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- Aug 14, 2009
Fresh doubts have been raised over the way Adolf Hitler died after a fragment of what was believed to have been his skull was shown to belong to a woman.
DNA tests on the bone with a bullet hole, which was found by the Russians in Berlin and until 2000 kept in a secret Moscow vault, proved it wasn’t the dictator’s. The results, which show the remains to be those of a woman under 40, raise the possibility that Hitler did not die in his bunker after all.
The consensus among historians was that Hitler committed suicide with Eva Braun on April 30, 1945, as the Russians bombarded the German capital.
Hitler, who turned 56 in April 1945, is said to have taken a cyanide pill and then shot himself through the head. Witnesses said his and Braun’s bodies were wrapped in blankets and carried to the garden just outside the bunker, placed in a bomb crater, doused with petrol and set ablaze.But the skull fragment the Russians dug up in 1946 could never have belonged to the Nazi leader, it is now claimed. Nick Bellantoni, an archaeologist and bone and University of Connecticut, told The Observer: ‘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.’ Dr Bellantoni had flown to Moscow to inspect the gruesome Hitler trophies at the State Archive.
They included the skull fragment as well as bloodstains from the bunker sofa on which Hitler and Braun were believed to have committed suicide. 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.
The finding raised the question of whether the fragment of skull belonged to Eva Braun, who died aged 33. We know the skull corresponds to a woman between the ages of 20 and 40,’ said Bellantoni, but he is sceptical about the Braun thesis. ‘There is no report of Eva Braun having shot herself or having been shot afterwards. It could be anyone. Many people were killed around the bunker area.’ The Soviets, who went to great length to unearth Hitler’s body, were certain the remains belonged to the Nazi leader.
As the Soviet Army secured control of Berlin in May 1945, forensic specialists dug up what was presumed to be the dictator’s body outside the bunker and performed a post-mortem examination behind closed doors.
The bunker: Where Hitler and Braun's bodies were said to be burned and buried
A part of the skull was absent, presumably blown away by Hitler’s suicide shot, but what remained of his jaw coincided with his dental records. The autopsy also reported that Hitler, as had been rumoured, had only one testicle. But Stalin remained suspicious. In 1946 a second secret mission was dispatched to Berlin. In the same crater from which Hitler’s body had been recovered, the new team found the skull fragment the recent tests were carried out on. Unknown to the world, Hitler’s corpse 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. ‘We were very lucky to get a reading, despite the limited amount of genetic information,’ she said.