1945: HITLER--DEAD OR ALIVE?
Our story begins with what, under other circumstances, might have been a happy occasion--the wedding of Adolf Hitler and his longtime mistress Eva Braun. Following the reception, just after midnight on April 30, "with a faraway expression," Hitler "went down the hall, shaking hands. Several said a few words, but he did not answer, moving his lips inaudibly."
At this point there are wildly varying versions of what happened. Günsche said he was in the conference room with Göbbels and Bormann when he heard the shot, and they rushed to the anteroom with Göbbels in the lead.
Russian photo of "Hitler Corpse"
May 2, 1945
(note bullet hole in forehead)
Western sources have reported that the dead body in the photo was Hitler's double (or Doppelgänger), a man called Gustav who was executed with a gunshot to the forehead. Some give his name as Gustav Weber, while other say he was Gustav Weler.
According to some reports, Schreck died in a traffic accident in 1936. Other reports say that he died from an abscessed tooth fever. To confuse matters more, Time magazine once wrote that Hitler's alleged double was Heinrich Bergner who was killed when Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg planted a bomb under Hitler's chair on July 20, 1944, at his headquarters in East Prussia. Some sources have oddly suggested that the burnt corpse found in the Chancellery garden was that of SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein, husband of Eva Braun's sister, Gretl, who was stripped of his rank for committing treason and shot outside the Berlin bunker two days before Hitler's suicide.
Adolf Hitler's death on April 30, 1945 is generally accepted and the most commonly cited cause of his death is that he shot himself in the head while simultaneously biting into an ampule of cyanide. However, due to the chaos and fluidity of circumstances in the Führerbunker at the time, no theory has ever been completely accepted. The dual method and other circumstances surrounding the event encouraged rumors that Adolf Hitler may have survived the end of World War II along with speculation about what happened to his remains; however, consensus on most of the details was eventually reached among historians, aided by the 1993 opening of records kept by the Russian KGB and FSB.
Hitler relocated to the Führerbunker on 16 January 1945 and from that location he presided over the rapid disintegration of his Third Reich before the Allies advancing from both east and west. By late April Soviet forces were fighting within Berlin itself and Hitler began to make preparations for his suicide. At 4:00 am on April 29 he finished his last will and testament. Shortly after midnight on the morning of 30 April 1945 Hitler married Eva Braun in a small ceremony in a map room within the bunker complex. He then dictated his personal will and political testament to secretary Traudl Junge before retiring to bed at around 4am.
That afternoon Hitler had a short meeting with Party Secretary Bormann before eating a small lunch, said to be spaghetti with a "light sauce." According to his secretaries (who ate with him), the conversation at the meal revolved around dog breeding and how lipstick was made from sewer grease. Both were topics which Hitler had brought up on numerous past occasions. Adolf and Eva Hitler then said their personal farewells to members of the Führerbunker staff and fellow occupants including the Göbbels family, Bormann, the secretaries and several military officers. Adolf and Eva Hitler then retired to Hitler's personal study.
Some witnesses later reported hearing a loud gunshot at around 3:30 pm (the Göbbels' young son is said to have declared, "A direct hit!" thinking it was a bomb overhead).
After a period of time Hitler's valet Heinz Linge, with Bormann at his side, opened the door to the study. Linge later stated that he immediately noted a scent of burned almonds in the small study, a common observation made in the presence of prussic acid, a form of cyanide [Linge, on February 9, 1956, stated: I then went into the antechamber to Hitler's room, where I found the door to his room closed and smelt powder smoke.] The Hitlers were both sitting on a small sofa, Eva on the left, Adolf to the right. Eva's body slumped away from Adolf's. [Otto Günsche, who entered Hitler's room immediately after Linge and Bormann, gave the following description on June 20, 1956: Eva Braun was lying on the sofa standing against the wall opposite the door from the antechamber. Hitler himself sat in an armchair standing to the left and slightly forward--as seen from the antechamber--but very close to the sofa.] Hitler appeared to have shot himself in the right temple with a 7.65mm pistol which lay at his feet. [On September 2, 1955, Artur Axmann stated: Based on the signs I found, I had to assume that Adolf Hitler had shot himself in the mouth. For me the chin, which was pushed to the side, and the blood trails on the temples caused by an internal explosion in the head, all pointed to this. Later the same day SS-Sturmbannführer Günsche confirmed my assumption. I stick to my statement based on the signs I saw, that Adolf Hitler shot himself in the mouth. Günsche, however, in his June 20, 1956 testimony stated:The head was canted (tilted) slightly forward to the right. I noticed an injury to the head slightly above the outer end of the angle of the right eyelid. I saw blood and a dark discoloration. The whole thing was about the size of an old three Mark piece.] Blood was dripping from the wound to his right temple and had made a large stain on the left arm of the sofa. [No bullet was ever found and the blood stains on the sofa were reportedly of the wrong blood-type] Eva had no visible physical wounds and Linge assumed that she had poisoned herself.
Several witnesses stated the two bodies were carried to a small, bombed-out garden outside the bunker complex, where they were doused with petrol and set alight by Linge and members of Hitler's personal SS bodyguard. The SS guards and Linge later noted the fire did not completely destroy the corpses, but Soviet shelling of the bunker compound made further cremation attempts impossible and the remains were later covered up in a shallow bomb crater.
Autopsy, controversy and urban myth
Reports of the autopsy performed on Hitler's alleged remains immediately after the fall of Berlin, along with two conflicting accounts of the cause of death, resulted in years of controversy following World War II.
The badly burned and partially buried remains were recovered by a SMERSH unit which had been assigned the task of locating Hitler's body (this unit was attached to the 79th Rifle Corps of the Soviet Third Shock Army and is frequently referred to simply as 79th SMERSH). An autopsy was performed by the SMERSH unit, led by Chief Forensic Pathologist Dr. Faust Sherovsky in an attempt to determine the exact cause of death.
It is most likely nonsense that the Russians, as they claimed several weeks after his death, ever found Hitler's body/corpse. To this day the Russians have not presented a single piece of evidence that they found Hitler's corpse. Where are the authentic photographs? Why was the allegedly lead-lined box with Hitler's identifiable corpse 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.
The team first identified Hitler using odontological records relating to removable dental fittings given to Hitler by his dentist Hugo Blaschke. Two of Blaschke's arrested assistants, Fritz Echtmann and Käthe Hausermann, confirmed the dental records as being accurate.
On a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program called "As It Happens," September 17th, 1974 at 7:15 p.m., a Prof. Dr. Ryder Saguenay, oral surgeon from the Dental Faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles, said that Hitler had ordered a special plane to leave from Berlin with all medical and dental records, especially X-rays, of all top Nazis for an unknown destination. He said that the dental records used to identify Hitler's body were drawn from MEMORY by a dental assistant, WHO disappeared and was never found.
Autopsy report declared false
The autopsy report was publicly questioned by both Stalin and the Allies due to persistent testimony from other members of the Führerbunker staff that Hitler had shot himself. Stalin, apparently concerned the autopsy may have been botched and that the Soviet Union had a major embarrassment on its hands, directed Marshal Zhukov to announce on June 9, 1945 that the remains of Hitler had not been found and that Hitler was probably still alive.This statement was never retracted.
The motives were made clearer when the KGB/FSB opened their files on the matter to the public in 1993 [a book by Soviet journalist Lev Bezymensky, who had been attached at that time as an interpreter to the Red Army unit concerned in Berlin, which detailed the SMERSH autopsy report had been published in the west in 1968. While it contained such prurient details as that the body had only one testicle, it concealed the fact that Hitler had shot himself; if Bezymenski was to be believed, Hitler had just swallowed poison. There were psychological and propaganda reasons for asserting this. Years later, Bezymenski came clean and admitted that he had been ordered by the Soviet Authorities to doctor the autopsy to conceal the fact that Hitler's skull [NOW Proven NOT to be his] clearly showed the bullet's entry and exit wounds, and he published a revised edition of his work.] The KGB/FSB opened their files to the public in 1993, releasing records and statements by former KGB members. Drawing from these, historians reached a general consensus about what happened to the bodies of Hitler and Braun.
Allied officials were deluged with a flurry of unsubstantiated reports that Hitler had escaped from Berlin and fled to Argentina, Spain or a moated castle in Westphalia. Although such rumors abated somewhat after the war, the lack of public confirmation of the existence of Hitler's remains caused rumors to circulate and re-appear for several decades, including various myths that he had fled to New Swabia in Antarctica (and even descended into a hollow earth). These rumors, often repeated on websites, usually conflated facts regarding the post-war activities of fugitive ex-Nazi officials (including the ODESSA organisation) with fictional storylines from the many popular books, films and television programs that have been produced on the topic, but no evidence has ever emerged that either Hitler or Braun were alive after April 30, 1945.
The initial announcement of the discovery of Hitler's remains, quickly followed by a Soviet denial that the remains had been found and a statement that Hitler was probably still alive led many to believe Hitler had indeed escaped to South America along with other prominent Nazis.
Dr. Sherovsky had noted in his initial autopsy report that a piece of Hitler's skull cap was missing. A skull fragment was later recovered from the Führerbunker and was found to contain a single bullet hole, most likely from a 7.65mm round. This bullet hole, together with the cyanide trace elements found in the body tissue and witness accounts, ultimately led to the widely accepted conclusion that Hitler had shot himself in the right temple with a 7.65mm pistol while simultaneously biting down on a glass cyanide ampule. The skull fragment was taken to Moscow in 1946 along with the jaw section used for the dental identification and eventually found its way to the Moscow Archives.
There was a rumour, probably an urban legend, that the skull fragment was presented as a gift to Stalin, who then used the fragment as an ashtray in an ultimate show of triumph over his previous enemy. This story may have gotten started with the fact that the fragments were stored for a time in a wooden cigar box by a member of 79th SMERSH who was tasked with their safe-keeping.
The skull fragment disappeared from official records but was later located in the Moscow Archives basement after the fall of the Soviet Union and publicly displayed as part of an exhibition on the fall of the Third Reich entitled The Agony of the Third Reich.
By 2003 the skull fragment was being kept in a plastic floppy disk case. There were unsubstantiated reports that DNA extracted from the fragment matched samples taken from Hitler's relatives but other sources assert that no such testing had happened, for various reasons.
That year, however, American forensic scientist Mark Benecke was given access to the skull and jaw fragments along with some surviving teeth and two metal dental bridges. He positively identified the upper bridge from a 1944 X-ray of Hitler's head which had been obtained by US and British secret service operatives after the war. "You could challenge the validity of the skull," he said, "but the teeth are absolutely conclusive. They are definitely Hitler's."
SAN JOSE MERCURY
"The teeth of corpse DON'T MATCH Führer's pictures"
1. Two lower bridges in corpse, NOT INSTALLED BY HITLER'S DENTIST when questioned.
When asked if he would have liked to do a DNA test, Benecke replied:
Absolutely. 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.
DNA testing would not be possible without a specimen for comparison, for which the cooperation of living relatives of Hitler would be needed. None of them show any evidence of wanting to participate in such a test.
Some suggested that the traces of cyanide found in the body were a result of the medicines prescribed to Hitler by his personal physician Theo Morrell and that the probable cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. Critics point out that although Morrell often prescribed unorthodox treatment including doses of arsenic and strychnine, cyanide compounds were never included. Also, according to Dr. Sherovsky's autopsy report shards of glass were found inside the mouth suggesting a glass ampule (similar to those used by Himmler and Göring) had been bitten.
Journalist James O'Donnell, after extensive interviews with the inhabitants of the bunker (including those who were unavailable for years due to Russian detention), noted agreement among them that shortly before his death, Hitler had a conversation with another doctor, Werner Haase, who gave him instructions on how to make sure the suicide was successful, describing a combination of cyanide and a gunshot to the temple. However, Haase died in Russian captivity and O'Donnell had to rely on witness accounts.
One often-repeated idea is that the "gunshot only" argument was an attempt to portray a more honorable "soldier's death" for Hitler by way of gunshot, as opposed to an "honorless" suicide by poisoning. This idea was later extended to include any suicide scenario that involved Hitler shooting himself (as opposed to using poison only). O'Donnell, citing the body of evidence that indicates otherwise, noted that such claims are based on ideology, not fact, and remarked that such claimants should learn how to "give the devil his due."
In 2005, Erna Flegel, who served as a nurse in the bunker, said Hitler was so paranoid he suspected spies had filled his cyanide capsules with something nontoxic and may explain why he killed his dog Blondi while testing a capsule. [Could it be that Hitler realized that fooling the bystanders with a replacement corpse is going to be much easier than fooling his faithful pet?] Moreover, the capsules had been obtained through Heinrich Himmler, who Hitler believed had betrayed him.
Flegel was also quoted that year as saying:
There were a few people who then heard it [the shot] and there were others who didn't. The Führer suddenly wasn't there any more. I knew that the Führer was dead. Suddenly there were more doctors in the bunker, including Professor Haase. I didn't see Hitler's body. It was taken up to the garden. The Führer had such an authority that when he was there you knew it. It felt so extraordinary.
Another continuing point of speculation is whether Hitler was physically capable of shooting himself while taking poison at the same time, given the rapid and violent convulsions often evident during cyanide poisoning. This led to another theory that Hitler ingested cyanide, died and then his body was shot by someone else to either ensure he was dead or make it appear the Führer had died a soldier's suicide by gunshot. As for who the shooter might have been, Eva Braun is sometimes mentioned. She had trained with a pistol during the preceding weeks (as did many German women in response to stories of widespread rape and murder by advancing Red Army soldiers) and was presumably one of the only people Hitler trusted at the end of his life. Other possibilities would include Heinz Linge, Hitler's valet, and Martin Bormann who both had the opportunity to be alone with the body long enough to inflict a gunshot wound before it was removed from the bunker. However, historians for the most part discount this possibility.
Soviet historian, Lew Alexandrowitsch Besymenski, who examined secret Soviet archives in Der Tod des Adolf Hitler (Hamburg, 1968) refers to a 1947 US army intelligence report as concluding that:
None other than Günsche (arrested by the Russians) went into the Führer's room and shot him in the head with his Walther revolver, calibre 7.65. At this time, Hitler was already dead.
O'Donnell also noted that Walter Hewel, like Hitler, was given instructions on the same dual suicide method (along with the same type of cyanide capsule). Hewel committed suicide on May 2 by a combination of the capsule and a gunshot wound to the head. O'Donnell cited Hewel's death as a cruel proof positive such a suicide was possible.
Based on witness reports of a loud gunshot [Günsche, in his testimony stated: After Hitler and Eva Braun had withdrawn I took up a position in front of Hitler's rooms. I then saw--I did not hear a shot--Linge open the door to Hitler's office and Linge and Bormann go inside, I thereupon immediately went into the antechamber myself.] and Linge's account of finding the bodies, Hitler shot himself in the right temple after Braun took cyanide. [Speculation ONLY - contradicted by other evidence] There is significant evidence that to ensure self-destruction, Hitler bit into a glass ampule of cyanide [Russian Evidence Only - NO Proof] as he pulled the trigger of his personal Walther PPK pistol.
Destruction of remains
In the decades following the war there was much speculation regarding the exact location of Hitler's final resting place. Historians have reached a general consensus (based on reports from declassified KGB files and statements by former KGB members) that following the autopsy, the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were at first frequently buried and exhumed by SMERSH during the unit's relocation from Berlin to a new facility at 30-32 Klausnerstrasse in Magdeburg.
Once in Magdeburg they (along with the charred remains of propaganda minister Josef Göbbels, his wife Magda and their six children) [Where is Eva Braun's body?] were permanently buried in an unmarked grave underneath a paved section of the front courtyard and the location was kept highly secret. By 1970 the SMERSH facility (now controlled by the KGB) was scheduled to be handed over to the East German government. Keen to destroy any possibility of Hitler's burial site becoming a Neo-Nazi shrine, KGB director Yuri Andropov authorised a special operation to destroy the remains. On 4 April 1970 a Russian KGB team (who had been given detailed burial charts) exhumed the bodies and burned the remains before dumping the ashes in the Elbe river.
In 2005 the skull and jaw fragments taken to Moscow were still kept in the Moscow Archives. An earlier public display on the destruction of the Third Reich contained the skull fragment [now PROVEN to be that of a young WOMAN], although the jaw fragment was not shown as it is apparently too fragile to be handled.
The overall confusion as to the whereabouts of Hitler's corpse can be attributed to Stalin's growing paranoia in his later years, which included ideas that Hitler escaped death. A slight possibility remains that agents and doctors in the USSR attempted to qualm Stalin's fears by producing a body, even though it may have rotted away to nothing long before.
Hitler's death, at the end of World War II, assumed to be by his own hand, remains unproven. This assumption was the result of what many conceive as a conspiracy by the Western Powers, bowing to political pressures and to fight Nazism, to come up with Hitler's suicide story. This then would explain Hitler's disappearance from Nazi Germany after Germany's defeat.
Even if one takes the submitted Russian report on Hitler's autopsy at face value, there still remains the fact that there was no trace of the corpse of Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress and later wife. This alone disproves the double-suicide theory now part of German history.
Could he be alive today?
In July 1943 Pierre J. Huss, chief correspondent in Berlin for the International News Service who had interviewed Hitler several times during the 1930s and 1940s, filed a report which concluded:
But Hitler, unlike Il Duce, probably will ride the storm to the bitter end, wildly spilling oceans of blood in occupied countries and even in the Reich itself, and kill himself rather than follow Mussolini's example and resign.
That same year a classified psychological report by the Office of Strategic Services came to the same conclusion.
On October 31, 2003, Kamato Hongo, the only living person with a birthdate earlier than Adolf Hitler, passed away. With the passing of Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan on May 29, 2004, no one born in the decade of the 1880s, male or female, was known to be living. In effect, if Hitler had still been alive somewhere, he would have been the oldest living person in the world.
The Last Days of Hitler, by Hugh Redwald Trevor-Roper 1947. University Of Chicago Press; Reprint (1992). ISBN 0226812243
O'Donnell, James - The Bunker. - New York: Da Capo Press; Reprint(2001). - ISBN 0306809583.
The Federal Security Service [former KGB] has concluded one of the greatest mysteries of the Twentieth Century. To mark the 90th anniversary of the Service, nine new and formerly classified documents have been presented in the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which revealed the ultimate fate of the charred remains of the Hitler's body.
After the second burial the remains of Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun were scattered over the Elbe River.
Felix Dzerzhinsky set up the Security Service itself on the December 20, 1917 for the purpose of fighting counter-revolutionary activity, speculation, sabotage and bad management.
The highly classified story of the Hitler's death begins on May 2, 1945 when Colonel Klimenko, the counterintelligence chief of the 79th corps (counterintelligence departments carried the name of SMERSH, from the Russian abbreviation for "Death to Spies", "smert' shpionam") together with two Germans who could recognize Hitler (their names were Lange [Heinz Linge?] and Schneider), drew up a deed which that confirmed the fact of discovery of charred bodies of [Josef] Göbbels and his wife at 17:00 of the same day.
For the two consecutive days they tried (unsuccessfully) to find the body of Hitler. On the fourth "in a bomb crater near the Führer's bunker there were discovered two more bodies, one belonged to a woman, and the other was male".
Both corpses were "much charred and this prevented identification in the absence of forensic tests".
The bodies were brought to a counterintelligence department (SMERSH) of the Third Army. After forensic tests they were buried in the vicinity of the town of Buch [phonetic spelling - translator: Berlin-Buch ].
The paperwork in the case of Adolf Hitler contains statements to the effect that, for the reason of relocation of the SMERSH department "the corpses were interred and moved first to the vicinity of the town of Fin [phonetic: Finow?], and then on June 3, 1945 to the vicinity of the town of Rathenow, where they were finally re-buried. The corpses are in wooden boxes and are buried at the depth of 1.7 meters. The grave filled with the corpses was leveled, and small pine trees were planted on the surface to form the number 111."
For a quarter of a century the USSR kept this information secret. (....) Moscow never answered any questions, reports Inopressa news agency
In 1970 [Yuri] Andropov [the KGB Chief at the time] with consent of the Politbureau, decided to "archive" the case for good. On March 20, 1970 the Council of Ministers of the USSR approved of the plan, which was assigned a code-name of "Archive"
The operation was to be top secret. Within fifteen days a group of five agents headed by Colonel Kovalenko arrived at Westendstrasse 36, Magdeburg. The remains of Hitler and Braun were transported to this location. Colonel Kovalenko drafted a handwritten document of re-exhumation.
The report said that "the remains were placed into a box during the excavation of the soil... the action was carried out during the night and morning hours of April 4, 1970"
The box with the remains stayed under the guard of the agents until the morning of April 5, 1970, when the remains were physically smashed.
On the following day the remains were cremated in the vicinity of Schönebeck eleven kilometers away from Magdeburg.
The ashes and cinders were "mixed together until they turned into uniform mass, and then they were collected and poured out into the water of the nearby river".
The documents do not state the name of the river, but the river that flows in that area is Elbe.
The head of the Federal Security Service from Russia, General Vasily Khristoforov, confirmed for the first time this chain of events in an exclusive interview for the Russian news network Interfax. They agree the remains were incinerated in a crematory outside the town Shönebeck, at 11 kilometers distance from Magdenburg, but said the ashes were thrown in the Bierderitz river.