When Soviet and Allied forces began to close in on Berlin, Adolph Hitler and his wife Eva Braun entered into a suicide pact. Witnessing what happened to fallen dictators who had come before him, Hitler knew that his time was limited. Rather than face a fate similar to that of Mussolini’s, Hitler and Braun took their destiny into their own hands. Braun succumbed to a lethal dose of cyanide, while Hitler shot himself before the cyanide could take effect. Detailed instructions were left for German officers to see to it that their bodies were burned upon discovery, leaving little to no trace of their disgraced leader. Or at least, that’s the story that we’ve been led to believe.
If you asked practically anyone on the street today what became of Adolph Hitler, many would agree that Hitler died a coward’s death in order to evade capture by opposing troops. But for many years following WWII there was grave uncertainty about what had happened to the fallen dictator and many theories varying in absurdity began to circulate.
Some believed that Hitler fled to Antarctica to secret monolithic bases the Nazis allegedly spent considerable time constructing; a theory which was later thoroughly debunked. Then there were those who believed that the Nazis managed to escape to the moon, nearly two decades before man had the technology to achieve space travel. Even more incredible, some theorized that Hitler and other high ranking S.S. officers were able to take sanctuary in the center of the Earth, where they lived amongst giants and even another sun.
While some fringe historians continue to talk about these theories in today’s day and age for fun and profit, of all the theories surrounding the fall of Adolph Hitler only one seems like a plausible scenario: an escape to Argentina.
Shortly after the fall of Berlin, Soviet soldiers came across two charred bodies near Hitler’s offices. The bodies were believed to be that of Hitler and his longtime partner Eva Braun. The Soviets took these bodies before Allied troops could confirm the identities of the corpses for themselves and kept their discovery shrouded in secrecy, an act which would arguably become one of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War era. While Allied forces had reason to believe that Hitler had died, Joseph Stalin can be credited with planting the seed of doubt within the highest reaches of the U.S. Government after alleging Hitler had fled to South America during a meeting with former President Truman.
The mere thought that the closest we’ve come to evil incarnate may have escaped and was walking free was a possibility the government took very seriously. Interestingly enough, this information is evidenced by recently declassified files on the JFK Assassination. Included within the file dump were several documents detailing investigations conducted by the CIA on possible sightings of the maniacal dictator in South America as late as 1955.
While these investigations were considered to be nothing more than wild goose chases and cases of mistaken identity, the fear that Hitler could have escaped continues to be a fear that refuses to die for multiple reasons.
As explained in the documentary film Hitler of the Andes, the Soviets’ evidence that the bodies they discovered at the Berlin site was flimsy at best, so flimsy in fact that even Stalin himself did not initially believe that the bodies his SMERSH team uncovered were that of Hitler and Braun. Hand drawn diagrams of Hitler’s teeth by one of Hitler’s former dentists was evidence enough for them to sufficiently conclude that the corpses in their possession belonged to the fallen dictator and his partner. With no knowledge of the Soviets’ discovery, U.S. Intelligence agencies continued to follow up on possible leads to Hitler’s whereabouts well after WWII had ended, in spite of substantial circumstantial evidence indicating he was dead, including reports from the Germans themselves.
Throughout the years, Soviet journalists and scientist had attempted to dispell the myths spawned by propaganda agents, but the public distrust of the former Soviet Union was so strong that many refused to believe it.
Hitler was known to have body doubles, most famously Gustav Weler who often portrayed himself as the Nazi dictator under Hitler’s orders. Many decided that the bodies found by the Soviets were most likely other doppelgangers, deliberately left by Hitler as a decoy as he, Eva Braun, and others boarded S.S. controlled submarines bound for South America.
While the United States government officially classified Hilter as deceased in the 1950s, the possibility of Hitler’s escape would again gain traction when it was discovered in the early 1960s that as many as 5,000 Nazi war criminals had dispersed to Argentina, with thousands of others settling elsewhere in South America including Brazil and Columbia.
As time passed, the theories on Hitler’s possible escape began to fizzle from public consciousness, considering even if he had escaped he most likely would have passed on from natural causes by the time the year 2000 rolled around. In an attempt to put an end to the conspiracy theories started by the Soviets once and for all, Russian officials decided to declassify information regarding the whereabouts of Hitler’s body. It was claimed that KGB agents destroyed the bodies of Hitler, Eva Braun, as well as the entire Goebbels family in 1970, only preserving a skull fragment displaying the bullet wound as the sole piece of evidence that Hitler had died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, as well as several jaw fragments.
What was said to be Hitler’s skull and jaw fragments were then put on public display in 2000 as part of an exhibition titled “The Agony of the Third Reich”. Hoping that the display would put an end to the conspiracy forever, instead, the plan backfired. In 2009, DNA testing conducted on the partial jaw bone conclusively revealed that it had belonged to a woman in her 40s. As a result, public interest in Hitler’s possible escape was once again renewed.
It was suggested that the jawbone could have instead been that of Eva Braun, who was only 33-years-old when she and Hitler would have been found dead in Hitler’s secret bunker. However, this theory does not hold up since no one has ever reported that Eva Braun had shot herself. To this day, it is unknown who the jaw fragments actually belonged to.
In 2015, giving in to public pressure after having suffered egg on their face for the jawbone mix up, Russian officials decided to declassify hundreds of KGB documents including autopsy reports, as well as their meticulously kept details on the whereabouts of not only Hilter’s corpse, but also Eva Braun’s and the corpses of the entire Goebbels family, until they were finally cremated and cast out to sea in 1970. Also within those files was information on Stalin’s propaganda campaign purposely designed to mislead and misdirect Allied troops in the years following the end of WWII.
While it now seems unlikely that Hitler had escaped to South America as it was once widely believed, there are those who still hold strong convictions that Hitler was able to flee to safety and lived out his years in exile. Fortunately for us, even if there was a chance Hitler had escaped we can live with the peace of knowing that he died living each day with the paranoia that capture was always on the horizon, any power he once had was subsequently stripped, and the world’s most notorious mass murderer is most likely rotting in hell.