Itâs an old joke from WWII. Hitler went to a palmist who studied the FĂźhrerâs hands, carefully looking for some sign of the future. She looked up at him finally, pointing to a small line, saying, âmein FĂźhrer, you are going to die on a Jewish holiday.â
His curiosity piqued, he asked, âWhich one?â She answered, âAny day you die will be a Jewish holiday.â
It didnât quite work that way. Adolph Hitler, unlike the vast majority of us, chose the time of his death. On the Christian calendar, it was 30 April, 1945, 61 years ago by the reckoning of that calendar. By that time, the Russian army was already inside of Berlin, closing in on the bunker that Hitler had made his headquarters in the final days of his struggle. According to most records, the death was by suicide, after he married a long time mistress, Eva Braun. The wedding ceremony took place in the early afternoon, and he shot Eva Braun around 3:00 p.m. and himself around 3:30. He had left instructions with his aides who remained with him in the bunker in Berlin. He wanted a âVikingâ funeral, after the tradition of the Norse warriors who were burned after they died.
It was a hard request to fulfill. The bunker was under bombardment by the advancing Russian army and shells were falling all over the place. In the late afternoon, Hitlerâs body was taken outside the bunker and put into a shell pit. Gasoline was poured over the body and it was set alight. Hitlerâs aides stood for a few minutes, saluted and retreated into the bunker before they themselves were killed by the bombardment.
Given that the fighting continued for a few of days, it is likely that Russian shells hit the burning gasoline and the body in the pit, keeping it burning into the night past sundown, but this I do not know for sure.
But I do know for sure that the suicide took place on the 17th day of the month Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, in the year 5705. Also, I know for sure that when the sun set that day, Jews prayed ArvĂt, marking the arrival of a new day, the 18th day of Iyar. This day is a Jewish holiday, a holiday called Laâg bâOmer, the 33rd day of the counting of the âOmer between the holidays of Passover and ShâvuĂłt, the "holiday of Weeks". The âOmer was a grain sacrifice offered daily first at the âMishkanâ, the sanctuary of the L-rd, and then in the Temple of Solomon and later, the Temple of Nehemiah. This Biblically commanded sacrifice was how the time was marked between Passover and ShâvuĂłt.