The last photograph taken of Adolf Hitler, April 20, 1945.
by James Harting
Some 73 years have now elapsed since the end of the Second World War and the freewill death of Adolf Hitler. An enormous body of literature has been written since that time on the National Socialist period in European history, including its origins and aftermath. The amount of documentary evidence collected from the period can be measured in cubic tons.
Every scintilla of credible evidence that has been produced indicates that Hitler did indeed take his own life during the last days of that catastrophic conflict. And yet, there are some today who refuse to believe that Hitler died under the shattered ruins of Berlin, and that somehow he escaped to parts unknown. Among historians, both Revisionist and mainstream alike, this is known as the “Hitler survival myth.”
It is long past time that this tall tale is put to bed once and for all.
DEATH IN BERLIN
April, 1945: The Second World War in Europe is coming to its bloody, brutal, tragic end. The Allied armies push forward into Germany from the West, while in the East the Reich is being overrun by the Asiatic hordes of Stalin’s Red Army.
In Berlin, Adolf Hitler is hunkered down in his subterranean command center known as the Führerbunker. Above, the Bolsheviks press forward relentlessly against the outnumbered and outgunned German defenders, who have mounted a heroic but doomed defense.
Hitler realizes that the end has come. He marries his longtime companion, Eva Braun, thus legitimizing her place in history. He writes a “Political Testament” and a private will. He gives away the few personal possessions remaining to him, such as a small portrait of Frederick the Great. He takes leave of his staff and entourage, saying goodbye and shaking hands with each of them. Then, with quiet dignity, Hitler and Eva repair to a private chamber where they take their own lives. In this manner the Führer completes his earthly mission and passes into history. Sic transit gloria mundi.
The bodies are carried to the surface and set alight in a makeshift funeral pyre. A small knot of followers witnessed the burning. They give a last, grief-stricken salute to their fallen chief, before returning to the relative safety of the bunker. The area where the corpses lay is soon pounded by Soviet artillery fire, all but obliterating them.
WHY DID HITLER TAKE HIS OWN LIFE?
In the English language we have only a single word for the act of taking one’s own life: suicide. German, however, draws a distinction between Selbstmord (“self murder”), when a person kills himself in shame or desperation, and Freitod (“free death”), which is when someone ends their own life voluntarily, in a clearheaded and deliberate manner, because they believe that their life has run its course, and it is now time to exit the stage.
Noted historian Mark Weber discusses Hitler’s freewill decision to take his own life:
In Hitler’s view, military commanders who order soldiers to defend a given position to the death are ethically obliged to set an example themselves, either by dying in battle or by taking their own lives. Following the calamitous conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad, he had expressed contempt for the behavior of the German commander, von Paulus, who surrendered (and then later served as a Soviet propagandist). Von Paulus should have taken his own life, said Hitler, thereby showing the same level of manly resolve that dozens of Soviet commanders in similar situations had already exhibited.
Hitler rejected repeated pleas to flee from the beleaguered German capital. “I will never leave Berlin,” he vowed. “I’ll defend the city to my last breath!” He added: “I should already have made this decision, the most important in my life, in November 1944, and should never have left the headquarters in East Prussia.” And even if he did break out from the encircled city, he pointed out, “We would merely flee from one frying pan to another. Am I, the Führer, supposed to sleep in any open field or in a farmhouse, and just wait for the end?”
Hitler also made it clear that although he was willing to die in battle, he feared that he might only be wounded and then taken prisoner, which would mean humiliating captivity and execution. Strengthening his decision to die by his own hand was the news of the fate of his friend and ally, Benito Mussolini. Shortly after being taken prisoner, the Italian leader was simply murdered, and his battered corpse was then put on public display to gratify a hysterical mob.
And that should have been the end of it, except that some people simply refused to believe that Hitler was dead.
THE HITLER SURVIVAL MYTH
Although the precise moment of Hitler’s death was a private one, there were dozens of people in the bunker command center at the time, and who were witness in some part to the event, including the cremation of the bodies. Some of these people, such as Dr. Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda, and Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, did not survive the War. But many others did, including:
- General Wilhelm Burgdorf
- General Hans Krebs
- General Helmuth Weidling
- SS General Wilhelm Mohnke
- Arthur Axmann (leader of the Hitler Youth)
- Otto Günsche (Hitler’s personal adjutant)
- Ewald Lindloff (Fuehrer’s SS bodyguard)
- Hans Reisser (Fuehrer’s SS bodyguard)
- Erich Kempka (Hitler’s chauffeur)
- Heinz Linge (Hitler’s valet)
- Gerda Christian (secretary)
- Traudl Junge (secretary)
- Constanze Manzialy (Hitler’s dietician)
- Hermann Karnau (SS guard)
- Erich Mansfeld (SS guard)
This is only a partial list. Everyone on it was later interrogated by the Soviets or the Allies, or both, and all reported the same thing: that Adolf Hitler died by his own hand at approximately 3:30 on the afternoon of April 30th. Almost everyone who was in the bunker maintained their loyalty to their Führer after the War, and thus, conceivably, could have had a reason to prevaricate if Hitler had somehow secretly escaped. “Almost,” but not everyone. Traudl Junge notoriously became anti-Hitler in her later life. But she, too, reported Hitler’s freewill death.
Despite the absolute lack of any credible evidence, almost immediately rumors began to circulate that Hitler had, indeed, survived the maelstrom in Berlin.
It now appears that first rumors were deliberately spread by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who felt that the survival myth gave him some tactical advantage in the post-1945 Cold War maneuvering.
The notion that Hitler was still alive captured the imaginations of those who were conspiratorily inclined. At first he was said to be hiding out in the Bavarian Alps. Soon the story moved him to the Patagonia region of Argentina. In the end, their imaginations unleashed from any constraints of reason or reality, conspiriologists had Hitler sequestered in a secret “Nazi UFO” base in Antarctica – and even on the dark side of the Moon!
Even some National Socialists were taken in by the myth. The notion that the Führer was dead was just too horrible for them to contemplate.
The renowned NS philosopher Savitri Devi maintained that Hitler was alive in two of her books written in the immediate post-War period, Defiance (1952) and Gold in the Furnace (1953). She recounts various conversations with Germans from that period, who express their belief that Hitler was still alive. Indeed, so strong was her faith in Hitler’s survival, that she wrote and distributed thousands of leaflets that she wrote with the following text:
What Have the Democracies Brought You?
In Wartime. Phosphorous and Fire
After the War, Hunger, Humiliation and Oppression;
The Dismantling of the Factories;
The Destruction of the Forests;
And Now–the Ruhr Statute!
However, “Slavery is to Last but a Short Time More.”
Our Führer is Alive
And Will Soon Come Back with Power Unheard of.
Resist our Persecutors!
Hope and Wait!
By the mid-1950s, however, she had come to grips with the realization that Hitler had indeed perished in Berlin years earlier.
If there were even a one percent of a one percent chance that the Führer had escaped Berlin alive, he would have been the subject of a worldwide manhunt, the likes of which had never been seen. News of his survival would have been the lead story on the front page of every newspaper, not relegated to the pages of publications such as The Police Gazette.
Stormfront member lord flints volunteer, who is not a National Socialist, correctly notes:
America, Israel etc., would have moved heaven and earth to put him on trial.
If he had escaped they would have caught him.
Imagine the reward for information on his whereabouts that would have been up for someone to claim.
I am not a Hitler supporter but I don’t think the NS people do themselves any favours when they push some of their more imaginative theories about history.
Actually, it is not uncommon for survival myths to arise about famous public figures. The following have also had survival myths appended to their real-life biographies:
- Elvis Presley
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
- Jesse James
- Che Guevera
- Jim Morrison
But like Adolf Hitler, they, too, all died in the manner widely reported, confounding the conspiriologists.
THE WORLD UNION OF NATIONAL SOCIALISTS’ INVESTIGATION
By the mid-1950s, no National Socialist seriously believed that Hitler was still alive. Nevertheless, rumors to this effect continued to circulate in conspiritological circles.
By the 1970s, the US-based World Union of National Socialists had emerged as the foremost international NS formation. In 1975, because the issue of Hitler’s alleged survival was one of such fundamental importance, the World Union decided to launch its own investigation to settle the matter to its satisfaction once and for all.
A commission of World Union officers visited Germany, where they spoke to as many survivors from the Bunker whom they could locate. The commission was led by World Union Commander Matt Koehl, and included the Danish NS leader Povl Riis-Knudsen, whose father had been an officer in the Waffen-SS.
Among those to whom they spoke were Hitler Youth leader Arthur Axmann; Hitler’s personal pilot, Hanna Reitsch; Otto Günsche; and Heinz Linge. (It should be noted that in some variants of the survival myth, Reitsch was said to have flown Hitler to safety.)
Everyone interviewed by the WUNS commission said the same thing: Hitler ended his mortal life in the Bunker. Some 31 years after the event, there was no reason for any of them to conceal the truth, even if there had been a cover-up in 1945.
BUT HIS SPIRIT LIVES ON!
No, as tragic and heartbreaking as it may be, Adolf Hitler died at his own hand beneath the burning rubble of Berlin.
But although his body perished on that black April afternoon, his memory and his will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of his followers everywhere. As long as a single National Socialist remains on the face of the Earth, Adolf Hitler will live on in spirit!