Alleged doubles of Adolf Hitler

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler may have used look-alikes as political decoys, though there is no evidence that he did so during his life. The Soviet Union variously claimed that bodies resembling Hitler were found in the aftermath of the Battle of Berlin, during which Hitler committed suicide. The most prominent evidence is Soviet footage of a body identified as Gustav Weler, found in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. Weler was said to have worked in the Reich Chancellery, perhaps as a cook. Conspiracy theorists have cited this body double as an example of alleged evidence that Hitler escaped Germany.

Dead body with a toothbrush moustache and an apparent gunshot wound to the forehead
An apparent Hitler body double with a portrait of the dictator, filmed by the Soviets

Supporting claimsEdit

 
Hitler with his chauffeur Julius Schreck, who died in May 1936

The 1939 book The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler alleges that the Nazi Party used four people as doubles for Hitler, including the author, who claims that the real dictator died in 1938 and that he subsequently took his place.[1] The book was considered farcical in the year of its release and cannot be considered as being remotely reliable.[2] In 1939, the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), while admitting that the book has "practically no direct evidence of authenticity", defended it by citing the purported 1938 death[a] of Julius Schreck (d. 1936) as support for Hitler's use of doubles.[4] The NEA claimed that Schreck was Hitler's chauffeur until 1934, and was riding in the back of a car being driven by Hitler, and took a bullet from a would-be Hitler assassin who did not expect Hitler to be driving.[4] In fact, Schreck died in May 1936 after developing meningitis.[5]

In late April 1945, Stockholm's "Free German Press Service" circulated a rumor that a Hitler double named August Wilhelm Bartholdy, supposedly a former grocer from Plauen, was called to Berlin to be filmed dying on the battlefield in Hitler's stead.[6] The Germans émigrés stated, "He will act as Hitler's trump card, creating a hero legend around the Führer's death, while Hitler himself goes underground."[7] Hitler died in Berlin on 30 April, with his dental remains subsequently being positively identified.[8][b]

On 9 May 1945, The New York Times reported that a body was claimed by the Soviets to belong to Hitler. This was disputed by an anonymous servant, who stated that the body was that of a cook who was killed because of his resemblance to Hitler, and that the latter had escaped.[9][10] On 6 June 1945, the United Press reported that four bodies had been found in Berlin resembling Hitler, purportedly burnt by the Red Army's flame throwers. One body was considered most likely to be that of Hitler.[11] In mid-1945, a Soviet major told American sources that Hitler had survived and claimed of the place in the Reich Chancellery garden where his body was said to have been burned, "It is not true that Hitler was found there! Our experts have established that the man found here didn't look like Hitler at all. And we didn't find Eva Braun either!"[12][13] From 1951 to 1972, the National Police Gazette ran stories asserting that SS physician Ludwig Stumpfegger had switched out a double for Hitler to help the dictator fake his death.[14] In the mid-1950s, after spending a decade in Soviet captivity, SS valet Heinz Linge testified that his interrogators had questioned him about whether Hitler escaped via this method.[15]

In 1963, author Cornelius Ryan interviewed General B. S. Telpuchovski, a Soviet historian who was allegedly present during the aftermath of the Battle of Berlin. Telpuchovski claimed that on 2 May 1945, a burnt body he thought belonged to Hitler was found wrapped in a blanket.[16][c][d] This supposed individual had been killed by a gunshot through the mouth, with an exit wound through the back of the head.[e][f] Several dental bridges were purportedly found next to the body, because, Telpuchovski stated, "the force of the bullet had dislodged them from the mouth".[16][b][g] In his 1966 book, The Last Battle, Ryan describes this body as that of Hitler, saying it had been buried "under a thin layer of earth".[27] Telpuchovski had said there were a total of three Hitler candidates which had been burnt, apparently including a body double wearing mended socks, which he described as being in "remnants".[16] Ryan quotes him as saying, "There was also the body of a man who was freshly killed but not burned."[27]

Soviet journalist Lev Bezymenski details the darned-sock-wearing double in his 1968 book, The Death of Adolf Hitler. He quotes Ivan Klimenko, the commander of the Red Army's SMERSH unit, as stating that on the night of 3 May 1945, he witnessed Vizeadmiral Hans-Erich Voss seem to recognize a corpse as Hitler's in a dry water tank filled with other bodies in the garden of the Reich Chancellery.[28] Although Klimenko had some doubts because the corpse was wearing mended socks, he briefly speculated that it belonged to Hitler.[29] On 4 May, Soviet officers ordered that the body double be filmed.[30] The footage shows the double with an apparent gunshot wound to the forehead.[31] According to Klimenko, later on 4 May, Hitler and Eva Braun's true remains were discovered buried in a crater outside the Chancellery, wrapped in blankets and reburied, then re-exhumed the next day after the double was debunked as being Hitler.[32][33] In 1992,[34] journalist Ada Petrova found the footage in the Russian state archives; the body double had been identified as Gustav Weler.[35][h] In their 1995 book, Petrova and Peter Watson assert that 'Weler' may have worked in the Reich Chancellery and occasionally stood in for Hitler as a political decoy.[31]

Arguments againstEdit

Presiding judge at the Einsatzgruppen trial at Nuremberg Michael Musmanno wrote in 1948, "There is not a shred of evidence to show that Hitler ever had a double." Musmanno further states that "the several score immediate associates of Hitler whom I questioned expressly stated that Hitler never had a double."[36] In his 1950 book about Hitler's death, Musmanno wrote:

To suggest as some sophomorically reasoning theorists have, including the noted author Emil Ludwig, that possibly it was a double of Hitler who died and was cremated is, without any evidence to support it, about as rational as to say that Hitler was carried away by angels. ... it is inconceivable that Hitler, with his self-assurance of superiority over any other human being, would concede the existence of anyone even superficially an artificial duplicate of himself.[37]

Soviet war interpreter Elena Rzhevskaya (who safeguarded Hitler's dental remains until they could be identified by his dental staff) attributed the rumours of doubles to Soviet Colonel General Nikolai Berzarin's pledge to nominate the discoverer of Hitler's corpse for the Hero of the Soviet Union award, causing multiple potential bodies to be presented.[19] Historian Peter Hoffmann, a specialist on Hitler's security detail, similarly doubts that he ever used doubles.[9]

LegacyEdit

 
Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller (MIA as of 1945) was alleged to have told the U.S. in 1948 that a double was used to help Hitler escape.[38]

Footage of the body double identified as Gustav Weler was presented as Hitler's corpse in a post-war documentary.[30] This was corrected in a 1966 documentary.[30][39] In September 1992, Ada Petrova edited a still of the footage into a Russian television broadcast, which was criticized for implying the body was Hitler's.[40] A few days later, Bezymenski claimed that the double was separate from Hitler's body, which he reaffirmed that the Soviets had found elsewhere "in the garden of the Chancellery".[30]

In his 1995 book on Hitler's death, historian Anton Joachimsthaler disputes the purported Soviet autopsy report of Hitler's body, which was published by Bezymenski in 1968. Joachimsthaler argues that the Soviets never found Hitler's body, which must have been burnt to ashes. Joachimsthaler quotes esteemed German pathologist Otto Prokop [de] as saying the alleged autopsy report "describes anything but Hitler".[26] Similarly, historian Luke Daly-Groves states that "the Soviet soldiers picked up whatever mush they could find in front of Hitler's bunker exit, put it in a box and claimed it was the corpses of Adolf and Eva Hitler".[41] Also in 1995, Bezymenski disclosed that his work had contained "deliberate lies", possibly including the manner of Hitler's death. In his book, he had claimed that if the dictator died from a gunshot wound, it was a coup de grâce to ensure his quick death after he took cyanide, not a suicide by gunshot.[42][43]

In 1998, British author Ian Sayer received from an anonymous source what alleged to be a photocopy of a 427-page report from the U.S. Army's Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), apparently containing a 1948 interview of Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller, who was presumed missing in action in 1945, but claimed to have been retained by the CIC as an intelligence adviser and to have joined the CIA.[44][38] According to Müller's purported account: a Hitler double was discovered in Breslau in 1941 and was seldom seen after July 1944, being sedated and kept hidden until April 1945; on April 22, Hitler, Braun and three of Hitler's associates departed by air for Hörsching Airport and were then flown to Barcelona;[i] the double was later killed by a coup de grâce, dressed in Hitler's clothes, and buried.[j] Joachimsthaler notes that the plane claimed to have been flown out of Berlin was considered a "total loss" by the Luftwaffe in May 1944, and the Junkers Ju 290 supposedly flown to Barcelona had been grounded in that city since the beginning of April 1945. Thereby, the claims of the dossier are considered by historians such as Joachimsthaler and Daly-Groves as an example of created "myths".[38][46]

In a 2009 episode of History's MysteryQuest, a bone-specializing archaeologist collected samples from a skull fragment in the Soviet archives believed to be Hitler's. DNA and forensic examination indicated that the fragment, which had an exit wound from a gunshot through the back of the head,[e] belonged to a woman less than 40 years old.[22][47] On the same program, fringe author H. D. Baumann asserts that Hitler increased his use of doubles after a 1944 assassination attempt.[48] Baumann claims that the darned-sock-wearing double, whose ears he points out are different than Hitler's and allegedly was two inches shorter,[k] was killed by the Germans on 30 April 1945.[48][j] Citing these details, as well as the notion that the bodies of Hitler and Braun were never found[l] and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's claim that Hitler escaped to Spain or Argentina, Baumann concludes that Hitler faked his death.[48] In 2017, the National Police Gazette revived its decades-old potboiler defending such a possibility and called on the Russian government to allow the jawbone fragment to be DNA-tested to settle the matter.[14][b]

Greek conspiracy theorist Peter Fotis Kapnistos, author of 2015 fringe book Hitler's Doubles, outlandishly claims that Hitler was replaced by a double after he was hospitalized near the end of World War I, citing personality changes and his increased nose width in later photographs.[52] Amongst other rigmarole, Kapnistos claims that Hitler had four doubles: Schreck, stenographer Heinrich Berger (who was killed in the 20 July 1944 attempt to kill Hitler),[53] Gustav Weler (whom discredited author W. Hugh Thomas said was found alive after the war), and—of all people—English occultist Aleister Crowley.[52]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Footnotes

  1. ^ Another source places this in 1935.[3]
  2. ^ a b c In addition to a maxillar golden bridge, Hitler's dental remains include a mandibular fragment broken around the alveolar process.[23][24]
  3. ^ Soviet Marshal Vasily Chuikov wrote in his 1964 memoirs that Hitler's body was found on 2 May.[17] According to Soviet war interpreter Elena Rzhevskaya, this is the day Joseph Goebbels and a woman presumed to be his wife[18] were discovered (to great commotion), but Hitler's body was not unearthed until 4 May.[19]
  4. ^ Soviets also told Ryan in 1963 that Hitler's body had been cremated outside of Berlin,[16] which was later claimed to have occurred in 1970.[20]
  5. ^ a b According to eyewitness accounts, Hitler did not die by a gunshot through the mouth or have a wound in the back of his head.[21] Further, in 2017–18, forensic analysis was conducted on Hitler's dental remains, which did not detect any gunpowder.[8]
  6. ^ In 2009, a skull fragment claimed to be Hitler's, which had an exit wound through the back of the head, was proven to have female DNA.[22]
  7. ^ A U.S. official had related in 1947 that Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann believed that Hitler's body had not been discovered partly because "the impact of the shot fired into his mouth destroyed his dental fixtures".[25] This explanation of Hitler's death is thought to be false, with the shot instead going from temple to temple.[21] Although his dental remains were recovered, the rest of Hitler's body was probably burnt to ashes.[26]
  8. ^ The same film reel contained footage of the remains of Joseph and Magda Goebbels, as well as those of their children.[35]
  9. ^ Besides Hitler and Braun, the alleged passengers were Walther Hewel, Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Hermann Fegelein, with Georg Betz as the pilot.[45]
  10. ^ a b In his fringe book on the topic, Baumann cites the purported account of Müller that Hitler was replaced by a double, saying that this explains his weakened appearance and certain other uncharacteristic details.[51]
  11. ^ The purported Soviet autopsy on Hitler's corpse found the body to be about four inches shorter than his presumed height.[49][50]
  12. ^ Joachimsthaler argues that the bodies were burnt to ashes,[26] although the fragment of Hitler's jawbone is only burnt on the edges of the alveolar process, where it was broken off from the rest of the jaw.[23][24]

Citations

  1. ^ "Author Declares He Impersonated Hitler". The Harvard Crimson. New York. 3 March 1939. Archived from the original on 20 November 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  2. ^ Woolbert, Robert Gale (8 October 2011). "Capsule Review: The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler". Foreign Affairs. ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  3. ^ Holzwarth, Larry (31 October 2018). "18 of the Many Attempts to Assassinate Adolf Hitler by the German Resistance". HistoryCollection.com. Archived from the original on 26 July 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b NEA Service (25 March 1939). "Analyzing the Strange Stories About Hitler's Doubles". The Daily Record. Long Branch, NJ. p. 2. Retrieved 26 July 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Hamilton 1984, pp. 172, 173.
  6. ^ "Report Hitler Double Prepared". Chicago Tribune. 27 April 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  7. ^ "The Press: Hitler Story". Time. 7 May 1945. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  8. ^ a b Daley, Jason (22 May 2018). "Hitler's Teeth Confirm He Died in 1945". Smithsonian. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b Mitchell, Arthur (2007). Hitler's Mountain: The Führer, Obersalzberg and the American Occupation of Berchtesgaden. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-0-7864-2458-0.
  10. ^ "HITLER BODY FOUND, RUSSIANS REPORT; Servant, However, Challenges Identity, Declaring Corpse That of a 'Cook Double'". The New York Times. 9 May 1945. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  11. ^ UP (6 June 1945). "Hitler's Body Found, Russians Report; He Died of Poisoning". The Hanford Sentinel. Hanford, CA. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  12. ^ Musmanno 1950, p. 233.
  13. ^ Miller, Merle (10 August 1945). "Berlin Today". Yank, the Army Weekly. United States Department of War. 4 (8): 7.
  14. ^ a b "Police Gazette's First New 'Hitler Is Alive' Article Since 1972". National Police Gazette. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  15. ^ Kershaw, Ian (2001) [2000]. Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 1038. ISBN 0-393-04994-9.
  16. ^ a b c d "3 Dead Hitlers a Puzzle". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, CA. 16 March 1966. p. 72. Retrieved 23 July 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ "RUSSIAN WRITES OF HITLER DEATH; Chuikov States His Troops Found Body May 2, 1945". The New York Times. 22 February 1964. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  18. ^ Ryan 1995, p. 366.
  19. ^ a b Rzhevskaya, Yelena (2018) [2012]. Memoirs of a Wartime Interpreter: From the Battle of Rzhev to the Discovery of Hitler's Berlin Bunker. Translated by Tait, Arch. Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1784382810.
  20. ^ Petrova & Watson 1995, p. 89.
  21. ^ a b Joachimsthaler 2000, p. 166.
  22. ^ a b ABC News (9 December 2009). "DNA Test Sparks Controversy Over Hitler's Remains". ABC News. Archived from the original on 11 May 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  23. ^ a b Bezymenski 1968, pp. 45–46.
  24. ^ a b Charlier, Philippe; Weil, Raphael; Rainsard, P.; Poupon, Joël; Brisard, J.C. (1 May 2018). "The remains of Adolf Hitler: A biomedical analysis and definitive identification". European Journal of Internal Medicine. 54: e10–e12. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2018.05.014. PMID 29779904. S2CID 29159362. It is important to see that these data fit perfectly with the [Soviet] autopsy report and with our direct observations.
  25. ^ "Axmann, Artur, interviewed on October 10, 1947. - Musmanno Collection -- Interrogations of Hitler Associates". Gumberg Library Digital Collections. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2021 – via Duquesne University.
  26. ^ a b c Joachimsthaler 2000, pp. 252–253.
  27. ^ a b Ryan 1995, pp. 504–505.
  28. ^ Bezymenski 1968, pp. 31–32.
  29. ^ Petrova & Watson 1995, pp. 52–53.
  30. ^ a b c d Erlanger, Steven (18 September 1992). "Historian Asserts Soviet Soldiers Found Hitler's Charred Remains". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 February 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ a b Petrova & Watson 1995, p. 90.
  32. ^ Petrova & Watson 1995, pp. 52–54.
  33. ^ Bezymenski 1968, pp. 32–33.
  34. ^ Petrova & Watson 1995, p. 76.
  35. ^ a b Petrova & Watson 1995, pp. 89–90.
  36. ^ Musmanno, Michael (23 July 1948). "Roundup of Facts and Evidence Proves Conclusively Death was Hitler's Fate". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, PN. p. 21. Retrieved 23 July 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ Musmanno 1950, p. 236.
  38. ^ a b c Joachimsthaler 2000, pp. 32–34.
  39. ^ "Film The Chronicles Without Sensation. (1966)". Net-Film. Archived from the original on 10 June 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  40. ^ The Associated Press (17 September 1992). "Alleged Hitler photo shows bullet wound". The Modesto Bee. Modesto, CA. p. 19. Retrieved 23 July 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  41. ^ Daly-Groves 2019, p. 157.
  42. ^ Eberle, Henrik; Uhl, Matthias, eds. (2005). The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Hitler's Personal Aides. New York: Public Affairs. pp. 287–288, 341. ISBN 978-1-58648-366-1.
  43. ^ Bezymenski 1968, pp. 73–75.
  44. ^ Sayer, Ian; Botting, Douglas (1989). America's Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counterintelligence Corps. New York: Franklin Watts. pp. 333–335. ISBN 978-0-53-115097-9.
  45. ^ Joachimsthaler 2000, p. 34.
  46. ^ Daly-Groves 2019, pp. 122–124.
  47. ^ Lotozo, Eils (5 October 2009). "The Truth About Hitler's Skull". Haverford College. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  48. ^ a b c "Hitler's Escape". MysteryQuest. Season 1. Episode 1. History. 2009. Event occurs at 12, 16, 39.
  49. ^ Bezymenski 1968, p. 45.
  50. ^ Flood, Charles Bracelen (1985). "Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler on the Western Front, 1914–1918". The Kentucky Review. University of Kentucky. 5 (3): 4.
  51. ^ Baumann, H. D. (2008). Hitler's Fate: The Final Story. London: Athena Press. pp. 49–53. ISBN 978-1-84748-135-1. OCLC 319183518.
  52. ^ a b Kapnistos, Peter Fotis (2013). "Pope Sixtus VI: An Inglorious Guide to Hitler's Doubles by Foits Kapnistos". Issuu. pp. 1–11. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  53. ^ "Berger, Heinrich". WW2 Gravestone. Retrieved 28 July 2022.

SourcesEdit