The SS sergeant said that much later he had met up with Bormann’s companion of those fateful ten days; he assured him that the party minister had made it safely through the British lines by following the Autobahn to the outskirts of Flensburg, where he was to make contact with Grand Admiral Doenitz.
Martin Bormann, in the interim, had met Heinrich Mueller, who had slipped out of Berlin earlier and was waiting in a prearranged safe house. Mueller told Bormann it would not be wise to meet with the new Reich president, who by now had carried out the unconditional surrender in both Rheims and Berlin. He predicted a war crimes trial of all German leaders, and said that Bormann would be inviting serious difficulty if he surfaced at this particular time. Martin Bormann secluded himself in a private German sanitarium in Schleswig-Holstein. The Gestapo chief, taking on the security of the new party minister and of his safe transportation to South America by assorted routes, made the exact plans that he would effect at precisely the right time.
Mueller had already initiated a strategy of deception to explain his own disappearance from prominent circles in Berlin. The week he slipped out of the German capital, his grieving family gathered for his “funeral.” A coffin was borne to a cemetery where it was buried with appropriate ceremony. The grave was marked with a headstone bearing the words “Our Dear Daddy,” Mueller’s name, his birthdate, and the date of his alleged death in Berlin in 1945.
Several years following this incident, an editor of a German news magazine, acting on an informer’s tip generated by the master deceptionist Mueller himself, from South America, obtained a court order in 1963, and the grave was opened. When the coffin in question was unearthed and opened, the editor and the attending officials found three skeletons, none remotely matching Heinrich Mueller’s short and thick-set measurements, or his markedly prominent forehead.
A deception plan for Bormann had been completed by Mueller in Berlin. Tops in police work and crafty beyond imagining, he provided for a matching skeleton and skull, complete with identical dental work, for future forensic experts to ponder over and to reach conclusions that suited his purpose. Mueller was a former inspector of detectives in the Munich police department; he had been brought into the higher echelons of the Gestapo by Reinhard Heydrich because of his professionalism and brilliance. He had risen to the rank of SS chief group leader and senior general of the Waffen SS. The solution was elementary; his motivation was protection and enhancement of the highest authority of the state. To this principle, Mueller had been devoted for a decade as chief of police.
His scheme of substituting a stand-in for Martin Bormann’s body in the freight yards of Berlin was told to me three different times by three different individuals. One was an agent whose career was in the Secret Intelligence Service of the British Foreign Office, one served the Federal Republic of Germany, and one was a member of Mossad, the exterior service of Israeli intelligence. The first tip came over dinner in 1947, in the U.S. press club in Frankfurt. It was the day I returned from Berlin and a personal meeting with General Lucius D. Clay, military governor of the U.S. Zone of Occupation. General Clay had offered me the position of his civilian deputy, but I had turned it down with some reluctance, preferring to remain a European reporter for American newspapers. During the press club dinner, the British agent and I discussed the fascinating and bizarre disappearance of Reichsleiter Bormann; this source said flatly that Mueller had engineered Bormann’s escape, using the device of a concentration camp look-alike to throw future investigators off the scent. Many years later, in 1973, on a visit to Bonn, a conversation with one of General Gehlen’s aides in the Federal Republic intelligence service confirmed the 1947 British tip. The German stated: “The skull represented as Bormann’s is a fraud. Naturally the West German government wishes to bury the past and establish Bormann’s death once and for all. They have been constantly unsettled by continued revelations and scandals.” In 1978, an Israeli Mossad agent with a German specialization said to me that they had never closed the Bormann file in Tel Aviv. “We know he is in South America. We are not very compelled to find him because he was never personally involved in the ‘final solution.’” The Israeli added: “Bormann’s business was business, and from what I know personally he did a thorough job of shifting German assets away from the Third Reich.”
To piece my information together: General Heinrich Mueller initiated his Bormann scheme during the waning months of the war in the time frame when the Reichsleiter was moving to transfer German assets to safe havens in other places. At Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen he examined several inmates in the special elite group known as Sonderkommando, those who had been working in the German counterfeit operation of British pound notes and of other currencies. Documents prepared by them would also be used by SS men in their flight at war’s end (eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes ODESSA and Deutsche Hilfsverein). The Sonderkommando, placed in a special context within the camp, were treated as the skilled professionals they were—engravers, documents specialists, and quality printers— who had been rounded up from occupied countries and put to work for the Third Reich.
Peter Edel Hirschweh, who participated in this special work and survived, described it as follows:
All of the inmates, without any exceptions, were Jews or descendants of mixed marriages. We were “bearers of secrets.” Even if those two qualifications had not alone been sufficient to classify us as a death command, we received additional confirmation and proof through the following events: If some of the prisoners felt slightly ill, received an injury on the finger (while engraving) or the like they were taken to the doctor, heavily guarded, to receive treatment there; the physician was not allowed to talk to them at all. Persons who were seriously ill were not allow to go to the infirmary, even if they could be cured there. They were isolated in the washroom and if this did not help, they were liquidated, i.e., killed.
When Heinrich Mueller visited Sachsenhausen he walked through the engraving, printing, and document areas looking for any inmates who might resemble Bormann. In one he noticed two individuals who did bear a resemblance in stature and facial structure to the Reichsleiter. He had them placed in separate confinement. Thereupon a special dental room was made ready for “treatment” of the two men. A party dentist was brought in to work over and over again on the mouth of each man, until his teeth, real and artificial, matched precisely the Reichsleiter’s. In April 1945, upon completion of these alterations, the two victimized men were brought to the Kurfuerstenstrasse building to be held until needed. Dr. Blaschke had advised Mueller to use live inmates to insure a believable aging process for dentures and gums; hence the need for several months of preparation.
Exact dental fidelity was to play a major part in the identification of Hitler’s body by the invading Russians. It was to be of significance in Frankfurt twenty-eight years later, when the West German government staged a press conference to declare that they had “found Bormann’s skeleton proving he had died in Berlin’s freight yards May 1–2, 1945.”
Dr. Hugo Blaschke was the dentist who had served both Hitler and Bormann. He had offices in the fashionable professional area of Uhlanstrasse, but he always went to the chancellery for his two most important clients. Borm
ann had established a well-equipped dental office there, where Dr. Blaschke and his nurse, Fraulein Kaete Heusemann, would take care of the dental requirements of the Fuehrer and the Reichsleiter. The dental records for both were kept in the chancellery. When the Russians had threatened Berlin, Dr. Blaschke prudently moved his practice to Munich, but Fraulein Heusemann had stayed on. Hitler’s dental charts were never found, because Bormann had removed them from the chancellery files. However, the Russians, who had wanted complete identification of Hitler after the fall of Berlin, brought Fraulein Heusemann to Soviet headquarters. She had identified the dental fittings gathered in a cigar box as belonging to Adolf Hitler. This was confirmed by the dental technician, Fritz Echtmann, who had made the fittings for Hitler on order of Dr. Blaschke.
Once they had made the identifications, both were shipped off to Moscow, remaining there in prison so that they could not communicate with others for several years. They were classified by the Russians as among the chancellery group who had survived the bunker; they would spend years in Russian prisons and slave camps until the Kremlin leaders decided how to handle their public announcement of Hitler’s death—suicide in the bunker, or escape to Spain and South America, as Stalin first believed.
In Bormann’s case, the problem was more complex, more challenging. Yet under Mueller’s skillful guidance, two bodies were planted; their discovery was made possible when an SS man, acting on Mueller’s orders, leaked the information to a Stern magazine editor as part of a ploy to “prove” that Bormann had died in the Berlin freight yard. The stand-ins for Bormann were two unfortunates from Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen, who had been killed gently in the Gestapo basement secret chambers with cyanide spray blown from a cigarette lighter (a killing device used later by the KGB in 1957 and 1959 against Lev Rebet and Stephen Bandera, two leaders of the Ukrainian ÎmigrÎs in Munich). At Gestapo headquarters, the night of April 30, the bodies were taken by a special SS team to the freight yards near the Weidendamm Bridge and buried not too deep beneath rubble in two different areas. The Gestapo squad then made a hurried retreat from Berlin, joining their leader, SS Senior General Heinrich Mueller, in Flensburg.
The funeral and burial caper was to be a Mueller trademark throughout the years of searching for Martin Bormann. The Mossad was to point out that they have been witnesses over the years to the exhumation of six skeletons, two in Berlin and four in South America, purported to be that of Martin Bormann. All turned out to be those of others, although in Frankfurt in 1973 the dental technician, Fritz Echtmann, after years as a Russian prisoner, was to say that the dental work found in the skull of the skeleton declared to be the remains of Bormann resembled those fillings he had worked on in 1944. Simon Wiesenthal, director of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, had been invited to Frankfurt by West German authorities who were presenting the press event, with the CIA in the background. He said that, while the skull resembled Bormann’s, he doubted it was Bormann. Still, Heinrich Mueller had done his job well, and from South America he pointed the Bonn government’s investigators through intermediaries toward this second planted Bormann skeleton. So my sources state; the fabrications of 1945 continue to provide the party minister with his “passport to freedom.”