What Happened to Hitler’s Body?

Allan Callahan

What Happened - Hitler collage

We have long known, at least in a general way, how Hitler died in his bunker beneath Berlin in 1945, but the few details we had after that were sparse, and soon after that, there was nothing but silence. The Soviets recovered Hitler’s corpse, so they knew what happened to it, but kept the information secret all through the cold war.

This state of affairs continued until the U.S.S.R collapsed. In 1992, Moscow TV journalist Ada Petrova wanted to do a program on the death of Stalin. She went to see Sergei Mironenko, one of the directors of the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow. During their talk, Hitler’s name came up, and Mironenko astounded her when he revealed that he had Hitler’s skull right there in the archive. She then lost interest in Stalin, and instead wanted to find out all she could about Hitler’s skull, and the story behind it.

It was in a thin cardboard box with a wax seal, and was in four pieces, two large and two small. One of the larger pieces had an exit hole made by a bullet. The skull was part of an extensive archive, with an official number of l-G-23, and subtitled: “Hitler and His Entourage.” Ten other archives contained many other things, including his uniforms, a photograph album, and a notebook containing some of his small paintings and drawings.

After Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide, their bodies were laid in a shell crater in the garden of the Reich Chancellery, doused with gasoline, and set afire. Although badly burned, they were far from being completely consumed. The Russians found them almost as soon as they arrived on the scene, but ignored and reburied them because they thought they had already found Hitler’s body.

This corpse, however, belonged to Hitler’s double, a man named Gustav Weller. After the Russians discovered their mistake, they quickly dug up the bodies again. To try and make sure they had the right people, they conducted an autopsy and identified the remains by their dental records.

The bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were buried, dug up and reburied several times, along with the bodies of Joseph Goebbels, his wife and their six children, the body of Gen. Hans Krebs and two dogs. Everything was finally destroyed except for Hitler’s skull.

Ada Petrova was joined by British writer Peter Watson. With the permission of the directors of the State Archives, they commissioned one of Russia’s leading forensic experts, Prof. Viktor Zyagin, to examine the skull. He photographed it, measured it, probed the edges and the bullet hole.

Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge, stated that he inspected the bodies of Hitler and Eva while they were burning in the garden. Hitler’s head, according to Linge, had a bullet wound. The skull was of a yellowish color, typical of a vegetarian, according to Prof. Zyagin. Hitler became one in the early 1930s, and had his own vegetarian cook in the bunker.

There are three main views of how Hitler took his life. One is that he shot himself, another is that he took poison (like Eva Braun), while a third view is that he did both. He first took the poison, then fired the fatal bullet.

The latter seems the most likely, and would be easy with a cyanide capsule. All you would have to do would be to place the glass capsule between your teeth, aim your pistol, bite down on the capsule and then pull the trigger. This is also what Prof. Zyagin thinks Hitler did. By the location of the exit bullet hole in Hitler’s skull, Zyagin believes Hitler held the pistol under his chin.

Hitler, Eva and all the others were buried in Buch, exhumed and reburied in Finow, then exhumed and reburied again outside Rathenow, but they did not remain in any of those places long. Their main resting place was finally in Magdeburg.

Here the bodies lay for a quarter of a century. But in 1970, the Soviets decided to turn over the army base there to the East Germans. The only Russian in Magdeburg who knew where the bodies were buried was the regimental commander. Not wanting to take a chance of the secret leaking out, and the grave becoming a shrine for neo-fascists, he wrote to Yuri Andropov for advice. (Andropov was then head of the KGB, and later became the Soviet leader in 1982). Andropov ordered the regimental commander to exhume the bodies, cremate them and dispose of the ashes.

This was done on April 5, 1970, but by that time the bones of each body had more or less mixed with each other, and with soil. The report stated that: “The destruction was carried out by burning in the fire on the waste ground near Schonebeck, 11 kilometers from Magdeburg. The remains burned away, were ground with the embers into ashes and thrown into one of the Elbe tributaries.”

Footnote: Ada Petrova and Peter Watson collaborated on a book entitled: The Death Of Hitler. The first U.S. edition was supposed to have been published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1995.

SOURCE: The Liberty Bell, January 1997

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