The Question of Hitler’s Death
The fall of Berlin marked the end of the European theatre of the Second World War. The Red Army ravaged the city and laid much of it to waste in the early days of May 1945. A large portion of Hitler’s inner circle, including the Führer himself, had been holed up in the Führerbunker underneath the old Reich Chancellery garden since January of 1945. Many top Nazi Party officials fled or attempted to flee the city ruins in the final moments before their destruction at the Russians’ hands. When the dust settled, the German army’s capitulation was complete.
There were many unanswered questions for the Allies of World War II following the Nazi surrender. Invading Russian troops, despite recovering Hitler’s body, failed to disclose this fact to their Allies when the battle ended.
The British Investigation
Brigadier Dick White, the head of Counter Intelligence in the British zone of occupation and the only person to have been the head of MI5 before becoming the head of MI6, recognized the importance of proving the death of Hitler immediately following the capitulation of Germany, and in September of 1945, assigned a a brilliant young historian still at Oxford, Major Hugh Trevor-Roper, to conduct an investigation into Hitler’s last days. .
Hitler’s ghost was still haunting the European continent, and Trevor-Roper’s investigation would put British minds at ease by proving that the man responsible for the near invasion of their homeland and thousands of British casualties was finally dead.
White recognizing Hitler’s magnetism, which jeopardized security in the occupied zones as long as the Führer was rumored to be alive, the Brigadier also recognized the atrocities that Hitler was responsible for and the chaos that could ensue if Hitler returned in the same way that Napoleon did. If the Allies failed to find Hitler there was a possibility that those once loyal to him would rally to his side if he turned up again.
White visited Berlin at the conclusion of the war to confirm Hitler’s death and the Russians assured him that both Hitler and Göbbels had committed suicide. This story changed rapidly when Stalin began telling top members of the Allied forces that he was sure Hitler had not died, and at one point accused the British of sheltering the Führer. This situation was unacceptable for the newly victorious British, and the need for a thorough and definitive investigation for confirmation of the Führer’s death became even more urgent, to refute the idea the Russians promoted and perpetuated that the Führer had escaped. The Russians’ distrust and lack of cooperation was the primary reason that the British launched an inquiry into the matter primarily on their own, although officially they were receiving help from the Americans and Canadians.
Trevor-Roper had begun paying visits to the castle that White had requisitioned for his own use during his stay in Bad Öynhausen. It was during these visits that White and Trevor-Roper began to discuss the events surrounding Hitler’s last days. The speculation that spread so quickly throughout Europe due to the uncertainty surrounding the Führer’s fate made an investigation absolutely necessary. White decided that Trevor-Roper was an excellent candidate to conduct such an inquiry, especially since the Major already had experience in conducting interrogations of German prisoners and was eager to prove himself as a historian.
The opportunity to solve one of the most dramatic mysteries in modern history was an excellent opportunity for an ambitious young scholar, and White assured the Major that he would be given ample resources and authority to complete his work. Trevor-Roper accepted his new mission and began the necessary preliminary work immediately. Trevor-Roper worked under the pseudonym of Major Oughton for the entirety of his investigation and enlisted the help of Americans, British, and Canadian officers alike. The Allies were co-operative at this point and willing to share information with Trevor-Roper, but each country also had individual agendas to see to in the immediate postwar
Trevor-Roper officially began his investigation on September 18 and by September 19 a list had been distributed to all British and American intelligence personnel in Europe of thirty names of individuals who could provide information regarding Hitler’s death. This list would grow quickly to eventually include the names of over sixty “persons of interest” wanted for questioning. Major Peter Ramsbotham [another British officer and the coordinator for the Allied investigation] created and distributed the initial “persons of interest list” to all American and British intelligence officials in Europe. However, the process of finding and interrogating the people named in the initial list was made increasingly difficult due to the state that Germany was in. There was very little information that could be used to identify potential witnesses as physical descriptions were not always available and personnel were often only provided with a last name. Trevor-Roper was also working without the help of both the French and the Russians. The French were simply absent from the investigation according to the archival documents, but the Russians refused to co-operate with Trevor-Roper’s investigation although it was later discovered that they held nearly all of the witnesses whom the British deemed "missing".
Despite the difficulties associated with the loss of witnesses and Russian distrust, Trevor-Roper’s investigation into Hitler’s death continued at breakneck speed. He completed his assignment in less than two months and presented his findings to the international press at the Hotel Am Zoo in Berlin on November 1, 1945. According to James P. O’Donnell, ["The Bunker". Houghton Mifflin, 1978], it was this report that finally convinced the authorities and public alike that Hitler was dead.
While O'Donnell agreed with Trevor-Roper's account save for some minor details [and, in "The Bunker", continues to agree with it], he was unsatisfied with this account. Some reasons he gave were:
Trevor-Roper only had access to two witnesses - Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, and Else Krüger, Bormann's secretary. When he wrote "The Last Days of Hitler" the following year, he only had access to two more witnesses - Hitler secretary Gerda Christian and Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann.
The vast majority of the major witnesses were captured by the Soviets and, without being charged with any crimes, spent the next ten years in Russian captivity. Because the Soviets kept denying that Hitler was really dead, they refused to release their interrogation notes to the other Allies.
Accounts of the Bunker centered on major figures, such as Hitler and Göbbels, while paying scant attention to more minor figures. Usually, such accounts stopped after the death of Hitler [or, in some cases, Göbbels]). Except for people looking for Bormann [who, for many years, was thought to have survived], nobody bothered writing an account of the "Bunker Breakout" after Göbbels' death.
The below observers were captured by the Soviets and held for a decade, and were thus unavailable for many of the initial accounts of Hitler's death.
- Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck, physician and operator of a casualty station in the Reich Chancellery
- Hans Baur, Hitler's personal pilot
- Johannes Hentschel, mechanic in charge of bunker's electricity and water supply
- Wilhelm Mohnke, Waffen SS general
- Otto Günsche, Hitler's personal SS adjutant
- Heinz Linge, Hitler's valet
- Rochus Misch, the Führerbunker telephone/radio operator
While most people were co-operative, a few didn't speak to O'Donnell. Johanna Wolf, another Hitler secretary, declined to talk since she was a "private" secretary. Albert Bormann also refused to co-operate, in this case because of family connections [he was Martin Bormann's brother]. Many people who had been close to Hitler in the final days, most notably Ambassador Walter Hewel, an old friend of Hitler's, committed suicide after the break-out. Many more witnesses died in Soviet captivity, such as Dr. Werner Haase, the last physician to attend Hitler, who had already been gravely ill with tuberculosis in April 1945. Likewise, other important witnesses, such as Johann Rattenhuber, survived Russian captivity, but died so soon after their release that they could never be properly interrogated.
The report presented in Berlin on 1 November 1, however, relied on the testimony of only nine witnesses out of the original list of thirty. Trevor-Roper, on behalf of British intelligence, continued searching for witnesses long after 1 November 1945 in order to validate his previous claims and chase down any additional leads that had come up in his previous investigation - since he was planning to publish his findings. The remaining witnesses, found after his presentation to the public, would be included in Trevor-Roper’s "The Last Days of Hitler"; when it was published in 1947, becoming an instant best seller and remaining a source that historians today continue to use. Unfortunately Trevor-Roper neglected to give the appropriate credit to those who had helped to make his investigation possible when the British findings were synthesized into his most memorable work.
This oversight is the topic of Historian Sarah Douglas’s article, "The Search for Hitler: Hugh Trevor-Roper, Humphrey Searle, and the Last Days of Adolf Hitler," The Journal of Military History 78, no. 1 .
The sheer number of witnesses who testified about Hitler’s death (some multiple times) demonstrates that it would have been logistically impossible for one man to complete even a fraction of the work necessary to confirm Hitler’s death. Trevor-Roper had to have relied on the help of dozens of other officers and intelligence personnel in order to cover all of the topics that arose during questioning, especially since the witnesses were being held in different parts of Europe. One might think initially that Trevor-Roper was not at liberty to give the names of his associates at the time of the book’s publishing, but the work’s multiple editions mean that the proper credit could have been given at a later time. It also does not explain why Dick White is acknowledged for his role in the book’s creation in the first edition’s preface, but is not mentioned in later editions.
American and Canadian co-operation had aided the operation, but the British bore the brunt of the responsibility. Their interest in the matter no doubt had roots in the destruction that the Battle of Britain caused, and the final comprehensive report definitively proved Hitler was dead. The British investigation’s thorough nature allowed the Americans to hold different priorities during the immediate postwar period. They did not seem as concerned about examining Hitler’s last days and took Trevor-Roper’s conclusion as definitive – which in many ways it was.
Sarah Douglas conducted research in the British National Archives to explain how Trevor-Roper attained the necessary information for his publication, and along what timeline he received this information. According to Douglas, the British received extensive allied help in interrogating witnesses and synthesizing information from the Americans, but conducted the majority of the investigation on their own.
Her article raised questions about the degree of American involvement in the investigation into Hitler’s death. It was unclear from Douglas’ research in the UK whether the Americans had conducted a separate investigation of their own or simply contributed to the British investigation.
While the Americans provided two essential interrogations to the investigation into Hitler’s death, they did not show the same level of interest as the British in carrying out their portion of the investigation. Trevor-Roper’s investigation required that he and those helping him work all over the European Continent, and it was the British dedication to confirming Hitler’s death that allowed American intelligence during these same two critical years to move on to other, more pressing, matters. The Americans, it turns out, had identified a more valuable use of their time and efforts in the occupied zones by the time Trevor-Rope presented his findings to the world.
The American Investigation
Interestingly, Americans did launch inquiries into Hitler’s death, but only several years after Trevor-Roper announced his findings to the international press on 1 November 1945. The United States intelligence officials conducted two of the most important interrogations in the investigation into Hitler’s death, but their overall work on the subject was more qualitatively than quantitatively significant, as shown by the comprehensive nature of the interrogations on the subject
The lack of infrastructure and social order would have made locating and identifying potential witnesses incredibly difficult, but those responsible for the investigation were nevertheless able to finish their work in a very timely fashion.
The archival documents from the relevant time period [located at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland] indicated that American Intelligence gathered information on the way Germany conducted the war while Trevor-Roper was conducting his investigation into the last days of Hitler.
The only interrogations that the Americans conducted that focused on the death of Hitler were those of Erich Kempka, Chief Driver and head of the Führer’s Motor Pool until the end of the war, on 26 September 1945 and Hanna Reitsch, a Nazi test pilot and the only woman awarded the Iron Cross First Class, on 8 October 1945.
The United States Forces European Theatre [USFET] also conducted the interrogation of Erich Mansfeld, SS Hauptscharführer and Bunker guard, but this report was not within the Historical Interrogation Committee file containing the rest of the interrogation reports from the immediate post-war period. Mansfeld’s interrogation report was in a record group that held information on WWII war crimes records and not in the Historical Interrogation Committee files. It is unclear if these reports were separated for administrative reasons or because of a difference in content.
These reports were handed over to the British to aid in their investigation. In 1947 the United States also investigated a rumor that Hitler’s own physician poisoned him and a separate statement that a Bulgarian dentist identified Hitler’s jawbone for the Soviets. These reports show that the American contribution to Trevor-Roper’s investigation was primarily qualitative and not quantitative. The United States was responsible for adding two of the most important interrogations to the inquiry, but the overall attitude towards Hitler’s death was primarily reactive and not active.
Intelligence also created a complete report on Hitler’s body and health at the time of his death with the help of his primary doctor, Theodor Morell, and other physicians including Erwin Giesing, Karl Brandt, and Hans Karl von Hasselbach.
Ten of the forty-three documented interrogations that occurred immediately after the war were conducted between 18 September and 1 November 1945 while Trevor-Roper was investigating the last days of Hitler. The remaining thirty-three took place before 18 September 1945.
Two out of the ten interrogations that took place between 18 September and 1 November mention Hitler’s death: those of Eric Kempka and Hanna Reitsch. The remaining eight focus on different aspects of how the Germans ran the war. These topics are indicative of what was discussed during the remaining thirty-three interrogations that took place prior to 18 September 1945. Taken together, these 43 interrogations support the conclusion that the United States was immediately anticipating escalating tensions with its erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union, and already moving towards the implementation of Operation Paperclip, an American initiative begun in August of 1945 to bring Nazi scientists, engineers, and technology to the United States.
The only serious investigation that the Americans conducted regarding Hitler’s death did not begin until 1947. Fox Mathews, an interrogator for the 7707th European Command, was told in 1946 that the Russians had approached Hitler’s dentist, Hugo Blaschke, in 1945 to identify a jawbone as Hitler’s. Further investigation revealed that it was not Dr. Blaschke, but Dr. Fedor Bruck who practiced in the same building after Dr. Blaschke left. The investigation continued for over a year and was eventually closed when it was discovered that a Bulgarian dentist named Dr. Arnaudow had identified Hitler’s jawbone.
J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI Bureau handled all postwar claims that Hitler was still alive. These began surfacing immediately after Hitler’s death, and continued to appear decades later. Federal officers quickly discredited the citizens who called in the majority of these cases, but the claim that Hitler was hiding out in South America with other top officials persisted. There were letters that had been sent in with newspaper clippings regarding the latest news of Hitler’s whereabouts as well as a report written about Trevor-Roper’s book, "The Last Days of Hitler".
The United States Forces in Austria interrogated Hanna Reitsch on 8 October 1945. Reitsch was one of the last [if not the last person] to escape the Bunker and Berlin prior to Hitler’s death and before the Red Army made a getaway impossible. The report starts off with an introduction explaining Reitsch’s position in the Nazi hierarchy and qualifying her statements as her own perception of the final days of the war in the Führerbunker. The report also explains Reitsch’s excessive use of the word “honor” throughout her interrogation and the importance of this concept within the Nazi Party. This term was so heavily used by Reitsch that the interrogator eventually began adding quotation marks around the word each time it was used.
Reitsch decided to fly to Berlin on 26 April 1945 with Lieutenant General Ritter von Greim, whom Hitler had summoned to the Chancellery for what she was told was an urgent matter. The report indicates that the flight was difficult as there were Russian-German dogfights going on around the area where they took off, and they fell under fire before the craft could land, seriously injuring Greim’s foot and making an emergency landing necessary. They were able to find a vehicle to take them to the Führerbunker and presented themselves to Hitler upon their arrival at around 7:00pm on 26 April 1945.
At that point, according to the file, Hitler informed them of Hermann Göring’s betrayal and consequently made Greim a Field Marshal and the Luftwaffe’s new and final Commander for the remainder of the war. The news of Göring’s betrayal was shocking to both Reitsch and Greim, and the pair begged to remain in the Bunker with Hitler as a result. Hitler conceded, but arrangements had already been made for a plane to take Reitsch and Greim back to Rechlin. When a plane finally reached Berlin through Russian fire, it was sent away empty-handed because the two were still set on remaining with Hitler until the end.
Reitsch was later called into the Führer’s office and given a vial of cyanide for her use should the Allies apprehend her in the coming days. It was at this point that Hitler made his intention of having his body burned known to Reitsch, who immediately began protesting. Hitler responded, "no, Hanna, if I die it is for the ‘honor’ of our country, it is because as a soldier I must obey my own command that I would defend Berlin to the last." This was the point at which Reitsch realized that Hitler believed the war to be lost. She returned to Greim and informed him of the development and they made plans for their suicide in case of their capture.
Reitsch observed Göbbels in the final days in the Bunker where the Minister of Propaganda spent quite a bit of time pacing and denouncing Göring’s cowardice. According to Reitsch’s testimony, Göbbels “strode about his small luxurious quarters like an animal, muttering vile accusations concerning the Luftwaffe leader and what he had done.” Göbbels also blamed the German army’s current state on Göring and apparently planned to pin the Third Reich’s eventual defeat on the traitor as well. Reitsch acknowledged that Göbbels had a flair for the dramatic and even said he “performed as if he were speaking to a legion of historians who were avidly awaiting and recording every word.”
Reitsch remarked on Hitler’s decline following his outburst in the conference room [this outburst has been well documented by reproductions including the movie "Downfall"] and stated that he never quite recovered. She said that he would regain his strength at times, for just long enough to make fantastic claims about how General Walther Wenck, commander of the twelfth army and Berlin’s last hope for winning the Battle of Berlin, would turn the battle around and Germany would be saved. Reitsch went on to completely dismiss the notion of Hitler’s escape from the Bunker. She stated that the Führer did not have the strength to make it out of Berlin, even if escape had been possible. When told that there were rumors of Hitler’s survival, Reitsch responded, “Hitler is dead! The man I saw in the shelter could not have lived. He had no reason to live and the tragedy was that he knew it well; knew it better than perhaps anyone else did".
Reitsch greatly admired the Führer and showed an unusual level of perception in addressing his shortcomings. She blamed the fall of Germany on him, but also on those who advised and directed him. Throughout the conversation she showed an awareness of the criminality and evil that Hitler perpetuated during his reign, but did not seem to hold him completely responsible for the consequences of his actions. Reitsch talked about Himmler’s betrayal as well as that of Göring, and its effect on the Führer. It was this information that caused Hitler to order Greim and Reitsch to escape from the Bunker. Hitler was concerned that a traitor would succeed him and the only visible solution was to send Greim and Reitsch out of Berlin with his orders. Reitsch recognized the absurdity of an escape attempt through enemy lines that far into the Russian assault on Berlin, but Hitler gave the order anyway. Greim and Reitsch were both captured by the Americans in May of 1945, and Greim committed suicide on 24 May 1945 with his poison capsule that Hitler provided in April.
The interrogator believed that Reitsch’s report was sincere and truthful based on her mission. He accepted her claim that she had been tempted to commit suicide, but decided that she must tell the Allies the truth about Göring and Hitler as well as the German people about the dangers of a government like the Third Reich. The Americans completed the interrogation report in Austria before they handed it over to Trevor-Roper and British intelligence for their investigation file. Reitsch’s testimony, along with six other sources, was used extensively in Trevor-Roper’s report as well as his subsequent publication, "The Last Days of Hitler". Reitsch later complained about the fact that Trevor-Roper used the information she provided and “drew far reaching conclusions” without ever speaking to her personally, especially since her testimony was one of the most important that Trevor-Roper relied on.
Despite the fact that Trevor-Roper’s investigation confirmed that she left two days before Hitler committed suicide, her interrogation report indicated that the Americans believed at the time that she could have been one of the final people to leave the Bunker alive. A copy of the report can be found in the National Archives of the United Kingdom today.
The second relevant interrogation report in the Historical Interrogation Committee file is that of Erich Kempka, Hitler’s Chief Driver and head of the Führer’s Motor Pool until the end of the war. Kempka was 34 at the time of the interrogation, was initially hired by the Motor Pool in March of 1932 as a driver, but was promoted to Head Driver in 1936 after the death of the previous Head of the Motor Pool, SS Brigadeführer Julius Schreck. According to Kempka, his position required great organizational skills and punctuality, as Hitler’s days were often planned down to thirty seconds. This and other areas of Kempka’s job required an attention to detail that would lend credence to his version of the events surrounding Hitler’s death.
Lieutenant Colonel O.J. Hale conducted Kempka’s interrogation, which took place at the Third Army Intelligence Center on 26 September 1945. The report’s focus is on the final days leading up to, and circumstances, of Hitler’s death, with an additional section for Kempka’s supplementary statements. Kempka was the chief witness in the matter of Hitler’s death due to his extensive description of Hitler and Eva Braun’s cremation. A Lieutenant Blake, who attempted to disprove or verify his report, also interrogated Kempka [date unknown]. The uniformity of his account throughout multiple interrogations convinced intelligence officers of his truthfulness on the subject. Kempka seemed to recognize the historical importance of confirming Hitler’s death, and made every effort to convince his interrogators that he had no motive to withhold or present false information. Kempka’s disposition seems to have convinced the interrogators in charge of the report who said, “the general impression created by sources remarks and attitude is that of a credible witness".”
The interrogators asked, "in your report how did you fix the Führer’s death as occurring on 30 April instead of 1 May or 27 April?" Kempka responded that he placed the death on 30 April 1945 due to its proximity to the attempted escape by those still living in the Bunker on 1 May. Kempka spoke to Hitler for the last time on 29 April outside of the Bunker, when the Führer inquired about the state of the remaining vehicles in the motor pool. He responded that they were in poor condition, but that it was still possible to transport supplies to area hospitals, to which Hitler offered words of encouragement before returning to the Bunker.
Otto Günsche, Hitler’s personal adjutant, ordered Kempka to bring gasoline the following day in order to burn Hitler and Braun’s bodies in the Reich Chancellery garden. Hans Linge, Hitler’s valet, brought Hitler’s body out of the Bunker wrapped in a blanket, while Martin Bormann, Head of the Party Chancellery and Hitler’s personal secretary, carried Eva Braun. Kempka states that wrapping Hitler in the blanket made it easier to carry him, and that this was not necessary for Eva Braun due to her slight stature. He also stated that the picture of the crater that the Allies had taken did not depict the correct crater in which the bodies were burned, and that the correct crater was much shallower and much closer to the Bunker.
Kempka went into Hitler’s apartment following the cremation to observe the room in which the Führer committed suicide, and judged that the pair had been dead between fifteen minutes and half an hour when their remains were cremated in the shell crater outside the Bunker door. Kempka had little information regarding Hitler and Braun’s marriage, and had only come across what little he knew in a peripheral manner. He had inquired as to whether another young couple in the Bunker could apply to be married, and Dr. Göbbels’s deputy, Dr. Naumann replied, “why did they not apply two days ago when the Führer and Fräulein Braun and two of the orderlies were married?” Kempka stated that Frau Traudl Junge, one of Hitler’s secretaries, could provide more answers on the topic due to her closeness with Eva Braun.
Kempka did not believe that Martin Bormann could have escaped Berlin during the breakout, but, at this point, the Americans were not sure whether he was dead or alive. It is possible that the Americans were primarily interested in Bormann’s whereabouts due to a desire to try him for war crimes. He believed that Bormann was either in Russian hands or had died in Berlin. He based this assumption on reports from a female party member of Ambassador Hewel’s suicide via poison capsule following the second breakout’s failure, of which Bormann was also a part. The discovery of skeletal remains in the 1970’s later confirmed Bormann’s suicide during the Battle of Berlin.
Kempka remarked that Hitler was a kind and considerate superior who took his chauffeur’s needs into consideration and often encouraged him to go and visit with his parents when they were in the Rhineland. When asked, the chauffeur also insisted that Hitler never used a body double as a form of protection and that the only attempts on the Führer’s life were the bombing attempts at the Burgerbräukeller in 1939 and at the Reich Headquarters in 1944. USFET recognized the importance of Kempka’s testimony due to his witnessing the Führer’s cremation, but, once again, did not seek additional information. The Americans also handed over Kempka’s interrogation report to Trevor-Roper and British intelligence following its completion in September of 1945.
Kempka went on to testify at the Nuremburg trials about his last encounter with Bormann, and was released from captivity in 1947. Kempka remained a key witness for the Allies in the matter of Hitler’s death, and the American interrogation report can also be found at the National Archives of the United Kingdom. The Americans only conducted two interrogations with direct ties to Hitler’s death, but they are certainly two of the most important interrogations on the subject and factored heavily into Trevor-Roper’s final report and subsequent publication.
The next group of relevant individuals captured by USFET was comprised of Hitler’s doctors, including: Theo Morell, Hitler’s Personal Physician; Erwin Giesing, Oberstabszart [medical staff officer]; Walter Löhlein, Director of the Berlin University Eye Clinic; Karl Weber, Director of the Bad Nauhein Heart Institute; A. Nissle, Freiburg Research Institute; and E. Brinkmann of the Berlin Medical Diagnostic Institute. These doctors were interrogated in November of 1945 in order to create an extensive report on Hitler’s health that would allow any corpse to be accurately identified as the Führer or definitively called an imposter. The collective effort was called “Hitler as Seen by his Doctors”. It was not clear from the archival documents how the doctors who contributed to the report came into United States’ custody, but the report’s comprehensive nature made it another valuable American contribution to the investigation.
The report is divided into sections with the first being a list of reasons for the report. These include providing information that could be used to identify Hitler’s remains; providing data that could be used to debunk Hitler mythology; knowledge that could be used to discredit any persons who claim to be or claim to have spoken with Hitler in the coming years; and information about Hitler that could potentially be interesting to any future scientists, doctors or historians. The report goes on to give a brief medical history and then outlines Hitler’s every aspect as Dr. Morell reported. The report concludes with a series of annexes that hold X-rays of Hitler’s head as well as results from various examinations on the Führer. The Americans handed the report over to Trevor-Roper and his colleagues on 15 October, and it is assumed that he reviewed the information before making his statement to the press and the public on 1 November. This was the most detailed report that the Americans created focusing on Hitler that was created in 1945. A copy is available in the United Kingdom National Archives as well. "Hitler as seen by his Doctors" was the last significant report American Intelligence personnel completed that had any relevance to Hitler’s death until almost two years later. Trevor-Roper began writing "The Last Days of Hitler" at the beginning of 1946 and finished in mid May. The Americans and British continued to forward information to the British following Trevor-Roper’s to civilian life in mid 1946. The book was finally published a year later, which happened to be at the same point in 1947 that brought another lead to the Americans’ attention.
The next investigation into Hitler’s death was an inquiry into claims Dr. Erwin Giesing made in 1944. Giesing was an ear nose and throat physician who examined Hitler following the July 1944 attempt on the Führer’s life, and remained in his employment until October 1944. Giesing started the rumor [possibly with the help of Dr. Karl Brandt, another of Hitler’s physicians] that Dr. Morell, Hitler’s primary care physician, had been poisoning the Führer while caring for him. Giesing was a natural competitor for Dr. Theodor Morell’s job as Hitler’s caretaker, and had adequate reason to fabricate such a story. The Americans heard this rumor from members of Hitler’s entourage in 1947, and had even more reason to investigate Giesing’s claims following the publication of an article titled “The Secret of Dr. Morell” in the British zone on the subject on 8 February 1947. The 7707th European Intelligence Command Center issued a report on 4 October 1947 that attempted to disprove this rumor and dismiss its root as occupational jealousy on the part of Giesing and Brandt. The report’s introduction gives further explanation as to Giesing’s desire to replace Morell as Hitler’s primary care physician, and supports the claim that the rumor of poisoning was a pure fabrication through passages taken from Morell’s own diary. Morell describes a conversation he had with Karl Brandt in 1944 before saying, “now I realize quite clearly why Hitler told me that I have a great many enemies who already have a successor at hand for me.". United States authorities began their inquiry into the rumor that Morell had been poisoning Hitler by compiling a list of medicines that Dr. Morell gave Hitler, and submitted these findings to several scientists who confirmed that no narcotics had been administered. Authorities also contacted department heads that had control over the flow of narcotics in Berlin and confirmed that no narcotics had been delivered to Hitler’s headquarters except in negligible amounts. The only reports that narcotics were administered to Hitler were not backed up by factual evidence and were therefore discredited. United States personnel began to explore different avenues since there was no clear explanation for Hitler’s deterioration based on the medication that Dr. Morell gave him.
The scientists who were consulted about the possibility of Hitler’s use of narcotics submitted in their reports that a possible cause for Hitler’s mental and physical state was the amount of stress he endured for years at a time. The report also suggests that the 20 July 1944 attempt on his life caused Hitler to deteriorate even more rapidly, and mentions the palsy in his left hand and foot that he exhibited in his final years. American investigators also included information in the 1947 report from a man who had served in Hitler’s company during WWI as a sergeant who said that, "Hitler had always been considered ‘nuts’ by the other men of the company and that Hitler used to isolate himself in a corner and brood and mumble to himself". The report comes to the following conclusions based on the evidence the doctors, the scientists, and the German sergeant presented: Morell did not poison Hitler, but actually improved his health significantly; Morell’s reputation made him susceptible to such rumors; the rumor could have been resuscitated in order to create a stab in the back claim; Hitler did not change psychologically, but was physically sick from his youth, and any rapid physical deterioration could have been caused by preexisting psychological abnormalities; and it is highly possible that Hitler had both schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. The report goes on to recommend that further investigations be done into Hitler’s youth to shed more light on the claims of schizophrenia and Parkinson’s. It is possible that this investigation was necessary to disprove the poison rumor in order to deprive the German people of a second "stab in the back" myth that could claim the Allies did not defeat Hitler, and that his own physician was responsible. This would be very interesting considering the similar mythology following Germany’s defeat in WWI that stated that Germany’s home front betrayed her, especially the republicans.
The report’s end is made up of annexes containing parts of an article on Dr. Morell, the report on the possibility that Hitler used narcotics, a report on Hitler’s doctors, and a report on how Hitler’s health possibly affected his actions. The late issuance of the report indicates that the Americans were not aware of the rumor until 1947, and then worked quickly to disprove it when various former members of Hitler’s entourage mentioned it in their interrogations. This, in turn, supports the claim that the Americans investigated in a reactive manner rather than an active one. The next inquiry regarding Hitler’s death took place a year later in 1948. From the American point of view, Hitler’s remains were still missing despite Trevor-Roper’s conviction that the Führer was dead.
Fox Mathews, a former employee of the European Command Intelligence Center in Berlin, approached the Americans and indicated that the Russians could be responsible for the lack of information on the subject. Distrust between the Russians and their former Allies was growing by this point and neither side could count on the other for complete and honest information. The Russians felt as though they had sacrificed the most in the war, and had not received due credit from their associates. On November 25, 1947, a report was filed with USFET, which stated that a man named Fox Mathews came forward and informed officials that the European Command Intelligence Center in Berlin previously employed him and that he was currently working for the Political Section, Office of Military Government, Berlin Sector. Mathews worked as an interrogator for ECIC and informed officials that a man who was formerly Hitler’s dentist told him that the Russians had requested that he identify a jawbone as belonging to Hitler. The man had complied, but two months later he was asked to report to Soviet authorities once again. This dentist was not heard from again, prompting the need for the official report that Mr. Mathews submitted. An agent spoke with Mr. Mathews again on November 26, 1947 and attempted to clarify a few points from the original story. The report stated that Mathews spoke with Hugo Blaschke, Hitler’s former dentist, in October of 1945. The report went on to state that Blaschke’s assistant and secretary were apprehended by the Russians and asked about a jawbone that the Russians’ believed belonged to Hitler.The only problem with Mathews’s story was that Hugo Blaschke insisted that he had never furnished Mathews with the story and was unaware of its origin. The investigation continued, and on 17 March 1948 a report was filed that said that in Mathews’s most recent interrogation, it was learned that it was not Hugo Blaschke who had told the jawbone story to Mathews, but Fedor Bruck. This information was also several years old and was not as fresh in Mathews’s mind. Bruck was interrogated and confirmed that the Russians apprehended Blaschke’s former assistant, Fritz Echtman, and Blaschke’s former female secretary [Mathews could not remember her name], and asked them to identify Hitler’s jawbone in 1945.
In March of 1948, Dr. Rohkamm, another of Blaschke’s former assistants, identified the secretary as Katherine Hausermann, and with this information, the Americans continued searching for the pair. The Americans did not know the location of the named witnesses at this time, and, from their perspective, the witnesses could have still been in Russian hands. Bruck took over Blaschke’s dental office in late 1945, and told the story of the jawbone to Mathews in 1946. The Americans located Dr. Bruck and questioned him on his involvement in Mathews’s story. In his interrogation, Bruck said that Soviets had come to his office and mentioned Blaschke. When he asked them about the reason for their visit they asked Bruck for Hitler’s dental records. Bruck could not furnish these, but took them to the home of Katherine Hausermann who was able to make drawings of the work Blaschke’s office had done. When these were completed, Hausermann said that it was possible that Hitler’s dental records could be found in the Chancellery. The Russians took Hausermann to the Chancellery, but no records were found. Hausermann was detained for a total of forty-eight hours, and after she was returned to her family, Fritz Echtmann was detained for two days also. Bruck also mentioned a Bulgarian dentist who acted as an interpreter throughout this ordeal, and this man was later identified as Dr. Michael Arnaudow, a Bulgarian dentist. Officials contacted Dr. Arnaudow, but had a difficult time convincing him to provide information to the Americans because he feared they were Russian spies sent to trap him and he feared for the safety of his family and himself. He was eventually convinced and confirmed Bruck and Mathews’s story. Arnaudow was given drawings of Hitler’s jawbone that Hausermann and Echtmann made and was then shown a jawbone and asked to confirm whether or not the drawings represented the same person. Arnaudow stated that, based on the drawings the assistant and secretary made, he was able to identify Hitler’s jawbone "with a great degree of certainty but he could not identify Eva Braun’s jawbone with the same degree of certainty". The report recommended Arnaudow’s removal from Berlin and that the Americans offer him a post in the US. It also recommended that once this happened, Arnaudow write a full report on his experience with Hitler’s jawbone and the Russians. Unfortunately, the last paper in the file indicates that in October of 1948, this request was denied and the case was considered closed. No further records of Arnaudow or his family were in the related files, and the full report was never created. This concluded the American efforts to investigate the manner of Hitler’s death in the post war period. The certainty with which the case was closed seems to indicate that not only did the Americans accept Trevor-Roper’s conclusions about Hitler’s suicide, but they also accepted that the new information from the jawbone interrogation was more than enough to confirm Trevor Roper’s narrative.
Moving forward, the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] would be in charge of handling future claims of Hitler’s survival and movement around the globe. Letters began arriving at the FBI beginning immediately after the war, and citizens all over the country insisted that they knew the whereabouts of Hitler. Someone from Mexico wrote asking for money in order to provide information as to Hitler’s whereabouts. Another letter written in 1951 was concerned about the treatment of a Mr. Führ at an area hospital and was convinced that this was Hitler. The writer was also convinced that Hitler had spent the previous winter in South Beach bussing tables in order to learn English. One man was even interviewed in Dayton, Ohio in 1955 saying that he had seen Hitler in Buenos Aires several years earlier. None of these letters were followed up with investigations or reports, and it is unclear exactly how many the FBI received, but there did not seem to be any real sense of urgency in following up with the claims made in them. The FBI did not seem particularly bothered by the claims sent in, despite the fact that a large number of citizens were not convinced that Hitler had died in the Führerbunker. This indicates that Trevor-Roper’s report convinced the government, but did not make that conviction clear to at least a portion of the general public who still wanted answers. The decision not to create an additional report with Dr. Arnaudow further indicates that American intelligence believed Hitler was dead and that additional work on the matter was unnecessary.
There is a report in the FBI files that talks about "The Last Days of Hitler" and what an excellent source it is on Hitler’s death. The British provided this information in 1947 and discusses Hitler’s death with certainty, but acknowledges that no remains were ever found. Perhaps with Dr. Arnaudow’s testimony, the Americans became completely convinced of Trevor-Roper’s explanation of Hitler’s final days. The interrogations of Reitsch and Kempka were absolutely necessary in proving Hitler committed suicide in the Bunker. The investigations that were carried out in later years regarding the rumor of Hitler’s poisoning and the identification of Hitler’s jawbone also added a substantial amount of information to Trevor-Roper’s initial report. The Americans contributed quality information on Hitler’s last days during Trevor-Roper’s investigation in late 1945 rather than a large quantity of information. It is very possible that they trusted the British to complete the investigation on their own and assumed a reactive stance in further instances when Hitler’s death became relevant as with the rumored poisoning and the story about Hitler’s jawbone. The interrogations of captured prisoners of war in the occupied zones began immediately after the war’s end and continued for months. The archival files on these interrogations are surprisingly devoid of information regarding Hitler’s death. This is the first clue that something more pressing was going on behind the scenes.
Research into the subject at College Park, Maryland showed that not only were American intelligence officials between 1945 and 1947 targeting a particular type of prisoner of war, but also they were not asking questions that displayed an interest in Hitler’s death. The records in the National Archives indicate instead that the Americans were already trying to gather information on German foreign policy during the war, foreign labor and how it helped to keep the German war machine running, censorship and the press’s role in the war, and the German standard of living throughout the war. This information would allow the Americans to understand how Hitler controlled the masses and motivated them to keep fighting, even in the face of defeat.
The Russians were also interested in gathering information from the Germans while the British were investigating the circumstances of Hitler’s death. Tensions between the two countries escalated quickly and each made it an immediate priority to begin gathering as much intelligence from German persons of interest as possible. Russian and American instrumentalization of German know-how right after the war led to the internment of the country’s top minds for the purpose of researching the way in which Germany maintained its nation throughout the war. In exchange for valuable information, the future Cold War antagonists were willing to re-employ some of the most active Nazis rather than punish them.
The Russians’ poor reputation among German prisoners aided the Americans in this endeavor. Former civil servants (some party affiliated, some not) who remained in Germany were aware of Russian cruelty and oppression, and many fled to Western Allied lines with the hope of trading knowledge for pardons. The Americans took advantage of the negative public relations to gather as many persons of interest to them as possible in the occupied zones during the second half of 1945. The Americans interrogated seven people on the various German campaigns launched during the Second World War.
Hermann Göring, President of the Reichstag and Reichsmarshal of the Luftwaffe, was the only subject in this group that was not interrogated during September of 1945. His interrogation, instead, took place on 19 and 20 July 1945. USFET intelligence officials in the occupied zones questioned the other six relevant prisoners. RH Brock and Dr. George H. Shuster questioned General Heinz Guderian, a Panzer commander during campaigns in Poland, France and Russia, on the Russian campaign on 7 September 1945.
The lines of questioning were similar throughout each of the interrogations with the focus on planning and logistics. The other prisoners of war who were questioned on the German military and its goals included: Adolf Heusinger, Chief Operations Divisions, German Army General Staff; General Fieldmarshal Albert Kesselring; Walter Warlimont, Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff; Col. Gen. Johannes Blaskowitz, Commander of the 8th Army in Poland, Commander in Chief East 1940, and Commander of the 1st Army in France; and Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring. US intelligence questioned Adolf Heusinger twice on two separate campaigns, and interrogated Hermann Göring on other issues in addition to his testimony on the German campaign in Russia. Göring’s interrogation was important because of his proximity to Hitler and knowledge of military planning strategies. Göring was able to answer many questions for the Americans and provide a glimpse into Nazi party life during the war. The final part of the interrogation probably did not provide much information that the Americans did not already have, but was rather a confirmation of what they had previously suspected.
Göring’s interrogation was the first included in the Historical Interrogation Commission file. The questioning was conducted at Ashcan, "a Top Secret interrogation facility in Luxembourg…where they would be squeezed for information before facing judgment at Nuremberg". Dr. George N. Shuster and Lt. Col. OJ Hale conducted the interrogation. When asked about German relations with the British and whether or not Hitler ever sought a compromise that would avoid conflict between the two, Göring talked about the Sudetenland crisis in 1938 and the subsequent march into Austria. It seemed during this part of the report that the agents were attempting to understand Hitler’s decision-making process and the degree to which he relied on his advisors when making decisions. When asked whether or not Hitler prepared his speeches with the help of his advisors, Göring insisted that the Führer had no aid in writing, but would occasionally ask for data to include. He stated that, "Hitler was pathologically proud of his ability as a public speaker". It appeared as though Göring was asked about Hitler’s speeches in order to determine whether Hitler was the public speaking genius that he appeared to be. Hitler’s speeches effectively mesmerized the masses and the ability to write such speeches was incredibly useful in motivating and mobilizing a nation. Göring spoke of his plan to invade the Mediterranean in order to seal off the region from the British with help from the French, Italians, and Spanish. This plan was never put into action because the French wanted a number of concessions for their cooperation, the Italians did not want the Germans to become the premier power in the Mediterranean, and Spain was drawn into conflict with Vichy France over a difference of opinion. The Italians’ jealousy over the success of Germany’s initial conquests and military prowess resulted in a misguided campaign into Greece. The British intervened and the Germans were forced to send aid to their ally in the south. According to the report, Göring stated that, “Italy’s attack upon Greece was an adventure…It was inspired mainly by considerations of prestige.” The miscommunication between the countries was twofold, as the Germans had not kept the Italians informed about their plans either. This discussion over the Mediterranean and the Balkans seemed to answer logistical questions that would have arisen following the Italians’ puzzling move to invade Greece.
The interrogators went on to ask Göring about German relations with the Russians throughout the war. Göring stated that the root of tensions between the two countries lay in their contradictory beliefs. Russia believed that Europe was merely an extension of Asia while the Germans believed that Germany was the core of Europe and was required for the European Continent’s survival. Göring stated that many native Germans thought positively of the Russians, but this was not enough to ensure a stable relationship between the two military superpowers. According to Göring, Hitler began to fear that the Russians were attempting to gain the upper hand in Europe so that they could eventually overtake the Germans, but Göring never mentioned communism, or race as a factor in the decision to invade Russia. This omission is likely due to Göring’s desire to gain sympathy from his American captors who would not likely tolerate explanations that involved communism or ethnic cleansing.
Hitler became more convinced of the Russian threat as the British refused to surrender during the Battle of Britain. The Führer resolved to take care of Russia, and decided that the German army could accomplish this by the end of 1941. Göring claimed that he attempted to convince Hitler not to implement his plan to invade the Soviet Union, but Hitler still decided to invade anyway. According to Göring, no one would challenge Hitler’s decision based on the French campaign’s recent success. The Führer proposed a three-pronged attack into the heart of Russia, and reinforcements from the Panzer divisions at the outsides of the campaign. This attempt failed, and Hitler blamed the loss on Heinz Guderian, a German Panzer General who, Hitler claimed, did not advance quickly enough in the south. Hitler also blamed the Russian campaign’s loss on heavy rains in the beginning that made it difficult for tanks to maneuver. This section of testimony seemed to indicate that Hitler made the decision to invade Russia despite his advisors’ warnings and then accepted none of the blame when the campaign failed. The final part of Göring’s interview dealt with the German declaration of war on the United States. Göring felt as though the declaration was due to feelings of gratitude toward the Japanese for their role in the Pearl Harbor attacks. He claimed that word of the attack came as a complete surprise to the Germans, but was not an unpleasant one. The Germans also felt as though war with the United States was inevitable, especially after the re-election of President Roosevelt. Göring admitted that Hitler might have acted impulsively based on the available information. The archival documents in the Historical Interrogation Committee file discussed many different topics with former German civil servants.
Göring was interrogated to learn more information about German foreign policy with regard to England, Russia and the Mediterranean, and Hermann Neubacher, Reich Plenipotentiary for the Southeast and Special Economic Envoy in the Balkans, was asked similar questions. Lt. Col. OJ Hale interrogated Neubacher in the United States occupied zone on October 3 and 4 in 1945 about his involvement with and knowledge of German foreign policy in the Balkans. The report gave initial information regarding Neubacher’s personal data and his career accomplishments. The second section focused on German foreign policy with Romania [written "Rumania") and the oil crisis. War had caused the price of oil to rise to three times its normal price, and Romania refused to sell to Germany, leaving Neubacher with an economic problem. He learned that a greater force influencing Romanian policy than a dislike of Germany was a fear of Russia. Neubacher used this knowledge to create an offer that would be acceptable to the Romanians, who severely lacked weapons with which to defend themselves. Neubacher negotiated with the Romanians and arranged the "Oil-Weapons Accord" in May of 1940. In this setup, the Romanians would receive arms from the Germans, and ship oil in return. This arrangement continued throughout the war until the Americans destroyed the Romanian refineries and oil fields, and transportation became impossible. Neubacher talked briefly about the economic situation in Greece and said that he was primarily concerned with the shortage of available food and the inflation of Greek currency.
Neubacher went on to discuss the alliance with Italy and its implications for the Mediterranean world. Germany made large concessions in order to bring the Italians on board including: 1. The destruction of Yugoslavia 2. The founding of an independent Croatia under Italian influence 3. The surrender of Montenegro and the Sanjak to Italy 4. Italian control of Albania 5. The declaration of an Italian economic sphere in Greece Neubacher went on to say that this policy was disastrous for the German campaign in the Mediterranean. It incited Serbian, Albanian, and Greek hostility towards the Germans and left Germany with an incompetent and mindful appendage in the south that contributed little to the war effort. The Italian decline and subsequent surrender to the Allies left a nightmarish situation for the Germans in the Balkans. All relationships had been severed and the Germans were facing opposition from many of the occupied countries. Neubacher claimed that he created a program that was designed to retrain German troops to deal with Serbian nationalism and slowly win the Serbs back over to the German side. “The central feature of the source’s plan was the shifting of the axis of German policy from the Croats to the Serbs by satisfying the aspirations of Serb nationalists and enlisting them wholeheartedly in, ‘the struggle against Bolshevism’.” He also wanted to reunify Serbia, Montenegro, and the Sanjak in order to gain favor with the Serbians, but Hitler denied this request. Neubacher’s report ends with his criticism of German Croat policy, and the assertion that Serbian nationalism could have been a valuable tool for the Germans. He remarked, “Tito will never uproot Serb nationalism; the Serbian peasants will never be communist.” Neubacher’s interrogation was different from Göring’s in that Neubacher was not a fanatic party member [according to the interrogators’ observations] and he was more concerned with economics and foreign policy rather than attack plans. The Americans were able to gain information from Neubacher that helped them understand how occupied zones were administered.
The Americans had a similar discussion with Werner von Bargen, Plenipotentiary of the Northern Office in France and Belgium. Lt. Col. OJ Hale interrogated von Bargen on 13 August 1945. The report states that von Bargen was only a member of the party in order to keep his job, and expressed disgust at the Führer and the Nazi Party in general. He was asked questions about the political situation in Belgium during the occupation and about the German term “New Order” that encompassed future plans for Europe. Von Bargen also discussed the Belgians in racial terms saying, “in their [Himmler and Hitler’s] opinion the Flemings were Germanic and they even discovered through the researches of an SS historian that the Walloons were also racially Germanic, although unfortunately they had acquired a Romance tongue.” It is possible that von Bargen brought this point up in an attempt to demonstrate tolerance on his part, but the Americans do not comment on the statement. The Americans continued asking the same types of questions of all prisoners of war with a background in foreign policy. These subjects included: Edmund Veesenmayer, German Minister Plenipotentiary of Hungary; Kurt von Kamphövener, Vortragender Legationsrat in the Foreign Service; General Ernst Kostring, Military Attaché in Moscow; and Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reich Commissioner for the Occupied Netherlands. The reports give the impression that the captors were not hostile toward the majority of their subjects. There are several possible explanations for this including excellent behavior on the part of the prisoners in order to gain favor from their captors and the American and German shared hatred of the Russians. The focus on German foreign policy was a large part of the early prisoner of war interrogations and bolsters the claim that the Americans were highly interested in German intelligence. Knowledge of German foreign policy could be useful in the future for preventing another world war, but it was not the Americans’ only area of concentration.
The second major theme throughout the interrogations in the Historical Interrogation Commission file was a focus on the actions of members of the German press throughout the war. Six of the forty-three interrogations were directly focused on the role the press played both on the home front as well as in the occupied countries and the control that the government exercised over the media. Five of the interviews took place in late August within ten days of each other, but one outlier was not completed until late September. The most substantial report on the matter was Max Amann’s, the Reich Leader of the Press and President of the Reich Press Chamber. Hale interrogated Amann on 22 August 1945, and stated in his report that he had mixed feelings on the naiveté and Nazi involvement of his subject. Amann renounced Nazi ideology and harbored no positive feelings toward Hitler, but was responsible for many of the major initiatives that the Nazi Party’s major publishing house, Franz Eher Verlag, carried out. The interrogators were interested in the organizational structure of the national press and the level to which Hitler dictated the publications. Amann responded that there were originally newspapers for each Gauleiter [regional Party leaders], but "Hitler saw the danger of individual Gauleiters and other party leaders owning and directing their own papers".
The Führer also thought of the press as a mouthpiece for the government and did not believe that there should be any privately owned press companies. The Nazi Party had oppressive control over German newspapers, and maintained this monopoly throughout the war’s trials including bombings and shortages in material. These questions were indicative of those posed to the other five men who were interviewed on the subject of the Nazi press monopoly including: Rolf Hoffman, Chief of the Foreign Press Department of the NSDAP; Eugen Maier, Head of the Munich office of the Reich Press Chief; Dr. Paul Schmidt, Chief of the Press Section in the German Foreign Office; Wilhelm Weiss, Editor in Chief of the "Völkischer Beobachter" and Head of the Reich Association of the German Press; and Franz Rudolf, the Deputy Chief of the Foreign Department of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. The Americans were able to gather a significant amount of information on the way in which the German government manipulated the masses through the use of political propaganda. The use of the press allowed the Party to control the public and portray losses as victories and crises as strategic setbacks. This fascination with the German press and control of the media appeared in multiple interrogations that the Americans completed. It is possible that the information would inform future wartime decisions about the dissemination of information and the press’ role during conflicts in the United States. It is also possible that this information was seen as vital in ensuring that Germany could not start another world war. The Americans gathered this information in addition to intelligence on German foreign policy and reports on the German campaigns into Russia, Poland, France, Belgium, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.
The remaining interrogations in the Historical Interrogation Committee file discussed local administration and civil service programs such as firefighting and the standard of living in Germany during the war. The firefighting reports were very specific to the Berlin firehouses, and indicated an interest in learning about how German public servants combatted the destruction caused by the various bombing campaigns that wreaked havoc on Berlin. The press’s role wartime affairs and the planning and implantation of plans to invade various European countries were the Americans’ primary concerns.
Other topics were discussed during these interrogations, usually specific to the position of the person who was being interrogated, but the two main subjects were clear when reading through the majority of the reports. The information that was reported from these interrogations was important enough to consume the Americans’ time while their British counterparts were searching for answers as to what happened in Hitler’s Bunker. The information in the Historical Interrogation Committee file is not as conventionally intriguing or controversial as the information that 'Operation Paperclip' would become famous for, but the reports clearly indicate that the Americans were trying to understand the Nazi hierarchy and also to understand the reasoning behind some of the questionable decisions that the Germans made in the course of the war. These reports formed a study of the German way of war and lent valuable insight into the ways that Adolf Hitler manipulated his countrymen to wage a war on the European mainland. This intelligence, gathered in 1945-47, could have helped the Americans understand what allowed the Germans to become active players in two World Wars and bar them from involvement in a third.
Hitler wreaked havoc on the European continent for several years, and nearly defeated the British on their home front. The Battle of Berlin was devastating for the civilian population, and there was rampant concern over the possibility that the man responsible was still alive when the war was finally over. Hugh Trevor-Roper was chosen to investigate the circumstances surrounding Hitler’s death, and completed the investigation with the help of American and Canadian intelligence officials. The Americans did not provide a large number of valuable interrogations to the British on Hitler’s death, but they were responsible for several high-quality reports that Trevor-Roper used in his report and subsequent publication of "The Last Days of Hitler". The Americans turned their reports over immediately to the British, which in turn allowed the Americans to pursue more pressing concerns. The files in the National Archives at College Park Maryland indicated that the Americans were extremely busy during the period in which Trevor-Roper was conducting his investigation, but they were not focusing on Adolf Hitler. Their work into Hitler’s death was primarily reactive. This investigation ended abruptly after the key witnesses were found, and American intelligence considered the issue closed. The Americans responded to reports that Hitler was poisoned by his physician in a similar manner, and worked quickly to find the truth.
The Americans conducted forty-three interrogations in the immediate months after Hitler’s death, and the topics ranged from the German press’s censorship to questions about the various campaigns that the German army undertook. This information created a logistical and administrative case study into the way the Germany conducted the Second World War. It also provided insight into the various Nazi decisions that the Allied forces considered questionable. There was no clear link between the two groups of interrogations although there were similarities including the fact that the prisoners were held and questioned in the occupied zones on matters of high priority to the Americans. The interrogations reveal a great interest among American interrogators in understanding and coping with the destruction that the Second World War caused, as well as the desire to make sure that the Germans never launched another world war again. The interrogations helped to illuminate the way that Hitler mobilized his nation and motivated them even when the odds were against Germany. Looking back on the war helped America understand the Nazi war machine and move forward with an understanding of Germany’s shortcomings that led to their ultimate defeat. The Americans were not concerned with Hitler’s death both because they trusted the British, and they were possibly already looking toward a reconfigured political map of the world divided between two hostile major powers, given the rising tensions with Stalin’s Russia.
.Deep, contextualized knowledge of how Germany had fought its war gave them an advantage technologically and historically in the reconfigured world of international relations that they faced.
When President Truman asked Josef Stalin at the Potsdam conference in 1945 whether or not Hitler was dead, Stalin replied bluntly, 'No.'
Former Secretary of State Jimmy Byrnes in his book "Frankly Speaking" [as quoted in the April 1948 "The Cross and The Flag"]: "While in Potsdam at the Conference of the Big Four, Stalin left his chair, came over and clinked his liquor glass with mine in a very friendly manner. I said to him: 'Marshal Stalin, what is your theory about the death of Hitler?' Stalin replied: "He is not dead. He escaped either to Spain or Argentina'.'
Stalin's top army officer, Marshall Gregory Zhukov, whose troops were the ones to occupy Berlin, flatly stated after a long thorough investigation in 1945: "We have found no corpse that could be Hitler's"."
In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower said: "We have been unable to unearth one bit of tangible evidence of Hitler's death. Many people believe that Hitler escaped from Berlin".
The chief of the U.S. trial counsel at Nuremberg, Thomas J. Dodd, said: "No one can say he is dead".
Major General Floyd Parks, who was commanding general of the U.S. sector in Berlin, stated for publication that he had been present when Marshall Zhukov described his entrance to Berlin, and Zhukov stated he believed Hitler might have escaped.
Lt. Gen. Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff to Gen. Eisenhower in the European invasion and later Director of the CIA, stated publicly on 12 October 1945, "No human being can say conclusively that Hitler is dead."
Col. W.J. Heimlich, former Chief, United States Intelligence, at Berlin, stated for publication that he was in charge of determining what had happened to Hitler and after a thorough investigation his report was: "There was no evidence beyond that of HEARSAY to support the THEORY of Hitler's suicide." He also stated, "On the basis of present evidence, no insurance company in America would pay a claim on Adolf Hitler."
Nuremberg judge Michael Mussmanno said in his book "Ten Days to Die", "Russia must accept much of the blame [to the extent that it still exists] that Hitler did not die in May 1945". However, Mussmanno stated that he interviewed Hitler's personal waiter, his valet, his chauffeur, his two secretaries, pilots, top generals, etc., and they all "agreed" perfectly that Hitler committed suicide. He said they could not have gotten together afterward and made up a story that agreed in perfect detail without one flaw anywhere, so they must be telling the truth and he was absolutely convinced that Hitler committed suicide.
The story at first sounds convincing, until you realized that they could have memorized a story BEFOREHAND and these were all people who almost WORSHIPPED Hitler.
Do witnesses EVER agree "perfectly" in detail in real life?
Judge Michael Musmanno in 1948 interviewed Hitler staff members who shared the Bunker with the Führer as the Red Army closed in, to get first-hand accounts of Hitler’s suicide on 30 April 1945.
In 1948, he used the transcripts as the basis of a front page, first-person series he wrote for "The Pittsburgh Press", complete with a diagram of the Bunker, the first detailed accounting of Hitler’s demise.
He followed that up two years later with his best-seller, “Ten Days to Die,” which later became a movie. And parts of his films also appeared in a German production two years ago called “Witnesses of Doom.”
Speculation that Hitler had not killed himself in the Bunker began almost immediately in April 1945, fueled in part by Josef Stalin, who suggested that Hitler had escaped to Spain or Argentina even though his own troops had reportedly found and secured Hitler’s jawbone.
Musmanno was determined to end any speculation. He knew the danger of this sort of mythology that Hitler survived.
The mythology continues to this day. The "History Channel", for example, just last week premiered an eight-episode series called “Hunting Hitler,” relying in part on declassified FBI documents indicating the bureau investigated reports that Hitler faked his death and fled by U-Boat to South America.
The possibility intrigues World War II conspiracy buffs in part because some top Nazis did escape, most notably Adolf Eichmann, the main architect of Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews, who was captured by Israeli agents in Argentina in 1960.
But most responsible historians reject the idea, as did Musmanno.
In World War II, Musmanno joined the Navy’s Judge Advocate Corps and served as a naval aide to Gen. Mark Clark during the invasion of Italy. He was twice wounded in action, once by bomb fragments during the battle of Cassino, and later served as military governor of the Sorrentine Peninsula. At Nuremberg he presided over what he called the largest murder case in history — the trial of 23 members of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile SS killing units accused of slaughtering more than a million people in occupied eastern Europe. He ended up sentencing 14 of them to hang despite his opposition to the death penalty.
In his spare time, he led the investigation into determining what happened to Hitler. In a first-person Press account in 1968, he said he’d been in Italy when the war ended and noticed that the German generals “seemed almost gay” because they thought Hitler was still alive and would reassemble his forces to win the war. He said he informed his Navy superiors and they suggested he investigate the events in that Berlin Bunker.
He set out on a three-year mission, he said, traveling across Germany and interviewing 200 witnesses.
He brought it all home with him after the war in big trunks. The judge was the type to keep everything, and for decades he maintained his collection of personal items in his Downtown court chambers.
The archive contains all of his correspondence — at one point he had three secretaries to take dictation - as well as his combat helmet, campaign posters, plaques, his old desk and chair, his cases, original Nuremberg trial transcripts, his books and even a screenplay about Hitler’s last days that he tried to sell to Alfred Hitchcock.
The reel-to-reel 8mm films sat among the items, untouched for decades, until Duquesne had them transferred to DVDs in 2007 for a German production by "Der Spiegel TV", which finally aired in 2013.
The story is told
In all of them, Musmanno sits stiffly in his Navy whites while his subjects answer his questions. The interviews are somewhat stilted because he had asked them to re-record earlier conversations. Some spoke English, but others needed a translator.
Among the witnesses was Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge, who was once in charge of receiving all the love letters women wrote to Hitler and in the Bunker took down his will as he dictated. She said Hitler was determined to avoid the fate of fellow dictator Benito Mussolini, shot on 28 April, his body strung up and abused by an Italian mob the following day.
“This unnerved him more than anything else,” Junge tells Musmanno. “He had a great fear that if captured dead or alive his body would be exposed to ridicule and degradation.”
Ilse Braun, sister of Hitler’s long-time girlfriend Eva Braun, describes to the judge Hitler’s appearance as the end neared: “His face was gray as ashes. His hands were in a constant state of agitation. He was bent over like an old man. It seemed to me he didn’t have the energy to live much longer.”
Heinz Lorenz, Hitler’s press attache, says that Hitler had ordered his armies to stop the Russian advance. Told they could not, Lorenz says, "He collapsed and said 'It’s all over' and 'I’ll shoot myself'.
Major Baron Freytag von Löringhoven, Hitler’s Army adjutant and an anti-Nazi, felt Hitler had lost his sanity.
"The Bunker became a mortuary and the people in it, living corpses," he tells Musmanno. "No one dared to mention defeat to Hitler. To do so, one could lose one’s life".
In fact, one did. After learning on 28 April that Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, was trying to negotiate peace behind his back, Hitler had Himmler’s SS representative in the Bunker shot. The man was Eva Braun’s brother-in-law, but he ignored her pleas for his life. An hour after the execution, he married Braun in a macabre ceremony.
As the Red Army moved closer, Hitler’s world had shrunk to 16 gloomy rooms with walls 12 feet thick buried 30 feet beneath the Reich Chancellery. About 20 people were in the Bunker, all preparing for death or a desperate escape.
The witnesses paint a picture for Musmanno ripe with details: Hitler doing "a little dance" when he learns of Roosevelt’s death on 12 April; his irrational hope that the German 12th Army, then fighting on the Elbe River, would come to his rescue; Magda Göbbels begging him to fight on and then poisoning her six children because she didn’t want them to grow up in a world without National Socialism; Hitler sitting with his pistol and staring at a portrait of Frederick the Great as he contemplates his suicide; testing his cyanide capsules on his beloved German shepherd, Blondi; sharing his last meal, spaghetti and cabbage with raisin salad, with Junge and Eva Braun.
When the hour came for Hitler to kill himself, he shook everyone’s hand. Traudl Junge was the last to hold his hand.
"He looked at me but I don’t think he saw me," she tells Musmannno. "I don’t think he saw anybody".
He and Eva Braun, wearing Hitler’s favorite dress, her nails freshly painted, retired to their room. Everyone heard a gunshot. Artur Axmann, head of the Hitler Youth, and Josef Göbbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, ran to the room.
"We found Eva Braun sitting on the sofa, her head resting on Hitler’s left shoulder," he says. "She wore a black chiffon dress. She was dead but she had no marks of violence on her body. She died of poison".
Hitler had shot himself in the mouth.
“The blast of the pistol had ruptured the veins on either side of his head,” Axmann says. "The sofa was stained with blood and the pistol lay at his feet".
As Russian artillery boomed, the bodies were carried outside to the Chancellery garden, placed in a shell hole, drenched in gasoline and set afire with a flaming rag.
Guard Hermann Karnau, who gave Musmanno a special commemorative plate inlaid with the German eagle, recounted how he watched the bodies burn over several hours as he stood watch.
“I touched the burning remains with my feet, and they fell apart,” he says. “I lifted my arm in salute".
At the end of all his interviews, Musmanno looks into the camera and delivers his assessment with the kind of over-the-top pronouncement that marked all of his writings and speeches:
“There can be no doubt that Adolf Hitler — the Führer of Germany, the master criminal of the world, the greatest gangster who ever disgraced the human race — is dead!"
Even so, Hitler was not officially declared dead until 1956.
Many of those Musmanno spoke to went on to give other interviews, write books or be consultants on various films through the years. But his interviews were the first accounting of Hitler’s final hours, recorded while Germany still lay in ruin and memories were fresh.
In 1961, he was asked to be a prosecution witness in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. He traveled to Israel and testified. It was Musmanno’s direct knowledge of the Einsatzgruppen, which ultimately reported to Eichmann, that made him an important witness.
Eichmann was hanged in 1962.
Other Nazis have also been dragged out of hiding through the years and prosecuted, but Musmanno never wavered in his belief that their leader had died in 1945.
Seventy years after the war, obsession with Hitler lives on. There are hundreds of books about him, including several new ones this year.
-- Excerpts from Torsten Ove / "Piittsburgh Post-Gazette", 15 November 2015
In the September, 1948, issue of a magazine called "The Plain Truth" the headline articleis: "IS HITLER ALIVE, OR DEAD?," subtitled: "Here is summarized the conclusions of an exhaustive three-year investigation -- together with reasons for believing Hitler may be alive and secretly planning the biggest hoax of all history."
Another article in November, 1949, says "The Nazis went underground, 16 May 1943!" and details a meeting at the residence of Krupp von Bohlen-Halbach, the head of I.G. FARBEN, etc., at which they planned "FOR WORLD WAR III."
Another article in August, 1952, entitled "HITLER DID NOT DIE," subtitled "Adolf Hitler's fake suicide in his Berlin Bunker now is exposed as History's greatest hoax! Positive evidence comes to light that Hitler did not die -- here's new evidence that Hitler is alive, directing [the] Nazi underground, today!"
The June, 1952, issue of "The Plain Truth" is headlined: "HITLER 'May Be Alive!'" The article states: "Now, NEW FACTS, or purported facts, leak out. It's reported now that in 1940 the Nazis started to amass tractors, planes, sledges, gliders, and all sorts of machinery and materials IN THE SOUTH POLAR REGIONS -- that for the next 4 years Nazi technicians built, on an almost unknown CONTINENT, Antarctica, the Führer's SHANGRILA -- a new Berchtesgaden." The report says they scooped out an entire mountain, built a new refuge completely camouflaged -- a magic mountain hide-a-way. The recently discovered continent is larger than Europe -- 5,600 miles from Africa, 1,900 miles from the southern tip of South America, 4,800 miles from Australia.
Antarctica is NOT a mere ice-covered surface, but a real continent, with plains, valleys, mountain peaks up to 15,000 feet. The temperature in the interior is around zero in the summer, and never drops below 20 or 30 degrees below in the winter. In other words, it is not as cold as in parts of North Dakota or Canada [especially underground, where the natural temperature would be in the 50's, even below snow and ice]. "Bonjour" magazine, the "Police Gazette," and the Paris newspaper "Le Monde" all had articles about Hitler's South Pole hideaway. Admiral Dönitz, in 1943, stated, "The German submarine fleet has even now established an earthly paradise, an impregnable fortress, for the Führer, in whatever part of the world." Although he did not specify where the exact location was, "Bonjour" pointed out that in 1940 Nazi engineers had begun construction of buildings that were to withstand temperatures to 60 degrees below zero. There have been strong rumors, from the end of the War, that Hitler escaped to the South Pole. Yet, most people simply REFUSE to believe the evidence, the idea that Hitler survived the war is just unacceptable! It is too upsetting to too many people! There is plenty of PROOF that the Americans and Russians LIED about what happened to Hitler, and there are strong rumors that he escaped to Antarctica. There is ample proof that a major group of Nazis escaped to Argentina. Why did Admiral Byrd lead an "invasion to Antarctica," and why the extreme secrecy about the whole situation?
In 1981, Donald McKale wrote "Hitler: The Survival Myth" to try to lay to rest the questions about what happened to Hitler. The flyleaf says: "In this book a distinguished historian examines the postwar world's most absorbing and persistent mystery, revealing why it has endured and where the mystery leads". The back flyleaf says "Absolute certainty about what happened still eludes us today".
Just recently on TV there are STILL programs telling "at last, the final, once and for all, this is the real story" about what happened to Hitler, yet they all do not really answer the question. A recent TV program, called "What Really Happened to Adolf Hitler," after investigating numerous stories, ends by saying that, in spite of Glasnost and the new freedom of access to Russian files, the files on Hitler are still some of the most highly classified items of the Soviets.
Unlike other German jet planes of that time, the Arado 234 could
land on difficult landing strips or on natural fields due to its oversized landing gear. Its take-off was also very short if it carried no bombs, which according to the standard version was around 500 to 1000 kg. It had a big pilot cabin and a comfortable space behind the cargo compartment.
A perfect plane to escape in from an extreme situation, this tactical bomber both B and C model had an autonomy of 1650/1400 km and flew at 10,000/11,000 Mts. which made it invulnerable together with its cruising speed of 700/800 km/h. These features were superior
to the ones the Allied planes of that time had and similar to the
ones of modern executive jets.
The "Diario Illustrado" of Santiago, Chile, 18 January 1948 issue, said:
"On 30 April 1945 Berlin was in dissolution but little of that dissolution was evident at Tempelhof Airfield. At 4:15 p.m. a Ju52 landed and S.S. troops directly from Rechlin for the defense of Berlin disembarked, all of them young, not older than 18 years.
"The gunner in the particular plane was an engineer by the name of B... whom I had known for a number of years and for whom I had endeavored to get exemption from military service. He sought to tank up and leave Berlin as quickly as possible. During this re-fueling interval Mr. B... was suddenly elbowed in the ribs by his radio operator with a nod to look in a certain direction.
"At about 100-120 meters he saw a sleek Messerschmitt Jet Model 332 [an editorial comment says this should be an Arado 234]. Mr. B. and the radio operator saw, and WITHOUT ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER, standing in front of the jet, their Commander in Chief, Adolf Hitler, dressed in field-grey uniform and gesticulating animatedly with some Party functionaries, who were obviously seeing him off.
"For about ten minutes whilst their plane was being refueled the two men observed this scene and around 4:30 p.m. they took to the air again. They were extremely astonished to hear during the midnight military news bulletin, some seven and a half hours later, that Hitler had committed suicide."
On a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program called "As It Happens," 17 September 1974 at 7:15 p.m., a Prof. Dr. Ryder Saguenay, oral surgeon from the Dental Faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles, said that Hitler had ordered a special plane to leave from Berlin with all medical and dental records, especially X-rays, of all top Nazis for an unknown destination. He said that the dental records used to identify Hitler's body were drawn from MEMORY by a dental assistant, who disappeared and was never found.
An editorial in "Zig Zag," Santiago, Chile, 16 January 1948, states that on 30 April 1945, Flight Captain Peter Baumgart took Adolf Hitler, his wife Eva Braun, as well as a few loyal friends by plane from Tempelhof Airport to Tondern in Denmark [still German controlled]. From Tondern, they took another plane to Kristiansund in Norway [also German controlled]. From there they joined a Submarine convoy.
The Jewish writer Michael Bar-Zohar in "The Avengers," said: " In 1943 Admiral Dönitz had declared: 'The German U-boat fleet is proud to have made an earthly paradise, an impregnable fortress for the Führer, somewhere in the world.' He did not say in what part of the world it existed, but fairly obviously it was in South America".
The German writer Mattern said that Admiral Dönitz told a graduating class of naval cadets in Kiel in 1944: "The German Navy has still a great role to play in the future. The German Navy knows all hiding places for the Navy to take the Führer to, should the need arise. There he can prepare his last measures in complete quiet".
The Death of Adolf Hitler: British Intelligence, Soviet Accusations and Rumours of Survival
16 April 2015
Finding The Gaps: The Story So Far
On 30 April 1945, as the Red Army battled the last remaining fanatical resistance of Nazi Germany in the streets of Berlin and the Second World War in Europe was drawing to a close, Adolf Hitler retired to his private quarters in the Führerbunker one last time. What happened in that room continues to be a source of mystery, controversy and debate seventy years later. A historical consensus is yet to be reached regarding how Hitler died. Many publications have sought to solve the mystery. Contradictory theories as to whether Hitler committed suicide by shooting and/or poisoning, was murdered or if he escaped have produced a somewhat confusing array of explanations. Historians such as Hugh Trevor-Roper have attributed the reason for such confusion to Soviet conduct. 1 Having captured Hitler’s Bunker in May 1945, the Soviets were in the best position to produce evidence of Hitler’s death. 2 Instead, Soviet officials embarked on a campaign of misinformation, claiming in May 1945 to have identified Hitler’s body with near certainty, then later asserting that he escaped to Argentina, or was hiding under British protection in Germany. 3 Theories of Hitler’s escape have gained increasing popularity since 2009 when DNA tests revealed that a piece of skull thought to be Hitler’s in a Moscow archive belonged to a woman. 4 In this climate of historical uncertainty, one must analyse the existing historiography in order to demonstrate how such theories have developed and outline the gaps in historical knowledge, some of which will be filled in this dissertation by a return to primary sources. As will be demonstrated, few historians have analysed British documents relating to Hitler’s death, thereby overlooking evidence that could bring further clarity to this important historical issue.
In 1947, Trevor-Roper published "The Last Days of Hitler". Using evidence collected during his time leading the British investigations into Hitler’s death, Trevor-Roper concluded that Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide in the Führerbunker on 30 April 1945; Hitler by shooting and Eva by poisoning, their bodies were burned in the Reichschancellery garden, the final location of their corpses was unknown. 5 The evidence analysed by Trevor-Roper is mainly eyewitness testimony [the limitations of which he acknowledges] combined with documentary evidence such as Hitler’s last will and testament. 6 In later editions, Trevor-Roper describes his frustration with the Soviets for denying him access to prisoners of war and other evidence. 7 Following the release of important eyewitnesses from Soviet prisons in the 1950s, Trevor-Roper updated his book to include new testimonies, which, he argues, agreed with his initial conclusions. 8 Also in 1947, Lieutenant-Colonel W. Byford-Jones published his perspective on the Hitler investigations. 9 Byford-Jones had a limited involvement in the British investigations and withheld information due to contemporary intelligence restrictions. 10 Nevertheless, the book is useful in demonstrating the differing opinions of some individuals regarding the evidence obtained by British intelligence [Byford-Jones in contradiction to Trevor-Roper questions the authenticity of Hitler’s marriage certificate] and the early Cold War tensions in Berlin which coincided with the British investigations. 11
Trevor-Roper’s book was immediately criticized by the former Chief American intelligence officer in Berlin, W.F. Heimlich, who concluded using eyewitness testimony that Hitler was murdered by his doctors on the orders of Himmler. 12 He argues that Trevor-Roper ignored crucial evidence, rushed the investigation, led a one man show and conveyed preconceived conclusions. 13 Heimlich’s arguments have been dismissed by historians as a matter of wounded pride [as his references to Trevor-Roper’s lack of consultation with American colleagues suggest]. 14 Nevertheless, the impression of a one man show is somewhat valid as other aspects of the British investigations not involving Trevor-Roper have been overlooked by most historians. The theory that Trevor-Roper arrived at preconceived conclusions is furthered by authors such as Peter Levenda, who claims that Trevor-Roper was appointed to lead the Hitler investigations by Dick White [future head of MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service)] because as a historian he would be able to manipulate evidence to counteract Soviet claims of Hitler’s survival thereby overlooking evidence indicating Hitler’s escape. 15 However, historians have not yet analysed recently declassified MI5 [Security Service] files containing correspondence between White and Trevor-Roper concerning the purpose of Trevor Roper’s book. This will shed more light on whether political considerations overshadowed the need to establish the truth about Hitler’s death.
Certain questions raised by early accounts of Hitler’s death could not be answered as Moscow maintained an official silence on the issue. 16 The Soviets released evidence only gradually. In 1965 a member of SMERSH [Soviet Counter-Intelligence agency] cast doubt on Trevor-Roper’s conclusions by claiming that a Soviet autopsy on Hitler’s body showed Hitler died from cyanide poisoning. 17 In 1968, Lev Bezymenski published documents from the Soviet investigations including an official autopsy report on what was claimed to be the corpses of Hitler and Eva. 18 The autopsy concluded that Hitler died from cyanide poisoning. 19 This enabled Reidar Sognnaes to compare the autopsy with evidence from American archives, such as reports from Hitler’s doctors and dentists which, Sognnaes claims, prove that the body analysed in the autopsy was Hitler. 20 Some western authors such as James O’Donnell acknowledged the findings of the autopsy and combined eyewitness testimony to conclude that Hitler simultaneously took cyanide and shot himself. 21 This theory has been challenged by Anton Joachimsthaler who argues that this would be virtually impossible due to the instantaneous death administered by cyanide. 22 The autopsy has been criticized by scientists and historians for various scientific oddities and inconsistencies. 23 Consequently, historians such as Joachim Fest and Joachimsthaler argue that Hitler’s body was never found and the autopsy was fabricated Soviet propaganda. 24 Donald McKale argues that the method of Hitler’s suicide became a political issue as Soviet officials were concerned that stating Hitler shot himself [a soldier’s death] would encourage Neo-Nazism and thus insisted that Hitler poisoned himself, ignoring evidence that indicated the possibility of shooting. 25 On the other hand, McKale accuses western historians of arrogantly dismissing the autopsy results and by insisting Hitler shot himself, defending him in death as an anti-Communist crusader. 26 McKale concluded that such ideological squabbles would continue to cloud the issue. 27 However, as the Cold War ended, new forensic evidence came to light. In the 1990s, Glasnost enabled Ada Petrova and Peter Watson to analyse Moscow’s files on Hitler’s death. 28 The files included what was claimed to be a piece of Hitler’s skull damaged by a bullet hole. 29 Many Soviet documents were published verbatim in "Hitler’s Death", which claimed, like Petrova and Watson, that the skull provided the definitive conclusion to the mystery. 30 The documents state that Hitler and Eva’s bodies were captured by the Soviets, two investigations into Hitler’s death were completed in which Hitler’s teeth were positively identified by his dentists, his cause of death determined by autopsy, the results given to Stalin, the bodies destroyed in 1970 and a piece of Hitler’s skull and his jaws archived in Moscow. 31
Authors such as Hugh Thomas remained sceptical. Thomas claimed through detailed forensic analysis of the Soviet evidence that forensic fraud was committed to disguise the fact that Hitler was murdered and Eva escaped. 32 Aside from extremely dubious conclusions which lack supporting evidence, Thomas’s book, like most since Soviet evidence became available, fails to refer to any British primary source documents. 33 Thomas himself admits "the part played by British Intelligence…has never properly been acknowledged". 34
The new evidence from Russia provided the impetus for a large variety of publications concerning Hitler’s death. This included various memoirs of eyewitnesses from the Bunker, each providing different perspectives on Hitler’s last days. 35 The numerous discrepancies amongst eyewitnesses have been analysed in detail by many historians. 36 For example, Trevor-Roper’s reliance on the testimony of Erich Kempka, who admitted to O’Donnell in 1974 that he told his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear in 1945 to save his own skin, has been heavily criticised. 37 Fest concluded that the method of Hitler’s suicide will never be discovered due to the many eyewitness discrepancies. 38 O’Donnell criticises Allied interrogators for lacking objectivity and asking the wrong questions. 39 However, little research has been conducted into how British intelligence selected eyewitness testimonies and determined the reliable from the fictitious. Fest’s book inspired the 2005 film "Downfall" which has received widespread acclaim from historians for its attention to detail. 40 However, the film has been criticised for failing to show how Hitler committed suicide. 41 This omission perhaps reflects Fest’s argument that Hitler’s method of suicide remains unknown. The revived interest in Hitler’s last days also saw the publication of more wide-ranging studies. Historians such as Luke Bennet noted how the narrative of Hitler’s death has become ingrained in popular culture symbolically and metaphorically with phrases such as "Bunker Mentality" being frequently used in recent political discourse. 42 Other historians such as David Beisel focused on the mass German suicide of 1945 and demonstrated that Hitler’s suicide was neither unique nor inconsistent with his character as some authors and eyewitnesses claimed. 43 Such accounts supported Trevor Roper’s theories on the inherent nihilism in Nazi ideology which arguably stemmed directly from Hitler’s suicidal tendencies. 44 Combined with analysis of Hitler’s medical condition in April 1945, they undermined theories of Hitler’s escape by supporting Trevor-Roper’s argument that Hitler was physically and psychologically unable to escape from the Bunker. 45 However, as numerous scientists argued in 2005, only DNA analysis of the remains thought to be Hitler’s could completely solve the issue. 46
Due to the extensive literature about Hitler’s death, numerous historical inaccuracies have been perpetuated by historians reproducing the mistakes in other publications. 47 Joachimsthaler sought to rectify these historical untruths. Through analysis of international documents and eyewitness testimonies he concluded that Hitler shot himself in the right temple. 48 However, he analyses no British primary source documents. 49 Consequently, he presented an incomplete account with some possible untruths of its own. Joachimsthaler’s analysis of a British perspective extends only to Trevor Roper’s investigations. 50 Nevertheless, Joachimsthaler’s methodology demonstrated that when a historical issue is clouded by a mass of literature disseminating inaccuracies, it is essential to return to primary sources in order to regain perspective on official conclusions. This methodology is useful when new evidence emerges that confuses the issue further such as the 2009 DNA results which inspired a series of publications claiming that Hitler escaped the Bunker. In "Hitler, The Survival Myth", McKale shows how many survival rumours which are popular today, such as Hitler escaping to Argentina leaving a double to be burnt in Berlin, have been repeatedly published in newspapers since 1945. 51 McKale does not blame such rumours solely on Soviet conduct but argues that Western journalists through widespread publication of survival rumours and statements by officials such as Eisenhower that Hitler could be alive, aided their dissemination. 52 However, through detailed analysis of Soviet Cold War foreign policy, McKale, like many historians, argues that Stalin’s political aims provided the main impetus for such rumours. 53 Methodologically, McKale focuses primarily on newspaper analysis. Whilst this has advantages, such as the ability to demonstrate how various "Hitler Waves" consisting of widespread media coverage about Hitler occur when new evidence emerges, newspaper analysis can only provide a limited perspective.5 4 For example, although McKale refers to public opinion by assessing opinion polls, his analysis of the views of government officials is minimal and derives mainly from memoirs and other published works. 55 This represents a crucial gap in perspective as only by analysing the opinions of officials in classified documents can the true effect and substance of survival rumours be assessed. Analysing such documents is arguably necessary to disprove the new "Hitler Wave" of conspiratorial publications produced by the 2009 DNA results.
The historical debate regarding Hitler’s death since 2009 has been dominated by conspiracy theories. The most popular theory is provided in "Grey Wolf", which received considerable media coverage. 56 Like similar theories, the book emphasises the 2009 DNA results, statements made by Soviet and American officials that Hitler had escaped, and criticises historians for using unreliable eyewitness testimonies. 57 It argues that Hitler fled to Argentina in 1945. 58 Although the authors analyse many Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] documents concerning the possibility of Hitler’s escape, they fail to analyse any British War Office documents relating to Hitler’s death and consequently overlook documents that arguably disprove their theory. 59 Academic historians such as Richard J. Evans have dismissed such theories but have failed to acknowledge or reassess the evidence surrounding Hitler’s death in light of the recent DNA results. 60 The failure of academic historians to engage sufficiently in such debates has arguably fuelled the increase of conspiracy theories. Indeed, similar theories have recently been published such as "Hitler in Argentina", which claims to provide "solid proof" of Hitler’s escape. 61 Such publications raise questions regarding the role of public history and outline the issues that arise when academic historians fail to fully engage in public history debates. Christopher Gilbert analysed public interpretations of Hitler’s death in the form of "Downfall" parodies and concluded that such interpretations are harmless when presented as fiction. 62 However, as McKale argues, when presented as historical fact, the idea that Hitler escaped, thereby fooling the Allies, is dangerous, as it romanticises Hitler, ignores the inherent nihilism in Nazi ideology that resulted in his demise and suggestions made by books such as "Grey Wolf" that the western democracies allowed him to escape may encourage neo-Nazism. 63 Such theories should therefore be challenged.
Much of the literature about Hitler’s death is written by "amateur historians", authors who unlike academic historians are not trained to practice history but are often skilled in other areas such as journalism. 64 Professor William Rubinstein analyzed a variety of similar historical subjects which have attracted a large amount of conspiratorial publications by amateur historians, but which academic historians generally ignore. 65 Rubinstein argues that this is because subjects such as "Who was Jack the Ripper?" tend to lack the wider context which academic historians consider important to engage in a detailed study. 66 Some historians may therefore question why the seemingly narrow topic of Hitler’s death requires a detailed analysis. However, as Petrova and Watson point out, the search for Hitler’s method of death became a search for his character. 67 The way in which his regime ended was intended to be a Wagnerian Twilight of the Gods, an example to posterity. Combined with the recent surge of survival rumours and media coverage, the question of Hitler’s death has acquired further cultural significance. By researching Hitler’s death, one is not merely researching the death of one man, but rather the death of the Nazi regime, a vision of Europe, the legacy and character of those ideas and the beginning of the Cold War.
Filling The Gaps: A New Approach
Although a vast amount of literature has been produced about Hitler’s death, insufficient attention has been given to the British investigations. Such investigations extended beyond Trevor-Roper’s account and consist of international and interdepartmental co-operation conducted before and after Trevor Roper’s investigations. Whilst a large amount of research has focused on Soviet documents, there has never been a full analysis of the British investigations into Hitler’s death. Consequently, this dissertation will implement Joachimsthaler’s methodology of returning to official records but in the more refined form of a case study, focusing solely on British documents, which Joachimsthaler overlooks. Qualitative analysis of a wide variety of documents from the National Archives will be implemented in order to provide as close to a full perspective on the British investigations into Hitler’s death that can be obtained with the documents currently available to historians. Analysis of Foreign Office documents will distance this dissertation from the narrative of Trevor-Roper’s "one man show" which is prevalent in the existing historiography. Trevor-Roper’s investigations will be analyzed, but from new thematic angles using new evidence from recently declassified MI5 and Cabinet documents, not present in the existing historiography. It is hoped that by returning to underused and overlooked documents, this dissertation can shed further light on the mystery surrounding Hitler’s death and provide a foundation for future case studies using archives throughout the world.
There are some limitations to relying solely on official documents. It is particularly difficult for historians to research the workings of Intelligence agencies which are by their very nature intent on remaining as secretive as possible. 68 All records of MI6 are withheld from public use on these grounds. 69 However, recent legislation has enabled the release of various MI5 documents, which, as will be seen, sometimes contain MI6 documents that provide an insight into its activities. 70 However, even declassified documents provide challenges to historians. For example, important decisions made by officials are sometimes not documented and can even be made over the telephone. 71 Moreover, declassified intelligence files go through a process of selection and only a minority of files enter the public domain; the majority are destroyed. 72 This limits the scope of perspective which historians can provide. Nevertheless, as Keith Jeffery argues, the assembly of fragments from a wide variety of documents can provide a larger picture. 73 Furthermore, the majority of intelligence files available to the public concern Second World War topics which makes this dissertation able to provide more detail than studies about later periods of Intelligence history. Indeed, the War Office files on Hitler’s death are extensive. Consequently, this dissertation is able to provide a detailed analysis of official conclusions, methodologies and acknowledge previously unpublished contributions of Intelligence officers.
This dissertation is divided into three chapters of mainly primary source analysis. Chapter One analyses the opinions of British intelligence officials concerning rumours of Hitler’s survival to draw conclusions regarding the credibility of recent conspiracy theories. Chapter Two assesses whether Cold War political considerations affected the selection of evidence and conclusions provided by British intelligence. Most use is made here of new evidence from recently declassified MI5 and Cabinet documents to provide a fresh insight into the internal and international co-operation of Anglo-American intelligence agencies. Chapter Three provides an analysis of the evidence which convinced British Intelligence of Hitler’s suicide and assesses how this evidence and future historical conclusions may be affected by the 2009 DNA results. This dissertation will therefore be the first to combine all elements of the British investigations, including new evidence from recently declassified files, in a single study and thus fill the gap in the literature between case studies of Soviet documents and works that do not analyze British documents in enough detail, if at all. It will also be the first to challenge recent conspiracy theories using archival material and assess the significance of the 2009 DNA results, without resorting to conspiratorial conclusions of Hitler’s escape.
1 Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler [London: Macmillan, 2002], p. xx. See also Ada Petrova and Peter Watson, The Death of Hitler: The Final Words from Russia’s Secret Archives [London: Richard Cohen Books, 1995], p. 161.
2 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, pp. x,xx,xxxix.
3 Ibid, pp. xx,xlv,xlvi. See also Donald M. McKale, Hitler: The Survival Myth [New York: Stein and Day, 1983], pp. ix,4647,50-51,76; Anton Joachimsthaler, The Last Days of Hitler: Legend, Evidence and Truth [London: Cassell, 2000], pp. 2223,59,246-247; James P. O’Donnell, The Berlin Bunker [London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1979] pp. 301-302; Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 14,16,44.
4 David R. Senn and Richard A. Veems [eds], Manual of Forensic Odontology, Fifth Edition [Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2013], p. 19.
5 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, pp. 178-183.
6 Ibid, p. xxi.
7 Ibid, pp. x,xxvii,xlvii.
8 Ibid, pp. x,xx,xxxvi.
9 W. Byford-Jones, Berlin Twilight [London: Hutchinson & CO, 1947].
10 Ibid, pp. 82-83.
11 Ibid, pp. 118-119.
12 Herbert Moore and James W. Barret [eds], Who Killed Hitler? [New York: The Booktab Press, 1947], pp. 121-123.
13 Ibid, pp. 114,117.
14 McKale, Survival, p. 132. See also Moore and Barret [eds], Killed, p. iii; Joachimsthaler, Hitler, p. 25.
15 Peter Levenda, Ratline: Soviet Spies, Nazi Priests, and the Disappearance of Adolf Hitler [Lake Worth, Florida: Ibis Press, 2012], pp. 22,25,31,34. See also Hugh Thomas, Doppelgängers: The Truth about the Bodies in the Berlin Bunker [London: Fourth Estate, 1995], pp. 94,96.
16 McKale, Survival, p. 111. See also Joachimsthaler, Hitler, p. 24.
17 Reuben Ainsztein, 'How Hitler Died: The Soviet Version', International Affairs, Vol. 43, No. 2 , pp. 307,314,318. See also Erich Kuby, The Russians and Berlin: 1945 [New York: Ballantine Books, 1969)] pp. 174,177.
18 Lev Bezymenski, The Death of Adolf Hitler: Unknown Documents from Soviet Archives [London: Michael Joseph, 1968], pp. 44-51.
19 Ibid, p. 49. 20 Reidar Sognnaes, 'Hitler and Bormann identifications compared by postmortem craniofacial and dental characteristics', American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology, Vol. 1, No. 2 , pp. 109-111. See also Sognnaes, 'Dental evidence in the postmortem identification of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun and Martin Bormann', Legal Medicine Annual , pp. 197-200.
21 O’Donnell, Bunker, pp. 182-184,276,299-301.
22 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 179-180.
23 Daniela Marchetti, Ilaria Boschi, Matteo Polacco and Julia Rainio, 'The Death of Adolf Hitler – Forensic Aspects', Journal of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 50, No. 5 , pp. 1148-1149. See also McKale, Survival, p. 188; Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 227,252-253; Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl [eds], The Hitler Book: The Secret Report by His Two Closest Aides [London: John Murray, 2005], p. 283.
24 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 167,174-175,180-181,222,225,227,252-253. See also Joachim Fest, Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich [London: Macmillan, 2005], p. 163; McKale, Survival, p. 188.
25 McKale, Survival, p. 197. See also Trevor-Roper, Hitler, p. lvii; Ian Kershaw, Death in the Bunker [London: Penguin, 2005], p. 26; Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 75.
26 McKale, Survival, p. 197.
28 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 76.
29 Ibid, pp. 76,85,90.
30 V.K. Vinogradov, J.F. Pogonyi and N.V. Teptzov [eds], Hitler’s Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB [London: Chaucer Press, 2005], p. 26. See also Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 21,126-127.
31 Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, pp. 18-20,23-26.
32 Thomas, Doppelgängers, pp. 185-189.
33 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 100.
34 Thomas, Doppelgängers, p. 91.
35 Traudl Junge, Until the Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary [London: Orion, 2004]. See also Heinz Linge, With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler's Valet [Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Frontline Books, 2009]; Erich Kempka, I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur [Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Frontline Books, 2012]; Christa Schröder, He Was My Chief [Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Frontline Books, 2012]; Bernd Freytag von Löringhoven, In the Bunker with Hitler [London: Orion, 2006].
36 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 148,150,158-161. See also Moore and Barret [eds], Killed, p. 154; Fest, Bunker, pp. 175-176; Levenda, Ratline, p. 38; Thomas, Doppelgängers, pp. 101-105; Bezymenski, Death, p. 71.
37 O’Donnell, Bunker, pp. 180-182. See also Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 148-149; Levenda, Ratline, p. 36; Thomas, Doppelgängers, p. 96.
38 Fest, Bunker, pp. 116,175. See also Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 110-115.
39 O’Donnell, Bunker, p. 14.
40 Tudor Georgescu, 'Hitler’s Downfall Revisited', Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2006), pp. 373,375.
41 Ibid, p. 376.
42 Luke Bennett, 'The Bunker: Metaphor, materiality and management', Culture and Organization, Vol. 17, No. 2 , pp. 155,160-162,167.
43 David R. Beisel, 'The German Suicide, 1945', The Journal of Psychohistory, Vol. 34, No. 4 , pp. 303-308. See also Christian Göschel, 'Suicide at the End of the Third Reich', Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 41, No. 1 , pp.153,155,157-158.
44 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, pp. 4,43,64. See also Beisel, 'Suicide', p. 309; Göschel, 'Suicide', p. 155; Fest, Bunker, p. 171.
45 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, p. 63. See also D Doyle, 'Adolf Hitler’s medical care', Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (2005), pp. 75-80; McKale, Survival, p. 98.
46 Marchetti, Boschi, Polacco and Rainio, 'Death', pp. 1147,1151-1152.
47 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 8,40,179.
48 Ibid, pp. 8,177. 49 Ibid, p. 8.
51 McKale, Survival, pp. 6,62,131,140-141.
52 Ibid, pp. 59-61,65. See also Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 15.
53 McKale, Survival, pp. 40-41. See also Roberts in Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, pp. 10,12.
54 McKale, Survival, pp. 106,146.
55 Ibid, p. 32.
56 Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams, Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler [New York: Sterling, 2011]. See also Rick Dewsbury and Allan Hall, 'Did Hitler and Eva Braun flee Berlin and die [divorced] of old age in Argentina?', Daily Mail [18/10/2011], and Adrian Lee, 'Did Adolf Hitler Escape?', Daily Express [17/10/2011], and Sky News television interview with Gerrard Williams [16/10/2011], YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuLPMCxvBf8 and Sir David Frost interviews Gerrard Williams, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03aEr4SqVpM.
57 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, pp. xix,xxi,xxii. See also Harry Cooper, Hitler in Argentina [Hernando, Florida: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014], pp. 8,16,25-26,129; Ron T. Hansig, Hitler’s Escape [Twickenham: Athena Press, 2005], pp. viii,53-54; Levenda, Ratline, pp. 18,21-25,27-28,40,43,173,229.
58 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. xix.
59 Ibid, pp. 337-338.
60 Richard J. Evans, Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History [London: Little Brown, 2014], pp. 84-86.
61 Cooper, Argentina, p. 2.
62 Christopher J. Gilbert 'Playing with Hitler: Downfall and its Ludic Uptake', Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 30, No. 5 , pp. 419-420.
63 McKale, Survival, pp. 199-205. See also Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. XXX.
64 William D. Rubinstein, Shadow Pasts: History’s Mysteries [Harlow: Pearson, Longman, 2008], p. 2
66 Ibid, p. 4.
67 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 75.
68 Jonathan Evans in Christopher Andrew, The Defence of The Realm, The Authorized History of MI5 [London: Penguin, 2009], p. xv.
69 Stephen Twigge, Edward Hampshire and Graham Macklin, British Intelligence: Secrets, Spies and Sources [Kew, Surrey: The National Archives, 2008], p. 8. See also Stephen Dorril, MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations [London: Fourth Estate Limited, 2000], p. xiii.
70 Dorril, MI6, p. xiii. See also Twigge, Hampshire and Macklin, Intelligence, pp. 7-8.
71 Richard J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence [London: John Murray, 2002], p. 638. See also Dorril, MI6, p. xiv.
72 Aldrich, Hidden, pp. 5-7. See also Keith Jeffery, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 [London: Bloomsbury, 2011], p. xi.
73 Jeffery, MI6, p. xiv.
Chapter One: Rumours of Survival
"Sheer Poppycock": The Foreign Office Investigates
Most publications about Hitler’s death only discuss Trevor-Roper’s investigations. 1 In doing so, they give the impression that Britain was inactive throughout the summer of 1945 and only began investigations when the Soviets claimed Hitler was hiding in the British Zone. However, the Foreign Office was investigating the "Facts about Hitler’s Death" as early as 2 May 1945. 2 Indeed, British officials were receiving and commenting on information about Hitler’s last days from international sources and providing details to Winston Churchill to respond to parliamentary questions on the subject, prior to Trevor-Roper’s involvement. 3 Much of the information analyzed by Foreign Office officials concerned survival rumours. Many rumours derive from newspaper articles, similar to those discussed in McKale’s book. One can provide a more detailed assessment of the basis and credibility of recent conspiracy theories by analyzing the opinions of British officials, and enhance existing historical knowledge by providing an official perspective on the survival rumours analyzed by McKale.
'Hitler Still Alive Says Moscow' is a headline typical of many British newspaper cuttings collected by the Foreign Office in July 1945. 4 British reporters had been told by a Russian officer who discovered a charred body believed to be Hitler’s that it was a "very poor double". From 11 September 1945, a plethora of survival rumours sent from the British Embassy in Moscow accumulated in the Foreign Office, beginning with the claim that Hitler was seen in Hamburg, living under an assumed name. 5 In a telegram of 12 September 1945, Frank Roberts informed the Foreign Office of an article in the Russian journal "Pravda" which claimed that the Deputy Bürgermeister of Berlin was "convinced Hitler was alive" and that all Russian newspapers of the 11th stated that British intelligence officers were searching for Hitler [who had recently changed his appearance by "plastic operation"] in Hamburg. 6 One puzzled Foreign Office official wrote, "This peculiarity that Hitler is still alive in the British zone or in the Argentine keeps cropping up", and requested clarification. 7 In a reply which arguably summarised the views of British Intelligence on all survival rumours, one official responded, "I believe this to be sheer poppycock. The 'plastic operation' which “changed Hitler’s appearance” was probably carried out with a service revolver in the Führerbunker'. 8
The Foreign Office was confident in its dismissal of survival rumours due to the evidence that had been accumulated suggesting Hitler was dead. It is sufficient to comment that the Foreign Office was impressed by an Intelligence report produced by SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force] on 30 July 1945 which concluded that "Despite Russian scepticism, it seems probable from all we know of Hitler’s last days, he chose to die in Berlin". 9 Not all of the survival rumours investigated by the Foreign Office came from Moscow, although it appears that most rumours were inspired by the Soviet accusations. In October 1945, Eisenhower was temporarily convinced by his "Russian Friends" that Hitler was alive, but later retracted his statement after a discussion with Trevor-Roper on the evidence available to the contrary. 10 Despite the initial confusion caused by Eisenhower’s remarks, the Foreign Office believed "‘there are no reasonable grounds for supporting that Hitler is anything but dead". 11 Having confidence in that conviction must have made it tedious for Foreign Office officials to receive reports from the Dominions Office stating that "in view of the suggestion that Hitler may be in Argentine", it may be useful to know that an "ardent Nazi" is living in Buenos Aries if there is any "substance" in the rumour. 12 One official replied, "It is very doubtful that this will be of useful help to anyone". 13 "Very doubtful indeed", confirmed his colleague. At other times, the Foreign Office viewed such reports with a sense of humour. A report received in November 1945 from the British Legation in Copenhagen claimed that a Danish lady informed them that her friend who had previously predicted an RAF raid before it happened, had dreamt that Hitler was disguised as a monk, having shaved his moustache. 14 Commenting on this, one official stated, "I hope the lady’s dream is true" as "we could then await with suspense" the amusing scenario of Hitler’s return as a monk. 15 The statement of one Foreign Office official that "there will be no end to stories of this kind" has proved to be prophetic. 16 Indeed, the War Office continued investigating survival rumours until 1949 and some authors have attempted to publish such rumours as fact as recently as 2011. The reasons why such rumours were continually investigated, however, was not because of any doubt that Hitler was dead, as will be made clear in the following analysis of the War Office investigations into rumours of Hitler’s survival.
"Baumgart is Telling Lies’: The War Office Investigates
It has become something of a tradition for historians in publications about Hitler’s death to describe the fantastic locations in which Hitler has been reported to have been seen alive after April 1945 all over the world. The survival rumours received by the War Office are no exception to this. In an MI14 [(established in 1940 to provide Intelligence on Nazi Germany] 'Dossier on Adolf Hitler', created prior to Trevor-Roper’s investigations, Hitler was reported to have been seen in Ireland disguised as a woman and in Egypt having converted to Islam. 17 Such rumours were described as "wild" and usually obtained little or no comment. However, other rumours were taken more seriously and investigated thoroughly during and after Trevor-Roper’s investigations. For instance, in September 1946 an investigation named "Operation Conan Doyle" was undertaken following "spiritualist revelations" that a woman named Eva Hücker was in fact Eva Braun. 18 A Mr. and Mrs. Hall had informed MI14 that they had received messages from Mr. Hall’s dead farther, who was a spiritualist, regarding a man named Stanley Knight who committed suicide after contracting venereal disease from Hücker. It was claimed that Hücker lived in Hanover with Hitler who had undergone a "facial operation" and was disguised under the name Heinrich, wearing a blonde wig. 19 Although MI14 considered the story was unlikely to be true, they requested it to be investigated as many people still believed Hitler was alive and disproving such rumours would help prove his death. Accordingly, British intelligence officers managed to trace Hücker and discovered that she was a prostitute who bore no resemblance to Braun. 20
One survival rumour was taken more seriously by British intelligence and investigated for six months since September 1947. This was the report of Frau Anderson, given to a British intelligence officer in Germany. She was concerned that not many people in Berlin believed Hitler was dead and reported that it was widely believed in Hohenlychen that "Hitler was definitely seen to take a lake-side walk on 24 April 1945". 21 She also claimed that it was believed that a Fieseler Storch [German light aircraft] carrying Hitler used to land frequently on a grass slope in the area so he could visit Dr. Karl Gebhardt in the SS sanatorium there. 22 Although it appeared to be a "wild goose chase", the War Office initiated investigations. 23 The story was reported to USFET [United States Forces European Theatre] with a note stating that Anderson’s story coincidently coincided with a similar story reported by Carmen Mory in July 1945 that Skorzeny’s paratroops [famous for rescuing Mussolini] had rescued Hitler and other top Nazis from Berlin, taken them to a secret airfield in Hohenlychen and helped them escape. 24 It was stressed however that Mory was most unreliable as she had made a series of inaccurate statements before her suicide after being sentenced to death for war crimes at Nuremberg. 25 This particular survival rumour was disproved on 11 March 1948 when the War Office received interrogation results from both Gebhardt and Skorzeny. 26 Gebhardt was certain that Hitler did not visit him and that no plane landed near the sanatorium in the last days. 27 Skorzeny stated that no high Nazis were evacuated by his unit and if Hitler had been evacuated by his men, he would have known. 28 It was emphasized in correspondence to USFET that "no undue importance" was attached to the "implication of Hitler’s survival" and that the reason for investigating was in case "other leading Nazis had visited the Sanatorium". 29 Clearly, British Intelligence did not doubt that Hitler was dead but felt it was important to "properly evaluate" such rumours in light of any information they may provide with regards to other top Nazis. As will be demonstrated, this was the policy in all future investigations of survival rumours.
The longest and arguably most important War Office investigation into any survival rumour began in December 1947 and was investigated until June 1948. This rumour originated with the testimony of Luftwaffe Captain Baumgart at his trial in Poland in December 1947 for war crimes. In a statement reported in the Polish newspaper "Express Wieczorny", Baumgart claimed to have flown Hitler and Eva Braun to Denmark in April 1945. 30 Due to Allied bombing, he claimed to have landed and stayed overnight in Magdeburg on 28 April before continuing to Denmark the following day. Upon landing, Baumgart asserted, Hitler shook his hand and gave him a cheque for 20,000 RM. This statement was reported in newspapers throughout the world. Further weight was added to this story when the War Office received information from an ex-Nazi informant working for British Iintelligence, stating that a plane landed unexpectedly at Hadersleben airfield in Denmark between 26-28 April 1945. The informant stated that, "Only the higher ranking officers were allowed to approach the plane and the purpose of the flight did not become generally known". 31 Rumours spread that the plane carried important personnel from Berlin. The War Office had also collected cuttings from a German newspaper suggesting that Hitler could have escaped to Argentina in a U-Boat, a rumour which was also stated in a German civilian communications intercept. 32 Accordingly the War Office began investigations, tracking down Luftwaffe pilots to verify Baumgart’s claims. However, Captain Hodges emphasized in several letters to Intelligence officers that "from the evidence available at this HQ", it is considered "practically certain" that Hitler and Braun committed suicide on 30 April 1945 but it is "still the policy to investigate leads which hold any promise of yielding useful historical information", and in instances where it is "thought possible that other high ranking personalities might have escaped from Germany by the method indicated". 33
Conspiracy theorists such as Cooper pose the question to the reader, "If Adolf Hitler killed himself in Berlin…why were the world’s spy services still looking for him into the middle of the 1950s?". 34 Far from doubting the evidence of Hitler’s death, British intelligence officers investigated survival rumours to gain information on other Nazis who may have escaped and to provide evidence for future historians to disprove rumours of Hitler’s escape. After interviewing various Luftwaffe pilots who were stationed in Berlin and Magdeburg at the end of April who all refuted Baumgart’s story, and confirming that Magdeburg was overrun by US forces on 18 April 1945, the War Office concluded that "Baumgart is telling lies". 35 These conclusions undermine the argument in the most popular conspiracy theory book to date, "Grey Wolf".
Debunking the Conspiracy Theories
In "Grey Wolf", pages of documents concerning "Hitler’s Escape" are published verbatim. 36 Such documents bear the official stamps of American Intelligence agencies and are often reproduced with statements of prominent officials such as Eisenhower and Stalin that Hitler had escaped. Such documents and statements, when selectively removed and analyzed isolated from their context may give the impression that Hitler escaped. Indeed, if one published numerous British documents analyzed in this chapter concerning "Hitler Survival Rumours", without including the opinions and conclusions of officials, the same impression could be created. However, the opinions of British intelligence officers make it clear that all such stories amounted to nothing. This selective methodology is employed by various publications, including "Hitler in Argentina" which claims that similar documents published verbatim constitute "documented proof of Hitler’s escape". 37 Such an approach is dishonest and an affront to the very purpose of the historian, to discover the truth about the past. Therefore, such theories should be challenged in order to promote the interests of truth, increase public knowledge of genuine historical facts and prevent any further conspiracies bringing disrepute to serious historical enquiry.
It is clear that when the documents employed by conspiracy theorists are analyzed to include the entire context, no conspiracy theory stands up to close scrutiny. Williams claimed in a television interview that "we have the testimony from a Warsaw court of the pilot who flew them out". 38 That pilot is Baumgart, the same Baumgart whom British intelligence established in 1948 was telling lies. "Grey Wolf" repeats his disproved story about landing at Magdeburg. 39 Williams concludes that Hitler escaped to Argentina, a rumour which was dismissed by the Foreign Office as early as 1945 as "sheer poppycock". Williams even claimed that Trevor-Roper was unsuitable to lead the Hitler investigations. 40 However, Trevor-Roper had much experience during the Second World War deciphering German signals and interrogating Nazis as a member of MI6. 41 Yet, Grey Wolf still received considerable media coverage and similar rumours of Hitler’s survival are still published in newspapers today. 42 McKale’s argument that the press take advantage of the general reader who would not have read the factual evidence concerning Hitler’s death to make money selling survival rumours is arguably confirmed by the extensive coverage received by conspiracy theories as recently as 2011. 43 This makes studies such as this even more necessary, in the interests of genuine historical enquiry and the enhancement of knowledge.
Another crucial argument for Williams and similar conspiracy theorists is that a double was killed and burnt in Hitler’s place, allowing Hitler to escape. 44 The 2009 DNA results seemingly added further weight to this argument and have been exploited in "Grey Wolf" to this end. However, the DNA results are in no way suitable evidence to support such conclusions. McKale’s argument that the western press are partly to blame for the widespread perpetuation of survival rumours is further confirmed by Trevor-Roper’s interrogation of Baroness von Varo, filed in the recently declassified MI5 documents. She was among the women summoned by Hitler to say his final goodbyes and claims that a newspaper reporter tried to force the opinion on her that Hitler was a drugged double, an idea she described as "absurd; it was Hitler". 45 The same reporter, Leslie Randall, was later denied access to the British files on Hitler’s death in 1948 as Intelligence officers were suspicious about him trying to "rehash this very old history". 46 The idea of Hitler being replaced by a drugged double who said the final goodbye to his staff with dreary eyes while the real Hitler escaped is repeated in various conspiracy theories. Hitler’s dreary eyes are in no way an indication of a drugged double. An analysis of Hitler’s medical records reveals that "the Führer complained" of seeing everything as through a "thin veil over his right eye" in March 1944, a problem which could have returned under the stressful circumstances of the Bunker in 1945. 47 British Intelligence gave a powerful argument against a similar rumour reported by Randall in 1945. Indeed, the rumour was described as "ludicrously garbled", "pure speculation" based on "theory" not fact. Further: "‘Hitler was not in a state of Coma when he said goodbye to the women; he was not supported by anyone" and "it is important that such uncritical versions of the Hitler Story should not receive circulation as fact. We are satisfied that the first hand evidence at our disposal is now so full and consistent that, apart from direct eye-witness accounts of events in the Bunker after midday on 30 April, no further material is likely to add anything significant to the story; and mere theories, unsupported by any eye-witness testimony, are worthless". 48
Indeed, the War Office remained confident that the evidence it collected "does more than offset the numerous and vague reports of Hitler’s survival which have been circulated". 49 The evidence analyzed in this chapter demonstrates that all British Intelligence branches involved in investigating Hitler’s death considered rumours of Hitler’s survival to be "sheer poppycock". This does not mean that all survival rumours were dismissed off hand; to the contrary, those rumours which appeared to be more plausible were given quite detailed investigation. Since many of the survival rumours investigated have been recycled and used in recent conspiracy theories, the British investigations provide a powerful argument against them. They also provide some credence to McKale’s argument that the western press bears some responsibility for the seemingly never ending perpetuation of survival rumours, although the brunt of this responsibility lies with the Soviets. Some conspiracy theorists claim that political motivations overshadowed the need to establish the truth about Hitler’s death. 50 This is a more serious argument which requires further analysis. It is indeed legitimate to question the role of MI6 and individuals such as Dick White, the quality and seemingly late timing of the British investigations, why Trevor-Roper was chosen to lead them, and the basis of Soviet accusations of Hitler’s escape, without resorting to unfounded assertions.
1 Some of the documents analyzed in this chapter are also analyzed in Richard Overy, Interrogations, Inside the minds of the Nazi elite [London: Penguin, 2001], p. 101. However, this is in the context of the Nuremberg trials and lacks detail. There is no publication specifically about Hitler’s death in which the documents are referenced.
2 The National Archives (TNA), FO 371/46748, Roberts [Moscow] to FO [02/05/1945] and WO communication concerning 'Fact’s about Hitler’s Death', [04/05/1945].
3 TNA, Foreign Office [British] 371/46748, 'Draft Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 19', [15/05/1945].
4 TNA, FO 371/46749, News Chronicle, Daily Telegraph and Daily Herald [05/07/1945].
5 TNA, FO 371/46749, Roberts [Moscow] to FO [11/09/1945].
6 TNA, FO 371/46749, Roberts [Moscow] to FO [12/09/1945]. See also Frank Roberts, Dealing With Dictators [London: George Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991], p. 93.
7 TNA, FO 371/46749, FO Minutes [12/09/1945].
9 TNA, FO 371/46749, 'Hitler’s Last Days', SHAEF Memorandum [30/07/1945].
10 TNA, FO 371/46749, The Times [13/10/1945] and Roberts [Moscow] to FO [09/10/1945]. See also Trevor-Roper, Hitler, p. xlvii.
11 TNA, FO 371/46749, FO Minutes [09/10/1945].
12 TNA, FO 371/46749, Letter from the Dominions Office [29/09/1945].
13 TNA, FO 371/46749, FO Minutes [29/09/1945].
14 TNA, FO 371/46749, Letter from British Legation Copenhagen [29/10/1945].
15 TNA, FO 371/46749, FO Minutes [29/10/1945].
16 TNA, FO 371/46749, FO Minutes (26/09/1945).
17 TNA, WO 208/4475, BBC monitoring service, 'Hadji Hitler' [25/10/1945] and 'Hitler in Ireland' [16/06/1945]. See also Twigge, Hampshire and Macklin, Intelligence, p. 97.
18 TNA, WO 208/3791, 'Operation Conan Doyle' [04/10/1946] and MI14 signal report, p. 182 and Hirsch to Lethbridge [28/09/1946].
19 TNA, WO 208/3791, Hirsch to Lethbridge [28/09/1946].
20 TNA, WO 208/3791, Lethbridge to Hirsch [09/10/1946].
21 TNA, WO 208/3791, Air Intelligence HQ [12/09/1947].
23 TNA, WO 208/3791, Memorandum [09/10/1947].
24 TNA, WO 208/3791, Hodges to Potter [10/12/1947] and TNA, WO 208/3787, 'Report on possible fate and location of Hitler, Bormann and Fegelein' [27/10/1945].
25 TNA, WO 208/3791, Hodges to Potter [10/12/1947].
26 TNA, WO 208/3791, Moe to Deputy Director of Military Intelligence [DDMI] [11/03/1948].
27 TNA, WO 208/3791, Interrogation of Karl Gebhardt [24/02/1948].
28 TNA, WO 208/3791, Moe to DDMI [11/03/1948].
29 TNA, WO 208/3791, Hodges to Potter [10/12/1947].
30 TNA, WO 208/3791, Hamburger Allgemeine [07/10/1947], Westdeutsche Rundschau [04/12/1947], The Times [13/12/1947], Lüneburger Landeszeitung [16/01/1948], Express Wieczorny [18/12/1947].
31 TNA, WO 208/3791, 'Rumours concerning whereabouts of Adolf Hitler' [02/03/1948].
32 TNA, WO 208/3791, Lübecker Freie Presse [31/12/1947] and Censorship Civil Communications [22/10/1947].
33 TNA, WO 208/3791, Hodges, 'Rumours concerning whereabouts of Adolf Hitler' [02/03/1948] and Hodges, 'Hitler Survival Rumours' [03/12/1947].
34 Cooper, Argentina, p. 26.
35 TNA, WO 208/3791, 'Rumours concerning the whereabouts of Adolf Hitler' [16/04/1948] and 'Hitler Survival Rumour' [16/01/1948] and 'Hitler Survival Rumour' [16/06/1948] and 'Baumgart is telling Lies', p. 25 and 'Hitler Survival Rumour' [17/06/1948].
36 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, pp. 163,222,225,266-267,282.
37 Cooper, Argentina, pp. 117-229.
38 Sky News interview with Gerrard Williams [16/10/2011].
39 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, pp. 160-161.
40 Sky News interview with Gerrard Williams [16/10/2011].
41 Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Biography [London: Phoenix, 2011], pp. 81,88,94,117-118,125.
42 Owen Bennet, 'Are these classified FBI files proof Adolf Hitler escaped by SUBMARINE to Argentina?', Daily Express [15/04/2014].
43 McKale, Survival, pp. 198-199.
44 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, pp. xx,156-157. See also Cooper, Argentina, p. 62; Hansig, Escape, pp. 25,32,38-39.
45 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Baroness von Varo [01/10/1945].
46 TNA, WO 208/3791, Memorandum, 'Release of information re Hitler to the press' [19/03/1948].
47 TNA, WO 208/3789, 'Record of Eye Examination made 2 Mar 44', p. 163.
48 TNA, WO 208/3787, 'Hitler’s Death' [07/11/1945] and Trevor-Roper to Ramsbotham, Memorandum, p. 55.
49 TNA, WO 208/3791, 'Adolf Hitler' [19/11/1947].
50 Levenda, Ratline, pp. 22,25,31,34. See also Thomas, Doppelgängers, pp. 94-95.
Chapter Two: Political Motivations? British, American and Soviet Conduct
Investigating the Investigations
The way in which the British investigations into Hitler's death were conducted has been criticized by various authors. Conspiracy theorists such as Levenda have argued that political motivations overshadowed the need to discover the truth about Hitler's death and that the investigations were rushed to counter Soviet claims of Hitler’s survival in the British Zone of Germany. 1 Williams argues that the Allies allowed Hitler to escape in return for Nazi Intelligence to use against the Soviets in the coming Cold War. 2 O'Donnell criticized Allied interrogators for lacking objectivity and asking the wrong questions. 3 In this chapter, the aims and conduct of British intelligence and their co-operation with the Americans and the Soviets during the Hitler investigations will be analyzed in order to determine whether there is any truth to such accusations of poor British conduct and political motivations.
Although large scale British investigations into Hitler’s death did not begin until Trevor Roper was appointed by Dick White to undertake them in September 1945, British intelligence was gathering evidence concerning Hitler’s death prior to Trevor-Roper’s involvement. Nevertheless, it was the Soviet accusation that Hitler was hiding in the British Zone that inspired White, then head of Counter-Intelligence in the British Zone of Germany, to ask Trevor-Roper to initiate his thorough investigation into Hitler’s death. 4 In a letter to Thomas "Tar" Robertson, asking whether Trevor-Roper could be made available to lead the Hitler investigations, White refers to a "considerable amount of comment in the press" speculating "whether or not Hitler is still living". 5 He describes Trevor-Roper as a "first-rate chap" who has "kept the closest tabs on the matter" and is already familiar with reports on various Nazis relevant to the Hitler case. This demonstrates that the claims of conspiracy theorists that Trevor-Roper was unsuitable to lead the investigations are incorrect. Indeed, White was impressed by an intelligence report written by Trevor-Roper concerning Nazi secret Intelligence during the war. 6 White further stated that it would be useful for "quadripartite" discussion with the Soviets who had expressed the desire to "review the evidence on the subject with the other occupational powers" to undertake a detailed investigation. White’s desire to review evidence with the Soviets is instructive for section III of this chapter, as will be demonstrated, the desire to maintain co operation with the Soviets on wider political issues was hindered by Soviet accusations of Hitler’s survival in the British Zone. Indeed, as Sean Greenwood points out, at this time, many British officials sought to maintain co-operation with the Soviets. 7 Secondly, the desire to prevent a "Hitler Myth" is mentioned in Trevor-Roper’s book and throughout his investigations. 8 Indeed, the idea of Hitler still living, or dying a "heroic" death, was a hindrance to the Anglo-American denazification programme in occupied Germany that was underway at the time. Thirdly, White claims that the investigations would be of "historical interest", a motive which is referred to throughout the investigations. Although political considerations did provide the impetus for the initiation of Trevor Roper’s investigations, this does not mean that political motivations affected the objectivity of the evidence or the conclusions he produced. In order to determine this, detailed analysis of the investigations must be conducted.
In 1946, Trevor-Roper’s book was referred to the Joint Intelligence Committee [JIC], a powerful Intelligence co-ordinating body attended by the heads of all British Intelligence sections and the Foreign Office, in order to determine the desirability of its publication and ensure that any material contained within would not jeopardize the secrecy of the intelligence services. 9 White suggested to the JIC that its publication was desirable as it may prevent the creation of a "Hitler Myth" which was "the object" of "the original Press release" [this refers to Trevor-Roper’s initial Intelligence report on the Führer’s death given to the Quadripartite Intelligence Committee [QIC] and the press in modified form on 1 November 1945). 10 The desire to prevent a "Hitler Myth" was re-iterated at the JIC meeting on 14 June 1946. 11 It was also suggested that the book had "propaganda value" and may be translated into German "for dissemination as propaganda". This view was strongly supported by the Foreign Office. At face value, this would appear to confirm Levenda’s argument that the British investigations were obstructed by political motivations. However, Trevor-Roper told the JIC that "the book is intended as history rather than propaganda; I think the facts are true as given; and I have been more concerned to understand the events and their causes and relations, than to push a point of view". 12 This shows that Trevor-Roper was not influenced by political considerations but intended to establish historical truth, which he believed he achieved through his conclusions about Hitler’s death. Trevor-Roper further stated that"‘the truth is the best…form of propaganda". 13 By this, he was implying that the truth of how Hitler died, by committing suicide whilst old men and young boys continued to fight for him, would be enough to dissuade the German people from reviving Nazism or revering Hitler, without embellishing the story. Therefore, Levenda's claim that British intelligence invented the story of Hitler’s death for political purposes is incorrect. This view is supported by further analysis of Trevor-Roper’s investigations.
Although Trevor-Roper clearly did not consider his investigations or conclusions to be influenced by political considerations, the Foreign Office did not share this view. As Greenwood points out, in 1945 most Foreign Office officials believed the main threat to Britain’s security was the revival of an aggressive Germany and therefore desired good relations with the Soviets. 14 On the other hand, Greenwood argues that British military intelligence perceived the Soviets to be the main threat to Britain’s future security. 15 Such disagreements were evident in some aspects of the Hitler investigations, particularly regarding the publication of Hitler’s wills. Indeed, when three copies of Hitler’s wills were discovered following a well-documented Anglo-American joint intelligence operation conducted by Trevor-Roper, a lengthy dispute ensued between the Foreign Office and British military intelligence regarding whether they should be published. In a brief submitted to the JIC, the Foreign Office argued for "complete suppression [of the wills] if feasible, in order to deny Hitler this posthumous weapon which might assist the renaissance of a nationalist Germany in twenty years time". 16 Major-General "Tubby" Lethbridge, head of Intelligence Division [ID] in Germany, on the other hand, argued for "publication now" as the story could be leaked at a future date when "the German people might be more receptive to a Hitler mystique than they are today". 17 However, whilst the Foreign Office was arguing for suppression, the wills were released to the press by General Lucian Truscott [Commanding General of American 3rd Army, Munich]. Adam Sisman argues that this was part of a deliberate tactic by Trevor-Roper who wanted the documents to be published and knowing that the Foreign Office favoured suppression, captured the wills in the American Zone, knowing that they would be published as an American scoop.18 However, this interpretation, as will be shown, is incorrect. Despite the publication of the wills, the Foreign Office continued to argue that "the less public notice the documents receive in Germany, inside or outside, so much the better". 19 Indeed, the Foreign Office attempted to co-ordinate policy with Washington, who agreed that although the wills had already been published, tight restriction of facsimiles and suppression of the original copies should now be implemented. 20 The Foreign Office was concerned that the wills could become "objects of great sentimental and political value" to many Germans and even contemplated destroying the originals. 21 The War Office on the other hand, took the complete opposite approach.
Major-General Gerald Templer believed the wills were "not such bad documents" and "apart from the ravings against international Jewry, fairly dignified". 22 Templer believed they should be published. Lethbridge agreed, adding "I feel no real harm will come of it" as two other copies were yet to be found and could be published at a less advantageous moment when the Germans were not "down and out". 23 The danger of this occurring was highlighted by a threatening anonymous letter received by Heinrich Kopf [Oberpräsident of Hanover] in December 1945. The letter stated that "Bormann brought us the testament of our beloved Führer" and argued that "the Anglo-American thieves stole from us the Atom-Bomb", threatened to hang Kopf and other "traitors" from lamp-posts and claimed that Hitler’s will dictates the future action to establish 'the National Socialist Great German Reich'. 24 Trevor-Roper concluded that the author had not read the will and "invented its contents" and the story of its delivery "in order to give apparent authority to a threatening letter". 25 This, Trevor-Roper argued, showed "the advantage of publishing the real document!". Major Ramsbotham confirmed that British intelligence was indeed hoping to publish the wills. 26 Consequently, a draft press hand out was prepared, giving a detailed analysis of their contents. 27
When the wills were leaked by Truscott, the War Office atmosphere appeared to be one of confusion. Indeed, British intelligence had agreed with USFET that the wills would be kept Top Secret pending further instructions. However, the "story broke when [the] British Rep" [presumably Trevor-Roper] "had returned to USFET who were unable to explain why their instructions to Third U.S. Army had been disregarded". 28 Nevertheless, British Intelligence in Germany also gave a hand out along with copies of the wills to the press when the American story broke. 29 This was perhaps due to the intense rivalry between Anglo-American intelligence services, with British Intelligence not wanting America to take all the credit. One "Daily Telegraph" article somewhat confirms this interpretation in stating that "following the announcement" that "Hitler’s wills" had been "seized by United States Intelligence Officers, it was revealed tonight that British Intelligence were already in possession of a copy of the two testaments". 30 Clearly, British Intelligence wanted it to be known that they had discovered the wills before the Americans. The Foreign Office was evidentially not consulted to ask if British information on the wills could be published and contacted the War Office in an attempt to suppress the documents. 31 British Intelligence however, was irritated by the Foreign Office being so "touchy" and reluctantly ordered that all outstanding copies due to be distributed should be frozen. 32 This, fortunately for some intelligence officers, did not prevent many copies being distributed as souvenirs. 33 One intelligence officer asked the Foreign Office if an original copy of the will could be exhibited at the Carlton Hotel. 34 The Foreign Office, probably incensed by this late consultation, rejected the proposal in line with its policy of suppression. 35 Despite initial opposition from the Foreign Office at meetings of the JIC, the position of the War Office eventually triumphed as the wills were published in Trevor-Roper’s book. 36
Major internal disagreements between British intelligence regarding Hitler’s death however were rare. Throughout the investigations, evidence was shared between MI5, MI6, Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], the War Office and the Foreign Office. Disputes between the Foreign Office regarding the use of propaganda and the political suppression of evidence, as made clear by Trevor-Roper’s statements to the JIC, did not affect the overall objectivity and conclusions of the investigations. Trevor-Roper’s objectivity even triumphed over the staunch Foreign Office position regarding Hitler’s wills. However, it is now essential to analyze the nature of Anglo-American co-operation which may shed further light on why historians such as O’Donnell believe that Allied interrogators asked the wrong questions and the extent to which Anglo-American intelligence rivalry may have hindered the investigations.
America shared the same motives as Britain in aiding Trevor-Roper’s investigations into Hitler’s death. Indeed, American motivations are clearly stated on numerous detailed reports obtained from American interrogations of Hitler’s doctors and dentists sent to the War Office as follows:
a) Data useful for the identification of Hitler or his remains;
b) Further material for the debunking of numerous Hitler Myths;
c) The knowledge needed to expose those frauds who in later years may claim to be Hitler, or who may claim to have seen him or talked to him;
d) Research material for the historian, the doctor and the scientist interested in Hitler. 37
Clearly, American and British intelligence intended historians to use the evidence they collected in their investigations to debunk future rumours of Hitler’s survival. The use of the word "frauds" demonstrates that American intelligence genuinely believed that rumours of Hitler’s survival were false and no conspiratorial motives encompassed their investigations, as some authors have argued. Such reports and American assistance were considered to be of great importance to Trevor-Roper’s investigations as congratulatory letters following the successful locating of Hitler’s wills demonstrate. For example, Brigadier Haylor thanked Colonel Sands of USFET for "the splendid co-operation and assistance" he gave to British intelligence officers during the Hitler investigations. 38 Haylor claimed that Trevor-Roper ‘never failed to receive the fullest degree of co-operation and assistance’ from the Counter Intelligence Corps [CIC] and that thanks to American assistance the investigations were "concluded within a surprisingly short space of time". American assistance was indeed valuable as it enabled British intelligence to operate over a much larger area, maintain surveillance on individuals for longer periods of time and increased the chances of capturing key eyewitnesses by the extension of manpower into the American Zone of Germany. 39 Trevor-Roper repeats this positive interpretation of Anglo-American co-operation in "The Last Days of Hitler". 40 However, evidence in recently declassified documents suggests that Anglo-American co-operation was not without some major difficulties.
In a letter to Brian Melland, head of the Historical Section of the Cabinet Office, Trevor Roper expressed views which contradict the dominant narrative in the historiography regarding Anglo-American co-operation during the investigations into Hitler’s death. The views he expressed may shed further light as to why O’Donnell believes the Allies asked the wrong questions. After commenting on textual discrepancies between the American and British held copies of Hitler’s will, Trevor-Roper explained "…I never saw the original which is now in American hands. There is a long history behind this, which, for reasons of Anglo-American solidarity, I have never published". 41 Trevor-Roper claimed that: "General Truscott…was clearly displeased by the fact that a British officer had discovered these documents in his area and determined to claim the entire credit for his own forces. He therefore behaved in a very curious way. First, he had the documents…shut away in a safe and I was not allowed to see them. Then, in direct contradiction to the assurances given to me that nothing would be published till the British and American texts had been compared, immediately after I had left, sent for the American press and published the whole discovery as a brilliant coup by the U.S. 6th Army. This naturally led to some indignation in the British zone, and somebody in a high place [presumably Truscott}, in order to defend his action, evidentially made unspecific charges against me which resulted in my never visiting the American zone again". 42
This challenges the dominant narrative of the Anglo-American intelligence operation to locate Hitler’s wills which is frequently presented as a triumph of Intelligence co-operation, and also the narrative given in Trevor-Roper’s biography, which implies Trevor-Roper intended to have the wills published by capturing them in the American Zone. 43 It also demonstrates the rivalry between Anglo American Intelligence services, outlined by historians such as Stephen Dorril who argues that both were in competition to become the top Intelligence service in Germany. 44 Such competitiveness had serious implications for the Hitler investigations, as Trevor-Roper explained in further correspondence with Melland. When asked by Melland if he could contact Gerda Christian [Hitler’s secretary] to obtain information on the discrepancies in Hitler’s wills, Trevor-Roper explained that Christian was, "located later when it was no longer possible for me to go into the U.S. zone…she was therefore interrogated by the U.S. authorities on a brief supplied by me. This, of course, was not very satisfactory, as the interrogators did not have the necessary background to pursue such topics as might emerge during interrogation, or to detect possible errors or lies at the time. Indeed, this fact was a handicap in respect of all prisoners captured after the end of 1945. The most serious case was that of Axmann…the one man who claimed to have seen Bormann dead, was interrogated on my brief only, by a U.S. interrogator without any background knowledge". 45
The inability to interrogate certain witnesses caused some embarrassment for Trevor-Roper. For example, Hannah Reitsch [the famous Luftwaffe pilot who visited Hitler in the Bunker] wrote a letter to "Die Welt" in October 1947, denying that she had ever spoken to Trevor-Roper and completely disowned the account attributed to her in Trevor-Roper’s book. 46 This has been used by conspiracy theorists to outline the supposed unreliability of Trevor-Roper’s investigations. 47 At the time, it caused some German readers of Trevor-Roper’s book to doubt his conclusions. 48 However, Trevor Roper published a reply to Reitsch explaining that she was interrogated by an American interrogator on a brief supplied by him. 49 Moreover, she sought to distance herself from the interrogation as it emphasized her closeness to Hitler, which was hindering her attempts to obtain employment. Furthermore, Reitsch claimed that her account was crucially important to Trevor-Roper’s book; a statement which Trevor-Roper correctly argued was not true. Another issue caused by the American refusal to allow Trevor-Roper to interrogate witnesses was slow information sharing. Indeed, throughout the investigations, British intelligence officers complained about USFET taking too long to deliver answers to interrogation briefs. On one occasion, Trevor-Roper asked MI5 to "ginger up" USFET because "they gradually get callous to prods, so one has to prod harder each time I find!" 50
Trevor-Roper’s unpublished account of "Anglo-American Solidarity" appears to be reliable, as it is written in confidence to Melland, who was Trevor-Roper’s cousin. 51 It is further confirmed by the initial War Office confusion when the wills were published and provides the only explanation available to historians as to why Trevor-Roper did not interrogate some eyewitnesses directly. This new evidence is of significant historical value, as it demonstrates, from Trevor-Roper’s perspective, the reason why some authors may feel the Allies asked the wrong questions, which appears, in Melland’s words, to be American "childishness". However, although inconvenient and a "handicap" American interrogation reports still provided useful evidence in determining Hitler’s death. Despite some tensions, the joint Anglo-American investigations into Hitler’s death managed to uncover a remarkable amount of evidence in a small space of time. By far a larger hindrance to the Hitler investigations than Anglo-American Intelligence rivalry [which was more about who collected and supplied the evidence than the evidence itself], was Soviet conduct.
Appeasing the Soviets? British Intelligence and Soviet Conduct
On 23 May 1945, the JIC presented a report on "relations with the Russians" to the War Cabinet. It argued that Britain should be "more tough" with the Soviets and "nothing should be given to the Russians gratuitously". 52 Further, "no Russian request should normally be granted unless some request of ours to which we attach importance is granted in connection with it". It rightly predicted that "with the end of the war in Germany" political events would have an "even greater effect upon the attitude of the Russian military authorities". Overall, it argued that Britain should "drive a hard bargain" and imply a "strict principle of reciprocity" when negotiating with the Soviets. This evidence supports Aldrich’s argument that the post-war planning of the military and intelligence services was conditioned by prejudices inherited during inter-war espionage activities against the Bolsheviks. 53 It is therefore surprising to see the attitudes towards the Soviets from British Intelligence during the Hitler investigations.
Documentary evidence suggests that in depth British investigations into Hitler’s death did not begin until September 1945 because British officials were waiting for evidence to be provided by the Soviets. Indeed, on 30 May 1945, MI6 received a report from "our American friends" detailing Hitler’s dental information [obtained from the American interrogation of Dr. Hugo Blaschke, Hitler’s dentist]. 54 This information was forwarded to the War Office and MI14 [thus illustrating the co operation between British Intelligence services]. MI14, knowing that "the Russians have apparently been trying to identify Hitler’s body from his dental records", suggested that the information should be given to the Soviets as "it may be of assistance to them in settling an issue of equal interest to all the Allies". 55 It is unclear if this information was given to the Soviets as objections were raised due to it originating from an American "secret source". 56 However, the willingness to provide evidence to the Soviets despite earlier JIC recommendations demonstrates a more open-minded attitude towards them during the Hitler investigations, and a belief that they would provide evidence to the Allies once their investigations were complete. This belief may have inspired British enthusiasm over an "ingenious" suggestion given to Aneurin Bevan by Graham Hodgson [head of the X-ray department of the British Red Cross] that X-rays of Hitler’s skull could be used to compare the "skull in Berlin" supposedly found by the Soviets and thus certify the identity of Hitler. 57 This message was passed from the Foreign Office to the War Office [further demonstrating inter-service co-operation] with great enthusiasm, thus arguably showing that British intelligence expected the Soviets to allow them access to forensic evidence at some point.
British and American officials waited for Soviet confirmation of Hitler’s death as contradictory reports were collected by MI14 and the Foreign Office regarding whether Hitler was alive or if the Soviets had discovered his corpse and confirmed his method of death. On 6 June 1945 Soviet officers, including one of Zhukov’s staff officers, informed British newspapers that Hitler’s body had been found and doctors confirmed he had died from poison. 58 On the same day, Stalin told Harry Hopkins that Hitler was still alive. 59 Then, Zhukov announced on 9 June that Hitler’s body had not been found and he could have flown away at the last moment. 60 At the Potsdam Conference in July, Stalin re-iterated that Hitler could have escaped to Spain or Argentina. 61 The damage done by such statements was clear to British officials. Newspapers collected by the Foreign Office said many people in Berlin believed Hitler was still alive. 62 One Civil Communications intercept showed that some Germans doubted Hitler was dead because "the Russians swear by all that is holy that he is still alive". 63 Soviet behaviour even made one Foreign Office official doubt Hitler’s death as he stated "the Russians are, up to now, very dubious as to the exact cause of Hitler’s death, if he is dead". 64 A SHAEF report on Hitler’s death noted "it is impossible to give any authoritative account of Hitler’s last days as evidence is still accumulating…much of the evidence, too, is in Russian hands". 65 Yet, British intelligence still believed Hitler was dead, despite Soviet skepticism. Nevertheless, one Foreign Office official worried "can we say we believe Hitler to be dead without annoying the Russians, whose press seem to be always suggesting the contrary?". 66 This concern for the possible deterioration of Anglo-Soviet relations provides credence to Greenwood’s argument that maintaining good relations with the Soviets was a key objective of the Foreign Office. However, the Soviet accusation that Hitler was living in the British Zone must have convinced British officials that the Soviets could not be trusted to provide an objective account of Hitler’s death and put too much strain on Anglo-Soviet relations for British intelligence to wait for a conclusive Soviet statement any longer. 67 Therefore, Trevor-Roper’s investigations were launched, but they were not tainted by anti-Soviet prejudice.
From the outset of Trevor-Roper’s investigations, the Soviets informed Dick White that they had "no satisfactory evidence" that Hitler was dead and expressed the desire to share information on Hitler’s death with the other occupational powers, White agreed to share British evidence. 68 Therefore, throughout Trevor-Roper’s investigations, the Soviets were consulted about British evidence at the QIC, an Intelligence sharing organization containing representatives from all the occupying powers in Berlin. Despite Soviet accusations that Britain was hiding Hitler and the JIC recommendation of strict reciprocity, British intelligence continued to pass evidence to the Soviets. 69 They also continued to show interest in searching for X-rays of Hitler’s skull. 70 This shows that prior to the tabling of Trevor-Roper’s conclusions at the QIC on 1 November 1945, British intelligence still, despite earlier Soviet accusations, expected to gain eventual access to forensic evidence. However, when Trevor-Roper’s report [which formed the basis of his book] was tabled, the Soviets imply stated "very interesting". 71 Another QIC meeting was held on 10 November in which British Iintelligence asked the Soviets if they hold and could make available for interrogation key eyewitnesses such as Heinz Linge [Hitler’s valet] and declare any other evidence they possess on Hitler’s death. 72 By 30 November "no reaction" had been received from the Soviets. 73 Surprisingly in December 1945, American Intelligence officers convinced Soviet General Sidnev to allow British, American and French representatives to dig in the Reichschancellery garden. 74 However, only one day’s digging was carried out "because on the next day the Russians, for a reason which has never been explained prevented the entrance of the party". On 2 January 1946, numerous newspapers in Berlin, including "Russian controlled" papers, reported that Hitler’s body had been identified "without the possibility of doubt" by his dentist. 75 War Office staff complained that "clearly the Russians can have told us nothing" and demanded a statement from them. Attempts were made to telephone numerous Russian officers but British Intelligence received evasive responses such as "we have no official information". 76 The Soviets eventually stopped answering the phone. British intelligence was particularly angry as "each Ally undertook to supply any forthcoming information" on Hitler’s death "at once to other representatives" and "the Russians have promised that they would let us know if any further information" about Hitler’s death "came to their notice". 77 At the next QIC meeting, the Soviets were asked about the story but simply stated that "they had no information of this story and that the report must be the imagination of a newspaper reporter". 78 The Soviets "guaranteed" to inform the QIC of any further information they obtained relating to Hitler’s death and ironically argued that "rumours should be the subject of official denial in the Press".
Despite the rumours of Hitler’s survival, the accusation of Hitler living in the British Zone and the Soviets clearly withholding information from British intelligence, the War Office continued to supply evidence to the Soviets. For example, in June 1946, the Soviets asked British intelligence to give them copies of an interrogation report "rendered from Hitler’s former adjutant, von Below". 79 The British representative asked the War Office to "kindly" consider this request from our "Russian Allies" and the War Office showed a desire to reply to the request "reasonably quickly" and did so. 80 The JIC report of May 1945 was therefore disregarded. This arguably demonstrates a remarkable objectivity on the part of British intelligence during the Hitler investigations. Despite wider Cold War tensions, British intelligence was willing to co-operate with the Soviets, even when evidence was not forthcoming from Moscow and they were being consistently ignored.
No documentary evidence has yet been produced to explain why the Soviets repeatedly stated that Hitler was alive, despite possessing large quantities of evidence to the contrary. 81 The Foreign Office could not explain why "Russia has been…putting out reports that Hitler is alive, for some obscure reason of their own" and were "unclear what motive" the Soviets had in "spreading lies". 82 Historical speculation has therefore been widespread. Most historians argue that Stalin’s political aims provided the motive for such rumours. Indeed, by claiming Hitler was alive, Stalin could strengthen his claims to territory in Germany during disagreements with Britain by suggesting it would be safer for the Soviets to remain, undermine perceived political opponents such as Zhukov who had earlier claimed that Hitler was dead, attack political enemies by claiming Hitler was in Spain or Argentina and provide an external threat advantageous to totalitarian governmental systems. 83 Other historians have argued that Stalin wished to maintain the wartime alliance by preserving the common enemy of Hitler or that he genuinely believed Hitler had escaped. 84 However, the 2009 DNA results provide weight to one particular interpretation of Soviet conduct, that they were unhappy with the quality of their investigations and did not want their evidence to be scrutinized by the West. 85
The British investigations into Hitler’s death were of great political significance due to the context of Soviet accusations in which they were conducted. 86 However, they were not conducted with political bias, but rather with remarkable objectivity, even towards the Soviets. Any attempts to turn Trevor Roper’s findings into propaganda by the Foreign Office were refuted by Intelligence officers, including Trevor-Roper himself, as recently declassified MI5 documents revealed. Survival rumours and alternative versions of Hitler’s death, were not ignored in order to convey a rushed, preconceived conclusion to counter Soviet claims of Hitler’s survival. They were investigated thoroughly by British intelligence and all found to be false. Despite some issues of Anglo-American intelligence rivalry which hindered the collection of evidence, there is no evidence to suggest that the evidence obtained during the British investigations was tainted by political motivations. The objectivity with which British intelligence conducted their investigations into Hitler’s death suggests that if the evidence pointed to Hitler’s escape or murder, then Trevor-Roper would have concluded accordingly – but it did not.
1 Levenda, Ratline, pp. 22,25,31,34.
2 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. XXX.
3 O’Donnell, Bunker, p. 14.
4 Sisman, Trevor-Roper, p. 133. 5 TNA, WO 208/3787, White to Robertson [10/09/1945].
6 Sisman, Trevor-Roper, p. 126.
7 Sean Greenwood, Britain and the Cold War [London: Macmillan, 2000], p. 6.
8 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, pp. lviii, 205.
9 Dorril, MI6, p. 67.
10 TNA, KV 4/354, Minute from MI5 to JIC [03/06/1946].
11 TNA, KV 4/354, JIC Minutes (14/06/1946).
12 TNA, KV 4/354, JIC Minutes (24/06/1946) and Trevor-Roper to White [19/06/1946].
14 Greenwood, Britain, pp. 6,8,11.
15 Ibid, p. 10.
16 TNA, CAB 146/438, 'Hitler’s Will: Points From Foreign Office Papers' [31/12/1945].
17 Ibid. See also Aldrich, Hidden, p. 181; Dorril, MI6, p. 99.
18 Sisman, Trevor-Roper, pp. 140-141.
19 TNA, CAB 146/438, FO to Washington [08/01/1946].
20 TNA, CAB 146/438, MI4, Top Secret Cipher Telegram [16/02/1946].
21 TNA, CAB 146/438, FO to Washington [08/01/1946].
22 TNA, WO 208/3788, Templer to Lethbridge [08/12/1945]. Further information on Templer in Dorril, MI6, p. 98.
23 TNA, WO 208/3788, Lethbridge to Templer [04/12/1945].
24 TNA, WO 208/3789, Anonymous letter to Kopf [22/12/1945].
25 TNA, WO 208/3789, Trevor-Roper to Intelligence Bureau [IB] [23/01/1946].
26 TNA, WO 208/3789, Ramsbotham to Wethered [18/12/1945].
27 TNA, WO 208/3788, 'The Hitler Case' [02/12/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3789, 'Draft for Press Hand Out', p. 123.
28 TNA, WO 208/3789, Secret Signal, Central Intelligence Bureau [CIB] [08/01/1946].
29 TNA, WO 208/3789, Concomb to WO [22/01/1926] and TNA, WO 208/3781, 'Hitler’s Will', p. 50.
30 TNA, CAB 146/438, Daily Telegraph [31/12/1945].
31 TNA, WO 208/3781, FO to WO 'This Document Must Not Be Reproduced' [03/02/1946].
32 TNA, WO 208/3781, Lethbridge to Foord [22/01/1946].
33 TNA, WO 208/3788, WO to CIB [23/11/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3789, 'Hitler’s Wills' [07/01/1946].
34 TNA, WO 208/3789, Concomb to WO [22/01/1946].
35 TNA, CAB 146/438, 'Hitler’s Will: Points From Foreign Office Papers', pp. 3-4.
36 TNA, KV 4/354, JIC Minutes [14/06/1946] and JIC Minutes [24/06/1946].
37 TNA, WO 208/3789, USFET, "Hitler As Seen By His Doctors" [29/11/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3790, USFET, 'Hitler’s Teeth' and TNA, WO 208/3787, USFET, 'Hitler As Seen By His Doctors' [15/10/1945]. 38 TNA, WO 208/3789, Haylor to Sands [08/01/1946].
39 TNA, WO 208/3787, 'Present position of enquiry and recommendations for further action in British and U.S. Zone', p. 30 and 'Frau Christian', p. 147.
40 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, p. xx.
41 TNA, CAB 146/438, Trevor-Roper to Melland [28/03/1966].
43 Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting, America’s Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counter Intelligence Corps [London: Fontana, 1990], p. 308.
44 Dorril, MI6, p. 104.
45 TNA, CAB 146/438, Trevor-Roper to Melland [08/04/1966].
46 TNA, KV 4/354, Hodges to MI5 [04/11/1947]. Also in TNA, WO 208/3791.
47 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. XXI.
48 TNA, FO 938/196, 299/MG/8482/PRISC [03/03/1948]. 49 TNA, KV 4/354, Trevor-Roper reply to Reitsch, published in Die Welt [14//10/1947].
50 TNA, KV 4/354, Trevor-Roper, Christ Church, Oxford [01/08/1946].
51 Sisman, Trevor-Roper, p. 222.
52 TNA, CAB 79/33, JIC Report [23/05/1945].
53 Aldrich, Hidden, pp. 21-22,24,37,49,69.
54 TNA, WO 208/4475, MI6 Political Report [07/06/1945].
55 TNA, WO 208/4475, MI14 [13/07/1945].
56 TNA, WO 208/4475, DDMI Minutes [14/07/1945].
57 TNA, FO 371/46749, Hodgson to Bevan. See also TNA, WO 208/3781 and TNA, WO 208/3787, pp. 88-89.
58 TNA, FO 371/46748, The Times [07/06/1945] also in TNA, WO 208/4475. See also McKale, Survival, p. 46.
59 McKale, Survival, p. 49.
60 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 44.
62 TNA, FO 371/46748, The Times [09/07/1945].
63 TNA, WO 208/3790, Censorship Civil Communications [10/01/1946].
64 TNA, FO 371/46748, FO Minutes [16/05/1945].
65 TNA, FO 371/46749, 'Hitler’s Last Days', SHAEF Memorandum [30/07/1945].
66 TNA, FO 371/46749, Draft Reply to Parliamentary Question [15/10/1945].
67 Sisman, Trevor-Roper, p. 133.
68 TNA, WO 208/3787, White to Robertson [10/09/1945].
69 TNA, WO 208/3787, GSI HQ [24/10/1945].
70 TNA, WO 208/3787, 'Hitler’s Death' [22/10/1945].
71 Sisman, Trevor-Roper, p. 137.
72 TNA, WO 208/3788, Cameron to Ramsbotham [26/11/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3787, 'The Death of Hitler', p. 35.
73 TNA, WO 208/3788, Searle to Trevor-Roper [30/11/1945].
74 TNA, WO 208/3789, Wethered to Ramsbotham [27/12/1945].
75 TNA, WO 208/3781, Daily Telegraph and Der Kurier [02/01/1946] and 'Alleged Discovery of Hitler’s Body' [03/01/1946].
76 TNA, WO 208/3781, Memorandum [07/01/1946].
77 TNA, WO 208/3781, 'Alleged Discovery of Hitler’s Body' [03/01/1946] and telegram to Halor [07/01/1946].
78 TNA, WO 208/3789, QIC Minutes [10/01/1946].
79 TNA, WO 208/3781, Dubrovski to Jennings [12/06/1946].
80 TNA, WO 208/3781, 'Von Below' [14/06/1946] and 'Von Below' [03/06/1945]. See also Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, pp. 22,117-118.
81 Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, p. 26.
82 TNA, FO 371/46749, FO Minutes [09/10/1945] and [12/09/1945].
83 Moore and Barret [eds], Killed, pp. 136,138. See also McKale, Survival, pp. 40-41,53-55,63; Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 248-250; O’Donnell, Bunker, p. 302; Antony Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945 [London, Penguin, 2003], pp. 425-426; Trevor-Roper, Hitler, pp. l-li.
84 McKale, Survival, p. 73. See also Eberle and Uhl [eds], Book, p. xxiv.
85 Professor Norman Stone on 'Timewatch, Hitler’s Death: The Final Report', UK television broadcast 30/04/1995. See also Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 86-87
86 Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Secret World, Behind the Curtain of British Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War [London: I.B. Tauris, 2014], p. viiii.
Chapter Three: The Evidence Still Stands
Positive and Consistent Evidence
The narrative of Hitler’s last days has been disseminated in many publications. It is therefore unnecessary in the scope of this dissertation to reproduce that narrative in detail. However, the historiography lacks a detailed analysis of how British intelligence selected their evidence and determined the reliable from fictitious before concluding that Hitler shot himself and Eva Braun had taken poison on 30 April 1945. Conspiracy theorists argue that Trevor-Roper used unreliable eyewitness testimonies and have criticized Trevor-Roper’s report [delivered to the QIC on 1 November 1945] and his book as rushed and suggested Hitler was murdered or escaped the Bunker. 1 In order to fully assess these claims, it is essential to analyze the evidence collected by all sources of British intelligence and determine the reliability of the evidence historians have to claim that Hitler died on 30 April 1945, how he died, and assess the significance of the 2009 DNA results. Throughout May 1945 British officials began collecting Intelligence on Hitler’s end. This included signals Intelligence from the Japanese Ambassador at Bad Gastein who informed Tokyo on 30 April 1945 that "the Führer was determined to link his fate with Berlin, and if Berlin fell, he would not survive" and Hitler’s last request for battle information, intercepted from the Führerbunker on 29 April 1945. 2 Additionally, the Foreign Office noted that Admiral Dönitz [Hitler’s nominated successor] had broadcast from Hamburg Radio on 1 May 1945 stating Hitler died "at his command post… fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism". 3 Towards the end of the month the War Office began to receive interrogation reports from captured Nazis such as Johanna Wolf [Hitler’s Secretary] who was "‘convinced" Hitler had "committed suicide". 4 The most important interrogation was that of Hermann Karnau who was a guard on duty outside the Bunker at the time of Hitler’s cremation. He claimed to have been ordered by an SS officer to leave the vicinity of the Reichschancellery "for a time" and did so. When he returned to the garden he saw the bodies of Hitler and Eva on fire "two metres from the emergency exit". 5 He was interrogated several times and "‘cross-examined carefully" until his interrogators were satisfied that he was "speaking the truth". 6
Karnau drew an image of the location where he claims Hitler and Eva were buried which has never been published. This location closely matches similar diagrams in Soviet documents. 7 On 20 July British Intelligence obtained a statement from Kurt Samuel whose friend informed him that a member of "Hitler’s personal guard" named Mansfeld claimed "Hitler had committed suicide on 30 April" and he witnessed Hitler and Eva’s bodies being carried into the garden and burnt. 8 In July 1945, a SHAEF report on "Hitler’s Last Days" compiled the testimonies of Albert Speer [Reichsminister of Armaments], Karnau, SIGINT and Soviet statements to conclude "it seems probable that, from all we know of Hitler’s last days, he chose to die in Berlin". 9 However, the report could not determine Hitler’s manner of death due to the amount of various alternatives that had been suggested. Indeed, evidence at this point was "sometimes contradictory and incomplete and depends often on hearsay and conjecture". 10 It was left mainly to Trevor-Roper to determine the reliable from the fictitious.
Trevor-Roper built on evidence collected by investigators before him, including a survival rumour reported by MI6 in July 1945 to MI14 [again showing inter-service co-operation]. 11 It is impossible to assess the full role of MI6 in the Hitler investigations. However, the fragments that remain demonstrate that numerous sections of British Intelligence were investigating Hitler’s death before Trevor-Roper’s involvement and thus partially explain the prompt completion of his report. Trevor-Roper’s report drew mainly on evidence obtained from interrogations conducted over the winter of 1945. Karnau was re-interrogated in September and retold his story almost identically. 12 His testimony was supported by the interrogation of another Reichschancellery guard, Hilco Poppen. He stated that Karnau told him on 1 May 1945 "Hitler ist tot....sie liegen [Hitler and Eva Braun] im Garten, und Brennen". 13 He also claimed that Hitler was buried in a bomb crater in the garden which he drew on a diagram closely matching that earlier drawn by Karnau. Poppen was re-interrogated in October 1945 and repeated his story almost identically. His interrogator, Captain Ingham, considered "he has given the information to the best of his ability" and "as far as he is informed, the statements are true". 14
The interrogation of Erich Kempka [Hitler’s chauffeur] confirmed Karnau and Poppen’s testimonies. 15 Kempka claimed that Otto Günsche [Hitler’s adjutant/bodyguard] telephoned him on 30 April and requested that 200 litres of Petrol be sent to the Führerbunker. Kempka did so and later made his way over to the Führerbunker where Günsche told him Hitler was dead and had shot himself in the mouth. Kempka then saw Hitler and Eva’s bodies being carried out of Hitler’s room and helped carry them into the garden [Kempka took Eva’s body from Bormann] with Günsche and Linge. They then poured Petrol over the bodies and quickly retreated to the Bunker exit due to heavy Russian artillery fire. Günsche lit a "rag" and threw it on the bodies "and they burst into flames". They each gave a final Hitler salute and returned to the Bunker. "Despite some discrepancies", the interrogator noted that Kempka’s account "generally agrees" with that of Mansfeld who also stated that Hitler’s body was brought up first into the garden in a blanket with his legs protruding, followed by Eva who was uncovered. Trevor-Roper combined this evidence with recollections of Hitler’s statements and behaviour from numerous eyewitnesses who were present in the Bunker throughout April 1945 and information on his physical health from records and interrogations of his doctors to produce a detailed psychological analysis of Hitler’s decision to commit suicide. For example, the testimony of Hanna Reitsch was considered "reliable" by her interrogator and she believed "the tactical situation and Hitler’s own physical condition made any thoughts of his escape inconceivable". 16 Indeed, Hanna and other witnesses noted how Hitler frequently proclaimed his wish to shoot himself in Berlin and have his body burnt rather than be captured "alive or dead" by the Russians and how Göbbels spoke about "“setting an example that would long blaze as a holy thing from the pages of history" by dying in Berlin. 17
Trevor-Roper never claimed his Intelligence report was definitive as it explicitly states the "‘evidence is not complete; but it is positive, circumstantial, consistent and independent" as opposed to rumours of Hitler’s survival which had all been investigated and found to be "baseless". 18 He admitted that "the only conclusive evidence" would be "the discovery, and certain identification, of the body…in absence of this the only positive evidence" is eyewitness accounts. Another reason the report was submitted promptly was because British intelligence arranged to pool evidence with the Soviets at the QIC, this was their first unsuccessful attempt to do so. Trevor-Roper concluded that it was "quite impossible" that eyewitnesses had invented a "cover story" or that Eva Braun was "fobbed off with the corpse of a double" as they were each under "‘detailed and persistent cross-examination". Trevor-Roper was responding here to speculation in the press that "circumstantial evidence" from "lesser fry could well be an attempt to cover Hitler’s trail". 19 It was in fact Trevor-Roper’s reliance on "lesser fry" that made his conclusions more believable by the fact that they were independent of each other and circumstantial. Indeed, Karnau stumbled upon Hitler’s cremation by accident; he was not supposed to witness it. Karnau saw the Petrol ordered by Günsche delivered to the Bunker and a later witness confirmed he overheard the telephone conversation between Günsche and Kempka regarding petrol. 20
Shortly after the publication of Trevor-Roper’s report, Hitler’s wills and marriage certificate were discovered. The wills explicitly stated that Hitler and Braun had chosen to die in Berlin and thus confirmed Trevor-Roper’s conclusions. Hitler’s marriage was verified by numerous eyewitnesses such as von Varo who claimed the marriage "was openly discussed by everyone", the secretaries who attended the wedding reception and Hitler’s wills which mention the marriage directly. 21 Trevor Roper had the signatures on the wills authenticated by a MI5 handwriting expert who judging from years of experience was in "no doubt" that the "signatures" are "genuine" and von Below, who signed the will. 22 Melland had them authenticated again by forensic scientists in 1966. 23 Indeed, Melland had planned to transfer the wills from the Foreign Office to display at the Imperial War Museum and in the process noticed textual discrepancies between the British and American held copies. 24 These discrepancies were minor grammatical errors which did not affect "the sense of the contents" and were eventually attributed to the "frenzied atmosphere" in the Bunker. 25 More importantly, Melland discovered that the Soviets held a fourth copy of the wills, a fact that was unknown to Trevor-Roper. 26 Its existence was confirmed in Marshal Vasily Chuikov’s memoirs and by the historian John Erickson who was shown the wills by Chuikov. 27 Trevor-Roper, Erickson and Melland concluded that the fourth copy was taken by General Krebs to Chuikov during truce negotiations on 30 April 1945 after Hitler’s suicide. 28 However, they were unable to discover who typed it and it is not mentioned in any publications about Hitler’s death. Melland attempted to contact the Soviets to compare the copies but was ignored. 29 The Russians are therefore withholding more evidence than has previously been assumed. This documentary evidence was bolstered by further interrogation reports.
One criticism voiced by German readers of Trevor-Roper’s book in 1948 was "we are unable to test the sources". 30 Fortunately, the recently released MI5 files contain a detailed summary of the main sources used by Trevor-Roper submitted to the JIC. 31 In addition, a timetable of events produced by Captain Searle and modified by Trevor-Roper shows that he used the testimonies of several eyewitnesses for each key date to substantiate his conclusions, thus refuting Reitsch’s claim that her testimony was crucial to his thesis. 32 Since Trevor-Roper was prohibited from the American Zone after the Truscott incident, later interrogations were conducted by American interrogators on briefs prepared by him. Such briefs asked precise, detailed and extensive questions which were usually answered in full on the resulting interrogation reports. 33 Trevor-Roper is therefore arguably too critical of American interrogators. Indeed, USFET produced several detailed reports on Artur Axmann [head of the Hitler Youth] who claimed to have entered Hitler’s room after his suicide and saw both Hitler and Eva dead on their sofa. 34 Hitler shot himself in the right temple "as Axmann saw most of the blood on Hitler’s right temple and on the right side of the face" and Eva had taken poison. 35 His interrogator, Leo Barton, drew a diagram of the position of the bodies from the viewpoint of Axmann.
Barton concluded that Axmann was "able to distinguish actual observations from conjecture" and "was not shaken by objections or doubts raised by the interrogator" and remarked that "the Russians must have been able to verify the truth and accuracy of his story". It was mainly Kempka and Axmann who convinced Trevor-Roper that Hitler had shot himself and Eva had taken poison. This was also supported by the testimonies of Hitler’s secretary Junge and Bormann’s secretary Krüger who were both told by Günsche [then a Russian prisoner of war (PW)] that Hitler had shot himself whereas Eva had taken poison and Christian who heard the same from Linge [also a Russian PW]. 36 However, in order to reach these conclusions the challenge of eyewitness discrepancies had to be overcome. Eyewitness discrepancies in Trevor-Roper’s investigations have been used by conspiracy theorists to present his account as an "intrinsically flawed…forgery" and bolster claims of Hitler’s escape. 37 Cooper has outlined in detail many discrepancies given over time between the statements of Günsche, Kempka and Linge regarding the position of the bodies, which body was carried out first, who entered the suicide room first and at what time, to argue that this was an "SS charade" which provides proof that Hitler did not die in the Bunker. 38 However, Trevor-Roper took many discrepancies into account. For example, Karnau believed Hitler was cremated on 1 May, whereas Axmann claimed 29 April and Kempka 30 April. Kempka was re-interrogated in January 1946 due to these discrepancies and repeated his story identically; his interrogator concluded that he had told a "‘straight story". 39 Consequently, Trevor-Roper used captured documents [such as a telegram sent from Göbbels to Dönitz on 1 May 1945 informing him that Hitler had died the previous day] combined with the testimonies of those last to see Hitler to confirm that Hitler died on 30 April 1945. 40 Time discrepancies were attributed to "the turmoil of the last days".
Joachimsthaler provides a detailed and convincing explanation for discrepancies in the accounts of numerous eyewitnesses including Linge and Günsche [who were released from Soviet captivity in the 1950s]. Indeed, he argues that due to the urgency of the situation, the witnesses may not have made "precise observations" and only noted the positions of the bodies subconsciously and therefore experienced "flash-back" recall in which it took months of interrogations for a coherent observation constructed from flash-backs to surface. 41 Historians may never be able to definitively explain all of the discrepancies. Nevertheless, as Petrova and Watson point out, eyewitness discrepancies are common in court cases, with some witnesses being certain of what they saw even when proved wrong. 42 Importantly, as Joachimsthaler points out, all the witnesses who saw Hitler’s body in situ agree that he shot himself due to the blood on and around his corpse, whereas Eva’s corpse was not bloody but smelt of bitter almonds, indicating cyanide poisoning. 43 However, one major discrepancy expressed by various eyewitnesses was that Hitler had poisoned himself, this requires further analysis.
Alternative Versions of Hitler’s Death
The announcement on 1 May 1945 that Hitler had died "fighting to his last breath" sparked a flurry of comments from the Foreign Office. The general worry was that "German propaganda will play up the manner of Hitler’s death with a view to establishing the Hitler legend" therefore "we must do all in our power to play it down". 44 On 24 April, Himmler had stated during secret peace negotiations with Count Bernadotte that Hitler was so ill that he would likely be dead within two days. 45 The Foreign Office considered this a good "weapon" to counteract Dönitz’s story of Hitler’s heroic death which they correctly believed was formulated "in an effort to secure maximum resistance by the German". 46 Consequently, Eisenhower authorized a press statement describing Himmler’s comments in order to "‘destroy the Hitler martyr myth". 47 However, this statement gave rise to claims that Hitler was murdered by his doctors on the orders of Himmler, a conclusion supported by some American Intelligence officers. 48 However, far from ignoring conflicting eyewitness testimony as conspiracy theorists claim, British intelligence investigated alternative versions of Hitler’s death. On 7 May 1945, Churchill received SIGINT from numerous Ambassadors which stated Hitler had died in a variety of ways. For example, the Brazilian Ambassador claimed "Hitler, Göring and Göbbels were assassinated" during a struggle between Himmler and the military. 49 At the end of the month the Foreign Office collected newspaper cuttings asserting "that according to evidence discovered by the Russians, Hitter was probably killed by an injection given by his physician Dr. Morrell". 50 From May to September 1945 British intelligence investigated rumours that Hitler was assassinated on the orders of Himmler in 1944 and buried in a crypt at Obersalzberg. 51 In October 1945 Bernadotte asserted "it is my absolute conviction that Hitler is dead and that Himmler killed him". 52 Conspiracy theorists accuse Trevor-Roper of overlooking this statement. 53 Furthermore, several of the eyewitnesses interrogated by British intelligence, including Karnau, claimed that Hitler had poisoned himself. 54 Similarly, Willi Otto Müller believed Dr. Stumpfegger had poisoned Hitler with an injection. 55
During Trevor-Roper’s investigations, eyewitnesses were questioned on the possibility of Himmler murdering Hitler. Werne Grothmann [Himmler’s aide-de-camp] "did not believe that Himmler ever contemplated murdering Hitler; he regarded such a suggestion as fantastic; Himmler always professed complete loyalty to Hitler". 56 This statement was confirmed by other close associates of Himmler. Consequently, Trevor-Roper established that Bernadotte was mistaken. 57 Trevor-Roper found the statements of those who claimed Hitler had poisoned himself, or was poisoned by his doctors to be based on hearsay. Indeed, Karnau when re-interrogated admitted that "the poison story…is mere hearsay based on old stories that the Führer would take poison before being captured by the Russians". 58 Many witnesses, including Karnau, had simply assumed Hitler poisoned himself as they believed Dr. Stumpfegger poisoned Hitler’s dog Blondi. 59 Crucially for Trevor-Roper, the eyewitnesses who saw Hitler dead on his sofa claimed he had shot himself and informed his immediate entourage of the fact. Clearly, as Ian Kershaw argues, the conclusions of conspiracy theorists such as Thomas that Hitler was murdered "belong in fairyland". 60 Nevertheless, the Soviets claimed Hitler was poisoned. However, the Soviet autopsy, like the skull claimed to be Hitler’s, is questionable.
The Skull Changes Everything?
As Chapter One demonstrated, Hitler has been said to have fled to Ireland, Egypt and Hamburg. Therefore, one must question why most conspiracy theories claim Hitler escaped to Argentina. One reason is quite simple, because other Nazis fled there. However, if this logic was applied to other survival rumours the outcome would be ridiculous. For instance, one Nazi was apprehended in May 1945 disguised as a monk, this does not mean that survival rumours of Hitler dressed as a monk should be taken more seriously. 61 Yet, this is the level of speculation that conspiracy theorists expect to convince readers to draw history changing conclusions. A similar lack of relationship between evidence and conclusions is disseminated by conspiracy theorists who use the 2009 DNA results as evidence of Hitler’s escape. 62 Stalin said Hitler escaped to Argentina, other Nazis escaped there, the skull in Moscow thought to be Hitler’s belongs to a woman, the Soviets did not find Hitler’s body, therefore, Hitler must have escaped is their basic line of argument. Yet, if one analyses the Soviet investigations in more detail, interesting questions are raised and matters become more complex, but nothing suggests that Hitler escaped the Bunker.
Petrova and Watson’s analysis of Soviet documents came close to a plausible explanation of the 2009 DNA results. As the documents revealed, the first corpse claimed to be Hitler’s found by the Soviets at the Bunker was a very poor look-alike. Historians disagree whether this was Gustav Weler [(Hitler’s double] or a corpse deliberately dressed up by SMERSH to look like Hitler. 63 Nevertheless, as a result of thinking this corpse was Hitler, two bodies found in a bomb crater near the Bunker exit were reburied. 64 This was an embarrassing start to the investigations by the SMERSH unit who had been ordered to find Hitler’s body. Even more embarrassing was the way in which evidence was disregarded in the Bunker. Indeed, the first Soviets to enter the Führerbunker were a group of women from the medical corps who stole Eva Braun’s lingerie. 65 Byford-Jones was later shown a room full of Hitler’s personal belongings looted from the Bunker by Soviet guards. 66 Clearly, the Bunker vicinity was not properly secured as on 10 September 1945, British Lieutenant-Colonel McCowen broke into the Führerbunker and found Hitler’s engagement diary kept by Linge, which was used by Trevor Roper to validate certain times and dates. 67 That vital evidence such as this could be left discarded five months after Hitler’s death demonstrates how poor Soviet evidence gathering was.
When it was discovered that the look-alike corpse was not Hitler, the two bodies [which Soviet documents claim are Hitler and Eva] near the Bunker exit were re-exhumed and sent for autopsy which stated they died from poisoning. 68 However, as Petrova and Watson point out; there are significant issues with the SMERSH investigation. 69 For instance, the autopsy did not dissect the organs of the alleged Hitler and Eva corpses to determine for certain whether they died from poisoning, yet they did so with the corpses of the Göbbels family. 70 Stalin must have been unsatisfied by the initial SMERSH conclusions as he authorised a second commission into Hitler’s death by the NKVD [Soviet Secret Service] in 1946. 71 Petrova and Watson argue that Stalin could have ordered this second investigation due to embarrassment and jealousy that the West may have collected more evidence than him which could also explain why the Soviets refused to share evidence with Trevor Roper. 72 The Soviets had displayed similar behaviour before. As the JIC concluded in April 1945, "the Russians" were unlikely to allow western "Intelligence teams" to visit areas under their control as they were conscious "of their administrative inferiority compared with the Americans and ourselves" due to their "rapid advance". 73 The second NKVD investigation suggested that Hitler had died by shooting after confirming that bloodstains on Hitler’s sofa and walls in the Bunker were of his blood type and finding a piece of skull damaged by a bullet hole in the bomb crater where the two corpses found by SMERSH were buried. 74 That such evidence could be found a year later shows the poor quality of the initial investigation. Suspiciously, SMERSH did not allow the alleged Hitler and Eva bodies to be re examined by the NKVD, despite an order from Moscow. 75 This, Petrova and Watson argue, is because SMERSH was embarrassed that they had "botched" the autopsy and reached the incorrect conclusion that Hitler had poisoned himself. 76 The Soviets therefore maintained an official silence as they did not want to admit their mistakes. 77
The 2009 DNA results demonstrate that the Soviet investigations were in fact more "botched" than was previously thought. Indeed, Anatoli Prokopenko [director of the State Special Trophy Archive in Moscow] claimed the skull fragment was genuinely Hitler’s. 78 Bold claims made by historians that the skull proved once and for all Hitler’s method of death were refuted in 2009 by DNA testing. However, rather than indicating Hitler’s escape, it is likely that the NKVD simply recovered a fragment from one of many corpses which were strewn around the Reichschancellery garden by Soviet artillery fire and thrown into numerous bomb craters. 79 What then, happened to Hitler’s body? Due to the amount of eyewitness discrepancies, Trevor-Roper could only conclude that "like Alaric…the modern destroyer of mankind is now immune from discovery". 80 Most historians agree that the Soviets recovered Hitler’s teeth; these have been identified by his dentists and confirmed by X-ray comparison. 81 But as Fest argues, it is likely that the teeth are all that remained of Hitler. 82 As some eyewitnesses claim, the rest of his body was probably destroyed by artillery fire. 83 Due to the unprofessional behaviour of Soviet Intelligence officers and resulting poor quality of their investigations, the dubious autopsy report with scientific inconsistencies tainted by ideological motivations and the 2009 DNA revelations, the author is inclined to agree with historians such as Joachimsthaler, Fest and Kershaw that the Soviets did not find Hitler’s body. 84 However, this does not mean that Hitler escaped. Thorough cross-examinations of eyewitnesses, documentary evidence [captured telegrams, Hitler’s wills], bloodstains on Hitler’s sofa and the identification of Hitler’s teeth provide ample evidence to refute such claims. Indeed, Trevor-Roper was able to conclude convincingly that Hitler committed suicide without knowing the final location of his corpse. Ultimately, the 2009 DNA results reveal more about the quality of the Soviet investigations than Hitler’s suicide.
1 Moore and Barret [eds], Killed, p. 114. See also Levenda, Ratline, pp. 21-22.
2 TNA, HW 1/3760, Japanese Ambassador to Tokyo [30/04/1945] and TNA, HW 5/767, CX/MSS/SC.2. See also Aldrich, Hidden, p. 27 for further information on Signals Intelligence [SIGINT] from the Japanese Ambassador.
3 TNA, FO 371/4764, The Times [02/05/1945].
4 TNA, WO 208/4475, Interrogation of Johanna Wolf [31/05/1945].
5 TNA, KV 4/354, Report on Interrogation of Hermann Karnau [19/06/1945].
6 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Hermann Karnau [28/05/1945], Report on Interrogation of Hermann Karnau [19/06/1945].
7 Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, pp. 67,80.
8 TNA, KV 4/354, 'Verbal statement' by 'Kurt Samuel' [20/07/1945].
9 TNA, FO 371/46749, 'Hitler’s Last Days', SHAEF Memorandum [30/07/1945].
11 TNA, WO 208/3787, CX CF/IV/73 [July 1945].
12 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Karnau [26/09/2945].
13 TNA, WO 208/3787, Interrogation Report of Hilco Poppen [30/09/1945].
14 TNA, WO 208/3787, Interrogation Report of Hilco Poppen [06/10/1945].
15 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Erich Kempka [07/10/1945].
16 TNA, WO 208/3787, USFET, Interrogation of Hanna Reitsch [08/10/1945].
17 Ibid and TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Albert Speer [11/09/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3791, USFET, Interrogation of Gerda Christian [25/04/1946].
18 TNA, WO 208/3781, 'The Death of Hitler' also in TNA, WO 208/3787.
19 TNA, FO 371/46748, The Times [09/07/1945].
20 TNA, WO 208/3791, Kurt Hewe 'My Service in the Shelter of the Reich Chancellery' [18/12/1946].
21 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Baroness von Varo [01/10/1945] and 'Points Emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger' [29/09/1945] and USFET, 'Interrogation of Junge, Gertrud' [30/12/1946] and TNA, WO 208/3791, USFET, Interrogation of Gerda Christian [25/04/1946].
22 TNA, WO 208/3788, Statement by William James Skardon [01/12/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3781, undated 'Second Interrogation of von Below'.
23 TNA, CAB 146/438, Forensic Science Laboratory Report by Ronald M. Mitchell [16/06/1966].
24 TNA, CAB 146/438, 'Note on Hitler’s 1945 Wills' .
25 TNA, CAB 146/438, Melland to Trevor-Roper [23/03/1966] and Melland to Dr. L. Kahn [09/12/1966].
26 TNA, CAB 146/438, 'Note on Hitler’s 1945 Wills' (1971).
27 TNA, CAB 146/438, Translation of Marshal Chuikov’s memoirs  and John Erickson to Melland [28/09/1965].
28 TNA, CAB 146/438, 'Note on Hitler’s 1945 Wills'  and Erickson to Melland [31/03/1965].
29 TNA, CAB 146/438, 'Note on Hitler’s 1945 Wills’ .
30 TNA, FO 938/196, 'Report on “The Last Days of Hitler” By Trevor-Roper For North Rhine Westphalia' .
31 TNA, KV 4/354, JIC 'Bibliographical Note' [03/06/1946].
32 TNA, WO 208/3790, Trevor-Roper to Searle [07/03/1946] and 'Time Table of Events in Hitler’s Bunker'.
33 For example, see questions for Gerda Christian from Trevor-Roper in TNA, WO 208/3790 and resulting USFET interrogation in TNA, WO 208/3791.
34 TNA, WO 208/3789, USFET, Interrogation of Axmann [14/01/1946].
35 TNA, WO 208/3790, USFET, 'Supplement to interrogation of Kempka etc.' [25/01/1946].
36 Trevor Roper, Hitler, p. 178. See also TNA, KV 4/354, 'Points Emerging from special interrogation of Else Krüger' [29/09/1945] and USFET, 'Interrogation of Junge, Gertrud' [30/12/1946] and TNA, WO 208/3791, USFET, Interrogation of Gerda Christian [25/04/1946] and TNA, WO 208/3790, 'Time Table of Events in Hitler’s Bunker'.
37 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. XXI.
38 Cooper, Argentina, pp. 8-16.
39 TNA, WO 208/3788, USFET, Interrogation of Kempka [12/01/1946].
40 TNA, WO 208/3789, Searle to USFET [26/01/1946] and TNA, WO 208/3790, Trevor-Roper to USFET [11/02/1946].
41 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, p. 159.
42 Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 114-115.
43 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 155-156,161,163-164,166,173,176-177,182.
44 TNA, FO 371/46748, 'Some thoughts on Hitler’s death' [02/05/1945].
45 TNA, FO 371/46748, 'Top Secret Cypher Telegram' [02/05/1945].
46 TNA, FO 371/46748, 'Some thoughts on Hitler’s death' [02/05/1945] and 'Top Secret Cypher Telegram' [02/05/1945].
47 TNA, FO 371/46748, 'Top Secret Cypher Telegram' [02/05/1945] and C1958/31/18 [04/05/1945].
48 Moore and Barret [eds], Killed, pp. 121-123.
49 TNA, HW1/3760, 'Brazilian Ambassador, London, Reports on Death of Hitler' [03/05/1945].
50 TNA, FO 371/46748, The Times [24/05/1945].
51 TNA, WO 204/2349, [entire folder] and TNA, FO 371/46748, FO Minutes [07/06/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3787, 'Nazi Underground Installation' [21/09/1945].
52 TNA, WO 208/4475, BBC Monitoring [17/10/1945].
53 Moore and Barret [eds], Killed, pp. 117,123.
54 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Hermann Karnau [28/05/1945].
55 TNA, WO 208/3790, Memorandum on 'Müller, Willi Otto' [04/02/1946].
56 TNA, KV 4/354, Interrogation of Werner Grothmann [26/09/1945].
57 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, p. xxiii.
58 TNA, KV 4/354, Report on Interrogation of Hermann Karnau [19/06/1945].
59 TNA, KV 4/354, 'Top Secret: Ref: Hermann Karnau' [21/06/1945] and TNA, WO 208/3790, Memorandum on 'Müller, Willi Otto' [04/02/1946].
60 Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis [London: Penguin, 2000], p. 1038
61 TNA, CAB 79/33, JIC SHAEF 'Political Intelligence Report' [14/05/1945].
62 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. xix. See also Levenda, Ratline, p. 18.
63 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 90. See also Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 21,180; Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, p. 24.
64 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 53. See also Bezymenski, Death, p. 33.
65 Fest, Bunker, p. 158.
66 Byford-Jones, Twilight, p. 122.
67 TNA, KV 4/354, statement of John L. McCowen [30/05/1947] and Trevor-Roper to White [20/06/1947].
68 Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 53-56.
69 Ibid, p. 81.
71 Ibid, p. 82.
73 TNA, CAB 79/33, JIC Report [29/04/1945].
74 Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 85, 87. See also Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, p. 24.
75 Petrova and Watson, Death, p. 86.
77 Ibid, p. 87. See also Stone on 'Timewatch'.
78 Petrova and Watson, Death, pp. 2,3,76.
79 TNA, WO 208/4475, Interrogation of Axmann [16/10/1947]. See also Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 217,252.
80 Trevor-Roper, Hitler, pp. 182-183. See also TNA, KV 4/354, White to Shoosmith [04/10/1946].
81 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 225,231,236,253. See also Vinogradov, Pogonyi and Teptzov [eds], KGB, pp. 95-107.
82 Fest, Bunker, p. 164.
83 Joachimsthaler, Hitler, pp. 214,218,221,252.
84 Ibid, pp. 180-181,252-253. See also Fest, Bunker, p. 163; Kershaw, Hitler, p. 1039.
Conclusion: "The Onus is on Hitler"
Having analysed the opinions of British officials on various Hitler survival rumours and determined that political motivations did not obstruct their conclusions, it has been established that according to British intelligence, based on their evidence and investigations, there is no basis in fact whatsoever to any conspiracy theories. Through analysis of recently declassified Intelligence files, this dissertation has shed further light on the mystery surrounding Hitler’s death. Indeed, previously unpublished interrogation reports preserved by MI5 revealed just how meticulous British Intelligence was in cross examining witnesses and demonstrated the objectivity of their conclusions through Trevor-Ropers statements to the JIC.
It is rarely possible when studying Intelligence files to recreate personal relationships between Intelligence officers. 1 However, the files on Hitler’s death contain personal correspondence, jokes and compliments. Consequently, recently declassified files enabled this dissertation to outline the dynamics between Anglo-American Intelligence agencies which resulted in both friendships and vendettas. More importantly, the analysis of the contributions of numerous Intelligence officers has distanced this dissertation from the "one man show" of Trevor-Roper and acknowledged the efforts of other officers who often go unsung. 2 However, the role of Trevor-Roper must not be understated. His failure in later life to identify the fake "Hitler Diaries" [which Sisman convincingly argues was a betrayal of Trevor-Roper’s trust] has enabled conspiracy theorists to be overly critical of his early intelligence work. 3 But as this dissertation has shown, Trevor-Roper was a highly regarded intelligence officer in 1945 who showed a great deal of objectivity in his scrupulous hunt for the truth of how Hitler died. The "Hitler Diaries" fiasco should not reflect badly on his earlier intelligence work. The evidence analyzed in this dissertation suggests that any doubts regarding political motivations or the reliability of Trevor-Roper’s conclusions can be removed.
Nevertheless, no conclusions on Hitler’s death can be definitive as many Russian archives remain closed. Consequently, although this dissertation has debunked numerous conspiracy theories, it has also raised more questions, such as who typed the fourth copy of Hitler’s will. The files of Stalin’s secretariat if they are ever released may reveal why Stalin decided to repress evidence and could contradict the conclusions made in this dissertation about Soviet conduct. Although the evidence outlined in Chapter Three suggests Hitler shot himself, it would be foolish [as the 2009 DNA results showed] to claim this is the definitive answer. What is needed in future studies is co-operative scholarship between forensic scientists and historians using archives throughout the world. A future study using American archival material could provide an American perspective of Truscott’s actions and assess the opinions of American officials on rumours of Hitler’s survival. Perhaps, as Fest argues, due to numerous eyewitness discrepancies, historians may never know Hitler’s method of suicide. There is however no longer any ideological baggage in concluding that Hitler shot himself. Indeed, despite Dr. Göbbels’ attempt to create a myth that would revive Nazism from the ashes of a heroic Wagnerian ending, the lies of conspiracy theorists and the deliberate confusion evoked by the Soviets, Hitler’s actions have shown historians that he died a hypocrite and a coward. By challenging the criticisms of Trevor-Roper’s investigations, assessing the opinions of Intelligence officers on rumours of Hitler’s survival and providing a plausible explanation for the 2009 DNA results, this dissertation hopes to have undermined conspiracy theories which have dominated the historiography since 2009. That they were able to do this demonstrates that some topics which may appear to be the narrow field of amateur historians are too important for academic historians to ignore. Indeed, despite the 2009 DNA results, there is still an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest Hitler died in Berlin. Trevor-Roper concluded without analyzing any corpse that Hitler had committed suicide, and his conclusions are still convincing today. One Foreign Office official wrote in October 1945, "I think the onus is now not on His Majesty’s Government to prove that Hitler is dead but on Hitler to prove that he is alive". 4 The onus has been on Hitler for seventy years. It is certain beyond all reasonable speculation that he committed suicide on 30 April 1945.
1 Jeffery, MI6, p. xv.
2 Evans in Andrew, MI5, p. xvii.
3 Dunstan and Williams, Wolf, p. XXI. See also Sisman, Trevor-Roper, p. 504.
4 TNA, FO 371/46749, C7164 [15/10/1945].