Martin Bormann gained infamy as Adolf Hitler’s private secretary and was the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery. He retreated to the bunker with Hitler on January 16, 1945, and remained there until the Nazi leader committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Bormann attempted to flee Berlin with other officers on May 2 but didn’t make it out of the city as he was killed by Soviet soldiers. Or was he?
South American Sightings
Artur Axmann, the leader of the Hitler Youth, was with Bormann, SS Doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger, and Hans Baur, Hitler’s pilot, as they tried to leave Berlin. An attack by Soviet artillery caused carnage, and the panicked group split up. Once they got to the tracks at Lehrter Station, Axmann went in the opposite direction to Bormann and Stumpfegger. However, he encountered Soviet soldiers and returned to a bridge near the railway where he found two bodies. Axmann later said the bodies were Bormann and Stumpfegger, although he admitted that he never got the chance to examine the corpses.
It should have been an open and shut case, but as the Soviets never stated that they found the body of Martin Bormann, his fate remained in doubt for decades. In fact, there were numerous alleged sightings of the Nazi between 1945 and 1965 in Europe and South America. In 1967, legendary ‘Nazi Hunter’ Simon Wiesenthal said there was enough evidence to suggest that Bormann was still alive. Theories on how he escaped included a suggestion that he traveled to Argentina by U-Boat, while other conspiracy theorists believe he fled to Italy, then Spain, and eventually reached South America with the aid of a Nazi escape network.
Discovery of a Body
The case of Martin Bormann’s disappearance rumbled on until 1972 when construction workers found human remains just meters away from where Axmann claimed Bormann and Stumpfegger died. Dr. Hugo Blasckhe reconstructed dental records which identified the skeleton as Bormann’s. Also, the corpse had damage to the collarbone consistent with injuries sustained by Hitler’s deputy in a motorbike accident in 1939. Furthermore, doctors found remnants of glass in the jawbones of both skeletons which suggests Stumpfegger and Bormann swallowed cyanide capsules.
Forensic examiners went a step further by analyzing the shape of the skull and size of the skeleton before concluding it was definitely Martin Bormann’s remains. The second skeleton was of a similar size to Stumpfegger, so the analysts were satisfied that it was the remains of the SS Doctor. The West German government declared Bormann officially dead, although his family couldn’t cremate the corpse in case further examination was necessary. This should have been the end of the affair, but there were further twists and turns to come.