GRAND ADMIRAL DÖNITZ --
On 2 May, the Battle in Berlin ended when General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defence Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army. It is generally agreed that, by this day, Bormann had left the Führerbunker. It has been claimed that he left with Ludwig Stumpfegger and Artur Axmann as part of a group attempting to break out of the city.
As World War II came to a close, Bormann held out with Hitler in the Führerbunker in Berlin. On 30 April 1945, just before committing suicide, Hitler signed the order to allow a breakout. After supervising the corpse-disposal arrangements following on the suicide of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun on the afternoon April 30, 1945, and waiting in vain for a further twenty-four hours for a favourable reply from the Soviet commanders to the overtures made to them by Dr Josef Göbbels, Germany's new Chancellor-for-a-Day, Martin Bormann and a group of Hitler's senior colleagues made a final breakout attempt from the Führerbunker late on May 1.
Soviet troops were closing in on the building from every quarter, but it was the Soviet national holiday. Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, was with Bormann's group, as were Hitler's last physician, Dr Ludwig Stumpfegger (who had succeeded Professor Theo Morell on April 22), and Artur Axmann, the Reichsjugendführer, who had smuggled out of the building with him the pistol with which Hitler had shot himself (according to Otto Günsche).
Axmann, Naumann, and their adjutants escaped Berlin. Axmann hid in the Bavarian Alps under the alias "Erich Siewert". He was arrested in December 1945 while organizing an underground Nazi movement. Naumann found asylum in Argentina where he became an editor of the neo-Nazi magazine Der Weg.
The bodies must have lain there some time. Bormann's expensive leather greatcoat was taken off the body, and the contents of its pockets were taken to Moscow, including his pocket diary: the contents of the diary were published by the Soviet historian and former Intelligence officer Lev Bezymenski. There is no doubt as to the diary's authenticity, as crosschecks with other rare documents establish.
Soviet Lieutenant General Konstantin Telegin of the Soviet 5th Assault Army remembered his men bringing to him Bormann’s diary:
It was brought-in immediately after the fighting had ended. As far as I can remember, it was found on the road when they were cleaning up the battle area.
Inspired by the diary and reports from prisoners, General Telegin said:
Naturally, we sent a recon group to the bridge, who searched the site of the breakthrough attempt. All they found were a few civilians. Bormann was not found.
Two decades of unconfirmed sightings
The bodies were not found, and a global search followed. Unconfirmed sightings of Bormann were reported globally for two decades, particularly in Europe, Paraguay and elsewhere in South America. Several would-be Bormanns were spotted and even arrested - a Guatemalan peasant in 1967, a 72-year-old German living in Colombia a few years later. Some rumours claimed Bormann had plastic surgery while on the run and that it had spoiled his face. At a 1967 press conference Simon Wiesenthal asserted there was strong evidence Bormann was alive and well in South America. Writer Ladislas Farago's widely known 1974 book Aftermath : Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich argued Bormann had survived the war and lived in Argentina. Farago's evidence, which drew heavily on official governmental documents, was compelling enough to persuade Dr. Robert M.W. Kempner (a lawyer at the Nuremberg Trials) to briefly reopen an active investigation in 1972 but Farago's claims were generally rejected by historians and critics. Allegations that Bormann and his organization survived the war figure prominently in the work of David Emory.
Another source is the 1981 book, Martin Bormann, Nazi in Exile by Paul Manning and a number of books published in the years following the war corroborate details of Manning's description of German flight capital, and the postwar Nazi underground.
Reinhard Gehlen states in his memoirs his conviction that Bormann was in fact a Russian agent and that at the time of his 'disappearance' in Berlin he in reality went over to his Russian masters and was spirited away by them to Moscow. He bases this startling conclusion on a conversation he had with Admiral Canaris and on his conviction that there was an enemy agent at work inside the German supreme command. He deduced the latter from the fact that the Russians appeared to be able to obtain "rapid and detailed information on incidents and top-level decision-making on the German side". Of course, at the time he was writing up his memoirs (late 1960s to early 1970s), Gehlen was not aware of the British breaking of the Enigma codes. Gehlen goes on to say that he discovered that Bormann was engaged in a Funkspiel with Moscow with Hitler's express approval. He claims that in the 1950s, when he headed first the 'Gehlen Organisation' and later the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the West-German Intelligence Service, he "was passed two separate reports from behind the Iron Curtain to the effect that Bormann had been a Soviet agent and had lived after the war in the Soviet Union under perfect cover as an adviser to the Moscow government. He has died in the meantime." (quotes from the 1971 ed.)
The hunt for Bormann lasted 26 years without success. International investigators and journalists searched for Bormann from Paraguay to Moscow and from Norway to Egypt. Digs for his body in Paraguay in March 1964 and Berlin in July 1964 met with no success. The German government offered a 100,000 mark reward in November 1964, but no one claimed it.
With no evidence sufficient to confirm Bormann's death, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg tried Bormann in absentia in October 1946 and sentenced him to death. His court-appointed defense attorney used the unusual and unsuccessful defense that the court could not convict Bormann because he was already dead.
On the political end, the hunt for Bormann became a recurring memory of the Nazi regime and also an embarrassment that would not go away. On December 13, 1971, the West German government officially called an end to the search for Bormann. This pronouncement was met with protest from Jewish human rights groups and Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal who insisted the search must continue until Bormann was found, alive or dead.
Roper left the issue of Bormann's death open in early editions of the work, because evidence of Bormann's death rested solely on the testimony of Artur Axmann. Although Axmann's testimony regarding other events was truthful so far as it could be independently verified, Roper realized that Axmann might be giving false evidence to protect Bormann from further search.
Others, like English scholar and intelligence officer, Hugh Trevor-Roper, decried the evidence upon which the German government based its searches for Bormann: the testimony of one man. He and others argued that the testimony of Artur Axmann, the only man who said he saw Bormann dead was falsified to protect Bormann who was then on the run. Both men were unrepentant Nazis and shared the motivation to keep their cause alive. Axmann, they argued, probably escaped Berlin with Bormann. Russian investigator Lev Bezymenski wrote that Axmann’s statements had, "the apparent aim of convincing the world that the Reichsleiter had been killed." Bezymenski also wrote that Axmann’s statements, "give rise to a lot of doubt, especially when one considers that he changed his explanations at least three times in the postwar years." Some also believed it implausible that the Soviets would identify the body of Stumpfegger and ignore Bormann’s body, supposedly at Stumpfegger’s side. Further, that Bormann was re-interred only to later be "discovered" by the German government.
Almost a year later, on December 7, 1972, Axmann and Krumnow's accounts were bolstered when construction workers uncovered human remains near the Lehrter Bahnhof in West Berlin just 12 meters from the spot where Krumnow claimed he had buried them. Dental records — reconstructed from memory in 1945 by Dr. Hugo Blaschke — identified the skeleton as Bormann's, and damage to the collarbone was consistent with injuries Bormann's sons reported he had sustained in a riding accident in 1939. The forensic identification was validated by Dr. Reidar F. Sognnaes, a leading Scandinavian dental pathologist and celebrated U.S. expert in such matters. (Reidar F. Sognnaes, "Dental Evidence in the Postmortem Identification of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun and Martin Bormann", in Legal Medicine Annual, 1976.)
Some controversy continued, however. For example, Hugh Thomas' 1995 book Doppelgängers claimed there were forensic inconsistencies suggesting Bormann died later than 1945. When exhumed, Bormann’s skeleton was covered in flecks of red clay, whereas Berlin is a city based on yellow sand. This indicated to some that the body had been re-interred from somewhere with a clay-based soil, such as Paraguay, the Andes mountains or even Russia (as the Gehlen theory surmised).
But the new evidence caused Roper to write in the 1978 edition of The Last Days of Hitler that "...in view of new evidence which has recently been found, I believe that it [the question of Bormann's death] can now be closed."
As stated in the Final Report of the Frankfurt State Prosecution office under File Index No. Js 11/61 (GStA Ffm.) in "Criminal Action against Martin Bormann on Charge of Murder", dated April 4, 1973:
Although nature has placed limits on human powers of recognition (BGHZ Vol. 36, pp. 379-393-NJW 1962, 1505), it is proved with certainty that the two skeletons found on the Ulap fairgrounds in Berlin on December 7 and 8, 1972, are identical with the accused Martin Bormann and Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger.
The accused and Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger died in Berlin in the early hours of the morning of May 2, 1945 -- sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 A.M.
XII. Further Measures
1. The search for Martin Bormann is officially terminated....
Last week, according to London's Independent newspaper, a well known British journalist and former intelligence officer, 80-year-old Milton Shulman, announced during a radio interview that he knows exactly what happened to Bormann after the war. He was kicking back in a small British village, the guest of that nation's intelligence service who "rescued" the top Nazi near the end of the war.
Why? Because, according to Shulman, "Bormann had the authority to release all German funds in Swiss banks."
Well, the motivation's solid enough. But is the story that Shulman tells plausible? Four hundred commandos stage a daring raid into Deutschland, nabbing Bormann and kayak him to safety down the Rhine and over to Merry Ol' England, favorite target of the V2 rocket. Large numbers of the commando force were knocked off along the way, either by the Gestapo or by Russian troops them overwhelming the not-quite-1,000-year Reich.
Ready for the punch line? If the tale sounds like something out of James Bond that's because the raid was led by Ian Fleming, who upon retirement from Her Majesty's Secret service became the literary light who birthed the world's most famous secret agent.
Shulman took the tale from an anonymously penned book to which he wrote the preface and assumed, unsuccessfully, the responsibility of peddling to publishers. The author of the book is, Shulman says, an old intelligence man in a position to know these things. And Shulman claims to have letters signed by none other than Winston Churchill himself, as well as Lord Mountbatten, that support the book's assertions. Nonetheless, two major publishers considered the manuscript carefully then, Shulman says, "for reasons on which I can only speculate, suddenly dropped it."
Shulman also says that he has witness who remembers Bormann in the British village, which Shulman so far refuses to name, and that the manuscript's anonymous author tried to sell his story to a tabloid, News of the World in 1966 but got the kibosh courtesy Britain's Ministry of Defence.
There are big problems checking the facts of Shulman's story. The biggest, perhaps, is that more or less everyone involved is long dead. Including Bormann who Shulman says shuffled off this Nazi coil in the early 1950s. Fleming died in 1964, having barely survived to see the movie of Dr. No and without breathing a word of the Bormann affair to even his closest friends. But then, as the widow of one Fleming Confidant pointed out, the real-life superspy was a spook to the end.
He maintained that you must never say anything more than you are morally bound to say.
UPDATE: The wild and imaginative stories about Bormann continued even after the discovery in 1972 of two skeletons near the Lehrter railway station in Berlin. The authorities said the men were probably Bormann and Ludwig Stumpfegger, one of Hitler's doctors. Splinters of glass cyanide capsules were found in the jawbones.
Although the German Government was satisfied with this theory, they locked up the remains in a cupboard at the Frankfurt Public Prosecutor's Office. Family members were prevented from taking them away until there was final identification.
Three years ago, The News of the World told the story of a certain Peter Broderick-Hartley who had lived and died in Reigate, Surrey. The paper claimed he was, in fact, Martin Bormann, who had had plastic surgery.
In 1996, a British publisher paid £500,000 for rights to a book claiming that Winston Churchill smuggled Hitler's lieutenant to England in 1945 to get access to Nazi gold held in Swiss bank accounts. The author of the James Bond books, Ian Fleming, was also said to be involved.
Now, DNA tests seem to prove the skeleton found in Berlin is indeed that of Hitler's Henchman.
Martin Bormann - Nazi Ideologue or Russian Spy?