First things first; apologies for the lack of posts. I’m not taking any classes right now, so I don’t have that as an excuse, but then again that also means I don’t have assignments which are then conveniently converted into posts. So, my not having an excuse is my excuse. Chew on that for a while.
On to today’s topic….
A while back I asked for questions that needed answering. I received two: Did Hitler really die in a fire or is he living in some other country under an assumed name? and Did you hear the rumor about Napoleon not dying as a island prisoner, but being swapped with one of his many doubles?
And now the answers.
Did Hitler really die in a fire or is he living in some other country under an assumed name?
No Hitler did not die in a fire. So he is living in some other country under an assumed name? No, he is not. Here’s how it went down.
Hitler spent the waning days of World War II holed up in the Reich Chancellery bunker in the heart of Berlin. By April 1945, the Soviet Red Army was slugging its way through the streets to reach the heart of the Third Reich. When it became imminent that they would soon be knocking on the chancellery door, quite literally, and even he realized the war was lost, Hitler vowed to commit suicide rather than be captured. On April 29th, Hitler dictated his will to his secretary Traudl Junge and later that night he and his longtime female companion Eva Braun were married in the bunker. The next day, Hitler had a spaghetti lunch with his staff in the bunker and then he and Eva retired to his study. At about 3:30 PM a gun shot was heard and Nazi party leader Martin Borman and Hitler’s valet opened the door to his office to find Hitler had shot himself in the temple and Eva Braun slumped over from an apparent cyanide capsule. Both were obviously dead.
Shortly after, SS guards took the Hitlers into the Tiergarten of the Chancellery, above ground, and burned their bodies as Hitler had ordered. The bodies had not been completely consumed by the fire, but due to Soviet shelling of the Chancellery the guards fled.
So, if this is indeed how Hitler died, why all the fuss about if he’s secretly living in Argentina or some place? While the above account was reported in Hugh Trevor-Roper’s book The Last Days of Hitler in 1947, Berlin, and especially that part of Berlin, were in Soviet control at the end of the war, and thus they were in possession of Hitler’s remains. The Soviet Union is not what we would call a real open society, and they didn’t release much information concerning what may have become of Hitler. In 1968 a report on the autopsy conducted by the Russian intelligence agency SMERSH was widely published, but it was thought to be part of a misinformation scheme by the Soviets and thus not trustworthy. It wasn’t until 1993 when KGB files were at last opened and confirmed what was already suspected.
In 1970, the facility that contained the information regarding Hitlers’ remains final resting place, an unmarked, paved-over grave in Magdeburg, Germany, was to be turned over to the East German government. Worried that the burial site may become some sort of Neo-Nazi shrine, KGB Yuri Andropov had the remains exhumed, re-burned and the ashes dumped in the Elbe river.
The speculation and conspiracy theories relating to Hitler not being dead, were no doubt spurred on by the USSR’s secrecy in the matter. What also probably helped propagate the rumors were that many Nazi’s had in fact escaped, many to South America (including Final Solution architect Adolf Eichman, who Israeli agents hunted down and captured in 1960). Also, Hitler had an uncanny knack for escaping attempts on his life. One such attempt was the July 20 Plot, where a briefcase of plastic explosive was to be detonated, and in fact was, while Hitler was in a briefing. For some reason, quite fortuitously for Hitler, calamitous for the rest of the world, the briefcase was moved either to the opposite end of the table from where Hitler was, or behind the heavy oak legs of the table, and the full force of the blast was deflected from it intended target, killing three others.
Did you hear the rumor about Napoleon not dying as a island prisoner, but being swapped with one of his many doubles?
No, I haven’t heard that one.
For further reading and viewing on Hitler’s last days:
The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
Der Untergang (DVD)