Hans Georg Fritzsche (April 21st, 1900 – September 27th, 1953) was a senior German Nazi official, ending the war as Ministerialdirektor at the Propagandaministerium (Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda). He was present in the Berlin Führerbunker during the last days of Adolf Hitler. After Hitler's death, he went over to the Soviet lines in Berlin to offer the surrender of the city to the Red Army on May 1st, 1945. He was taken prisoner. Fritzsche died in 1953.
Fritzsche was born in Bochum (a city in the Ruhr Area) and served in the German Army in 1917. Post-war he studied briefly at a number of universities before becoming a journalist for the Hugenberg Press and then involved in the new mass media of the radio, working for the German government. In September 1932 he was made head of the Drahtloser Dienst (the wireless news service). On May 1st, 1933, he joined the NSDAP (Nazi Party).
Under Joseph Goebbels' Reich Ministry he continued to head the radio department before being promoted to the News Section at the Ministry. In mid-1938 he became deputy to Alfred Berndt at the German Press Division. Responsible for controlling German news, the agency was also called the Home or Domestic Press Division. In December of 1938 he was made chief of the Home Press Division. In May 1942 Goebbels took personal control of the division, and Fritzsche returned to radio work for the Ministry as Plenipotentiary for the Political Organization of the Greater German Radio and head of the Radio Division of the Ministry.
In April 1945, he was present in the Berlin Führerbunker during the last days of Adolf Hitler and Goebbels. After Hitler's suicide on April 30th, 1945, Goebbels assumed Hitler's role as chancellor. On May 1st, Goebbels completed his sole official act as chancellor. He dictated a letter to Soviet Army General Vasily Chuikov, requesting a temporary ceasefire and ordered German General Hans Krebs to deliver it. Chuikov commanded the Soviet forces in central Berlin. After this was rejected, Goebbels decided that further efforts were futile. Goebbels then launched into a tirade berating the generals, reminding them Hitler forbade them to surrender. Fritsche left the room to try and take matters into his own hands. He went to his nearby office on Wilhelmplatz and wrote a surrender letter addressed to Soviet Marshall Georgy Zhukov. An angry and drunk General Wilhelm Burgdorf followed Fritzsche to his office. There he asked Fritzsche if he intended to surrender Berlin. Fritzschereplied that he was going to do just that. Burgdorf shouted that Hitler had forbidden surrender and as a civilian he had no authority to do so. Burgdorf then pulled his pistol to shoot Fritzsche, but a radio technician "knocked the gun" and the bullet fired hit the ceiling. Several men then hustled Burgdorf out of the office and he returned to the bunker. Fritzsche then left his office and went over to the Soviet lines and offered to surrender the city
Fritzsche was taken prisoner by Soviet Red Army soldiers. At first he was held prisoner in a basement and then sent to Moscow for interrogation at Lubyanka Prison where, according to his own account, three gold teeth were yanked from his mouth upon arrival. He was confined to a "standing coffin", a 3-foot-square cell where it was impossible to sleep, and placed on a bread and hot water diet. He eventually signed a confession.
Later, while on trial at Nuremberg, he wrote his account of Soviet prison which was published in Switzerland.
Fritzsche was sent to Nuremberg, and tried before the International Military Tribunal. He was charged with conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In his positions in the propaganda apparatus of the Nazi State, Fritzsche played a role to further the conspiracy to commit atrocities and to launch the war of aggression. According to journalist and author William L. Shirer, it was unclear to the attendees why he was charged. Shirer remarked that "no-one in the courtroom, including Fritzsche, seemed to know why he was there – he was too small a fry – unless it were as a ghost for Goebbels..." He was one of only three defendants to be acquitted at Nuremberg (along with Hjalmar Schacht and Franz von Papen).
He was later tried by a West German denazification court and was sentenced to nine years. He was released in September 1950 and died of cancer soon after. His wife Hildegard Fritzsche (born Springer) died the same year.