The Death of Hitler
By Ada Petrova and Peter Watson
On a cold afternoon at the end of March 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in Reims, northeastern France and drafted an unprecedented and historic cable. It was sent to Moscow, for the personal attention of Josef Stalin. This was the first time in all the years of war that the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force had communicated directly with the Soviet leader, but there were now urgent and pressing reasons for doing so.
The final thrust of the Allied Forces deep into Germany was about to begin and it was clearly important for the Anglo-American armies to coordinate their movements with the Russians. Eisenhower told Stalin his plans and asked that he reciprocate, wanting to avoid a repeat of the situation in 1939. Then, in a very different phase of hostilities, German and Russian troops - allied by treaty - had met head-on in Poland when that country was being carved up between Stalin and Hitler. No prearranged line of demarcation had been fixed, which had resulted in a battle with surprisingly heavy casualties on both sides. In the climate of suspicion that was developing between America and Britain on the one hand, and Russia on the other, such a clash had to be avoided at all costs. It could bring catastrophe at this vital stage of the War.
Eisenhower sent two other cables that afternoon, one to Washington, to the General of the Army, George C. Marshall, who was his immediate superior. The other went to General Bernard Montgomery, Commander-in-chief of the 21st Army Group in the north of Germany. To both men, Eisenhower outlined his new plan for bringing a speedy end to the War. It centred on the 12th Army Group, under General Omar N. Bradley, which would advance through central Germany on the Erfurt-Leipzig-Dresden axis. There, Eisenhower hoped, it would join hands with the Russians and divide Germany in two.
Within hours, those telegrams - especially the one to Stalin - had created the most serious split between the Americans and the British since the invasion had begun nine months earlier on D Day, 6 June 1944. For the fact was, in the days and weeks prior to 28 March, Eisenhower had changed his mind decisively on one vital matter relating to the course of the war: he no longer considered Berlin, capital of Hitler's Reich, to be a major military objective. Unlike British generals, Eisenhower had not been trained to consider political objectives as part of military strategy. His main concern was to get the War over as quickly as possible and with as few casualties as circumstances would allow. In international terms, Eisenhower was politically inexperienced. His mission, as spelled out by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, was enshrined in one sentence: "You will enter the continent of Europe and, in conjunction with the other United Nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces." Even now, this late in the war, his objective was purely military - to destroy the enemy army as quickly as he could. In any case, it had already been agreed at higher levels that Berlin would fall under Soviet aegis.
For the British in general - and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in particular - the shape of the post-war world was already clear. Like Czechoslovakia and Poland, much of Eastern Europe was already under the Russian heel, destined for Communist rule. If Montgomery could capture Berlin ahead of the Russians it would be a major propaganda victory and give the Western Allies an important bargaining advantage later on. For Churchill had already noted with misgiving the changes in Stalin's behaviour since the conference between him, Stalin and Roosevelt at Yalta in February 1945, where the map of the post-1945 world had been sketched in. For example, Anglo-American bombers forced to land behind Russian lines were now being interned, along with their crews; the Russians had refused the evacuation of Anglo-American soldiers in eastern camps, although reciprocal arrangements were going ahead for Russian soldiers in western camps; air bases and refueling and repair facilities for American bombers on Russian-controlled territory were being denied. In these "proto-Cold War circumstances" Churchill considered Eisenhower's telegram to Stalin a naive and dangerous intervention into global political strategy. He was incensed.
German occupation zones in 1946 after territorial annexations
There were, however, several reasons (good and bad) for Eisenhower's change of heart over Berlin. He heartily disliked Montgomery, who was in command in the north. To have settled on a dash for Berlin would have given the British Field-marshal a bigger role than Eisenhower could have stomached. But it is another reason which particularly concerns us here. At this stage of the War, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), were located in the three-story College Moderne et Technique in a back street of Reims, close to the railway station. There, near Eisenhower's own office, was the map room. On the wall there hung a chart that was updated every day. Headed "Reported National Redoubt", it showed the mountainous, Lakeland region south of Munich, stretching over into western Austria. This incorporated Bavaria and Obersalzburg, the very region where the Nazi Party had been born a quarter of a century before. It was an area some 20,000 square miles in dimension, consisting mainly of wooded mountain peaks between 7000 and 9000 feet high. At its heart was Berchtesgaden and Hitler's mountain-top hideaway, the "Eagle's Nest".
The National Redoubt map was covered in red marks, each one a military symbol denoting this or that defence installation. A Y meant a radio transmitter, a square stood for barracks, a crescent with an F inside indicated a food dump. There were signs for ammunition stores, for petrol and chemical warfare dumps and for underground factories. Fortified positions were shown with zigzag lines. Every day during March more symbols were added to the chart, so much so that this mountain defence system, the National Redoubt, seemed to SHAEF the greatest remaining threat in the European war, greater even than the prize of Berlin.
It was in this Alpine area, according to Allied Intelligence, that the Nazis intended to make their last stand, with Adolf Hitler at their head. The terrain was so difficult as to be almost impregnable but, again according to intelligence, the remaining Nazi leadership would not be content merely to sit back and absorb whatever the Allies could throw at them. A new type of commando unit had been created, called the Werewolves, whose task it was to sneak out from the Redoubt and create mayhem among the occupation armies. Some 200,000 veteran troops and Werewolves were to cover an area of 20,000 square miles, it was rumoured, in Bavaria, Austria and a small part of Italy.
Some plans certainly went ahead. Both Otto Skorzeny and Reinhard Gehlen hid plans and microfilms in the Alpine Fortress area, Gehlen claiming to have based his organisation on his secret intelligence on Polish resistance to the Nazis. Gehlen had documents forged on his behalf and transferred his wife and children to the Alps. William Casey, an Allied Intelligence officer, later recalled being told in early May 1945 that the Werewolf organisation was in process of formation and that it was to be built on the framework of the Gestapo and other Nazi security services
The Allies' concern with the Redoubt and Hitler's last stand had been growing since September 1944 when the OSS had predicted that, as the War neared its end, the Nazis would evacuate crucial government departments to Bavaria. The War Department in Washington had taken up this notion on 12 February 1945, warning that a man like Hitler would require his Gotterdämmerung. Four days later, Allied agents in Switzerland sent a chilling report claiming that the Nazis were preparing for a "bitter fight from the mountain redoubt". This report said that strongpoints within the Alpine Fortress were connected by underground railways, that months of supply of munitions had been gathered together with "almost all of Germany's poison gas supplies."
Not everyone was convinced. The Research and Analysis Branch of OSS, directed by Bill Langer, produced a mammoth report: "An analysis of the political and social organization, the communications, economic controls, agricultural and food supply, mineral resources, manufacturing and transportation facilities of south Germany". It was very sceptical of the viability of a National Redoubt but, as its very title implied, the report was too long, too dry and too academic-sounding to be read by busy field officers. No one paid it the attention it deserved.
Instead, on 21 March, the headquarters staff of General Bradley's 12th Army Group released what turned out to be a decisive memorandum - "Re-orientation of Strategy" - which argued that Allied objectives had changed rendering "obsolete the plans which brought us over the beaches." The strategy document concluded that the significance of Berlin was now much diminished and that: "all indications suggest that the enemy's political and military directorate is already in the process of displacing to the Redoubt in lower Bavaria."
Four days after that came the most alarming analysis of all. The Chief of Intelligence of Lieutenant-general Alexander Patch's 7th Army, on the southern edge of the front, described an elite force of mainly SS and mountain troops at least 200,000 to 300,000 strong. The report said that up to five very long trains were arriving in the Redoubt area every week and that new types of weapon had been observed on these trains. An underground factory was believed to exist in the Alpine Fortress capable of producing Messerschmitts. Werewolf schools were reported everywhere and Counter-intelligence Corps estimates put the numbers of youngsters in training under SS officers at some 5000 in one particular week. A booklet had been published that, "reinforced a general sense of apprehension". It was entitled "Werewolf: Winke für Jagdeinheiten" [Tips for Hunting Units]. The Vogelfrei legends were revived. "The word meant 'bird-free', explained the report. It derived from the mediaeval-style courts of revenge, which declared that anyone found guilty became like a game bird during the open season for hunters."
Göbbels chipped in. His broadcasts - and those of Radio Werwolf - stepped up the pressure. "God has given up the protection of the people . . . Satan has taken command." Göbbels himself said, "We Werewolves consider it our supreme duty to kill, to kill and to kill, employing every cunning and wile in the darkness of the night, crawling, groping through towns and villages, like wolves, noiselessly, mysteriously." There were secret recognition signals for boys and girls (some were only nine) and the Wolfsangel, a runic letter, was to be painted on buildings occupied by those marked out for vengeance.
Then there was the rumour about Gallery 16, near the village of Redl Zipf, part of the Alpine Fortress. This gallery was an underground network of corridors and workshops centred around a 200 foot tunnel into which banknote presses had been transferred from Berlin. Nine million Bank of England notes with a face value of $600 million were produced here, sufficient for the Bank to have to withdraw many of its own notes and substitute a new design with a fine metallic thread drawn through the fabric in a way thought to be immune to forgery.
In March, SHAEF itself finally and crucially concluded that: "It seems reasonably certain that some of the most important ministries and personalities of the Nazi regime are already established in the Redoubt area. Göring, Himmler, Hitler are said to be in the process of withdrawing to their respective personal mountain strongholds." Even those who had their reservations, such as SHAEF's Intelligence Chief, the British Major-general Kenneth Strong, thought that the Allies should act as though the Redoubt existed, just in case. We repeat that there were other reasons for Eisenhower's change of mind over Berlin. We have dwelt on this one because the Redoubt idea produced in the mindset of the Allied Command the sense that if - and when - Hitler was found it would be in the south.
The Allies in fact found out the grim truth on 23 April when three Germans crossed the Elbe near Magdeburg shortly after dawn and surrendered to the US 30th Infantry Division. One of them was Lieutenant-General Kurt Dittmar, a fifty-seven-year-old Wehrmacht officer who had made a name for himself broadcasting communiques from the front and was known everywhere as the "voice of the German High Command". As such he was considered the most accurate of the German military broadcasters and so drew a following not only in Germany but among the Allied monitoring staff.
Dittmar was immediately taken to headquarters for interrogation: "Tell us about the National Redoubt," someone demanded. Cornelius Ryan - author of the 1966 book "The Last Battle" - takes up the story: "Dittmar looked puzzled. The only thing he knew about a National Redoubt, he said, was something he had read in a Swiss newspaper the previous January. He agreed that there were pockets of resistance in the north, 'including Norway and Denmark and one in the south in the Italian Alps. But, he added, 'that is less by intention than by force of circumstance.' As his interrogators pressed him about the redoubt, Dittmar shook his head. "The National Redoubt? It's a romantic dream. It's a myth."'
He was right.
General Bradley, whose general staff had written the famous memorandum on a change of strategy - in which the importance of Berlin was downgraded in favour of the Alpine Fortress - later had the grace to admit his error. "The Redoubt existed largely in the imagination of a few fanatical Nazis. It grew into so exaggerated a scheme that I am astonished we could have believed it as innocently as we did. But while it persisted, this legend . . . shaped our tactical thinking."
Dittmar had another surprise for his interrogators. Hitler, he said confidently, was in Berlin. Until that point no one on the Allied side had been exactly certain where the Führer was. His whereabouts and all personal details about him, such as his medical records, had been kept a well-guarded secret throughout the War. But while the Redoubt idea had dominated Allied minds it had been assumed that Hitler would be found there. One of the Allies' spies in Berlin, Carl Wiberg, a Swedish businessman generally regarded as a "good Berliner" by his neighbours, had sent a report on 18 April obtained from two women gossiping in a black market shop, to the effect that Hitler was in the Berlin area. But his report had been lost amid the weight of intelligence in the past five days. When the Allied interrogators suggested to Dittmar that he was mistaken, or dissembling, he refused to change his story. Moreover, he said, "Hitler will either be killed there or commit suicide".
It was thus against this background that the War entered its last month. Too late, the Allies realised that there was no National Redoubt in Bavaria, and never had been. (As late as 28 April, the "Daily Mirror" was able to report that "Seven Allied armies are closing in on Hitler's last-stand Redoubt in the mountains of Austria and Bavaria." Too late they realised that Hitler and Stalin, whose lives had run in parallel for so long, both believed that Berlin itself was the last great prize, both psychologically and politically.
On 1 April 1945 , the German station 'Radio Werwolf' began broadcasting for the first time. It was created by Propaganda Minister Göbbels to rally the population to suicidal resistance.
Its theme, repeated over and over again was
"Besser tot als rot"
Better dead than red
25 April 1945: Sowhere in Germany
The hunt is on for Adolf Hitler. Russian troops have reached the German capital city of Berlin, but finding the Nazi leader is proving more difficult. Hitler and his elite troops are rumoured to be holed up in mountain hideaway to the south. The CBC's war correspondent Matthew Halton looks at ways of ferreting out the enemy from a fortification no one has actually seen.
"Bombing raids wouldn't work, and a siege could drag on for weeks or months given the supplies the Nazis are assumed to have stockpiled in the Berchtesgaden Redoubt. But liquid fire — millions of gallons of accelerant and adhesive sprayed blazing onto the mountainsides — could burn the Nazis out.
"Perhaps that would be the end Hitler would wish. The mad mystic may wish now to die there in his mountains, creating a legend".
As it turned out, the Nazis' Berchtesgaden Redoubt, also known as the National Redoubt or the Alpenfestung (mountain fortress), didn't exist. Hitler had a personal mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden in the Alps near the Swiss border, but the Nazis never developed it — or any site — into an underground fortress in which to evade the Allies.
• According to Stephen G. Fritz in the book "Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich", rumours about Hitler's hideaway began in November 1944 with a short article in the "New York Times". The paper's London correspondent reported that the Nazis had already dug a winding system of tunnels and storage spaces under the Alps and cleared out civilians from the area.
• Without any intelligence on the matter the Allies would normally have rejected the story as unreliable. But after the Allies were badly burned by faulty intelligence in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, they began to pay closer attention to rumours of an Alpenfestung.
• The Nazis had, in fact, begun fortifying sites in the Alps, but for routine military and strategic purposes. It was never their intention to build a hideaway for Hitler and half a million elite Nazis.
• German propaganda minister Josef Göbbels got wind of the Allies' belief that Nazis were building an Alpine fortress. He reinforced the faulty information by planting stories in German newspapers and leaking false rumours to neutral governments. When German soldiers were taken prisoner, rumours of the redoubt would make their way to Allied intelligence. Göbbels exerted himself to create a new Werwolf radio station, and even tried to found a newspaper. (The radio station actually operated for a few weeks.) Propaganda for and about the Werwolf were among the last products of the regime.
• The story then made its way into a newspaper in Switzerland (a neutral country) and magazines in the United States.
• According to author Stephen J. Fritz, in late February 1945 the Allied Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) concluded that the Alpenfestung didn't exist. Fritz called it "merely a dubious product of Nazi propaganda."
• But the rumours refused to die. By March 1945 the head of intelligence at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) was "receiving a continuous flow of reports that the Nazis intended to stage a final prolonged resistance" from a mountain fortress. None of the rumours could be confirmed.
In retrospect, some commentators have tended to dismiss the Werwolf as a Nazi hoax, one whose primary effect was to induce the western Allies to invade Germany on a broad front.
In World War II, the British had the best-balanced espionage. Americans had decent intelligence-gathering (especially as a result of code-cracking), but iffy analysis. The French, before they got knocked out, had superb espionage in Nazi Germany, but they lacked the political will to act on it. The Soviets also had a vast network of spies -- in the capitals of their nominal allies Britain and America. They didn't know anything about Germany and didn't seem inclined to do anything but accept the tips dutifully passed along to them by the governments in London and Washington. Their analysis was worse than the Americans'.
An intelligence agency can build up a picture that vastly over-rates an enemy's strength and capabilities without any outside political interference. In fact, it seems to be a systemic tendency.
An example of American intelligence error turns up at the end of World War II. The U.S. convinced itself Hitler was preparing a vast, impenetrable "national redoubt" in the Alps, a self-sufficient Alpenfestung where he and his most rabid followers planned to hold out for years.
These factors led to the mistaken belief:
- A previous failure to perceive an enemy threat - the Nazi concentration and attack in the Ardennes in late 1944 that led to the Battle of the Bulge.
- An image consistent with the known character of the enemy. The Allies knew Hitler had sworn there never would be "another 1918" in Germany; he would fight to the last, and he had legions of fanatical followers. The mountains of Bavaria were the birthplace of Nazism and exerted a romantic, almost mystical pull on the party leaders. Furthermore, the Allies knew the Nazis had, in fact, moved some armaments factories underground in other places to escape Allied bombing.
- Deliberate deception. Göbbels, when he learned of the American hysteria over the Alpenfestung, set up an entire propaganda office to encourage them to think it was true.
It is not necessary to presume some coldly calculated political deception behind such a self-sustaining deception. It requires no presidential plotting. When the Alpenfestung hysteria was at its peak, in February and March 1945, America effectively had no president. FDR was dying and incapable of guiding policy, which was created instead from the rival State and Treasury departments (both heavily infiltrated by Soviet agents). Militarily, Eisenhower was on his own in Europe, brushing aside the agendas of the British and French and determining targets for the U.S. armies that by now formed the bulk of the fighting force on the western front.
The notion of a Nazi Alpenfestung arose in Switzerland, which had in fact used its natural topography to turn itself into a fortress state. The Swiss, observing across the border into the Tyrol, imagined they saw the Germans doing the same thing. In fact, the Germans had begun to scout defensive locations along the old World War I frontier of Italy as their armies in the peninsula slowly withdrew to the north. Many leading Western intelligence agents were based in Switzerland, as well as newspaper correspondents. The stories began to percolate.
Allied unease about the possibility of an 'Alpine Redoubt' in Bavaria had been gradually increasing since late 1944, when OSS reports predicted that as the war neared its end, the Nazi's would transfer key government and military departments to Bavaria - which was where the Nazi party had its origins - where a final stand would be made with Adolf Hitler at the helm (Intelligence reports would continually place Hitler in this region almost right up to the date of his eventual suicide).
OSS reports painted a frightening picture: An elite, 300,000 strong force of SS troops was said to be in the area; up to five long trains were arriving in the Alpine region every week, and all manner of exotic weaponry had been (allegedly) spotted aboard them. It was believed that the Nazi's maintained an underground factory, capable of producing Messerschmitts, and that a vast underground network of tunnels and railways connected the various fortifications that had been constructed. Given the terrain, assaulting these fortifications would be difficult if not impossible, and the existence of the Werewolf organisation was proof positive that the Nazi's would not be content to sit and stew in their mountain hideaways. The broadcasts of Göbbels and Bormann attributed to the Werewolves both a central command structure and support network they did not in reality actually have. Logically, the Allies reasoned - part accepting the broadcasts - this central command would be located in the Alpine Redoubt.
The more the Americans thought about it, the more alarmed they became. A look at the map revealed the Alps as a natural focus of retreat for the hundreds of thousands of German troops still undefeated in northern Italy, Hungary, and Bohemia. There were known to be old salt mines and tunnels deep into the mountains. The prevailing weather would neutralize the Allies' great advantage in air power. It all began to make sense. Soon the stories had grown to tell of monstrous fortifications, underground factories, secret airfields, armies of slave laborers, stockpiles of supplies.
Hitler and the top Nazis and surviving generals would retreat there as the pincers closed around Berlin, and from the Alps they would lead a resistance that could hold out for years. They would hope for a split among the Allies, or gain time to develop a dreaded secret weapon. To storm the Alpenfestung would cost the Allies more casualties than Normandy, would drain vital resources needed in the Pacific, and still likely would leave behind fanatical Nazi remnants who would keep alive for generations the myth of unvanquished National Socialism.
Never mind the obvious evidence that the Nazis at this stage of the war lacked material capabilities to construct such an empire along the hundreds of miles of mountains from Lake Constance to Carinthia.
Allen Dulles, Office of Strategic Services representative in Bern, initially was skeptical of the Alpenfestung reports, but he dutifully passed them up to Washington anyhow. But by February 1945 he was writing as though the redoubt was a reality and something to be deeply concerned about, even though he admitted "it is impossible to put your finger on the particular area where the foodstuffs are being collected, or where these underground factories are being prepared."
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Strong, head of Intel at SHAEF, by March 1945 also was treating the Alpenfestung as a reality, despite the obvious paucity of real evidence. "[R]eports of deep dugouts, secret hiding-places, underground factories, and bombproof headquarters were confusing and unconvincing. No single piece of information could be confirmed." But, he added, "After the Ardennes, I was taking no more chances."
Once the idea became fixed in the minds of the U.S. military and espionage leaders, every new observation was fitted into it. Aerial observation of long trains headed south in Germany were seen as confirmation of the Alpenfestung. In fact, they were full of looted art treasures being sent south for safekeeping.
As World War Two drew to a close Hitler is said to have ordered his notorious elite Schutzstaffel (the SS), to make a last stand in the mountains of Austria, the impenetrable Alps being the perfect base from which to fight a prolonged guerrilla war..
Networks of tunnels had already been prepared. They had originally been piled high with all the war materials and supplies the SS would need, it was even rumoured that large underground arms and munitions factories had been constructed.
However, supply difficulties and the continued Allied bombing of Germany's industrial centres meant that by the time the end came all the supplies in the National Redoubt were long gone and the SS had been smashed by the approaching Allied and Soviet forces. They would never get to make their last stand in the Alpenfestung (Alpine Fortress).
Hitler's armies had spent years looting the treasuries and museums of the countries they had conquered, wealthy Jews had their possessions, property and art collections confiscated.
The Nazi high command, realising that defeat was inevitable, decided to ensure that the looted treasures would not fall into the hands of the rapidly advancing Allies or Soviets and hid the gold and art treasures in the tunnels of the National Redoubt.
As the saying goes, "don't put all of your eggs in one basket." The treasures were split up and hidden in many tunnel systems in the mountains, and although some of these treasure and art caches were discovered by advancing allied troops, others weren't and remain undiscovered in the Alps to this day.
A great deal of the material looted by the Nazis is still missing, that is a fact, the big question is what happened to it. Was it destroyed in Allied bombing raids? Is it still hidden in a mine or tunnel somewhere? Many claim that the bulk of the missing art and gold is in Russia, removed by the Red Army under the orders of Josef Stalin. None or all of these answers may be true.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the huge map that hung in Ike's headquarters, labeled "Reported National Redoubt." Every new tip and observation within the suspect area was markewith a red dot. Naturally,red dots proliferated within the space, and didn't exist outside it, and you had to get much closer to the map to see that most of them were marked "unconfirmed." In fact, the idea was never more than a lark to the Germans. Hans Gontard, the SS Sturmbannführer in the border town of Bregenz had begun feeding the hints into Switzerland. When he saw reports out of Washington taking them seriously, he laughed at the gullible Americans. He described the deception to the Gauleiter of Tyrol, who realized that this actually was a good idea, and he sent a memo about it to Martin Bormann in Berlin.
But Hitler may never have heard of it. Bormann wisely pocketed the memo, realizing that the Führer at that point still was intent on a military victory, not a defeatist retreat. Only Göbbels used the idea, and only for propaganda to terrify the Allies.
The idea of a Nazi Götterdämmerung high in the aeries of the Alps seemed to fit Hitler's self-dreams so much better than his eventual fate, to die like a rat amid the drab canals of Berlin. "Allied military officials were thinking more like the Nazis than the Nazis themselves," writes Stephen G. Fritz, who opens his "Endkampf "with an excellent brief account of the Redoubt hysteria.
The Americans convinced themselves that the Redoubt was real -- or that the likelihood of its being real was too great, and the consequences too serious, to be ignored.
The decisions had consequences. Eisenhower, by wheeling his armies southward, deprived Churchill and Montgomery of their dream of marching to Berlin. This was more a British fantasy than a realistic strategy by early 1945. But the Alpenfestung hysteria did cause Eisenhower to hold back Patton from marching on to Prague, and if he had done so Patton might have kept the Russians out and spared the one Eastern European nation that hadn't already been lost to the pleasures of a Soviet Utopia.
The depletion of Western Allied forces in northern Germany also opened the door for the Russians to make a rush toward Denmark (and the rest of Scandinavia) after the fall of Berlin, which they in fact tried and might have accomplished had not Montgomery deliberately blocked them on the Lüneburg Heath. The Cold War might have been fought along a different Iron Curtain line, with different results.
The "National Redoubt" 1945
adapted from a map included in Seventh Army's "Report of Operations, France and Germany, 1944-1945" Vol. III
For our story, the most important consequence of this course of events was that the Russians reached Berlin first. Indeed, the moment Stalin received Eisenhower's cable which suggested that Berlin was no longer very important, he ordered Marshal Zhukov to advance on the German capital with all speed and whatever the cost. He couldn't believe that Eisenhower could be so wrong, or so naive - and therefore assumed that he must be playing a political game. Churchill had been right to be annoyed about the "historic and unprecedented" telegram.
The Anglo-American forces, following Eisenhower's new policy, actually met the Russian Army along the Elbe, first coming into contact at Torgau on 25 April. Running north, at its closest point this "Front Line" was just under fifty miles from Berlin. It wasn't much but it was enough.
It was not until the conference of Commanders-in-chief of the four armies of occupation on 29 June, that the various Berlin zones were agreed upon. Advanced detachments of American, British and French troops arrived in the city at the beginning of July. Thus the Russians had had Berlin - and the Reichschancellery - all to themselves for about seven weeks, for most of Man, and all of June. This, and the developing Cold War, accounted for much of what followed.
On 1 May, at 9.30 in the evening, Hamburg radio warned the German people that "a grave and important announcement" was about to be made. This was immediately followed by several excerpts from a number of Wagner's operas and the slow movement of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony. Then at 10.20 pm, came the voice of Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz, Commander-in-chief for the north of Germany. In sombre tones, he announced the death of Hitler and his own succession as Führer of the Reich. Hitler had fallen "this afternoon," he said, fighting "at the head of his troops".
This statement was believed by many. "The Times of London" printed Hitler's obituary next day. President De Valera of Ireland sent his condolences to the German ambassador in Dublin. But it was untrue. Hitler, as the world was later told, had died the previous day and had not fallen in action, as a heroic martyr, but had committed suicide without leaving the Bunker under the Reichschancellery where he had been since 16 January 1945. Dönitz perhaps had more than one reason for releasing the story he did. He may not have been aware of all the facts, but in any case he must have wondered how the German troops would have reacted if they had been told that their leader had not died a glorious death but had taken his own life.
Friday, 30 December 2005
DUBLIN, Ireland -- Ireland's president during World War II offered condolences to Nazi Germany over the 1945 death of Adolf Hitler, newly declassified government records show.
Historians had believed that Ireland's prime minister at the time, Eamon de Valera, was the only government leader to convey official condolences to Eduard Hempel, director of the German diplomatic corps in Ireland. De Valera's gesture, unique among leaders of neutral nations in the final weeks of World War II, was criticized worldwide.
The presidential protocol record for 1938-1957, made public this week within a trove of previously secret government documents, shed new light on one of the most embarrassing chapters in the history of independent Ireland - its decision to maintain cordial relations with the Nazis even after news of the Holocaust emerged.
The new document confirmed that President Douglas Hyde visited Hempel on 3 May 1945, a day after Ireland received reports of Hitler's death.
The newly released document says Hyde, who died in 1949, says the president did not send an official letter of condolence to German government headquarters because "the capital of Germany, Berlin, was under siege and no successor had been appointed."
Valera Condoled Hitler's Death
Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. 1907 - 1954)
7 May 1945
NEW TORK. "The "Times" says that, in making a personal call on the German Legation in Dublin, to express condolences on Hitler's death, it is possible De Valera merely followed what he believed the protocol required of a neutral State, but, considering the character and record of the man for whose death be was expressing grief, there is obviously something wrong with the protocol of neutrality, or de Valera.
The "Herald-Trlbune" says that, if this is neutrality, it is neutrality gone mad. If De Valera and Salazar believe their tears for the late unlamented Hitler will either be forgiven or forgotten, they are more naïve than they have any right to be.
The Republic of Ireland, then called Eire, remained neutral throughout World War II.
Tens of thousands of Irishmen volunteered to serve in British military units, but many others rooted for Germany against their old imperial master Britain. The outlawed Irish Republican Army built contacts with the Nazis in an ultimately fruitless effort to receive weapons and money for insurrection in neighbouring Northern Ireland, a British territory.
De Valera's government brutally suppressed the IRA but also rebuffed requests to allow Jews fleeing Nazi persecution to receive asylum in Ireland. De Valera also refused to allow Britain or the United States to use strategic Irish ports for protecting Atlantic convoys from attacks by German U-boat submarines, a policy that cost thousands of Allied seamen's lives.
In his May 1945 victory speech, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemned de Valera's neutrality. Churchill said Britain had considered laying "a violent hand" on neutral Ireland to seize its ports, but avoided this thanks to the crucial support of Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom when the island was partitioned in 1921.
But de Valera argued that to refuse condolences "would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German nation and to Dr. Hempel himself. During the whole of the war, Dr. Hempel's conduct was irreproachable. ... I certainly was not going to add to his humiliation in the hour of defeat".
Eduard Hempel (1887–1972) was the Nazi German Minister to Ireland between 1937 and 1945 — in the buildup to and during The Emergency (Second World War). When he was first appointed to the post he was not a Nazi party member but a short while after his appointment, the Berlin regime put him under extreme pressure to join.
Prior to his appointment, the Irish External Affairs ministry had specified that they did not want a Nazi party member as diplomatic representative; the solution to this requirement appears to have been that at the time he took up his position he was not a member of the party, but joined the following year, his NSDAP card being dated 1 July 1938.
In the "Irish Times Correspondence" of 10 March 2011, the late Charles Acton is quoted, ' Dr Hempel was I am convinced an old fashioned, career civil service diplomat, caught in the terrible dilemma of his times. Loving his country but hating the regime that had taken control of it, he felt he could do more good in the long run and mitigate the harm of the regime by remaining Minister and pursuing a course of utter correctness, than by resigning and thereby risking the Legation being run by a real Nazi.'
Michael Drury, on 25 February 2011 in a letter to the "Irish Times" wrote, "Official circles in Ireland recognised that Dr Hempel behaved correctly throughout his mission, given the narrow limits of his position. For example, he respected Ireland’s neutrality better than the American minister did. If he were regarded as having been “Hitler’s man”, I would not have been instructed, as an official of the Irish Embassy in Bonn, to attend his funeral in 1972." In further correspondence on 8 March 2011 he wrote, 'I agree that Dr Hempel ought to have resigned when pressured to join the Nazi party, but not all of us are endowed with heroic virtues. He had no need to use the “classical excuse” that he followed orders: he was not accused of war crimes.'
Drury's assessment of Hempel was however challenged by several other "Irish Times" readers, who pointed to evidence of the German minister's pro-Hitler, pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic outlook.
Hempel's time in Ireland is particularly noted for the incident at the end of his term of office when the Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera and Joe Walshe, Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, paid a visit to his home in Dún Laoghaire on 2 May 1945 to express their official condolences on the death of German dictator Adolf Hitler. Hempel was described as being distraught at the news, wringing his hands in anguish, although after his death his wife, Eva, accounted for the incident by saying that he was suffering from eczema. According to official papers released in 2005, President Hyde also visited Hempel, the following day.
In his eight years in post, Hempel sent thousands of reports to Berlin by telegraph and shortwave radio (the latter until he surrendered his radio transmitter in December 1943 at the insistence of the Department of External Affairs, and under pressure from the United States and United Kingdom). Some historians have stated that Hempel was involved in undermining the 1942 allied raid on Dieppe to failure by reporting Canadian troop movements on the south coast of England although this charge has been disputed.
In a 'Documents on Irish Foreign Policy 1941-1945' a letter from de Valera is quoted defending his contentious visit to Hempel following the death of Hitler. He wrote,"So long as we retained our diplomatic relations with Germany, to have failed to call upon the German representative would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German nation and to Dr Hempel," he said in a letter.
De Valera granted Hempel asylum at the end of the war. He returned to Germany in 1949.
Whatever Dönitz's reasons, this erroneous story, combined with the complete silence on the part of the Russians regarding what they had or had not found in the Reichschancellery and the absence of a body - either Hitler's or Eva Braun's - did not convince many people. On the contrary, throughout the summer of 1945 the rumours that Hitler was still alive gathered pace.
There were many sightings. Among the first, it was reported that Hitler had been seen living as a hermit in a cave near Lake Garda in northern Italy. Another report had it that he was now a shepherd in the Swiss Alps, a third that he was a croupier at a casino in Evian. He was seen at Grenoble, St Gallen and even off the Irish coast.
Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW: 1888 - 1954)
10 May 1950
Frankfurt, May 9 - A rumour flashed through the city today that Hitler is still alive. The pro Nazi publication "Tempo der Welt" commemorated the anniversary of Germany's surrender with a purported interview with Martin Bormannn, the missing man to . whom Hitler bequeathed leadership of thc Nazi party.
The interview written by the Magazine's, chief editor. Karl Kärner said "Hitler Lives".
Kärner, who describes himself as Bormann's wartime persona] pilot, claimed to have met Bormann in Spanish Morocco on 14 July 1949.
Hé quotes Bormann as saying: "Hitler is alive in a Tibetan Monastery and not alone. Many have succeeded in getting there.
"Hitler and 1 were working for the same aim. We are not giving up the fight as long as we live. And if we die others will take our places-we aren't alone. All over the world a revolution is building up and one day it will break out everywhere".
Bormann, said Kärner, added that democracy-and time-were factors working for them today.
"They gave Germany a toy democracy. Germany is playing with it and will do so until it gets tired. Then our time will come exactly as it did in 1933", Bormann added.
Viewed from this distance, each of these accounts appears fantastic and incredible. But that was not how they were seen at the time. Not all of the accounts were so fantastic. In July 1945, the US Office of Censorship intercepted a letter written from someone in Washington. Addressed to a Chicago newspaper, the letter claimed that Hitler was living in a German-owned Hacienda 450 miles from Buenos Aires. The US government gave this report enough credibility to act on it, sending a classified telegram to the American embassy in Argentina requesting help in following up the inquiry. Besides giving basic information the telegram added that Hitler was alleged to be living in special underground quarters.
"Source indicates that there is a western entrance to the underground hideout which consists of a stone wall operated by photo-electric cells, activated by code signals from ordinary flashlights. Entrance thus uncovered supposedly provides admittance for automobiles".
Recently released war records reveal Hitler's use of a
“political decoy” (Doppelgänger or body-double).
Look-alikes and crisis actors were used to impersonate Hitler in order to draw attention away from him and to deal with risks on his behalf. It is documented that the
Nazi Führer vetted at least four doubles.
“Hitler’s Doubles” details their names, their peacetime occupations, their deaths, and an escape to South America
It continued that Hitler had provided himself with two doubles and was hard at work developing plans for the manufacture of long-range robot bombs and other weapons. The matter was taken sufficiently seriously for J. Edgar Hoover, then the director of the FBI, to become involved, although shortly afterwards he wrote to the War Department: "To date, no serious indication has been received that Adolf Hitler is in Argentina."
The Russian newspaper "Izvestiia" ran a report that Hitler and Eva Braun were both alive and well, and living in a moated castle in Westphalia. This implied complicity on the part of the British, for Westphalia lay in the British zone of occupation. The report was followed by one in August, in which an American lawyer wrote to Hoover at the FBI to say that the former Führer was living under the alias of Gerhardt Weithaupt in a house belonging to a certain Frau Frieda Haaf at Innsbruck. With Hitler, said this lawyer, was his personal physician, Dr Alfred Jodl [Actually Jodl was Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or OKW) during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel].
Another account also placed Hitler at Innsbruck. The informant was an educated man - again a lawyer - rather than a peasant or an ill-educated private soldier. Another came from a German doctor, a man presumably trained in observation. Karl-Heinz Späth claimed he had treated Hitler on 1 May 1945 at his Berlin casualty clearing station ill the cellar of the Landwehrkasino right opposite the Bunker at the Berlin Zoo. Späth said that Hitler had been wounded at a tank barricade in the fighting around the Küstrin area of the city. In his sworn deposition, he added:
"Hitler was lowered to the floor. A shell fragment had pierced the uniform, went through his chest and entered the lungs on both sides. It was no use to do anything. I took a few first-aid bandages and bandaged him.
"During this time Hitler groaned continually. He was not fully conscious. To relieve his pain I went back to the collecting station to get some morphine and gave him a double strength injection. The general opinion was that Hitler would die. I examined his pulse and respiration and found that after about three minutes he had stopped breathing. The heartbeats continued for about three minutes and then ceased. After I had pronounced the Führer dead and had informed the SS leaders of this fact I was released and went back to my work".
Shortly afterwards, Späth said, the surviving SS leaders "blew the body into the air with two three-kilo charges of high explosives." He repeated his story to an officer of the Military Government, who in turn reported to Berlin in September. Everyone, everywhere, seemed determined to ignore Grand-Admiral Dönitz's statement of 1 May.
Such accounts of Hitler's death were scarcely less confusing than the more numerous examples of sightings and the situation looked like getting out of hand. General George C. Marshall, the American Chief of Staff, had realised as early as 1 May that it might be necessary to do something to counter the "Hitler Martyr Myth" which had been fuelled by Admiral Dönitz's announcement. Eisenhower seemed not to agree. In June, when he was probably the most popular leader in the West, he attended a press conference at the Hotel Raphael in Paris. There he voiced doubt that Hitler was really dead. He was the first Allied figure of authority in the West to say this.
Nonetheless it was not until September that any official inquiry got under way - and when it did it was the British who carried out the investigations. Dick White, the Brigadier commanding the Intelligence Bureau in the British Zone of Occupation (part of MI5), was stationed at Bad Oeynhausen, between Osnabruck and Hannover, and he had been incensed by the Russian report that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were living, apparently unmolested, in the British zone of Germany - i.e., Westphalia. He invited a young major, and friend, Hugh Trevor-Roper, to make an official inquiry into the mystery which at that time still surrounded the death of Hitler.
A four-volume dossier on the Führer, compiled by the US Counter-Intelligence Corps, was made available to Trevor-Roper who, in civilian life, was an Oxford history don. This dossier was "a cornucopia of everything that could be gleaned about" Hitler and included his medical condition, his state of mind, his various "inclinations and proclivities." It did not make Hitler out to be a monster. The CIC analysts had found, "to their embarrassment, that the scourge of the human race gave presents to children, hated blood sports, disliked excessively fanatical people and was conservative and fastidious in his habits . . . Every day at the same hour," according to one informant, "he would go with the same dog to the same corner of the same field and pick up the same piece of wood and throw it in the same direction." The report also contained the conclusions of a long-distance psychiatric examination of the Führer. This concluded that the suicide of Hitler could not be ruled out.
Trevor-Roper's inquiries were to prove exciting. He spent most of September and October tracking down what eyewitnesses he could, people who had lived in the Führerbunker in those last desperate days and could tell him what had happened. He was not entirely successful. Göbbels and Martin Bormann were not available, missing or dead according to whom you talked to. So were Heinz Linge, Hitler's valet, Otto Günsche, Hitler's Adjutant, Hans Baur, his personal pilot and Johann Rattenhuber, the Chief of Bodyguards. Many others known to have been in the Bunker were also untraceable.
Still, Trevor-Roper was able to interview Frau Gerda Christian and Frau Else Krüger, who were respectively Hitler's and Bormann's secretaries. They had not actually been eyewitnesses for much of what happened, but they had been given contemporaneous accounts by people such as Linge and Günsche, who claimed to have seen everything. Trevor-Roper had also visited Innsbruck, no doubt to double-check the story that Hitler was now masquerading as Gerhardt Weithaupt.
On 1 November 1945, Trevor-Roper gave a press conference in Berlin where he outlined the conclusions of his inquiry. His investigations showed, he said, that Hitler had committed suicide at about 3.30 pm on 30 April 1945, and that Eva Braun had died with him. In Hitler's case, the manner of death was by shooting - the Führer had put a pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In the case of Eva Braun, she had taken a cyanide capsule: everyone living in the Bunker had been issued with similar capsules.
Asked by one of the newspapermen if he was aware of the Russian view on Hitler's death, Trevor-Roper indicated that he thought the Soviets were sceptical - that is, inclined to the view that Hitler was not dead. As he said this, a Russian officer present nodded.
Trevor-Roper also dismissed the possibility that it was Hitler's Doppelgänger - his double - who had been burned. In the first place, he said, there wouldn't have been time to move the double's body in and out of the Bunker. Second, in his very poor physical condition, Hitler would not have been able to escape. And third, and most convincingly perhaps, Eva Braun herself would never have died willingly. - or been taken in by - such a substitute.
Finally, he conceded that there was no "conclusive proof" that Martin Bormann, Hitler's Personal - and Party - Secretary, was dead.
Although it was acknowledged that Trevor-Roper's account was necessarily incomplete and that there were many gaps to be filled in, the press conference was reported extensively in the world's newspapers. He himself continued to inquire into the last days of the Third Reich throughout the winter of 1945-46.
Later in the year, the Allied Intelligence services received word that a certain Paustin, working as a gardener in the quiet village of Tegernsee, was in fact none other than the former SS Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander, the Adjutant to Martin Bormann. Now here was a very important individual indeed. For three weeks in November and December 1945, British secret service agents and American CIC special agents Arnold Weiss and Rosener tried to track Paustin/Zander's trail.
As Christmas arrived, they thought they had him cornered. On Boxing Day, Trevor-Roper and the CIC agents raided the house they had been watching, only to find that Zander had left the area to visit his fiancé who lived near Passau. Two days later, they were tipped off that a suitcase belonging to Zander could be found in the home of a certain Frau Irmgard Unterholzener in Tegernsee. They wasted no time in paying Frau Unterholzener a visit and picked up the suitcase. The case was searched thoroughly but initially proved of little interest. However, a secret compartment was then found inside which were several documents that had been brought out of the Bunker only forty-eight hours before Berlin fell. These documents were of the utmost historical importance.
Here was Hitler's Will and Political Testament. This confirmed what Trevor-Roper had been told about the last days in the Bunker. There was also Göbbels's Appendix to Hitler's Political Testament - further corroborative evidence that the picture Trevor-Roper was building up was essentially correct. Third, and perhaps most intriguing of all, there was the marriage contract of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Trevor-Roper had been told by several of the people who had lived in the Führerbunker that Eva Braun had finally achieved her long-time aim to become the wife of the Führer. If Trevor-Roper had ever had any doubts about what he had been told, here was documentary support.
But the marriage contract was more than just corroborative evidence. The fact of Hitler's marriage tended to confirm the psychological portrait Trevor-Roper was putting together. Hitler had never felt the need to marry Braun before. Why should he do so in the last week of April 1945? The answer seemed clear: only if he was contemplating something dramatic.
To be double sure of the veracity of the documents, they turned them over to Major Anthony W. Lobb, Chief of the 3rd us Army CIC, who handed them on to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2. He, in turn, shipped them across the Atlantic to the United States. In Washington, an FBI forensic analysis of the paper and ink confirmed their authenticity.
Still in Germany, Trevor-Roper and CIC agent Arnold Weiss had followed Zander to the small village of Vilshofen, near the Czech border. There, Zander resisted arrest and a short gunfight ensued before he was overpowered. He was transferred to Munich and interrogated. He resisted for about ten hours but finally broke, revealing to Trevor-Roper many details of the last days in the Bunker which the former historian had gleaned from other, less well-placed sources.
This was early in 1946. Although everything Trevor-Roper was turning up now confirmed his initial conclusions about Hitler's last days, yet much of the rest of the world was still not convinced. Sightings of Hitler continued.
That year he was seen in Spain, where he was reported at the end of September as leading a wolf pack of U-boats. For added verisimilitude, he was said to be suffering badly from seasickness. Next, he was reported as living on a farm at La Falda in Argentina although his appearance had been changed, according to this report, by a plastic surgeon who had performed the operation on the boat that ferried the Führer across the Atlantic from Europe to the new world.
Just before Christmas 1946 the US embassy in Stockholm received an anonymous letter addressed to the "Chief of the American Zone". Given that even Kurt Dittmar had admitted that there was a small redoubt in northern Scandinavia, this report was treated more seriously than many others. It read in part:
"If you look in the Bauerska mountains you will find a long cave about 466 metres or maybe even longer, with about ninety doors, well camouflaged. Hitler has here a room thirty by thirty metres, with electrical stoves, one big, one small. There is food there, cans of all kinds for several years ahead and lots of money, of all kinds of currencies. There is also a pipe from the top of the mountain in which food can be dropped down. Those who bring food there are called 'Ravens'. Those who built this in the mountains have been killed long ago so it would not be discovered. When you have found it, I demand one sixth of what there is there and a jeep and a tractor. You will know my name when you have found him".
On the reverse was written: "They had stolen horses and cows, hay and so on. They have plenty of ammunition and guns. A Swede who has a sixth sense is with them. He tells them all. Find these gentlemen. What will be done will be done soon".
Still another report in 1946 placed Hitler in Holland, in a coffee room in Amsterdam. This time the writer commented on the Führer's strange appearance - he had a very long body and long arms - but the informant also said that this Hitler still had direct links with the Gestapo and was trying to kill the writer, who therefore begged the Allied authorities to act quickly.
Another report placed Hitler in Zürich, saying he had aged dreadfully, that his hair had turned white, his body was bent forward and he took very short steps. He apparently had some form of lung infection for he coughed persistently. He preferred dark suits and hats and his demeanour was "similar to that of a pensioned official." The Deputy Director of Intelligence at the European Command instructed his subordinates to check out this report, as he did with almost all such paperwork coming across his desk. "I feel we would be remiss in our duty," he wrote, "if we failed to follow up a report of this nature." He even requested help from the Chief of the Swiss Federal Police in Berne.
Nor were the Allied Forces immune from spotting Hitler. One American GI reported that he had seen the Führer, Eva Braun and her sister Gretl in Bernheim in the house where he collected his laundry. This man had to be Hitler, the GI felt, because he flew into a rage whenever the V-1 weapon was mentioned and "exhibited great sentiment over the photograph of a dog" which seems to have closely resembled Blondi, the Führer's own Alsatian.
The impact of these reports may be judged from the account of Lieutenant Colonel W. Byford-Jones, a British Intelligence officer who, on 20 April 1946 (what would have been Hitler's fifty-seventh birthday), questioned twenty educated Berliners on the fate of Hitler.
"Only, one thought Hitler was dead. The other nineteen betrayed that then were conscious of the fact that it was their Führer's birthday. They were convinced he was alive and spoke of him with anything but reproach. I found also that children, who are usually a good guide to the beliefs of adults, almost without exception spoke of Onkel Adolf as a living being.
"A new feature in this belief was where Hitler was supposed to be hiding. In the summer of 1945 I had been told he was in Spain, South America and other unlikely places, but now another hide-out, was mentioned. He was with the Edelweiss, an illegal organisation well known to exist, and he was in the wild mountainous area that extends from the Alps on the Swiss frontier to the Tyrol in Austria, where thousands of Wehrmacht troops, calling themselves Edelweiss, retain their wartime formations, stores, equipment and munitions and live high up in the mountain fastnesses".
The Redoubt was back.
In January 1947, a report was sent to the American CIC forces via the French Intelligence services. This claimed that Hitler was hiding in the area of Heidelberg and was in touch with a Resistance leader in Weinheim. The French report said that Hitler had visited Weinheim disguised as an American soldier, the visit no doubt part of the Führer's campaign to begin a new Reich.
Weinheim duly became the subject of a raid by thirty. Allied officers - five CIC special agents and twenty-five men of the US Constabulary. There was no trace of either Hitler or the Resistance leader.
It was in March 1947 that Trevor-Roper's report was published in the form of a book, under the title "The Last Days of Hitler". By rights, the book ought to have solved the mystery once and for all, to have killed speculation for ever. It was meticulously researched, well written and by and large convincing. But among several points left unresolved, one all-important matter remained a mystery…..
Why I had to expose the 'Secret' of Hitler
An extraordinary book on the last hours of the Führer tells the story of the Jewish woman who was among the first inside the Bunker
By Emma Craigie
The Jewish Chronicle
8 May 2015
When the Russian tanks entered the centre of Berlin on 29 April 1945, a 26-year-old Jewish woman was travelling in a Jeep ahead of the troops. Elena Rzhevskaya was a military interpreter for Russia's 3rd Shock Army. She worked for SMERSH, the Soviet counter-intelligence agency, whose name is an acronym of the Russian for "death to spies".
I first came across Rzhevskaya in Antony Beevor's wonderful book, "Berlin, The Downfall 1945". Further research uncovered the story of an extraordinary woman, now aged 95 and still living in Moscow, who played a crucial role in finding Hitler's Bunker and proving his death. Her evidence was suppressed by Stalin and she was only allowed to publish her full memoirs in 1986. They have not yet been translated into English.
Rzhevskaya was born Elena Moiseyevna Kagan in Belarus in 1919. She changed her name after the war. Her father was the director of a large Moscow bank and she enjoyed a privileged childhood, studying German with a private tutor and attending Moscow's elite Institute of Philosophy and Literature. She married at the age of 20 but her husband died at the front shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, leaving her with a young daughter. Rzhevskaya herself enlisted and trained as a military interpreter, working in battlefields, interrogating German soldiers as they were captured.
She kept journals and recorded the trauma of the battles of Rzhev, known in Russia as the ''slaughter house'' and in honour of which she later named herself. She wrote of her conflicted feelings of compassion for the young German soldiers she was questioning.
As Soviet forces advanced through Berlin, Rzhevskaya's unit was trying to find people who might be able to provide information about Hitler's whereabouts. They had unconfirmed reports that he was in the Reich Chancellery.
Stalin was determined the German leader should be taken alive in time for May Day celebrations, scheduled to take place in Moscow two days later.
On the morning of the 29th, Rzhevskaya's unit managed to arrest a young boy wearing a Hitler Youth uniform who had been attempting to shoot them. She tried to question him, but he sat in silence with his ''bloodshot eyes and cracked lips… looking around but not understanding anything. Just a boy,'' according to Beevor.
Later that day, she had more success. Her colleagues had captured a nurse who was trying to break through the Russian lines and leave the city in order to find her mother. She told Rzhevskaya that she had been working in the emergency hospital in the Reich Chancellery. She said that people there believed that Hitler ''was in the basement".'
The SMERSH Jeeps immediately set off for the Reich Chancellery. As Rzhevskaya recorded in her journal, the closer they came to the city centre, the thicker and more acrid the air. She could feel the grit of masonry dust on her teeth as the American-lent jeeps negotiated the rubble and shell craters of the Berlin streets.
It was not until 2 May that the Russians finally entered the Führerbunker under the Reich Chancellery. As she waited for the breakthrough, Rzhevskaya made notes of the human stories she witnessed.
An elderly woman wearing a white armband of surrender but, Rzhevskaya notes, no hat, is taking a little boy and girl across the road. They are immaculately turned out, their hair neatly combed, but the woman is distraught and crying out, as Beevor reports, to no one in particular: "They are orphans. Our house has been bombed. They are orphans".
A sleeping German soldier curled in a foetal position, using a broken door as a pillow. A young woman with a thin little boy who grimaces, Rzhevskaya notices, as his mother talks and talks about his missing father. The woman has spent the last two years hoping for her husband's return and making a list of jobs for him to do in their flat, but now the building has burnt down and the woman has lost not only her husband and her home, but her way of coping.
When the Russians finally entered the Bunker, the electric generator had broken down so that there was no light but torch light and no ventilation. By now, most of the Bunker's inhabitants had killed themselves or fled; Hitler's dog handler Fritz Tornow was one of the few who remained alive, incoherent with shock, and there were still a few doctors and nurses working in the Reich Chancellery hospital.
Rzhevskaya headed for Hitler's office where she discovered 10 volumes of Josef Göbbels' diaries as well as Martin Bormann's logs of Hitler's military conferences. She immediately copied as much of these documents as she could into her notebooks. She understood that, as soon as she handed the papers to her superiors, they would become secret documents to which she'd have no access.
The following day, 3 May, the Russians discovered the bodies of the six children of Josef and Magda Göbbels, lying in their bunk beds. Then, on 5 May, some charred human remains were found in a shell crater in the Reich Chancellery garden. The find included parts of a skull, a jaw-bone and some teeth which were wrapped in sheets. These were taken to the SMERSH headquarters in the north of the city and handed over to pathologists under strict instructions to keep their work secret.
Rzhevskaya was summoned to the pathology lab. Her boss, Colonel Vassily Gorbushin, entrusted her with a large, dark-red cigar box, lined with satin. It contained the teeth, which he believed to be Hitler's. To verify this, Rzhevskaya managed to track down a dental assistant, Käthe Heusermann-Reiss, and dental technician, Fritz Echtmann, who both worked for Hitler's dentist, Dr Blaschke. They were able to confirm from records that the teeth were Hitler's; the remains included a distinctive, solid gold "telephone bridge" replacing three teeth in the lower right jaw.
On 8 May, rumours of Germany's surrender spread among the Russian troops in Berlin. Unofficial celebrations broke out across the city.
Rzhevskaya spent the evening pouring drinks with one hand, while clinging to the cigar box with the other, the precious evidence that Hitler was dead. "Only two officers knew what I was carrying and I had to keep my tongue," Rzhevskaya told Tom Parfitt of the "Observer" in a rare interview at her Moscow apartment in 2005. "Can you imagine how it felt? A young woman like me who had travelled the long military road from the edge of Moscow to Berlin; to stand there and hear that announcement of surrender, knowing that I held in my hands the decisive proof that we had Hitler's remains".
At this point, Rzhevskaya believed that she and her colleagues would shortly be sent to Moscow with their documentary and physical evidence. "I was sure that, in a few days, the whole world would know that we had found Hitler's corpse".
It was not to be.
In the following days Rzhevskaya and her SMERSH colleagues were forced into silence. The Bunker documents and the physical remains were removed to a hidden archive in the Soviet Union and, on 26 May, Stalin informed President Truman's representative, Harry L Hopkins, that "Bormann, Göbbels, Hitler and probably Krebs had escaped and were in hiding".
Rzhevskaya returned to Moscow, changed her name and began her career as a writer, initially writing fiction.
It was not until 12 years after Stalin's death, during the far more liberal Khruschev years, that she was able to publish her Berlin Notes in the Russian literary magazine "Znamya", and finally, after Gorbachev came to power, she published a fuller version in her book "Berlin, May 1945".
"By the will of fate, I came to play a part in not letting Hitler achieve his final goal of disappearing and turning into a myth. Only with time did I finally manage to overcome all the obstacles and make public this 'secret of the century'.
"I managed to prevent Stalin's dark and murky ambition from taking root - his desire to hide from the world that we had found Hitler's corpse".
-- "Hitler’s Last Day: Minute by Minute", by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie, Short Books
|The Second World War's "cold case" - What happened to Adolf Hitler?|
The Battle of Berlin ended the Second World War on 8 May 1945. The most important thing was that it finally become peace, but neither the Russians or the allied could lift the biggest trophy of it all: Der Führer Adolf Hitler - dead or alive! No other persons have ever caused such mass hysteria around the world and so many conspiracy theories than Hitler.
This is the Second World War's "cold case" that has not yet been fully solved and has not been subject of a thoroughly investigation for many years - until now. In the last 2-3 years several books have been released where the authors claim they have certain evidence for that Hitler managed to escape to South America. There always have been doubts as to Hitler's alleged suicide in his bunker in Berlin on 30 April 1945.
The most authoritarian doubter was the Russian Dictator Josef Stalin who was convinced that Hitler escaped to Spain in April of 194, or did he try to manipulate the Allied? In the chaos before everything turned quiet, everything could has happened. All the confusion has probably caused so many different accounts from people. Is the truth something between? It was a big manhunt for The search for Hitler became the greatest manhunt in the history of the world.
Hitler is believed to have died after shooting himself in a Berlin Bunker in 1945 when he realised Germany had lost the Second World War:
"30 April of 1945: During the afternoon, Hitler and his wife Eva Braun (born Braun), who had married not long before in the Bunker, committed suicide. Their bodies were then buried in the garden in the front of the Bunker entrance."
One difficulty in confirming the basic facts of Hitler’s suicide with his wife, Eva Braun, in the final days of the Allies’ approach to Berlin, was that the Russian troops did not give access to many forensic investigators.
Did Hitler play a trick and escaped to South America? Did he took a plane or a submarine? Was he hidden by his Nazi contacts in Argentina? CIA spend 20 years searching for Hitler in South America and other places around the world. This ended up with a 700 pages report included without no positive result even it included accounts from eyewitness who claimed to have seen Hitler.
Several documentaries about Hitler`s possible escape have been made by well known media companies as "BBC", "Discovery History Channel" and "National Geographic", but so far the investigations have not found the final evidence.
The Führerbunker (English: "Leader's Bunker") was an air-raid shelter located near the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. It was part of a subterranean Bunker complex constructed in two phases which were completed in 1936 and 1944. It was the last of the Führer Headquarters (Führerhauptquartiere) used by Adolf Hitler. Hitler took up residence in the Führerbunker on 16 January 1945 and it became the centre of the Nazi regime until the last week of World War II in Europe. Hitler married Eva Braun here during the last week of April 1945, shortly before they committed suicide.
Records in the Soviet archives show that their burnt remains were recovered and interred in successive locations until 1970, when they were again exhumed, cremated, and the ashes scattered.
- Who was this man found dead outside the Bunker who looked like Hitler? Was he Hitler's double just to play the enemy a trick so he could easily escape and live a peaceful life without anyone one searching for him? The Russian photo of the exhumed corpse of Hitler's double has a bullet hole in the forehead.
- Why did the Russians hide the so called remains of Hitler?
- Why did Stalin allegate several times that Hitler was still alive? Was it propaganda or did he knew better than other world leader at that time?
- Was it really Hitler a waitress observed in a Nazi hotel in Argentina? How could she claim it was Hitler despite that he had shaved off his mustache and used a wig?
- Was there or was there not blood in the room of Hitler and Eva Braun supposed suicide (Hitler's study)? Were their blood stains eventually removed or washed?
- The skull the Russians alleged to be Hitler, was according to an American scientist based on DNA-analyses that of a women under 40 years old. [The jaw fragments which had been recovered were not tested by the American researchers].
- Why did the Russians claim it was Hitler's skull when they easily could have used modern technique to find it out, and who was the women?
Based on information from Wikipedia, accounts differ as to the cause of death; one states that he died by poison only and another that he died by a self-inflicted gunshot while biting down on a cyanide capsule. Contemporary historians have rejected these accounts as being either Soviet propaganda or an attempted compromise in order to reconcile the different conclusions. One eye-witness recorded that the body showed signs of having been shot through the mouth, but this has been proven unlikely.
Different versions of Hitler's fate were presented by the Soviet Union according to its political desires. In the years immediately following 1945, the Soviets maintained Hitler was not dead, but had fled and was being shielded by the former western allies. This worked for a time to create doubt among western authorities. There is much confusion and doubt related to Hitler's destiny, and his final fate.
Last Days of a Despot
In 1947 Hugh Trevor-Roper, historian and former British intelligence official, published a vivid study entitled "The Last Days of Hitler". Since Nazi officials had burned Adolf Hitler's body and disposed of the remains at an unknown site just before the Russians took Berlin, it was important to present other evidence of Hitler's demise. In spite of announcements that the Führer had died, there were widespread fears and some hopes that he was still alive.
Drawing upon interrogations he and other officials conducted, Trevor-Roper clearly described how Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun came to commit suicide on 30 April 1945, in a private room of his fortified underground bunker in Berlin. Trevor-Roper also showed how Hitler's last days were the culmination of growing dissolution of the Nazi regime in the last years of the war, with administrative chaos and bitter personal animosities among top Nazi officials.
Subsequent research over nearly half a century has superseded his findings on many points, but students of Nazi Germany may still benefit from this example of contemporary history at its best. "The Last Days of Hitler" went through seven editions, the most recent one in 1995. Its commercial success helps to explain the appearance of subsequent studies of the death of Hitler, including the two reviewed here. Unfortunately, they do not approach Trevor-Roper's standard or his breadth of vision.
Hugh Thomas is a British surgeon with forensic expertise. In a previous historical work, Thomas argued that the man called Rudolf Hess who served a life sentence in Spandau Prison was not the real Rudolf Hess, the one-time number two man in the Nazi Party. Not content with getting this implausible story published as non-fiction, Thomas has concluded, in "The Murder of Adolf Hitler", that Eva Braun did not commit suicide on 30 April 1945, but escaped the Bunker and survived the war. More tentatively, he argues that Adolf Hitler was not a suicide either.
Thomas focuses on discrepancies in the various accounts of Hitler's death by those Germans inside and immediately outside the Bunker -- essentially, conflicting claims that Hitler ingested a cyanide capsule and that he shot himself. After finding weaknesses in both versions, Thomas offers strangling as an alternative, even though there is literally no testimony or other evidence to support it. No evidence, no inconsistencies. Not Adolf Hitler, but history is murdered in this book.
The Murder of Adolf Hitler:
The Truth About the Bodies in the Berlin Bunker
W. Hugh Thomas
Rejecting historians' consensus that Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, committed suicide in the Nazi underground Bunker as Allied forces took Berlin, British surgeon and forensic expert Thomas ("The Murder of Rudolf Hess") asserts that the two partially charred corpses found by Soviet troops were actually those of a Hitler Doppelgänger and a substitute for Braun, wearing one of her dresses. In his scenario, Hitler was strangled by Heinz Linge, his valet, rather than allow a degenerate, raving Führer to fall into Soviet clutches, and that Eva Braun was allowed to escape.
As Thomas paints the scene:
"He (Hitler) is still shuffling around the anteroom when Linge returns. Linge... offers him a cyanide capsule from a small brass case, and the use of the Army pistol that Linge withdraws from the drawer of a table. Staring blankly and uncomprehendingly at his manservant, Hitler calls him a 'stupid peasant' and turns his back.
"Linge picks up the cyanide capsule and vainly tries to force it into Hitler's mouth from behind--forcing the mouth open by closing his powerful middle finger and thumb across the Führer's mouth, from side to side in the cheek pouch. Despite his feeble state, Hitler manages to turn his head away from the strong grip and lower his head. Linge's increasingly violent efforts can't succeed, even though he is by now half facing the Führer.
"But the affront has been made, the first act of violence committed. Savagely Linge turns the prematurely aged man around and throttles (strangles) him from behind. Terrified, he holds up the Führer in front of him while the frothing stops and struggles cease.
"He is still holding the corpse almost at arm's length, when Stumpfegger comes into the room... Stumpfegger beckons Linge to lay the corpse down on the floor. Checking that Hitler is dead, he reaches in his pocket and produces an ampule-crushing forceps. The cyanide capsule is quickly and professionally crushed under Hitler's protruding tongue".
Before reaching this conclusion, Thomas examines Hitler's personality and health.
Hitler, he speculates, suffered from Parkinson's disease, which made him a partially paralyzed, grossly weakened, uncontrollably shaking insomniac, and was a borderline schizophrenic. Thomas bases his detailed analysis, which raises far more questions than it answers, on Russian State Archive material comprising alleged skull fragments of Hitler and Braun, as well as on their dental records and on six folios of documents found with the skulls. Using Paraguayan police files released in 1993, Thomas concludes that Martin Bormann, Hitler's personal secretary, survived the Bunker, apparently moving to Paraguay in 1956.
The rumour that the Nazi leader might have contracted Syphilis has surfaced before - along with a multitude of conflicting and occasionally outlandish theories about his health.
Syphilis is easily curable in its early stages by modern antibiotic treatments, but if left untreated for some years, secondary symptoms, including heart, nerve and mental problems may emerge.
The latest book, "Pox: Genius, Madness and the Mysteries of Syphilis" by Deborah Hayden, says that Hitler had many of the symptoms which might point to advanced syphilis. These included encephalitis, dizziness, neck pustules, chest pain and an "accentuated heartbeat". Ms Hayden also points to signals which suggests a mental decline in his last years, including "paranoid rages". Mental disturbances and mania are also known symptoms of late-stage syphilis.
It is also suggested that Hitler received iodide salts - a well-known treatment for late-stage, or tertiary syphilis. However, iodide salts were recommended for several other conditions, including angina, which might have been blamed for his chest pains.
Ms Hayden told "The Times": "This is not definitive proof, but I think that there is a preponderance of circumstantial evidence."
However, other experts say that the range of Hitler's recorded symptoms could easily have been caused by something else.
Dr Tom Hutton, a researcher from the University of Texas, told a conference in 1999 that a condition with similar symptoms to Parkinson's disease might explain the Führer's "mental inflexibility" - and perhaps even account for his delay in reacting to the Normandy landings in 1944.
Dr Fritz Redlich, a Yale University expert on neurology and psychiatry, found "no evidence" in medical records or from other sources that Hitler had syphilis. Dr Redlich said that another condition, giant cell arteritis, an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation of the arteries, could account for Hitler's headaches, cardiac symptoms and vision problems.
When people start from the premise given to us by old war-propaganda, that Hitler was a madman who made mad decisions, there is an impetus to try to determine what exactly caused this madness. Propaganda once accepted thus leads to grasping at straws in an effort to validate a lie.
In 1969 David Irving, perhaps exploiting the concerns of the time, wrote for "Stern" magazine that Hitler was addicted to cocaine and took hormones to stimulate his sex-drive ("The Age", 18 June 1969). This later became the theme of one of Irving's books ('Wie krank war Hitler wirklich?') and the claim that Hitler was a cocaine-addict still reverberates in sensationalist mass-media.
In 1979 psychiatrist Leonard Heston, relying on the memoir of the unreliable Albert Speer, speculated that Hitler's judgment was distorted by amphetamines. Heston came to this conclusion because, while accepting the premise that Hitler's judgment was bad, he determined that Hitler did not have syphilis [According to an article from the "California State Journal of Medicine" (August 1910) which the U.S. National Institutes of Health presents on its website, the Wasserman test for syphilis, administered to Adolf Hitler by Dr, Morell, was designed to detect 98% of syphilis-cases. That is the basis of Dr. Leonard Heston's view that Adolf Hitler did not have syphilis], schizophrenia, or manic-depressive disorder. Overuse of amphetamines was thus left as a possible explanation for Hitler's presumed poor judgment, which could also account for his trembling hands. (AP, 15 June 1979) Heston rejected Parkinson's disease as the explanation for Hitler's tremors, claiming that the tremors did not fit the disease's normal pattern: other physicians have disagreed with Heston about this.
The major turning point in the question occurred when German authors entered the fray, rejecting the premise (derived from Anglo-American propaganda) that Hitler suffered any madness that required explanation.
In 1985 Ernst Günther Schenk, a physician in charge of nutrition for the German Army who was present at Hitler's last medical consultation in April 1945 and later wrote a book ("Patient A") about Hitler's relationship with his personal physician, was quoted in "American Medical News" to the effect that Hitler was neither clinically insane nor chemically dependent on drugs. Schenk says that Hitler's regular injections consisted of vitamins mixed with glucose and caffeine. Hitler was not a regular user of any stronger drug, but was given them on occasion: codeine and cocaine for colds, strong painkillers and barbiturates for cramps and colitis (an intermittent condition in most people that suffer it). By the end of his life, Hitler showed obvious symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and also had a heart problem that was treated with nitroglycerin and digitalis. Schenk says that medically there was nothing unusual about Hitler. (AP, 10 October 1985)
In 2010 the book "War Hitler Krank?" by Henrik Eberle and Hans-Joachim Neumann (published in English in 2012 as 'Was Hitler Ill?'), offered generally the same assessment as Schenk. They write that "at no time did Hitler suffer from pathological delusions," ["Eine Besessenheit im Sinne eines krankheitsbedingten Wahns gab es bei Hitler zu keinem Zeitpunkt."] and they find no indication that Dr. Theodor Morell was anything other than a competent and ethical physician.
There is some controversy about Hitler's alleged use of methamphetamine (also known as methyl-amphetamine), which had been available in Germany as an over-the-counter drug under the brand-name Pervitin since 1938. The quantity of methamphetamine in the pills seems not to have been very great, because novelist Heinrich Böll, who used Pervitin during the war, has described the stimulation as equivalent to several cups of coffee. It is clear that Pervitin was not perceived as excessively dangerous at the time, and even for several decades after the war, since it was only taken off the market in the 1970s. [The appeal of such drugs was not limited to Axis nations. In the United States, the use of Pervitin by German military men stimulated the U.S. Government's Office of Scientific Research and Development to work on an American equivalent (Alexander George, "Wide World Features", 22 August 1942). The U.S. Army has contemplated the benefits of amphetamines at least as recently as 1988 (AP, 7 September 1988). As of 2014 methamphetamine in the United States is a prescription-drug, used for treatment of ADHD and for weight-loss.] In any case, Morell records administering that over-the-counter stimulant on only one occasion. (C. Gunkel, 'Hitlers Krankheiten: Therapie mit Rattengift,' "Der Spiegel" January 2010; there is also an abridged English translation)
To summarize, Hitler's physician gave him various strong drugs on occasion, but not on a regular basis, and there is no reason to believe that drugs adversely affected Hitler's judgment. The strongest drug that Hitler received on a regular basis was caffeine, taken with vitamins.
Russian investigative television reporter Ada Petrova and British journalist Peter Watson add a number of details to the story of the final days in the Bunker. That Hitler grew more worried on 29 April, that Eva Braun went out into the Reichschancellery garden on the morning of 30 April for a last look at the sun, that two Nazi subordinates in the Bunker smelled almonds (the odor given off by cyanide) from the death room of the Bunker, that one key witness of the events in the Bunker constantly changed his story while captive in Russia, and similar findings hardly qualify as stunning revelations. The authors finesse the cause of death by arguing that Hitler shot himself in the head and simultaneously bit open a cyanide capsule, while Braun took cyanide.
The most interesting and novel element of "The Death of Hitler" is really a separate story revealed in bits and pieces -- that of the various Soviet investigations into the death of Hitler. On 5 May 1945, the Soviets located the partially burned remains of a man and a woman near the Bunker. A commission of forensic specialists overseen by SMERSH (Soviet Counterintelligence) examined them and concluded that they were Hitler and Braun and that cyanide was the cause of death. But these findings were kept secret, apparently because Stalin did not trust them or because he wanted a weapon to hold in reserve in case someone turned up claiming to be Hitler. Soviet officials meanwhile issued statements that they had no direct evidence of Hitler's death and that he might have escaped.
Meanwhile, the Soviets captured and sent 70 members of Hitler's immediate entourage to Russia. The key people -- eyewitnesses in the bunker -- were extensively interrogated and then imprisoned. A second commission in April 1946 not only re-examined the medical evidence but, using the captured inhabitants of the bunker, recreated the death of Hitler on-site to iron out the inconsistencies in testimony and test the truthfulness of the various witnesses. In the course of this 1946 investigation, Soviet officials not only turned up bloodstains on Hitler's sofa; they re-excavated the burial site and found skull fragments, the remnants of Hitler's uniform and the remains of his dog.
The convincing findings of the second Soviet commission were an embarrassment to Moscow in two respects. First, they revealed that the first commission had mistakenly diagnosed the cause of Hitler's death. Second, a self-inflicted gunshot was thought to be the more courageous way for Hitler to go. So the Soviets officially remained silent on the death of Hitler, shelving the evidence and analysis in a file labeled “Operation Myth”. Some information was leaked over the decades, but Petrova's 1992 discovery of the skull fragments led to the first effective investigation and to this book.
The skull fragments, some newly discovered watercolors by Hitler, and his personal photograph album are not sufficient to justify a new book about Hitler, and the authors do not attempt archival research about the collapse of the Third Reich. Their story of the Moscow investigations is valuable, if partial. Others will want to check information and pursue new leads, and footnotes would have been very helpful for these purposes, but they are lacking here. Footnotes do not sell books. Still, they do not necessarily prevent books from selling. Ask Trevor-Roper.
The “Mystery” of Hitler’s Death: The Fact Are Now In
That Hitler’s death became a “mystery” owing solely to Soviet efforts has never been so conclusively demonstrated or documented as…
H. R. Trevor-Roper
1 July 1956
It is now ten years since my book "The Last Days of Hitler" was written. In those ten years some mysteries of the last war have been resolved, others deepened. Eyewitnesses who were unattainable in 1945 have at last re-emerged from their long imprisonment in Russia. New books and articles have been written, and old judgments challenged or changed. But no new revelation has altered the story of Hitler’s last ten days of life as it was first reconstructed in 1945 and published in 1947.
Such evidence as has since been revealed does not alter the story as told in the book but does, I think, shed interesting light on other matters, and, in particular, upon the Russian attitude towards the last days of Hitler. In particular, I shall deal with the evidence of those witnesses who, when I began my inquiry, had already disappeared into Russian prisons but who now, ten years later, have at last been released.
The principal witnesses whom I sought and failed to find in 1945 were five. They were Otto Günsche, Hitler’s SS adjutant, and Heinz Linge, his personal servant, both of whom undoubtedly saw Hitler dead and took part in the burning of his body; Johann Rattenhuber, who commanded Hitler’s detective bodyguard and who, I believed, knew the place of his burial; Hans Baur, Hitler’s personal pilot, who was with him to the end; and Harry Mengershausen, an officer of the bodyguard who was reported to know about the burial of the bodies. There were of course other important witnesses whom I had missed, but it was these five whom I particularly sought.
Günsche and Linge had both been seen and identified among Russian prisoners in Berlin, and the Russians had themselves included the names of Baur and Rattenhuber among their prisoners in an official communique published on 6 May 1945. However, my queries addressed to the Russians were unavailing: they declined to answer any questions and in the end I wrote my book without the help of these missing witnesses. Nevertheless, in the following years I occasionally had news of them from more fortunate fellow-prisoners who had returned to Germany. Thus I learned that some of them were still alive in the Lubianka prison in Moscow, or in the Arctic prisons of Vorkuta, or the great prison camp at Sverdlovsk. I sometimes even received, at second hand, snatches of their stories of the last days in Hitler’s Bunker. Then suddenly, in the autumn of 1955, after Dr. Adenauer’s visit to Moscow, the prison gates opened, and by January 1956 all five men had returned. It is true, one of them has remained inaccessible. Günsche, still classified by the Russians as a war criminal, returned to East Germany. There the compliant Pankow government took charge of him and he has promptly disappeared again into the silence of another Communist prison in Bautzen. But the other four, having returned to Western Germany, have been able to tell their stories to the world. Linge, in Berlin, lost no time in publishing his account in the press. Baur, Rattenhuber, and Mengershausen freely answered all the questions which I put to them in private interviews at their homes.
What is the result of these revelations? The essential fact is that they everywhere confirm the story as already told by me from other sources. At no point do they conflict with it or even modify it. But do they perhaps extend or complete it? In particular, do they shed any light on those mysteries which I had been obliged to leave unsolved? To answer this question, we must first ask: what are these unsolved mysteries? They are two. First, what was done with the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun after they had been burnt in the Chancellery garden? Secondly, What happened to Martin Bormann?
Concerning the ultimate disposal of Hitler’s and Eva Braun’s bodies, I had, in 1945, no firsthand evidence. The best evidence was that of the guard Erich Mansfeld who, at midnight on 30 April 1945, noticed that a bomb crater near the emergency exit of the Bunker had been newly worked into a rectangular shape, and deduced that the bodies had been buried there. There was further evidence that members of the detective guard had buried the bodies, and Artur Axmann, the Hitler Youth leader, stated emphatically, though without claiming to have seen it, that the burial was “in one of the many bomb craters which exist around the Reich Chancellery". On the other hand, there were also other accounts which circulated in the Bunker, rendering certainty impossible, and so, in 1945, I ended by leaving the question open. But now it can be closed.
Both Linge and Rattenhuber, when they returned to Germany in October 1955, stated circumstantially that, although they had not witnessed the burial, they had been told that the bodies had been buried in the bomb crater. Rattenhuber added that he had himself been asked to find a flag in which to wrap Hitler’s body for such burial, but had been unable to provide it. Three months later Mengershausen arrived in his home town of Bremen and confirmed these statements, admitting that he had actually dug the grave. The bodies, he said, were not consumed by the fire or even unrecognizable, and he buried them on three wooden boards three feet deep in the ground. He was helped by a colleague called Glanzer who, he says, was afterwards killed in the fighting in Berlin. Thus Hitler’s burial place in the Chancellery is no longer a mystery. On the other hand, this does not finally settle the matter, since, as will appear, we now know that the body was afterwards exhumed and transferred to a still unknown destination.
So much for the first question: what of the second, the question of the fate of Martin Bormann? In 1945 the evidence on this question was conflicting and uncertain. Several witnesses maintained that Bormann had been killed in a tank which exploded When hit by a Panzerfaust on the Weidendammer Bridge during the attempted break-through on the night of May 1-2. On the other hand, all these witnesses have admitted that the scene was one of great confusion and none of them claims to have seen Bormann’s body. One of them has even admitted that he was himself blinded by the same explosion, and it is therefore difficult to understand how he can have seen Bormann’s death or anything else. Further, even in 1945 I had three witnesses who independently claimed to have accompanied Bormann in his attempted escape. One of these witnesses, Artur Axmann, claimed afterwards to have seen him dead. Whether we believe Axmann or not is entirely a matter of choice, for his word is unsupported by any other testimony. In his favor it can be said that his evidence on all other points has been vindicated. On the other hand, if he wished to protect Bormann against further search, his natural course would be to give false evidence of his death. This being so I came, in 1945, to the only permissible conclusion, viz. that Bormann had certainly survived the tank explosion but had possibly, though by no means certainly, been killed later that night. Such was the balance of evidence in 1945. How far is it altered by the new evidence of 1956?
The answer is, not at all. On the one hand, both Linge and Baur state that Bormann was killed in the tank explosion—or at least they say that they think he was killed, for, once again, they admit that the scene was confused and that they never saw his body. On the other hand, Mengershausen declares firmly that Bormann was not killed in that explosion. He says that although Bormann was riding in a tank, it was not his tank which was blown up. And further, another witness has turned up since 1945 who states that he was with Bormann after the explosion. This is a former SS Major, Joachim Tiburtius, who in 1953 made a statement to a Swiss newspaper. In the confusion after the explosion, Tiburtius says that he lost sight of Bormann, but afterwards he saw him again at the Hotel Atlas. “He had by then changed into civilian clothes. We pushed on together towards the Schiffbauerdamm and the Albrechtstrasse. Then I finally lost sight of him. But he had as good a chance to escape as I had.”
Thus the evidence still obliges us to believe that Bormann survived the explosion, and it still does not give the support which Axmann’s story requires before we can believe it. If we believe that Bormann is dead, it must be simply because no one has ever produced any acceptable evidence of his existence after May 1, 1945.
Such is the contribution which the newly returned prisoners have added to the story as reconstructed in 1945. Seen in its proper perspective, it does not amount to very much. The conjecture that Hitler’s body was buried in the bomb crater becomes a fact; the fate of Martin Bormann remains a mystery. But if these new witnesses do not add much to my story of the last days of Hitler, there is another subject upon which they shed new and interesting light: the attitude of the Russians to the problem of Hitler’s last days. Already in 1950, in the second edition of my book, I was able to give some outline of Russian policy in this respect. Now, with the aid of these new sources, I believe I can complete the story.
In theory the Russians had no great problem, for it was they who, from the start, controlled all the evidence. On 2 May 1945 they over-ran the Bunker in which Hitler had perished. About the same time they captured, in a beer cellar in the Schönhäusen Allee, a number of Hitler’s immediate attendants who knew the facts, and at least two of whom were identified within four days. The Chancellery garden, which contained Hitler’s bones, was—and still is—under their control. Moreover, even before they occupied the Reich Chancellery, they had had a formal statement of Hitler’s death and perhaps an informal commentary on the circumstances of it. This statement had been given to them by General Hans Krebs.
On the night of 30 April-1 May1945 General Krebs had been sent to the Russian headquarters with an offer of temporary local surrender by Bormann and Goebbels acting as Hitler’s de facto successors. Now this General Krebs was not only Hitler’s last Chief of General Staff and one of the witnesses of his last will and testament: he was also a former assistant 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 been publicly embraced by Stalin. Thus the emissary who presented himself either to Marshal Zhukov or to the local Russian commander, General Chuïkov, in the early hours of the morning after Hitler’s death was no stranger. Further, he had to explain his commission, and why the letter of authority which he brought was signed not by Hitler but by Bormann and Goebbels.
According to a contemporary Russian report, Krebs said, “I am authorized to inform the Soviet High Command that yesterday, 30 April, the Führer Adolf Hitler departed from this world at his own wish.” This official Russian report is naturally bald and factual; we do not know whether, either during this visit or the second visit which he paid a few hours later, Krebs was called upon to amplify or substantiate it. All we can say is that, if so required, he could easily, as an eyewitness and a Russian-speaker, have done so. At any rate, the bare fact of Hitler’s suicide was first reported to the Russians by Krebs within a few hours of the event. All that remained was to verify it.
There can be no doubt that in the course of the next week the Russians set about verifying the report. For on 13 May, Harry Mengershausen, the guard who had buried Hitler’s body, was shown an important document. Mengershausen had been captured on the night of May 1-2, but for ten days thereafter he had obstinately denied any connection with Hitler. In the face of this document, however, he now judged further denial useless, and surrendered at discretion. The document, which was dated 9 May, was a full and circumstantial account of the death of Hitler and his burial by Mengershausen, and it had been compiled for the Russians by another German who had evidently taken part in the proceedings, possibly Günsche. This document was (at least) the second piece of evidence which the Russians now possessed, and its validity was shown by the fact that it had served to break down Mengershausen.
Immediately after admitting to the Russians that he had buried Hitler, Mengershausen was taken to the Chancellery garden and ordered to locate Hitler’s grave. He took his escort at once to the bomb crater, only to notice that the grave had already been dug up and the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun removed. Clearly the Russians had acted on the earlier evidence which Mengershausen had thus confirmed.
In fact it is now clear that the Russians had exhumed the bodies on May 9—the very day on which they received the document describing the death and burial. For on that day two Russian officers, a man and a woman, called at the surgery of Dr. Hugo Blaschke, in the Uhlanstrasse. Dr. Blaschke was Hitler’s dentist; but he was not at home to the Russians. He had fled to Munich, and his practice was now being carried on by a Jewish dentist from Silesia who had replaced him, Dr. Feodor Bruck. The Russians asked Dr. Bruck for Hitler’s dental records. Bruck replied that he had no knowledge of Blaschke’s work and referred them to his assistant, Kate Heusemann, whom he had inherited from Blaschke and who, by an odd coincidence, had been a refugee in the Chancellery during the siege of Berlin and had witnessed many details of Hitler’s last days. Miss Heusemann told the Russians that Hitler had never come to Blaschke’s surgery—Blaschke had always gone to the Chancellery, and it was in the laboratory of the Chancellery, if anywhere, that his dental records must be sought. She herself had often accompanied Blaschke on these visits and was thoroughly familiar with Hitler’s teeth. They had, she said, certain peculiar characteristics: in particular, identifiable bridges on the upper and lower jaws and a “window crown,” seldom used in modern dentistry, on one of the incisors.1
Thereupon Miss Heusemann was taken to the Chancellery, but no records being found there, she was taken on to the Russian headquarters at Buch. There a Russian officer showed her a cigar box. In it were an Iron Cross decoration, a Nazi party badge, and a number of dental fittings. Asked whether she recognized these fittings, she replied that they were unmistakably those of the “Führer,” Adolf Hitler and—though these were less certain—of Eva Braun. On May 11 Miss Heusemann was released and returned to Dr. Bruck’s surgery to tell her tale. A few days later a boy brought her a message: she was to pack her bags for an absence of some weeks. That was the last Dr. Bruck saw of her. Eight years later a woman prisoner returning from Russia told how she had left behind her in the prison of Butyrka one Käte Heusemann, who had regaled her fellow-prisoners—ad nauseam—with the story of Hitler’s last days.
Miss Heusemann’s story is independently confirmed by another witness who was similarly summoned to identify Hitler’s dental system. This was a dental mechanic called Fritz Echtmann who had actually made the fittings for Hitler in 1944, as well as certain other fittings for Eva Braun. He too was summoned by the Russians and shown the same cigar box, the same contents. He too identified them as the fittings of Hitler and Eva Braun. And he too, for his pains, was carried off to Russia—to the Lubianka prison in Moscow. Later he shared a prison cell with Harry Mengershausen and was able to exchange reminiscences with him. In 1954 he was released and gave evidence of his experiences to the District Court of Berchtesgaden, which was considering whether to declare Hitler legally dead.
Thus by May 9, the day on which Echtmann and Heusemann were arrested, it is clear that the Russians had already exhumed the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun. It also seems likely that they had exhumed them on that same day, for it was then that the memorandum had been submitted which made it possible to locate the grave. The exhumation appears to have been carried out by a special detachment of the Russian intelligence service, the NKVD; for a member of this detachment, Captain Fyedor Pavlovich Vassilki, afterwards told the East Berlin police officer upon whom he was billeted how they had secured the bodies of both Hitler and Eva Braun. “Hitler’s skull,” said Vassilki, “was almost intact, as were the cranium and the upper and lower jaws.” Vassilki confirmed that its identity had afterwards been “indisputably” proved by the teeth. This identification by the teeth had been followed by Mengershausen’s identification of the grave on 13 June. Finally, at the end of May, the Russians took a further positive step. They confronted Mengershausen with Hitler’s corpse.
Mengershausen has described the incident. He was taken by car to a wood at Finow near Berlin. There he was shown three charred and blackened corpses each lying in a wooden crate. He was asked if he recognized them. To him, in spite of the ravages of fire and decay, they were unmistakable. They were the corpses of Göbbels, Frau Göbbels, and Hitler. Göbbels and Frau Göbbels were only superficially burnt. The body of Hitler was in far worse state. The feet had been entirely consumed, the skin and flesh were blackened and burnt; but the facial structure remained clearly identifiable. There was a bullet hole in one temple, but the upper and lower jaw were both intact. Having identified the corpses, Mengershausen was taken back to prison. He does not know what was afterwards done with them. Three months later he too, like Heusemann and Echtmann, was removed to Russia—for eleven years.
Thus by the beginning of June the Russians had learnt the circumstances of Hitler’s death, and identified his grave and body, by a number of converging testimonies. Quite apart from the evidence of Krebs on the night of April 30-May 1, and any evidence which they may have obtained from other prisoners from the Bunker, they had the document of 9 May, whose validity had been shown by its success in breaking down the resistance of Mengershausen, and they had the evidence of Mengershausen both of the grave and of the corpse found therein; they had the independent evidence of Heusemann and of other prisoners about the last days in the Bunker, and the separate technical evidence of Heusemann and Echtmann about Hitler’s teeth. Now all this evidence pointed clearly in the same direction, and although in theory it might conceivably have been concerted, in fact there were sufficient witnesses to make a serious and sustained conspiracy impossible. Altogether, by the first week in June, the Russians had a good deal more evidence (or at least the raw material for a good deal more evidence) for the last days of Hitler than I had for my reconstruction five months later.
Why then, we may ask, did they never publish their conclusions? Was it that they did not wish to discover the facts? Their whole attitude at the time—their search for records, arrest of witnesses, repeated identifications—belies that assumption.2 Was it then that they were, in intelligence matters, incompetent? Their search in Hitler’s Bunker itself was amazingly incomplete: they left Hitler’s diary—a stout bound volume 14 inches by 7—lying in his chair for four months, to be discovered by a British visitor. But no one can regard the Russians as unintelligent or unsystematic in their interrogation of prisoners, and I do not think that we should flatter ourselves by supposing them less efficient than we are. If we wish to answer this question we must abstain from such assumptions and look closely at the actual facts in the case.
For there can be no doubt that in the first week of June the Russians in Berlin did admit Hitler’s death. On June 5, when the Allied commanders-in-chief met in Berlin to set up the machinery of quadripartite government, “responsible Russian officers” told officers of General Eisenhower’s staff that Hitler’s body had been recovered and identified with “fair certainty.” The body, they said, was one of four found in the Bunker. It was badly charred—a fact which they then ascribed (wrongly, as we now know) to the flame-throwers with which the Russian troops had cleared the place. The bodies, they said, had been examined by Russian doctors, and this examination had yielded “almost certain identification.” If the Russians did not make an official announcement of Hitler’s death, that (said the Russian officers) was merely because they were reluctant to commit themselves so long as “any shred of doubt” remained. But they made it clear that, as far as the evidence went, it seemed conclusive.
Four days later, on 9 June 9, Marshal Zhukov made a public statement to the press. He described the last days in the Chancellery. He related—it was the first time it had been published—the marriage of Hitler and Eva Braun, whom he described, incorrectly, as a film actress. He based his knowledge of these facts, he said, “on the diaries of Hitler’s aides, which had fallen into Russian hands.” But on the crucial question of the death of Hitler, he faltered. He said nothing of Russian investigations, nothing of German revelations, nothing of the burning or the burial, the exhumation, the dentists or the teeth. “The circumstances are very mysterious,” he said. “We have not identified the body of Hitler. I can say nothing definite about his fate. He could have flown away from Berlin at the very last moment. The state of the runway would have allowed him to do so.” Then the Russian military commandant of Berlin, Colonel General Berzarin, spoke. He said that Hitler might well be alive. “We have found several bodies that might be Hitler’s, but we cannot state that he is dead. My opinion is that Hitler has gone into hiding and is somewhere in Europe, possibly with General Franco.” Therewith the subject was closed. From that moment Russian headquarters in Berlin never again mentioned the subject or circumstances of Hitler’s death. Total silence enveloped the ostentatiously unsolved mystery, and this apparent repudiation of past admissions led, more than any other cause, to the growing belief that Hitler was alive after all.
Sunday Times (Perth, WA: 1902 - 1954)
9 September 1945
LONDON. Strong rumours that Hitler and his henchman Martin Bormann have been seen in Hamburg are being investigated by British security police.
Barrier Daily Truth (Broken Hill, NSW: 1908; 1941 - 1954)
12 September 1945
HAMBURG. British Intelligence has Issued a warning that the 'Hitler legend' is growing in Germany; because of unfounded rumors that he was seen recently. 'Rumors merely encourage the creation of the Hitler legend which those concerned in the occupation and re-education of Germany are I anxious for us to avoid".
Hamburg radio recently picked up a broadcast believed to have been made by Bormann to Sweden, declaring that Hitler was alive and in good health in Germany.
The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld: 1930 - 1956)
11 October 1945
LONDON. There are rumours all over Sweden that Hitler and Martin Bormann, Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany, are hiding there. Competent Swedish officials deny they could possibly be there. The rumours have arisen as the result of an official announcement that Bormann will be tried in his absence with 23 major war leaders and General Eisenhower's statement that he believed that Hitler was alive.
The Australian Worker (Sydney, NSW: 1913 - 1950)
7 November 1945
The American Joint Chiefs of Staff are not convinced of Hitler's death and have ordered General Marcus Clark, commander of the American zone in Austria, Hitler's native state, to attempt to locate and arrest the former Führer.
The order, which is part of a plan to reconstruct Austria along democratic lines, says the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff are not certain that accounts of Hitler's death during the last days before the fall of Berlin are true, and General Clark has been ordered to "arrest and hold Hitler and all other persons who participated in the planning or carrying out of Nazi enterprises resulting in atrocities and war crimes".
This gradual reversal of belief was clearly shown in the attitude of General Eisenhower. Up to June 9, Eisenhower had publicly assumed Hitler to be dead. But on June 10, the day after Zhukov’s public statement, Eisenhower and Zhukov met at Frankfurt. Five days later, in Paris, Eisenhower bore witness to the change of doctrine which had followed this meeting. Previously, he said, he had accepted the fact of Hitler’s death, but more recently he had met high Russian leaders who had great doubts. These doubts were so strong that a week later, when the British published the story of Hermann Karnau, a member of Hitler’s detective guard who had witnessed the burning of the bodies, he was generally disbelieved. In September the Russians carried their disbelief further: they accused the British of harboring both Hitler and Eva Braun in their zone of Germany, presumably for eventual use against their Russian allies, and it was this accusation which led directly to my appointment to establish the facts. On 6 October General Eisenhower paid a visit to Holland, and was quoted as telling Dutch journalists at Utrecht that although he had at first believed Hitler to be dead, now “there was reason to believe that he was alive.” It happened that I was at General Eisenhower’s headquarters at Frankfurt at the time, and was able to point out that however defective the positive evidence of death might be, there was no reason to believe that Hitler was alive. On his return to Frankfurt General Eisenhower thereupon modified his statement. He himself, he said, found it hard to believe that Hitler was alive, “but his Russian friends assured him that they had been unable to unearth any tangible evidence of his death".
Not only did the Russians insist that they had unearthed nothing themselves: they declined to show any interest in evidence unearthed by their allies. When they failed to find Dr. Blaschke in Berlin, they never asked us to find him in Munich. They ignored Hermann Karnau and his story. On 1 November 1945, when I made my report in Berlin, the Russians received it with complete lack of interest. It was not even mentioned in the Russian press. My request that certain Russian prisoners might be interrogated was ignored. Eighteen months later, when my book was published, their attitude remained the same. Though it was translated into most European and some Asiatic languages, "The Last Days of Hitler" never penetrated behind the Iron Curtain. The apparent exceptions to this rule are in fact confirmations of it. The Czech edition was published before the Communist coup d’état of February 1948, the Yugoslav edition after the Titoist emancipation of June 1948; the Polish edition was stifled in the publisher’s office, the Bulgarian edition destroyed by the police on its appearance. For years after 9 June 1945, the official Russian doctrine remained unchanged by the evidence. It was never allowed that Hitler might be dead. It was assumed, and sometimes openly stated, that he was alive.
How can we account for this extraordinary reversal? Certainty indeed is impossible to attain; but there are suggestive straws of evidence. To detect them we must look not at Berlin, or any such subordinate office, but at the center of Russian orthodoxy, Moscow.
For during all this time, even when the Russians in Berlin had come nearest to announcing Hitler’s death, Stalin in Moscow was firmly declaring that he was alive. Early in the morning of May 2, before the Russians had even captured the Reich Chancellery, the official Russian news agency, "Tass", had declared the German broadcast statement of Hitler’s death to be “a fresh fascist trick.” “By spreading statements about Hitler’s death,” it added, “the German fascists evidently hope to prepare the possibility for Hitler to disappear from the stage and go underground.”
On 26 May, while the Russians in Berlin were still collecting and digesting the evidence, Stalin, in the Kremlin, told 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 ago been found and identified, as the Russians in Berlin admitted, “without any doubt.” It therefore seems to represent a personal prejudice of Stalin, who either believed it because he wanted to believe it, or stated it because he wanted it to be believed. Again, on 6 June, when Zhukov’s staff officers were assuring Eisenhower’s staff officers that Hitler’s body had been discovered, exhumed, and scientically identified, Stalin in Moscow was repeating to Hopkins not merely that he had no evidence of Hitler’s death but that “he was sure that Hitler was alive.” Three days later Zhukov publicly changed his view. Stalin kept to his. On 16 July, he came himself to Berlin for the Potsdam Conference. There, next day, be surprised Secretary of State Byrnes by saying that he believed Hitler to be alive, probably in Spain or Argentina.
No Sanctuary for Hitler
Glen Innes Examiner (NSW: 1908 - 1954)
8 September 1945
Neutral nations had been warned that they would lose American friendship for years if they gave sanctuary to Hitler and other Axis leaders, said the Secretary of State (Mr. Cordell Hull).
Sweden, Turkey, Switzerland, and Spain had either given assurances that they would not permit Axis nationals to flee into their borders, or that they were fully aware of the problems such action might provoke. Certain other Governments had not yet indicated their views.
The United States had the support and approval of the British and Russian Governments in bringing this pressure on neutrals.
Admiral Leahy, the representative of President Truman, also noted the remark. “Concerning Hitler,” he records, “Stalin repeated what he had told Hopkins at Moscow. He believed that the Führer had escaped and was in hiding somewhere. He said careful search by Soviet investigators had not found any trace of Hitler’s remains or any other positive evidence of his death.” Ten days later he repeated that his opinion was unchanged.
Faced with this evidence, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Zhukov in Berlin had been corrected from Moscow: that he had been ordered, some time between 5 and 9 June, to abandon his belief, based on the evidence, that Hitler was dead and to substitute for it the view of Stalin, derived from some other motive, that he was alive, “in hiding . . possibly with General Franco.” Some plausibility is given to this conclusion by the fact that at precisely this time Andrei Vyshinsky, the first Soviet vice-commissar for foreign affairs, arrived in Berlin from Moscow, evidently in order to put Zhukov firmly in his place. On 5 June, in Berlin, Eisenhower had observed that “Zhukov had seemed unwilling to reply to any of his questions without first consulting Vyshinsky.” Two days later, Hopkins, who had just been told by Stalin in Moscow that “Zhukov would have very little power concerning political affairs in Berlin,” noticed that Vyshinsky was “in Zhukov’s car all during our conversation.” On 9 June, when Zhukov made his announcement that Hitler might be alive after all, Vyshinsky was standing beside him; and next day, when Zhukov visited Frankfurt and told Eisenhower of the change of doctrine, Vyshinsky came with him. At Frankfurt Zhukov, in Vyshinsky’s presence, made a speech dwelling on the soldier’s duty to obey the politicians—a doctrine which he seems subsequently to have revised. There seems no doubt that at this time, as Hopkins told Eisenhower, “the Russian government intended to control General Zhukov completely.” A few months later, Zhukov—whom his German enemies had recognized as the ablest of Russian generals—was removed from Germany into virtual exile, first as commander-in-chief of Russian home forces, then, more ignominiously, as military governor of Odessa: an exile from which he only emerged—and he emerged with some éclat–on the death of Stalin.
Why did Stalin thus correct Zhukov, and replace the “almost certain” and at least legitimate conclusion that Hitler was dead by categorical statements that he was alive? Why did he require a veil of silence or denial to be drawn over the patient researches of Russian officers in Berlin, their interrogations, exhumations, identifications? Why did he refuse to accept from his Western allies evidence which would perhaps have clinched the matter if there was any genuine doubt? Was it that he regarded the belief in Hitler’s death or survival as a “political” question: that he judged it politically necessary, whatever the evidence, to maintain publicly that Hitler, so far from suffering a Heldentod in his ruined capital, had slunk away into hiding? Did he perhaps fear that an admission of Hitler’s death might lead, if Nazism were to revive, to an identification of holy places, of pilgrimages, shrines, and relics, which in turn would sustain the spirit of later anti-Russian, anti-Bolshevik crusaders? Did he fear the political power of the successful Russian generals and so resolve to take this “political” issue out of their control? His treatment of Zhukov, like his assumption of the title of Generalissimo, suggests that he did distrust them; and the events after his death, when the Red Army leaders in general and Zhukov in particular took their revenge on his successor and his “Georgian” party in Russia, suggest there was a real opposition between them.
Conceivably—when we remember the narrow and recondite fronts upon which intra-Bolshevik struggles are fought—the question of Hitler’s death, and the official doctrine about it, may have been the symbol of some deeper tension in Russian politics. Or again, was Stalin perhaps preparing a useful stick with which to beat his bête noire, General Franco? Or is all this too elaborate an analysis? May it not be that Stalin was simply wrong, and that his ill-considered dogmatism, like a papal indiscretion, became, by the mere machinery of ideological power, a necessary truth? We cannot exclude this possibility.
By 1945 Stalin was already, in his own eyes, the greatest statesman, the greatest strategist, the greatest philosopher in the world, the Father and Teacher of Mankind; and thanks to a vast hierarchy of obedient yes-men beneath him, his lightest observations could become infallible truths before which inconvenient evidence must bow and retire. It is quite possible that Stalin declared Hitler alive without any ulterior purpose, merely out of the abundant self-assurance of the great, and that the mere bureaucracy of ideological tyranny then converted this casual utterance into a dogma. At all events, the dogma prevailed. The Russians in Berlin knew the evidence against it. For them it was a dogma difficult to support and yet impolitic to deny. In such circumstances their best policy was silence. I now see how tiresome it must have been for them when, in response to that silence, their Western allies officiously offered to help them by producing what of all things they least wanted—more evidence.
However, the dogma did not last forever. In 1950, when the second English edition of my book was published, its sway was still unbroken, at least in public. But meanwhile, in Russia, the ground was being silently prepared for a change. In 1949 a new “documentary” color film was being prepared called “The Fall of Berlin.” In June 1950 it was released in the Russian sector of Berlin. It was produced by M. Chiaureli, and its chief characteristic was an unremitting, fulsome, indeed nauseating worship of Stalin, who was then still alive and enjoying the last stages of his apotheosis on earth. But in one respect the film deviated from the previous Stalinist orthodoxy. Hitler was now represented not as fleeing to Spain or Argentina, but as perishing, by his own hand, in the Chancellery Bunker, substantially as narrated in my book.
What had happened to cause this sudden, unheralded, unexplained volte-face in Russia? Examination of the prisoners newly returned from Russia gives some clue towards the solution of this problem. For after the volte-face of 9 June the whole stage, the cast, and the stage properties were all removed from Germany to Russia. By the end of August they had all arrived—including, it seems, the central figure in the drama, the charred and moldering remains of the “Führer.” The witnesses, who had formerly been prisoners of the Red Army, were now classed as political prisoners, and as such were concentrated in the Lubianka prison in Moscow, but they were not allowed to communicate with each other. There were Baur and Rattenhuber, Mengershausen, Echtmann, Linge, Günsche, and others. They were known as “the Reich Chancellery Group.” And now, when the stage had thus been reset, they were all separately and systematically reexamined. They were made to write down the full history of their experiences in the last, catastrophic days of Nazi Berlin.
Wearily they repeated the facts which they had already stated in Germany. For long they were not believed. The Russians accused Baur, since he had been Hitler’s pilot, of having flown the “Führer,” or having arranged his flight, out of Berlin to safety. Was he not now in Spain or the Argentine? They accused Rattenhuber, since he had been responsible for Hitler’s security, of having prepared his secret escape by U-Boat to the Argentine. Always it was Spain or the Argentine, just as Stalin had insisted in May 1945. "Come," the interrogator once said to Rattenhuber, after he had told the old facts for the umpteenth time, "enough of these fairy tales. Tell us the truth". Ultimately, after almost a year of interrogation, Baur at least had the impression that the incredulity of his captors was beginning to melt. Then, in the summer of 1946, a new scene was enacted in this grim, insistent, slow, nagging Russian comedy.
The “Reich Chancellery Group” were suddenly assembled and taken out of their prison. Without explanation they were put on a train and then into an airplane. They landed, and found that they were in Berlin. They were taken to the Chancellery; and there they were made to re-enact, on its original site, the whole scene of Hitler’s death, burial, and burning. This macabre incident seems finally to have satisfied the Russians. At one moment, while in Berlin, they even promised to show Baur and others the mortal relics of the “Führer”; but this promise was never carried out.
Then, having satisfied themselves of the conclusions, the Russians set to work to dissipate the evidence. They took the witnesses back to Russia and dispersed them to different prisons, some to the Arctic, some to the Urals; they laid waste the Chancellery, blew up the Bunker with high explosive; and as for Hitler’s body, which he himself had taken such pains to hide from them lest they should insult it, they now, having identified it, sought to hide it from the Germans lest they should revere it.
Three years later a German prisoner, brought from the Urals to the Lubianka prison and asked if he could recognize a photograph of the charred bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun, felt unable to give a positive answer. To give a positive answer, he said, he would need to see the bodies themselves. "Then you don’t believe that the bodies are in Moscow?" asked his interrogator. The prisoner admitted that he did not. “Hitler’s body,” he was then told, “is in better keeping with us than under the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The dead can be more dangerous than the living. If Frederick the Great had not been buried in state in Potsdam the Germans would not have started so many wars in the last two centuries. The Germans like martyrs!” But this martyr they were not to have. Though further knowledge has altered its circumstantial background, my original remark remains accidentally true: “Like Alaric, buried secretly under the river bed of Busento, the modern destroyer of mankind is now immune from discovery".
Thus after long incredulity and in spite of official prejudices the Russians at last accepted the truth about the last days of Hitler substantially as it is recorded in my book. Their methods and their sources were different; their investigation was entirely—indeed gratuitously—independent; and they arrived more reluctantly at their conclusions. But their conclusions are the same as mine. Such agreement, in such circumstances, seems to me the strongest support that I could hope for, if indeed I felt the need of any support for conclusions already reached by rational methods. Before long such evidence will surely convince even the German law courts which still, in February 1956, hesitated to pronounce Hitler dead.
I have said that the Russian version is “substantially” the same as mine, for in one small detail I must admit that we differ. Both in their early admissions and in their later film they stated or implied that Hitler had killed himself by taking poison. On 5 June 1945 Zhukov’s staff officers stated that Russian doctors had established, by an examination of Hitler’s body, that he had died of poison. In their film Hitler is shown swallowing a poison capsule. On the other hand, I have stated that he shot himself through the mouth. Since the Russians had possession of Hitler’s body and I had not, they were obviously in a more favorable position than I was to determine the cause of his death. On the other hand, none of their pronouncements have been authoritative, reasoned, or even circumstantial. Their early statements, before 9 June 1945, were unofficial and secondhand: in some respects they were certainly inaccurate—at least in the form in which they were reported; and their film was unashamed propaganda full of tendentious inaccuracies: it cannot be taken as scientific documentation. In these circumstances perhaps it is best to go behind their loose statements and re-examine the available evidence.
The first witness who was available in 1945 was Erich Kempka, Hitler’s chauffeur. He had escaped from Berlin and had been captured by the Americans. Under interrogation he stated that immediately after Hitler’s death, Günsche, who had inspected the body, had told him that Hitler had shot himself through the mouth. This of course is only secondhand evidence; but Kempka added that after helping to carry Eva Braun’s body out to the burning, he himself had gone into the “death room” and seen, lying on the floor, two revolvers, one a Walther 7.65, the other a Walther 6.35. Seven months later this evidence was confirmed and completed by the Hitler Youth leader, Artur Axmann, who had been at large in the Bavarian Alps and who is thus independent of Kempka. Axmann stated that he had been one of those who entered the “death room” immediately after Hitler’s suicide. “As we entered, we saw the Führer sitting on a small divan, Eva Braun at his side, with her head resting on his shoulder. The Führer was only slightly slumped forward and everyone recognized that he was dead. His jaw hung somewhat loosely down and a pistol lay on the floor. Blood was dripping from both temples, and his mouth was bloody and smeared, but there was not much blood spattered around. . . . I believe that Hitler took poison first and then shot himself through the mouth, and that the concussion of such a blast resulted in the blood on the Führer’s temples.”
Such was the evidence available to me in 1946. Now it is supplemented by the evidence of Linge and Mengershausen, who, having spent the intervening decade in Russian prisons, have had no opportunity of collusion with either Kempka or Axmann. Linge is a firsthand witness: he too went into the “death room” immediately after Hitler’s suicide, and it was he who carried the body out into the garden. According to his account, when he went into the room, “there, almost upright in a sitting position on a couch, was the body of Adolf Hitler. A small hole, the size of a German silver mark, showed on his right temple and a trickle of blood ran slowly down over his cheek.” After this statement, which exactly confirms the entirely independent account of Axmann, Linge goes on to confirm the details given by Kempka: “One pistol, a Walther 7.65, lay on the floor where it had dropped from his right hand. A yard or so away lay another gun of 6.35 caliber".
To this must be added the evidence of Mengershausen, who states that when he was shown the remains of Hitler’s body about a month later, the head had a bullet hole in the temple. Mengershausen adds that he believes, from the state of the head when he inspected it, that Hitler had shot himself through the head, not through the mouth as I had written. The hole in the temple seemed to him to be the hole of an ingoing, not an outgoing, bullet. Had Hitler shot himself through the mouth, Mengershausen says, the air pressure would surely have broken the jaws, which, however, were intact. I am not competent to judge this matter, and the experts whom I consult give me such different answers that I am content to leave the matter in suspense. But the evidence seems clear that although Hitler may conceivably, as Axmann surmised, have taken poison as well, he certainly killed himself with a revolver shot.
Indeed, this is what I should have expected from his character. Hitler liked to remember, and to show, that he was a soldier. He liked to set to his generals, whom he distrusted, an example of the correct behavior of a true German soldier. Already two years before, he had stated very clearly what that duty might be. It was in February 1943, when the news reached him that Field Marshal Paulus had surrendered at Stalingrad. On hearing this news Hitler was beside himself with rage, and treated his General Staff to a tirade on the subject. Why, he asked, bad he made Paulus, at this last minute, a Field Marshal? Why, except to show that the “Führer” was honoring him at his death? For of course he had expected Paulus and his commanders to commit suicide. They should have “closed ranks, formed a hedgehog, and shot themselves with their last bullet.” Why should they not have shot themselves? It is, he declared ominously, “the road that every man has to take some time.” Even in peacetime, “in Germany about 18,000 or 20,000 people a year chose to commit suicide, even without being in such a position". How could there be any excuse for a defeated war leader? “When the nerves break down, there is nothing left but to admit that one can’t handle the situation and to shoot one’s self". In April 1945 Hitler recognized that he had met his Stalingrad. I do not think he would have failed to follow his own prescription to the letter. He would have chosen the formal death of the soldier, with a revolver.
Why then did the Russians expurgate the revolver from their version of Hitler’s death? There is a perfectly rational explanation which, though conjectural, may well be true. The Russians may well have concealed the manner of Hitler’s suicide for precisely the same reason for which Hitler chose it: because it was a "soldier’s death". I myself suspect that this was their reason. After all, it is in line with their general practice. Previous tyrannies of the spirit have sought to crush defeated but dangerous philosophies by emphatic, public executions: the gibbet, the block, the bloody quarters exhibited in terrorem populi. But such spectacular liquidations, however effective at the time, have a habit of breeding later myths: there are relics of the dead, pilgrimages to the place of execution. The Russian Bolsheviks have therefore preferred in general a less emphatic method: their ideological enemies have slid into oblivion in nameless graves at uncertain dates, and no relics of them are available for later veneration. I have already suggested that it was for this reason, and in accordance with this philosophy, that they concealed the circumstances of Hitler’s death, hid his bones, and destroyed the scene of his suicide and his “Nordic” funeral. It may well be that when such total concealment was no longer possible and they decided to admit the facts, there was one fact which they thought it expedient to alter. The soldier’s death might seem to the Germans heroic. Suicide by poison might well seem to the Russians a more expedient version.
If this is so, it raises an interesting general question. For my book was also written, in the first place, for exactly the same reason which made the Russians frown upon it: to prevent (as far as such means can prevent) the rebirth of the Hitler myth. It would thus seem that we and the Russians, in this matter, seek exactly the same end by diametrically opposite means: they by suppressing the evidence, we by publishing it. Which of these two methods is the more effective is arguable. I will only say that I personally believe in my own. For when has the suppression of the truth prevented the rise of a myth, if a myth was wanted? When has the absence of genuine relics prevented the discovery of false relics, if they were needed? When has uncertainty about a true shrine prevented pilgrimages to a false one?
And besides, there seems to me in the Russian argument, if I have correctly described it, a somewhat sinister implication. If they fear the truth, does it not seem that they believe in its power: that they think that Hitler’s reign really was inspiring, that his end really was glorious, and that secrecy is necessary to prevent the spread of such a view? It is a view which I do not share. It seems to me, having perhaps too naïve a faith in human nature and human reason, that Hitler’s reign was so evil, his character so detestable, that no one can be seduced into admiring him by reading the true history either of his life or of his melodramatic and carefully stage-managed end.
For that those last days of Hitler were a carefully produced theatrical piece is, I think, clear. It was not merely because he wished to escape a public trial, or hide his body from the Russians, that Hitler chose his form of death. His whole previous history had been consciously theatrical and perhaps even operatic; and it would have been contrary to all his thinking if he had ended such a career with an insipid or bungled finale. Long before, in the days of his triumph, he had often declared that the only satisfactory alternative to apotheosis was a spectacular annihilation: like Samson at Gaza, he would drag down with him the temples of his enemies. He had even indicated—long before he even conceived of failure—the ideal method of death. “In short,” he remarked in February 1942, “if one hadn’t a family to bequeath one’s house to, the best thing would be to be burnt in it with all its contents—a magnificent funeral pyrel”
Little did he think, in those months of triumph, that he would so soon be following, even to the letter, his own prescription. Fortunately, when the time came, he had with him the essential man, the impresario of the Nazi movement, Josef Göbbels, who for twenty years had devised the décor, the accompaniment, and the advertisement of this dreadful Wagnerian melodrama. On 27 March 1945, Göbbels’ assistant, Rudolf Semler, recorded in his diary the preparations for this last act. “Göbbels,” he wrote, “has persuaded Hitler not to leave Berlin. He has reminded him of his oath taken on 30 January 1933. That evening Hitler had said to Göbbels in the Reich Chancellery, ‘We shall never leave this building again of our own free will. No power in the world can ever force us to abandon our position.’ Now all preparations are being made for the real Twilight of the Gods’ scene.” Does such a well-staged melodrama excite respect or inspire emulation? The reader must judge. Posterity will show.
The FBI believed that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler faked his suicide in 1945, and tried to track him down for nearly 30 years after his death, according to de-classified files
On 29 April 1945, Hitler and his lover Eva Braun killed themselves in the Berlin Bunker. Now, 66 years on, the FBI files reveal that the US agency had maintained a detailed dossier on the Führer and closely investigated any report that indicated he still was alive.
The files reveal how FBI agents ranch in Argentina, living in a hotel in Denmark and in New York City. He was bearded, clean-shaven, suffered from asthma and stomach ulcers, according to informants who wrote their sightings in to the then FBI director, J Edgar Hoover.
The most frequent sighting was in South America -- a notoriously safe haven for Nazi war criminals, according to the FBI files. And so the FBI dispatched a team of G-men to investigate reports from newspaper articles (many contained in the FBI file) and independent witnesses apparently claiming Hitler was in Argentina.
The Argentina stories intrigued Hoover. In 1944, a year before Hitler's reported death, Hoover received a tip that Hitler would receive refuge in Argentina, according to a 4 September 1944, memo written by an FBI agent. The memo noted that Argentine political leaders had plans to conduct clandestine meetings with Hitler "for the arranging of importing arms and technicians into Argentina." The memo notes that bicycle factories there had been converted to plants for manufacturing munitions and that a "large wealthy German colony in Argentina affords tremendous possibilities" as a refuge for Hitler and his henchmen. "One of the members [of the postwar German planners], Count Luxburg, has been mentioned as operating a ranch which would serve in providing a haven."
Within a year witnesses began flooding the FBI with Hitler sightings in Argentina. Some of these, the FBI rationalized, resulted from tabloid press reports claiming Hitler had escaped and was waiting for war to break out between the Soviet Union and the United States before emerging as a leader in the new world. And there were outspoken Nazi sympathizers such as Otto Abetz, Germany's wartime ambassador to France, boasting that Hitler "is certainly not dead" and was "not a coward -- I believe one day he will return."
The FBI office in Los Angeles noted on 21 September 1945: "Hitler and 50 of his closest family landed approximately 10 days after the fall of Berlin in two submarines in southern Argentina. Hitler has grown a beard and is hiding on a ranch".
The most sensational story appeared 20 June 1948, in "El Tiempo", a Spanish newspaper published in Colombia, claiming Hitler had escaped via submarine to Bogotà. The paper provided a detailed account of Hitler's supposedly cowardly flight and fueled dozens of similar stories around the world. Many of those appeared in the FBI files as clippings ranging from obscure magazines to the "Associated Press".
One such story claimed that the Swedes observed a mysterious yacht moving in and out of inlets on the North Sea or a Brazilian ship reportedly sunk by an unidentified submarine transporting a woman some claimed to be Eva Braun, Hitler's wife. Braun landed from that submarine off the coast of Argentina, one article claimed. The same article suggested a Japanese navy staff officer had volunteered details of a plan to evacuate Hitler and Braun to Japan after the fall of Germany.
One theory Hoover ordered his agents to pursue was an extensive 11-year probe into the possibility that Hitler faked his own death with a bogus suicide in 1945.
Is there any evidence Hitler committed suicide beyond Soviet hearsay?
The FOIA release shows that Hoover, then director of the FBI, didn't seem to believe that Hitler committed suicide, and instead fled to Argentina or Switzerland. Are there were other sources beyond the Soviets that Hitler committed suicide, since apparently Hoover didn't seem to believe Hitler was dead.
Much of the evidence for Hitler's death comes from eye witness testimonies and recently Soviet archives that have been declassified. There was quite a few people who while they didn't witness Hitler actually physically pull the trigger, did hear the gunshot and saw the bodes being taken away.
Here is the testimony given by his secretary Gerda Christian: "I learned from Linge (Hitler's driver) that he, together with Borman and Kempka had carried the bodies into the garden where the cremation was still in progress....I once again went into Hitler's living room-cum-office. There I saw a bloodstain about the size of a hand on the rug next to the sofa."
This is in addition to the testimonies of Hitler's personal attendant, his chauffeur, and other SS personnel present.
The thing about getting shot in the head is that there's a lot of fluid and blood, a round can burst the linings of the skull and partially liquify the brain.
If Hitler truly shot himself through the roof of his mouth, why was the only bloodstain described "the size of a hand"?
However, Hitler used a 7.65mm pistol to shoot himself, because the other pistol Hitler had was still loaded. A number of doctors did a study on the effect of various pistol calibers on the human body. They found that in 18 test fires the 7.65mm went through the the head 11 times and 7 times it got lodged in the skull and didn't go through. Therefore it is possible that bullet got lodged in Hitler's skull and therefore there would not have been splatter on the other side.
Here is what Hitler's personal attendant, Otto Günsche had to say after entering the area where Hitler had shot himself: "Eva Braun was lying on the sofa....the head was on the left side of the sofa, she was lying on her back with her legs drawn up slightly....Hitler himself sat in an armchair standing to the left and slightly forward... his body was slightly sunk together and slanted slightly to the right over his armrest."
Günsche was incorrect in the placement of the body, as Hitler was actually on the sofa with Braun, hence the bloodstain being near the sofa. The testimonies on the positions of the bodies vary among the three who actually saw them and lived. The other two who saw were Artur Axmann and Heinz Linge. The reason for the testimonies' being different is unknown, but is speculated that they simply didn't register the positions correctly and they only remembered when they were interrogated.
Now a lot of the myths about Hitler's death are due to the awful way in which the Soviets cataloged it. A KGB doctor who wrote books about the death of Hitler, Dr. Bezemensky, began to spread myths about the death of Hitler around the 50's. He claimed that the photographs the Soviets took of the corpse on 4 May 1945 were faked, and he also began to spread the very popular myth that Hitler took cyanide poison before dying.
Also, it would have been pretty much impossible for Hitler to escape Berlin, it was surrounded by Soviet troops and it would have been near impossible to avoid detection. Borman tried to escape but was unable to find a way past the Soviets. So the likelyhood of Hitler being able to is very slim.
Source: "Hitler's Last Days" by Anton Joachmisthaler.
Heinz Linge testified that Hitler took two pistols into the suicide room. Here is the quote from an interview with him on 9 February 1956: "Both of Hitler's pistols, with which I was very familiar with, lay directly at the points of Hitler's feet, the 7.65mm by the right and 6.35mm by the left."
If Hitler was going to poison himself why would he bring two guns?
If one didn't work he would use the other one obviously, but he wouldn't have time to switch pistols if he also bit a poison tablet. So the original question still stands why the two pistols?
The idea that Hitler took the poison first was primarily pushed by Nazi youth leader, Artur Axmann. The problem is Axmann was wrong before. Axmann was the one who pushed the idea that Hitler shot himself through the mouth, which forensic science has proved to be impossible. When questioned further Axmann claimed that he had been told by Günsche that Hitler had taken poison, Günsche said no such thing. Axmann stopped repeating the poison claim in future interviews. He was questioned by a Judge Musmanno on the matter and said this:
Q: Yes you have said that he (Hitler) first took poison and then shot himself. Since the effect of the poison is practically instantaneous, how could he have found the strength to pull the trigger of the pistol after he had taken the poison
A: I said what Günsche had told me, namely that Hitler had first taken poison and then shot himself through the mouth.
The interview goes on, but that was the relevant part. Axmann bases his poison story on what Günsche told him. But, Günsche says he told Axmann no such thing. So the story is already a bit shaky.
Now lets address the controversy around the actual poison. Hitler provided his inner circle with poison capsules, handed out by Himmler and Dr.Stumpfegger. These capsules were made at a nearly by concentration camp and were filled with Dehydrated Prussic Acid, this is different from Cyanide In any case Prussic Acid given in the dose that wa s in these poison capsules was sufficient to paralyze the body within seconds. Hitler would have had to been very fast on the trigger to beat out the paralysis caused by the Prussic Acid.
Lev Bezemensky and the mystery of the almond smell
Prussic Acid leaves a very potent almond smell. It can be detected in very low doses, let alone the dose Hitler apparently took. However, Günsche (who has been the most reliable, so far) testified that while Eva Braun had a very potent almond smell (we know she was poisoned) Hitler had none. He testified in 1956 that: "In contrast to Eva Braun's body, there was no odor detectable on Hitler's corpse".
This is further corroborated by the others who carried Hitler's body to the area where it was burned.
It was 30 April 1945, and Berlin, the capital of Adolf Hitler's tottering Third Reich, was a shattered, flaming inferno. Tanks and troops of Soviet General Vasily Chuikov's Eighth Guards army had fought to within a few blocks of the Reich Chancellery. The end was clearly at hand. Some time after lunch that day, Hitler and his wife of one day, Eva Braun, retired to their suite in the Führer's underground Bunker to take their lives. They left instructions that their bodies be burned.
The war was over seven days later. Yet for two decades, mystery shrouded the exact circumstances of the dictator's death. In the West it was surmised, from testimony by Germans who were in the Bunker at the time, that Hitler had shot himself. The Soviets said nothing. In a book published last week, Lev Bezymenski, a former Red army intelligence officer, reveals that the Russians not only found Hitler's body after taking the Bunker but that they also performed an exhaustive autopsy. It showed that Hitler had died by cyanide poisoning, not by a bullet.
In "The Death of Adolf Hitler" (Harcourt, Brace & World), Author Lev Bezymenski, now a Soviet journalist, says that on 4 May 1945, a Soviet private came across two partially burned, badly disfigured bodies in a shell crater outside the Führerbunker. The Russians, having mistaken another corpse for Hitler's, at first buried the two bodies, but unearthed them again when a Soviet counterintelligence officer had second thoughts. On May 8, a team of Russian forensic experts performed autopsies in a Berlin hospital mortuary. Their full reports are reproduced verbatim in grisly detail that even notes the discovery that Hitler had only one testicle. Glass splinters, apparently from poison ampoules, were found in the mouths of both bodies. There were no visible gunshot wounds—although part of Hitler's cranium was missing—and "the marked smell of bitter almonds and the presence of cyanide compounds in internal organs" led the Soviet doctors to conclude that the deaths of both Hitler and Eva were caused by cyanide. A meticulous comparison of Hitler's dental records and the teeth found on the corpse convinced the Soviets that they had found the body of the Führer. Eva was similarly identified. Stalin showed "considerable interest in the fate of Hitler," Bezymenski observes with seemingly unconscious irony. Yet the Soviets kept their findings secret. The Kremlin wanted to hold the autopsy reports back, the author claims, "in case someone might try to slip into the role of 'the Führer saved by a miracle,' " and to continue the investigation in order to rule out all possibility of error. Clearly, neither reason matters any longer—as proved by the fact that Bezymenski was allowed to publish his book."
"The Death of Adolf Hitler" published in 1968, was later admitted by Bezemensky (or Bezymenski) to have contained deliberate lies, namely that Hitler was too cowardly to have shot himself and had therefore taken poison.
This was the official version forwarded to Stalin by Beria on 16 June 1945, and it was based on the autopsy carried out by Dr. Shkaravsky on May 8 on the corpses of Hitler, Eva Braun, General Krebs, the Göbbels family, and two dogs. However, by June Beria actually knew better as there had been a chemical analysis of the corpses which proved that the corpses of Hitler and Eva Braun contained no traces of poison, the other 11 corpses did. Beria removed this analysis from the final report, because he wanted to please Stalin by “proving” that Hitler had died a coward's death, or possibly because he wanted to discredit a rival by having him submit a “false” report – his motives are murky.
For a while Beria's version remained the official one, though within the Soviet intelligence service doubts soon began to rise as their version was contradicted by British and American findings based on the testimonies of witnesses. Therefore, in May 1946, a trip to Berlin was undertaken to examine the Führerbunker. The result of the analysis by coroner Semenovsky was categorical: "On the basis of the great number of streams and spots of blood on the sofa it must be concluded that the wound was accompanied by a profuse shedding of blood […] The damage to the head resulted from a gunshot wound..."
They further dug up the garden again and found fragments of a skull with an injury that according to the coroner suggested the exit hole of a bullet.
All of this was included in a report produced in 1946, which later formed part of a larger file on Hitler spanning the years 1933-1945 that was presented to Stalin in December 1949, based on these investigations and the testimonies of Otto Günsche and Heinz Linge, who were in Soviet custody at the time.
To the outside world, the Soviets presented different versions at different times: first that Hitler had fled and was being sheltered by the West, later that Hitler had taken poison, like the coward that he was.
Source: Eberle, Henrik, and Matthias Uhl, eds. "The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Otto Günsche and Heinz Linge, Hitler's Closest Personal Aides". Public Affairs, 2009.
Chemical experts pointed out in 1956 that in strong heat (like the kind Hitler was burned in) the acid dissolves rapidly, erasing the almond odor and they concluded that there is no evidence whatsoever that Hitler's death was brought about by Prussic Acid.
The Soviets claim Hitler was identified by dental record (presumably the lower jaw?) but has this jaw ever been offered for examination by anyone outside of the official Soviet hierarchy? The supposed skull fragment were on display a few years back but the jaw was not in the same display.
According to Ian Kershaw Hitler was not identified by comparing the lower jaw to dental records but by showing the bridge Dr. Hugo Blaschke had installed.
This is an interesting detail because the bridge was in Hitler's upper jaw, not his lower.
Did Hitler Really Commit Suicide?
April 19, 2014
Hitler essentially helped secure a win by the Allied powers when he committed suicide in April of 1945. Having survived an assassination plot and having been responsible for the deaths of millions, many were ready for his departure from this realm. Now, the FBI has released information which is very unsettling to those assured by his death. It seems, in fact, that Hitler may have remained very much alive having simply faked his suicide, moving to Argentina to escape a losing war.
It seems impossible that Hitler faked his suicide, as he was found by Russian soldiers who then transported his body to their home nation. If this is to be untrue, it means that he was not the only one acting in secret. For him to survive, he would have to have been in collusion with at least one of the Allied powers by the end of the war in 1945.
According to the files now opened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a German submarine was seen making a Nazi personnel transport to Argentina shortly after the suicide. The files also suggest that these personnel were alive at the foot of the Andes with complete awareness by the United States. This, in combination with the fact that other files suggest Hitler never actually killed himself, is shocking to those who feel they know their government.
This information all comes from an unidentified informant who was granted amnesty for what he knew of Hitler. Their information suggests that Argentina not only knew about, but supported, the dictator’s decision to hide out in their lands. While it does seem convenient for the informant to gain amnesty for information that stands against what most know to be true, he seemed to know specific details about the faked suicide as well as the exact location of the dictator’s residence in Argentina, the Red Flag News reports.
The fact that Hitler committed suicide is one generally only questioned by conspiracy theorists, but this information from the FBI is disturbing to many who would not normally question what they read in their history books. This is not a completely new plausibility, as the corpse obtained by the Soviets has been tested before and did not appear to be genuine. Now that the FBI has released eyewitness testimonies, architectural plans for the home he moved into, and information that apparently was given to them decades ago, the theory is moving frighteningly close to fact. The most frightening notion potentially revealed is that not only did Hitler probably not commit suicide, but his escape may have been aided by the FBI itself.
Adolf Hitler killed himself by gunshot on 30 April 1945 in his Führerbunker in Berlin.
"... Günsche stated he entered the study to inspect the bodies, and observed Hitler ... sat ... sunken over, with blood dripping out of his right temple. He had shot himself with his own pistol, a PPK 7.65".
-- Fischer, Thomas (2008) "Soldiers of the Leibstandarte". Winnipeg: J.J. Fedorowicz
"... Blood dripped from a bullet hole in his right temple ..."
-- Kershaw, Ian (2001. "Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis 2". London: Penguin
"...30 April ... During the afternoon Hitler shot himself..."
-- MI5 staff (2011). "Hitler's Last Days". Her Majesty's Security Service website
His wife Eva (née Braun) committed suicide with him by taking cyanide.
|"... her lips puckered from the poison". |
-- Beevor, Antony (2002). "Berlin – The Downfall 1945". New York: Viking-Penguin
That afternoon, in accordance with Hitler's prior instructions, their remains were carried up the stairs through the Bunker's emergency exit, doused in petrol, and set alight in the Reich Chancellery garden outside the Bunker. Records in the Soviet archives show that their burnt remains were recovered and interred in successive locations
|"... [the bodies] were deposited initially in an unmarked grave in a forest far to the west of Berlin, reburied in 1946 in a plot of land in Magdeburg."|
-- Kershaw, Ian (2008). "Hitler: A Biography". New York: W. W. Norton & Company
until 1970, when they were again exhumed, cremated, and the ashes scattered.
|"In 1970 the Kremlin finally disposed of the body in absolute secrecy ... body ... was exhumed and burned." |
-- Beevor, Antony (2002). "Berlin – The Downfall 1945". New York: Viking-Penguin
Accounts differ as to the cause of death; one states that he died by poison only
|"... both committing suicide by biting their cyanide ampoules."|
-- Erickson, John (1983) "The Road to Berlin: Stalin's War with Germany: Volume 2". London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
and another that he died by a self-inflicted gunshot while biting down on a cyanide capsule.
|"... we have a fair answer ... to the version of ... Russian author Lev Bezymenski ... Hitler did shoot himself and did bite into the cyanide capsule, just as Professor Haase had clearly and repeatedly instructed ... "|
-- O'Donnell, James P. (2001). "The Bunker". New York: Da Capo Press
Contemporary historians have rejected these accounts as being either Soviet propaganda
"... New versions of Hitler's fate were presented by the Soviet Union according to the political needs of the moment ..."
-- Eberle, Henrik; Uhl, Matthias, eds. (2005). "The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Hitler's Personal Aides". New York: Public Affairs.
"The intentionally misleading account of Hitler's death by cyanide poisoning put about by Soviet historians ... can be dismissed."
-- Kershaw, Ian (2001) "Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis 2". London: Penguin
or an attempted compromise in order to reconcile the different conclusions.
| "... most Soviet accounts have held that Hitler also [Hitler and Eva Braun] ended his life by poison ... there are contradictions in the Soviet story ... these contradictions tend to indicate that the Soviet version of Hitler's suicide has a political colouration."|
-- Fest, Joachim C. (1974). "Hitler". New York: Harcourt
One eye-witness recorded that the body showed signs of having been shot through the mouth, but this has been proven unlikely.
"Deep in the Lubyanka, headquarters of Russia's secret police, a fragment of Hitler's jaw is preserved as a trophy of the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany. A fragment of skull with a bullet hole lies in the State Archive".
-- Halpin, Tony; Boyes, Roger (9 December 2009). 'Battle of Hitler's skull prompts Russia to reveal all' - "The Times". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011.
There is also controversy regarding the authenticity of skull and jaw fragments which were recovered.
"... the only thing to remain of Hitler was a gold bridge with porcelain facets from his upper jaw and the lower jawbone with some teeth and two bridges."
-- Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999). "The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends, The Evidence, The Truth". London: Brockhampton Press
"Hitler's jaws ... had been retained by SMERSH, while the NKVD kept the cranium."
-- Beevor, Antony (2002). "Berlin – The Downfall 1945". New York: Viking-Penguin
In 2009, American researchers performed DNA tests on a skull Soviet officials had long believed to be Hitler's. The tests and examination revealed that the skull was actually that of a woman less than 40 years old. The jaw fragments which had been recovered were not tested.
"Deep in the Lubyanka, headquarters of Russia's secret police, a fragment of Hitler's jaw is preserved as a trophy of the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany. A fragment of skull with a bullet hole lies in the State Archive".
-- Halpin, Tony; Boyes, Roger (9 December 2009). 'Battle of Hitler's skull prompts Russia to reveal all' - "The Times". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011.
At the afternoon situation conference on 22 April 1945, Hitler suffered a total nervous collapse when he was informed that the orders he had issued the previous day for SS-General Felix Steiner's Army Detachment Steiner to move to the rescue of Berlin had not been obeyed. Hitler launched a tirade against the treachery and incompetence of his commanders, culminating in a declaration—for the first time—that the war was lost. Hitler announced that he would stay in Berlin until the end, and then shoot himself. Later that day he asked SS physician Dr. Werner Haase about the most reliable method of suicide. Haase suggested the "pistol-and-poison method" of combining a dose of cyanide with a gunshot to the head. When Field Marshal and head of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring learned about this, he sent a telegram to Hitler asking for permission to take over the leadership of the Reich in accordance with Hitler's 1941 decree naming Göring his successor. Hitler's influential secretary, Martin Bormann, convinced Hitler that Göring was threatening a coup. In response, Hitler informed Göring that he would be executed unless he resigned all of his posts. Later that day, he sacked Göring from all of his offices and ordered his arrest.
By 27 April, Berlin was cut off from the rest of Germany. Secure radio communications with defending units had been lost; the command staff in the Bunker had to depend on telephone lines for passing instructions and orders and on public radio for news and information. On 28 April, a BBC report originating from Reuters was picked up; a copy of the message was given to Hitler. The report stated that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had offered to surrender to the western Allies; the offer had been declined. Himmler had implied to the Allies that he had the authority to negotiate a surrender; Hitler considered this treason. During the afternoon his anger and bitterness escalated into a rage against Himmler. Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's headquarters in Berlin) shot.
By this time, the Red Army had advanced to the Potsdamerplatz, and all indications were that they were preparing to storm the Chancellery. This report, combined with Himmler's treachery, prompted Hitler to make the last decisions of his life. After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in a map room within the Führerbunker.
|"In the small hours of 28–29 April ... " |
-- MI5 staff (2011). "Hitler's Last Days". Her Majesty's Security Service website
Afterwards Hitler hosted a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife. Hitler then took secretary Traudl Junge to another room and dictated his last will and testament. He signed these documents at 04:00 and then retired to bed (some sources say Hitler dictated the last will and testament immediately before the wedding, but all sources agree on the timing of the signing).
Using sources available to Trevor Roper (a World War II MI5 agent and historian/author of "The Last Days of Hitler"), MI5 records the marriage as taking place after Hitler had dictated the last will and testament.
-- MI5 staff (2011). "Hitler's Last Days". Her Majesty's Security Service website
Beevor records the marriage as taking place before Hitler had dictated the last will and testament.
-- Beevor, Antony (2002). "Berlin – The Downfall 1945". New York: Viking-Penguin
During the course of 29 April, Hitler learned of the death of his ally, Benito Mussolini, who had been executed by Italian partisans. Mussolini's body and that of his mistress, Clara Petacci, had been strung up by their heels. The bodies were later cut down and thrown in the gutter, where vengeful Italians reviled them. It is probable that these events strengthened Hitler's resolve not to allow himself or his wife to be made "a spectacle of", as he had earlier recorded in his Testament. That afternoon, Hitler expressed doubts about the cyanide capsules he had received through Himmler's SS. To verify the capsules' potency, Hitler ordered Dr. Werner Haase to test one on his dog, Blondi, and the animal died as a result.
Hitler and Braun lived together as husband and wife in the Bunker for fewer than 40 hours. By 01:00 on 30 April General Wilhelm Keitel reported that all forces which Hitler had been depending on to come to the rescue of Berlin had either been encircled or forced onto the defensive. Late in the morning of 30 April, with the Soviets less than 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the Bunker, Hitler had a meeting with General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Area, who told him that the garrison would probably run out of ammunition that night and that the fighting in Berlin would inevitably come to an end within the next 24 hours. Weidling asked Hitler for permission for a breakout, a request he had made unsuccessfully before. Hitler did not answer, and Weidling went back to his headquarters in the Bendlerblock. At about 13:00 he received Hitler's permission to try a breakout that night. Hitler, two secretaries, and his personal cook then had lunch, after which Hitler and Braun said farewell to members of the Führerbunker staff and fellow occupants, including Bormann, Joseph Goebbels and his family, the secretaries, and several military officers. At around 14:30 Adolf and Eva Hitler went into Hitler's personal study.
Several witnesses later reported hearing a loud gunshot at around 15:30. After waiting a few minutes, Hitler's valet, Heinz Linge, with Bormann at his side, opened the study door. Linge later stated he immediately noted a scent of burnt almonds, a common observation made in the presence of prussic acid, the aqueous form of hydrogen cyanide. Hitler's adjutant, SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche, entered the study and found the lifeless bodies on the sofa. Eva, with her legs drawn up, was to Hitler's left and slumped away from him. Günsche stated that Hitler "... sat ... sunken over, with blood dripping out of his right temple. He had shot himself with his own pistol, a Walther PPK 7.65". The gun lay at his feet and according to SS-Oberscharführer Rochus Misch, Hitler's head was lying on the table in front of him. Blood dripping from Hitler's right temple and chin had made a large stain on the right arm of the sofa and was pooling on the carpet. According to Linge, Eva's body had no visible physical wounds, and her face showed how she had died—cyanide poisoning.
"Cyanide poisoning. Its 'bite' was marked in her features."
-- Linge, Heinz (2009). "With Hitler to the End". Frontline Books–Skyhorse Publishing
Günsche and SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke stated "unequivocally" that all outsiders and those performing duties and work in the bunker "did not have any access" to Hitler's private living quarters during the time of death (between 15:00 and 16:00).
Günsche left the study and announced that the Führer was dead. The two bodies were carried up the stairs to ground level and through the Bunker's emergency exit to the garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were doused with petrol. An eye-witness, Rochus Misch, reported someone shouting 'Hurry upstairs, they're burning the boss!' After the first attempts to ignite the petrol did not work, Linge went back inside the Bunker and returned with a thick roll of papers. Bormann lit the papers and threw the torch onto the bodies. As the two corpses caught fire, a small group, including Bormann, Günsche, Linge, Göbbels, Erich Kempka, Peter Högl, Ewald Lindloff, and Hans Reisser, raised their arms in salute as they stood just inside the Bunker doorway.
At around 16:15, Linge ordered SS-Untersturmführer Heinz Krüger and SS-Oberscharführer Werner Schwiedel to roll up the rug in Hitler's study to burn it. Schwiedel later stated that upon entering the study, he saw a pool of blood the size of a "large dinner plate" by the arm-rest of the sofa. Noticing a spent cartridge case, he bent down and picked it up from where it lay on the rug about 1 mm from a 7.65 pistol. The two men removed the blood-stained rug, carried it up the stairs and outside to the Chancellery garden. There the rug was placed on the ground and burned.
On and off during the afternoon, the Soviets shelled the area in and around the Reich Chancellery. SS guards brought over additional cans of petrol to further burn the corpses. Linge later noted the fire did not completely destroy the remains, as the corpses were being burned in the open, where the distribution of heat varies. The burning of the corpses lasted from 16:00 to 18:30. The remains were covered up in a shallow bomb crater at around 18:30 by Lindloff and Reisser.
The first inkling to the outside world that Hitler was dead came from the Germans themselves. On 1 May the radio station Reichssender Hamburg interrupted their normal program to announce that an important broadcast would soon be made. After dramatic funereal music by Wagner and Bruckner, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz (appointed as Hitler's successor in his will) announced that Hitler was dead. Dönitz called upon the German people to mourn their Führer, who died a hero defending the capital of the Reich. Hoping to save the army and the nation by negotiating a partial surrender to the British and Americans, Dönitz authorized a fighting withdrawal to the west. His tactic was somewhat successful: it enabled about 1.8 million German soldiers to avoid capture by the Soviets, but it came at a high cost in bloodshed, as troops continued to fight until 8 May.
On the morning of 1 May, thirteen hours after the event, Stalin was informed of Hitler's suicide. General Hans Krebs had given this information to Soviet General Vasily Chuikov when they met at 04:00 on 1 May, when the Germans attempted to negotiate acceptable surrender terms. Stalin demanded unconditional surrender and asked for confirmation that Hitler was dead. He wanted Hitler's corpse found. In the early morning hours of 2 May, the Soviets captured the Reich Chancellery. Down in the Führerbunker, General Krebs and General Wilhelm Burgdorf committed suicide by gunshot to the head
Later on 2 May, the remains of Hitler, Braun, and two dogs (thought to be Blondi and her offspring, Wulf) were discovered in a shell crater by a unit of the Red Army intelligence agency SMERSH tasked with finding Hitler's body. Stalin was still wary about believing his old nemesis was dead, and restricted what information could be publicly released. The remains of Hitler and Braun were repeatedly buried and exhumed by SMERSH during the unit's relocation from Berlin to a new facility in Magdeburg. The bodies, along with the charred remains of propaganda minister Göbbels, his wife Magda, and their six children, were buried in an unmarked grave beneath a paved section of the front courtyard. The location was kept secret.
Different versions of Hitler's fate were presented by the Soviet Union according to its political desires. In the years immediately following 1945, the Soviets maintained Hitler was not dead, but had fled and was being shielded by the former western allies. This worked for a time to create doubt among western authorities. The chief of the U.S. trial counsel at Nuremberg, Thomas J. Dodd, said: "No one can say he is dead." When President Harry S. Truman asked Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in August 1945 whether or not Hitler was dead, Stalin replied bluntly, "No". But by 11 May 1945, the Soviets had already confirmed through Hitler's dentist, Hugo Blaschke, and his dental technician that the dental remains found were Hitler's and Braun's. In November 1945, Dick White, then head of counter-intelligence in the British sector of Berlin (and later head of MI5 and MI6 in succession), had their agent Hugh Trevor-Roper investigate the matter to counter the Soviet claims. His findings were written in a report and published in book form in 1947.
In May 1946, SMERSH agents recovered from the crater where Hitler was buried two burned skull fragments with gunshot damage. These remains were apparently forgotten in the Russian State Archives until 1993, when they were re-found. In 2009 DNA and forensic tests were performed on the skull fragment, which Soviet officials had long believed to be Hitler's. According to the American researchers, the tests revealed that the skull was actually that of a woman and the examination of the sutures where the skull plates come together placed her age at less than 40 years old. The jaw fragments which had been recovered in May 1945 were not tested.
In 1969, Soviet journalist Lev Bezymensky's book on the death of Hitler was published in the West. It included the SMERSH autopsy report, but because of the earlier disinformation attempts, western historians thought it untrustworthy.
In 1970, the SMERSH facility, by then controlled by the KGB, was scheduled to be handed over to the East German government. Fearing that a known Hitler burial site might become a Neo-Nazi shrine, KGB director Yuri Andropov authorised an operation to destroy the remains that had been buried in Magdeburg on 21 February 1946. A Soviet KGB team was given detailed burial charts. On 4 April 1970 they secretly exhumed five wooden boxes containing the remains of "10 or 11 bodies ... in an advanced state of decay". The remains were thoroughly burned and crushed, after which the ashes were thrown into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.
Beevor states that "... the ashes were flushed into the town [Magdeburg] sewage system."
-- Beevor, Antony (2002). "Berlin – The Downfall 1945". New York: Viking-Penguin