The end of the war was in sight in Berlin on April 30, 1945.
Soviet troops were closing in on Adolf Hitler’s secret position, a well-stocked bunker located 55 feet underneath the chancellery in the capital city. Aiming to avoid capture at all costs, Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife of two days, retreated to their private quarters in the afternoon, ingested cyanide capsules, and, after ordering the death of their dogs, shot themselves in the head.
German soldiers took the corpses outside and burned them, following written orders left by Hitler who wanted to make it impossible for detractors to defile his corpse like the Italians had done to Mussolini.
That’s the story of Hitler’s death, one that’s accepted by virtually all mainstream historians. But it’s by no means the only version. For decades, conspiracy theorists and propagandists have proposed alternate versions of the German leader’s death, ranging from somewhat plausible tales of escape to outright insane theories of secret bases on Antarctica and the moon.
However, a new forensic analysis has determined that Hitler did, in fact, kill himself in his Fuhrerbunker in 1945.
A team of French pathologists was recently granted permission by the Russian government to study bone and dental fragments long thought to have belonged to Hitler—fragments that have been held by the Russians since Stalin’s forces discovered charred the remains in Berlin on May 5, 1945.
Image: P. Charlier et al. European Journal of Internal Medicine.
In a paper published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, the researchers wrote that the teeth certainly belonged to Hitler because the “conspicuous and unusual prostheses and bridgework” observed in the samples matches the dental records obtained from his personal dentist.
The Führer was known to have particularly bad teeth, and only had a few of his own remaining at the time of his death. This, combined with the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian and the team found no traces of meat in the teeth, helped the researchers be certain about their conclusion.
“There is no possible doubt. Our study proves that Hitler died in 1945,” co-author Philippe Charlier told Agence France-Presse.
There are a number of conspiracy theories about Hitler’s fate. One says Hitler died heroically in battle, a false claim hastily concocted by Nazi sympathizers following the collapse of the Wehrmacht. Another proposes those two bodies found in the bunker were merely corpses dressed as Hitler and Braun, while the real couple made a daring escape in a Nazi submarine. One particularly far-fetched theory argues that Hitler escaped to a secret ice base in Antarctica, but was later nuked by American forces in the 1950s.
Still, not all of these theories were born completely out of thin air.
One major source of confusion around Hitler’s death was a very real, orchestrated Soviet disinformation campaign. After the Red Army had learned of Hitler’s death, Stalin ordered the news be suppressed to allow doubt to spread about where Hitler could be or whether the Allied forces might be helping him hide. This campaign, which was later dubbed Operation Myth, helped spawn countless conspiracy theories about Hitler’s death.
What also lends some degree of credibility to some of the conspiracy theories is the fact that many prominent Nazis like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele managed to escape to South America in the wake of the war. Some countries were even complicit in the hiding of ex-Nazis, like the pro-fascist officials in Argentina who established ‘rat lines‘ that helped facilitate the escape of the fleeing war criminals.
But the study authors hope the new findings will finally put the conspiracy theories to rest.
“He did not flee to Argentina in a submarine,” Charlier said. “He is not in a hidden base in Antarctica or on the dark side of the moon.”