Saturday, January 2, 2010

Did you know? The fragment isn't Hitler's skull.

My Father rarely spoke of his time in Germany during World War II, so rarely, in fact, that the only two stories I remember were very brief. The article below reminded me of what he shared.

One was horrible, not only because of the graphic images left on my childhood mind, but also because of what was left unstated and never detailed. As it turned out, my young imagination could have never prepared me for the realities of the atrocities committed upon the Jewish people and others.

The other was the act of a group of soldiers extracting their own brand of justice and revenge on the vestiges of what remained of what I later learned was Hitler's 50th birthday gift from Mussolini.

With the remembered look on his face that day, I know he had one foot in the present and one at the gates to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

What he saw and experienced through the lives of those who were bought to die in Bergen-Belsen, he said, should never happen again. He spoke of the thousands of dead, of the suffering of the emaciated people, the stench, the filth, and the horror they lived in.

And, then he said no more.

He never spoke of it again.

I'm sure he knew I would come to understand, despite my questions at the time, that he couldn't tell me, that I would learn on my own that hundreds of thousands of people died at the camp before the Allied troops liberated it, and that Anne Frank and her sister were among the dead at Bergen-Belsen, along with many people of other nationalities.

He was so terribly right. We must never forget.

The second tale he told, many years apart, was of Hitler's "Eagle's Nest".

My Father recalled reaching an area Barvaria, Germany, a complex of Hitler's home and other buildings including at least one he entered. He spoke of the claustrophobic nature of the elevator (the shaft is approximately 400') and compared it to the panoramic view of the mountain top, and the large expanse of the rooms.

The soldiers, he said, were "hell-bent" to cart away anything of value or destroy most of which which couldn't be moved. Many, including my Father, attempted to send Eva Braun's dresses, cameras, and other items to family members. None of my Father's "souveniers" arrived home, and the suspicion was that they were confiscated.

The men gave vent to anger and frustrations only a war-weary soldier can feel by wrecking rooms, urinating on costly rugs, and carving their names on a massive banquet or meeting table so large it filled a room from one end to the other.

During these soldier's time spent at the Eagle's Nest, they shared Hilter's cache of wine and attempted to carry off cases, but despite the labor many bottles ended up dashed on the rocky cliffs below.

Hitler's nearby home, Berghof, the homes of Goering, and Bormann, as well as the SS barracks were bombed by the American's and Brititsh, and only a few buildings remain including the Eagle's Nest and bunker complex.

I know little more about my Father's time in Germany or several years later in Korea, but I honor him and all the men and women who sacrificed and died, soldiers and civilians.

I recall that a portion of skull, allegedly Hitler's, was preserved.

The readers of this blog may find the following articles interesting.


Fresh doubts over Hitler's death after tests on bullet hole skull reveal it belonged to a woman

By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 3:11 PM on 28th September 2009

Adolf Hitler may not have shot himself dead and perhaps did not even die in his bunker, it emerged yesterday.

A skull fragment believed for decades to be the Nazi leader’s has turned out to be that of a woman under 40 after DNA analysis.

Scientists and historians had long thought it to be conclusive proof that Hitler shot himself in the head after taking a cyanide pill on 30 April 1945 rather than face the ignominy of capture.

The piece of skull - complete with bullet hole - had been taken from outside the Fuhrer’s bunker by the Russian Army and preserved by Soviet intelligence.

Now the story of Hitler’s death will have to rewritten as a mystery - and conspiracy theorists are likely to latch on to the possibility that he may not have died in the bunker at all.

The traditional story is that Hitler committed suicide with Eva Braun as the Russians bombarded Berlin.

Although some historians doubted he shot himself and suggested it was Nazi propaganda to make him a hero, the hole in the skull fragment seemed to settle the argument when it was put on display in Moscow in 2000.

But DNA analysis has now been performed on the bone by American researchers.

'We know the skull corresponds to a woman between the ages of 20 and 40,' said University of Connecticut archeologist Nick Bellantoni.

'The bone seemed very thin; male bone tends to be more robust. And the sutures where the skull plates come together seemed to correspond to someone under 40.' Hitler was 56 in April 1945.

Mr. Bellantoni flew to Moscow to take DNA swabs at the State Archive and was also shown the bloodstained remains of the bunker sofa on which Hitler and Braun were believed to have killed themselves.

'I had the reference photos the Soviets took of the sofa in 1945 and I was seeing the exact same stains on the fragments of wood and fabric in front of me, so I knew I was working with the real thing,' he said.

His astonishing results have been broadcast in the U.S. in a History Channel documentary titled Hitler's Escape.

According to witnesses, the bodies of Hitler and Braun were wrapped in blankets and carried to the garden just outside the bunker, placed in a bomb crater, doused with petrol and set ablaze.

In May 1945 a Russian forensics team dug up what was presumed to be the dictator’s body. Part of the skull was missing, apparently the result of the suicide shot. The remaining piece of jaw matched his dental records, according to his captured dental assistants. And there was only one testicle.

A year later the missing skull fragment was found on the orders of Stalin, who remained suspicious about Hitler’s fate.

Just how and when he died is now shrouded in mystery. Mr Bellantoni said it was unlikely the bone was Braun’s, who was 33.

'There is no report of Eva Braun having shot herself or having been shot afterwards,' he said. 'Many people died near the bunker.'

Unknown to the world, the corpse then believed to be Hitler's was interred in Magdeburg, East Germany.

There it remained long after Stalin’s death in 1953.

Finally, in 1970, the KGB dug up the corpse, cremated it and secretly scattered the ashes in a river.

Only the jawbone (which remains away from public view), the skull fragment and the bloodstained sofa segments were preserved in the deep archives of Soviet intelligence.

Mr Bellantoni studied the remains after flying to Moscow to inspect the gruesome Hitler trophies at the State Archive.

He was allowed only one hour with the Hitler trove, during which time he applied cotton swabs and took DNA samples.

The samples were then flown back to Connecticut.

At the university’s centre for applied genetics, Linda Strausbaugh closed her lab for three days to work exclusively on the Hitler project

She said: ‘We used the same routines and controls that would have been used in a crime lab.’

To her surprise, a small amount of viable DNA was extracted.

She then replicated this through a process known as molecular copying to provide enough material for analysis.

‘We were very lucky to get a reading, despite the limited amount of genetic information,’ she said.


For history buffs, the following article details a less than famous incident with an English soldier in World War I.

Private Henry Tandy, "...his regiment held down by heavy machine gun fire Tandey crawled forward, located the machine gun nest and took it out."

"..a wounded German soldier limped out of the maelstrom and into Private Tandey's line of fire, the battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Tandey resigned to the inevitable. "I took aim but couldn't shoot a wounded man," said Tandey, "so I let him go." [2]"

The wounded soldier was Hitler.


Third Reich "remains" today with pictures and commentary:

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