Death of Hitler: The Full Story with New Evidence from Secret Russian Archivesby Ada Petrova, Peter Watson
“Revealing and well-written. . . . A significant book.”Houston Chronicle
It is one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century: how, exactly, Adolf Hitler died and what happened to his remains. With access to the Russians' Hitler Archive, this book reveals not only what happened after the Russians captured Hitler's bunker but
“Revealing and well-written. . . . A significant book.”Houston Chronicle
It is one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century: how, exactly, Adolf Hitler died and what happened to his remains. With access to the Russians' Hitler Archive, this book reveals not only what happened after the Russians captured Hitler's bunker but also why the Soviets felt the details of his death had to be suppressed.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt
THE LAST PRIZE
On a cold afternoon at the end of March 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in Reims, north-eastern France and drafted an unprecedented and historic cable. It was sent to Moscow, for the personal attention of Joseph Stalin. This was the first time in all the years of war that the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force had communicated directly with the Soviet leader, but there were now urgent and pressing reasons for doing so. The final thrust of the Allied Forces deep into Germany was about to begin and it was clearly important for the Anglo-american armies to coordinate their movements with the Russians. Eisenhower told Stalin his plans and asked that he reciprocate, wanting to avoid a repeat of the situation in 1939. Then, in a very different phase of hostilities, German and Russian troops - allied by treaty - had met head-on in Poland when that country was being carved up between Stalin and Hitler. No prearranged line of demarcation had been fixed, which had resulted in a battle with surprisingly heavy casualties on both sides. In the climate of suspicion that was developing between America and Britain on the one hand, and Russia on the other, such a clash had to be avoided at all costs. It could bring catastrophe at this vital stage of the War.
Eisenhower sent two other cables that afternoon, one to Washington, to the General of the Army, George C. Marshall, who was his immediate superior. The other went to General Bernard Montgomery, Commander-in-chief of the 21st Army Group in the north of Germany. To both men, Eisenhower outlined his new planfor bringing a speedy end to the War. It centred on the 12th Army Group, under General Omar N. Bradley, which would advance through central Germany on the Erfurt-Leipzig-dresden axis. There, Eisenhower hoped, it would join hands with the Russians and divide Germany in two.
Within hours, those telegrams - especially the one to Stalin - had created the most serious split between the Americans and the British since the invasion had begun nine months earlier on D Day, 6 June 1944. For the fact was, in the days and weeks prior to 28 March, Eisenhower had changed his mind decisively on one vital matter relating to the course of the war: he no longer considered Berlin, capital of Hitler's Reich, to be a major military objective. Unlike British generals, Eisenhower had not been trained to consider political objectives as part of military strategy. His main concern was to get the War over as quickly as possible and with as few casualties as circumstances would allow. In international terms, Eisenhower was politically inexperienced. His mission, as spelled out by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, was enshrined in one sentence: "You will enter the continent of Europe and, in conjunction with the other United Nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces." Even now, this late in the war, his objective was purely military - to destroy the enemy army as quickly as he could. In any case, it had already been agreed at higher levels that Berlin would fall under Soviet aegis.
For the British in general - and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in particular - the shape of the post-war world was already clear. Like Czechoslovakia and Poland, much of Eastern Europe was already under the Russian heel, destined for Communist rule. If Montgomery could capture Berlin ahead of the Russians it would be a major propoganda victory and give the Western Allies an important bargaining advantage later on. For Churchill had already noted with misgiving the changes in Stalin's behaviour since the conference between him, Stalin and Roosevelt at Yalta in February 1945, where the map of the post-1945 world had been sketched in. For example, Anglo-american bombers forced to land behind Russian lines were now being interned, along with their crews; the Russians had refused the evacuation of Anglo-american soldiers in eastern camps, although reciprocal arrangements were going ahead for Russian soldiers in western camps; air bases and refuelling and repair facilities for American bombers on Russian-controlled territory were being denied. In these proto-Cold War circumstances" Churchill considered Eisenhower's telegram to Stalin a naive and dangerous intervention into global political strategy. He was incensed.
There were, however, several reasons (good and bad) for Eisenhower's change of heart over Berlin. He heartily disliked Montgomery, who was in command in the north. To have settled on a dash for Berlin would have giver, the British Field-marshal a bigger role than Eisenhower could have stomached. But it is another reason which particularly concerns us here. At this stage of the War, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), were located in the three-storey College Moderne et Technique in a back street of Reims, close to the railway station. There, near Eisenhower's own office, was the map room. On the wall there hung a chart that was updated every day. Headed Reported National Redoubt, it showed the mountainous, lakeland region south of Munich, stretching over into western Austria. This incorporated Bavaria and OberSalzburg, the very region where the Nazi Party had been born a quarter of a century before. It was an area some 20,000 square miles in dimension, consisting mainly of wooded mountain peaks between 7000 and 9000 feet high. At its heart was Berchtesgaden and Hitler's mountain-top hideaway, the "Eagle's Nest".
The National Redoubt map was covered in red marks, each one a military symbol denoting this or that defence installation. A Y meant a radio transmitter, a square stood for barracks, a crescent with an F inside indicated a food dump. There were signs for ammunition stores, for petrol and chemical warfare dumps and for underground factories. Fortified positions were shown with zig-zag lines. Every day during March more symbols were added to the chart, so much so that this mountain defence system, the National Redoubt, seemed to SHAEF the greatest remaining threat in the European war, greater even than the prize of Berlin.
It was in this Alpine area, according to Allied Intelligence, that the Nazis intended to make their last stand, with Adolf Hitler at their head. The terrain was so difficult as to be almost impregnable but, again according to intelligence, the remaining Nazi leadership would not be content merely to sit back and absorb whatever the Allies could throw at them. A new type of commando unit had been created, called the Werewolves, whose task it was to sneak out from the Redoubt and create mayhem among the occupation armies. Some 200,000 veteran troops and Werewolves were to cover an area of 20,000 square miles, it was rumoured, to Bavaria, Austria and a small part of Italy.
Some plans certainly went ahead. Both Otto Skorzeny and Reinhard Gehlen hid plans and microfilms in the Alpine Fortress area, Gehlen claiming to have based his organisation on his secret intelligence on Polish resistance to the Nazis. Gehlen had documents forged on his behalf and transferred his wife and children to the Alps. William Casey, an Allied Intelligence officer, later recalled being told in early May 1945 that the Werewolf organisation was in process of formation and that it was to be built on the framework of the Gestapo and other Nazi security services.
The Allies' concern with the Redoubt and Hitler's last stand had been growing since September 1944 when the OSS had predicted that, as the War neared its end, the Nazis would evacuate crucial government departments to Bavaria. The War Department in Washington had taken up this notion on 12 February 1945, warning that a man like Hitler would require his Gotterdammerung. Four days later, Allied agents in Switzerland sent a chilling report claiming that the Nazis were preparing for a "bitter fight from the mountain redoubt". This report said that strongpoints within the Alpine Fortress were connected by underground railways, that months of supply of munitions had been gathered together with "almost all of Germany's poison gas supplies."
Not everyone was convinced. The Research and Analysis Branch of OSS, directed by Bill Langer, produced a mammoth report: "An analysis of the political and social organisation, the communications, economic controls, agricultural and food supply, mineral resources, manufacturing and transportation facilities of south Germany". It was very sceptical of the viability of a National Redoubt but, as its very title implied, the report was too long, too dry and too academic-sounding to be read by busy field officers. No one paid it the attention it deserved.
Instead, on 21 March, the headquarters staff of General Bradley's 12th Army Group released what turned out to be a decisive memorandum - "Re-orientation of Strategy" - which argued that Allied objectives had changed rendering "obsolete the plans which brought us over the beaches." The strategy document concluded that the significance of Berlin was now much diminished and that: "all indications suggest that the enemy's political and military directorate is already in the process of displacing to the Redoubt in lower Bavaria."
Four days after that came the most alarming analysis of all. The Chief of Intelligence of Lieutenant-general Alexander Patch's 7th Army, on the southern edge of the front, described an elite force of mainly SS and mountain troops at least 200,000 to 300,000 strong. The report said that up to five very long trains were arriving in the Redoubt area every week and that new types of weapon had been observed on these trains. An underground factory was believed to exist in the Alpine Fortress capable of producing Messerschmitts. Werewolf schools were reported everywhere and Counter-intelligence Corps estimates put the numbers of youngsters in training under SS officers at some 5000 in one particular week. A booklet had been published that, "reinforced a general sense of apprehension". It was entitled Werewolf: Winke fur Fagdeinheiten (Tips for Hunting Units). The Vogelfrei legends were revived. "The word meant `bird-free', explained the report. It derived from the mediaeval-style courts of revenge, which declared that anyone found guilty became like a game bird during the open season for hunters."
Goebbels chipped in. His broadcasts - and those of Radio Werewolf - stepped up the pressure. "God has given up the protection of the people . . . Satan has taken command." Goebbels himself said, "We Werewolves consider it our supreme duty to kill, to kill and to kill, employing every cunning and wile in the darkness of the night, crawling, groping through towns and villages, like wolves, noiselessly, mysteriously." There were secret recognition signals for boys and girls (some were only nine) and the Wolfsangel, a runic letter, was to be painted on buildings occupied by those marked out for vengeance.
Then there was the rumour about Gallery 16, near the village of Redl Zipf, part of the Alpine Fortress. This gallery was an underground network of corridors and workshops centred around a 200 foot tunnel into which banknote presses had been transferred from Berlin. Nine million Bank of England notes with a face value of $600 million were produced here, sufficient for the Bank to have to withdraw many of its own notes and substitute a new design with a fine metallic thread drawn through the fabric in a way thought to be immune to forgery.
In March, SHAEF itself finally and crucially concluded that: "It seems reasonably certain that some of the most important ministries and personalities of the Nazi regime are already established in the Redoubt area. Goring, Himmler, Hitler are said to be in the process of withdrawing to their respective personal mountain strongholds." Even those who had their reservations, such as SHAEF's Intelligence Chief, the British Major-general Kenneth Strong, thought that the Allies should act as though the Redoubt existed, just in case. We repeat that there were other reasons for Eisenhower's change of mind over Berlin. We have dwelt on this one because the Redoubt idea produced in the mindset of the Allied Command the sense that if - and when - Hitler was found it would be in the south.
The Allies in fact found out the grim truth on 23 April when three Germans crossed the Elbe near Magdeburg shortly after dawn and surrendered to the us 30th Infantry Division. One of them was Lieutenant-General Kurt Dittmar, a fifty-seven-year-old Wehrmacht officer who had made a name for himself broadcasting communiques from the front and was known everywhere as the "voice of the German High Command". As such he was considered the most accurate of the German military broadcasters and so drew a following not only in Germany but among the Allied monitoring staff.
Dittmar was immediately taken to headquarters for interrogation: "Tell us about the National Redoubt," someone demanded. Cornelius Ryan - author of the 1966 book The Last Battle - takes up the story: "Dittmar looked puzzled. The only thing he knew about a National Redoubt, he said, was something he had read in a Swiss newspaper the previous January. He agreed that there were pockets of resistance in the north, 'including Norway and Denmark and one in the south in the Italian Alps. But,' he added, 'that is less by intention than by force of circumstance.' As his interrogators pressed him about the redoubt, Dittmar shook his head. "The National Redoubt? It's a romantic dream. It's a myth."',
He was right.
General Bradley, whose general staff had written the famous memorandum on a change of strategy - in which the importance of Berlin was downgraded in favour of the Alpine Fortress - later had the grace to admit his error. "The Redoubt existed largely in the imagination of a few fanatical Nazis. It grew into so exaggerated a scheme that I am astonished we could have believed it as innocently as we did. But while it persisted, this legend . . . shaped our tactical thinking."
Dittmar had another surprise for his interrogators. Hitler, he said confidently, was in Berlin. Until that point no one on the Allied side had been exactly certain where the Fuhrer was. His whereabouts and all personal details about him, such as his medical records, had been kept a well-guarded secret throughout the War. But while the Redoubt idea had dominated Allied minds it had been assumed that Hitler would be found there. One of the Allies' spies in Berlin, Carl Wiberg, a Swedish businessman generally regarded as a "good Berliner" by his neighbours, had sent a report on 18 April obtained from two women gossiping in a black market shop, to the effect that Hitler was in the Berlin area. But his report had been lost amid the weight of intelligence in the past five days. When the Allied interrogators suggested to Dittmar that he was mistaken, or dissembling, he refused to change his story. Moreover, he said, "Hitler will either be killed there or commit suicide."
It was thus against this background that the War entered its last month. Too late, the Allies realised that there was no National Redoubt in Bavaria, and never had been. (As late as 28 April, the Daily Mirror was able to report that "Seven Allied armies are closing in on Hitler's last-stand Redoubt in the mountains of Austria and Bavaria." Too late they realised that Hitler and Stalin, whose lives had run in parallel for so long, both believed that Berlin itself was the last great prize, both psychologically and politically.
For our story, the most important consequence of this course of events was that the Russians reached Berlin first. Indeed, the moment Stalin received Eisenhower's cable which suggested that Berlin was no longer very important, he ordered Marshal Zhukov to advance on the German capital with all speed and whatever the cost. He couldn't believe that Eisenhower could be so wrong, or so naive - and therefore assumed that he must be playing a political game. Churchill had been right to be annoyed about the "historic and unprecedented" telegram.
The Anglo-American forces, following Eisenhower's new policy, actually met the Russian Army along the Elbe, first coming into contact at Torgau on 25 April. Running north, at its closest point this "Front Line" was just under fifty miles from Berlin. It wasn't much but it was enough.
It was not until the conference of Commanders-in-chief of the four armies of occupation on 29 June, that the various Berlin zones were agreed upon. Advanced detachments of American, British and French troops arrived in the city at the beginning of July. Thus the Russians had had Berlin - and the Reichschancellery - all to themselves for about seven weeks, for most of Man, and all of June. This, and the developing Cold War, accounted for much of what followed.
On 1 May, at 9.30 in the evening, Hamburg radio warned the German people that "a grave and important announcement" was about to be made. This was immediately followed by several excerpts from a number of Wagner's operas and the slow movement of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony. Then at 10.20 pm, came the voice of Grand-Admiral Karl Donitz, Commander-in-chief for the north of Germany. In sombre tones, he announced the death of Hitler and his own succession as Fuhrer of the Reich. Hitler had fallen "this afternoon," he said, fighting "at the head of his troops".
This statement was believed by many. The Times of London printed Hitler's obituary next day. President Valera of Ireland sent his condolences to the German ambassador in Dublin. But it was untrue. Hitler, as the world was later told, had died the previous day and had not fallen in action, as a heroic martyr, but had committed suicide without leaving the Bunker under the Reichschancellery where he had been since 16 January 1945. Donitz perhaps had more than one reason for releasing the story he did. He may not have been aware of all the facts, but in any case he must have wondered how the German troops would have reacted if they had been told that their leader had not died a glorious death but had taken his own life.
Whatever Donitz's reasons, this erroneous story, combined with the complete silence on the part of the Russians regarding what they had or had not found in the Reichschancellery and the absence of a body - either Hitler's or Eva Braun's - did not convince many people. On the contrary, throughout the summer of 1945 the rumours that Hitler was still alive gathered pace.
There were many sightings. Among the first, it was reported that Hitler had been seen living as a hermit in a cave near Lake Garda in northern Italy. Another report had it that he was now a shepherd in the Swiss Alps, a third that he was a croupier at a casino in Evian. He was seen at Grenoble, St Gallen and even off the Irish coast.
Viewed from this distance, each of these accounts appears fantastic and incredible. But that was not how they were seen at the time. Not all of the accounts were so fantastic. In July 1945, the us Office of Censorship intercepted a letter written from someone in Washington. Addressed to a Chicago newspaper, the letter claimed that Hitler was living in a German-owned hacienda 450 miles from Buenos Aires. The us government gave this report enough credibility to act on it, sending a classified telegram to the American embassy in Argentina requesting help in following up the inquiry. Besides giving basic information the telegram added that Hitler was alleged to be living in special underground quarters. "Source indicates that there is a western entrance to the underground hideout which consists of a stone wall operated by photo-electric cells, activated by code signals from ordinary flashlights. Entrance thus uncovered supposedly provides admittance for automobiles." It continued that Hitler had provided himself with two doubles and was hard at work developing plans for the manufacture of long-range robot bombs and other weapons. The matter was taken sufficiently seriously for J. Edgar Hoover, then the director of the FBI, tO become involved, although shortly afterwards he wrote to the War Department: "To date, no serious indication has been received that Adolf Hitler is in Argentina."
The Russian newspaper Izvestiia ran a report that Hitler and Eva Braun were both alive and well, and living in a moated castle in Westphalia. This implied complicity on the part of the British, for Westphalia lay in the British zone of occupation. The report was followed by one in August, in which an American lawyer wrote to Hoover at the Fbi to say that the former Fuhrer was living under the alias of Gerhardt Weithaupt in a house belonging to a certain Frau Frieda Haaf at Innsbruck. With Hitler, said this lawyer, was his personal physician, Dr Alfred Jodl.
Another account also placed Hitler at Innsbruck. The informant was an educated man - again a lawyer - rather than a peasant or an ill-educated private soldier. Another came from a German doctor, a man presumably trained in observation. Karl-Heinz Spaeth claimed he had treated Hitler on 1 May 1945 at his Berlin casualty clearing station ill the cellar of the Landwehrkasino right opposite the Bunker at the Berlin Zoo. Spaeth said that Hitler had been wounded at a tank barricade in the fighting around the Kustrin area of the city. In his sworn deposition, he added: "Hitler was lowered to the floor. A shell fragment had pierced the uniform, went through his chest and entered the lungs on both sides. It was no use to do anything. I took a few first-aid bandages and bandaged him. During this time Hitler groaned continually. He was not fully conscious. To relieve his pain I went back to the collecting station to get some morphine and gave him a double strength injection. The general opinion was that Hitler would die. I examined his pulse and respiration and found that after about three minutes he had stopped breathing. The heartbeats continued for about three minutes and then ceased. After I had pronounced the Fuhrer dead and had informed the ss leaders of this fact I was released and went back to my work." Shortly afterwards, Spaeth said, the surviving ss leaders "blew the body into the air with two three-kilo charges of high explosives." He repeated his story to an officer of the Military Government, who in turn reported to Berlin in September. Everyone, everywhere, seemed determined to ignore Grand-Admiral Donitz's statement of 1 May.
Such accounts of Hitler's death were scarcely less confusing than the more numerous examples of sightings and the situation looked like getting out of hand. General George C. Marshall, the American Chief of Staff, had realised as early as 1 May that it might be necessary to do something to counter the "Hitler martyr myth" which had been fuelled by Admiral Danitz's announcement. Eisenhower seemed not to agree. In June, when he was probably the most popular leader in the West, he attended a press conference at the Hotel Raphael in Paris. There he voiced doubt that Hitler was really dead. He was the first Allied figure of authority in the West to say this.
Nonetheless it was not until September that any official inquiry got under way - and when it did it was the British who carried out the investigations. Dick White, the Brigadier commanding the Intelligence Bureau in the British Zone of Occupation (part of MI5), was stationed at Bad Oeynhausen, between Osnabruck and Hannover, and he had been incensed by the Russian report that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were living, apparently unmolested, in the British zone of Germany - ie, Westphalia. He invited a young major, and friend, Hugh Trevor-Roper, to make an official inquiry into the mystery which at that time still surrounded the death of Hitler.
A four-volume dossier on the Fuhrer, compiled by the us Counter-Intelligence Corps, was made available to Trevor-Roper who, in civilian life, was an Oxford history don. This dossier was "a cornucopia of everything that could be gleaned about" Hitler and included his medical condition, his state of mind, his various "inclinations and proclivities." It did not make Hitler out to be a monster. The CIC analysts had found, "to their embarrassment, that the scourge of the human race gave presents to children, hated blood sports, disliked excessively fanatical people and was conservative and fastidious in his habits . . . Every day at the same hour," according to one informant, "he would go with the same dog to the same corner of the same field and pick up the same piece of wood and throw it in the same direction." The report also contained the conclusions of a long-distance psychiatric examination of the Fuhrer. This concluded that the suicide of Hitler could not be ruled out.
Trevor-Roper's inquiries were to prove exciting. He spent most of September and October tracking down what eye-witnesses he could, people who had lived in the Fuhrerbunker in those last desperate days and could tell him what had happened. He was not entirely successful. Goebbels and Martin Bormann were not available, missing or dead according to whom you talked to. So were Heinz Linge, Hitler's valet, Otto Gunsche, Hitler's Adjutant, Hans Baur, his personal pilot and Johann Rattenhuber, the Chief of Bodyguards. Many others known to have been in the Bunker were also untraceable.
Still, Trevor-Roper was able to interview Frau Gerda Christian and Frau Else Krueger, who were respectively Hitler's and Bormann's secretaries. They had not actually been eye-witnesses for much of what happened, but they had been given contemporaneous accounts by people such as Linge and Gunsche, who claimed to have seen everything. Trevor-Roper had also visited Innsbruck, no doubt' to double-check the story that Hitler was now masquerading as Gerhardt Weithaupt.
On 1 November 1945, Trevor-Roper gave a press conference in Berlin where he outlined the conclusions of his inquiry. His investigations showed, he said, that Hitler had committed suicide at about 3.30 pm on 30 April 1945, and that Eva Braun had died with him. In Hitler's case, the manner of death was by shooting - the Fuhrer had put a pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In the case of Eva Braun, she had taken a cyanide capsule: everyone living in the Bunker had been issued with similar capsules.
Asked by one of the newspapermen if he was aware of the Russian view on Hitler's death, Trevor-Roper indicated that he thought the Soviets were sceptical - that is, inclined to the view that Hitler was not dead. As he said this, a Russian officer present nodded.
Trevor-Roper also dismissed the possibility that it was Hitler's doppelganger - his double - who had been burned. In the first place, he said, there wouldn't have been time to move the double's body in and out of the Bunker. Second, in his very poor physical condition, Hitler would not have been able to escape. And third, and most convincingly perhaps, Eva Braun herself would never have died willingly. - or been taken in by - such a substitute.
Finally, he conceded that there was no "conclusive proof" that Martin Bormann, Hitler's Personal - and Party - Secretary, was dead.
Although it was acknowledged that Trevor-Roper's account was necessarily incomplete and that there were many gaps to be filled in, the press conference was reported extensively in the world's newspapers. He himself continued to inquire into the last days of the Third Reich throughout the winter of 1945-46.
Later in the year, the Allied Intelligence services received word that a certain Paustin, working as a gardener in the quiet village of Tegernsee, was in fact none other than the former ss Standartenfuhrer Wilhelm Zander, the Adjutant to Martin Bormann. Now here was a very important individual indeed. For three weeks in November and December 1945, British secret service agents and American CIC special agents Arnold Weiss and Rosener tried to track Paustin/Zander's trail.
As Christmas arrived, they thought they had him cornered. On Boxing Day, Trevor-Roper and the CIC agents raided the house they had been watching, only to find that Zander had left the area to visit his fiance who lived near Passau. Two days later, they were tipped off that a suitcase belonging to Zander could be found in the home of a certain Frau Irmgard Unterholzener in Tegernsee. They wasted no time in paying Frau Unterholzener a visit and picked up the suitcase. The case was searched thoroughly but initially proved of little interest. However, a secret compartment was then found inside which were several documents that had been brought out of the Bunker only forty-eight hours before Berlin fell. These documents were of the utmost historical importance.
Here was Hitler's Will and Political Testament. This confirmed what Trevor-Roper had been told about the last days in the Bunker. There was also Goebbels's Appendix to Hitler's Political Testament - further corroborative evidence that the picture Trevor-Roper was building up was essentially correct. Third, and perhaps most intriguing of all, there was the marriage contract of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Trevor-Roper had been told by several of the people who had lived in the Fuhrerbunker that Eva Braun had finally achieved her long-time aim to become the wife of the Fuhrer. If Trevor-Roper had ever had any doubts about what he had been told, here was documentary support.
But the marriage contract was more than just corroborative evidence. The fact of Hitler's marriage tended to confirm the psychological portrait Trevor-Roper was putting together. Hitler had never felt the need to marry Braun before. Why should he do so in the last week of April 1945? The answer seemed clear: only if he was contemplating something dramatic.
To be double sure of the veracity of the documents, they turned them over to Major Anthony W. Lobb, Chief of the 3rd us Army CIC, who handed them on to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2. He, in turn, shipped them across the Atlantic to the United States. In Washington, an FBI forensic analysis of the paper and ink confirmed their authenticity.
Still in Germany, Trevor-Roper and CIC agent Arnold Weiss had followed Zander to the small village of Vilshofen, near the Czech border. There, Zander resisted arrest and a short gunfight ensued before he was overpowered. He was transferred to Munich and interrogated. He resisted for about ten hours but finally broke, revealing to Trevor-Roper many details of the last days in the Bunker which the former historian had gleaned from other, less well-placed sources.
This was early in 1946. Although everything Trevor-Roper was turning up now confirmed his initial conclusions about Hitler's last days, vet much of the rest of the world was still not convinced. Sightings of Hitler continued.
That year he was seen in Spain, where he was reported at the end of September as leading a wolf-pack of u_boats. For added verisimilitude, he was said to be suffering badly from seasickness. Next, he was reported as living on a farm at La Falda in Argentina although his appearance had been changed, according to this report, by a plastic surgeon who had performed the operation on the boat that ferried the Fuhrer across the Atlantic from Europe to the new world.
Just before Christmas 1946 the us embassy in Stockholm received an anonymous letter addressed to the "Chief of the American Zone". Given that even Kurt Dittmar had admitted that there was a small redoubt in northern Scandinavia, this report was treated more seriously than many others. It read in part:
"If you look in the Bauerska mountains you will find a long cave about 466 metres or maybe even longer, with about ninety-m,o doors, well camouflaged. Hitler has here a room thirty by thirty metres, with electrical stoves, one big, one small. There is food there, cans of all kinds for several years ahead and lots of money, of all kinds of currencies. There is also a pipe from the top of the mountain in which food can be dropped down. Those who bring food there are called `Ravens'. Those who built this in the mountains have been killed long ago so it would not be discovered. When you have found it, I demand one sixth of what there is there and a jeep and a tractor. You will know my name when you have found him." On the reverse was written: "They had stolen horses and cows, hay and so on. They have plenty of ammunition and guns. A Swede who has a sixth sense is with them. He tells them all. Find these gentlemen. What will be done will be done soon."
Still another report in 1946 placed Hitler in Holland, in a coffee room in Amsterdam. This time the writer commented on the Fuhrer's strange appearance - he had a very long body and long arms - but the informant also said that this Hitler still had direct links with the Gestapo and was trying to kill the writer, who therefore begged the Allied authorities to act quickly.
Another report placed Hitler in Zurich, saying he had aged dreadfully, that his hair had turned white, his body was bent forward and he took ver-y short steps. He apparently had some form of lung infection for he coughed persistently. He preferred dark suits and hats and his demeanour was "similar to that of a pensioned official." The Deputy Director of Intelligence at the European Command instructed his subordinates to check out this report, as he did with almost all such paperwork coming across his desk. "I feel we would be remiss in our duty," he wrote, "if we failed to follow up a report of this nature." He even requested help from the Chief of the Swiss Federal Police in Berne.
Nor were the Allied Forces immune from spotting Hitler. One American GI reported that he had seen the Fuhrer, Eva Braun and her sister Gretl in Bernheim in the house where he collected his laundry. This man had to be Hitler, the Gi felt, because he flew into a rage whenever the v-1 weapon was mentioned and "exhibited great sentiment over the photograph of a dog" which seems to have closely resembled Blondi, the Fuhrer's own Alsatian.
The impact of these reports may be judged from the account of Lieutenant Colonel W. Byford-Jones, a British Intelligence officer who, on 20 April 1946 (what would have been Hitler's fifty-seventh birthday), questioned twenty educated Berliners on the fate of Hitler. "Only, one thought Hitler was dead. The other nineteen betrayed that then were conscious of the fact that it was their Fuhrer's birthday. Then- were convinced he was alive and spoke of him with anything but reproach. I found also that children, who are usually a good guide to the beliefs of adults, almost without exception spoke of Onkel Adolf as a living being.
"A new feature in this belief was where Hitler was supposed to be hiding. In the summer of 1945 1 had been told he was in Spain, South America and other unlikely places, but now another hide-out, was mentioned. He was with the Edelweiss, an illegal organisation well known to exist, and he was in the wild mountainous area that extends from the Alps on the Swiss frontier to the Tyrol in Austria, where thousands of Wehrmacht troops, calling themselves Edelweiss, retain their wartime formations, stores, equipment and munitions and live high up in the mountain fastnesses." The Redoubt was back.
In January 1947, a report was sent to the American CIC forces via the French Intelligence services. This claimed that Hitler was hiding in the area of Heidelberg and was in touch with a Resistance leader in Weinheim. The French report said that Hitler had visited Weinheim disguised as an American soldier, the visit no doubt part of the Fuhrer's campaign to begin a new Reich.
Weinheim duly became the subject of a raid by thirty. Allied officers - five CIC special agents and twenty-five men of the us Constabulary. There was no trace of either Hitler or the Resistance leader.
mIt was in March 1947 that Trevor-Roper's report was published in the form of a book, under the title The Last Days of Hitler. By rights, the book ought to have solved the mystery once and for all, to have killed speculation for ever. It was meticulously researched, well written and by and large convincing. But among several points left unresolved, one all-important matter remained a mystery.
Meet the Author
Ada Petrova is an award-winning Russian television journalist who lives in Moscow.
Peter Watson is a columnist for the London Observer and the author of four novels and five books of nonfiction, including a biography of Rudolf Nureyev. He lives in London.
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