—Alexander Kalganov, Archive Department, FSB44
n the midst of all the conflicting testimonies concerning the ultimate fate of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, there was a bizarre intelligence operation taking place behind the scenes. This was the mission of SMERSH—the Soviet counter-intelligence group whose acronym stands for “Death to Spies”—to secure the bodies of Hitler and Braun (and, indeed, those of the entire Goebbels family, plus their dogs, plus General Krebs) and then…well…wander around Germany with them piled
in the back of a truck while they figured out what to do.
We have seen that the forensic evidence provided to the Soviets in the form of the putative corpses of both Hitler and Braun was the product of a deliberate fraud. Had the Russians merely found some bodies they believed to be the ones they sought and then later discovered their mistake, this story would not be as compelling. Instead, they found bodies that were deliberately altered in such a way as to prove that they were, indeed, those of Hitler and Braun. Had they merely mistaken some anonymous corpses for those of the Fuhrer and his mistress there would still be the possibility that the real bodies would be found one day. Instead, they were presented with corpses into which Hitler’s and Eva’s bridges had been carelessly inserted and this meant the goal of the perpetrators was a deliberate attempt to call off any further search for the two Nazis. A clever diversion had been created, one that made the Soviets waste their time and resources. What, then, was the real purpose behind the hoax?
There are two possibilities. Either the real bodies had been buried in some secret place by the Nazis and the fake bodies offered up so that the Russians would call off their search; or, and this seems more likely, Hitler and Braun were not dead at all.
The Nazis would not have simply left two look-alikes behind, as-is, because eventually someone would recognize the deception. Instead, the
two bodies had to be burned so as to remove any potential for precise visual identification, and then the duplicate bridgework inserted to “prove” their identities. We have seen this before in instances of insurance fraud and in homicide cases where a body is burned beyond recognition in a car—for instance—so that investigators will make the assumption that the corpse is that of the owner of the car while the real owner and perpetrator makes his getaway. Today, however, we have access to means of identification that did not exist in 1945, and this is what eventually exposed the most elaborate and cruel hoax of the twentieth century.
According to declassified Soviet intelligence files, SMERSH took possession of the bodies and then drove around Germany with them, burying them and then digging them up, burying them again in some other location and then digging them up again, uncertain of what to do with the bodies until they finally settled on the historic city of Magdeburg where SMERSH had a facility.
In the words of the “Report on the Burial of the Corpses of Hitler, Goebbels and Other Persons”, and classified Top Secret, dated June 4, 1945:
In a further search on 5 May, 1945, several metres from the place where the corpses of Goebbels and his wife had been discovered, two badly-burnt bodies were discovered in a bomb crater; these were the corpse of the Reichschanceller [sic] of Germany Adolf Hitler and the corpse of his wife Braun, Eva. These two corpses were also taken to the ‘Smersh’ Counter-Espionage Section of the 3rd Assault Army—the city of Buh (Berlin) …Because of the relocation of the ‘Smersh’ Counter-Espionage Section of the Army, the corpses were exhumed and moved first to the region of the city of Finov, and later, on 3 June, 1945, to the region of the city of Rathenau, where they were finally buried.45
Then, in the same dated report, special attention is given to the means of burial and the identification of the grave:
The corpses were in wooden coffins in a 1.7 metre deep grave, laid out in the following order:
From east to west: Hitler, Eva Braun, Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, Krebs, and Goebbels’ children.
At the western end of the grave there is also a basket containing the bodies of two dogs, one of which belonged to Hitler personally and the other to Braun, Eva.
The location of the burnt bodies: Germany, province of Brandenburg, the vicinity of the city of Rathenau, forest to the east off the city of Rathenau, along the road from Rathenau to Scheetow…325 metres from a railway bridge, along a forest road, from a milestone numbered 111 northeastwards 4-side marker bearing the same number 111…The grave was filled in and smoothed over and small pine trees were planted on it forming the number 111.46
A number of points beg our attention. In the first place, the care taken to keep the corpses of the dogs and carry them around Germany along with the other bodies is somewhat unusual and inexplicable unless it demonstrates the anxiety of the SMERSH operatives lest the dogs one day prove to be invaluable as evidence and no one wanted to be the one to tell Stalin that they disposed of them in a ditch somewhere.
In the second place, the almost ritualistic burial arrangement attracts our attention, including the mysterious use of the number 111. While this may just have been for the ease of locating the specific graves at a later date (which they did, in fact, do) one is still struck by the possibility of meaning or significance of the number.
When looking for significance beyond that available to the normal avenues of historical research, one is sometimes tempted to look in obscure and otherworldly places…at least, until something more concrete comes along. In this case recourse to a book on Kabbalah proved unexpectedly helpful in this regard, for the number 111 can mean anything from “Ruin, destruction, sudden death” to “Common holocaust,”47 which seems oddly appropriate, especially when coming from a Jewish source! The scene also calls to mind the picture in the Rider-Waite tarot deck of the “Three of Wands” card, which shows three trees standing upright and a man between them, gazing out to sea. The meaning usually attached to this card is “a journey.” The author, however, does not imply that the Soviet spies were
aware of these associations but only that, sometimes, coincidence has its own contribution to make.
This, however, was not the end of the wandering of the corpses for less than a year later it was decided to dig them up again.
From the SMERSH report entitled “Concerning the Re-Burial of the Remains” dated February 21 and 23, 1946:
…on this day, according to orders of the Chief of the ‘Smersh’ Counter-Espionage Department of the Group of the Soviet Occupational Forces in Germany—Lieutenant-General Comrade Zelenin, we opened up the grave containing the corpses in the vicinity of the city of Rathenau:
of Reichschanceller [sic] of Germany Adolf Hitler of his wife Braun, Eva
of the Minister of Propaganda of Germany—Dr Josef Goebbels, his wife Magda Goebbels and their children— son Helmut and daughters Hilde, Helga, Hedda, Holde and [Heide]
of the Chief of the German General Staff—General Krebs
All the corpses mentioned are in a state of partial decay in wooden coffins and were delivered in this condition to the city of Magdeburg, to the headquarters of the ‘Smersh’ Counter-Espionage Section of the Army and again buried in a grave 2 metres deep in the yard of a building at no. 36 Westendstrasse, near the southern stone wall of the yard, 24 metres due east of the wall of the garage of the house.
The grave was filled in and smoothed over, blending in with the surrounding terrain.48
This was to be only a temporary resting place as well, but at least these bodies would stay buried for the next twenty-four years. The wandering of the corpses—from the Reich Chancellery garden, to the suburb of Buch, then to Finow, then to Rathenow, and finally to Magdeburg—had come to an end. A total of five burial sites in nine months. To an outside observer, this peripatetic approach to body disposal makes little or no sense at all.
And all this time, Stalin was insisting to anyone who would listen that Hitler was still alive.
A portion of Hitler’s body that was not buried with him was a part of his skull. This evidence, which consisted of his cranium with a bullet hole in it, was found by SMERSH near where the bodies were discovered in the Reich Chancellery garden. It was immediately assumed that this was a piece of Hitler’s skull (just as they had assumed that the body in their possession was Hitler’s body). This forensic material was transported to Moscow where it was kept in a cardboard box along with Hitler’s famous bridgework. Photographs of this skull fragment can be seen in Hitler’s Death49 and they have been reproduced since then in many other places. The photos clearly show what seems to be a bullet hole, and this satisfied Soviet intelligence that it was Hitler’s (as if a skull with a bullet hole in it was an anomaly in Berlin in 1945!).
If SMERSH was convinced that they had the corpse of Adolf Hitler, and had his skull (or a good piece of it) then why did Stalin keep insisting that Hitler was still alive? In fact, why did the Americans also claim that there was no evidence to prove that Hitler had died in the bunker?
Why do declassified FBI and CIA files indicate that reports of Hitler sightings in Latin America were taken seriously and followed up as late as the 1960s?
Was it even remotely possible that Hitler had escaped?
To answer that question we have to ask two more: was Hitler healthy enough to leave the bunker, and if so was it possible for anyone to leave Berlin in April of 1945?
It has been widely reported that Hitler was suffering from an advanced stage of Parkinson’s Disease. However, this was a condition that was never officially diagnosed by a physician at the time. All we have to go on are reports of Hitler’s symptoms and erratic medical records kept by various doctors who came and left Hitler’s employ over the years and which do little to help clear up any controversy. One of the worst medical professionals attending the Führer was Dr. Theodor Morell, a specialist in patent medicines and general all-around quackery. It was Morell who kept Hitler
drugged on a variety of poisons, pain-killers and placebos, and who most likely exacerbated whatever condition Hitler actually had.
Although rumors of Hitler’s Parkinsonism were rampant among Bunker insiders due to the perceived symptoms—trembling hands, stooped posture, fixed stare, difficulty in getting up from a chair or walking very far—there were other factors at work that influenced Hitler’s state of being. It is difficult at this remove to state categorically that Hitler’s apparently degenerating physical condition was strictly the result of Parkinson’s Disease. We would have to subtract the effects of the various drugs he was taking, the 1944 assassination attempt, the stress of the constant bombardments at the end, the realization that the war was being lost, the treachery of his trusted colleagues such as Himmler and Göring, and so much else besides. There was also the question of syphillis.
Another rumor around the Bunker and among insiders such as Himmler was the idea that Hitler had contracted syphillis during his days in Vienna as an impoverished artist. Syphillis is the type of disease that can remain dormant for decades and then suddenly appear. Himmler was eager to get his hands on any documentation that would prove this story, if only to ensure that it was buried as deeply as possible…or to use it for blackmail purposes should it ever come to that. It seems that no blood test results are available, however, even though Hitler’s first visit to Dr. Morell (in 1936) was in the latter’s role as a “venereal specialist.” It is entirely possible, then, that Hitler believed he had syphillis regardless of any medical evidence, and that Morell might have used that belief to bolster his own position in the Fuhrer’s inner circle. Hitler would have been forced to trust Morell with this secret, and Morell would have made as much use of that trust as possible… short of getting himself killed, for Hitler was known to order the deaths of those he felt were a threat to his image. But if he believed he had syphillis, he would have been loath to take the chance of trusting another doctor with this information which may be why Morell lasted as long as he did. This is probably the only reason we can entertain for the complete faith Hitler seemed to have in this quack, even when other—more traditional and experienced—physicians were available and were occasionally called upon for their specialties; physicians who sized up Morell quite quickly and who were troubled by the influence this man had over the leader of Germany.
A brief description of the more than seventy different medicines Morell was administering to Hitler includes atropine, strychnine, and
methamphetamines, as well as various pseudo-medicines as “Septo-Iodine” and “Tonophospan” as well as something called “Testoviron” which was presumably used for erectile dysfunction.50
Atropine and strychnine are, of course, poisonous in the right doses. Atropine, a derivative of the Deadly Nightshade plant, can cause hallucinations, dizziness, extreme confusion, and loss of balance. Some of these symptoms are identical to those of Parkinson’s. Morell was using atropine in the form of eyedrops for Hitler, since the latter was suffering from impaired vision. If the drops were used continuously over a long period of time—and if the drops were of an incorrect dosage—then the possibility of toxicity cannot be overlooked.
Strychnine comes from the Nux Vomica plant, and is highly toxic. In lethal doses it causes convulsions and rigidity of the abdominal muscles, among other symptoms, and death results from respiratory failure, as the lungs are unable to contract and expand, thus leading to asphyxiation. It appears that strychnine was used to treat Hitler’s flatulence in a concoction called Doktor Koster’s Antigaspills, in a compound with Belladonna extract.51 These drugs can cause severe cases of constipation…something from which the dictator suffered in those last years of his life, which caused Morell to prescribe still other medicines, and so on.
The effects of methylamphetamines are widely known today, and could also have contributed to Hitler’s perceived psychotic behavior, including hallucinations, trembling, paranoia, etc. The constant dosing and the length of time (years) that Morell gave Hitler amphetamines suggest a serious addiction; yet, in April of 1945 Hitler grew angry with Morell and even threatened to have him executed.52
Thus, we can only safely diagnose Parkinson’s Disease in Hitler— long- distance, as it were—if we are able to isolate his symptoms from those of the other drugs he was taking. One thing is known, however, and that is that Morell flew out of Berlin on April 22, eight days before the end…which indicates that perhaps Hitler was no longer taking Morell’s prescriptions at the time of his presumed death, even though a supply of some of the drugs was left behind and these were presumably—but not definitively— administered by Linge.