The Death of Adolf Hitler
The Death of Adolf Hitler: Unknown Documents from Soviet Archives (German: Der Tod des Adolf Hitler) is a 1968 book by Soviet journalist Lev Bezymenski, who served as an interpreter in the Battle of Berlin under Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov. The book gives details of the purported Soviet autopsies of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, their children, and General Hans Krebs. Each of these individuals are recorded as having been subjected to cyanide poisoning. Some of the theories the book presents concerning the death of Hitler have been discredited, including by the author.
|Publisher||Harcourt Brace & World|
The book is composed of a 74-page overview of the battle of Berlin and its aftermath by Bezymenski and an appendix featuring a four-page document of the discovery of the Goebbels family's corpses and 30 pages of autopsy reports.
The Death of Adolf HitlerEdit
Bezymenski gives an account of the battle of Berlin, the subsequent investigation by SMERSH, and the later statements of certain Nazi officers. A report on the purported forensic examination of Hitler's body is included, which states that the "remains of a male corpse disfigured by fire were delivered in a wooden box ... On the body was found a piece of yellow jersey ... charred around the edges, resembling a knitted undervest." It notes that the corpse was "severly charred"[a] and that "part of the cranium [was] missing."[b] The height of the body was judged to be about 165 centimetres (5 ft 5 in).[c] Both the left foot and testicle were missing.
The report details Hitler's dental remains: nine upper teeth with dental work connected by a gold bridge and part of a lower jawbone with 15 teeth (10 of them artificial); the latter was found loose in the oral cavity. The front and lower edge of the mandible were charred, and its alveolar processes were broken, with "ragged edges". Splinters of glass and a "thin-walled ampule" were found in the mouth (as from a cyanide capsule), which was ruled to be the cause of death.
Bezymenski also gives an account of discrepancies of certain reports. For instance, after being published in Der Spiegel, Heinz Linge changed his account of Hitler's suicide gunshot from being to the left temple to being to the right—Bezymenski points out that the former is unlikely as Hitler was right-handed. Between 1950 and 1960, Otto Günsche changed his account of the position of Hitler and Braun's bodies from being on the couch to being in chairs.
The appendix includes the purported Soviet forensic reports on the bodies of Braun, the Goebbels family, General Krebs, Hitler's dog Blondi, and another small dog.
The body presumed to be Braun's is noted as being "impossible to describe the features of", owing to its extensive charring. Almost the entire top of the skull was missing, with severe damage to the face as well. A gold bridge of a mandible was found, detached, under the tongue. Some teeth were found in the jaw, some loose, others missing. The woman was judged to be no more than middle-aged due to her teeth being only slightly worn; her height was approximately 150 centimetres (4 ft 11 in). There was a splinter injury to the thorax resulting in hemothorax, injuries to one lung and the pericardium—accompanied by six small metal fragments. Pieces of a glass ampule were found in the mouth cavity, and the smell of bitter almonds which accompanies death from cyanide poisoning was present; this was ruled to be the cause of death.
The remains of Joseph and Magda Goebbels were discovered near the bunker door by SMERSH commander Ivan Klimenko on 2 May 1945. The next day, Senior Lieutenant Ilyin found the bodies of the Goebbels children in one of the rooms of the bunker. The bodies were identified by Vizeadmiral Hans-Erich Voss, cook Wilhelm Lange, and garage mechanic Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Schneider, "all of whom knew [the Goebbels family] well."
Joseph Goebbels' body was "heavily scorched", but was identified by his size, estimated age, shortened right leg and related orthopedic appliance, as well as his head characteristics and dental remains, which included many fillings. His genitals were "greatly reduced in size, shrunken, dry." Chemical testing revealed cyanide compounds in the internal organs and blood; cyanide poisoning was judged to be the cause of death.
Voss identified two items found on Magda's corpse as having been in her possession: a cigarette case inscribed "Adolf Hitler—29.X.34", which she had used for the last three weeks of her life, and Hitler's Golden Party Badge, which the dictator had given her three days before his suicide. Additionally, a reddish-blond hairpiece was identified as matching the color of one Magda wore. Her dental remains were found loose on the corpse along with splinters from a thin-walled ampule; the cause of death was ruled to be cyanide poisoning.
General Krebs is erroneously listed in the autopsy report as "Major General Krips".[d] Cyanide compounds were detected in the internal organs and the smell of bitter almonds was recorded, leading the commission to conclude that Krebs' death was "obviously caused by poisoning with cyanide compounds." Three light head wounds are presumed to have been obtained from his death fall onto a protruding object.
A small black bitch, about 60 centimetres (2 ft) long and 28 centimetres (1 ft) tall, was poisoned by cyanide before being shot in the head.
The 16 pages of photographs include those of Ivan Klimenko, head of autopsy commission Faust Shkaravsky, the locations of Hitler's burning and burying site outside the Führerbunker's emergency exit, SMERSH agents exhuming Hitler and Braun's remains, a diagram of where the corpses of Hitler, Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels were burned, Hitler and Braun's corpses in boxes, Hitler's dental remains and a sketch drawn by his dentist Hugo Blaschke's assistant Käthe Heusermann on 11 May 1945 to identify them, Braun's dental bridge, the first and last page of Hitler's autopsy report, the Soviet autopsy commission with both Kreb's and Joseph Goebbels' corpses, the bodies of the Goebbels family, the bodies of Krebs and the Goebbels children at Plötzensee Prison, and Blondi's corpse.
History and criticismEdit
The Soviet forensic examination of Hitler's corpse was used by forensic odontologists Reidar F. Sognnaes and Ferdinand Strøm to reconfirm Hitler's dental remains at UCLA in 1972; this was originally done by Käthe Heusermann and Blaschke's technician Fritz Echtmann in 1945.
In 1995, Western historians Ada Petrova and Peter Watson wrote that they considered Bezymenski's account at odds with British MI6 intelligence officer Hugh Trevor-Roper's report, published as The Last Days of Hitler (1947). Also in 1995, the author admitted that his work included "deliberate lies". Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl point out that Bezymenski's work advocates the promulgated theories of the Soviet Union that Hitler died by poisoning or a coup de grâce.[e]
- "On the face and body the skin is completely missing; only remnants of charred muscles are preserved." (Bezymenski 1968, p. 45)
- A footnote acknowledges that occipital fragments of a skull were later found, and in the author's view, belonged to Hitler's corpse.
- Hitler is believed to have been 175 centimetres (5 ft 9 in) tall.
- Corrected by Bezymenski in a footnote
- "Hitler ... had to be 'shot down like a dog', according to Bezymenski." (Eberle & Uhl 2005, p. 341)
- Trevor-Roper, Hugh (26 September 1968). "Hitler's Last Minute". The New York Review of Books.
- Eberle & Uhl 2005, pp. 287, 288.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 3–76, 79–82, 85–114.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 44–45.
- Flood, Charles Bracelen (1985). "Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler on the Western Front, 1914–1918". The Kentucky Review. University of Kentucky. 5 (3): 4.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 46–47.
- Marchetti, Daniela, M.D., PhD; Boschi, Ilaria, PhD; Polacco, Matteo, M.D.; Rainio, Juha, M.D., PhD (2005). "The Death of Adolf Hitler—Forensic Aspects". Journal of Forensic Sciences (50(5)): 1. JFS2004314.
- Bezymenski 1968, p. 49.
- Bezymenski 1968, p. 71.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 110–114.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 80–81.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 95–99.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 81–82, 99–103.
- Angolia, John (1989). For Führer and Fatherland: Political & Civil Awards of the Third Reich. R. James Bender Publishing. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-912-13816-9.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 103–107.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 89–90, 92.
- Bezymenski 1968, pp. 92–94.
- Erickson, John (2015). The Road to Berlin. Orion Publishing Group. p. 435. ISBN 9781474602808.
- Bezymenski 1968, index of illustrations.
- Senn, David R.; Weems, Richard A. (2013). Manual of Forensic Odontology. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-439-85134-0.
- Petrova, Ada; Watson, Peter (1995). The Death of Hitler: The Full Story with New Evidence from Secret Russian Archives. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-393-03914-6.
- Eberle & Uhl 2005, p. 288.
- Kershaw 2001, p. 1037.
- Bezymenski, Lev (1968). The Death of Adolf Hitler (1st ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
- 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. ISBN 978-1-58648-366-1.
- Kershaw, Ian (2001) . Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis. 2. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-027239-0.