<There was a shorter article about this here, not long ago. I’d already done the research for this when it appeared. I was going to wait a while to give people a chance to forget the shorter one, but the recently-released book, The Grey Fox: the Escape of Adolf Hitler, soon to be made into a film, is about the same thing, and it forced my hand.>
by Timothy Chilman
The story is well-known. By April 29, 1945, the area of the Third Reich directly controlled by Adolf Hitler had contracted to the size of a large football field, reaching from Postdamer Platz to Friedrichstrasse in Berlin. Hitler was in the Reichschancellery, with the Red Army 656 feet away. The end was evidently nigh, and Hitler had aged visibly, now having much gray hair and appearing 15 to 20 years older than his true age. He shook, found walking difficult, and his right side was still weak after an assassination attempt. Red Cross nurse Erna Flegal said that he “sank into himself.”
Two weeks before, Nazi propaganda chief Josef Göbbels had moved in with his wife and six children, aged four to twelve. Hitler was fond of the children, drank hot chocolate with them and permitted them to use his bathtub.
Early in the morning, Hitler married his long-term squeeze, Eva Braun, in the map room of his underground bunker. Braun wore Hitler’s favorite black dress, Italian shoes, and a diamond watch. Flegal, six months older than Braun, said Braun was “a completely colorless personality” who would not have stood out in a crowd. The ceremony was performed by councilor Walter Wagner, with Göbbels and Hitler’s secretary, Martin Bormann, acting as witnesses. After the ceremony, Hitler held a reception breakfast then went with secretary Traudl Junge to another room at 4a.m. to dictate his will.
On April 30, General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the defense of Berlin, informed Hitler that his forces were likely to run out of ammunition before the day ended. After lunch, Hitler and Braun said farewell to the others present in the Führerbunker, and retired to Hitler’s study at 2:30p.m. One hour later, a gunshot was heard. Bormann and the others dashed into the room, where they found Hitler with blood dripping from his temple, and Braun with no visible wounds. There was a smell of almonds, a telltale sign of cyanide poisoning. One capsule had been tested on Hitler’s beloved German Shepherd, Blondi, by physician Werner Haase. Flegal said the death of Blondi affected those present more than that of Braun. The bodies were burned. Flegal said that the film, Downfall, got some small details wrong, but was generally correct.
Göbbels’ children were injected with poison by Dr. Helmut Kunz, a dentist. Magda Göbbels emerged from the room, crying, then sat down and played solitaire. Later that evening, she and her husband killed themselves.
On May 2, 1945, Soviet soldiers investigated some recently-turned soil. Private Ivan Churakov said to his commander, “Comrade Lieutenant Colonel, there are legs here.” Digging revealed two dogs, thought to be Blondi, Hitler’s pet German Shepherd, and one of her pups. Also found were two burnt human bodies.
The human bodies were positively identified as Hitler and Braun from dental records. Kete Hoiserman, the assistant to the dictator’s dentist, provided further confirmation, having identified the golden dentures worn by Hitler and Braun. The date of the examination was given as May 3, while Hitler’s corpse was reportedly found on May 4 or 5.
Further burning reduced the bodies to ashes, which then-KGB officer Vladimir Gumenyuk described as a waste of gasoline. The ashes were dropped from a cliff, whose location is now known only to Gumenyuk. Despite being offered substantial sums of money, he will take the secret to his grave to avoid creating a pilgrimage site. It was, he said, “The last flight of the Führer.”
Hitler’s false teeth were found in the Chancellery, but such a thing could have been reproduced by an experienced dentist.
The first authoritative announcement of the Führer’s death came from a radio station in Hamburg, which said that he met what his successor, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, called “a hero’s death.” Doubt persisted. Marshal Georgi Zhukov, the Soviet supreme commander, said that Hitler’s body had not been found, and said, “He could have flown away from Berlin at the very last moment.”
The U.S. Chief of Intelligence in Berlin, Col. W.J. Heimlich (It was Dr. H.J. Heimlich who invented the Heimlich maneuver) reported: “There was no evidence beyond that of HEARSAY to support the THEORY of Hitler’s suicide.” He added that no insurance company in America would pay a claim on Hitler. Lt. Gen Bedell Smith, Gen. Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, said publicly: “No human being can say conclusively that Hitler is dead.” CIA Director Walter B. Smith agreed that Hitler’s death was unproven.
In July, 1945, the U.S. Office of Censorship intercepted a letter from Washington which was addressed to a Chicago newspaper, which claimed that Hitler was living beneath a hacienda 450 miles from Buenos Aires. A classified telegram was dispatched to the U.S. embassy in Argentina requesting assistance in following-up the lead. Hitler’s alleged plans for long-range robot bombs and other weapons do not appear to have come to fruition. FBI director (and rumored transvestite) J. Edgar Hoover became involved.
Shortly before Christmas, 1946, the U.S. embassy in Stockholm received an anonymous letter addressed to the “Chief of the American Zone.” It said that Hitler was living in a cave more than one-and-a-half thousand feet long in the Bauerska mountains. Plenty of guns and ammunition were said to be on hand.
Another report said Hitler was in Amsterdam. Another placed him in Zurich, where he was said to prefer dark suits and hats and behave in the manner of a pensioned official. The Deputy Director of Intelligence of the European Command ordered his subordinates to check out this report. Help was requested from the Chief of the Swiss Federal Police in Berne.
A G.I. claimed to have seen Hitler at the house in Bernheim (not the one in Kentucky) where he had his laundry done. This man grew angry whenever the V-1 rocket was mentioned and showed great sentiment over a photograph of his dog, which closely resembled Blondi.
In January, 1947, French intelligence forwarded American forces a report saying that Hitler was hiding in Heidelberg. A raid by 30 allied officers failed to find him.
A British intelligence officer, Lieut. Col. W. Byford-Jones asked twenty educated Berliners about Hitler on 20 April, 1946, which would have been Hitler’s 57th birthday. Only one believed Hitler to be dead.
Thomas J. Dodd, the lead U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials said, “No one can say he is dead.” A judge at Nuremberg, Michael Mussmanno said in his book, Ten Days to Die, that he had interviewed Hitler’s waiter, valet, chauffeur, two secretaries, pilots, top generals, and more, and that they all agreed that Hitler self-destructed by gunshot. These people worshiped Hitler, and the similarity of their stories made them all the more unlikely.
In June, Stalin told President Truman, envoy Harry Hopkins, and Secretary of State James Byrnes, of his firm conviction that Hitler still lived. The episode is related in Byrnes book, Frankly Speaking. At first, the Soviets claimed Hitler was being protected by the Americans and British, although this was no more than Cold War posturing. In 1952, at a press conference at the Hotel Raphael in Paris, President Eisenhower said, “We have been unable to unearth one bit of tangible evidence of Hitler’s death.”
A much-touted article in the Chicago Times said that Hitler and Braun were living on an estate in chilly Patagonia, in Argentina. The information, while only hearsay, was repeated by almost every major American and European newspaper.
The lurid headlines of pulp magazines proclaimed that Hitler’s suicide was faked and told of his escape. The September, 1948 edition of The Plain Truth carried the headline “Is Hitler Alive, or Dead?” The relevant article was said to be the result of “an exhaustive three-year investigation.” Bonjour magazine, the Police Gazette, and the esteemed French newspaper, Le Monde all carried articles about Hitler’s refuge in the South Pole. The Soviet newspaper, Isvestia, reported Hitler and Braun to be alive and well in a castle in Westphalia, in the British area of occupation. Isvestia also reported that an American lawyer had written to Hoover saying that Hitler was residing under the name of Gerhardt Weithaupt in a house owned by Frau Frieda Haaf, in Innsbruck.
A Hungarian in Argentina released a book, Je Sais Que Hitler Est Vivant (I Know Hitler Is Alive). A magazine circulated to U.S. high school pupils in 1955 called on the U.S. government to “Clear Up Hitler’s Death.” As late as 1969, German authorities were still arresting men who resembled Hitler. One, retired miner, Albert Pahkla, refused to change his hairstyle or remove his mustache, and said he was arrested 300 times. Donald McKale’s 1981 tome, Hitler: the Survival Myth, was skeptical of Hitler’s survival. The back flyleaf of the book say, “Absolute certainty about what happened still eludes us today.” Even skeptics are unsure that Hitler died in his bunker in 1945.
Peter Hurkos (1911 – 1988) acquired psychic abilities after falling 30 feet from a ladder and fracturing his skull. A website devoted to him proclaims him the “foremost psychic of the 20th century!” The Los Angeles Times reported that he was involved in a number of infamous criminal cases, including the Boston Strangler and the Manson family murders.
In Hurkos’ autobiography, Psychic, which was published in 1961, he said he had had a vision in 1952 where he saw Hitler journeying through Spain, disguised as a monk. He said Hitler had remained there for some years, and was still alive. He was prepared to stake his life and reputation on Hitler’s being alive.
The most extensive investigation of Hitler’s demise resulted from Isvestia‘s report that Hitler was in Innsbruck. It was conducted by historian and MI6 officer, Hugh Trevor-Roper, who interviewed many people who had been present in Hitler’s supposed last hours. He published his findings in a meticulously-sourced and very popular book, The Last Days of Hitler. Many of these, such as pilot Hanna Reitsch and valet Heinz Linge, have published memoirs which differ only slightly but state that Hitler took poison and shot himself with his Walther PPK.
The Russian State Archive possesses a fragment of skull claimed to be that of Hitler. It is said that the bullet hole is too small to have been fired from a Walther PPK at short range. The fire damage is insufficiently extensive, considering that Hitler’s corpse was almost completely burned.
Research at the genetics lab of the University of Connecticut showed that the skull was that of a woman under 40. One of the Connecticut team, bone specialist and archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, traveled to Moscow to inspect the skull fragment and bloodstains on the sofa where Hitler and Braun are supposed to have committed seppuku. He said he was granted an hour, which he used to apply cotton swabs and take DNA samples. He had photographs taken by the Soviets in 1945, and was sure he was looking at the right thing because the stains were the same.
At the university, Linda Strausbaugh closed her laboratory for three days to work solely on the Hitler materials. She said that the same routines were used as would be in a crime lab. A small quantity of viable DNA was extracted, and then replicated by molecular copying. She said she was lucky to get a reading due to the paucity of genetic information. The result was startling: the bone was too thin to be female, and the sutures where the skull plates came together were those of someone under 40. There are no reports that Eva Braun shot herself, so the skull did not belong to her.
A spokesperson for the Moscow State Archive released a statement saying it had had no contact with a person by the name of Bellantoni, and no samples were taken from any bone fragments. The statement said the Archive had never claimed the bones belonged to Hitler.
An account published in January 18, 1948 issue of the right-wing, Chilean Diario Illustrado newspaper said that on a Junkers 52 transport airplane at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, the gunner was elbowed in his ribs by the radio operator, who pointed him in one direction, where stood an Arado 234, the world’s first jet bomber. The gunner and radio operator saw “WITHOUT ANY DOUBT WHATSOVER” that Hitler was standing in front of the airplane, dressed in a gray uniform and gesticulating wildly to some functionaries. The airplane took off, and they heard of Hitler’s supposed death seven-and-a-half hours later.
An editorial in the January 16, 1948 edition of the Chilean publication, Zig Zag, stated that on April 30, 1945, Hitler, Braun, and some friends were taken by Flight Captain Peter Baumgart from Tempelhof to Tondern in Denmark, which was still under German control. Another airplane took them to Kristiansund in Norway, also under German control, where they joined a submarine convoy.
On September 17, 1974, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program named As it Happens showed Professor Dr. Ryder Saguenay of the University of California at Los Angeles, saying that Hitler had decreed that an airplane should take all medical records of top Nazis from Tempelhof to an unknown destination. He said the dental records used to identify Hitler’s body were drawn from memory.
So, if he escaped his bunker, where might Hitler have ended up?
Hitler certainly deserved a place in Israel, having been instrumental in its creation.
Perhaps Hitler went to the Moon. This theory emerged, as might be expected, in the 1970s. The Nazis made great progress with technology in such forms as the V-2 rocket and the Messerschmidt 262 jet fighter. There are people who believe the Nazis made contact with aliens and reached the moon in 1942.
The June, 1952, edition of The Plain Truth ran an article with the title of “HITLER ‘May be Alive.’” This said that from 1940, the Nazis transported sledges, airplanes, tractors and all manner of other equipment to Antarctica, where an installation was constructed, scooped out of a mountain. A quote from popular Israeli writer Michael Bar-Zohar’s book, The Avengers, has Admiral Dönitz saying, “The German submarine fleet has even now established an earthly paradise, an impregnable fortress, for the Fuhrer, in whatever part of the world.” This quote occurs 60 times on the internet. To a class of graduating naval cadets, he is also supposed to have said, “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 Fuhrer to, should the need arise. There he can prepare his last measures in complete quiet.” This one gets 744 hits on Google. Bonjour magazine also said the Nazis had created buildings in Antarctica, which can be less cold than Canada or North Dakota, particularly if buildings are underground.
The wartime allies definitely took an interest in Antarctica. Richard Byrd and three companions were the first to fly over the South Pole in 1928. Byrd had earlier planned to be the first to fly from the United States to Europe non-stop, but was pipped at the post by Charles Lindbergh. Byrd led three expeditions to Antarctica, of which the last was in 1940, after the Nazis were said to have begun their Antarctic endeavors. Byrd supervised a fourth expedition, Operation Deep Freeze, in 1957-58. The project ostensibly aimed to further knowledge of Antarctic hydrography, weather systems, glacial movements, and marine life, but could also possibly have been sniffing around for Nazis.
Argentinian journo Abel Basti produced Hitler En Argentina and Bariloche Nazi: Sitios Historicos Relacionados Al Nacionalsocialismo (Nazi Bariloche: Historic Sites Related to National Socialism). These carefully-documented if sensationalistic tomes said that Hitler and his merry band were transported by three submarines which docked near the village of Caleta de los Loros in Rio Negro province, in Argentina. Hitler and Braun, Basti said, had children. The two story mansion in Bariloche where Basti said Hitler stayed from 1945-50 is a permanent tourist attraction. Paraguayan historian, Mariano Llano, supported Basti’s view.
Argentina is one of the more likely destinations of Hitler, as Argentine dictator, Juan Peron, is likely to have happily accommodated him. Several prominent Nazis certainly fled to Argentina, including the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele, and architect of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann.
Two U-boats are known to have arrived in Argentina in the weeks following the end of the war. U-530 and U-977 surrendered at Mar del Plata in July and August, 1945, respectively.
It has been said that Hitler suffered from syphilis, in which case he would not have survived his Reich by long. Diary entries by his personal physician, Theo Morrell, speculate over this. Dr. Morrell wrote of “sudden criminal behavior, paranoid, grandiosity, and mania,” which are characteristic of neuro-syphilis, the advanced form of the illness. Well-documented aspects of Hitler’s condition – stomach problems, rashes, paranoid rages, and mood swings – are typical of syphilis.
Hitler was certainly somewhat fixated with syphilis, regarding it as a “Jewish disease,” and detailing his thoughts of it over 14 pages in Mein Kampf, where he said that combating syphilis should be “the task of the entire German nation.” He is said to have engaged in sexual congress with a Jewish prostitute in Vienna in 1908. Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthan was one to propound this theory. If Hitler contracted the disease from a Jew, it would explain his attitude to that race. In his autobiography, he said that his hatred of Jews began when he lived in Vienna.
The Third Reich did not quite work out, and there has been no sign of a fourth, although Dubya’s regime made one wonder. In nearly every slasher or action movie of the last two decades, the bad guy is believed dead but then rises one last time to give the audience a final jolt. Hitler could have rallied support with radio broadcasts, but with Germany occupied by four armies, this would not have been fruitful. He was born 122 years ago, and barring revolutionary and secret scientific discoveries, is now no longer around.
As can be seen, data collected only from reputable sources shows that Hitler’s escape from his bunker was quite possible.
“Hitler’s ghost was roaming about Europe until 1970.” Pravda. 6 May 2005. 8 October 2011. <http://english.pravda.ru/history/06-05-2005/8196-hitler-0/.>
“How Hitler Died.” Time. n.d. 8 October 2011. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,902253,00.html.>
“Operation Deep Freeze: 1955-56.” U.S. Navy. n.d. 8 October 2011. <http://www.history.navy.mil/ac/exploration/deepfreeze/deepfreeze1.html.>
“Peter Hurkos, 77, a Psychic Used by Police.” New York Times. n.d. 8 October 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/02/obituaries/peter-hurkos-77-a-psychic-used-by-police.html.>
“Richard E. Byrd (1888–1957).” Encyclopedia Virginia. n.d. 8 October 2011. <http://encyclopediavirginia.org/Byrd_Richard_E_1888-1957.>
Chivers, Tom. “Adolf Hitler alive: weird conspiracy theories.” Daily Telegraph. 29 September 2009. 8 October 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/6242144/Adolf-Hitler-alive-weird-conspiracy-theories.html.>
Goñi, Uki. “Tests on skull fragment cast doubt on Adolf Hitler suicide story.” Observer. 27 September 2009. 8 October 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/27/adolf-hitler-suicide-skull-fragment.>
Görtemaker, Heike B. Adolf and Eva. New York: Knopf, 2011.
Greenberg, David. “Adolf’s Alive!” Slate. 2 June 2003. 8 October 2011. <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2003/06/adolfs_alive.html.>
Harding, Luke. “’His authority was extraordinary. He was charming’ – Hitler’s nurse on his final hours.” Guardian. 2 May 2005. 8 October 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/02/germany.artsandhumanities.>
Hope, Jenny. “Did Hitler unleash the Holocaust because a Jewish prostitute gave him syphilis?.” Daily Mail. 20 June 2007. 8 October 2011. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-463391/Did-Hitler-unleash-Holocaust-Jewish-prostitute-gave-syphilis.html.>
Lyons, Arthur and Marcello Truzzi. The Blue Sense. New York: the Mysterious Press, 1991. Print.
Nikandrov, Nil. “All the Leaders of the Third Reich Fled to Latin America.” en.fondsk.ru. 1 April 2009. 8 October 2011. <http://en.fondsk.ru/print.php?id=2022.>
Petrova, Ada and Watson, Peter. “The Death of Hitler: The Full Story with New Evidence from Secret Russian Archives.” Washington Post. n.d. 8 October 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/deathofhitler.htm.>
Simon, Ralf. “The Secrets of Hitler’s Last Living Aide.” Der Spiegel. 30 July 2007. 8 October 2011. <http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,497306,00.html.>
Soniak, Matt. “Whatever Happened to Hitler’s Body?” Mental Floss. 23 June 2011. 8 October 2011.
Walters, Guy. “What if Hitler had survived? (And how he could have escaped the bunker).” Daily Mail. 10 December 2009. 8 October 2011. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1234661/What-Hitler-survived—And-escaped-bunker.html.>