If some of Adolf Hitler’s physical remains were said to still exist today and are in Germany, it would likely arouse disbelief. After all, considering that the historical chronicles suggest that the Führer’s ashes were scattered in the water by the Red Army.
But let’s start from when the Soviet investigators recovered the presumed remains of the two bodies and, following the autopsies, carried out the identification using dental casts.
The story of where those remains came from and how they were transported out of Berlin is nothing short of riveting and has been fully corroborated by top Nazi survivors of the war’s end.
So let’s go back to Hitler’s last day, April 30, 1945, where our search for the Führer’s ashes begins. By April 27, Berlin was completely cordoned off and Soviet forces were fighting street to street and house to house towards the central government district. German forces fought strenuously throughout, but by 28 April, the Red Army was in the block containing the Ministry buildings and the Führer’s Bunker.
Hitler was informed that the defense would fold in a day when ammunition ran out. Hitler therefore made preparations to end his life shortly after midnight on the morning of 29 April.
Just on the eve of the defeat, Hitler married Eva Braun inside that same bunker, despite knowing that they would never come out again.
After a wedding breakfast, Hitler dictated his will to one of his secretaries, Traudl Junge. Several copies were made, three sent by military couriers who attempted to reach Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, Military Commander in the North.
The document allowed for a new Nazi government after Hitler’s death, to be succeeded by Dönitz, head of the Navy, to be appointed Reich President at his headquarters in northern Germany, and Dr. Goebbels to become Reich Chancellor.
Later that afternoon, Hitler was informed that his ally, Benito Mussolini, had been executed by Italian partisans and his body vilified along with that of his partner, Claretta Petacci, as well as that of several Fascist ministers, hung upside down in Piazzale Loreto.
Hitler issued orders that his and his wife’s bodies be burned to avoid such humiliations at the hands of the Soviets. To this end, a message was sent to the underground garage of the Reich Chancellery and Hitler’s chief chauffeur, Erich Kempka, ordered that sufficient fuel be collected in canisters and stacked inside the Führer Bunker; Kempka and his men succeeded, siphoning fuel from some of the Mercedes-Benz limousines trapped inside the garage of the damaged bunker.
The head of the German armed forces, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, reported to Hitler that all attempts to resist had failed. At 2:30, Hitler and Eva said goodbye to their loyal staff and then retired to their private rooms.
In the late morning, Hitler hosted a final situation meeting with Berlin Defense Commander General Helmuth Weidling. The situation was now dire, Soviet troops were about 500 meters from the bunker and were preparing an assault on the Reich Chancellery complex.
The German defenders would run out of ammunition that night; Weidling therefore asked that the remaining German forces be allowed to break out to the west and the Führer gave the authorization.
Hitler had lunch with his wife, secretaries and cook and then said goodbye to his staff, including Goebbels and Bormann. At 2.30 pm, Hitler and Eva entered Hitler’s study and closed the door. Hitler’s aide, Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche would stand guard outside, and again according to the official historiography, the door was opened after the gunshot that Hitler allegedly shot himself in the right temple. Eva Braun allegedly poisoned herself with cyanide instead.
Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann, under interrogation, will claim to have seen the bodies.
Hitler Youth after the War?
In the last months of the conflict, it seems that Artur Axmann, together with Adolf Hitler, had planned the creation of a new network of leaders of the Hitler Youth, which was supposed to act as a clandestine and secret Nazi organization to keep the flame alive after the fall of Hitler and the inevitable German surrender.
The head of Hitler’s bodyguard unit, the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers , issued a written declaration to the Soviets that Axmann would have taken the pistol used by Hitler to kill himself, accompanying this declaration with an at least grotesque quotation, namely that he would keep the gun as a souvenir to hide away for better times.
In fact, however, neither the ashes nor the gun that would have killed the Führer have ever been found and any other presumed remains found are very far from being accepted to confirm the belonging to Adolf Hitler beyond any reasonable doubt.
Also according to the statements made to the Soviets, petrol brought from the Reich Chancellery garage was poured over the bodies, then a roll of paper was allegedly lit by Bormann and thrown, setting the petrol on fire. The assembled spectators would then retreat to the emergency exit and give the Nazi salute until pushed into cover by incoming Soviet shells. Bodyguards would be sent to the surface on several occasions, to report on the progress of the cremations. However, the operation turned out to be very difficult, because outdoors the heat varies due to the influence of the wind.
The cremation reportedly lasted about two and a half hours until around 6.30pm, bodyguards shoveled dirt over the alleged remains and attempted to disguise the site. In official statements afterwards, some of those present reported that the corpses were initially blackened, burned and cut open, but that some extremities were still recognizable.
Assuming this reconstruction to be true, we must accept that, according to this report, the ashes would have been collected from Hitler’s body and placed inside a small metal box which would then be entrusted to Artur Axmann, leader of the Hitler Youth.
This reconstruction could find comfort in the fact that the Hitler Youth leader had become very close to Hitler in the last days of his life, having moved his headquarters to Wilhelmstraße 64, opposite the Führer Bunker. Axman, who had a prosthetic right arm having lost his arm in combat on the Eastern Front early in the war, had been awarded two decorations, including the Iron Cross First Class and the Gold Cross of the German Order; the latter is the rarest decoration of all and Artur Axmann is one of only 11 servicemen to have received this honor and one of only two who survived the war. It was a sign of Hitler’s esteem for the Hitler Youth leader .
A few days before the end, Hitler would have had a long private meeting with Axmann, during which he intimated that Nazi ideology would have to be preserved and transmitted in order to survive its demise, and that to do this, one would have to rely on about a next generation of young Nazis, who would be trained and led by Axmann himself.
Indeed, it seems that Axmann had already created a clandestine Nazi organization months ago, to survive the German surrender.
Axman would therefore materialize the future of Nazism, becoming the living link between Hitler and the new generation.
One of those who noticed the collection of ashes delivered to Axman was reportedly Hitler’s secretary, Trudl Junge, who was interrogated on August 30, 1946 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, by the United States Army Counterintelligence Corps.
Junge stated, that Axmann had taken the ashes. His text statement was:
“Hitler’s ashes were collected in a box which was given to Axmann. As to his further use of it, I have no idea. I last saw him on May 2, when I left the Reich Chancellery”
Otto Günsche was at the time of Junge’s declaration in captivity in Moscow. The Soviets had stormed and captured the Reich Chancellery and the Führer’s Bunker on May 2, 1945. But these buildings were nearly empty by the evening of May 1, 1945. A breakout had been attempted by the remaining personnel of the Bunker and the Reich Chancellery.
When the Soviets took over the area around the Führer’s bunker, they quickly discovered the partially cremated corpses of Doctor Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda. Goebbels had taken over after Hitler’s death in Berlin and attempted to negotiate a failed ceasefire with the Soviets. He had shot his wife in the garden of the Reich Chancellery, his adjutant, SS-Hauptsturmführer Günther August Wilhelm Schwägermann, as he supervised some sentries to burn the bodies in the open and finally himself.
The Soviets recovered the bodies of Goebbels, and of small children who had been poisoned with cyanide capsules to prevent their capture inside the bunker, fearing they would end up like the Italian fascists.
Axmann had many adventures in escaping from Berlin and was certainly very lucky to break free from the Soviet encirclement, since – almost all members of his escape group were captured – He stated in his autobiography, published in 1995, where he explains that his intention was to join Grand Admiral Dönitz’s new Nazi government in the north. Axmann also claimed after the war that he buried Hitler’s gun under Berlin’s Zan Kruger Bridge. A claim later rejected by Hitler’s aide, Otto Günsche. Interviewed by historian David Irving in March 1967 at his home in Germany, Günsche claimed that Axmann had kept the gun as a keepsake.
Quote: “There is some reason to believe that his family still has it”
Axmann certainly seemed more prepared than many other Nazi leaders during his escape, carrying fake IDs with him. This would fit with what is known of his actual plan, which would not have simply consisted of disappearing underground, but rather involved postwar planning for the creation of a new shadow Nazi organization, albeit under American occupation.
This plan would dictate his subsequent movements in Germany in 1945. British military intelligence officer Hugh Trevor-Roper was assigned to investigate Hitler’s death in 1945 and was able to interview several witnesses who had fled to the West. In 1947 he stated, regarding the story of the ashes, quoting:
“It would have been a logical act to pass on these sacred relics to the next generation.” End of quote.
Axmann apparently leaves the Führerbunker for good with Hitler’s pistol and possibly with some of the Führer’s ashes in a box. Trevor-Roper repeated this view in February 1951, when he stated in Commentary magazine , quoting:
“If I had to hazard a guess, I’d have to guess that the ashes were given to Axmann”
It wasn’t just Major Trevor-Roper who believed Axmann had left the bunker with a box of Hitler’s ashes.
Alan Bullock in his famous 1962 book “Hitler, A Study in Tyranny” stated that there is some circumstantial evidence to support this theory. Historian James P O’Donnell, who himself published “The Bunker” in 1978 . Then a US Army intelligence officer in 1945, wrote, quoting, As Reich’s Eugen Fuhrer, leader of the younger Nazi generation, that Axmann was believed to be the keeper of the flames, and probably also the keeper of Hitler’s ashes. A declassified CIA document from 2007 also alludes to the same story.
Those holy relics, the ashes in a box and the gun Hitler shot himself with, both ended up in Axmann’s possession .
So Axmann’s plan would have been in place from March to April 1945; even before the fall of Berlin, Axmann had held a series of senior staff meetings of the Hitler Youth. The headquarters of the Hitler Youth leadership was transferred from Berlin to the Hitler Youth Training School in Bad Tölz in Bavaria.
Axmann’s plan called for 35,000 adult Hitler Youth leaders to relocate to inaccessible mountainous country in Bavaria, Austria and Bohemia. They would maintain and build a cohesive underground Nazi organization.
Axmann fled Berlin carrying false papers in the name of Eric Zwick, crossing Mecklenburg. He later lodged with a farmer’s wife who had no idea who he was and remained there until the fall of 1945. Deciding to break out west to the US occupation zone, he was assisted by the local Mayor who gave him food and money in exchange for carrying a message to the Mayor’s daughter. Axmann actually braved his way back to Soviet-occupied Berlin and took a train to Braunschweig. Got off, he walked and then took a bus to Gelsenkirchen, moving north to Lübeck. Axmann therefore contacted a former senior leader of the Frauenschaft .
On the move again, Axmann traveled with members of the Mayor’s family to Heinsberg and re-entered Soviet territory, traveling to Mecklenburg and from there to Lansing, where he exchanged more messages with the Mayor, then returned west again in December 1945. He met two other Hitler Youth leaders from his personal staff, from there to Munich and then a visit to his mother.
On August 11, he met Karl Ebeling, traveling with him and another Nazi leader to northern Germany. However, a Polish mistress of Ebeling worked as an informant for the United States Counterintelligence Corps and informed the Americans of Axmann’s presence. On 15 December 1945 Auxmann was arrested and taken to Kempton for questioning.
The Americans were naturally very interested in the details of Hitler’s demise and the possible death of Martin Bormann. So they asked for Hitler’s ashes. There was already a rumor that Axmann had smuggled them out of Berlin, soon confirmed by other senior Nazi figures such as Jung. Axmann claimed he had no knowledge of the final disposal of the bodies of Hitler and Eva, a position he held until his death in 1965.
After his trial in 1949, Axmann
was sentenced to three years and three months’ imprisonment as a serious offender, but there was no evidence of any involvement in war crimes.
Subsequently, in 1958, Axmann was fined 35,000 Marks, equivalent today to about 115,000 Euros, after a West German court found him guilty of indoctrinating young Germans.
For a time Axmann made a living as a salesman in West Germany, then lived in Gran Canaria from 1971 to 1976 and then in West Berlin. Even after the war, Axmann maintained his friendship with Hitler’s pilot, Hans Bauer, who had been released from Soviet captivity in 1955, and it is from Bauer that the details of what would become of Hitler’s ashes come.
In postwar Germany, senior members of Hitler’s inner circle kept in touch with each other, a circle that included Baur, some of Hitler’s secretaries, his aide, Günther Schwägermann, and the valet.
There are many photographs of these people socializing with each other. Bauer and Axmann remained in close contact after the war, but Axmann did not socialize with others remaining separate from this group.
Returning to the question of what happened to Hitler’s ashes, it was revealed by the former pilot of the Fuhrer, Hans Baur, who became a good friend of Auxmann after the war. After speaking to people who knew Bauer in the 1970s and 1980s, Baur recounted that Auxmann allegedly buried a portion of Hitler’s ashes in someone’s already existing grave in southern Germany, meaning that if we believe Baur’s testimony , some of Hitler’s physical remains still exist in Germany today.
For obvious reasons, none of Hitler’s inner circle wanted to reveal the precise location of the grave, proving or disproving this story therefore remains impossible.
Auxmann died in Berlin in October 1996, aged 83, he was the last surviving
minister who had served Adolf Hitler.