When Truman asked Stalin in 1945 whether Hitler was dead, Stalin replied bluntly, “No.” As late as 1952, Eisenhower declared: “We have been unable to unearth one bit of tangible evidence of Hitler’s death.” What really happened?
Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams have compiled extensive evidence—some recently declassified—that Hitler actually fled Berlin and took refuge in a remote Nazi enclave in Argentina. The recent discovery that the famous “Hitler’s skull” in Moscow is female, as well as newly uncovered documents, provide powerful support for their case. Dunstan and Williams cite people, places, and dates in over 500 detailed notes that identify the plan’s escape route, vehicles, aircraft, U-boats, and hideouts. Among the details: the CIA’s possible involvement and Hitler’s life in Patagonia–including his two daughters.
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In April 27, 1945, Adolf Hitler spoke briefly with one of the soldiers standing guard outside the Führerbunker, the last refuge of the inner circle of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. “Germany,” he said, “can hope for the future only if the whole world thinks I am dead.”
It seems impossible to believe that Adolf Hitler could not only have escaped Germany but, in fact, survived in relative comfort in Argentina until his death of natural causes in 1962. The 2011 publication of Grey Wolf, however, put the conventional narrative of the final days of World War II once again on the firing line. General Vasily Khristoforov, head of the Russian Federal Security Bureau’s Directorate of Registry and Archives, responded to its release by dismissing the book’s claims as “unsubstantiated,” while veteran BBC news presenter Dan Snow described it as “hugely thought provoking.”
Now, further twists in the Grey Wolf saga, a planned sequel to the book based on startling new witness testimony, and an anticipated 2013 documentary, are set to renew attention toward what may be the most enduring mystery of World War II.
Grey Wolf co-author Gerrard Williams first heard stories about Hitler’s escape to South America while working as an international correspondent in Argentina. “Originally,” he recalled, “I had planned on doing a rather silly ‘conspiracy theory’ documentary on the subject—I had never done a ‘conspiracy’ story and thought it might be a change from hard news and serious subjects.”
As evidence of a successful escape began to mount, however, the medium and tone that Grey Wolf took assumed a different form, going from film to book and from a light-hearted “what-if” story to a serious tale of real-life intrigue.
The credentials of Williams and his fellow author, Simon Dunstan, are unimpeachable. Dunstan is a military historian, the author of more than a dozen books on topics ranging from the Six Day War to Vietnam, and a contributor to The History Channel series, “History’s Raiders.” Williams, meanwhile, is a longtime international journalist whose resume includes stints at the BBC, Reuters, and SkyTV. In Grey Wolf, they told the remarkable tale of a sequence of shadowy events unfolding in the closing days of World War II that is neatly time-lined, meticulously sourced, and—whether or not you believe its thesis—very intriguing.
Released at the end of 2011, Grey Wolf recalls the early realization by Nazi Party Reichsleiter Martin Bormann of the necessity of planning a route of final retreat for the German leadership. Navigating the various stages of creation and execution of what may well have been one of the most daring and enigmatic escapes in history, it examines the early preparation of a secret German base in the Canary Islands, as well as mid-level contacts between Germany and the United States, when the latter was presented with an opportunity to turn a blind-eye to Hitler’s eventual escape—the choice of “a carrot or a stick.” The U.S. could, on the one hand, accept a secret exile for a dozen members of the Nazi hierarchy, in which case Germany would dutifully capitulate and peacefully transfer her gold, art, and scientific patents to a victorious, U.S.-led allied coalition. Alternatively, they could refuse such an offer, in which event, said treasures would be destroyed, and the great, unscathed cities of the U.S. east coast would find themselves under sudden and punishing attack from submarine-launched, nerve-gas equipped, V-1 rockets—an empty threat, the authors explain, but one which the U.S., at the time, may have taken seriously.
While Williams and Dunstan offer almost impossible detail about the route and timing of the alleged evacuation to South America, some of the most fascinating elements are caught in the fog of information surrounding certain episodes of the supposed escape. One such moment involves Peter Baumgart, a South African-born Luftwaffe pilot who claimed to have flown the Hitler entourage to Denmark, the first stop on their trip to Argentina. Baumgart’s own claims would be separately corroborated by the testimony of a German prisoner of war, Friedrich Argelotty-Mackensen. The transcript of Mackensen’s interrogation by U.S. Admiral Michael Musmanno records a sighting of Hitler speaking to wounded German soldiers at an airfield, in Tonder, Denmark, three days before he was supposed to have died in Berlin:
Musmanno: “Who had command of the plane?”
Mackensen: “Well, of course, I have no idea. I only know that in one of the planes in which Hitler was, that this plane was being flown or piloted by a certain Captain Baumgart. I was lying in the grass and then I was being picked up again. I was carried to some certain place around the plane. Then somebody set me down. All the others were standing there already. Somebody put a knapsack under my head and then Hitler was standing there and… one moment now. Now, now, at the crucial point! Hitler has said that Admiral Dönitz is now in supreme command of the German army and Admiral Dönitz will enter into unconditional surrender with the Western powers. He is not authorized to surrender to the Eastern powers.”
According to period newspaper accounts presented in the book, the pilot—Baumgart—was briefly imprisoned in Poland after the war, released in 1951, and “never heard of again.”
“It’s possible that he survived and lived out his life in obscurity, possibly under another name,” Williams elaborated in an interview, shortly after the book’s release. “We have not been able to trace him.”
Even more intriguing, perhaps, are the authors’ claims that the U.S. Government either aided—or, at least, turned a blind eye—to the Nazi escape attempt, a claim that Dunstan and Williams approach with gentle ambiguity in their book, but which the latter was willing to clarify when asked.
“We believe,” he says, “that a small but very influential group of American intelligence officials, led by Allen Dulles and backed by a group of very wealthy American bankers and industrialists, had been in contact with Martin Bormann and other senior Nazis from before the war and continued those contacts throughout WWII. It was this group who negotiated the escape of Hitler, Bormann, and finally, 30,000 European Fascists to Latin America. I believe that from 1944, this grouping saw the Nazis as finished and believed the real threat was the Soviet Union. It would have been useful to have Hitler on hand to potentially lead Germany along with the Allies in any conflict with the Soviets.”
Perhaps because of the nature of the topic, Williams’ and Dunstan’s book ultimately raised more questions than it answered. For the authors, however, that end may not have been entirely without purpose.
“One of the main reasons for writing [Grey Wolf] was a search for the truth,” Williams explained. “We believe that as this story becomes better known, more information will come to the surface.”
Readers of Dr. W. Hugh Thomas’ 1979 work, The Murder of Rudolph Hess, may recall one chilling anecdote the ex- British army surgeon relates from his investigation into the fate of the former Deputy Führer of Germany, whose own tale is almost as odd as that of Hitler. While administering a medical exam to Hess at Spandau Prison in 1973, Thomas was startled to find none of the scars that should have been present on Hess’ torso; remnants of war injuries sustained more than a half-century earlier. When he asked about it, Thomas recalled, the innocent question had a startling effect.
The patient’s manner changed instantly. From being in a sunny, cheerful mood, he turned chalk-white and began to shake. For an instant he stared at me in what appeared bewilderment or even utter disbelief. Then he looked down and avoided my eyes. After what felt like ages he muttered, “zü spat, zü spat” (too late, too late).
Within months following publication of Grey Wolf, Williams experienced his own Hess-like episode when he was contacted by a retired, eighty-year-old Argentine waiter living in London. Roberto Brun, now suffering from circulatory and kidney disease, claims he was working as a server in a private dining room used by Argentine naval officers in the mid-1950s. Once in 1953, and again in 1956, Brun says, he waited on Hitler. Williams provided a copy of Brun’s unpublished testimony exclusively to Atlantis Rising.
“Hitler,” recalls Brun, “probably came to the hotel six or seven months after I started working, and the preparation that day was very special including bringing one special chef to cook. Mandaver [the restaurant’s manager] didn’t tell me who it was, but I knew he was a very, very big chef. I remember black hair with little touches of white, a skinny face, no moustache. When he got up from the table to walk, Mandaver was with me to one side. And all the people were respecting him. And Mandaver said, ‘do you know who it is?’ And I said ‘no.’ He said ‘the Führer.’ ”
According to Williams, Brun also confirmed the presence of Martin Bormann, Hitler’s faithful secretary, whose own mysterious death has never been fully resolved.
Williams wrote in an e-mail to Atlantis Rising, “I asked him [Brun] to describe Bormann and he looked at me carefully. He said that Bormann looked a lot like me but was a little ‘skinnier’.” Williams added, “This is the second time I have been compared with the Nuremburg-convicted war criminal Bormann. The first was in Argentina when I interviewed the former personal police-guard to President Juan Domingo Perón, Jorge Collotto. Collotto, whose detailed testimony is contained within Grey Wolf, also told me I bore more than a passing resemblance to Bormann.”
While Williams and Dunstan theorize Hitler’s escape to Argentina was accomplished with the support of the government of Juan Perón, Brun posits that the Fuhrer’s long-term benefactor during his life in South America was Admiral Isaac Rojas, the former military aide to first lady Eva Perón. Three years after Evita’s 1952 death, Rojas sailed the Argentine cruiser Belgrano into the Río de la Plata, fixed its main gun battery on the Casa Rosada, and demanded the resignation of President Juan Perón. “Damn it,” Perón is supposed to have exclaimed at the time, “this fool Rojas is the sort of man who is likely to shoot.” After the overthrow of Perón, Rojas assumed the Vice-Presidency of Argentina and would remain an influential force in Argentine political life until his death in 1993.
In addition to Brun, two residents of Rio Negro, Argentina, have come forward to give Williams further details on the arrival of Nazis at the San Ramon Estancia outside San Carlos De Bariloche. Williams reports that both speak of their parents waiting on Hitler and Eva Braun at the Nazi-owned property in 1945, and later at a property known as “Inalco” near Villa Angostura on Lake Nahuel Hapi. Meanwhile, a retired American businessman who spent many years in South America has offered information on what he says was Hitler’s funeral near Bariloche in Argentina.
New information on Peter Baumgart—Hitler’s Luftwaffe pilot who disappeared after his release from a Polish prison—has also surfaced in the form of a TWA passenger manifest. According to it, Baumgart flew from Europe to New York before catching a flight for Washington, D.C., within weeks of his 1951 parole.
The testimony of Brun and other witnesses will form the basis of Williams’ and Dunstan’s follow-up book to Grey Wolf entitled, The Escape of Adolf Hitler. The Spider’s Web, due for release in 2013.
Meanwhile, Williams is finishing production on the documentary film version of Grey Wolf, which—the author says—is tentatively scheduled to debut at the Berlin Film Festival in February.
“The publication of Grey Wolf was never going to be the end to this story,” Williams says. “The new information we are receiving needs to be thoroughly checked, but as with the information in the book, it is compelling. We may not have got all the details of Hitler’s escape correct so far, but one thing is certain: he did escape.”