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Conspiracy theories about Adolf Hitler's death

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Hitler depicted by the United States Secret Service in 1944 to show how he might disguise himself to try to escape capture
The Führerbunker complex, where Hitler spent his last days in Berlin, before demolition in 1947

Conspiracy theories about Adolf Hitler's death contradict the accepted fact that he committed suicide in the Führerbunker on 30 April 1945. Most of these theories hold that Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, survived and escaped from Berlin. While these theories have received some exposure in popular culture, these viewpoints are regarded by historians and scientific experts as disproven fringe theories.[1]

Origins

The narrative that Hitler did not commit suicide, but instead escaped with his wife, was first presented to the public by Marshal Georgy Zhukov at a press conference on 9 June 1945, on orders from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.[2] When asked at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 how Hitler had died, Stalin said he was either living "in Spain or Argentina."[3] In July 1945, British newspapers repeated comments from a Soviet officer that a charred body discovered by the Soviets was “a very poor double.” American newspapers also repeated dubious quotes, such as that of the Russian garrison commandant of Berlin, who claimed that Hitler had “gone into hiding somewhere in Europe."[4] This disinformation, propagated by Stalin's government,[5][6] has been a springboard for various conspiracy theories, despite the official conclusion by Western powers and the consensus of historians that Hitler killed himself on 30 April 1945.[7][8][9] It even caused a minor resurgence in Nazism during the Allied occupation of Germany.[4]

The first detailed investigation by Western powers began in November 1945 after Dick White, then head of counter-intelligence in the British sector of Berlin, had their agent Hugh Trevor-Roper investigate the matter to counter the Soviet claims. His findings that Hitler and Braun had died by suicide in Berlin were written in a report in 1946, and published in a book the next year.[10] Regarding the case, Trevor-Roper reflected, "the desire to invent legends and fairy tales ... is (greater) than the love of truth".[11] In 1947, 51 percent of Americans polled thought that Hitler was still alive.[12]

Evidence

Declassified FBI documents contain a number of alleged sightings of Hitler along with theories of his escape from Germany. The FBI states that the information within those documents pertaining to the escape and sightings of Hitler cannot be verified.[13]

On 30 May 1946, while the Soviets were investigating rumours of Hitler's survival,[14] two fragments of a skull were retrieved from the crater where Hitler was buried. The left piece of the parietal bones had gunshot damage.[15] It was kept in Russia's federal archives in Moscow, and believed to be Hitler's for decades. In 2009, a bone-specializing archaeologist performed DNA and forensic tests on a sample of one of the skull fragments, for an episode of History's MysteryQuest.[16] The sample was found to be that of a woman aged under 40.[14][17] The same researchers also DNA-tested a piece of cloth from the sofa soaked with Hitler's blood, and confirmed that it belonged to a male. This prompted an executive of the Russian state archive to assert that "No one claimed that was Hitler's skull."[18] According to French forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier, "When doing a diagnostic of the skull, you have a 55 per cent chance of getting the sex right."[1]

Neither former Soviet nor Russian officials have claimed the skull was the main piece of evidence, instead citing jawbone fragments and two dental bridges found in May 1945. The items were shown to two associates of Hitler's personal dentist, Hugo Blaschke: his assistant Käthe Heusermann and longtime dental technician Fritz Echtmann. They confirmed that the dental remains were Hitler's and Braun's, as did Blaschke in later statements.[19][20][21] According to Ada Petrova and Peter Watson, Hugh Thomas disputed these dental remains in his 1995 book, but also speculated that Hitler probably died in the bunker after being strangled by his valet Heinz Linge. They noted that "even Dr Thomas admits that there is no evidence to support" this theory.[22] Ian Kershaw wrote, "[t]he 'theories' of Hugh Thomas that Hitler was strangled by Linge, and that the female body burned was not that of Eva Braun, who escaped from the bunker, belong in fairyland."[23] In 2017, Philippe Charlier confirmed that teeth on one of the jawbone fragments were in "perfect agreement" with an X-ray taken of Hitler in 1944.[24] This investigation of the teeth by the French team, the results of which were reported in the European Journal of Internal Medicine in May 2018, found that the dental remains were definitively Hitler's teeth. According to Charlier, "There is no possible doubt. Our study proves that Hitler died in 1945 [in Berlin]."[25]

The Inalco House near the current settlement of Villa La Angostura. According to the fringe theory, Hitler would have lived some years here after 1945.
Photograph from a CIA document showing a supposed ex-SS trooper and a man he alleged to be Hitler c. 1954[26]

In 2009, Russian General Vasily Khristoforov, the head archivist of Russia's Federal Security Service, claimed that KGB agents under the orders of Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov burned Hitler's remains and dumped them into a German river. According to the documents Khristoforov referenced, "The remains were burnt on a bonfire outside the town of Shoenebeck, 11 kilometers away from Magdeburg, then ground into ashes, collected and thrown into the Biederitz River." Khristoforov claimed that Andropov feared that Hitler's burial site would become a place frequented by neo-Nazis.[27]

Alleged escape to Argentina

Grey Wolf

Some works, such as the 2014 book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler by British authors Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams, and the docudrama film by Williams based on it, suggest that Hitler and Braun did not commit suicide, but actually escaped to Argentina. The scenario proposed by these two authors is as follows: a number of U-boats took certain Nazis and Nazi loot to Argentina, where the Nazis were supported by future president Juan Perón, who, with his wife "Evita", had been receiving money from the Nazis for some time. Hitler allegedly arrived in Argentina, first staying at Hacienda San Ramón, east of San Carlos de Bariloche.[13] Hitler then moved to a Bavarian-styled mansion at Inalco, a remote and barely accessible spot at the northwest end of Lake Nahuel Huapi, close to the Chilean border. Around 1954, Eva Braun left Hitler and moved to Neuquén with their daughter, Ursula ('Uschi'); and Hitler died in February 1962.[28]

This theory of Hitler's flight to Argentina has been dismissed by historians, including Guy Walters. He has described Dunstan and Williams' theory as "rubbish", adding: "There's no substance to it at all. It appeals to the deluded fantasies of conspiracy theorists and has no place whatsoever in historical research."[29] Walters contended that "it is simply impossible to believe that so many people could keep such a grand scale deception so quiet," and says that no serious historian would give the story any credibility.[30]

In their book, Dunstan and Williams state that, having looted most of the wealth of occupied countries, Hitler was one of the richest men in the world and would have had plentiful funds for an escape. The authors add that Martin Bormann (Hitler's secretary who died in Berlin in 1945) was in control of these funds and of Hitler's alleged escape plans.

Hunting Hitler

Investigators of the History Channel series Hunting Hitler claim to have found previously classified documents and to have interviewed witnesses indicating that Hitler escaped from Germany and travelled to South America by U-boat.[31] He and other Nazis then allegedly plotted a "Fourth Reich". However, such conspiracy theories of survival and escape have been dismissed by historian Richard J. Evans.[32]

Phillip Citroen's claims

A declassified CIA document dated 3 October 1955 highlights claims made by a self-proclaimed former German SS trooper named Phillip Citroen that Hitler was still alive, and that he "left Colombia for Argentina around January 1955." Enclosed with the document was an alleged photograph of Citroen and a person he claimed to be Hitler; on the back of the photo was written "Adolf Schüttelmayor" and the year 1954. The report also states that neither the contact who reported his conversations with Citroen, nor the CIA station was "in a position to give an intelligent evaluation of the information".[33] The station chief's superiors told him that "enormous efforts could be expended on this matter with remote possibilities of establishing anything concrete", and the investigation was dropped.[25]

In popular culture

  • In the controversial novella The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. by George Steiner, Hitler survives the end of the war and escapes to the Amazon jungle, where he is found and tried by Nazi-hunters 30 years later. Hitler's defence is that since Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust, he is really the benefactor of the Jews.
  • In the CGI anime film Lupin III: The First (2019), Interpol spreads a fake rumor stating that Hitler is alive and living in Brazil, in order to lure his fanatical Ahnenerbe followers out of hiding.
  • In the 2020 Amazon Prime TV-series Hunters, it is discovered in 1977 that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun are living in Argentina.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Lusher, Adam (20 May 2018). "Adolf Hitler really is dead: scientific study debunks conspiracy theories that he escaped to South America". The Independent. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 22, 23.
  3. ^ Beschloss 2002.
  4. ^ a b Philpot, Robert (2 May 2019). "'Hitler lived': Scholar explores the conspiracies that just won't die". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 27 April 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  5. ^ Eberle & Uhl 2005, p. 288.
  6. ^ Kershaw 2001, p. 1038.
  7. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 160–182.
  8. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 955.
  9. ^ Stern, Marlow (16 November 2015). "Hitler's Final Days Revealed: Eyewitnesses Recount the Nazi's Death in Unearthed Footage". The Daily Beast.
  10. ^ MI5 staff (2011). "Hitler's last days". Her Majesty's Security Service website. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  11. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 28.
  12. ^ Le Faucher, Christelle (21 May 2018). "Hitler Dead or Alive". WWII Museum. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  13. ^ a b "FBI – Adolf Hitler Part 01 of 04 – File No 105-410". vault.fbi.gov. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  14. ^ a b Osborn, Andrew (28 September 2009). "Adolf Hitler suicide story questioned after tests reveal skull is a woman's". The Telegraph. (registration required)
  15. ^ Eberle & Uhl 2005, pp. 287, 288.
  16. ^ Lotozo, Eils (5 October 2009). "The Truth About Hitler's Skull". Haverford College. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  17. ^ Brisard, Jean-Christophe; Parshina, Lana (2018). The Death of Hitler. Da Capo Press. pp. 18–22. ISBN 978-0306922589.
  18. ^ ABC News (9 December 2009). "DNA Test Sparks Controversy Over Hitler's Remains". ABC News. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  19. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 958.
  20. ^ Eberle & Uhl 2005, p. 282.
  21. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 229–230.
  22. ^ Petrova & Watson 1995, pp. 93–101.
  23. ^ Kershaw 2001, p. 1037.
  24. ^ Brisard & Parshina 2018, pp. 224, 273–274.
  25. ^ a b Selk, Avi (20 May 2018) "Scientists say Hitler died in WWII. Tell that to 'Adolf Schüttelmayor' and the Nazi moon base." The Washington Post
  26. ^ Magness, Josh (31 October 2017). "Did Hitler escape Germany for Colombia, South America? Memos from JFK files show CIA considered it". Miami Herald. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  27. ^ "Official: KGB chief ordered Hitler's remains destroyed". 11 December 2009. Archived from the original on 27 April 2020.
  28. ^ Dunstan, Simon and Williams, Gerrard. (2011) Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler. New York: Sterling Publishing. ISBN 9781402781391
  29. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (26 October 2013). "Hitler lived until 1962? That's my story, claims Argentinian writer". The Observer. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  30. ^ Walters, Guy (28 October 2013). "Did Hitler flee bunker with Eva to Argentina, have two daughters and live to 73? The bizarre theory that's landed two British authors in a bitter war". Daily Mail. London. Archived from the original on 28 October 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  31. ^ Anderson, John (10 November 2015). "One Industry That Capitalizes On America's Hitler Fascination". Fortune. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  32. ^ Daly-Groves 2019, p. 24.
  33. ^ "#HVCA-2592" (PDF). CIA.gov. Retrieved 5 September 2018.

Bibliography

Further reading

External links