The German “Fuhrer” Adolf Hitler is seen in this undated file photo. With thanks to The National Archives/handout via REUTERS
In August 1946, a Maryland man went to his usual lunch spot to grab a bite to eat. Find dinner full, he asked a man sitting, only if he could share his table.
The man, because it supposedly turned out, was Adolf Hitler.
The dictator was dressed “cheap” and “very nervous,” said the witness. Hitler fidgeted and played with his napkin. His lunchmate called the authorities.
In 1948 there came a letter to a Spanish newspaper. The writer claimed that he’d last seen Hitler in Bogota, Colombia, 10 days earlier and that he was “in perfect health.” The Fuhrer had for the conquest of the moon and Mars.
Conspiracy theories about the death of Hitler are legion. Stories about his escape from a German bunker began cropping up just a few hours after his supposed death on April 30, 1945.
Now a new book claims put the kibosh on all the rumors and finally solve the mystery of what happened to the Nazi monster.
“The Death of Hitler: The Last Word” (Da Capo Press) is written by the French journalist Jean-Christophe Brisard and Russian documentary film maker Lana Parshina.
The duo ventured to Moscow to comb historical documents stored in secret archives. They were also allowed the examination of a skull fragment with a bullet hole, and teeth supposedly taken from the German leader are stored in the body in the library belonging to Russia’s infamous Federal Security Services.
The authors months have been occupied with the negotiations for the access to the depots, chaired by stern former Soviet librarians and humorless guards to wear heavy black uniforms.
“How foreigners — even Lana with her perfect Russian and her old Russian passport, us official access, that was the biggest challenge,” Brisard tells The Post.
Among the 7 million documents that are stored in the Russian archives, the authors found the top-secret accounts to which the interrogations of the members of Hitler’s inner circle, who were captured, when the Soviet troops took Berlin.
What emerged was a detailed, sometimes frustrating, contradictory, chronicle of Hitler’s last days.
April 1945, the Fuhrer, had retreated to a heavily fortified underground bunker near the Reich Chancellery at 77 Wilhelmstrasse. On 29 April, with Russian troops only a few blocks away, Hitler married girlfriend Eva Braun in a 10-minute ceremony. Just for the union, Hitler dictated his last will and testament to his private secretary. The document stated that he and Braun had chosen for the dead and that their bodies must be burned upon discovery.
Hitler tested cyanide on his dog Blondi, to prepare for the end.
The following afternoon he came out of his room and quietly said goodbye to his staff. What happened after that is unclear.
Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge, was stationed outside the door and told the Russians he heard a shot. He ran to alert Hitler’s secretary Martin Bormann, and the two entered the room to find their leader and his wife dead.
The bodies were wrapped in blankets, worn over, doused with gasoline and burned.
The Russian files show that the Soviets collected numerous accounts (often under extreme duress) of the events from the other bunker inhabitants, and the interrogators grew irritated by the differences, believe they were lied to.
Some Nazis reported hearing a shot, others do not. Some reported seeing a bullet wound in Hitler’s head, others do not. Hitler Had shot himself in the mouth or the temple? Or had he not shot himself and instead taken cyanide?
The Soviets preferred the last story, because they believed that it showed cowardice on Hitler’s part.
1945 Russian autopsy performed on the burned corpses found in the vicinity of the entrance of the bunker back-up of the cyanide hypothesis. A broken glass capsule was found in the mouth and the smell of the bitter almond was strong, with mention of the poison.
The bodies were buried, although they were later dug up and burned. But fragments of the bone were saved.
The skull piece was discovered by the Soviets in 1946, in the vicinity of the burned bodies were found. It was stored in an archive safe, non-cataloged until tripped by a librarian in 1975.
To examine this physical evidence, the authors brought Philippe Charlier, a French forensic pathologist who had the nickname “the Indiana Jones of the graveyards” for his role in the identifying of high-profile historic organs.
Charlier was acceptable to the Russians, not only because of his reputation, but because he is not American. Everything but an American.
The conservative Russians are only allowed a visual analysis of the skull piece, and Charlier was able to determine that it belonged to a grown man and that was burned. But was it Hitler’s? The doctor could not say.
Hitler ‘ s teeth more clarity. Charlier was able to compare the jaw bone with x-rays taken of Hitler in 1944. His conclusion? It was a competition. No doubt about it. There was “a perfect match.”
Hitler did not escape Berlin in 1945. He died in that bunker.
But how Hitler’s death remained a mystery.
Charlier was also allowed to analyze the teeth with a microscope, and discovered strange blue stains. Charlier was a mystery. Can cyanide be the cause of the discoloration?
One of the bigger breakthroughs came completely by accident. As soon as Charlier had returned to France after the first research, he discovered a number of almost microscopic pieces of dental tartar of Hitler’s teeth fixed on the rubber gloves he wore for the research.
He examined these particles by electron microscope and found more and more evidence strengthening the case. Within the sample, he discovered the vegetable fibers, but no meat, with entry of the teeth belonged to a vegetarian, like Hitler was.
The tartar was also scanning for traces of three metal elements, that would indicate that Hitler shot himself in the mouth, as his chauffeur, Erich Kempka, had told the British in 1945.
No traces were found, which means that Hitler was almost certainly shot himself in the temple, as some witnesses stated.
As for the cyanide? Charlier was not able to come to a conclusion and it is not yet sure what the cause of the blue staining on the teeth.
Without a more in-depth research, they will remain a mystery.
And Russia is apparently not exactly welcome all the new questions. The teeth — one of the most fascinating historical artifacts of the 20th century were returned to the recycled cigarillo box in which they all casually stored, wheels deep in the archives and placed on a shelf next to God knows what other relics. It is unclear when, or if, they will ever be seen again.
This story was previously published in the New York Post.