Introduction: Debunking the Bunker Legend
Many people are broadly familiar with the official narrative of Adolf Hitler's "Last Days", which was revisited on our cinema screens only recently in the form of the German film, "Der Untergang". What they do not know is that the official narrative is a political fiction—and that the revulsion it inspires is the result of deliberate planning.
As the war reached its dreadful conclusion, Churchill and the British government set out to ensure that history never repeated itself—that there would be no resurgence of German nationalism—by dictating how history would view the ultra-nationalistic Third Reich down to the very last detail. The narrative was to be so unedifying as to permanently tarnish the regime's prestige in the eyes of even its most ardent supporters. At no stage was historical truth a consideration. Neither the British nor the Americans showed genuine interest in Hitler's fate. Their only interest lay in assigning to the movement's leader the most ignoble exit from the historical stage as possible. In this sense, the consignment of Hitler's charred corpse to a rubbish-strewn bomb crater functioned as a metaphor for the consignment of the Hitler regime itself to the dustbin of history.
In the foreword to "Hitler's Death" , an anthology of documents from the Russian state archives designed to buttress the official narrative of the German leader's fate, historian Andrew Roberts avers:
"Part of the reason why Germany has been such a successful, pacific, liberal democracy for the past sixty years is precisely because of the way that Hitler met his end in the manner described in mesmerising detail in this book. Germany needed Year Zero in order to be reborn." 1
Few people stop to consider the sheer unlikeliness of the Germans making the Allies such a fine farewell present as a narrative of Hitler's demise that would serve the Allies' postwar agenda perfectly. In fact, "Hitler's Death" offers a considerable amount of evidence inviting the opposite conclusion to that peddled by Roberts. When the documents presented in this volume are examined in chronological order and correlated with other contemporary sources such as news reports, they show that the Soviet investigation of Hitler's death encountered major obstacles virtually as soon as it began.
In this article series, I tell the story of the abortive Soviet investigation and show how Stalin's failure to be taken in by planted evidence and bogus witnesses forced the British to take the initiative. Working in tandem with the Americans, the British built a veritable house of cards on the testimony of Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka, despite the fact that he was almost certainly not even in Berlin during the closing days of the Third Reich. As I tell the story, I disclose a considerable amount of evidence—most of it almost entirely overlooked—that supports the theory first outlined in Hugh Thomas's path breaking 1996 book "The Murder of Adolf Hitler", 2 to the effect that the Germans concealed Hitler's exit from history in a well-thought-out forensic fraud. Thomas may not be right about how the Germans pulled it off, but there can be no doubt the German regime succeeded in both obfuscating the true circumstances of Hitler's demise and ensuring that Hitler's corpse never fell into the hands of his enemies.
The Paucity of Evidence
Without bodily remains, it is impossible to affirm that a person is dead, let alone determine the manner in which he or she died. At least officially, there is no Hitler corpse because in 1970, so the Soviets/Russians maintain, the presumptive Hitler remains were macerated and intermixed with the remains of 10 other persons—allegedly Hitler's wife Eva, Propaganda Minister Josef Göbbels's six children and General Hans Krebs—and buried in the grounds of a KGB installation in Magdeburg, East Germany. This was done ostensibly to preclude the possibility of a burial site developing into a Nazi pilgrimage centre.
This story is an obvious deception, however. The Soviets hardly lacked the space to store the remains in the USSR, where there was no danger of a Hitler cult emerging. Its function can only have been to relieve them of the obligation to ever make the alleged Hitler corpse available for scientific testing. Today, all the Russians admit to possessing are fragments of what they claim to be Hitler's jawbone and two small pieces of skull. The skull fragments, one of which is distinguished by a large bullet hole, are sometimes stated to have been found in the bomb crater together with the other remains initially assumed to be those of Adolf Hitler; however, it is more usually maintained that they had been found in Hitler's study inside the Reich Chancellery building [Reichskanzelei]. Unfortunately, there is no proof that the fragments were found in the Chancellery, let alone that they came from Hitler. No photographs were taken of the fragments in situ, while none of the documents included in sheds any light on their discovery. In matters concerning the authentication of the alleged Hitler remains, the Russians have behaved as inscrutably as their Soviet predecessors.
The 18 March 1994 issue of "The Plain Dealer" [Cleveland, Ohio] carried an AP story titled "Doctors Find Burnt Body Could not Be Hitler's"
"...French forensic experts say the charred corpse said to be Hitler's is not his body... experts FALSIFIED verification reports ordered by Josef Stalin to APPEASE the Soviet dictator.... the body is actually that of an unknown German male. [The forensic experts] spent more than two years analyzing the autopsy reports prepared by Soviet coroners in the days following [the] surrender of the Third Reich in 1945... the body [said to be Hitler's] had an extra tooth and only one testicle... no German doctor who had examined Hitler before his death ever mentioned either anomaly".
-- E. Laurier, V. Hedouin, D. Gosset, P.H. Müller, »Etude critique médico-légale du rapport d'autopsie d'Hitler« [Critical Forensic Analysis of the Autopsy Report on Hitler], "Journal de Medecine Legale Droit", 37 (1) 19
The emergency exit to the Bunker [the low square concrete block, left of center[, outside the entrance of which the bodies of Hitler and his wife Eva Braun were reportedly cremated and buried. The conical tower was an armored ventilation and guard tower. The Führerbunker was underground, in the area behind and beneath the emergency exit and the conical tower. The earlier Vorbunker was under the dining hall of the Old Chancellery, the low white building in the right rear.
The only witness to identify "Hitler's body" was a Russian diplomat who had previously met the Führer once. No German witnesses ever saw and identified the body supposed to be Adolf Hitler but it certainly wasn't because of a shortage of potential witnesses. Zukhov had twenty Germans identify Minister for Propaganda Josef Göbbels!
When the bodies of Josef and Magda Göbbels were found, they were put on display and photographed from every angle, even on the autopsy table. Only ONE photograph was taken of "Hitler's corpse" - it is a picture of a crate with something unidentifiable in it, and the shot was taken from a distance. Did no one take a decent photograph of the corpse when it was discovered or during the autopsy?
Therefore, it is most likely nonsense that the Russians, as they claimed several weeks after his death, ever found Hitler's body/corpse. There was no body, there was no autopsy. To this day the Russians have not presented a single piece of evidence that they found Hitler's corpse. Where are the authentic photographs? Where is the allegedly lead-lined box with Hitler's identifiable corpse? Why was this not shown to the German witnesses the Russians had captured?
Even though in 1945--and during their reconstruction of the events in 1946--the Russians kept telling Linge, Günsche, Baur, Hofbeck, Henschel and the others that they would be "confronted with Hitler's body" they never showed it to any of these people.
Flugkapitän Hans Baur said on 24 November 1995:
"After we arrived in Berlin, I was interrogated by a Commissar I already knew called Krause [Klausen], who had come with us from Moscow. This Commissar held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel . He told me that it was now high time to decide what to do with the corpses. We would be shown the bodies and should say whether we recognized any features which could indicate the identity of Hitler or Eva Braun. Up to now the bodies had been preserved. It was now time to decide if this should remain so or whether they should be destroyed. A confrontation with the corpses did not take place, however..."
Report by Hermann Karnau, quoted from a sound radio recording of the NWDR:
"I was commanded by an SS officer to leave my station . .. I did so and went into the officers' club. After half an hour I returned. The entrance to the Führer's Bunker was locked. I went back and tried to get in through the emergency exit, the one which led to the garden of the Reich Chancellery. As I reached the corner between the tall sentry-post Bbunker and the Führer Bunker proper, when I was up there, I suddenly saw what looked like a petrol rag being thrown. In front of me lay Adolf Hitler on his back and Eva Braun on her belly. I definitely established that it was he. I went back and informed my comrade Hilger Poppen, who however didn't believe me. Half an hour later I returned to the spot. I could no longer recognize him because he was pretty charred. I spoke to Erich Mansfeld, who was at this time on sentry duty in the tower, who also confirmed: There lies Adolf Hitler. He is burning. I left this place ... and by the staircase met Sturmbannführer Schedle, who confirmed that the Chief was burning behind the house in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. At about 13.00 I was at this spot again . .. I saw that Hitler and Eva Braun by now had burnt to the point that the skeletal structure could clearly be seen. Whether during the period from 18.00 to 20.00 petrol was poured over the remains once more, I don't know, but when I was there again at 20:00 cinders were already flying in the wind ..."
Long after the war Erich Mansfield and Herman Karnau, two SS guards who had been stationed on guard towers were interviewed regarding the burning of the bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. They both made the same statement: "When the bodies were ignited the corpse of Eva Braun sat up, her legs raised and bent themselves until her knees were almost touching her chin, and her arms lifted until they were pointing straight before her".
One guard said "she contorted as if she was riding a wild horse".
Crematoria technicians, detectives from police forensic science laboratories, coroners when interviewed are in agreement that a freshly deceased body or a corpse which has passed the rigor mortis stage will react in this manner. It has something to do with heat tightening and contracting the sinews.
However, during the rigor mortis stage which normally occurs forty-five to sixty minutes after death, the body could be expected to remain rigid regardless of applied heat.
It took people to carry "Hitler's" body up the stairs, yet Martin Bormann picked Eva up in his arms "and she hung like a wet dish rag". The description of Eva's limp body is in direct contradiction to Hitler's "rigidly stiff and unbending body". Obviously the body had already gone into a state of rigor mortis and to do that it had to have been dead at least an hour longer than the woman.
Karnau was a prisoner of the British in 1945. On 13 November 1953, Karnau recounted: "In November 1945 I was taken from Esterwegewn to Berlin. Here I was told by an officer of the Secret Service that I was to lend a hand in the local search for Hitler's remains. However, this did not take place because of the refusal of the Russians".
The only person who claimed to have seen Hitler's corpse is Harry Mengershausen. He recalled that, in early June 1945, an inspection of "the place" where Hitler's corpse had allegedly been buried took place. The crater had been dug up. We must remember that the garden of the Chancellory and the area around the Bunker was a huge field of craters.
That Mengershausen spoke of a specific crater is already an indication that he was lying. Mengershausen goes on to say that in early July he was taken from the prison in Friedrichshagen to an open pit in woods nearby in order to identify three corpses. Each of the corpses was by itself in a "small wooden casket." The corpses had been those of Hitler and Herr and Frau Göbbels. Mengershausen claims to have "clearly recognized" Hitler by the shape of the head and the distinctive shape of the nose. "From the distance" he had not been able to see if Hitler's jaw had still been there. The whole "viewing of the bodies" had lasted for less than two minutes.
Mengershausen is telling a story in great detail that simply does not fit the circumstances. It is impossible that Mengershausen was able to detect the "distinctive shape of Hitler's nose." The nose, like all the other soft tissues of the face, the torso and the extremities, must surely have burned away during the relatively long cremation process. A skull that is exposed to strong heat can preserve its bony shape for quite some time, but not its distinctive features, which it takes from the soft tissue of the face. Even in an open air cremation, all of the soft tissue and cartilage of the body disintegrate quickly so it was not possible for Hitler to be recognizable.
Mansfield's and Karnau's testimony makes more sense because after a cremation all that is left is calcified bones.
In 1999, a foreign researcher, Michel Perrier of the Institute of Forensic Science at Lausanne University, was denied permission to inspect the remains. 3 It is hard to see a plausible reason why the Russians would do this unless there were a chance of a negative identification. This opens up the possibility that the skull fragments are fake. We may be looking at a hoax similar to that of the Piltdown man—a notorious case in which a jawbone discovered in 1912 was subjected to rigorous testing 40 years later by a research team at the British Museum. The researchers found that the jawbone was that of a modern ape and had been artificially stained with potassium dichromate to make it appear ancient. 4
More than 60 years after Hitler disappeared from history, therefore, the Russians are obstructing research that would provide a definitive answer to the question of whether the fragments belonged to the Führer. As D. Marchetti et al. wrote in 2005: "The available literature concerning Hitler's cause of death is incomplete…because the skull bone fragment with a gunshot wound possibly from Hitler's corpse has not been properly examined". 5
Since the Russians clearly do not regard Hitler's skull fragments with religious reverence—we are not talking about the Shroud of Turin here—no other conclusion can be drawn than that the Russians are afraid of what will be found once the fragments are subjected to scientific testing. The best explanation for such fears is that the Russians already know that the fragments did not come from Hitler. So far they have made no effort to have mitochondrial DNA [mtDNA] extracted from the skull fragments for comparison with mtDNA extracted from the corpse of either Hitler's half-sister Paula or his mother Klara or from any of their living relatives—the process suggested by Marchetti et al. as the only way out of the present impasse. The Russians' unwillingness to subject the fragments to mtDNA testing implies that they already know that the result will only be negative. 6
Scientists: Skull piece that Russian Officials say came from Hitler's Body actually from Woman
The Associated Press, Hartford, Conn.
29 September 2009
A piece of skull with a bullet hole through it that Russian officials claimed belonged to Adolf Hitler actually came from a woman, scientists at the University of Connecticut concluded.
The cranium fragment is part of a collection of Hitler artifacts preserved by Soviet intelligence in the months after Hitler and Eva Braun reportedly committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in April 1945.
The collection, now housed in the Russian State Archive in Moscow, also includes bloodstained pieces of the sofa where Hitler reportedly shot himself after taking a cyanide pill. The artifacts were put on public display in 2000.
Connecticut archaeologist Nick Bellantoni was asked to examine the skull and blood samples for a "History Channel" documentary on Hitler's death that aired this month.
Bellantoni said his initial forensic exam of the skull fragment showed it didn't match what he knew of Hitler's biology.
"The bone was very small and thin, and normally male bones are much more robust in our species," Bellantoni said Tuesday. "I thought it probably came from a woman or a younger man."
Bellantoni then took several pinhead-size pieces of the skull fragment and swabs of the blood stains back to the university for analysis.
Linda Strausbaugh, a professor of molecular and cell biology, got help from two former students who work in the New York City medical examiner's office. The former students, Craig O'Connor and Heather Nelson, are experts in working with challenging DNA samples and were able to extract enough DNA from the bone pieces to do a forensic study, Strausbaugh said.
She said they determined that the DNA came from a 20-to 40-year-old woman. The skull fragment could have come from Braun, but to know that, the lab would need samples of her DNA, she said. Also, the DNA samples were very degraded, making identification unlikely, Strausbaugh said.
Witnesses never reported Braun being shot in the head, Bellantoni said, and she is thought to have died of cyanide poisoning.
"This person, with a bullet hole coming out the back of the head, would have been shot in the face, in the mouth or underneath the chin," he said. "It would have been hard for them to miss that."
DNA from the bloodstain swabs showed at least some of it came from a man, Strausbaugh said.
"The DNA is relatively degraded and we don't have a full range of markers that we'd like to have," she said.
Russian officials have said Hitler and Braun's bodies were removed from a shell crater outside the Bunker shortly after he died.
An autopsy allegedly showed Hitler's body was missing part of his cranium. A Soviet team went back to the crater in 1946 and allegedly found the piece of cranium that the UConn scientists examined.
Russian officials have said the rest of Hitler was buried beneath a Soviet army parade ground in the former East German city of Magdeburg. They said his remains were exhumed in 1970 and incinerated, and the ashes were flushed into the city's sewage system.
Both Strausbaugh and Bellantoni said there is nothing in their findings that significantly challenges the conclusion that Hitler died in the Bunker.
"My gut feeling is he did commit suicide there, and maybe the blood sample we found is his," Bellantoni said.
The next most reliable kind of evidence—documentary evidence—also sheds no light on Hitler's fate. Strikingly, no films or photographs exist that would corroborate any aspect of the official narrative of the Third Reich's last days, least of all the claim that Hitler committed suicide. Given his towering importance in the Third Reich, it is hard to believe that, if Hitler had remained in Berlin until the regime fell, a comprehensive photographic record would not have been made of his final stand. Yet there are no known photos or films of Hitler that can securely be dated to April 1945. As for written sources, all we have is an obscure entry dated 30 April 1945 in a document that is purported to be a diary kept by Reichsleiter Martin Bormann from 1 January to 1 May 1945:
30. 4. 45
Eva H. [Hitler]
Not only is it hard to believe that even in the most cursory entry Bormann would not at least have recorded the precise time of the Führer's demise, but we possess unique testimony that proves the diary to be a fake. Shortly after the war, pilot Hanna Reitsch, who was in the Führerbunker for three days (26–29 April), told American interrogator Robert E. Work that during this period Bormann had been writing an extremely detailed document which he intended to preserve for posterity.
"Bormann rarely moved from his writing desk. He was 'putting down events for future generations'. Every word, every action was recorded on paper. Often, he would approach someone and gloomily ask about the exact contents of the Führer's conversation with a person to whom he had just given an audience. He also meticulously wrote down everything that took place with the others in the Bunker. This document was supposed to be removed from the Bunker at the last moment so that, according to the modest Bormann, it could 'take its place among the greatest chapters of German history'. 7
However, the Bormann diary which the Russians subsequently presented to the world is a paltry affair containing entries that are typically only between one and three short lines long. The most substantial entry that for 27 April, runs to a mere eight lines. Clearly, the diary does not provide a complete narrative of the death throes of the Third Reich. Although most historians (including David Irving, the self-described apostle of "Real History") accept its authenticity without demur, it can only be a fake. In sum, there is no physical evidence nor evidence of a visual or written kind that would shed any light whatsoever on Hitler's fate.
The case for the conventional view that Hitler committed suicide and was cremated on the afternoon of 30 April 1945 therefore depends entirely upon the verbal and written statements furnished immediately after the war by a small group of captured Nazis, most of whom were members of the Schutzstaffel (SS), who claimed to have observed these important historical events with their own eyes. The six most important accounts are those of SS Obersturmbannführer Harry Mengershausen, SS Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche, SS Obergruppenführer Johannes ["Hans"] Rattenhuber, SS Obersturmbannführer Erich Kempka, SS Unterführer Hermann Karnau and SS Hauptscharführer Erich Mansfeld.
The first three eyewitnesses, Mengershausen, Günsche and Rattenhuber, all fell into Soviet hands after Berlin was captured on 2 May 1945. They recounted their respective versions of Hitler's fate to Soviet authorities between 13 and 20 May 1945. The three men's accounts were not available to the public until the 2005 publication of the anthology "Hitler's Death". Although Hitler's valet, SS-Sturmbannführer Heinz Linge, was captured at the same time, his interrogation statements are not included in "Hitler's Death" and, so far as I know, have never been made public. Given that Linge subsequently emerged as one of the central protagonists in the official story of Hitler's demise, this fact obviously raises questions about the pretensions of "Hitler's Death" to constitute virtually the last word on the subject.
The three accounts can be supplemented by various other accounts given by German prisoners to the Soviets in May 1945, in particular that given on 7 May by SS-Sturmbannführer Dr Helmut Kunz. Although Dr Kunz did not profess to know anything pertaining directly to the deaths of Adolf and Eva Hitler, his statement contains a highly significant account of Eva's last known conversation The other three eyewitnesses, Kempka, Karnau and Mansfeld, were interrogated by the Americans and the British. Until Hugh Trevor-Roper's "The Last Days of Hitler" was published in 1947, 8 the accounts of Kempka and Karnau were the only ones available to the general public.
The other four accounts have subsequently become available, three as recently as 2005. This means that it is possible only now to consider the six earliest eyewitness statements together as an independent body of evidence. Only now is it possible, in effect, to leave "The Last Days of Hitler" behind and concern ourselves with the best available original source material. Strikingly, the information derived from these six individuals represents the bulk of the firsthand evidence that would ever become available. Only two of the persons specifically named by others as having been involved in the final days—Heinz Linge and Reichsjugendleiter Artur Axmann—survived the war and were able to give their own accounts later. However, in both cases, the eyewitnesses appear to have been pressured to conform their testimony to the Trevor-Roper account, which was treated by the Anglo-American establishment from the very beginning as definitive. None of the other individuals identified in the six earliest accounts as having been involved—Jansen, Kruge, Lindloff, Medle, Schädle, Burgdorf, Krebs, Bormann, Göbbels—survived the war [so far as we know]. We therefore find ourselves saddled with the task of trying to make sense of one of modern history's most important events on the basis of a remarkably thin body of evidence.
The six accounts describe similar events . If we compare them, we find that there is general agreement on the following four points:
(1) a male body was carried from a room in the Bunker to a location just outside the exit door from the Bunker;
(2) the male body was wearing black trousers, shoes and socks like those Hitler usually wore;
(3) at the same time, a female body was carried out of the Bunker whose face was uncovered and was readily identifiable as Eva Hitler;
(4) Heinz Linge carried the body of the male; and the two bodies were laid down on the ground beside each other, doused with petrol, cremated and buried together in a bomb crater or ditch situated a very short distance from the Bunker exit door.
As soon as we look at elements of the story other than those listed above, discrepancies prove to be the rule. If they had been referring to the same event, authentic accounts ought to have agreed on most details as fully as they agreed on the aforementioned five points. It is impossible to distinguish between eyewitnesses who were "telling the truth" and eyewitnesses who were lying. In the absence of material or documentary evidence that would serve as a control, any such distinction is untenable. Indeed, each eyewitness account is as credible as any of the others. The approach that has most widely been followed, therefore, is that taken by Trevor-Roper, which simply involved assimilating all the available accounts into a narrative of a single event and ignoring or explaining away the details that did not fit with it.
By this means, to give just one example, Trevor-Roper accepted an account of events which the eyewitness Erich Mansfeld stated had taken place "not later than the 27 of April" but treated it as if it were a description of an event that a different eyewitness, Erich Kempka, claimed to have observed on 30 April 1945. 9 The shortcomings of Trevor-Roper's homogenisation technique are rather obvious, however. If one accepts the overall reliability of Mansfeld's account to the extent that one is willing to make use of the information it contains, by what right does one ignore Mansfeld's statement that he is "positive" that the events he was describing had taken place "not later than" 27 April? Trevor-Roper did the same with the eyewitness testimony of Hermann Karnau, who stated that the events he had observed had taken place on 1 May. Clearly, one cannot simply cherry-pick the evidence in this way. Yet it is by this very method that Trevor- Roper assembled the grand narrative of the fall of the Third Reich which is accepted by most people, including most historians, as essentially correct!
In the following sections, I review the six earliest known accounts while resisting the obvious temptations to dismiss certain accounts as wholesale fabrications or resort to the Trevor-Roper "cherry-picking" strategy. As we shall soon learn, the only way to make sense of the six accounts is to treat them as authentic accounts of different events. That said, it is not the case that each account represents a pure or unadulterated version of a particular cremation. The accounts of persons who had apparently observed two or more cremations—above all, Günsche—appear to represent a conflagration of events remembered from different cremations.
Testimony from Soviet-held Eyewitnesses
The first eyewitness to give an account of the events that occupy our attention was Harry Mengershausen, who was a member of Hitler's personal bodyguard, the RSD. Mengershausen was interrogated by a team of Soviet operatives headed by Lt-Colonel Ivan Klimenko on 13 May 1945, and by a different team headed by Lt-General Alexander Vadis six days later. The second version came from Hitler's aide-de-camp, Otto Günsche, who furnished a long written statement on 17 May. The third version came from RSD chief Hans Rattenhuber, who gave his account in Moscow on 20 May. Although all three accounts referred to a cremation which had taken place on 30 April, Mengershausen claimed to have witnessed the cremation around noon while Günsche and Rattenhuber both stated that the cremation had taken place around 3.00 or 4.00 pm. There are no reasons to think that Mengershausen was mistaken and that in fact he witnessed the 3.00/4.00 pm cremation. Mengershausen mentioned important details which were not mentioned by either Günsche or Rattenhuber, the most problematic of which is that the male's face had been visible. While Günsche and Rattenhuber both stated that the male's upper torso was covered with a blanket—so that nothing could be seen of him other than black trousers, socks and shoes— Mengershausen made no mention of a blanket, stating instead: "When Hitler was being carried out I clearly saw his profile—his nose, hair and moustache". 10
Mengershausen also gave a full description of the clothes in which Hitler had been dressed. Hitler "...had black trousers worn over high boots and gray-green uniform jacket. Under the uniform jacket, I could see a white shirtfront and a necktie." He also described Eva's clothing as "a black dress with several pink flowers made from cloth on the breast". 11 Günsche and Rattenhuber were unlikely to have overlooked such a touching detail as a corsage of pink flowers; they therefore cannot have witnessed the same cremation that Mengershausen described. Last, Mengershausen stated that only four people were involved: "Except for Günsche and Linge, no one was present during burning of the corpses of Hitler and his wife, and the burial was performed by two men of Hitler's guard]. 12
In contrast, the three available accounts of the 3.00/4.00 pm cremation mentioned a larger cast of participants including Bormann and Göbbels— important personages whom Mengershausen could not possibly have failed to notice, if they had been present. It would be easy, but unfair, to suggest that Mengershausen had fabricated his story. Rattenhuber himself affirmed that Mengershausen had been present at the scene. 13 It can therefore be accepted that both Mengershausen and Rattenhuber were present at a cremation on 30 April. The conclusion that makes most sense is that this was a cremation that took place at around midday, just as Mengershausen said. This cremation is not to be confused with a subsequent cremation that took place nearby, sometime between 3.00 and 4.00 pm that same afternoon.
A helpful piece of information here is that while Günsche and Rattenhuber recalled the presence of Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka—who also acknowledged his own presence on this occasion—Mengershausen did not notice Kempka. On the other hand, of all the eyewitnesses who observed the latter cremation, Rattenhuber is the only one who mentioned seeing Mengershausen. But this does not mean that Mengershausen was present at the 3.00/4.00 pm cremation. The appropriate conclusion to draw, I suggest, is that Rattenhuber observed both cremations that day, and the account that he subsequently gave the Soviets represented a conflation of remembered elements from the two cremations he had witnessed.
Statements from Prisoners of the British and Americans
The next two accounts that were to be given came from Erich Kempka and another member of the RSD, Hermann Karnau. Both were reported by the press on the very same day, 20 June 1945. I have long pondered the significance of the fact that both the British and Americans went public with their alleged eyewitnesses on the exact same day. Indeed, Kempka's statement was dated 20 June 1945, suggesting that only a very short time passed between the drafting of Kempka's statement and his presentation to the press. The most probable catalyst for such haste—and co-ordination— between the two Western Allies was the publication in Stockholm of Count Folke Bernadotte's book "The End: My Humanitarian Negotiations in Germany in 1945 and Their Political Consequences". 14
Published on 15 June 1945, only five weeks after the end of the war in Europe, this short book commands the distinction of being the first insider account of the closing phase of the Third Reich. It contains an appendix in which Bernadotte recounted the story of Hitler's fate as it had been related to him by SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler's Intelligence chief, SS-Brigadeführer Walter Schellenberg, in Stockholm shortly after the war. No more authoritative version of Hitler's demise can exist than such an account given freely, within a few weeks of the events themselves, and by one of the best-informed men in the Reich. While it is true that Bernadotte shared the Allies' goal of preventing the growth of a "Hitler Legend", there is no reason to believe that he misrepresented Schellenberg in order to do so. There has never been, and probably never will be, a more reliable "inside" account of Hitler's fate than that furnished by Schellenberg. For the Western Intelligence agencies, the problem was that Schellenberg told Bernadotte that Hitler had been murdered. According to Schellenberg, the state of Hitler's health had become a subject of discussion between Himmler, Bormann and himself in early April after Schellenberg had established that Hitler was suffering from Parkinson's disease. Schellenberg believed that Himmler had slowly and only very reluctantly awakened to the necessity of having to do away with Hitler, whose increasingly erratic behaviour was endangering the war effort. Schellenberg told Bernadotte that he believed that Hitler had been given a lethal injection, probably on 27 April. He told Bernadotte that he had determined the date on the basis of certain "calculations", implying that he had possessed pieces of information which, while he did not share them directly with Bernadotte, enabled him to deduce the most probable date. It was almost certainly the publication of Bernadotte's book, whose content was being summarised in the US and Canadian press as early as 16 June, which forced the Western Allies to go public, prematurely as we shall see, with stories of captives claiming to have been actual eyewitnesses to the events which Schellenberg did not pretend to have seen himself. 15
Hitler's Death Story
The Sydney Morning Herald [NSW]
18 June 1945
LONDON. [A.A.P.] Hitler was murdered by his own men on 27 April, says Count Folke Bernadotte, head of the Swedish Red Cross, in his book, "The End" just published.
Count Bernadotte was the intermediary carrying Himmler's peace overtures to the Allies. He says he has reliable information supporting the report that Hitler was killed by an injection of poison. Hitler was suffering from Parkinson's disease [shaking paralysis]. He was unable to take the initiative.
Evidence of the Western Allies' haste to respond to the claim that Hitler had been murdered is their failure to reconcile the discrepancies between the two alleged eyewitnesses' accounts before presenting them to the press. While Kempka's statement confirmed that a cremation had taken place at around 3.00 pm on 30 April, Karnau's statement referred to a cremation on 1 May. In Berchtesgaden on 20 June 1945, Erich Kempka made a statement for American interrogator George R. Allen, the counterintelligence agent of the 101st Airborne Division. 16 In it, Kempka gave the Americans their first eyewitness account of any of the events connected with the death of the Führer. He declared that on 30 April—although he felt unable to say that this was the date "with complete sureness"—at precisely 2.30 pm, SS Sturmbannführer Günsche called him at the Reich Chancellery garage, asking him to bring five cans of petrol over to the bunker. There Günsche told him that the Führer was dead and that he had been ordered to burn his corpse "so that he would not be exhibited at a Russian freak-show". Kempka said he then helped carry the corpses. While Linge and an orderly whom he did not remember were carrying the corpse of Adolf Hitler, he carried the corpse of Eva Hitler. Kempka simply assumed that the corpse he had seen Linge carrying was Hitler's, for he noticed "the long black trousers and the black shoes which the Führer usually wore with his field-gray uniform jacket".
The corpses were taken from the Bunker to a spot in the Chancellery garden, "about 4 to 5 m distant from the Bunker exit". At this location, both bodies were cremated: SS Sturmbannführer Günsche poured the complete contents of the five cans over the two corpses and ignited the fuel. Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsminister Dr Göbbels, SS Sturmbannführer Günsche, SS Sturmbannführer Linge, the orderly and I stood in the Bunker entrance, looked towards the fire and all saluted with raised hands. 17
The evidence of the fifth eyewitness, Hermann Karnau, is interesting because he is the only eyewitness to the alleged cremation of Adolf and Eva Hitler who fell into the hands of the British whose story has ever reached the public. Like Kempka, Karnau escaped from Berlin, but by mid-May he had made his way to his British-occupied hometown, Wilhelmshaven, where he surrendered to Canadian troops. After being interrogated by British intelligence officer Captain K. W. E. Leslie, Karnau related his version of the events he had witnessed to an audience of reporters which included Walter Kerr from "Reuters" and Daniel De Luce of the "Associated Press". Leslie told the reporters: "I am sure that Karnau's report about Hitler's death is authentic. I have interrogated many German prisoners of war and I would call this man a reliable witness." 18
Unfortunately, Karnau's statement clashed with Kempka's in two important respects. First, Karnau claimed to have been certain that one of the bodies was that of Hitler. He told the reporters that he had been able to recognise Hitler "by his brown uniform and his face" 19 and, in particular, by his distinctive moustache. 20 Second, Karnau claimed that the cremation had taken place at 6.30 pm on 1 May. Karnau's account of the events of 1 May is sufficiently detailed that it cannot be said that he was mistaken about either the date or the time at which the cremation occurred. Karnau had seen Adolf Hitler alive and sitting in his favourite wicker chair when he went for breakfast on the morning of 1 May. During that morning, he recalled, four men arrived carrying gasoline cans "for the air conditioning system". Karnau said that as he knew the Bunker's air conditioning system used Diesel oil, he denied them entrance. He only allowed them in after Linge intervened. 21 Karnau, who last saw Hitler alive at around 4.00 pm, believed that Hitler was subsequently poisoned by one of his personal physicians, Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger, and cremated at around 6.30 pm that same day. It should not be concluded that Karnau was wrong about a cremation having taken place on 1 May.
On 7 May, Dr Helmut Kunz, who had worked in the Reich Chancellery dental surgery from 23 April 1945 onwards, was interrogated by the Soviets. The evidence he gave on this occasion cannot be lightly dismissed because it was the first account ever given by a Bunker survivor—meaning that it is the least influenced by accounts given by others. It is also the most reliable, in the sense that the events it discusses had taken place only a week before. Dr Kunz explicitly affirmed seeing Eva Hitler alive on at least two occasions on the evening of 30 April. Dr Kunz told his Russian interrogators that he had seen Eva playing with the Göbbels children on that evening and that a little later, between 10.00 and 11.00 pm, he, Professor Werner Haase and two of Hitler's secretaries had joined her for coffee. On the latter occasion, Eva told Dr Kunz that Hitler was not yet dead but he "would die when he received confirmation that [his] will had reached the person it had been sent to". 22 It is very hard to imagine that Dr Kunz could have been confused about the date, that in such circumstances he could have mistaken Eva Hitler for someone else or that Eva did not actually know whether Hitler was yet dead or not. Moreover, since Hitler's will never reached its intended recipient[s], it is entirely plausible that Hitler would not have decided to die until the last possible moment, which is consistent with a time of 6.30 pm on 1 May.
|Several official documents from the Reich Chancellery suggest that Hitler was still alive on 1 May 1945, and died that day and not on 30 April, although it is convenient for all historians to skirt round the argument|
(1) The text of the announcement of Hitler's death by Sender Hamburg at 22.26 hrs on 1 May 1945: "It is announced from Führer-HQ that our Führer Adolf Hitler fell for Germany this afternoon at his command post in the Reich Chancellery...On 30 April the Führer appointed Grossadmiral Dönitz as his successor".
Here the radio message distinguishes between 30 April as the date of appointing Dönitz, and 1 May as the date of Hitler's death.
Source: Extract from document D-444 /Exhibit GB188 at Nuremberg, also quoted verbatim in "Flensburger Nachrichten", edition 102, 2 May 1945.
(2) If Hitler died on 30 April 1945, then Dönitz succeeded him immediately, and not when he was made aware of the fact next day.
Also from the Nuremberg documents: "On 1 May 1945 Dönitz became Head of State as Hitler's successor".
Source: IMT Vol 1 p.350, Vol XXII p.633.
(3) After the alleged time of Hitler's death on 30 April, when Göbbels was Reich Chancellor, and knew he was Reich Chancellor, and had greater authority than Bormann, Bormann sent the following telex to Dönitz:
Logged out from Berlin 30.4.1945 1807 hrs, Logged in at Plön 1835 hrs.
"Grossadmiral Dönitz. Instead of former Reichsmarschall Göring, the Führer named you, Herr Grossadmiral, as his successor. Written full powers on way to you. With immediate effect you are authorized to take all measures appropriate to the present situation. Bormann".
Dönitz failed to respond to the first telex on the evening of 30 April 1945 giving him plenipotentiary powers. That was the moment for him to abdicate responsibility should he have so wished. But from a reading of the telex Hitler was still alive and who would disobey?
Second telex: logged out from Berlin 1.5.1945 0745 hrs, logged in at Plön 1053 hrs.
"For Grossadmiral Dönitz. Testament in force. I will come to you soonest. Until then, in my opinion, withhold publication. Bormann".
Hitler is dead by 0745 on 1.5.1945. What happened between 30 April and 1 May in Berlin which might account for the delay in Hitler taking his life? The local negotiations with the Russians overnight - when this failed all was finally lost. Late at evening, on 30 April 1945, the Chief of the German General Staff General Krebs went to the Russians to parley for a partial surrender. For obvious reasons, a letter containing certain assertions for use in negotiations with the enemy does not carry much weight. The time of Hitler's death by the clock troubled General Krebs in his talks with the Russians, and eventually after some confusion as to the date, he settled for "3.50", which is later than "3.30". To give the Germans the chance to consider the Soviet terms, the Soviets declared a local cease-fire until 1015 on the morning of 1 May.
Third telex; logged out from Berlin 1.5.1945, 1446 hrs, logged in at Plön, 1.5.1945, 1518 hrs.
"For Grossadmiral Dönitz! Führer deceased yesterday 1530. Testament dated 29.4 bestows upon you office of Reich President, on Reich Minister Dr Göbbels the office of Reich Chancellor, on Reichsleiter Bormann the office of Party Minister, on Reich Minister Seyss-Inquart the office of Reich Foreign Minister. By order of the Führer the Testament has been brought out of Berlin to you, to Feldmarschall Schörner and to a safe place for the public. Reichsleiter Bormann is attempting to reach you today to report on the situation. The manner and time of the announcement to the forces and public left to you. Confirm receipt. Göbbels-Bormann".
That is, the Führer died for historical purposes and officially at 1530 hrs on 30 April 1945, and for reasons we can only guess at, the fact that he survived into 1 May is to be kept secret.
Dönitz was Head of State from the moment when Hitler died, and not from the time when he was made aware of the fact. The structure of Nazi succession was similar to that of royal succession in Germany, Britain and elsewhere. It was laid down as law by Führer-edict. Dönitz was therefore Head of State from the time of Hitler's demise, and at Nuremberg the IMT considered that he was Head of State from 1 May 1945 and not 30 April. One must accept the Allied declaration at Nuremberg that Dönitz was Head of State as from 1 May 1945. since a document entered as a deposition at Nuremberg is a primary historical document. It states that Dönitz succeeded Hitler on 1 May 1945, whereas if Hitler died on 30 April the document should have stated that Dönitz succeeded Hitler on the afternoon of 30 April 1945. Because there is a period between 1530 on 30 April 1945 and the morning of 1 May 1945 when Germany had no Head of State and no Reich Chancellor if Hitler were dead, this must be taken to mean that Hitler was not dead until the morning hours of 1 May 1945.
Here is a synopsis of events from "Regierung Dönitz". The author, KKpt Walter Lödde-Neurath, was appointed Dönitz' adjutant in September 1944.
"On 1 May 1945 Sender Hamburg announced Hitler's death that day and the appointment of Dönitz to succeed him. Dönitz drafted the radio announcement. The same night Dönitz made his proclamation to the German people and explained his military aims. Negotiations were under way with the British almost immediately to surrender Hamburg without resistance and to arrange a disposition with the British to the prejudice of the agreed Alliance with the Soviets. These negotiations were headed by Keitel. The same day Dönitz decided to depoliticize his Cabinet. The first casualty was Seyss-Inquart, appointed in the Testament as Foreign Minister, replaced by Graf Schwerin von Krosigk".
Lödde-Neurath now talks about the three telexes:
"Dönitz did not consider himself bound by the third telex. This was because  he considered that he had been deceived deliberately by the first telex as to the date and time of Hitler's death and  in the first telex he had been given full authority "to pursue forthwith all measures necessary to deal with the situation as arising", and now he was supposed to wait for Bormann to explain to him what the situation was. Because of the lapse of time since Hitler's death and the reporting of it, Dönitz suspected a conspiracy by Bormann and Göbbels. After taking the advice of his trusted colleagues, including Keitel and von Krosigk, Dönitz decided to follow his own course and ordered the immediate arrest of Bormann and Göbbels should they arrive".
On 4 May 1945 the German Command agreed to surrender to the British all German forces in Holland, NW Germany, the North Sea islands, Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark at 08.00 on 5 May 1945. A clause in the instrument of surrender allowed all current voyages in the region to be completed, the purpose here being to allow German sea transports to reach Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein with refugees from the East.
The doubt existing as to the date when Hitler's life ended is legitimately raised on the basis of protocol and the primary documents.
Academic historians prefer to gloss over the problem by postulating a supposed emotional upheaval in the Berlin Bunker on the afternoon of 30 April, but this seems too easy a solution.
When Soviet forces examined the Bunker and tested the Bunker telephone system, they got a dialling tone. Communications to and from the Bunker by spoken word remained excellent to the very end.
Here is the problem. Hitler supposedly committed suicide just after three on the afternoon of 30 April 1945. On the night of April 30, Bormann sent a signal to Dönitz which stated: "The Führer has appointed you, Herr Grossadmiral, as his successor. Confirmation in writing follows".
This statement was inaccurate. The Führer combined in his person the offices of Reich Chancellor and Reich President, and by Hitler's Last Will and Testament, Dönitz was to be Reich President only.
If Adolf Hitler was truly dead on the afternoon of 30 April 1945, Dönitz was already Reich President, a fact which Bormann kept secret from him. Göbbels was already Reich Chancellor by virtue of Hitler's Last Will and Testament, but Dönitz thought that he, Dönitz, was going to be Reich Chancellor and Reich President in personal union because he had been told by Bormann that he had been nominated Hitler's successor. This nonsensical situation regarding who was in charge of Germany on the afternoon of 30 April 1945 indicates an attempt to conceal the identity of the man who was.
The only conceivable reason that Bormann would have for refraining to inform Dönitz in his signal, late on 30 April 1945, that Hitler was dead, that Dönitz was Reich President and Göbbels was Reich Chancellor, was that Hitler's Last Will and Testament was not yet in force BECAUSE HITLER WAS NOT YET DEAD.
By inference, Hitler did not vacate the office of Führer, either by committing suicide or leaving the jurisdiction of the Reich for exile, until 1 May 1945.
Hitler's precipitate decision to marry Eva Braun is unlikely to have been made for a reason not connected with State protocol. The probability is that they married in haste because it was a condition of some agreement. There are a number of possibilities but the most likely case is that the Church of Rome insisted on the marriage as a precondition for its help in arranging sanctuary and later exile.
The odd thing is the response that Karnau's story evoked from Kempka. On 4 July, Kempka made a second statement 23 in which he insisted that Karnau couldn't have seen Hitler's moustache because "[t]he upper part of Hitler's body was fully covered by a blanket". Karnau must therefore have seen "other cremations", the implication obviously being that Karnau had mistaken someone else's cremation for that of Adolf Hitler and Eva Hitler. However, the fact that Karnau had seen Hitler's face while Kempka had not suggests that it was Kempka, not Karnau, who must have been referring to "other cremations". Kempka also stated that he was now certain that Hitler had been cremated on 30 April 1945, and added the claim that the wind had blown Eva's dress, exposing her garters. However, in this respect, Dr Kunz's evidence seems decisive. Eva Hitler could not possibly have been cremated on 30 April because Dr Kunz spoke with her on the same night. What's more, on this occasion Eva told Dr Kunz that Adolf Hitler was still alive. Therefore, if Kempka saw any cremation at all on 30 April, the bodies he witnessed being burned were not those of Adolf and Eva Hitler.
No serious attempt seems ever to have been made to reconcile the discrepancies between Kempka's and Karnau's accounts, e.g., by confronting the pair with one another. The 1947 book "Who Killed Hitler?", by Herbert Moore and James W. Barrett, 24 criticised Trevor-Roper's "The Last Days of Hitler" for "belittling" Karnau's testimony and relying instead on Kempka's. In her review of "Who Killed Hitler?" in the "Oakland Tribune", Nancy Barr Mavity retorted that Kempka's and Karnau's accounts "differ in detail, as eyewitness accounts of a complex occurrence notoriously do". 25 How a single episode—the burning of two bodies—can be represented as a "complex occurrence" I have no idea, but her statement does show that the only option available to those who wish to believe Kempka involves explaining away or simply ignoring discrepancies between his account and those of the other eyewitnesses.
The third account, given to US interrogators by RSD member Erich Mansfeld on 30 July 1945, which referred to a cremation on either 26 or 27 April, establishes beyond reasonable doubt that there were numerous cremations and that at least some of the eyewitnesses were mistaken when they asserted that they had witnessed Hitler's cremation. In fact, the first such cremation was observed by Mansfeld while he was on guard duty on the afternoon of 27 April. After recounting what Mansfeld claimed he had seen, the statement concludes: "Subject claims there is a possibility these events took place on the 26th instead of the 27th, but is positive it was not later than the 27 April 1945. 26
The earliest six eyewitness accounts—effectively, the only reliable accounts we have—establish that at least four cremations of corpses, which were assumed by observers to be those of Adolf Hitler and Eva Hitler, took place in the Reich Chancellery garden between 26 or 27 April and 1 May. In each case, the male body wore a pair of Hitler's trousers. In each case, also, the male body was accompanied by a female who bore a convincing resemblance to Eva Hitler. It is obvious, therefore, that many Bunker veterans who thought they had witnessed the cremation of Adolf and Eva Hitler had only witnessed the burning of other corpses—that is to say, corpses they were meant to mistake for those of Adolf and Eva Hitler. No one was therefore in a position to say whether they had witnessed the cremation of the real Adolf Hitler or of a substitute. However, one of the two "Hitlers" whose face had been visible appears to have been Hitler's double, whose corpse was found by the Soviets on 4 May. 27
"We know nothing"
Clearly, there are no grounds to assume that accounts of cremations which took place on different dates can simply be conflated as if they were all accounts of the same event. This raises the question of whether on any of these occasions the real Adolf and Eva Hitler were cremated. This is a question that can be answered in the negative. While he was interned for several years in two Soviet POW camps in Strausberg and Posen, the Wehrmachtsurgeon-general , Major-General Walter Schreiber, had the opportunity to speak with four persons, each of whom had been present in the Bunker until Berlin fell to the Soviets. While he was unable to draw any information on the subject of Hitler's fate out of the "arrogant" Wilhelm Möhnke, 28 Hitler's pilot Hans Baur told him only that he had never seen Hitler dead. Heinz Linge and Otto Günsche were more forthcoming. Linge told him that he "did not see Hitler, but toward the end noticed two bodies wrapped in carpet being carried out of the Bunker". Linge told Schreiber that while at the time he had assumed the bodies to be those of the Hitler couple, only later had he been told that this was the case. This admission is astounding, because Linge is the one person mentioned by all eyewitnesses as having carried Hitler's body up the stairs and into the Chancellery garden.
Heinz Linge and Erich Kempka were in charge of cremating Hitler and Braun. Linge explained in "With Hitler to the End" : "I reached below Hitler's head, two officers from his SS bodyguard lifted the body, wrapped in a grey blanket, and we carried him out. Immediately in front of the Bunker door, in the Reich Chancellery garden, his body was laid next to Eva's in a small depression where gasoline was poured over the cadavers and an attempt was made to set light to them. At first this proved impossible. As a result of the various fires in the parkland there was a fierce wind circulating which smothered our attempts to set the bodies alight from a few meters' distance. Because of the relentless Russian artillery fire we could not approach the bodies and ignite the petrol with a match. I returned to the Bunker and made a thick spill from some signal papers. Bormann lit it and I threw it onto Hitler's petrol-soaked body which caught fire immediately. Standing at the Bunker entrance we, the last witnesses - Bormann, Göbbels, Stumpfegger, Günsche, Kempka and I - raised our hands for a last Hitler salute. Then we withdrew into the Bunker."
Otto Günsche died 2 October 2003 of heart failure at his home in the town of Lohmar, near the former capital of Bonn.
He said in a recent AP interview that Hitler personally ordered him to burn his body. When the day came, Hitler's chief of staff, Martin Bormann, tried to set the corpses of Hitler and Braun alight in the garden of the Reich chancellery in Berlin. But it was Günsche who threw a burning rag that started the fire.
Günsche, with whom Schreiber spoke only a short time after the regime fell, proved even more informative. Like Linge, Günsche admitted that he had never seen Hitler's dead body. He added the enigmatic comment: "Those things were all done without us." 29 Such evidence is corroborated by General Helmuth Weidling, who told the Soviets on 4 January 1946: "After I was taken prisoner, I spoke to SS Gruppenführer Rattenhuber and SS Sturmbannführer Günsche, and both said they knew nothing about the details of Hitler's death". 30
New files from the Moscow Archives
"Was Hitler Shot by his Butler?"
There were suggestions made that Hitler did not commit suicide at all, but was shot by his devoted valet, Heinz Linge.
That was the evidence given to SMERSH by the head of Hitler's bodyguard, SS Gruppenführer Hans Rattenhuber, who was in the Bunker at the time and recalled that between 3pm and 4pm on the day of Hitler's death: "Linge came in and confirmed that Hitler was dead, saying that he'd had to carry out the hardest order the Führer had ever given him.
"I looked at Linge in surprise. He explained to me that before his death, Hitler ordered him to leave the room for ten minutes, then to return, wait ten more minutes and then carry out the order.
"Having said that, Linge quickly went to Hitler's room and returned with a Walther pistol, which he placed on the table before me. By its special external finish, I recognised it as the Führer's personal pistol.
"Now it was clear to me what Hitler's order had been. Obviously, Hitler, doubting the effectiveness of the poisons after all the injections he had been given for such a long time, ordered Linge to shoot him after he had taken the poison. Linge had shot Hitler.'
In fact, the "hardest order" was to destroy Hitler's body before the Russians could use it as a trophy.
Rattenhuber did not see Hitler's body until after it was wrapped in grey blankets and carried out of the office/sitting room where Hitler died. He was not one of those who took the body up the stairs and outside. Instead, Rattenhuber followed Heinz Linge, Otto Günsche, Peter Högl, Ewald Lindloff and several others outside and watched Hitler's body be burned.
On the basis of Schreiber's and Weidling's revelations, it can be regarded as certain that neither Günsche nor Linge, the two mainstays of the Hitler suicide legend, nor Möhnke nor Rattenhuber, had anything to do with Hitler's death or knew anything about it. It would seem appropriate to conclude that no one who knew anything for certain about what happened to Hitler has ever spoken about it publicly. Hitler's inner circle in Berlin knew nothing about what had happened to him, and the stories they told publicly after 1945 [in the cases of Kempka and Karnau] and since 1955 [in the cases of Linge and Günsche] have been lies. They were either writing themselves into history or, as seems more likely, under pressure from their captors to make statements to help buttress the Hitler suicide narrative. Indeed, it may well have been a condition of Linge's and Günsche's release from Soviet captivity in 1.955 that they agreed to furnish such statement.
1. Andrew Roberts, Foreword to V. K. Vinogradov et al. [eds], Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB, Chaucer Press, London, 2005, p. 11
2. Hugh Thomas, The Murder of Adolf Hitler: The Truth about the Bodies in the Berlin Bunker, St Martin's Press, New York, 1996
3. "Hitler's Final Enigma Solved”, The Sunday Times, UK, 24 October 1999: "Although he was not granted access to the bones, Perrier analysed Russian archive documents and photographs that could help him identify the remains."
5. D. Marchetti et al., "The Death of Adolf Hitler – forensic aspects", Journal of Forensic Sciences 2005 Sept; 50(5), Abstract, http://journalsip.astm.org/JOURNALS/FORENSIC/PAGES/5060.htm
6. Dr Mark Benecke, a forensic criminologist associated with the German police, claims to have unexpectedly been shown the skull fragments by a Russian state archivist in 2002. However, he did not take a sample for DNA testing. He says that this was only because he didn't happen to have a sterile drill with him at the time. This is probably one of the more ingenious cover-up stories of our time, for if Dr Benecke had been shown the skull fragments by prior arrangement, then he would have had no excuse for not taking a sample for DNA testing.
7. Hitler's Death, pp. 210-11
8. Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler, Macmillan, New York, 1947
9. The Last Days of Hitler, p. 202. Mansfeld's interrogation report, which was made at the US interrogation centre in Bremen, is reproduced at: http://www.tbrnews.org/Archives/a039.htm
10. Hitler's Death, p. 72
11. Hitler's Death, p. 72
12. Hitler's Death, p. 79
13. Hitler's Death, p. 196
14. Count Folke Bernadotte, Slutet. Mina humanitära förhandlingar i Tyskland våren 1945 och deras politiska följder ("The End. My Humanitarian Negotiations in Germany in 1945 and Their Political Consequences"), Norstedts, Stockholm, 1945
15. For example, New Castle News, 16 June 1945, and Lethbridge Herald, 16 June 1945
16. Horace R. Hansen, Witness to Barbarism, Thousand Pinetree Press, St Paul, MN, 2002, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/edumat/witness/wtb_first.pdf
17. http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/imt/nca/nca-06/nca-06-3735-ps [translation of document 3735-PS]
18. TASS, "Report on the Evidence of Hitler's Death", 21 June 1945, in Hitler's Death, pp. 283-85
19. Hitler's Death, pp. 283-84
20. Daniel De Luce, "Saw Bodies of Hitler, Braun Burn, Says Guard", Globe & Mail, 21 June 1945, http://collections.civilisations.ca/warclip/objects/common/webmedia.php?irn=5091401
21. Daniel De Luce, ibid.
22. Hitler's Death, pp. 61-62. Dr Haase's interrogation record, as well as those of several other Bunker survivors, affirms that Dr Kunz was in the Bunker in the period in which these events took place. Unfortunately, the record of Dr Haase's interrogation published in Hitler's Death, pp. 82- 86, contains no information pertaining to either Adolf or Eva Hitler.
24. Herbert Moore and James W. Barrett, Who Killed Hitler? The Complete Story of How Death Came to Der Führer and Eva Braun, The Booktab Press, New York, 1947
25. Oakland Tribune, 7 September 1947, p. C-3
27. Hitler's Death, p. 24
28. However, in a statement for Soviet authorities dated 18 May 1945, Mohnke wrote: "I personally did not see the Führer's body and I don't know what was done to it." [V. K. Vinogradov et al. [eds], "Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB", Chaucer Press, London, 2005]
29. "Persons Who Should Know Are Not Certain Hitler Died in Berlin Bunker", Long Beach Press-Telegram, California, 10 January 1949, p. B-12. I have interpreted the word "us" to refer to Hitler's personal staff.
30. Hitler's Death, p. 238
Let the Hoax Begin: the "Official" Hitler Corpse
On 5 May 1945, the "badly burnt" corpses of a man and woman were reportedly discovered by the Soviets in a ditch located a mere three metres from the emergency exit from the Führerbunker. 31 It is maintained by most historians today that the corpses discovered this day were those of the real Adolf and Eva Hitler. The only mystery, they think, is why Stalin began insisting, as early as 26 May 1945 that Hitler was still alive.
In fact, there is no evidence to corroborate the story of the discovery of the two corpses. Since no photographs apparently were taken of them in situ, they could quite literally have come from anywhere. An obvious problem is that they were reportedly discovered in a ditch situated just three metres from the bunker exit. 32 Although this is consistent with the statements of alleged eyewitnesses to the burial, who cite distances of between one and three metres, this means that the ditch was located almost directly outside the exit door—a circumstance that would have rendered its use unsafe, to say the least. What's more, if the ditch really had existed, it is hard to see why the Soviets neither photographed it nor preserved it intact.
The earliest photos—those taken in early July 1945, when many foreign reporters and military officials came to view the historic spot— are of a ditch that looks at least 12 metres away from the exit, and possibly more. It is hard to see why, if the ditch mentioned by the eyewitnesses had existed in the first place, two months later it had been covered over and visitors were being shown a different ditch.
A few words are in order concerning the sheer unlikelihood of the presumed Hitler corpse having been authentic. There is something inherently improbable about the idea that Hitler's corpse would have been discarded so near the Führerbunker. The narrative of the Third Reich's last days with which we are familiar suggests that measures for dealing with Hitler's death were cobbled together more or less at the last minute as Soviet troops threatened the Reich Chancellery itself. But this view is nonsense. Hitler's fate was the subject of planning that stretched back at least until 22 April 1945. That day, Dr Göbbels told General Schörner: "The least that I can do is ensure that the Führer's corpse does not fall into the hands of the enemy as a trophy". 33
Since the Germans were committed to ensuring that Hitler's body would never be recovered by the enemy, it made no sense at all for them to place it in a location so close to the Führerbunker that it could not possibly be overlooked. It also made no sense to inter it in the same grave as a female body that would be able to be identified as Eva Hitler's. Anyone whose mission was to conceal Hitler's corpse would hardly have chosen to inter it with another that provided a blatant clue as to its identity. This is, rather, what someone would do who wanted a decoy body instantly mistaken for Hitler's.
Two further circumstances would seem to prove that we are dealing with a hoax. First, according to the Soviet autopsy report, the corpse was missing its right-side ribs and its left foot. 34 While this doesn't prove that the corpse wasn't Hitler's, it does establish that the familiar story of Hitler committing suicide in the Bunker and his corpse being carried up to ground level to be cremated and buried immediately afterwards cannot be true. After all, Hitler's right ribs and left foot can hardly have fallen off on the way up the stairs. Second, the corpses discovered by the Soviets cannot have been cremated in the open air, as eyewitnesses maintained. According to an anonymous British intelligence officer who stated that he had been shown the remains shortly after they had been found: "There were not two complete skeletons and none of the main bones was intact". 35
According to W. F. Heimlich, a former intelligence officer who in 1947 was a high official in the American administration of Berlin, the corpses would probably have had to be burned in a closed crematory to achieve the condition of almost total disintegration in which they were found. 36 In "The Murder of Adolf Hitler", forensic scientist Hugh Thomas provides support for this conclusion. Thomas points out that "the damage described on the skull [in the Soviet autopsy report, parts of which were not published until 1968] could have been produced only in temperatures over 1000°C—far greater than any that could have been produced in the open garden of the Reichskanzelei". 37
On 8 May 1945, the Soviets set out to identify the corpses they suspected to be those of Adolf and Eva Hitler. That day, two Russians—chief forensic pathologist Dr Faust Sherovsky and anatomical pathologist Major Anna Marantz— autopsied the remains at SMERSH [Soviet military counter-Intelligence] headquarters in the Berlin suburb of Buch. According to their report: "The most important anatomical finding for identification of the person are the teeth, with much bridgework, artificial teeth, crowns and fillings". 38
Indeed, in the pre-DNA-testing era, the only means of obtaining a secure identification of a heavily damaged corpse was by examining the teeth and comparing them with available dental records. Unfortunately, no documents are available that describe the teeth of the two corpses as they were found on 5 May. The earliest information we have concerning their teeth derives from the autopsy report, which was written three days later. If the report can be believed, the mouth of the presumptive Hitler corpse was completely intact: "There are many small cracks in...the upper jawbones. The tongue is charred, its tip firmly locked between the teeth of the upper and lower jaws". 39
The problem was therefore locating Hitler's dental charts. 40 The Soviets' attempt to find them led them into a mire of intrigue and deception which remains unravelled even today. As far as it can be reconstructed from extant sources, the investigation proceeded along the following lines. On 9 May, a Soviet military officer, a female intelligence officer and a male translator went looking for Hitler's dentist, SS General Professor Dr Johann Hugo Blaschke, at his surgery at Kurfürstendamm 213. When they arrived, they found that Prof. Blaschke was not there and that his practice had been taken over by Dr Fedor Bruck, a Jewish dentist who, in order to evade deportation to the east, had spent two and a half years living underground in Berlin. According to a record Dr Bruck made in 1948, some of Prof. Blaschke's files were still present at the time. But while the visitors were able to take away records for Himmler, Dr Ley, Göring and Dr Göbbels, all of Hitler's had already been removed . 41 However, the search was not a complete failure, for Dr Bruck told the Soviet officers where they could find Prof. Blaschke's assistant, Käthe Heusemann, and his dental technician, Fritz Echtmann.
Dr Bruck accompanied the officers to Heusemann's apartment a short distance away in the Pariserstrasse. Heusemann was then taken to the Reich Chancellery, where a fruitless search for Hitler's dental records was conducted. The next day, 10 May, she was taken to SMERSH headquarters and ordered to examine the remains there. By this stage, the jawbones had been removed from the alleged Hitler corpse, for Heusemann was shown them in a cigar box. This would presumably have been done in order to make them easier to study; however, this raises the problem of the chain of evidence, for we have no means of knowing whether the jawbones Heusemann was shown really came from the corpse autopsied on 8 May. Nonetheless, Heusemann affirmed that the teeth were Hitler's. 42 A few days later, she told Dr Bruck that she had been able to identify them immediately. A year later, Dr Bruck told a foreign reporter that Heusemann had recognised "...an upper crown which was an anchor for a bridge on Hitler's upper jaw. The bridge had been cut because the other anchor had been extracted. The operation left surgical traces which Frau Heusermann [sic] recognized at once." 43 According to the record of her 19 May interrogation, Heusemann recognised drill marks left behind by Prof. Blaschke in the autumn of 1944 on the fourth tooth in Hitler's left upper jaw when he had extracted two adjacent teeth. 44 "I was holding a mirror in the mouth and watching the whole procedure with great attention," she declared. 45
But before we discuss Heusemann's evidence concerning Hitler's teeth, a digression is needed in order to evaluate her evidence in regard to the teeth of the alleged corpse of Eva Hitler. As we shall see, her evidence is rather problematic and casts some doubt on her additional claims to have worked on Eva's teeth.
A Bridge Too Far
Dr Bruck also told the foreign reporter that on the same occasion Heusemann had told him that she had been shown "a female bridge from the lower jaw which contained four teeth". "She identified it as Eva Braun's and said, 'We made it for her only six weeks ago,' he related. She told the Russians the bridge was made by a man named Eichmann [sic], who was a dental mechanic for Dr Blaschke." 46 However, the very information that initially seemed to confirm the identity of the female corpse only ended up disconfirming it. On 11 May, the Soviets questioned Prof. Blaschke's dental technician, Fritz Echtmann. He was interrogated about Eva Hitler's teeth on an unspecified number of other occasions in May 1945, and again on 24 July 1947. 47 On the latter occasion, Echtmann admitted to his interrogator, a Major Vaindorf, that "[a]t the beginning of April 1945" Prof. Blaschke had asked him "to make a small bridge for Eva Braun's right upper jaw". 48 Echtmann seems to have been talking about the bridge which Heusemann told Dr Bruck that the Soviets had shown her the day before. Dr Bruck told the foreign reporter about this in May 1946. He can probably be believed: there is no obvious reason that he could have known about the existence of the bridge requested by Prof Blaschke in early April—"the 1945 bridge", as I shall subsequently refer to it—if Heusemann had not told him about it. There are two problems with this information, however. First, the bridge Heusemann described sounds more like the bridge that had been fitted in Eva's mouth by Prof. Blaschke—Heusemann says with her assistance—in the autumn of 1944. [For simplicity's sake, I shall subsequently refer to this as "the 1944 bridge"]. The 1945 bridge was for only one tooth. The question, therefore, is why Heusemann told the Soviets—and Dr Bruck—that the 1944 bridge was the one that Prof. Blaschke had asked Echtmann to make only six weeks earlier. Second, why did Heusemann say this if she knew that the 1945 bridge had never been inserted in Eva's mouth? At some stage—exactly when is not clear—Echtmann told his Soviet interrogators that Heusemann had told him it had never been fitted:
"On 19 April, 1945, I called Professor Blaschke and told him that the small bridge was ready. He told me it would be sent to Berchtesgaden if Eva Braun was there. On the same day, 19 April, I sent the small denture to Professor Blaschke at the Reich Chancellery. Later, in a talk with his assistant Heusemann I learnt that Professor Blaschke had flown to Berchtesgaden on 20 April and had not fitted the small denture in Berlin". 49
The problems identified here do not damn Heusemann's evidence, but they do undermine her credibility. If she knew that Prof. Blaschke had not fitted the 1945 bridge, why did she lead the Soviets to believe that it had been fitted? The problem is compounded by the information that on 19 April, Prof. Blaschke apparently had not known whether Eva was in Berlin or not. On 19 May 1945, Heusemann told the Soviets that "a month ago we extracted one tooth [from Eva] in the upper jaw, the 6th one on the left". 50 Since Eva apparently arrived in Berlin in mid-April—the precise date does not appear to be known—and Prof. Blaschke left the city on 20 April, the extraction must have been performed during the period 15–20 April. In these circumstances, Prof. Blaschke must surely have known that Eva was in Berlin. What's more, since the bridge contained the false tooth to be inserted in the place of the extracted tooth, it made little sense not to have established in advance when and where the bridge was to be fitted. There is something rather slipshod and unlikely about all this. Then there is the problem that Prof. Blaschke already knew in early April that Eva would need a tooth extracted. It is not clear why he therefore did not remove the tooth then, rather than wait until the denture was ready. Perhaps he wanted to replace the tooth with the denture almost immediately. But if he waited a few weeks until the denture was ready, why was it not fitted the day Echtmann sent it over to the Reich Chancellery surgery on 19 April? Since Eva was in Berlin, Prof. Blaschke had ample opportunity to insert the fitting, either the same day or the following day (20 April). After all, Prof. Blaschke's flight to Berchtesgaden did not actually take place until the early hours of 21 April. We therefore do not know what really happened to the 1945 bridge—whether Prof. Blaschke fitted it in Berlin and Heusemann had lied to [or simply misinformed] Echtmann, whether Prof. Blaschke took it on the plane with him to Berchtesgaden or whether he left it behind in Berlin, perhaps for his replacement, Dr Helmut Kunz, to insert in Eva's mouth.
The striking fact is that "Hitler's Death"—the recently published collection of documents from Soviet archives allegedly proving that the human remains which the Soviets found on 5 May had been those of Adolf and Eva Hitler—contains neither Heusemann's 10 May interrogation report nor Echtmann's 11 May interrogation report. What's more, although Dr Kunz took Prof. Blaschke's place on 23 April, his interrogation record yields no information as to whether he worked on Eva Hitler's teeth after that date. Since it is hard to believe that the Soviets would not have asked Dr Kunz whether he had performed any dental work on Adolf or Eva Hitler, it can safely be assumed that the editors of "Hitler's Death" have chosen to suppress this information. Without any more information to go on, it is not possible to say what the real significance of the 1945 bridge was. What can be said is that if, during his first interrogation on 11 May 1945, Echtmann revealed to the Soviets that the small bridge had never been fitted, this would explain why, on or about 15 May, apparently without any advance warning, the Soviets took Heusemann into custody. 51 The fact that Heusemann was repeatedly interrogated by Soviet intelligence agents suggests that information was continually coming to light that rendered her evidence problematic. On 19 May, Lt-General Vadis interrogated her for nearly five hours. 52 A partial record of this interrogation does appear in "Hitler's Death". 53
According to this document, Heusemann said that she had been able to verify that the teeth were Eva's because she recognised a "gold and resin bridge" that, with her assistance, Prof. Blaschke had inserted in the right part of Eva's lower jaw in the "summer of 1944 ". 54 At a later date—no earlier than 23 July 1947— Heusemann was still being pressed for a full description of Eva Hitler's teeth. 55 In this statement, she implied that Eva had a false tooth in her upper right jaw—which she can only have done if the 1945 bridge had been fitted after all! 56 Such prolonged and intensive questioning is inconsistent with the idea that the information Heusemann provided had been sufficient to establish that the teeth were Eva's. If so, why ask her to go over the subject again and again? There are therefore plenty of hints of intrigue, but thanks to the fact that only very brief selections from her interrogations are included in "Hitler's Death", it is not possible to chronicle the development of her story. The same goes for Echtmann's evidence: "Hitler's Death "only contains statements he gave on 24 July 1947, not those he gave in May 1945 during what appear to have been at least four or five interrogations. Heusemann's and Echtmann's fate supports the conclusion that the Soviets found something fishy about their evidence. Within two days of each other in August 1951, Heusemann and Echtmann were arrested by Soviet MGB [Ministry of State Security] officials. Heusemann was charged with "having treated Hitler, Himmler and other Nazi leaders until April 1945", while Echtmann was charged with "assisting Hitler and his circle". Each was sentenced to 10 years in a Soviet labour camp. 57 Neither person appears ever to have been repatriated and it is a fair guess that both vanished in Stalin's vast, impenetrable Gulag. It seems hard to credit the idea that their crimes really consisted of having provided Hitler and other top Nazis with dental treatment; more likely, both paid the ultimate price for trying to deceive Stalin.
In the above discussion of the forensic issues concerning Eva Hitler's teeth, it became obvious that Heusemann's evidence was problematic to say the least. She told the Soviets and Dr Bruck that the bridge that was shown to her had been made recently, yet it more closely resembles the bridge she claimed to have helped Prof. Blaschke insert in the summer of 1944 than the 1945 bridge. In view of the issues raised in relation to Eva's teeth that undermine her credibility, it is important to ask whether Heusemann was actually competent to assess the evidence concerning the teeth of the presumptive Hitler corpse discovered on 5 May. By 10 May, the jawbones had been removed from the "Hitler" corpse and placed, if we can believe it, in a cigar box and shown to Heusemann. For our purposes it is unimportant whether the cigar box was ferried to Heusemann, as Soviet military reconnaissance interpreter Elena Rzhevskaya claimed, 58 or whether Heusemann was taken to SMERSH headquarters to identify them there, which is what Dr Bruck in his 1948 memoir indicated happened. 59 What is important is that in the record of her 19 May interrogation, Heusemann stated, as established previously, that she had recognised drill marks left behind by Prof. Blaschke on the fourth tooth in Hitler's left upper jaw the time he extracted two adjacent teeth. 60 The problem is, rather, that all of Heusemann's claims to have worked on Hitler's teeth—claims which are iterated on several occasions in "Hitler's Death"—appear to be false. In early 1948, while still in American captivity, Prof. Blaschke gave an interview in which he stated that Heusemann "cannot give a positive identification because she knows only some X-rays of Hitler's teeth". 61 Thus, Heusemann's knowledge of Hitler's teeth derived solely from the X-rays and not from personal experience. She can therefore n e v e r have helped Prof. Blaschke work on Hitler's teeth six times between 1944 and 1945, as she told her Soviet interrogators, and can only have recognised the "drill marks" she told Dr Bruck about from the Xrays she had studied. She therefore had no means of knowing whether the X-rays accurately represented the condition of Hitler's mouth or that of someone else.
Once I realised that Heusemann had lied about having worked on Hitler's teeth, I also began to doubt Heusemann's claim to have worked also on the teeth of Eva Hitler and many leading Nazis. According to the testimony she gave the Soviets, she had worked at the Reich Chancellery dental surgery from December 1944 until 20 April 1945. She specifically claimed to have helped Prof. Blaschke extract a tooth from Eva Hitler in April 1945. However, despite the relatively long period involved—around four months—I have found no account that corroborates her presence in the Reich Chancellery surgery, aside from the aforementioned contact between Heusemann and Echtmann that does not prove that she really worked there. [Since Echtmann could have been a participant in the same intrigues as Heusemann, his evidence is far from decisive]. During the period from 20 April to 2 May 1945, Heusemann is also supposed to have remained in the Chancellery. Dr Bruck told reporters that for safety reasons she had remained in the Chancellery "in the last days of Berlin". 62 It is odd, then, that she was not mentioned by Dr Kunz, who took over from Prof. Blaschke at the Chancellery surgery on 23 April. [Dr Kunz apparently had no assistant at all].
My conclusion is that Heusemann was probably nothing more than an opportunist, someone who sought to profit from knowledge of the dental charts she had gained in 1944 [–45?] while working for Prof. Blaschke. To this end, Heusemann appears to have recruited Dr Bruck. According to Dr Bruck himself, he renewed his acquaintanceship with Heusemann on 4 May, when he located her in the Pariserstrasse. It seems likely that this day she drew him into her confidence and explained how she had enjoyed access to Hitler's dental records. It is clear why Dr Bruck, despite being Jewish, was a willing participant in the dental intrigues surrounding the alleged corpses of Adolf and Eva Hitler. Although he had been living underground in Berlin since October 1942—and was reportedly destitute by the time the Soviets entered Steglitz (the quarter of the city in which he had been hiding) on 26 April 1945—Dr Bruck was placed in a position by Heusemann to take over Prof. Blashke's surgery less than a week after they had renewed their association. This was quite a coup, for the surgery was located in Berlin's most fashionable street. Dr Bruck's prior relationship with Heusemann offers the only plausible explanation for this cosy arrangement. Heusemann had worked for Dr Bruck when he was a school dentist in her home town of Liegnitz [Silesia] in the mid-1930s. She moved to Berlin in April 1937 to work for Prof. Blaschke. It is possible that, knowing he would probably never return, Prof. Blaschke gave Heusemann the rights to the surgery after he left Berlin on 20 April; if so, she might have considered it a good idea to secure her right to the practice in the new post-Nazi era by placing it in the care of a Jewish dentist she knew and trusted.
What strengthens the likelihood that this scenario accords with the facts is evidence that Dr Bruck was consciously playing a role in a hoax to authenticate the alleged remains of the Führer and his wife. First, it was Dr Bruck who told Soviet investigators about Heusemann and Echtmann. Having established on 4 May where she lived, he was in a position to lead them straight to her when they arrived at the Kurfürstendamm surgery on 9 May. For by that date, Dr Bruck had already taken over the surgery and moved into the apartment connected to it. 63 It was obviously extremely convenient for them that Dr Bruck was on hand to meet them when they arrived. If the surgery had been abandoned altogether, the Soviets would have had to go to a good deal more trouble to track down anyone who apparently possessed the necessary competence to evaluate the alleged Hitler dental evidence. Things couldn't have been made any easier for them. Second, there is a puzzling instance of foreknowledge. When the Soviet investigators arrived at the surgery, Dr Bruck seemed to know why they had come. He asked them if they were seeking to identify some "fragments" they had found. 64 While it would not have taken much by way of brains to guess they were seeking to identify a corpse, Bruck's use of the word Fragmente—which has the exact same meaning in German as it does in English [i.e., fragments]—seems quite a slip. What is sometimes referred to as Hitler's jawbone [i.e., in the singular] is actually a collection of four fragments. 65 Dr Bruck must have known in advance that it was not a question of identifying an intact set of teeth. It was a slip that implies participation in a conspiracy to deceive the Soviets. Third is the striking fact that Dr Bruck was the first person to reveal to Western reporters that the Soviets had called on Heusemann to identify teeth they presumed to be Hitler's. After Heusemann and Echtmann vanished into Soviet prisons in mid-May 1945, Dr Bruck never gave up trying to pass on information to the West that confirmed Western suspicions that the Soviets had found Hitler's body.
On 5 July 1945, two days after the Western Allies were allowed to enter Berlin, Dr Bruck began scouting out foreign reporters to ask if they knew anything about Heusemann's fate. Although there is no reason to doubt that he felt genuine concern for her safety, Dr Bruck had the opportunity from such contacts with foreign reporters to ensure that the information which the Soviets had gleaned from Heusemann, but had been withholding, reached the West at last. On 9 July, an article by William Forrest was published in the "British News Chronicle" that incorporated information Dr Bruck had given Forrest on 7 July. 66 Dr Bruck obviously wanted to ensure that Heusemann's information entered circulation, whether the Soviets liked it or not. Fourth, in 1947 Dr Bruck was very nearly arrested by the Soviets. At that time, the Americans warned him that the Soviets had decided to arrest him. Had he not been warned in time, they would surely have succeeded and Dr Bruck would have joined Heusemann and Echtmann in Soviet captivity. Instead, Dr Bruck emigrated to the United States and in 1952 acquired American citizenship. [He spent the last 30 years of his life living in New York under the Anglicised name of Theodor Brooke].
The thesis that best accounts for events, therefore, is that on 4 May Dr Bruck struck a deal with Heusemann to ensure that the Soviets would believe that they had found the remains of Adolf and Eva Hitler. In return for services such as ensuring that the Soviets were able to locate Heusemann and Echtmann without difficulty, Dr Bruck appears to have been rewarded with Prof. Blaschke's Kurfürstendamm surgery. When the Soviets sought to arrest him in 1947—the same year Heusemann and Echtmann were apparently re-interrogated about their claims—the Americans intervened and gave him refuge in the United States. Where the plan went awry, I would suggest, is that it was based on knowledge that Heusemann had only derived from studying Adolf and Eva Hitler's dental charts [or, more likely, charts she had assumed to be those of Adolf and Eva Hitler]. It is easy to see how Heusemann could have been encouraged to examine them. All Prof. Blaschke had to do was leave the charts and X-rays of a man who had been selected to die in Hitler's place lying around in his surgery for Heusemann and Echtmann to inspect. They would have had no idea that he had done so with a view to misleading them. At any point between the date that the X-rays were made—apparently they date from September 1944—and April 1945, the man would have been murdered and his body stored for use when Berlin fell. The charts and X-rays would then have been destroyed—an act that would have reinforced the belief that the charts had been authentic. All this could have been done without Heusemann and Echtmann realising that they were being used. However the intrigue unfolded, there is one fact that cannot be denied: so far as anyone knows, the only person to survive the war who genuinely possessed the expertise to identify Hitler's teeth was Prof. Blaschke himself.
Reconstructing the Truth
Having run into a brick wall with Heusemann and Echtmann, the Soviets must have been overjoyed when in July 1945 Prof. Blaschke turned up in an American camp for prominent POWs. They promptly sent him a bag containing all the necessary equipment and ordered him to reconstruct, as perfectly as his memory enabled him, the appearance of Hitler's jawbone. The result, we are told, perfectly matched the jawbone Heusemann had identified as Hitler's. 67 But if Prof. Blaschke's evidence corroborated Heusemann's identification, the proof itself has never been published. Although the Americans had Prof. Blaschke in their hands from May 1945, when he was captured, until late 1948, they never made public any of the information he shared with them about Hitler's teeth. On 5 February 1946, for example, he was interrogated by US military intelligence on precisely this subject. However, the report based on the 1946 interview was never released and remains classified by the US Department of Defense even today. 68 Given that by 1946 the Americans were extremely keen to publicise any information which suggested that the Soviets really had discovered Hitler's corpse, it must be the case that, wittingly or otherwise, Prof. Blaschke had given them information that contradicted this position. It is also hard to draw any firm conclusions from an interview Prof. Blaschke gave on the subject of Hitler's teeth while still in American captivity in early 1948. Although on this occasion Prof. Blaschke expressed confidence that the Soviets really did have Hitler's jawbone, he made two remarks that only undermined this view. First, as we saw above, he stated that Heusemann had not been qualified to give a "positive identification". Second, Prof. Blaschke challenged the Soviets to show him the jaw in question: "Why don't the Russians show this jaw to me? I only need one look and can definitely state this is or is not Hitler's jaw". 69
The only obvious answer to this question is that the Soviets knew that it was not really Hitler's. 70 Prof. Blaschke may even have been punished for these indiscretions. Towards the end of 1948, just as the Americans were about to release him, Prof. Blaschke was tried by a German "denazification" court and sentenced to a further three years in prison. 71 It looks suspiciously like he was being punished for more than just having been Hitler's dentist. Prof. Blaschke was released from prison and practised dentistry in Nuremberg until he died in 1959. He never said anything further about Hitler's teeth. His silence on the subject seems almost inexplicable. Information derived from Prof. Blaschke is also conspicuously absent from "Hitler's Death". If it was Prof. Blaschke's reconstruction of Hitler's jawbone that helped clinch the identification of the alleged Hitler remains, there can be no reason for omitting it from the "Hitler's Death" volume. In these circumstances it seems highly likely that Prof. Blaschke's evidence had only confirmed what the Soviets had already suspected—that they had been led down the garden path. Finally, there is an obvious problem with the idea of thinking that Prof. Blaschke could be relied upon to tell the truth: if a dental hoax was perpetrated to mask Hitler's mysterious departure from history, as I allege, then Prof. Blaschke himself, who had been Hitler's dentist since 1932, would have been involved. He would have only needed to reproduce his own work in the mouth of someone who had been selected to die in Hitler's place to pull this off.
31. V. K. Vinogradov et al. (eds), "Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB", Chaucer Press, London, 2005, pp. 53-54
32. Hitler's Death, p. 54
33. Hitler's Death, p. 245
34. D. Marchetti et al., "The death of Adolf Hitler – forensic aspects", Journal of Forensic Sciences 2005 Sept; 50(5), Abstract, p. 1148, http://journalsip.astm.org/JOURNALS/ FORENSIC/PAGES/5060.htm
35. "Did Hitler And Eva Die One Year Ago?” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1946
36. "Yank Intelligence Officer Says He Doesn't Believe Hitler Dead", Charleston Gazette, 9 February 1947
37. Cited in D. Marchetti et al., p. 1150
38. Cited in D. Marchetti et al., p. 1148
39. Cited in D. Marchetti et al., p. 1148
40. Neither Adolf Hitler's nor Eva Hitler's dental charts have ever been found. According to Paul Manning, in Martin Bormann, Nazi in Exile (Lyle Stuart, Secaucus, NJ, 1981, p. 182): "Bormann had removed them from the chancellery files."
41. Kay Lutze, "Von Liegnitz nach New York: Die Lebensgeschichte des jüdischen Zahnarztes Fedor Bruck [1895–1982]" ["From Liegnitz to New York: The Life of the Jewish Dentist Fedor Bruck..."], Zahnärtzliche Mitteilungen 96:124-27, 16 May 2006, http://www.zm-online.de/m5a. htm?/zm/10_06/pages2/hist1.htm [NB: Lutze is Bruck's grandchild].
42. Hitler's Death, p. 95
43. Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1946, p. 7
44. Hitler's Death, pp. 97-99
45. Hitler's Death, p. 97
46. Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1946, p. 7
47. Hitler's Death, pp. 102-7
48. Hitler's Death, p. 106
49. Hitler's Death, pp 106-7
50. Hitler's Death, p. 99. Amazingly, this tooth was in the exact same location as the tooth that Heusemann told the Soviets (Hitler's Death, p. 97) she had helped extract from Hitler's mouth in 1944 [not the fourth, as Dr Bruck told the Western reporter). What are the odds of that?
51. Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1946, p. 7. Dr Bruck stated: "Two days after she told me the story, a Russian officer and a Russian woman drove up and asked her to prepare a bag for a visit of some days. I have not seen or heard of her nor Eichmann [sic] since."
Hitler's Death, pp. 95-100
53. The record of this five-hour-long interrogation is only a few pages long and can account for no more than 10 minutes of the interrogation at best, leaving one to wonder what other matters took up the rest of the time. Another curious fact is that the interrogation record actually combines evidence given on two occasions more than two years apart—on 19 May 1945 and 24 July 1947. No indication is given as to which sections derived from which interrogation. It is therefore impossible to state whether Heusemann gave the evidence I cite in 1945 or in 1947.
54. Hitler's Death, p. 99
55. Hitler's Death, pp. 101-2
56. Hitler's Death, p. 101: "In the upper jaw all natural teeth, except for the 6th." This implies that the sixth was a false tooth, not that there was no tooth in that location at all.
57. Hitler's Death, pp. 96, 102
58. http://www.guardian.co.uk/ Observer/international/story/0,6903,1479109,00.html
59. Lutze, 2006
60. Hitler's Death, pp. 97-99
61. "Dentist Says Russians Have Hitler's Jaw", Oakland Tribune, 6 May 1948
62. Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1946, p. 7
63. Lutze, 2006
64. Bruck recalled: "When I asked whether the documents they were looking for were for the purpose of identifying some sort of fragments that had been discovered, the first lieutenant made a very annoyed official face and put his index finger over his mouth, from which I gathered that my guess had been on the right track." (Lutze, 2006)
65. See photograph, Hitler's Death, p. 97. 66. Lutze, 2006
67. For example: http://www.welt.de/ data/2006/10/25/1085392.html
68. "United States Forces in the European Theater", Military Intelligence Service Center, Final Interrogation Report no. 31 [O1-FIR No. 31], "Hitler's Teeth" [7 pages and annexes], 5 February 1946. A copy of this document is held in the William Russell Philp Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Stanford, California. Ronald Bulatoff, archival specialist at the Hoover Institution Archives, recently wrote to an Australian researcher with whom I am in contact confirming that the document remains classified. Oddly enough, Mark Benecke, a German forensic biologist, writes on his website [http://www.benecke.com/airhihe.html]: "The reports of Hitler's dentist, Blaschke [who had formerly studied in the U.S.], and other witnesses clearly show that the teeth in that little cigar box must indeed be the Führer's [see Figure 5]" If Benecke has had access to a report that remains classified, this suggests that he is working in tandem with the US military to keep the hoax alive. It is hard to see any other reason why he should be granted access to a document that members of the general public are not allowed to examine.
69. Oakland Tribune, 6 May 1948
70. The Associated Press [AP] version of the same report evaded the problem of raising this response in the reader's mind by omitting Prof. Blaschke's challenge to the Russians. See "Russians Have Hitler's Jaw, Says Der Führer's Dentist", Indiana Evening Gazette, 5 May 1948
71. Valley Morning Star, 17 September 1948, section 2, p. 5
The Soviets' Futile Search for the Real Hitler Corpse
The evidence I have discussed so far establishes that, during the last days of the Third Reich, multiple cremations were carried out in the Reich Chancellery grounds in front of sundry witnesses who had been persuaded to believe that the bodies they saw being cremated were those of Adolf and Eva Hitler. It would also appear that Heusemann and Echtmann, the two dental workers associated with Hitler's dentist, Professor Blaschke, deceived themselves into thinking that they possessed sufficient expertise to identify the human remains recovered by the Soviets as those of Adolf and Eva Hitler. The progress of the Soviet investigation was so rapid, however, that it had begun to fall apart even before the problems with Heusemann's and Echtmann's evidence could have been detected. The Soviets' problems began on 8 May—the day the autopsy of the putative Hitler remains was carried out—when a "bullet-torn and battered body of a man identified as Hitler" was found in the ruins of the Bunker. 1
An American war correspondent, Joseph ("Joe") W. Grigg, Jr, proudly announced from Berlin that Hitler's body had almost certainly been found. Grigg was soon forced to retract his scoop, however. On 10 May, he reported that "[f]our bodies, blackened and charred, that seem to answer to Hitler's general appearance have been dragged out of the [Chancellery] ruins". He observed that "none has been identified as being definitely that of the Nazi Führer". Considering that within five days they had found six corpses, any one of which could have been Hitler's, Grigg's conclusion was appropriately pessimistic: "...the Russians are beginning to believe that no body that can be identified without any shadow of doubt as that of Adolf Hitler ever will be found now". 2
Hitler's Body Found
Examiner [Launceston, Tas]
7 June 1945
LONDON [A.A.P.] Reuters correspondent at 21st Army Group. who was one of the correspondents in Berlin for the signing of the four-Powers declaration, says reports are current in Berlin that a Russian search party found a badly charred body closely resembling that of Hitler.
The reports, which appear to have good backing, stated that the element of doubt in the identification of the corpse is very small. A representative of the combined press who accompanied Gen. Eisenhower to Berlin, reporting on the discovery of a body resembling Hitler's, says that four charred corpses were found in the ruins of an underground fortress in Berlin. All answered to Hitler's description fairly well.
They were badly burned by the flame throwers used in clearing out the fortress.
The Russians, after careful examination of the teeth and other characteristics. singled out one body which they are almost certain is Hitler's. The Russians, when asked why no official announcement was made, said they were reluctant to make one while the slightest uncertainty existed, but they had little doubt that this was Hitler's corpse. A post-mortem revealed that death was almost certainly caused by poison, which the Russians previously reported, had been given to Hitler by a physician.
Göbbels' body when found by the Russians was practically decapitated by a shell splinter. He, with members of his family, took poison in an underground shelter shortly before the fall of Berlin.
It is no small indication of the difficulties the Soviets experienced that, within a month of being discovered, the corpses initially taken to be those of Hitler and his wife had been buried, unburied and reburied no less than three times. They were first buried at an undisclosed location near Berlin, then exhumed and moved to Finov in the Soviet Union, and then exhumed and reburied in Rathenau, Germany, on 3 June 1945. Nor did their travels end there. A month later, they were taken to Friedrichshafen, Germany, where one of Hitler's bodyguards, Harry Mengershausen, was asked to look at them for identification purposes. It would be hard to account for this macabre travelling show if the Soviets were sure that the bodies they had found were really those of the Hitler couple.
In early June, the substantial scale of the hoax became apparent when it was revealed that the Bunker had been littered with bodies of numerous individuals dressed in Hitler's trousers. On 9 June, during a press conference attended by British, American, French and Russian reporters, the Soviet military commander Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov admitted that they had "found no corpses which could be Hitler's". The Soviet commandant of Berlin, Colonel-General Nikolai E. Bezarin, explained that the Russians had "...found several bodies in Hitler's Reich Chancellery with the Führer's name on their clothes... In Hitler's Chancellery we found, in fact, too many bodies with his name on the clothes. It got to be a joke. Every time I would find a pair of pants I would say, 'These are Hitler's'." Zhukov told the reporters that he now considered it a serious possibility that Hitler had escaped Berlin by air. "He could have taken off at the very last moment, for there was an airfield at his disposal," he said. 3
Daily News [Perth]
5 July 1945
LONDON. The charred body found by Russian officers in a shelter under the Reich Chancellery was not that of Hitler. A member of Marshal Zhukov's staff told this to the "Daily Telegraph" man in Berlin as he showed him around the Chancellery.
"It was the body of a double and a rather poor one at that", he said. "We were so convinced that it was not Hitler's body that experts who examined it immediately ordered its reinterment in the garden".
The officer added that no trace of a body resembling that of Eva Braun, who was reported to have died with Hitler, had been found. Eva Braun was recognized by Nazi leaders as Hitler's wife.
Strikingly, one of the planted corpses could have belonged to Hitler's arch-enemy, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the duplicitous head of the Abwehr [German military Intelligence] who was tried and sentenced to death for complicity in the 20 July 1944 assassination plot. In December 1950, Canaris' adjutant, Willy Jenke, told British author Ian Colvin that he had just received fresh information about Canaris' fate from a former acquaintance, Johannes Töppen, who had been the Abwehr's chief accountant. Töppen told Jenke that "Canaris was seen in Berlin about 20 April  under close escort and...that he was subsequently told that the Admiral had been shot and buried in a bomb crater on 23 April at a time when Hitler was ordering some of the last executions". 4 It would be incredibly ironic if the male corpse autopsied by the Soviets on 8 May 1945 had actually been that of Admiral Canaris.
By June 1945, the Soviets could be virtually certain that they had not found Hitler's corpse. From that point onwards, however, rather than acknowledging the prospect that Hitler's body might never be found, Stalin endorsed the idea that Hitler had escaped from the Bunker. While attending the Potsdam Conference in Berlin in July 1945, during conversations with US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, Stalin expressed the firm conviction that Hitler was still alive. In fact, in August 1945, he accused the British of "concealing the real, living Adolf Hitler in their sector of Berlin". 5
Reds Doubtful About Hitler
The Daily News [Perth, WA]
31 July 1945
LONDON. Russian military government authorities in Berlin have no definite proof of Hitler's death and do not exclude the possibility of his still being alive and in hiding.
This was stated by Russian Military Governor in Berlin Colonel General Gorbatov at the first press conference of the Russian military government, says Reuters' Berlin man.
Russians pursuing' investigation of Hitler's fate, are convinced that if he is still alive he is not in the Red Army zone.
Gorbatov said that the Nazi Party put out many circumstantial stories with the obvious intention of discouraging further investigation into Hitler's whereabouts.. They, also began many rumours that he was still alive in order to encourage Nazi underground movements.
The Origins of the Suicide Legend
During the last week of April and first few days of May 1945, the world laboured under considerable uncertainty as to Hitler's whereabouts. Reports that Hitler had gone to Berlin to conduct the city's defence were dismissed as propaganda. Among numerous reports published concerning this subject, several claimed that Hitler was already dead. The first such report came from a "high diplomat" who had reached safety in Switzerland; on 28 April, he said that Hitler and Göbbels had been shot three days earlier. 6 The next day, papers reported that according to a "high British source" Himmler had had Hitler poisoned. 7
The Daily News [Perth, WA]
30 April 1945
LONDON — Latest rumours about Führer Hitler are: 1. He has had a stroke and is a complete invalid 2. He is dead as the result of the stroke. 3. He [with Dr Göbbels] has been shot dead.
No mention of him has been made in German broadcasts.
The first official pronouncement on Hitler's fate came at 10.27 pm on 1 May 1945, when Admiral Karl Dönitz declared over Hamburg radio that Hitler had "fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany".
Daily News [Perth, WA]
20 October 1945
LONDON. Allied Intelligence officers have discovered a telegram sent by club-footed Propaganda Minister Paul Josef Göbbels to Admiral Dönitz announcing Hitler's death.
Telegram is dated 1 May, the day Hitler's death was announced in Germany.
According to the "Daily Express" man at Frankfurt, discovery of the telegram has convinced officers collecting evidence for the Nuremberg trials that Hitler is really dead.
Telegram was headed: "To Admiral Dönitz. Top secret. Only through officers".
Text of the telegram is: "The Führer has died. His testament of 29 April appoints you as Reich Chancellor, Martin Bormann is Party Minister, Artur Seyss-Inquart is Foreign Minister".
● Fate of those named: Göbbels died of poison; Dönitz and Seyss-lnquart awaiting trial at Nuremberg as war criminals; Bormann, not yet captured, to be tried at Nuremberg in absentia
Until they learned about this broadcast, the Allies apparently had not known that Hitler was dead. But the British accepted the idea with enthusiasm. "The Foreign Office took the view that it was 'extremely unlikely' Hitler's death would have been announced by the Germans if it had not actually occurred, the [anonymous Foreign Office] commentator said." 8
While the certainty of the British media set the tone for other countries in the Empire, such as Canada and Australia, scepticism was widespread in the United States. An editorial in the "New York Times" cautioned: "The Nazis have made lies so much a part of their politics, and the reports about Hitler's alleged doubles have been so widely spread, that these announcements are bound to leave in many minds that the master liar is attempting to perpetrate one last great hoax on the world in an effort to save himself, and perhaps prepare the way for his return at a later and more auspicious time". 9
The "Salamanca Republican-Press" wrote in the same vein: "The German radio is a creature of the Nazi regime, and one of the Nazi principles is that lying is not only permissible but praiseworthy if it will further Nazi purposes. Some such announcement as this would be a natural ruse if Hitler decided to do what he has been reported to have planned to do—disappear, and 'go underground', there to plan further crimes". 10
In his war column published on the same page, DeWitt Mackenzie asserted: "The story of Hitler's death is almost to [sic] good to be true, and certainly can't be accepted until proof is forthcoming, because there's such a strong possibility of trickery". 11
A Gallup poll subsequently established that 68 per cent of those surveyed questioned whether Hitler was really dead.12
Worker [Brisbane, Qld]
14 May 1945
Many people believe that Hitler still lives. They suggest that Himmler's story about Hitler dying after a brain seizure, the announcement by Admiral Dönitz that Hitler died as a common soldier in Berlin, and the remarks of Göbbels' offsider [Dr. Hans Friztsche] that Hitler, Göbbels and a German general had committed suicide are conflicting causes for doubt. They want to see the body, and suggest also that by some chance Hitler and his pals got into a submarine and skipped to Japan. If there is doubt about Hitler's death, there is none about Dr. Göbbels, whose body [and those of his wife and family] was found in Berlin. Suicide. The Americans captured Göring.
However, the question of whether Hitler was really dead was instantly eclipsed by the question of how he had died. This time, the "New York Times" was at the least sceptical end of the spectrum, asserting in its editorial column that "there seems to be no good reason to doubt that Hitler…died as the [German] announcement says he did". 13 The editorial made the persuasive point that such a death would have helped "perpetuate the legend which formed the core of Nazi propaganda and by which [Hitler] rose to power— the legend that he and the Nazis were shining knights in armor fighting for European civilization against Bolshevism—'to their last breath'."
Daily Mercury [Mackay, Qld]
2 April 1945
LONDON. "Hitler wants to he a martyr," Major - General Hans Böhlen told the "Associated Press" correspondent with the Third Army after he was captured on 29 March. He added : "I believe will try to become one by leading a suicide charge and getting himself killed — if he can get enough martyr-minded storm troopers to go with him".
At the other extreme, a British Foreign Office spokesman dismissed the idea that Hitler had gone down fighting as the "most complete nonsense". 14 To support this conclusion, the spokesman revealed that several days earlier, "Himmler was said to have given the information that Hitler was likely to die within 48 hours". 15 He had given this information to a Swedish contact, Count Folke Bernadotte, who later claimed that on this occasion Himmler had told him that he planned to create "a Hitler legend which, after the fall of the Third Reich, would play the same part as the 'stab in the back' phrase after the peace of Versailles". 16 If Himmler really had said this, Bernadotte must have relayed the information to the Allies very quickly, for, even before anyone could even be sure that Hitler was dead, the priority had shifted to insisting that Hitler "had met death in a manner which would thwart any die-hard Nazi attempt to build a Wagnerian legend about him". 17
Intriguingly, an "Associated Press" report from London that was published in the "Toronto Globe and Mail" on 2 May 1945 asserted that Dönitz's claim that Hitler had died a hero's death had been denounced by a "ghost voice": "Dönitz eulogized Hitler as a man who had dedicated his life to Germany and to warring against 'Bolshevism', and who now had died a 'hero's death'. A powerful ghost voice interrupted him, shouting: 'This is a lie!' The ghost voice continued to heckle throughout the Dönitz speech". 18
Whether this report of a "ghost voice" is true or not, it shows that the Foreign Office was anxious from the first to cast doubt on claims that Hitler had died as a result of enemy action.
The next day, 3 May, probably at the request of his political adviser, John Wheeler-Bennett of the Royal Institute of International Affairs [the British equivalent of the Council on Foreign Relations], US General Dwight D. Eisenhower laid his considerable prestige behind what seemed at the time to be the best alternative theory of Hitler's demise. He backed up the Foreign Office statement, explaining that early on the morning of 4 April Himmler had told Count Bernadotte that Hitler was "a dying man" and that Himmler's Intelligence chief, Walter Schellenberg, had told Bernadotte that Hitler was "suffering from a brain hemorrhage". 19
Is Hitler Dead?
Goulburn Evening Post [NSW]
30 April 1945
LONDON.The B.B.C., quoting an unconfirmed report, says that Hitler died of cerebral hemorrhage in his underground hideout in the centre of Berlin. An earlier message, attributed to those seeking peace with Britain and America, said Hitler would not live for 48 hours
Initially, therefore, the Allies inclined towards the view that Hitler had died of natural causes, in effect taking Himmler's word over Dönitz'.. A BBC announcer also told the world that Hitler had died of a stroke—information that had been leaked that same day at the San Francisco conference by the British Foreign Minister, Sir Anthony Eden. 20 However, the Allies were not merely prejudiced from the start against any account of Hitler's fate that might have fuelled the enthusiasm of the Nazi underground resistance, but were also biased in favour of the most ignominious account possible. Thus the idea that Hitler had died a natural death began being deflated as soon as evidence emerged that Hitler had not been in bad health at all..
Another very widely spread myth is Hitler's physical degradation after the July 1944 assassination attempt
Hitler visits Admiral Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer in the hospital after the 20 July 1944 plot
Adolf Hitler and Wachtmeister Arthur Adam
Date: Early August 1944
Place: Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze, Rastenburg, Ostpreußen/East Prussia
In the first days of August 1944 Adolf Hitler receives Wachtmeister Arthur Adam, who following the assassination attempt of 20 July 1944, was the first to become suspicious of Oberst Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. It was he who noticed that the Colonel left the conference early and had forgotten his briefcase. After a vain attempt to report this to the two responsible intelligence officers, he turned directly to Reichsleiter Martin Bormann who took him to Hitler in order to state his suspicions. For his actions, Wachtmeister Arthur Adam was promoted to Oberwachtmeister and received a small house near Berlin and 20,000 RM [Reichsmark]. Standing to the left is SS-Obergruppenführer Julius Schaub [Chefadjutant des Führers Adolf Hitler]. Hitler is using his left to shakes hand with Adam because his right one is still affected by the bomb blast.
Seven months later, one of Hitler's last pictures, taken with Generalfeldmarshall Ferdinand Schörner, appointed Commander in Chief of the nonexistent Wehrmacht in Hitler's last 'Will and Testament' with Hitler's adjutant, Julius Schaub in the doorway, shows a 55-56 years old man, very healthy and not in the least deteriorated.
20 April 1945
Sepp Dietrich Received by Hitler
Date: Thursday, 10 August 1944
Place: Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze, Rastenburg, Ostpreußen/East Prussia [Germany]
Photographer: Unknown photographer from Heinrich Hoffmann firm
This picture was taken before the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwerter und Brillanten [Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds] award ceremony for SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Panzer-Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Josef "Sepp" Dietrich [Oberbefehlshaber 5. Panzerarmee] by Adolf Hitler. Dietrich had already received the formal confirmation on 6 August 1944. Wearing the new rank insignia for his 1 August 1944 appointment to SS-Oberstgruppenführer, Sepp Dietrich is received by Adolf Hitler (Führer und Reichskanzler), who extends his left hand to him because his right hand was seriously affected by the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944.
Sepp Dietrich Receiving Brillanten from Hitler
Date: Thursday, 10 August 1944
Place: Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze, Rastenburg, Ostpreußen/East Prussia [Germany]
Photographer: Unknown photographer from Heinrich Hoffmann firm
Dietrich was presented this highest bravery medal Germany could give for his performances at the Battle of Normandy as Kommandierender General I. SS-Panzerkorps.
Hitler visiting Berlin defenders in early April 1945 with Hermann Göring
On 7 May, the "Baltimore Sun" stated that according to Major Erwin Giesing [Hitler's brain, ear, nose and throat specialist, who had seen him on 15 February 1945], Hitler had been "in unusually good physical condition for a man of his age" and had certainly not died of a brain haemorrhage. 21 Reports pouring cold water on the theory that Hitler had been ill and had probably died a natural death or had been euthanized continued to be published whenever the opportunity arose. 22
But what really brought about the rapid demise of the natural death theory were the revelations of the most important member of the regime to have been captured alive thus far: Dr Hans Fritzsche. Dr Fritzsche, Göbbels's deputy in the Propaganda Ministry and Germany's leading radio propagandist, was taken into custody by the Soviets on 2 May after he had formally handed the city over to them in a ceremony in the Tiergarten. The next morning, 3 May, the Soviets issued a communiqué stating that Dr Fritzsche had made a deposition in which he declared that Hitler, Dr Göbbels and General Hans Krebs had all committed suicide in the Bunker. 2
The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal [NSW]
4 May 1945
LONDON.— Göbbels' lieutenant, Dr. Hans Fritzsche, who was among those taken prisoner in Berlin, has told the Russians that Hitler, Göbbels and General Krebs, the newly-appointed Chief of German Staff, committed suicide.
Although the Soviets were duly sceptical—Moscow state radio suggested that it was "another Fascist trick" designed to facilitate Hitler's escape—the suicide story was at once taken up by the western press. 24 Intriguingly, there is evidence that the public was preconditioned to accept the suicide theory. As early as 31 March 1945, the "Globe and Mail" published a "Canadian Press" report headlined 'Expect Hitler To Be Suicide'. Datelined "Emmerich, March 30", the piece stated that a rumour was current among German troops to the effect that Hitler would commit suicide. In any event, the suicide story was an immense boon to Anglo–American propaganda, since Hitler's resort to suicide could be used to convey a message about the nature of Nazism itself.
Claim Hitler Did Not Die in Bunker
The Courier-Mail [Brisbane]
5 May 1945
LONDON, May 4 [Special]. — While Russian troops are still sifting Berlin's rubble for Hitler's body, a Soviet commentator, Nikolai Tichonov, states that failure of the search has proved that Hitler did not die in Berlin.
Tichonov, writing in "Pravda" [Moscow], says: "Whether he fled to a devil's nest or the other world, we shall discover what actually happened to him. If he has fled, we shall find him, wherever he has taken shelter".
Other Moscow reports say that the search for Göbbels' body also has been fruitless, and insist that there is no evidence to support the statement by Göbbels' captured assistant, Hans Frltzsche, that Hitler. Göbbels. and General Krebs [Hitler's new chief of staff] committed suicide together. The Russians think It singular that among the many German leaders captured on all fronts not one high ranking Nazi Party leader has yet shown up.
Meanwhlle rumours about Hitler are still thick. There have been reports of his "madness," "assassination," and "suicide".
Story Of "Madness"
One report of Hitler's "madness" comes from the "Daily Express" special Paris correspondent. 'It is told,' he says, 'by Himmler's aide de camp. Count von Meyerdorff, who said that at 9 p.m. on 23 April he drove with Himmler to Hitler's Berlin headquarters.
Göbbels received them, murmuring, "Our Führer has gone mad. He has been raving for two days, wanting Churchill and Stalin to come here to plan a new Europe".
In a special shelter, Hitler, with a bandaged forehead, was lying on a divan. He looked at them, then blurted out. "Call a peace conference or die in Berlin ahead of my troops. That's what we must do If we want to win immortality".
Later Göbbels gave Himmler a note in Hitler's writing, which read: "I, Adolf Hitler, leader of the German people will disappear. My successor during the final period of the war will be my best friend, Heinrich Himmler".
Daily Advertiser [Wagga Wagga, NSW]
17 November 1944
LONDON. Quoting neutrals who have reached Stockholm from Germany the "'Daily Mail" correspondent says that Himmler, two days ago, was formally appointed as Hitler's successor at a meeting of the party leaders at the Chancellory in Berlin. Hitler was not present, but sent the head of the Nazi Party Secretariat [Herr Lammers] to read the proclamation, which said: "I declare Heinrich Himmler my deputy and my successor".
Next, day Himmler started peace negotiations.
Another report, which came through Switzerland, says that Hitler was assassinated on the night of 21 April at his Berlin headquarters. That night, the report says, he presided over a war council. Hitler insisted on a pian to continue resistance in the Bavarian Redoubt, but only Göbbels supported him. A few hours before a second meeting was to have been held there was a terrific explosion in Hitler's private rooms, and he and all his guards were killed, the report adds.
The German Legation In Berne [Switzerland] has had no news from Germany to confirm officially Hitler's death.
Berlin Tomb of Hitler?
Sunday Mail [Brisbane, Qld]
13 May 1945
LONDON, Latest Hitler story is that the Führer died on 25 April, when concentrated Russian shellfire blew his Chancellery to bits.
It is asserted that his body was buried under 100 tons of falling masonry.
Christopher Bucklev, the "Daily Telegraph's" correspondent at Montgomery's Headquarters, says:
"It is stated that up to the evening 25 of April Hitler was conducting the defence of Berlin from the Chancellery, and during the day he had not shown any particular signs of illness. That afternoon the Red artillery was putting down a series of 'stonks' on different buildings, which, in a few minutes, disappeared in a cloud of dust and smoke amid crashes of falling masonry.' These 'stonks' went on far into the night".
Nazi Plans Upset
Early next morning a telephone message came through from one of Hitler's liaison officers announcing, with appropriate solemnity, that Hitler had fallen during the night.
"The message came from General Krebs. who, like tbe Deputy Führer, Bormann, was killed shortly afterwards. "A liaison officer, not waiting to discover further particulars, set off immediately, according to Krebs' Instructions to the Wehrmacht headquarters at Plön. In Schleswlg.
"Krebs might specifically have recommended Dönltz to seize power, to prevent a possible 'free for all,' with Göring, next on the list of potential Führers, already under arrest.
"What emerges very strongly from these Wagnerlan gestures is that the Nazis were caught in utter chaos by the speed of the Allied advances from the east and the west, when their plans to carry out a long-term resistance had not been as far advanced as had been supposed.
Helped End War
"German prisoners say they believe that Hitler intended to go north to the Wehrmacht head quarters, but there Is no certainty about this.
"His decision to remain in Berlin, surprising as it was in the face of the logic of circumstances, was a final instance of his refusal to surrender territory in any circumstances.
"Hitler's committal of an important portion of the German field force to the defence of Berlin, where the force was in danger of annihilation, instead of using it to defend the northern and southern bastions, and his committing himself with them, certainly shortened the war by many weeks.
"It was his single contribution to the world's well-belng".
"When the American journalist William L. Shirer, who had been living as a correspondent in Berlin until 1941, learned of Hitler's death by suicide in the Bunker of the Reich Chancellery on 30 April 1945, he declared: 'In fact, I have always been certain myself that that was what he wanted to do in the end,' thereby seeing the Third Reich as an ultimately suicidal regime". 25
The suicide theory was also a weapon of psychological warfare on the German population. To understand the propaganda impact of the Hitler suicide legend on the German mind, it is important to understand that, for many if not most Germans, the idea that Hitler had taken his own life was deeply repugnant as it contradicted everything they believed he had stood for. When General Krebs gave him the news, General Helmuth Weidling recalled thinking: "So we have been fighting for five-and-a-half years for someone who committed suicide. Having drawn us into this terrible disaster, he himself chose the easy way out and left us to fend for ourselves". 26
At the other end of the military hierarchy, sixteen-year-old Dieter Borkowski, who had been among the Hitler Youth recruits fighting to defend Berlin to the last, felt drained of the desire to live. "These words make me feel sick, as if I have to vomit," he wrote.
"I think that my life has no sense any more. What was this battle for, what were the deaths of so many people for? Life has apparently become worthless, for if Hitler has shot himself, the Russians will have finally won... Has the Führer not betrayed his own Volk then after all?" 27
Hitler Dead, Says Rundstedt
The Daily News [Perth, WA]
5 May 1945
LONDON. Field-Marshal von Rundstedt told the "British United Press" corresspondent with the Seventh Army. "It happened in Berlin and it certainly wasn't suicide," he added.
The suicide legend was therefore used to discredit Hitler in the eyes of his own followers and stifle their urge to resist foreign occupation. There was so much haste to assign to Hitler what was thought to be a fitting end that few people stopped to ask such obvious questions as how Dr Fritzsche knew that Hitler had committed suicide, whether the Soviets could have pressured him into saying this, or whether the suicide story could have been a cover story for Hitler's escape. Given Dr Fritzsche's status as the most important man in the Propagandaministerium after Dr Göbbels, it is self-evident that nothing he told the Soviets immediately after the regime collapsed can be regarded as free of the possibility of propagandistic deception. Yet in London and Washington, where throughout the war the view had been taken that the Nazis were unconscionable liars, there was a dramatic shift away from scepticism. The idea that Hitler had committed suicide was so appealing that any Nazi who claimed to know that Hitler had committed suicide never risked having his or her veracity impugned. Clearly, all Nazis were liars—except those who told the Allies what they wanted to hear.
Is Hitler Really Dead?
A Historian Examines the Evidence
by H. R. Trevor-Roper
After the end of the war in Europe, there was real doubt as to whether or not Hitler was still alive, especially in the absence of a corpus delicti and since there were so many conflicting accounts of his presumed death. The Oxford historian H. R. Trevor-Roper was assigned by British Army Intelligence to examine the evidence. His results were reported in his book "The Last Days of Hitler", which became an immediate best seller upon publication in 1947, and which seemed to demonstrate rather conclusively that Hitler had committed suicide in his Berlin bunker and his body had been burned in the courtyard. Nevertheless, sensational rumors continued to flourish. The Russians announced that they had secret evidence showing Hitler to be still alive, and the Polish translation of Mr. Trevor-Roper’s book was banned, the Bulgarian translation confiscated, and a Russian translation not allowed. In addition to the Russians, journalists in various other countries began to turn up with reports that Hitler was alive and hiding in the mountains of Albania or in South America. In this article, which forms the major section of the introduction to a new edition of his book just published in England by Macmillan, Mr. Trevor-Roper analyzes the “new evidence” and discusses to what extent, if any, it affects his previous findings.
In September 1945 the circumstances of Hitler’s death or disappearance had been for five months dark and mysterious. Many versions of his death or escape had become current. Some stated that he had been killed fighting in Berlin, others that he had been murdered by officers in the Tiergarten. He was supposed by some to have escaped, by air or submarine, and was alleged to be living now in a mist-enshrouded island in the Baltic, now in a Rhineland rock fortress, sometimes in a Spanish monastery, or on a South American ranch, or among the friendly bandits of mountainous Albania; and the Russians, who were in the best position to illuminate the facts, had they wished to do so, preferred to perpetuate the obscurity. At one time they declared Hitler dead; at another they doubted their declaration; later they announced that they had discovered the corpses of both Hitler and Eva Braun and had identified them by the teeth; later still they accused the British of concealing Eva Braun and probably Hitler in the British Zone of Germany. It was at this stage that the British Intelligence authorities in Germany, believing that such mystification was an unnecessary embarrassment, decided to collect all available evidence and to determine, if possible, the truth. I was appointed to carry out this task. I was given all necessary facilities in the British Zone; and the American authorities at Frankfort promptly and generously offered to put all their material at my disposal, to allow me to interrogate their prisoners, and to ensure the cooperation of their local counter-intelligence organization, the CIC.
What was the state of the evidence at this time? The ultimate authority on which the report of Hitler’s death seemed to rest was a broadcast statement made by Admiral Dönitz to the German people on the evening of 1 May 1945. In this statement Dönitz had announced Hitler’s death that afternoon, fighting at the head of his troops in Berlin. This statement had been accepted as true at the time, at least for certain practical purposes: an obituary notice of Hitler had appeared in the "London Times" next day, Mr. de Valera had expressed his condolence to the German minister in Dublin, and Hitler’s name [unlike that of Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi party from 1941 on, about whose fate there had been no such statement] had been excluded from the list of war criminals to be tried at Nuremberg. On the other hand there was no more valid reason for believing Dönitz’s statement than for accepting certain other assertions. Dönitz’s statement was indeed supported by a certain Dr. Karl Heinz Späth of Stuttgart, who deposed on oath during his holiday at Illertissen in Bavaria that he had personally attended Hitler when he was wounded in the lung by Russian shellfire at the Zoo Bunker on the afternoon of May 1, and had pronounced him dead; but another authority, a Swiss woman journalist, Carmen Mory, deposed at Hamburg with equal protestations of veracity that Hitler, to her certain knowledge, was living on an estate in Bavaria with Eva Braun, her sister Gretl, and Gretl’s husband Hermann Fegelein. Carmen Mory offered to investigate this matter herself, through numerous channels at her disposal [for having been imprisoned as a spy in a German concentration camp she was well supplied with means of information]; but she warned the British authorities that any attempt to dispense with her services would be fatal: at the approach of anyone in uniform, all four would infallibly commit suicide. Since both these stories could not possibly be true, it was clear that mere affidavits could not be accepted as evidence in this matter.
Anyone who undertakes an inquiry of such a kind is soon made aware of one important fact: the worthlessness of mere human testimony. It is a chastening thought to a historian to consider how much of history is written on the basis of statements no more reliable than those of Admiral Dönitz, Dr. Späth, and Carmen Mory. If such statements had been made and recorded with reference to the disputed death of Czar Alexander I in 1825, plenty of historians would have been ready to take them seriously. Fortunately in this case they were made by contemporaries, and it was possible to check them.
The English historian James Spedding said that every historian, when faced with a statement of fact, must ask himself the question: Who first said so, and what opportunities had he of knowing it? Subjected to this test, much of historical evidence is found to dissolve. In search of Dr. Karl Heinz Späth I went to the address which he had given in Stuttgart. I found that it was not a private house but the Technical High School. His name was unknown there, nor did it occur in any Stuttgart directory. It was clear that he had given a false name and address; and since his affidavit was mendacious on this subject, there was no reason to credit it in other matters where ignorance would have been more excusable. As for Carmen Mory, her whole saga dissolved at the mere touch of criticism: she had never seen Hitler or spoken to anyone who could have known the facts. The facts she gave were demonstrably wrong, and the arguments whereby she connected them with her conclusions demonstrably illogical. Her whole statement, like that of Dr. Späth, was pure fantasy.
Why did these people make these false affidavits? Human motives can never be confidently interpreted, but they can sometimes be guessed. Carmen Mory, while in a German concentration camp, had become an agent of the Gestapo, selecting victims for its murders and experiments from among her fellow prisoners. This fact was well known to them, and when the camp had been captured by the Allies and its occupants liberated, it could only be a matter of time before Carmen Mory was accused of her crimes. Probably she thought that by inventing a story which she herself would be required to investigate she might both delay retribution and acquire British supporters. If so, she thought wrongly: her assistance was not required, and shortly afterwards she was condemned to death by a military tribunal, and forestalled execution by suicide.
The motives of Dr. Späth seem to have been less rational. The source of his story is clear. It is an amplification, with circumstantial detail and a personal part assigned to the narrator, of the broadcast statement by Dönitz. Dönitz had said that Hitler had been killed fighting at the head of his troops on the afternoon of May 1: Dr. Späth had accepted and embellished this minimum of apparent fact, had added local color and detail, and had introduced himself as a central figure. His motive was probably not rational but psychological: a delusion of vanity such as leads raconteurs to introduce themselves into the anecdotes they repeat, or convinced George IV that he had personally led a cavalry charge at the battle of Waterloo.
For mythopoeia is a far more common characteristic of the human race [and perhaps especially of the German race] than veracity; and the evidence for this statement has increased formidably since these incidents made it obvious to me. Even in December 1947 a German airman calling himself Baumgart deposed in Warsaw that he had flown Hitler and Eva Braun to Denmark on 28 April 1945. The story is plainly fiction. One of my earliest steps in the inquiry had been to trace Hitler’s two pilots, SS Obergruppenführer Hans Baur and SS Standartenführer Beetz, and I had established that both of them had left the Bunker with Bormann on the night of May 1. Beetz had been last seen on the Weidendammer Bridge, and his wife and friends had never heard of him since. Baur had been captured by the Russians, and his wife had shown me a message which had been conveyed from him in Poland to her in Bavaria in October 1945. Besides, we have Hitler’s own signature on his will and marriage certificate "given in Berlin on April 29" the day after Baumgart claimed to have flown him to Denmark. But reason is powerless against the obstinate love of fiction, and although Baumgart afterwards retired to a lunatic asylum in Poland, those who wish to believe him will no doubt continue to do so..
Of course not all legends are pure fabrication: there are degrees of human invention, and some myths have a basis of fact or at least of wishful thinking. Such was the legend spread by Schellenberg after his surrender in Sweden, and eagerly accepted by the credulous. Schellenberg maintained that Himmler had poisoned Hitler. But how did he know? Schellenberg had not seen Hitler since 1942. His sole evidence was his own wish: he wished to believe that Himmler had accepted his advice, and by a judicious and selective misinterpretation of Himmler’s remarks he had succeeded in persuading himself that he had done so. A few questions to Schellenberg, an examination of Himmler’s entourage, a reference to the contemporary reports of Count Bernadotte, and Schellenberg’s legend dissolved as completely as those of Späth and Mory.
Thus the evidence of Hitler’s fate shrank on examination to the statement of Dönitz. But what opportunity had Dönitz of knowing the facts? It was known that Dönitz had left Berlin on April 21, and had never seen Hitler since. His broadcast speech had been made from Plön, 150 miles from the incident which it claimed to describe. How then did he know? The answer to this question was easily discovered. When the so-called “Flensburg government” was arrested, all its papers were also seized, and among these papers was a series of telegrams which had passed between Dönitz and Hitler’s headquarters. The last in this series was a telegram from Göbbels to Dönitz on May 1. This telegram informed Dönitz that Hitler had died “yesterday”—i. e. on April 30—“at 1530 o’clock.” Dönitz had no other evidence, for none of those who had been with Hitler at the end had been able to join him: the last eyewitnesses who had reached him from the Bunker were Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch, who had left nearly two days before the end. His statement that Hitler had died fighting at the head of his troops was pure invention, and his statement that Hitler had died on May 1 was unsupported by the only evidence at his disposal, which clearly stated that he had died on April 30. Thus Dönitz too joined Späth and Mory and the imaginative journalists as a worthless and rejected authority. The only evidence of Hitler’s death was a telegram signed by Göbbels, who could not be cross-examined because he was dead, and his body, unlike Hitler’s, had been found by the Russians.
There was, however, at least one other possible source of evidence. On 9 June 1945, Marshal Zhukov, the Russian commanding general, had announced to the press that before his death or disappearance Hitler had married Eva Braun..
This startling fact (for Eva Braun had hitherto scarcely been heard of even in Germany) was revealed, Zhukov said, by the diaries of adjutants which the Russians had found in the Bunker. These diaries, if they existwould clearly be an important source of evidence, and I therefore decided to ask the Russians for access to them; but I decided first to collect such evidence as I could find in the areas under British and American control, and to use this to elicit from the Russians both the diaries and any other evidence that the Russians might be shown to possess. For if none of those who had offered information could survive the tests to which they had been subjected, there must be others who had really been in a position to observe the events in Hitler’s Bunker before it was captured by the Russians.
For certain facts could be established with certainty. There were in Allied custody several men who had been with Hitler until about April 22—including Dönitz, Keitel, Jodl, Speer, and several lesser figures—so that up to that time there was no mystery. But on April 22 Hitler had held the famous staff conference at which his nerve had at last given way, and after which he had ordered his staff to leave while protesting that he would stay in Berlin. It was the period from April 22 until the Russian occupation of the Chancellery on May 2 that was the dark period of which no witnesses had come forward. And yet there must have been witnesses. The question was, Who were they? The task was to find them.
Neither such a question nor such a task is really difficult. Those who remained with Hitler were simply those of his customary entourage who had been with him before April 22 and had not left on that day: generals and politicians, civil servants and adjutants, secretaries, guards, and soldiers. A list of those who customarily attended Hitler in the Chancellery was not difficult to draw up: it only remained to find those who had left on April 22, most of whom had been captured either in Flensburg or Berchtesgaden, and by cross-examining them to discover whom they had left behind them in Berlin. It was necessary to look for representatives of all classes—for guards and typists were as likely to prove good witnesses as politicians and generals. I therefore began by locating as many of the fugitives as I could find, whatever their status, in accessible Allied captivity. I was soon rewarded. Politicians and generals were represented by the Flensburg prisoners Keitel, Jodl, Dönitz, and Speer. Two of Hitler’s secretaries, who had left on April 22, Fräulein Wolff and Fräulein Schröder, were found at Berchtesgaden. Hitler’s detective guard was called Reichssicherheitsdienst Dienststelle 1; about half of its members had been evacuated to Berchtesgaden on April 22, and captured there. I was able to interrogate them in their camps at Ludwigsburg and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Hitler’s SS Guard, the Führerbegleitkommando, had remained behind in Berlin, but one officer from it, SS Hauptsturmführer Bornholdt, had left on a special mission on April 24 and had not returned: in due course he had become an Allied prisoner and I was able to question him about his comrades, at Neumünster in Schleswig-Holstein. Thus from every stratum of society in Hitler’s Bunker representative members were found who had left on or about April 22; and these, under cross-examination, were able to designate the comrades whom they had left behind in Berlin. From their answers it was possible to construct a complete list of all those men and women, of whatever status, who had stayed behind in Berlin after the great exodus of April 22. These, if they could be found, would be the witnesses of the dark period.
How could they be found? Here again the problem is less difficult than may appear. They were all described as “missing”; but in fact people do not disappear or evaporate, even in a period of catastrophe. They either perish or remain alive: there is no third possibility. The word “missing” applies not to them but to the evidence. If they are dead, their value as witnesses is over; if they are alive, they are either prisoners or free. If they are prisoners, they can be found in prison camps—at least if they are prisoners of the Western Powers; if they are free they must be sought elsewhere, and most probably in their own home districts, where friends and local knowledge will enable them to survive, but also where enemies (and German enmities are strong) may easily betray them. In collecting the names of possible witnesses I was therefore careful to obtain all possible information about their homes, and if their names did not occur in the registers of Allied prison camps, they were sought and sometimes found in their homes. By these methods seven witnesses of the dark period, from different and independent groups, had been located and interrogated, and other relevant material had been discovered and centralized, by 1 November 1945, when the report of my conclusions was due. The seven witnesses were Hermann Karnau, a policeman from the detective guard who was imprisoned at Nienburg and had been examined by Canadian and British authorities before he was cross-examined by me; Erich Mansfeld and Hilco Poppen, two other policemen, who were detained at Bremen and Fallingbostel; Fräulein Else Krüger, Bormann’s secretary, who was detained at Plön in Schleswig-Holstein and interrogated by me; Erich Kempka, Hitler’s transport officer, who had been captured at Berchtesgaden and was interrogated both by American officers and by myself at Moosburg; Hanna Reitsch, the test pilot, who was detained in Austria and was interrogated by American officers; and the Baroness von Varo, a casual visitor in Hitler’s Bunker, who had been discovered by a British journalist in Berlin, and who was traced and interrogated by me in her mother’s home at Bückeburg.
Throughout the remainder of her life, Hanna Reitsch remained a controversial figure, tainted by her ties -- both real and suppositious -- to the dead Führer and his henchmen. The circumstances surrounding her 1945 sojourn in Hitler's Berlin Bunker especially haunted her. In a postscript to a new edition of her memoirs, published shortly before her death from a heart attack in 1979, she wrote that "so-called eyewitness reports ignore the fact that I had been picked for this mission because I was a pilot and trusted friend [of Greim's], and instead call me `Hitler's girl-friend'....I can only assume that the inventor of these accounts did not realize what the consequences would be for my life. Ever since then I have been accused of many things in connection with the Third Reich".
Hanna Reitsch was interviewed and photographed several times in the early 1970's in Germany by US investigative photo journalist Ron Laytner.
At the end of her last interview she told Laytner:
"When I was released by the Americans I read historian Trevor Roper’s book, ‘The Last Days of Hitler’. Throughout the book like a red line, runs an eyewitness report by Hanna Reitsch about the final days in the Bunker.
"I never said it. I never wrote it. I never signed it. It was something they invented. Hitler died with total dignity".
Other relevant material included the diary of General Koller, since published (Karl Koller, "Der letzte Monat", Mannheim, 1949), the diary of Count Schwerin von Krosigk, captured with its author at Flensburg, and the papers of Admiral Dönitz and his “government.” Based on evidence from these sources my report was submitted by the Intelligence Division in Berlin to the British government and to the Quadripartite Intelligence Committee in Berlin. At the end of the report I suggested certain other sources of evidence which might still become available: in particular I mentioned that Hitler’s pilot Hans Baur and the head of the Reichssicherheitsdienst Brigadeführer Rattenhuber, who had ordered the burial of Hitler’s body, were reported captured by the Russians in an official Russian communiqué, and that certain other important witnesses might have been taken at the same time; and I asked for access to the captured adjutants’ diaries which had been cited by Marshal Zhukov as his authority for the marriage of Hitler and Eva Braun. The Russians noted these requests but never answered them.
At the same time an abbreviated version of the report was issued to the press.
The evidence for Hitler’s last days increased considerably between the issue of the report of 1 November 1945, and the writing of my book in the summer of 1946, but since it did not alter the conclusions except in two trifling details,  I shall pause at this stage to answer certain questions or criticisms which were made at the time of its presentation.
For the report of 1 November 1945, it must be admitted, was not equally popular in all quarters, and that not entirely because of any defects of logic or lucidity which may have disfigured it. Throughout the summer and autumn of 1945 many resourceful journalists had been pursuing phantoms of Hitler with energy and enthusiasm, and the pleasant lakes of the Swiss frontier and the romantic Tyrolean Alps and the comfortable resorts of Upper Austria were frequently visited by devoted investigators whose scrupulous consciences forbade them to ignore even the most inconsiderable clue. In the course of these researches many engaging theories were propounded; but as winter drew near, and personal excursions became less attractive, the consensus of opinion began to allow that Hitler had really remained in Berlin, and the mystery of his fate was one that could best be solved not by strenuous travel in an inclement season, but by ingenious meditation in well-heated saloon bars. Consequently my report, which stated that Hitler had died in Berlin on April 30, as Göbbels had said, and that all other explanations of his disappearance were “contrary to the only positive evidence and supported by no evidence at all,” was found unacceptable by many. The critics did not indeed deny the evidence that was produced, but they maintained that there was still a possibility of escaping so final a conclusion; they maintained that the body that had been burnt was that not of Hitler but of a “double” introduced at the last minute, and they echoed the sentiment if not the words of Professor Hanky on a similar occasion: “No matter though nine-tenths of the marks and measurements corresponded, so long as there is a tenth that does not do so, we should not be flesh and blood if we did not ignore the nine points and insist only on the tenth.” Alternatively they maintained that the witnesses on whose evidence the report was based had all been carefully briefed; that their evidence was a deliberately pre-concerted cover-story and should be rejected altogether; and that in the total absence of evidence thus happily restored there was room for the unlimited development of any theory that might seem attractive to its inventor.
Such a suggestion can, in my opinion, be easily disproved. It is only necessary to consider its logical consequences. If half a dozen or a dozen people are all told to tell the same story under interrogation, then it may be assumed [supposing that their memories are infallible and their loyalty firm] that they will do so, even if the circumstances of the rehearsal [amid shellfire and battle] were somewhat distracting and the circumstances of the interrogation [isolated from each other, and six months later] somewhat difficult. But even in these ideal conditions the witnesses, who will begin by agreeing in every detail, so long as they are questioned within the brief that they have prepared, will inevitably disagree when the interrogator presses them on unconcerted matters, and their answers must be drawn not from a common prepared text but from their separate imaginations. On the other hand if the witnesses are speaking the truth, as far as they can, about an experience which they have really shared, the development of their answers will be in precisely the opposite direction. At first their replies will differ, because their opportunities of observation and recollection have been different; but as interrogation detaches those differences of circumstance, the essential agreement will become clear. Any interrogator soon becomes familiar with these facts, and by appreciating them, can often detect whether a story has been concerted or not; and on the strength of those facts I consider that the various witnesses whom I have interrogated, directly or indirectly, on the subject of Hitler’s death were undoubtedly telling not a pre-concerted story, but their own attempts to recollect the truth.
One small instance may be given to illustrate this point. The guard Karnau persistently affirmed that he saw the corpses of Hitler and Eva Braun burst suddenly, as if by spontaneous combustion, into flame. The chauffeur Kempka maintained that Günsche had set them alight. These two versions seem incompatible, but cross-examination reveals that they are simply two aspects of the same fact. Günsche lit the bodies by throwing a burning rag upon them; but he threw it from beneath the porch of the Bunker, and was therefore invisible to Karnau who was standing by the tower. The truth of the incident is attested by the rational discrepancy of the evidence. Had Karnau and Kempka been taught their parts, they would never have disagreed at the start.
The report of November 1 had solicited certain information from the Russians. This information was never produced, but from other sources evidence continued to come in to enrich although not to alter the main conclusions. For by November 1 the inquiry had only lasted six weeks, and it was impossible for all available witnesses to be identified, traced, found, and interrogated in so short a time. Among the most important additional witnesses who were arrested and interrogated after November 1 was Artur Axmann, who had succeeded Baldur von Schirach as head of the Hitler Youth and who was arrested in the Bavarian Alps in December 1945 after a long and complicated Anglo-American intelligence operation. But the most significant and dramatic addition to knowledge was supplied by the discovery, in the winter of 1945-6, of a set of documents which strikingly confirmed the conclusions of the report of November 1: Hitler’s private and political testaments and the certificate of his marriage with Eva Braun.
At the end of November 1945, when I returned to Oxford on leave, I received a signal from British Headquarters at Bad Oeynhausen that a document had been discovered which purported to be Hitler’s will, but that its authenticity was uncertain. Now I already had some information about Hitler’s will, for in the same telegram in which Göbbels had reported the death of Hitler to Döitz he had mentioned the Führer’s Testament of April 29 which had made certain political appointments, and which was being sent to Dönitz. Dönitz had furthermore stated that he had sent a plane to meet the bearer, but that the pilot, having been in touch with the bearer at the Havel, had lost him and returned empty. Since the document which had now been discovered was dated April 29, and contained several political appointments, including those mentioned in Göbbels’ telegram, there were good grounds for supposing it genuine. But Göbbels’ telegram, which seemed to establish the authenticity of this document, also seemed to show that there were no less than three such documents, addressed separately to Dönitz, Field Marshal Schörner [then commanding an Army Group in Bohemia], and the Party Archives in Munich. It was therefore clearly important to investigate the circumstances of this discovery.
In the summer of 1945 a Luxemburg journalist, Georges Thiers, had approached the British Military Government in Hanover. He had wished for employment, and had explained that he was usefully informed on many topics and could provide information on such interesting subjects as life in Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin; but as he could give no valid explanation to account for his alleged intimacy with these high matters, his application had been ignored. Later, however, he had fallen under the suspicion of using false papers: he had been arrested and had admitted that in fact he was not a Luxemburger but a German, and that his name was not Georges Thiers, but Heinz Lorenz. He had been interned, and in November 1945, in the course of a routine search, a set of papers had been found sewn in the lining of his clothes. These appeared to be Hitler’s personal and political testaments and a document signed by Dr. Göbbels and entitled “Appendix to the Führer’s Political Testament.” Under interrogation Lorenz admitted that he had been in Hitler’s Bunker at the end and had been ordered to deliver these documents to Munich. He confirmed Göbbels’ statement that there had been, in all, three sets of documents; and he explained that he had been accompanied in his escape from Berlin by two other men: Major Willi Johannmeier, who was to carry Hitler’s political testament to Field Marshal Schörner, and SS Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander, who was to convey to Admiral Dönitz Hitler’s two testaments and the certificate of his marriage to Eva Braun. To complete the evidence and establish the authenticity of the documents beyond a doubt it was therefore necessary to find Johannmeier and Zander.
Johannmeier was easily found, living with his parents in Iserlohn. A straightforward soldier, of unconditional loyalties and unpolitical courage, at first he denied all knowledge of the Bunker, then, finding it impossible to maintain this position, he insisted that he had merely been sent as a military escort to Zander and Lorenz, to guide them through the Russian lines. What their mission was he did not know: it had been none of his business to ask. Nothing could shake him from this position, and in spite of the discrepancy between his evidence and that of Lorenz, he almost convinced his interrogators. At any rate it was clear that no progress could be made till further evidence had been obtained from Zander.
Zander’s home was in Munich, but all the evidence proved that he had not visited it since the defeat of Germany. His wife was found living with her parents in Hanover, and confirmed that she had never seen her husband since the end of the war. She explained that she still hoped for news, and willingly provided photographs of Zander and addresses of his mother and brothers in the hope that she might obtain information about him; but no clue led anywhither, until it was realized that all this was part of an elaborate stratagem designed to mislead the pursuers. Visiting Munich in December 1945 I soon obtained casual information which convinced me that Zander was alive, but in hiding, and that Frau Zander, in her zeal to conceal his existence, had even persuaded his own mother and brothers that he was dead. After a minute examination of local evidence it was established that Zander was living under the false name of Friedrich-Wilhelm Paustin, and had worked for a time as a market gardener in the Bavarian village of Tegernsee
From that moment the arrest of Zander was only a matter of time. The local records of Tegernsee soon revealed his movements, and after an abortive raid on his address in the village, he was tracked down to the little village of Aidenbach near Passau on the Austrian frontier. Thither I went, accompanied by members of the American CIC, and there, at 3 AM on 28 December, he was found and arrested. He was staying with Bormann’s secretary. Under interrogation he revealed himself as a disillusioned Nazi idealist who saw that his former world was shattered and spoke freely. His story agreed with that of Lorenz: he had brought his documents to Hanover and thence, seeing that delivery to Dönitz was impossible, had walked to Munich and concealed them in a trunk. The trunk was now deposited with a friend in Tegernsee; but another visit to Tegernsee proved unnecessary. Alarmed by the previous raid, the custodian of the trunk had voluntarily surrendered it to the local CIC while I was in Aidenbach looking for Zander. The documents were found in it: they consisted, as Lorenz had stated, of Hitler’s two testaments and the marriage certificate.
After the arrest of Zander, interest returned to North Germany, to the irreducible Johannmeier, whose story of ignorance was now assailed by the independent but unanimous testimony of his two companions. Nevertheless he held firmly to his version. He had no documents, he said, and therefore could produce none. It was clear that he was actuated merely by loyalty. He had been ordered on no account to allow the documents to fall into Allied hands, and these orders he intended to fulfill, in spite of the evidence. Impervious to fear, indifferent to reward, it seemed that nothing would move him except reason. I appealed to reason. He could give us nothing that we had not got; we could not accept his story against the agreement of all other evidence; we had no interest in holding him and yet must do so unless he could explain away this obvious difficulty. For two hours Johannmeier firmly resisted even this appeal; even proof seemed uncertain against his single-minded insistence. Ultimately it was a pause in the proceedings which achieved his conversion. In interrogation pressure must be uninterrupted, but persuasion needs pauses, for only during a pause can a man reason with himself and catch up with the argument. In this pause, Johannmeier reasoned with himself and convinced himself. He decided (as he explained afterwards during the long drive to Iserlohn) that if his companions, old and highly promoted party men, could so easily betray a trust which, to them, was connected with their alleged political ideals, then it was quixotic in him, who had no such party connections (for he was simply a regular soldier), to suffer longer in their cause or defend the pass which they had already sold. So after the pause, when the seemingly endless business began again, he observed at last, “Ich habe die Papiere.” There was no need of further words. He accompanied me by car to Iserlohn, and there led me into the back garden of his home. It was dark. With an ax he broke open the frozen ground and dug up a buried bottle. Then, breaking the bottle with the ax, he drew out and handed to me the last missing document: the third copy of Hitler’s political testament, and the vivid covering letter in which General Burgdorf told Field Marshal Schörner that it was “the shattering news of Himmler’s treachery” which had driven Hitler to his last decision.
After the discovery of all these papers the evidence of Hitler’s last days was substantially complete, but the inquiries which had once been begun continued to yield fruit. In January, a fortnight after the capitulation of Johannmeier, Lieutenant Colonel von Below was found, studying law in the University of Bonn. He had been the last to leave the Bunker before Hitler’s death, and had been the bearer of his last valedictory recriminations to the General Staff. Then, in the spring and summer of 1946, Hitler’s two secretaries, Frau Christian and Frau Junge, were at last found and interrogated: Frau Christian had been dodging arrest since the autumn of 1945, when I had missed her by a few days at her mother-in-law’s house in the Palatinate. These and other captures, and the interrogation of a number of subsidiary characters, added detail and color to the story, and resolved small remaining doubts, but the main lines of the story were clear and unchanged.
This does not mean that the story is complete, even now. At least two points remain, in spite of all the evidence, obscure: the ultimate disposal of Hitler’s body, and the fate of Martin Bormann.
The bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun, it is clearly established, were burnt in the Chancellery garden on the afternoon and evening of 30 April1945: but what was done with the charred remainders? It is impossible completely to destroy bodies in an open fire, and it is clear that they were in fact ultimately disposed of in some other way; but that disposal was a secret disposal. The men who carried it out were sworn to secrecy, and when Linge told his questioners that the bodies were burnt “till nothing remained” he was plainly rebuking their curiosity by an evasion rather than seeking to satisfy it with an answer. If we wish to pursue this perhaps unrewarding topic, we must ask the question, Who was in a position to know the facts? The answer is that (of named persons) Bormann, Göbbels, Günsche, and Rattenhuber must certainly have known. Göbbels is dead, and Bormann missing, but Günsche and Rattenhuber were captured by the Russians, and the capture of Rattenhuber, together with the pilot Baur, was admitted in the official Russian communiqué of 6 May 1945. It is not certain that these prisoners are still alive, for although Baur was certainly alive in October 1945, Günsche and Rattenhuber may have committed suicide or died after capture; but if they were alive they could have answered the question. Unfortunately the Russians, whose accusations precipitated my inquiry, would never answer any of the questions which were addressed to them, and we must conclude either that they never really wished to ascertain the facts, but merely used ignorance as a means of accusation, or that the organization of their intelligence is not equal to the strain of ascertaining the facts at its disposal. When I recall that the Russians left Hitler’s diary in his chair for five months, I find myself as ready to entertain the latter hypothesis as the former.
Excluding then all Russian evidence as unobtainable, can we point to any evidence outside their control which might give an answer to our question? In this matter I have been unfortunate. One other man who very probably knew about the disposal of the bodies was an officer of the SS escort, Hauptsturmführer Helmuth Beermann, who was on duty at the time. Beermann was reported captured by the American 9th Army; but by the time that I began my inquiry the 9th Army had been dissolved, and its prisoners redistributed among the remaining armies. In the course of redistribution all trace of Hauptsturmführer Beermann had been lost. Possibly he had died, or escaped unnoticed: but at all events his name was not known in any American prison camp in September 1945.
There remains one other man who possibly knows more than he has admitted. When Artur Axmann was arrested in December 1945 he was interrogated on a brief supplied by me, and in answer to a question replied that he had no knowledge of the ultimate disposal of the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun. At the time he was not pressed, and in general his answers were found to be correct wherever it was possible to confirm them; but eight months later, when Frau Junge was arrested and asked the same question, she replied: “I know from Günsche that the ashes were collected into a box which was given to Reich Youth Leader Axmann.” Unfortunately it has not proved possible to re-examine Axmann.
There then the matter must rest. Nevertheless, if I were to hazard a guess, I should guess that the ashes were given to Axmann.. When Hitler decided to stay and the in Berlin, he did so under the influence of Göbbels, who consciously directed the last act as an appeal to posterity by the founding of a myth. It would have been consistent with such a plan to pass on the sacred relics not to the present generation, whose unworthiness had betrayed Hitler’s great designs, but to the next. And the next generation was represented by the Hitler Youth. As the experiment of Nazism drew to its close, Hitler turned more and more to the Hitler Youth. He received their representatives at his last birthday parade; they manned the last bridgeheads in Berlin; their leader remained with him to the end; and in his political testament he specially mentions “the contribution, unique in history” of the Hitler Youth. Hitler’s remains may not have been given to Axmann; but it would have been logical and consistent if they had been. Even so, we do not know where he would have put them.
The fate of Bormann is also uncertain. Here again the vital witness is Axmann, who alleges that he saw his dead body in the street. One witness is never conclusive, but his evidence may nevertheless be true. The negative evidence certainly suggests that if Bormann is alive he is not in Western Germany; but both he and Hitler’s ashes could be in Russia, and we would know no more about it than we know about the fate of Günsche and Rattenhuber.
Perhaps this is the point at which to mention another character who is mentioned in my book and whose fate is still unknown. Heinrich Müller is mentioned by several witnesses who saw him in the Bunker, generally in connection with the trial of Fegelein. Now Müller, head of the Gestapo, is a man seldom named among the Nazi leaders. A Bavarian, a professional policeman, all his life he never deviated from his chosen functions nor raised his mind towards the larger horizon of Nazi politics. But in a police state the secret police can be a vast empire, and Müller, by his silent, unremitting orthodoxy, his absolute ruthlessness, his incorruptibility, his apparent omniscience, became in the end one of the most powerful figures in the dark corridors of the Third Reich. A devoted disciple of Heydrich, he had admired the philosophy and succeeded to the methods of his protector; and these two men—not Kaltenbrunner or Schellenberg—must probably be regarded as the real brains behind the strange, incalculable, cloudy figure of Himmler: they built and maintained the engine of terror which operated in his name. Heinrich Müller disappeared like Bormann in the last days of Nazi Berlin; and among the missing German criminals he is second only to Bormann
Finally there is one other unresolved problem—the adjutants’ diaries to which Zhukov ascribed his knowledge of Hitler’s marriage with Eva Braun. As with all Russian evidence, nothing can be proved and we are forced to guess. On this subject it is my guess that the diaries never existed. The inhabitants of the Bunker who might have been described as adjutants were General Burgdorf, Colonel von Below, Major Freytag von Löringhoven, Rittmeister Boldt, Lieutenant Colonel Weiss, and Major Johannmeier. All these except Burgdorf left the Bunker in good order before Hitler’s death and had opportunities to remove or destroy any private papers. Boldt assures me categorically that neither he nor Weiss nor Freytag von Löringhoven kept a diary. After Hitler’s death, Burgdorf stayed behind in the Bunker when the others sought to escape, alleging that he was going to commit suicide. He had plenty of time in which to destroy his papers if he so wished. And anyway, since the Russians failed to find Hitler’s diary—a stout bound volume 14 inches by 8—why should we believe them capable of finding Burgdorf’s, if it ever existed?
And yet the facts which Zhukov had divulged as from those diaries were both new and true: the interrogation of eyewitnesses and the discovery of the marriage certificate itself confirm them. Whence did Zhukov know these facts?
There is an obvious answer. Readers of my book know that late on the night of 30 April, General Hans Krebs paid a personal visit to Marshal Zhukov and spent some twelve hours at his headquarters offering to the Russians, on behalf of Göbbels and Bormann, a conditional and provisional surrender. Now General Krebs was not merely Chief of the German General Staff. For many years he had been military attaché in Moscow. He spoke Russian fluently, knew the leading men in the Red Army personally, and had always been accounted a warm advocate of Russo-German cooperation, as a living symbol of which he had once, on a famous occasion, been publicly embraced by Stalin. Thus the emissary who arrived at Russian headquarters at the midnight following Hitler’s death was no stranger: he was well entertained by Zhukov, and the opportunities of conversation between friends so long separated and so strangely reunited cannot have been neglected. Krebs had to explain and justify his commission. The letter which he brought was signed by Göbbels and Bormann, as ministers appointed by Hitler before his death. Naturally Zhukov would question Krebs about the circumstances of Hitler’s death; and naturally, as conversation developed about that strange last episode, Krebs would describe also the wedding which had preceded it. Zhukov had no need of “captured adjutants’ diaries”; but since the Russians, for some reason, never wished to publish or admit this last-minute meeting, Zhukov evidently preferred to ascribe to that imaginary but impersonal source the knowledge which he had clearly obtained from his real and personal visitor.
If the diaries thus vanish from among the still unexploited sources of evidence, what has become of the real source, General Krebs? In the first edition of my book I reported his words that he would stay in the Bunker and commit suicide after the others had left in their attempt to escape from Berlin. Certainly he stayed behind in the Bunker with Burgdorf and Schädle; but whether he committed suicide or not it is impossible for us to say. He may well have done so; and yet I cannot forget Speer’s description of him as “a smooth, surviving type”; we do not know what private plans or promises he may have concerted with Zhukov at that unreported meeting; possibly a Chief of the German General Staff, a successor of Moltke and Schlieffen, Ludendorff, Beck, and Halder, though the last and least and briefest tenant of their great office, may have seemed worth something to the Russians; and we do not know whether the sudden action of the Czech government, seven months later, in demanding the trial of Krebs as a war criminal, was the result of information or merely of ignorance. My own questions on that subject were never answered.
While dealing with evidence from Russian sources, there is one further question to be asked. Why did the Russian authorities in Berlin, after publicly accepting, in May 1945, the theory of Hitler’s death, suddenly, in June 1945, repudiate their public acceptance of it before plunging into that total and permanent silence on the subject which they have since maintained? No ready answer can be given to this question, for the Russians never submitted any evidence for their Allies to examine, and their own methods and motives in the use of evidence inspire no confidence. One point may, however, be made. It is certain that Marshal Zhukov had opportunities of knowing, though hot necessarily of testing, the facts as related by Krebs. The various, often contradictory, statements which issued in disconnected series from his headquarters in the first month after Hitler’s death confirm this obvious truth. But it is equally clear that whatever views about Hitler’s death may have been entertained, and perhaps even based on evidence, by Russian authorities in Berlin, Stalin in Moscow was expressing a definite view that Hitler was alive. On 26 May 1945, while Russian Headquarters in Berlin were still supporting the theory of Hitler’s death as available from Krebs, or from the prisoners Rattenhuber and Baur, Stalin, in the Kremlin, said to Harry L. Hopkins that he believed “that Bormann, Göbbels, Hitler, and probably Krebs had escaped and were in hiding.” This statement can hardly have been based on evidence from Berlin, where the body of Göbbels had long since been found and certainly identified; it must therefore represent a personal prejudice of Stalin, who either believed it because he wished to believe it, or stated it because he wished it to be believed. Again, on 6 June, when Zhukov was assuring war correspondents in Berlin that Hitler’s death was certain, Stalin, in Moscow, repeated to Hopkins “that he was sure that Hitler was alive.”
Three days later Zhukov first publicly recanted his view. At this time Allied observers noticed that Zhukov was completely controlled by his political adviser, Vishinsky, and seemed unwilling to answer any questions without reference to him. It seems a reasonable inference that between June 6 and June 9 Zhukov had been corrected by Moscow and ordered to abandon his own view, based on evidence, that Hitler was dead, and to substitute for it Stalin’s view, derived from some other motive, that he was alive. What that motive was it is impossible to say; but certainly Stalin persevered in his view, which had now become the official doctrine. On July 17, at Potsdam, he surprised Mr. James F. Byrnes, the American Secretary of State, by saying that he believed Hitler to be alive, probably in Spain or Argentina. Ten days later he stated that his opinion was unchanged. By September, when I began my inquiries, it was quite clear that the Russians had accepted this view as the official doctrine. Whether it was true or not was by now totally irrelevant: they were no longer even interested in evidence; and silence, as so often, became the chief protection of a doctrine which it was increasingly difficult to maintain but impolitic openly to deny.
1. In the report of 1 November 1945, I ascribed the wedding, in the absence of definite evidence, to the evening of 29 April. Subsequent evidence showed that it really took place in the small hours of the morning of 29 April . In the report I also accepted Gebhardt’s statement that he visited the Bunker “about 23-4 April.” Subsequent evidence convinced me that this could not be true, and I afterwards established, by cross-examining Gebhardt, that his visit had been on 22 April as stated in my book.
The fact that Hitler's corpse had apparently not been found in Berlin caused considerable consternation in the Western press. A "Toronto Daily Star" editorial commented anxiously on 18 July: "It is becoming apparent that indisputable proof of Hitler's death either during the past ten weeks or at some early future date, if he should still be alive, is highly desirable for psychological as well as for practical reasons. Unless his demise is beyond argument...the world is in for a potentially dangerous Hitler legend. This might become a psychological weapon in the efforts of German leaders eventually to restore the self-confidence and revive the truculence of this people who for so long have been intolerable disturbers of international peace". 28
Indeed, the very title of the editorial, 'To Destroy Hitler, Whether Man or Myth', implies that it was considered as important to destroy Hitler "the myth" as Hitler "the man". By mid-1945, the public was being asked to choose between a proliferating number of escape stories and the suicide theory. Given that the escape stories were outlandish if not often patently ridiculous, the public was given the impression that only the suicide theory had any evidence to support it and deserved to be taken seriously.
The British response to the burgeoning Hitler escape stories was not long in coming. In September 1945, Brigadier Dick White, commander of the Intelligence Bureau in the British Zone of Occupation, commissioned Major Hugh Trevor-Roper, a young Oxford-trained historian who, since 1943, had supervised the work of the Secret Intelligence Service's Radio Intelligence Section [RIS], to investigate, at least ostensibly, the circumstances of Hitler's alleged death. This was the opening phase of the British establishment's fabrication of a narrative of the last days of the Third Reich that made short work of Hitler "the myth". Given that his only previous publication was a biography of a 17th-century English archbishop, William Laud, and that he neither read nor spoke German, Trevor-Roper was a curious choice for such a task. What's more, as the world saw in the 1980s, he authenticated the spurious "Hitler Diaries", even though the task of determining the authenticity of a single document would have been much simpler than that of establishing the truth about Hitler's demise.
During the last three months of 1945, according to the official story, Trevor-Roper and a team of intelligence agents travelled through Germany, tracking down and interrogating bunker survivors. However, this procedure did not bear a great deal of fruit, probably because most survivors were interned in Soviet prisons and concentration camps. In addition to uncovering the alleged diary of Hitler's valet Heinz Linge, Trevor-Roper achieved only one coup: scoring interviews with Gerda Christian, who had been one of Hitler's secretaries, and Else Krüger, who had been Bormann's secretary. Surprisingly, Trevor-Roper seems not to have interviewed any witnesses who had fallen into American hands, which means the better part of those to be found outside Soviet prisons. It appears that instead of allowing him to meet with them, American intelligence operatives interviewed them and passed copies of their reports to him. In one particularly flagrant case, the Americans furnished Trevor-Roper with partly fabricated testimony; in another, they supplied information that had been obtained in such unusual conditions that it, too, must be considered suspect.
The first case was that of the famous German aviatrix Hanna Reitsch. In an interview with Ron Laytner that she authorised for publication only after her death, Reitsch stated explicitly that at least part of the account attributed to her in "The Last Days of Hitler" had been fabricated: "When I was released by the Americans I read historian Trevor-Roper's book, "The Last Days of Hitler". Throughout the book like a red line, runs an eyewitness report by Hanna Reitsch about the final days in the Bunker. I never said it. I never wrote it. I never signed it. It was something they invented. Hitler died with total dignity". 29
This report, dated 8 October 1945, was written by Reitsch's interrogator, Captain Robert E. Work [Air Division, Headquarters, United States Forces in Austria, Air Interrogation Unit], and published for the first time in, of all places, "Public Opinion Quarterly" in 1946–47. 30
The second case was that of Nurse Erna Flegel. On 23 November 1945, several American intelligence agents took Flegel out for a six-course dinner, the result of which was a five-page statement in English which is presented as a summary of the information she allegedly imparted during her "interrogation". However, Flegel neither wrote the statement herself nor signed it 31 In fact, no one can be said to vouch for this document because, despite its having been declassified, the names of the persons responsible for it, including the name of the agency for which they worked, remain blacked out.
If this approach was typical, then Trevor-Roper's chief sources were summaries of information that had already been pre-digested for him by American intelligence operatives—involving what distortions and attempts at ironing out inconsistencies we will probably never know. Given that there were few Bunker survivors in British hands and that Trevor-Roper had no access to Bunker survivors in Soviet hands, his task basically appears to have been that of creating a coherent narrative out of information that he was being spoon-fed and that he had no means of assessing himself. There is no reason to believe that any of the evidence that reached Trevor-Roper did so with the active consent of the witnesses. My impression is that in 1945, captured Nazis were little more than the puppets of their Allied captors; they could be made to say anything their captors wanted them to say, and if they objected there was nothing they could do about it anyway.
Strikingly, Trevor-Roper made his "conclusions" public less than two months after he'd begun investigating the case. At a press conference on 1 November 1945, Trevor-Roper [who remained anonymous at this stage and was referred to in print merely as "a young British intelligence officer"] presented reporters with a statement that consisted of little more than a narrative of the last week or so of Hitler's life. It described how Hitler had committed suicide, probably by shooting himself in the mouth. 32 Although Trevor-Roper told the reporters that so far he had spoken to about 20 witnesses, the statement did not name even one of them. Nonetheless, reporters probably left the conference under the erroneous impression that the version of Hitler's last days that he had provided was backed up by the testimony of multiple witnesses. Yet he had not found a single new eyewitness to the critical events—Hitler's suicide and cremation; all he had done was take Kempka's testimony as gospel truth and discount Karnau's.
The final section of the Trevor-Roper statement rejected theories that Hitler could have escaped Berlin. In this section, it becomes glaringly obvious that his investigation had been designed to lead to predetermined conclusions. Here we learn, first of all, that Trevor-Roper assumed that Hitler's fate had been entirely determined by last-minute contingencies. According to this line of reasoning, Hitler could not have escaped the Chancellery because this or that avenue of escape had been rendered impossible (or at least difficult, which for Trevor-Roper appeared to mean the very same thing). Trevor-Roper circumscribed Hitler's exit possibilities by means of generalisations that are all extremely questionable. He wrote, for example, that it would have been impossible for Hitler to have been flown out of Berlin because his "two pilots" remained in the Bunker and "took part in the attempted escape on the night of 1 May". 33 This is all very well, so long as you presuppose that Hitler would never have permitted anyone else to fly him out of Berlin or that one of the pilots could not have left the Bunker and returned to it afterwards. Trevor-Roper confined his discussion of Hitler's escape possibilities to planes and cars. However, in January 1946, General Helmuth Weidling, who was interned in a Soviet prison camp, furnished a long statement for the Soviets in which he conceded that he had grown sceptical about the suicide theory. He had meditated on the problem of Hitler's escape possibilities and concluded:
"On the night of 29/30 April there were still opportunities to leave— through the Zoo underground station in western Berlin and through the Friedrichstrasse station in the north. One could have escaped relatively safely through the underground tunnels". 3
Can we really believe that this possibility never occurred to Trevor-Roper? Since it's unlikely that he did not know that Berlin possessed an extensive underground railway system, it seems that the only escape possibilities Trevor-Roper was interested in talking about were those he could exclude. Perhaps Trevor-Roper's most conspicuous flaw was his haste to discount the possibility that the eyewitnesses could have put their heads together to work up a coherent story to cover up for Hitler's escape. In his report, he commented: "It is considered quite impossible that the versions of the various eye-witnesses can represent a concerted cover story; they were all too busy planning their own safety to have been able or disposed to learn an elaborate charade, which they could still maintain after five months of isolation from each other, and under detailed and persistent cross-examination". 35
This argument makes about as much sense as the claim that there can be no such thing as an orchestra because there is no way that a large number of people could ever perform a complex piece of music such as a symphony at the same time. In any case, the "charade" was hardly that "elaborate". As we saw in part one, there are many significant differences between the recollections of the various eyewitnesses. The SS orchestra was playing the same tune, to be sure, but not always in the same key.
Operation Trevor-Roper is best seen, therefore, not as a bona fide investigation of Hitler's fate but as the major stage in the British plan to enshrine anti-Nazi propaganda as historical fact. As we saw in part one, the first eyewitnesses to go public were Hitler's chauffeur Erich Kempka and RSD bodyguard Hermann Karnau. After Kempka's veracity was called into question by Karnau's claims, Karnau's story virtually disappeared and Kempka's story was extolled as the more authoritative. Indeed, Kempka's evidence not only became the basis for Trevor-Roper's book but Kempka was also endorsed at Nuremberg as the sole source of reliable information concerning Hitler's demise. The primary reason Kempka's story won such a positive reception from the Anglo–American authorities was that Kempka was the sole source of evidence that appeared to support the suicide theory [Karnau simply referred to the cremation he had witnessed]. Kempka also contradicted Soviet claims that Hitler could have escaped. In his 4 July 1945 interview record, he declared: "[With a] statement reported to have been made by the Russian Marshall Chukov [sic] that Hitler and Eva Braun could have escaped from the Berlin area by air, I can't agree. On 30 April 1945 and two or three days previous, no one could possibly have left the inner parts of Berlin by air. There was a heavy artillery fire on all the inner parts of Berlin during those days. Neither did I hear about a plane arriving or leaving after 25 or 26 of April 1945". 36
Unfortunately for Kempka, one of the best-attested events of the last days of the Third Reich is that of a flight piloted by General Robert Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch that arrived in Berlin on the morning of 26 April. The same pair took off from Berlin in the early hours of 29/30 April. Reitsch herself not only spoke about the two flights on numerous occasions between 1945 and her death in 1979 but also devoted a chapter to them in her autobiography "Flying Is My Life". 37 Given that the evidence from other sources is abundant enough to establish that they actually took place, there is something extremely suspicious about Kempka's assertion that no such flights would have been possible.
A Ju 52 had 'successfully managed to land' on the Ost-West-Achse on 28 April and then take-off again was apparently flown by one Oberfeldwebel Böhm from II./TGr 3. This was reported by another young Ju 52 pilot from this unit, Uffz. Johannes Lachmund who described events in his 2009 memoir. Although a pilot Lachmund flew on this sortie as a gunner. Lachmund records that this mission was flown from Güstrow to Berlin with five aircraft to evacuate high-ranking personnel from Berlin, including Ritter von Greim. As Lachmund reports, three of the five Ju 52s had to return after missed approaches, chiefly because the visibility was so poor from the heavy smoke from the fires everywhere on the ground. One Ju-52 was shot-down by the Soviets during the approach.
Lachmund mentions discussions via telephone from the 'air traffic control' command-post at the Siegessäule [Berlin's Victory column] between Ofw Böhm and the Bunker in the Reichskanzlei. There was apparently some dispute over the passengers to be flown-out, chiefly because Hanna Reitsch wanted to fly out Ritter von Greim herself at the controls of the Arado Ar-96, and not leave Berlin as a passenger on this Ju-52 flight. Eventually, the Ju 52 boarded only a few other wounded passengers but not the VIPs. Because of damage to the 'runway' from shelling, the Junkers transport had only 400 metres in which to get airborne. It is worth noting perhaps that Deutsche Lufthansa record the minimum take-off distance for their lighter [unarmoured and unarmed] Ju 52/3m as 500 metres.
-- Johannes Lachmund: "Fliegen; Mein Traumberuf – bis zu den bitteren Erlebnissen des Krieges", Verlagshaus Monsenstein und Vannerdat OHG Münster, 2009.
There is no reason to jump to the conclusion, however tempting, that Kempka must have lied about being in the Chancellery during the regime's final days. He could have been temporarily absent from the Bunker on a mission. If so, he had returned by the afternoon of 30 April. As we saw in part one, several eyewitnesses have provided evidence establishing Kempka's presence at a cremation held in the Chancellery garden at around 3.00 pm that afternoon. SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Schneider acknowledged speaking to Kempka at the Chancellery garage on the evening of 1 May. He told the Soviets on 19 May 1945 that on this occasion Kempka had told him that Hitler was "allegedly dead". 38
The explanation that best accounts for events, therefore, is that Kempka sought to suppress his knowledge of the two flights. When Kempka first gave his story to the Americans in June 1945, he had no reason to believe that they knew anything at all about them. There is a very good reason why Kempka would not have wanted to mention these flights: the cover story—that Greim flew to Berlin to receive instructions from Hitler, who had just made him the new head of the Luftwaffe—is preposterous. Why would Hitler, who was anxious for everyone else to leave Berlin, want someone to come to him? Why would he have been so keen to talk to the head of an almost nonexistent entity? The official story fails to justify Greim and Reitsch's extremely dangerous flight. It also does not explain why the pair's flight from the Luftwaffe air base at Rechlin near Berlin to Gatow airport on Berlin's periphery was accompanied by an escort of 30–40 fighter jets—in other words, the extant Luftwaffe virtually in its entirety. Clearly, the flight had a more serious purpose than we have been led to believe.
One writer believes that Greim and Reitsch ferried Martin Bormann out of Berlin. 39 However, in a striking passage in his memoirs, former Volkssturm member Dieter H. B. Protsch relates an incident that took place in Berlin on 29 April 1945. That day, which happened to be his thirteenth birthday, in the course of searching for food for his family he stumbled upon a basement occupied by several Waffen-SS men operating radio equipment who gave him bread and chocolate:
"After some small talk about the family, they suddenly stopped talking when the radio operator raised his hand to demand quiet. The "Funker" [Radio Operator], wearing a head set, started smiling and stated that 'der Führer' got his belated birthday present. He explained further that he [Hitler] made it safely out of Berlin, flown out by his personal pilot Hanna Reitsch, Germany's best female test pilot. The report stated that she was flying a small one engine, two or three seater plane, a so-called 'Fiseler [sic] Storch'. 40
Thus the truth seems to be that, exactly as the Soviets subsequently alleged, Hitler did indeed make it out of Berlin— more or less around the time that the official story tells us that he was still in the Bunker dictating his Political Testament—and that Erich Kempka knew precisely when and how this had taken place, but withheld the information from the Americans. According to Reitsch, the flight reached Rechlin at about 3.00 am. Here, she states, Greim attended a conference. Then she and Greim flew—apparently using a different aircraft—to Plön, a distance of some 400 miles.
There are Russian accounts that Hanna Reitsch returned to Berlin on 30 April 1945 after flying von Greim to Döntz's HQ to arrest Himmler.
Their next destinations were Dobbin, where Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel was, 41 Lübeck, Plön again ["to see Dönitz"], and finally Königgrätz [in Bohemia, now Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic]. 42
Reitsch was an expert flyer to say the least, but these flights indicate how non-combat air travel was still possible around the shrinking Third Reich.
If we assume, as I think we should, that Hitler was present during at least the first of these several stages, we can say that at Rechlin the trail goes cold.
The original Reitsch plan was to transfer Hitler to a Ju 52 at Rechlin if he had acquiesced to their plan. Low-level hedgehopping would then have got them to "safe" German-held territory...possibly around Kiel where the Allies were expecting the Flensburg Government a few days later to leave from for Norway.
If Hitler left Berlin with Greim and Reitsch, then that would account for the series of bizarre events—the marriage to Eva Braun, the writing of the Political Testament, the recurring rages—that have been enshrined in official history as "the Last Days of the Third Reich". Obviously, Hitler's last days in the Bunker needed to be accounted for, and so a lurid series of episodes had to be invented to fill in the yawning gap. This three-part series has not tried to resolve the many questions raised by these bizarre episodes for the obvious reason that they all depend on an underlying assumption—that Hitler committed suicide in the Bunker—which we feel we have shown to be nothing but a propaganda fiction.
1. Globe and Mail, Toronto, 11 June 1945
2. Joe Grigg, "Berlin Ruins Yield Bodies", Hamilton Spectator, 10 May 1945
3. Globe and Mail, 9 May 1945
4. Ian Colvin, Chief of Intelligence, Victor Gollancz, London, 1951, p. 214
5. Fred C. McKenzie, The Greatest Illusion: The Death [?] of Adolf Hitler, 1995,
quoted at: www.blackraiser.com/nredoubt/identity.htm
6. Toronto Daily Star, 28 April 1945
7. Nevada State Journal, 29 April 1945
8 Hamilton Spectator, 2 May 1945
9. New York Times, 2 May 1945
10. Salamanca Republican-Press, 2 May 1945
11. Salamanca Republican-Press, 2 May 1945
12. Michael Beschloss, The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941–1945, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2002, p. 226
13. New York Times, 2 May 1945
14. Hamilton Spectator, 2 May 1945
15 . Globe and Mail, 2 May 1945; Hamilton Spectator, 2 May 1945
16. Count Folke Bernadotte, "Accounts Of Führer's Last Heroic Fight Are Pure Myth", Hamilton Spectator, 5 September 1945
17. Hamilton Spectator, 3 May 1945
18. Globe and Mail, 2 May 1945
19. Drew Middleton, 'Story of Hitler's Death As Hero Declared a Lie', Globe and Mail, 3 May 1945. However, it is probably worth noting that, according to Bernadotte's own account, Himmler had told him that "Hitler was probably already dead and that, if not, he would be within the next few days".
20. Toronto Telegram, 2 May 1945
21 . Lee McCardell, "Assert Hitler Almost Normal On February 15", Hamilton Spectator, 7 May 1945
22 . For example, Field Marshal Kesselring, who had last seen Hitler in mid-April when "he appeared in excellent health"; Howard Cowan, "Kesselring Most Surprised Hitler Remained In Berlin", Hamilton Spectator, 10 May 1945
23. Globe and Mail, 3 May 1945; 8 Hamilton Spectator, 3 May 1945
24. Globe and Mail, 3 May 1945
25. Christian Goeschel, 'Suicide at the End of the Third Reich', Journal of Contemporary History 2006; 41(1), p. 155
26. V. K. Vinogradov et al. (eds), Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB, Chaucer Press, London, 2005, p. 236
27. Cited in Omer Bartov, Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991, p. 110
28. "To Destroy Hitler, Whether Man or Myth", Toronto Daily Star, 18 July 1945
29 Ron Laytner, "The First Astronaut Was A Woman", Edit International, http://www.editinternational.com/printstory.php?cat=42f3cd58d6fc1&sub=44ee0674d77d6
30. Robert E. Work, "Last Days in Hitler's Air Raid Shelter", Public Opinion Quarterly 1946–1947 Winter; 10(4):565-81. A different translation of the same report is included in Hitler's Death, although without the least acknowledgement that Reitsch had repudiated it.
31. The complete document can be viewed online at: www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/nurseflegel1.html32. "Text of British Report Holding Hitler Ended His Life", New York Times, 1 November 1945
34. Hitler's Death, p. 238. I would observe that a living Hitler did not need to escape Berlin; for example, a courier carrying a box with the Führer's ashes in it could have taken it out of the city.
35. "Text of British Report Holding Hitler Ended His Life", New York Times, 1 November 1945
37. See Hanna Reitsch, "The Last Journey to Berlin", in Flying Is My Life, Putnam's Sons, New York, 1954, pp. 220-37. The Greim–Reitsch flights were not even the only flights in and out of central Berlin in this period. In her book, Reitsch refers to at least two others.
38. Hitler's Death, p. 43.
3 9 . Carter P. Hydrick, Critical Mass: The Real Story of the Birth of the Atomic Bomb and the Nuclear Age, 1998, available online at: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/atomicbomb/chap12.htm
40. Dieter H. B. Protsch, Be All You Can Be: From a Hitler Youth in WWII to a US Army Green Beret, Trafford Publishing, 2004, p. 32
41. Keitel confirms in his memoirs, p. 261, that he was at Dobbin this day, thus confirming Reitsch's reliability. He adds the striking information, which Reitsch does not mention, that Himmler was at Dobbin, too. Wilhelm Keitel, In The Service Of The Reich: The Memoirs of Field Marshal Keitel, ed. Walter Goerlitz, Focal Point Publications, London, 2003
42. Reitsch, Flying Is My Life, pp. 235-36
About the Author: Giordan Smith is an independent academic from Sydney, Australia, with a special interest in modern German history.
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Gregory Douglas, author of "Gestapo Chief, the 1948 Interrogation of Heinrich Müller", shows an extreme dislike of Hugh-Trevor-Roper, author of the landmark narrative on the death of the Führer, "The Last Days of Hitler".
Whether Trevor-Roper, a British Intelligence officer, read or spoke no German was irrelevant to his work, as qualified translators were employed by many of these Allied Intelligence Officers conducting the interviews of prisoners. Nor can his well-documented mistake in accepting as genuine the notorious "Hitler Diaries" some thirty-seven years afterwards, in 1983, be used to impugn the scholarship of his book.
Something more substantial is needed if the historian is to dismiss "The Last Days of Hitler".
Hugh Trevor-Roper was an Oxford historian who interviewed the last people to be in the Berlin Bunker headquarters with the dictator. His most famous book, "The Last Days of Hitler" , quickly became the “official version” concerning the suicide of the Nazi Führer in his Bunker abode, shortly after marrying Eva Braun.
Trevor-Roper was encouraged by British intelligence to show that the Nazi tyrant did not escape from Berlin, but committed suicide in his Chancellery Führerbunker. He chided a "flight" as a “desire to invent legends and fairy tales.”
According to the Trevor-Roper explanation, there were no onlookers to the Dictator’s Bunker suicide. Witnesses said they heard a loud gunshot shortly past 3:00 in the afternoon. After waiting a few minutes, Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge, and secretary Martin Bormann opened the door to the small study and stumbled on the dead bodies of the “just married” Führer and Eva Braun.
However, the eyewitness testimonies did not see eye to eye on a variety of fine points. A bystander described examining the body of the Führer slumped lifeless next to deceased Eva Braun on an elongated, upholstered couch. But another witness said that he observed Hitler’s body isolated –– seated on a chair by itself –– near a corner of the Bunker room. An offhand assessment gave evidence of a traumatic gun blast wound in Adolf Hitler’s mouth, while conflicting information claimed the injury was next to his eyebrow. But as indicated in “Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography"  by historian John Toland, the Soviet journalist Lev Bezymenski made a claim in 1968 that the autopsy by the Forensic Medical Commission of the Red Army proved that there was no bullet holein the cranium. “The skull ‘proving’ that there was no bullet hole had been conveniently destroyed”. Toland scornfully voiced disapproval.
Hitler’s valet afterward said he caught a whiff of burnt almonds in the Bunker study, a frequent observation made concerning the scent of toxic cyanide. Those facts, and other details that were released by the Soviet KGB in 1992, led to the current "dual method" portrayal of Hitler shooting himself with a pistol –– while sinking his teeth into a cyanide capsule.
It was often said Hitler killed his dogs, Blondi and Wulf, before committing suicide. Hitler officially instructed his adjutant or assisting SS officer, Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche, to oversee the cremation of his body after his death. The Bunker witnesses supposed that newlywed Eva Braun poisoned herself because her dead body had no visible wounds. Despite that, historian John Toland guardedly offered striking details: "Only one empty poison capsule had been found" in the Chancellery Bunker study.
Finally, Trevor-Roper’s inquiry did not lay enough emphasis on the fact that there were two supposed Hitler cadavers: the fake bad double and the real burnt corpse.
John Toland wrote: "Skeptics wondered why Stalin had spread the story in 1945 that Hitler had escaped when he knew the body had been found".The Soviet correspondent Bezymenski said Moscow made the decision to hold the forensic details “in reserve” in case someone might try to slip into the role of “the Führer saved by a miracle.” In other words, conceivably one more “Hitler double” was potentially on the loose –– and possibly responsible for brutal war crimes. .
In Great Britain it was barely a murmur that the Nazi tyrant had escaped in 1945 from the ruins of Berlin. But in the Soviet Union it was lectured in all public schools. For the most part, Hugh Trevor-Roper’s rationalization is still the most well regarded tale. But as one American military officer stated: “Upon reviewing the actual facts, not a single insurance company would ever pay out a cent to similar claims based on such scant, non-conclusive evidence.”
A statement was made by General Dwight D Eisnhower in the 8 October 1945 issue of the newspaper “Stars and Stripes.” In that report Eisenhower said there was reason to believe Hitler was still alive [after the war] and it was also noted he had, thus, reversed his opinion that Hitler had died of suicide in the Bunker. Other American media simply ignored the report and Eisenhower’s comments. History books also ignore it even today.
Robert G. L. Waite of Williams College set off a debate by bringing the psychoanalytic approach to studies concerning Hitler [“The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler,” 1977]. Perhaps Waite rightly summed up Trevor-Roper’s official report when he wrote: "The death scene was taken from a bad novel written by a person with no taste".
Douglas attempts to provide this material by faulting both the evidence in Trevor-Roper's book and the methods used in securing it. More particularly, Douglas faults Trevor-Roper's claim to have conducted numerous interviews of witnesses from the Chancellery Bunker who were in fact in Russian custody. Any interested party need only look to Trevor-Roper's book to realize the error of Douglas's statement. Trevor-Roper never made such a claim. His 'Notes on Sources' is a scholarly listing of the "personal sources" of information used in his report. He never claimed to have interviewed Hitler's staff-members Otto Günsche, Heinz Linge or Hans Baur. Statements attributed to them are rigorously noted as hearsay.
Of particular concern to Douglas was Trevor-Roper's use of interviews with SS personnel to substantiate his expert determinations that Hitler had committed suicide and that his body was burned. Pointing out that the SS officers Linge and Günsche were in Russian captivity, Douglas however condemns the remaining two witnesses used by Trevor-Roper as fabrications.
Asserting they were members of the SS and the RSD, Douglas allegedly verifies their existence by checking personnel records of the SS and the RSD held by the Berlin Document Center. Informing the reader that the names of Hermann Karnau and Erich Mansfeld, two of Trevor-Roper's witnesses, could not be found, Douglas asks the reader to consider those two witnesses a fraud. In addition, the reader is informed that the statements made by Günsche, Linge and Baur after their release from the Russian incarceration conflict with Trevor-Roper's conclusions.
If Douglas had troubled actually to read "The Last Days of Hitler" he would have realized that his research into the SS background of Karnau and Mansfeld was doomed to fail.
In his Notes on Sources, Trevor-Roper does not state that Karnau was an SS member, only that he was a policeman and member of the RSD [Reichssicherheitsdienst]. Thus, Karnau would not have appeared on the SS membership lists which Douglas searched.
The first clue to Hitler's alleged fate was obtained by the Canadian Army. A German policeman, Hermann Karnau, aged 32, gave himself up to a party of troops in Wilhelmshaven, stating as his reason for doing so that he wanted to obtain proper documents from the Allies. This action was curious in view of the fact that he was well known in Wilhelmshaven, where he had been a member of the town's criminal police.
Karnau stated that he had been a guard at the Reichs Chancellery in Berlin until 2 May, when he was given permission to leave his post because the Russians were closing in. He passed through the Russian lines in disguise, stating that he was a Dutchman returning home. He said that he had been a member of the second ring of guards round Hitler since I944, when he was at the headquarters in East Prussia and at Berchtesgaden. He came to Berlin in March I945.
Mansfeld is another matter. Erich Mansfeld [alias Skripczyk - Douglas should have checked the spelling] was reported by Trevor-Roper to have been a SS-Hauptscharführer and a member of the RSD. One would therefore presume that his name would appear on the SS enlisted men's list in BCD, but it apparently does not.
Can we safely dismiss these two witnesses because no corroboration is found by Douglas for their testimonies?
Perhaps Douglas should have investigated the Interrogation Records Prepared for the War Crimes Proceedings at Nürnberg 1945-1947. In this catalogue, prepared by the National Archives and Records Service in 1984, is a listing for Erich Mansfeld. His Intermediate Interrogation Report [IIR] is on MicroÞlm Roll 25.
In this report, conducted in the Bremen Interrogation Center by a G-2 officer of the 29th Division on 30 July 1945, Mansfeld's apparent SS rank is explained: He was accepted into the RSD in June of 1944 with a rank of Kriminal Assistant and SS Hauptscharführer. Whether this was a provisional rank or not is not known.
Other disputed characters of the Bunker Finale are also mentioned, including Karnau, Mengershausen - a witness Douglas seems to have forgotten - and Hufbeck, mentioned on page 204 of "The Last Days of Hitler" as Hans Hofbeck.
In addition, all post war documentaries on the question of Hitler's death point out that there is total agreement between the versions of Linge, Günsche and Baur, after their release from Soviet captivity, and the Trevor-Roper conclusions.
What of Karnau? The interrogation report notes that Hermann Karnau was in British Custody - which is precisely where Trevor-Roper interviewed him. Two independent sources resulting in almost total corroboration. Mansfeld's entire personal history is listed in the interrogation and can be further checked.
So where's the uncertainty about Mansfeld and Karnau now?
- David Irving
Hitler Did Not Die in Berlin Chancellery
The official British Intelligence Release, "The Last Days of Hitler and Eva Braun," was intended to prove once and for all, that Hitler and Eva Braun really did die in the Berlin Chancellery and that their bodies really were cremated in the gardens. After opening with the paragraph: "Available evidence sifted by British Intelligence and based largely on eye-witness accounts shows [as conclusively as possible without bodies] that Hitler and Eva Braun died shortly after 2.30 on 30 April 1945, in the Bunker of the Reich Chancellery, their bodies being burnt just outside the Bunker," it goes on to build up a picture of the last few days.
There is no acceptable evidence that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun died in the huge, squat air-raid shelter which the Führer had built for himself in Berlin. There is no physical evidence that their bodies were cremated in the garden of the Berlin Chancellery. I make these statements in contradiction of the official theory of British Intelligence and I make them on the result of months of detailed work in Germany; work in which I suffered under the inevitable limitations of a one-man unofficial investigator, but in which, none the less, I was able to carry out in a reasonably complete form the vital tests and experiments on which I base my opening statement.
Under terrific Allied bombardment Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin was shattered, but the 40-feet deep underground shelter near the building in which Hitler took refuge and in which his suicide was reported, remained intact.
During the months I spent in Germany I checked every angle of the Hitler mystery, tested and retested the stories of innumerable witnesses, sieved the soil of the Chancellery garden for buttons, suspender clips, tags from shoe laces, coins, keys and other practically indestructible metal objects which are always found on the spot where a body is burnt. I searched the garden for portions of bone. I searched the air raid shelter itself for bloodstains. I even went so far as to stage my own unofficial cremation to discover just how far two human corpses could be destroyed with 40 gallons of petrol -as the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were supposed to have been destroyed. And at the end of it all, there was not one hard clue to prove they were really dead. Before I started on the assignment to check up on the "Hitler case," I scoured London for all the newspaper clippings, magazine articles and reliable books on Hitler which I could lay my hands on. I wanted to read and re-read all the statements made by the many supposed witnesses of his end to try to sort out as much of the truth as I could. As the same time I wanted to build up as complete a picture of Hitler as possible to determine just what he would, or would not, have done in any given set of circumstances.
As a result of the evidence Louis C. S. Mansfield discovered, Colonel Heimlich, of the American Intelligence [G2], reopened the Hitler case offering him the full facilities of their organization in their zone, and General Smirnov, Russian Commander of Berlin, gave him carte blanche to carry out any investigations he wished in the Russian sector. His discoveries were deemed so important that British, American and Russian Intelligence officers requested full copies of his investigational field notes.
THE ALLEGED FACTS:
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler took cyanide with his wife Eva Braun and shot himself through the head in his Führerbunker in Berlin. SS Officer Otto Günsche stated that Hitler “...sat...sunken over, with blood dripping out of his right temple. He had shot himself with his own pistol, a PPK 7.65.” In accordance with Hitler’s instructions, his body was taken up the stairs, doused in petrol and set alight in the Reich Chancellery garden outside the Bunker.
As the Soviet Army secured control of Berlin in May 1945, Russian forensic specialists under the command of the counterintelligence unit Smersh (an acronym for “Death to Spies”) dug up what was presumed to be the dictator’s body outside the bunker and performed a post-mortem examination behind closed doors. A part of the skull was absent, presumably blown away by Hitler’s suicide shot, but what remained of his jaw coincided with his dental records, a fact reportedly confirmed when the Russians showed his surviving dental work to the captured assistants of Hitler’s dentist. The autopsy also reported that Hitler, as had been rumoured, had only one testicle.
But Stalin remained suspicious. In 1946 a second secret mission was dispatched to Berlin. In the same crater from which Hitler’s body had been recovered, the new team found what it believed was the missing skull fragment with a bullet exit wound through it. The Russians also took fragments of Hitler’s bloodstained sofa.
Even this failed to satisfy Stalin, who clamped a secrecy order on all matters related to Hitler’s death.
Soviet military records state that the burned remains of Hitler and his wife were dug up in May of that year, repeatedly buried and exhumed, held in a Smersh [Russian counter-Intelligence unit] centre in Magdeburg until finally being buried in an unmarked grave in 1970. Only the skull and a fragment of jawbone were held, deep in the Soviet archives.
The supposed evidence for various conspiracy theories about Hitler’s death ran along several lines: that a number of eyewitness descriptions were different [one said shot in the head, one said the mouth], that the body was burned beyond recognition and forensic tests on bloodstains in the Bunker did not match Hitler’s blood type, and that the paranoid Führer had at least six body doubles who could have died in his place. So if it is assumed the suicide was an elaborate hoax and the Führer actually escaped, what happened next?
Ron T. Hansig in "Hitler’s Escape" thinks he flew with Braun to Barcelona. Some theorists, like Abel Basti, put him on a U-boat to Argentina to join Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. Or still further south, to a secret military base in ‘New Swabia’, somewhere in Antarctica. British and American forces allegedly destroyed the base with atomic weapons in the 1950s – a hypothesis that was actually investigated and disproved due to the frozen sea. One theory even claims he used secretly developed rocket technology to flee to a Nazi base on the moon.
In 2000, the Russian State Archive in Moscow staged an exhibition, 'The Agony of the Third Reich'. The skull fragment was displayed, but only photographs of Hitler’s jawbone were on view. The head of the archive, Sergei Mironenko, said he had no doubt the skull fragment was authentic. “It is not just some bone we found in the street, but a fragment of a skull that was found in a hole where Hitler’s body had been buried,” he said.
The most explosive and only credible revelation came in 2009 when an American research team from the University of Connecticut claimed that DNA testing proved that what was regarded as Hitler’s skull was actually and incontestably female and 20-40 years old.
Hitler was 56 when he died.
That revelation, however, raises scores of other questions. If the skull that the Russians presented as Hitler’s is clearly not his, how reliable was Smersh’s original dental identification of Hitler’s remains? Was the account given by captured aides of Hitler’s suicide and the subsequent attempt to cremate him really truthful, or was it a clever hoax? Did Hitler really die in the Bunker, or could he possibly have escaped? Unless scientists invent a time machine, we may never know the complete story.
According to archaeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni, it was clear from the outset that something was amiss. “The bone seemed very thin; male bone tends to be more robust,” he said. “And the sutures where the skull plates come together seemed to correspond to someone under 40.”
Bellantoni had flown to Moscow to inspect the gruesome Hitler trophies at the State Archive, which included the skull fragment as well as bloodstains from the Bunker sofa on which Hitler and Braun were believed to have committed suicide. He was allowed only one hour with the Hitler trove, during which time he applied cotton swabs and took DNA samples.
“I had the reference photos the Soviets took of the sofa in 1945 and I was seeing the exact same stains on the fragments of wood and fabric in front of me, so I knew I was working with the real thing.”
The samples were then flown back to Connecticut. At the university’s centre for applied genetics, Linda Strausbaugh closed her lab for three days to work exclusively on the Hitler project.
“We used the same routines and controls that would have been used in a crime lab,” she said. To her surprise, a small amount of viable DNA was extracted. She then replicated this through a process known as molecular copying to provide enough material for analysis. “We were very lucky to get a reading, despite the limited amount of genetic information,” she said.
The skull fragment the Russians dug up outside the Führerbunker in 1946 could never have belonged to Hitler. The only positive physical proof that Hitler had shot himself had suddenly been rendered worthless. The result is a mystery reopened and, for conspiracy theorists the tantalizing possibility that Hitler did not die in the Bunker.
These analyses on the skull have shocked scientists, and have left experts debating whether Hitler survived and escaped Germany as many popular ‘conspiracy theories’ suggest.
In the wake of Bellantoni and Strausbaugh’s findings, Mironenko’s confidence was clearly misplaced. But could the fragment of skull belong to Eva Braun, who died at 33 and was laid alongside her beloved Führer in the same crater? “We know the skull corresponds to a woman between the ages of 20 and 40,” said Bellantoni, but he is sceptical about the Braun thesis.
"There is no report of Eva Braun having shot herself or having been shot afterwards. This person, with a bullet hole coming out the back of the head, would have been shot in the face, in the mouth or underneath the chin," It would have been hard for them to miss that".
Both Strausbaugh and Bellantoni said there is nothing in their findings that significantly challenges the conclusion that Hitler died in the Bunker:
"It just shows the Russians had the wrong skull. It could be anyone. Many people were killed around the Bunker area. My gut feeling is he did commit suicide there, and maybe the blood sample we found is his".
"The cranial vault fragment in question was recovered a full year [May 1946] after the initial discoveries of the bodies [May 1945]. As we say in archaeology, "context" is everything. The context had been destroyed in waiting over a year to return to Berlin. The mandible that was sent to Moscow in 1945 is, I believe, that of Hitler. The cranial vault is someone else".
To whom did the skull belong? Some mysteries may never be solved.
Lieutenant-General Vasily Khristoforov, the chief archivist at the Federal Security Service, insisted that the security service had no reason to question the authenticity of the skull fragments in its possession, despite Strausbaugh and Bellantoni's claims.
A former KGB lieutenant general has described how Hitler's bones were secretly burnt in a night-time operation a quarter of a century after the Nazi dictator died. The remains were then tipped into the sewerage system in Magdeburg, a city then in East Germany.
The revelation was made last week by Sergi Kondrashev, who spent two periods as head of Soviet counter-intelligence in East Berlin at the height of the cold war.
His account ends half a century of speculation and conspiracy theories that Hitler took advantage of the chaos at the end of the Second World War to escape to Argentina.
Kondrashev is one of the few former Soviet intelligence officers familiar with the details of what happened shortly before midnight on 4 April 1970, to the remains of Hitler, his wife Eva Braun, and Josef Göbbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, his wife and six children, who also died in Hitler's bunker in Berlin.
"Operation Archive' was ordered by Yuri Andropov, then chairman of the KGB and later general secretary of the Soviet Communist party.
"The remains were all burnt in secret at night," Kondrashev said last week, breaking his silence after almost three decades. "Then the ashes were dumped in the city sewerage system through a manhole. That's where they ended up."
The remains had lain until then beneath concrete on the grounds of a Soviet military camp off Klausenerstrasse in Magdeburg, 70 miles west of Berlin, their exact location known only to a small circle of Soviet leaders. They had been transported there in 1946, less than a year after their discovery by a Soviet military advance party in the yard of Hitler's Bunker, buried in a shallow grave in a large bomb crater.
"The bodies had been half burnt," recalled Kondrashev, who was a personal friend of some of the officers who carried out the first tests on the remains. "They were placed in separate cases and transported to a secret location in Berlin. A report was sent immediately to Josef Stalin, who gave orders to determine beyond doubt that Hitler's corpse was among those discovered. After we concluded that the remains did belong to Hitler, they were taken to Magdeburg and buried."
They lay beneath the city for 24 years, as speculation about their whereabouts raged in the west. But in 1970, when the Russians thought they would have to hand over the military camp to the East Germans, Kondrashev, who was completing his second posting as KGB head in Berlin, reminded Andropov of their existence.
In a move personally approved by Leonid Brezhnev, then the Soviet leader, Andropov gave the order to dig up the remains and destroy them for fear that they would one day be discovered and the site turned into a shrine to Hitler.
The KGB first secured the area around the Magdeburg camp to guard against curious neighbours. A small tent was erected over the grave and five officers dug through the night, first with pickaxes, then with shovels. They found five cases containing the remains of ten bodies. After counting the leg bones to ensure that no body was missing, they loaded the cases onto a lorry and drove them to a nearby training camp, where they were burnt.
Skull fragments, including his jawbone, are all that remain of Hitler. They were sent in secret to Moscow in 1945, together with parts of a blood soaked leather couch on which the Führer is believed to have died. Blood from the couch matched Hitler's blood type and the skull was painstakingly reconstructed except for a missing cheekbone and other fragments destroyed when his corpse was doused in petrol and set alight by an aide. After months of research, based mainly on the dictator's teeth, the Russians concluded the remains were indeed Hitler's.
"We concluded that first Hitler took an ampoule of poison and then shot himself," said Kondrashev. "He was then burnt and buried, first by the Nazis and then by the Russians."
The skull is still in the hands of the FSB, the KGB's successor organization, and is believed to be held in an archive on the outskirts of Moscow. According to the latest reports, it is stored in a small cardboard box originally used for ball-point pen refills.
-- Mark Franchetti
The Sunday Times [UK]
31 October 1999
Official: KGB chief ordered Hitler's remains destroyed
By Maxim Tkachenko, CNN
11 December 2009
Moscow, Russia [CNN] -- The remains of Adolf Hitler were burned in 1970 by Soviet KGB agents and thrown into a river in Germany on direct orders from the spy agency's chief, a top Russian security official said this week.
The head archivist of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) -- the successor to the former Soviet Union's KGB -- confirmed for the first time the chain of events that led to the disposal of Hitler's body, and who ordered the operation, in an exclusive interview with Russia's Interfax news agency.
Gen. Vasily Khristoforov told "Interfax" in an interview published Monday that previously secret documents show that KGB chief Yuri Andropov, with prior consent from the Soviet Communist Party leadership, ordered a top secret operation to destroy the remains of Hitler, his wife Eva Braun, Nazi Germany's propaganda chief, Josef Göbbels, and Göbbels' entire family.
Khristoforov said according to the documents, Andropov's decision to destroy the remains of the Nazi leaders and their family members was motivated by the fears of the KGB and Soviet Communist Party leadership that Hitler's burial site could become a place of worship for supporters of fascist ideas.
Neither the FSB nor Khristoforov were immediately available to comment on the secret documents, when asked by CNN.
The operation, code-named "The Archives," was carried out by a group of special KGB agents in Magdeburg, East Germany, where the bodies had been secretly buried 21 February 1946, on the territory f a Soviet military facility, Khristoforov said.
Two protocols were compiled after the operation was carried out on 4 April 1970, the general said. The first documented the opening of a grave that contained the remains of the Nazi leaders and their family members, and the other one detailed their physical destruction.
"The remains were burnt on a bonfire outside the town of Shönebeck, 11 kilometers away from Magdeburg, then ground into ashes, collected and thrown into the Biederitz River," the second document reads, according to Khristoforov.
But as the official story goes, the Soviets couldn’t resist keeping a few pieces of Hitler for posterity, though their existence wasn’t revealed to the world until after the USSR’s own demise. In 1993, the Russian state archive revealed that it had found what officials believed to be a piece of the Nazi dictator’s skull, complete with damage from a gunshot wound, and other bone fragments, in a cardboard box marked "Blue Ink for Pens".
Investigators from other countries, however, were skeptical of the skull’s authenticity. "New Scientist" reported at the time that French forensic dental experts concluded that the grisly trophy actually came from another corpse, one they believed that Smersh officials may have shipped to Moscow in 1945 and passed off as Hitler’s remains, in an attempt to placate Stalin’s blood lust.
Pieces of skull recently displayed by Russia’s national archives probably did not come from Adolf Hitler’s body, claims a team of French forensic scientists. Although the fragments had been in storage in Moscow since 1945, the researchers say the German dictator’s real remains stayed in Berlin and that scientists who performed the ‘official’ autopsy shipped an ‘official’ corpse to Moscow under tremendous political pressure from Stalin.
The French team of forensic odontologists, or tooth specialists, at the 'Institute for Forensic and Social Medicine' in Lille base their theory on a report by the forensic medical commission of the Soviet army, which performed autopsies on what it concluded to be the corpses of Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun. Both committed suicide in the Berlin Chancellery’s Bunker on 30 April 1945 and were partially cremated and buried the same day. The report of the autopsies, performed in May 1945, and accompanying photographs were kept secret until 1968, when they were published by a Soviet journalist.
Five years later Reidar Sognnaes, an American odontologist who had studied a report by Hitler’s dentist – arrested and interrogated by American troops in 1945 – concluded that the photographs indeed showed the German leader’s maxilla, complete with removable upper bridge and false teeth. But other experts disputed this and questions remained about whether the Soviet team had had any of Hitler’s dental records on which to base their conclusions.
-- New Scientist
27 March 1993
Finally, in 2009, a DNA analysis by University of Connecticut researchers revealed the the skull actually was that of a woman between the ages of 20 and 40, who had died in Hitler’s Bunker. [It was not Eva Braun’s, since she reportedly died from cyanide poisoning, not a bullet].
That revelation, however, raises scores of other questions. If the skull that the Russians presented as Hitler’s is clearly not his, how reliable was Smersh’s original dental identification of Hitler’s remains? Was the account given by captured aides of Hitler’s suicide and the subsequent attempt to cremate him really truthful, or was it a clever hoax? Did Hitler really die in the Bunker, or could he possibly have escaped? Unless scientists invent a time machine, we may never know the complete story.
The bodies of Hitler, Braun and the Göbbels family had been discovered by the Soviet Army in May 1945. The bodies of Göbbels and his wife were found 2 May in the garden of Nazi Germany's Reich Chancellery. The bodies of the couple's children were recovered the next day, and the corpses of Hitler and Braun were discovered 5 May in a crater from an artillery shell outside his Bunker in Berlin.
According to historical accounts, Hitler's death was a combination of a suicide by gunshot and cyanide poisoning on 30 April 1945, when the Soviet Army entered the Nazi Germany capital.
In early June of that year, the Soviets buried the bodies in a forest near the town of Rathenau, Germany. Eight months later, they secretly re-buried the remains in the Soviet Army's garrison in Magdeburg.
But in March 1970, the Soviets decided to abandon the garrison and pass it over to the East German civilian authorities.
As long as the burial place of the Nazi leaders was in the territory of a Soviet garrison, it could be kept secret and barred from strangers. But following relocation of the Soviet Army unit, the decision was made not to rebury Hitler's remains but to burn them, Khristoforov explained, calling it "perhaps a reasonable decision" given the circumstances.
Khristoforov said that all that remains of Hitler's corpse are fragments of his jawbone and skull, items that are kept in Russia.
The general said the Russian FSB has no doubts that the bone fragments are genuine. No other fragments of the German dictator exist in other countries, he said.
"Hitler's jaw is kept at the FSB archives, and the fragments of Hitler's skull are at the State Archive. There are no other parts of Hitler's body apart from these samples seized on 5 May 1945.
"Everything [else] that remained of Hitler was burnt in 1970," he added. "Those fragments are ... the only documented evidence of Hitler's death, which is why they are kept at the Russian FSB Central Archive as being particularly valuable."
Commenting on recent media reports that archeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni and genetics professor Linda Strausbaugh of the University of Connecticut expressed doubts about the authenticity of the parts of Hitler's skull, Khristoforov said, "The U.S. researchers did not file such requests [for taking DNA samples] with the Russian FSB Central Archive.
"But even if you take the fragments kept in our custody, it is unclear what these data can be compared with."
In April 2000, a fragment of what was presented as Hitler's skull, complete with a bullet hole in it, was first displayed in Moscow at a World War II exhibition.
At the time, Sergei Mironenko, head of the Russian State Archives, told CNN that he is absolutely confident that the skull was authentic, and that there are many documents the Russian archives also put on display along with the skull to support that.
"Those documents provide convincing proof that all those speculations that Hitler could have survived and escaped, that he could have had plastic surgery, are absolutely groundless. He was a totally depressed man who was incapable of making political or any other kinds of decisions. He understood that his Bunker, the crater [where he was found dead], would become his last refuge. And that's exactly what happened," Mironenko said.
Secret Stalin files on Hitler’s end in bloody Berlin Bunker 70 years ago today to go on display to dispel conspiracy theory that he and Eva Braun "retired" to South America
• Secret files detail the bizarre journey of Hitler's body following his death
• Claim to have identified burnt remains in May 1945 through dental records
• Reveal how bodies were buried in three different places by nervous Stalin
By Allan Hall In Berlin for MailOnline
30 April 2015
Seventy years after he ended his life in the flaming ruins of Berlin, the secret file detailing what happened to Adolf Hitler and his bride is poised to go on display in Moscow.
It will finally hammer the coffin lid down on bizarre conspiracy theories - among them that the world's greatest murderer escaped from his squalid bunker at the 11th hour to live in Argentina, raise children and die of natural causes.
The files, held by Russia's FSB federal security service, are said to detail exactly what happened to his body in the confusing months following his death in 1945, until it was disposed of for good by a nervous Soviet state in the 1970s.
It is thought the Russian's will finally unveil the documents in May, to coincide with celebrations planned in Moscow marking the end of the war seven decades ago.
'This is the true history of what happened to Hitler,' says an FSB spokesman. 'He died in Berlin and we have the papers to prove it.'
The SMERSH - 'Death to Spies' - file created for Josef Stalin, Hitler's greatest enemy, shows the evil ruler died a coward's death 70 years ago today, with the blood of millions on his hands.
SMERSH was the ultra-secret, ultra-loyal agency of the Red Army created by Stalin, supreme ruler of the Soviet Union which lost 27 million subjects fighting Hitler and his armies.
When the Red Army reached Hitler's Bunker on 4 May 1945, Hitler and long-time love Eva Braun were long dead.
They killed themselves on 30 April - two days after they wed - as the guns of Stalin's armies pounded what was once the cleanest capital in Europe into brick dust.
'The Hitler File' chronicles how SMERSH agents were given authority over ordinary Red Army soldiers to take control of his Bunker in eastern Berlin and everything in it.
Stalin was determined to have his trophies of the greatest war in history at any cost.
Captured Nazi officers told their interrogators how Hitler and Eva committed suicide at 3pm on 30 April - he with a gunshot to the mouth, she with cyanide, although it was initially suspected both had used poison.
Aides struggled with the corpses up the steps of the concrete shelter to the garden outside where they were laid in a shell hole, doused with petrol and set ablaze.
It suited the paranoid, cunning Stalin's warped mindset to let his western Allies - about to become Cold War enemies - believe that the monster had escaped.
But the SMERSH agents not only found Hitler's skull, they also meticulously recorded what was to happen to his remains, and those of Eva, for the next 25 years.
It seems the fire, which is said to have blazed for more than two hours, did not manage to obliterate their bodies for good: petrol's scarcity has been given as one possible reason.
SMERSH agents, attached to the 3rd Shock Army which had fought street by street to take Berlin, found the half-charred corpses on 5 May.
"They were removed and put into a truck at the site," reads the file.
The plan was for gravediggers to excavate a deep tomb in the garden of the former Reichschancellery and for it to be concreted over the next day - but then army bureaucracy interfered.
The 3rd Shock Army was ordered to hand over control of the Bunker site to the 5th Shock Army.
Unwilling to yield the greatest prize of what every Russian called the "Great Patriotic War", the "Hitler File" shows that SMERSH operatives removed the bodies to the small Berlin suburb of Buch, then an hour's drive from the bunker, but now reachable in less than half that time on the city's suburban train network.
According to SMERSH, they underwent a forensic examination on 8 May at Field Hospital No 496 in Buch. Along with Hitler and Eva were the corpses of his sinister propaganda chieftain Josef Göbbels and his Lady Macbeth wife Magda and their six children.
She had poisoned all of them one by one hours after Hitler was dead 'because I cannot bear to let them live in a world without the Fuehrer.'
Käthe Heuserman, the assistant of Hitler's dentist, who had been captured, located X-ray files.
An examination also positively identified Hitler's dentures.
In a letter to Laventi Beria, the feared boss of the NKVD - the precursor of the Soviet KGB - the pathologist wrote: 'In the mouth of the corpses I found glass pieces, pieces of wall and of the floor corresponding to material in the Bunker. There was a strong smell of bitter almonds, the smell of cyanide which killed them.
'"here can be no doubt about it that this is the corpse of Adolf Hitler".
The letter went on to say the bodies had been buried in a secret location in Buch, part of the Soviet zone of occupation.
Soon afterwards, the 3rd Shock Army was ordered to move to another part of conquered Germany.
Again reluctant to let go of their prize, SMERSH officers exhumed the bodies in the summer of 1945 and moved them to Rathenow, 55 miles from Berlin, where they were reinterred by other SMERSH agents, who were later assigned to Siberia so they could never tell of their strange and secret mission.
The "Hitler File" reveals the graves were disguised with "freshly planted pine trees".
Then, in November 1945, Lieutenant General Kobulow, in command of the PoW department of the Red Army, cabled Moscow that he wanted to exhume the bodies.
He had heard evidence from witnesses in the Bunker - including the S.S. telegraphist Rochus Misch who died in Berlin in September 2013 - that Hitler had shot himself instead of using cyanide.
On 13 January 1946, the bodies were once again dug up in Rathenow by an investigation committee headed by SMERSH Lieutenant General Selenin.
Hitler's skull was sent to Stalin in Moscow - it now resides on the third floor of the State Archive of the Russian Federation where is is planned to display "The Hitler File" - and the bodies were moved to Magdeburg, East Germany.
In the yard of No 36 West End Street, the headquarters of the local SMERSH authority of the 3rd Shock Army, another examination confirmed: "The fascist leader Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head".'
He had watched his wife die before placing his service Walther pistol in his mouth and blowing a hole through the roof of his skull. A spent bullet was later found in a bomb crater outside the Bunker that matched his head wound.
The reports were forwarded to Stalin and his spymaster Beria. The bodies were then buried in the courtyard of the house, laid to rest in wooden boxes used to store munitions.
Twenty-four years passed before the politburo in Moscow got the jitters again in 1970.
On 13 March, Leonid Brezhnev, head of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, received a letter from foreign minister Alexei Kosygin.
The Red Army garrison town in which the bodies were buried was about to be turned over to the German Democratic Republic - Communist East Germany - and he wanted them moved for good.
Fraternal socialist allies they may have been on paper and in the propaganda movies. But Soviet Russia did not want the genie of Adolf Hitler to escape from its bottle. Ever.
East Germany was the most faithful of the satellite states of Russia that made up the eastern bloc. No one in Moscow could bear the thought of the mystery of what happened to Hitler being solved once and for all for the west, which was now the sworn enemy.
'The background that makes this move imperative is the possible building and earth moving work in this territory that could lead to the discovery of the graves,' the letter said.
'I recommend they be removed and burned under the greatest conspiratorial secrecy ...'
Beneath Kosygin's signature is written: 'Understood. 16. March.'
It was signed by Brezhnev who had served in the war that defeated Hitler as a political commissar, ensuring all servicemen remained faithful to Communism when under fire.
Three Smersh agents - Vladimir Gumenjuk, a Major Schirokow and a Captain Kowalenko - are identified in "The Hitler File" as being given the task of finally getting rid of the bodies once and for all.
They were issued gas masks to wear because of the stench of decomposed flesh. Anyone who happened by was to be told they were 'exterminating vermin' and that the smell came from Sulphur they were pouring into the ground.
On the morning of 4 April 1970, they began digging in the courtyard. They soon found the Red Army wooden munitions boxes and inside glimpsed at the skeletal remains.
According to the SMERSH documents, gold teeth, believed to have come from Magda Göbbels, were also there.
The bones and decomposing flesh were placed in empty Kalashnikov rifle cases and driven off in a Soviet jeep with a a tarpaulin over the back with fishing rods sticking out. The soldiers were to say they were going fishing if questioned.
Late in the day, they reached a remote spot in Schönebeck, south of Magdeburg. There, with 20 litres of petrol procured from an army base, Hitler's remains were finally burned, along with the rest of the group.
The ashes were piled into a sack, driven north to Biederitz and dumped without ceremony or witnesses, into the Ehle River.
"It is done," the Politburo were informed. "They are gone".
Not without some irony, the KGB had labelled the blue cardboard box 'Operation Myth'. Inside, was the evidence that German forensic scientist Dr Mark Benecke hoped would solve one of the great historical riddles of all time: how did Hitler die and what happened to his remains?
Benecke couldn't believe his luck on a visit last year to the Russian State Archive - which had taken possession of the box from the KGB - when an archivist offered to show him its sensational contents. Incongruously stored in a floppy disk box was the charred top of a human skull with a large bullet hole - but did it really belong to one of the most reviled men in history?
Benecke's fascinating story is told in a "National Geographic Channel" documentary called 'Hitler's Skull' but, oddly, the most interesting aspect of the story does not centre on the skull cap but on Hitler's teeth.
Benecke was the first person outside Russia to see and closely examine the dictator's elaborate dental bridge work.
The KGB - now known as the FSB - had decided to keep the two dental bridges rather than the skull cap and agreed to show them to Benecke. It was a breathtaking discovery. The scientist managed to match the top bridge to a 1944 X-ray of Hitler's head which American and British secret services had recovered from one of his doctors. Benecke says: "Hitler had very bad teeth. Before the war, he had asked his dentist Blaschke to fix his teeth for a final time. He wanted the bridge to survive for many years.
"Blaschke, who had trained in America, made a massive, solid metal bridge for Hitler which was very unusual and easy to recognise.
"Along with rumours that Hitler had very bad breath, I cannot imagine how he and Eva Braun ever kissed!"
Hitler married Braun just 36 hours before they both committed suicide on 30 April 1945, as Russian soldiers prepared to storm their Bunker in Berlin.
Hitler's remains, along with those of Braun, were incinerated with 140 gallons of petrol. Their bodies were then thrown into a bomb crater in the Chancellery garden, along with other unidentifiable bodies from the nearby hospital.
The German leader had wanted his body burned so that he would avoid the humiliation meted out to fellow fascist Mussolini, whose corpse was strung up before the Italian public.
Later, Hitler's lower jawbone and two dental bridges were found by Red Army soldiers, who put them in a cigar box. The jawbone now seems to have disappeared but the teeth and skull cap were recovered by the Russian secret service.
A section of human jaw that the Russian government claims belonged to Adolf Hitler, is seen in a photograph on display in an exhibition in Moscow 28 April 2000
Dr Benecke, who works with the German police on criminal cases and has a crime show on German television, says his examination and photographs may have helped to solve a 50-year-old mystery.
Dr Benecke added: "This is the first time anyone has pieced the whole thing together: the skull, the teeth and the documentary evidence. As it turned out, I was the first scientist to take pictures of both the teeth and the skull. One colleague had seen them before but that was all.
"It's crucial to take high-resolution pictures. You have to document every millimetre, every inch of the object, which I did. The big difference now is that they allowed me time to examine them thoroughly."
This is not the first time that a skull cap supposedly belonging to Hitler has been shown in public.
Three years ago, the Russian State Archive exhibited a section of a forehead which measured approximately 3.5in by 4.5in, which it said was Adolf Hitler's.
It was slightly darkened by charring and had a bullet hole visible above the left temple but this seems to differ from the section featured on the "National Geographic" documentary, which shows a bullet hole, possibly an exit wound, at the back of the head. That suggests Hitler had shot himsef through the mouth.
Dr Benecke says: "From a scientific standpoint, we cannot say.
The metal dental bridge held by Russia's State Archive is proof that Hitler is dead, says Dr Benecke it was definitely Hitler's skull until we check for DNA.
"The piece of skull is also a little too small. Some other parts would have been more helpful in an attempt to identify how old the person was, for instance.
"From a criminologist's standpoint, however, I was talking to the people in the archive and the story is totally conclusive to me. Why would they forge or falsify evidence? It would have been better for them just to let the skull disappear because Stalin didn't want it to be there in the first place. They could have just have thrown it away or something. It makes it all the more believable that it is the real skull.
So why was the box labelled "Operation Myth"? A joke?
He says: "I put it to the archivist that, if I had a box in my shelf called 'Operation Myth', I would, for sure, in a secret moment, open it but she said: 'You don't understand how we were working here in Russian communist times. No one would even touch the box, especially since the RGB had brought it over'.
"That's all part of the riddle because the teeth are still held in the former KGB archive as they were recovered from Berlin by the military police and the secret service. In my opinion, the KGB wanted to leak the information that Hitler was really dead. When Stalin died, someone thought it was safe to do so, so the skull was released to the State Archive. They were probably also fed up with all the nonsense conspiracy stories, too."
There were many such stories. Depending on which theory you believe, Hitler escaped the Bunker alive and fled to Argentina, Tokyo [by submarine as claimed at one point by Stalin] or Brazil. If he were alive today, he would be 114. Dr Benecke insists: "You could challenge the validity of the skull but the teeth are absolutely conclusive. They are definitely Hitler's".
So what has Benecke learned about the last moments of the dictator's life? He says: "Hitler and his officials first tested that the cyanide was still working by killing his pet dog Blondl about a day before the suicide. That's why you can see a picture of the dead dog.
"On the final day, Hitler and Eva Braun were sitting on the sofa on which their bodies were found and, most likely, they took the poison together.
"Hitler then shot Braun before shooting himself. You can see a little of the blood on the side of the sofa, parts of which I examined in the State Archive where they are held."
Dr Benecke says that, as far as he is concerned, any mystery surrounding the death of Hitler is over. He adds: "It's good that I did a proper forensic investigation so that we can continue our lives. It puts the whole Hitler story to rest".
Would Benecke like to do a DNA test to finally confirm that these are definitely Hitler's remains?
"Absolutely," he says. "It was only that I didn't have a sterile drill with me at the time that I didn't take a sample. [!] I would like to do a DNA match but, otherwise, the story is over for me. There is no secret left".
-- Hitler's Skull, National Geographic Channel