was a senior Nazi official of the Reich Propaganda Ministry who offered to surrender the city to the Red Army.
Hans Fritzsche was born on 21 April 1900 in Bochum to a family of a postal clerk. He took part in the First World War in 1918 and was active in the right-wing press agencies in the Weimar Republic. In 1932, he became chief of the German government press agency under chancellor Franz von Papen, which was incorporated into the new Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) after Hitler came to power. In 1938, Hans Fritzsche became head of the Press Division of the ministry.
During the war, Fritzsche remained one of the most prominent radio commentators. After a short service as a member of a propaganda company on the Eastern Front, he was appointed to the head of the Radio Division of Goebbels’ ministry in November 1942 and was also responsible for the political organisation of the German radio. In April 1945, Fritzsche remained in Berlin and was present in the Führerbunker when Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide. After Goebbels, who prohibited any surrender attempts, also committed suicide, Fritzsche moved to the Propaganda Ministry’s office at the Wilhelmplatz near the Reich Chancellery and drafted a surrender letter addressed to Marshal Georgy Zhukov. Despite the attempt of General Wilhelm Burgdorf to stop him, Fritzsche went over to the Soviet lines and offered to surrender the city to the Red Army, since he claimed to be the highest ranked official that still remained in Berlin. On 2 May 1945, representatives of the 8th Guards Army ordered him to read the capitulation order on radio.
After that, Fritzsche was taken prisoner and helped to identify the remains of the Goebbels family near the Führerbunker. Subsequently, he was sent to the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow and later delivered to Nuremberg. Here he was charged, among 23 other persons, by the International Military Tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was acquitted but later sentenced to eight years in prison by a German denazification court. In 1950, he was pardoned and married his second wife. Hans Fritzsche died of cancer on 27 September 1953 in Cologne.