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 opens with a 66-page overview of the battle of Berlin and its aftermath by Bezymenski. An appendix features a 4-page document of the discovery of the Goebbels family's corpses and 38 pages of autopsy reports.
The Death of Adolf Hitler
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 "severely charred" and that "part of the cranium [was] missing." The height of the body was judged to be about 165 centimetres (5 ft 5 in). 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 alveolar processes of the mandible 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 upper skull was missing. The occipital and temporal bones were fragmentary, as was the lower left of the face. Three molars and one detached root were found in the upper jaw, as well as a loose canine; the others were missing, as were the alveolar processes. Six of the lower jaw's left teeth were preserved, while those of the right side were missing. A gold bridge with two false molars was found, detached, under the tongue. 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 chest 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". 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 large German Shepherd matching Hitler's dog Blondi's description appears to have died from cyanide poisoning.
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 Hitler's dentist'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 criticism
On why the autopsy reports were not released earlier, Bezymenski says:
Not because of doubts as to the credibility of the experts. ... Those who were involved in the investigation remember that other considerations played a far larger role. First, it was resolved not to publish the results of the forensic-medical report but to "hold it in reserve" in case someone might try to slip into the role of 'the Führer saved by a miracle'. Secondly, it was resolved to continue the investigations in order to exclude any possibility of error or deliberate deception.
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 dental 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.
- "On the face and body the skin is completely missing; only remnants of charred muscles are preserved." (Bezymenski 1968, p. 45)
- Hitler is believed to have been 175 centimetres (5 ft 9 in) tall.
- Bezymenski says that "This congenital defect [of a missing testicle] had not been mentioned anywhere in the existing literature. But Professor Karl von Hasselbach, one of Hitler's physicians, remembers that the Führer always refused categorically to have a medical check-up."
- The upper 'teeth' consist entirely of gold, but according to Bezymenski, Hitler's dentist's assistant Käthe Heusermann identified traces of where it had been sawn through by Blaschke in 1944.
- Bezymenski attributes this to splinters from Soviet shelling while the bodies were burning in the garden.
- 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.
- Petrova & Watson 1995, p. 57.
- 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, p. 51.
- 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.
- Petrova & Watson 1995, pp. 59–60.
- Senn, David R.; Weems, Richard A. (2013). Manual of Forensic Odontology. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-439-85134-0.
- Petrova & Watson 1995, p. 162.
- 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.
- Petrova, Ada; Watson, Peter (1995). The Death of Hitler: The Full Story with New Evidence from Secret Russian Archives. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-03914-6.