The FBI vs Hitler

Believe it or not the FBI devoted countless man-hours and money investigating the possibility that the most notorious of all WWII villains escaped justice – Adolph Hitler.  Seriously!  Would I fib to you?

It all began shortly after Hitler killed himself in April 1945.  It took a mere month or so for the FBI to receive their first tip off, that being that Hitler had escaped to Argentina.  At the time Hitler was described as suffering from asthma and ulcers, and had shaved his trademark Charlie Chaplin moustache off.  The tipster was a person who had heard the story in a bar from someone who knew someone who’d been paid $15,000 to assist in the escape plans.  According to the story, Hitler was squirreled out of Berlin, via plane and submarine, and taken to Argentina where he was greeted by government officials, given a health check and allowed to settle down.  From that initial letter the gloves were off – Hitler sightings were as common in the late 1940s and early ‘50s as Elvis sightings were in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and indeed still are.  As with Elvis, there are those still convinced that Hitler did escape and lived to be a little old Fuehrer.

Each and every lead was followed up, and every letter was responded to, with a general form letter, from J. Edgar Hoover himself, such was the efficiency of the FBI at the time.  Things got to the point where Hoover contacted the American Embassy in Argentina to give them a heads up on what information had been collected and collated, and to also request that they do a little digging of their own.  Looking for Nazis in post war Argentina was akin to looking for drugs at a Grateful Dead concert (something that the FBI also did, when they ‘received information’ that Deadheads might be using ‘narcotics’ at concerts.  Imagine that?  Deadheads smoking dope?  What next?).  Oddly enough, the FBI drew a blank with their searches there, failing to find any Nazis (kind of like not finding dope at a Dead concert…which, apparently, the FBI never did find dope at a Dead concert.  They were amongst the very few). 

In the meantime Hitler sightings became a sport – Hitler was with Juan Peron, helping him along with his campaign – presumably Eva Braun was giving Eva Peron fashion tips.  Hitler was in Cuba, Hitler was in America and, well, Hitler was everywhere.  And still reports came flooding in.  People began to contact wanting to know if there was any reward for the capture of Hitler, and if there was, could the FBI help them by telling them where Hitler was currently hiding out?  One soldier wrote asking for a Hitler signature to be verified.  The signature was lifted from Hitler’s house during the occupation in 1945 and the Smithsonian was of no help at all, suggesting that the author contact the FBI.  People saw Hitler walking down the streets, in casinos, and, in what must surely be the cream of the crop, Hitler was reported to be working as a dishwasher in various cafes around the country.  Gott in himmell!  The man who oversaw one of the largest examples of genocide in the 20th century, who ran the world to war, one of the most charismatic leaders of the time, reduced to soaking his hands in Palmolive every day?  Say it ain’t so!

Well, it wasn’t so.  After a while Hitler sightings petered out and people went back to more mundane things, such as reporting their neighbours as being dirty red commies.  By the mid 1950s Hitler was old news, Russia was the new Hitler and reds were under everyone’s bed, along with mind rotting comic books, movies and other literature.  For the rabble rousers of the mid 1950s Hitler could never compete with a decent run of E.C.s when it came to brain rotting and crime causing, let alone media attention.  Still he was reported as being alive and well into the 1970s.

There are several reasons why people continued to believe that Hitler was alive.  No body had been sighted by any of the Allied forces after his suicide in the Berlin bunker.  The bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were put into a ditch on the surface and burnt, the resulting charred remains were claimed by the Russians and turned over to SMERSH, their own internal investigation agency (the forerunner to the K.G.B).  SMERSH took the bodies, conducted autopsies, filmed and photographed them, removed part of Hitler’s skull and then buried the remains.  In the late 1970s the remains were dug up, crushed and thrown into a river, however the fragment of skull still exists in K.G.B archives.  This is all common knowledge now, but in the period immediately after the war, and for many decades beyond, the Russians would not release any information about the final fate of Hitler.  They refused to confirm or deny Hitlers fate, thus leading to uncertainty and rumours.  The Russians felt that if the free world were busily looking for Hitler, then they’d be using resources that might otherwise be pointed their way, and they were right.  Not only did they not release information, in their own subtle way they even spread rumours that Hitler lived and officially maintained that they believed Hitler might well be alive somewhere in South America.  This also served to divert attention away from the fact that some of the nastier Nazis were gainfully employed in the U.S.S.R and its occupied countries, heading up their own concentration camps – you could take the Nazi out of Belsen, but you couldn’t take Belsen out of the Nazi.   

In return for their lives, Nazis were ‘forced’ to continue where they left off, overseeing and being personally involved in the mass murder and torture of Poles, Jews, Gypsies and many Eastern Europeans.  In this way Stalin got a ready made task force who were only too eager to both serve and train others in their methods.  Hitler might well have been dead, but his legacy lived on for decades.  As for the FBI, they profited by being able to add several hundred names, addresses and other details to their database, as they opened files on each and every person who wrote to them.  By corresponding with the FBI you ensured to be permanently on their books and on their records, so those who valued their privacy saw it eliminated just by reporting that they’d heard from a guy who knew a guy named ‘Jack’ who said he once saw Hitler in the Sands in Las Vegas, shooting craps with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

In the meantime Hitler sightings are now reduced to the imaginations of mad people, people who happen to see Ron Mael and those who own cats affectionally known as Kitlers.  But there was a time when people were seeing Hitler everywhere, from the kitchen of a café to photos of Col. Peron in Life Magazine.  






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