The assault on Berlin was imminent. Hitler had already appointed General Reymann to be commandant of the city for the battle. At first Reymann remained subordinate to General Heinrici, the Commander in Chief of the army group which extended from the Baltic Sea along the Oder River to about sixty miles south of Frankfurt an der Oder.
Heinrici was a man I trusted, for I had known him a long time and only recently he had helped me to surrender the industry of the Rybnicker coal basin intact. So when Reymann insisted on preparing every bridge in Berlin for demolition, I drove to Heinrici's headquarters near Prenzlau. That was on April 15, one day before the beginning of the great Russian offensive against Berlin. For technical reinforcement I brought with me the Berlin municipal superintendent of roads. Langer, and the Berlin chief of the Reichsbahn, Beck. At my request Heinrici ordered Reymann to attend the conference.
The two technicians demonstrated that the planned demolitions would mean the death of Berlin. The commandant of the city referred to Hitler's orders to defend Berlin by every possible expedient. "I must fight, and therefore I must be able to destroy bridges."
"But only in the direction of the main blow?" Heinrici interjected.
"No. wherever there is fighting," General Reymann said.
I asked whether all the bridges in the center of the city were also to be destroyed if the fighting came down to street battles. Reymann said yes. This was the moment for some platonic reasoning. I had it down to a pattern by now. "Are you going to fight because you believe in victory?" I asked.
The general was taken aback for a moment; then he had no choice but to answer this question affirmatively.
"If Berlin is thoroughly destroyed," I said, "then industry will be wiped out for the foreseeable future. And without industry the war is lost"
General Reymann was in a quandary. He did not know what to do. Fortunately. General Heinrici came to the rescue with specific orders. The explosives were to be removed from the blasting charges on the vital arteries of the Berlin railroad and highway network. Bridges would be blown up only in the actual course of important military actions.