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Where Hitler's very last journey really led

The Federal Chancellor became cynical: "If the Austrians should demand reparations from us, then I will send you Adolf Hitler's bones," complained Konrad Adenauer in 1955.

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Where Hitler's very last journey really led

The Federal Chancellor became cynical: "If the Austrians should demand reparations from us, then I will send you Adolf Hitler's bones," complained Konrad Adenauer in 1955. The government in Vienna had just signed the state treaty with the victorious powers on the return to independence (and Neutrality) agreed, in the preamble of which it was very smoothly ironed out in favor of the "Ostmark" that "Hitler's Germany annexed Austria by force on March 13, 1938 and incorporated its territory into the German Reich".

No matter how justified or unjustified this threat by Adenauer, who was (in contrast to many Austrians) a demonstrable opponent of Hitler, may have been, he could hardly have implemented it. Because in 1955, outside of Moscow and one or two Soviet bases in East Germany, nobody knew where the mortal remains of the “Führer” lay. And if he really was dead.

In his extremely useful four-volume compendium, “Hitler. Das Itinerary” (2016) published all of the dictator’s whereabouts during his life, as well as a detailed chronicle and a twelve-page digression about Hitler’s corpse. Now he follows this short summary on 246 pages with his research on "Hitler's journey after his death" (Harald Sandner: "Vom Führerbunker zur Schweinebrücke". Shaker Media. 250 p., 21.90 euros).

But why is the whereabouts of his remains so exciting? Quite simply: Because the Soviet Union and especially Joseph Stalin personally converted a knowledge advantage into a (political) weapon. He withheld his knowledge of the whereabouts of the German dictator in order to unsettle his interlocutors at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 and to keep them busy with supposedly important but in reality easily clarified speculations about a possible escape.

This mixed situation gave rise to a rumor mill that is still simmering three-quarters of a century after the Second World War. In Argentina, Antarctica or even on the moon, it has been suspected. Draining such muddy ground out of half-knowledge and ignorance has been tempting the private researcher Sandner for decades.

Accordingly, he begins his book with a condensed summary of all the conspiracy theories and unfounded fantasies about Hitler's survival. He briefly lists the rumors about the "Fuhrer's" escape by V-2 or Fieseler Storch and U-boat, goes into the double theories (which were baseless, because Hitler never had a double, unlike Stalin, by the way). and shows that his suicide was the consequence of his failure.

The following chapters about the Führer bunker and the course of Hitler's suicide are informative, but go only slightly beyond what is known up to now. That changes, of course, with the following book passages. Sandner is now reconstructing the ten burials and nine exhumations in unprecedented detail.

With extensive citations of sources, historical and current photos and maps, he describes the exact locations and what happened there with the mortal remains of the dictator and his wife Eva Braun, who wed almost at the very last moment. Sandner goes through the literature that has existed to date, including that of the Soviet author Lew Besymenski and the German publicist Anton Joachimsthaler, and points to unconscious and deliberate falsifications.

Besymenski, for example, in his book "The Death of Adolf Hitler" (first published in German in 1968) spread the claim that Hitler did not (supposedly honorably) shoot himself, but (supposedly cowardly) poisoned himself. Decades later, he admitted that his publications contained "deliberate lies," such as "the manner of Hitler's death." In 1995, Besymenski publicly apologized: KGB informants had dictated his texts to him.

For example, that the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun "were finally burned and the ashes scattered to the wind". Only two years after the publication of this lie, however, there was a sudden need for action. Because the Soviet military base in Magdeburg-Sudenburg, popularly known as "the Russenstraße", was to be cleared and handed over to the authorities of the GDR. Therefore, the then KGB resident in Berlin-Karlshorst, General Sergei Alexandrovich Kondraschow, had to prevent the burial site from being discovered and becoming a place of pilgrimage for old and new Nazis - both of which existed a quarter of a century after 1945 in both West and East Germany some.

Sudenburg was the second place in the Magdeburg area where the dead from the Führer bunker had been buried. From December 1945 to February 21, 1946, the corpses had been buried in a two-meter-deep hole in the courtyard of the house at No. 36 Westendstrasse.

Now the mortal remains of ten to eleven people, which now consisted only of bones, were to disappear for good. In addition to Hitler and Eva Braun, these were Joseph and Magda Goebbels, their six children together and possibly General Hans Krebs, the last Chief of Staff of the Army.

The last exhumation took place on the night of April 4, 1970, the bones came in boxes for Kalashnikov assault rifles. Gold teeth found during digging were placed in a separate box by the soldiers. Despite careful monitoring of the whole action, a 19-year-old soldier managed to slip fragments of a right arm bone and a rib into his pocket; he later kept them in his parents' attic.

At dawn on April 5, 1970, a GAZ-69 transporter drove the crates to a Soviet army barracks in Schönebeck (Elbe). There the boxes were placed on a pyre; the remains of bones were broken up with iron bars and mixed with charcoal. Finally, about 20 liters of petrol were poured over it.

The impromptu but effective cremation lasted an hour. Then several soldiers swept up the ashes and carried them in a backpack to a small bridge where the road from Biederitz to Magdeburg spans the Ehle, a small tributary of the Elbe. Here they sprinkled everything into the water.

The site was 120 kilometers west of the Führerbunker, the remains of which lay damaged but still accessible under the death strip of the Berlin Wall north of Potsdamer Platz and south of the Brandenburg Gate. "It is only now that Hitler has really been physically destroyed," sums up Harald Sandner: "81 years after his birth and 25 years after his suicide."

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