In the final weeks of April 1945, Soviet and German forces fought viciously for control of Berlin. With WWII drawing to a close, tens of thousands of civilians were killed as the city lay in ruins. April 30 marks the anniversary of the two most notable among these deaths: the suicides of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun.
The wreckage from the Battle of Berlin was captured by LIFE magazine's William Vandivert, the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler's "Führerbunker," the secret hiding place in which he lived out his days. After the fall of Berlin, LIFE published some of Vandivert's photos in its July 1945 issue, offering the world a glimpse at the city's obliterated streets and the eerily empty bunker that saw the definitive end of the Third Reich.
As LIFE reported at the time, Vandivert "found almost every famous building [in Berlin] a shambles. In the center of town GIs could walk for blocks and see no living thing, hear nothing but the stillness of death, smell nothing but the stench of death."
Check out these photos of Hitler's bunker and Berlin after the fall, and head over to LIFE.com for more rare images, many of which remained unpublished until now.
A new view of a photograph that appeared, heavily cropped, in LIFE, picturing Hitler's bunker, partially burned by retreating German troops and stripped of valuables by invading Russians. (William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Not published in LIFE. 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. (William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Not published in LIFE. 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. (William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Not published in LIFE. 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. (William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Not published in LIFE. 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. (William Vandivert—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)