In 1945, when Hitler realized that the Soviet forces had reached Berlin, he feared an end similar to Mussolini who had been shot by a firing squad and then publicly hung by his feet in a suburban square in Milan, Italy. He instead committed suicide. Hitler's death might have been an end to his reign, but it marked the beginning of conspiracy theories that stuck around for decades. But, what
happened to Hitler's body?
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), leader of the Nazi Party from 1921 to the time of his death in 1945, is one of the most despised public figures in history and for good reasons. Germany and hundreds of thousands of Germans, under his Nazi rule, suffered countless atrocities. Considering genocide, hostage murders, reprisal raids, forced labor, “euthanasia,” starvation, exposure, medical experiments, and terror bombing, and the concentration and death camps, the Nazis murdered around 15,003,000 to 31,595,000 people.
Nearing the End
By early 1945 it had become increasingly clear that Germany would succumb to the Allied Forces by the summer of the same year, which had been the overall feeling about the war results since 1943. In February of that year, the Soviet Union annihilated the German 6th Army at the Battle of Stalingrad. Later, in June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed at Normandy, France, and systematically drove the Germans back toward Berlin. Several German military personnel acknowledged their imminent defeat by July of the same year and plotted to remove Hitler from power to negotiate peace. However, they failed in their attempts to assassinate Hitler, and in revenge, Hitler executed over 4,000 fellow countrymen.
Hitler's Last Days
By January of 1945, Hitler had moved to his bunker that contained 18 rooms, including bedrooms, toilets, conference rooms, and was self-sufficient and located 55 feet under the chancellery. The bunker also had a telephone facility to connect Hitler with the outside world.
On April 30, 1945, Hitler received the news of Soviet forces entering Berlin, the German capital city. He had a meeting with General Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, and was informed by the General that they would run out of ammunition by that night and the battle for Berlin would come to an end in the next 24 hours. Hitler then appointed Admiral Karl Donitz as head of state and Goebbels as chancellor and met with the entire staff in the bunker and shook their hands. Hitler and Eva Braun, his long-time girlfriend, and wife of 40-hours, then had what was possibly their last supper and retired to Hitler’s room.
SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche, Hitler’s Adjunct, guarded the room. Later, Heinz Linge, Hitler’s valet, opened the door and found Hitler and Braun’s corpses lying on the sofa. There was a smell of burnt almonds, acutely associated with hydrogen cyanide, in the room. Hitler’s body lay on the sofa with a gunshot wound in his temple while there were no such wounds on Braun’s body. It was speculated that Braun had consumed the poisonous compound, and the reported time of death was suspected to be between 3 PM and 4 PM.
Hitler and Braun were taken out of the bunker, rolled up, and burnt using petrol, as per Hitler’s instructions. As the flames were not concentrated on the corpses, they were taking time to burn. As the Soviets started bombing the bunker, the Nazi soldiers were able to burn the bodies entirely except for the teeth, which were later used to attest that the body on the lawn of the bunker was, in actuality Hitler’s.
When The Soviets Found Out the Truth
The task to find out the whereabouts of Hitler was given to three Soviet officers, who, through their investigations of the German POWs found out that Hitler had shot himself and committed suicide.
On May 2nd, when the Soviets took charge of the Reich Chancellery building and found Hitler’s bunker. They wanted proof that Hitler had actually committed suicide. They found out that the bodies were buried in the courtyard and upon digging they unearthed two human bodies and a dog. However, the bodies were unidentifiable, burnt, with only the teeth in reasonable conditions.
Finding two burnt bodies was not plausible proof and so the Soviet officers arrested everybody who had worked under Hitler in the bunker and investigated them. They even tried to get hold of Hitler’s dentist, Hugo Blaschke, finding out in their pursuit that he had fled Germany. Instead, they found Käthe Heusermann, Hugo’s assistant who had been present at each of Hitler’s appointments for the past decade.
Before providing her with the teeth that the officers had found at the bunker site, the Soviets needed to be sure that she was the person she was claiming to be so they asked her to draw a sketch of Hitler’s teeth. The sketch she drew was very detailed and illustrated Hitler’s dreadful hygiene. This shocked the Soviets and they gave her the set of teeth to analyze.
In an interview years later, she claimed that as soon as she held the bridge, she looked for a distinctive indication; finding it almost immediately she blurted out, “These are the teeth of Adolf Hitler.”
Rise and Fall of Conspiracy Theories about Hitler's Death
Stalin was informed about the new findings but he did not want the news of Hitler’s death to spread. In a meeting with Winston Churchill and Harry Truman, Stalin told them that Hitler had escaped timely and fled Germany. The news of Hitler’s suicide did reach the American and British governments through prisoners of war but they had nothing substantial to prove it.
On June 9th, 1945, during an official press conference, The Soviet Union presented that Adolf Hitler was alive and fled Germany.
To keep the truth a secret, Käthe Heusermann and others who knew about Hitler’s death were imprisoned in the Soviet Union for a decade.
Over the years, many conspiracy theories surfaced including one which stated that Hitler had escaped to the west; In a book called Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler by British authors Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams, they claimed that he had fled to Argentina using a U-Boat and was greeted by future president Juan Perón, who had been receiving money from the Nazis for some time. The theory also stated that Hitler moved bases in Argentina and Eva left him along with their daughter and that Hitler died in February of 1962.
These and several other conspiracy theories surrounding Hitler’s death have been debunked.
Hitler was buried in Magdeburg, Germany. His remains were later unearthed in the 1970s, burned, and thrown into the Biederitz river, except for the skull which was archived and made public later.
Analysing the Skull and Four Remaining Teeth
Recently, in a study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine in May 2018, researchers analyzed the remains of Hitler’s teeth but the actual reason for his death remains under wraps.
The researchers found that his skull had a hole on the left side and that at the time of his death Hitler had only four remaining teeth. They were not able to confirm whether he took cyanide before the gunshot. Bluish deposits on his false teeth raise the question of whether some chemical reaction took place between his fake teeth and the cyanide at the moment of death, during his cremation, or while the remains were buried?