What Really Happened To Hitler's Body?

It goes without saying that history's worst dictator — or at the very least, one of the worst dictators of the past couple of hundred years, along with Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot (okay, there were a lot) — is Adolf Hitler. The atrocities carried out by the German chancellor need not be rehashed here, as they've been covered extensively in the decades since his timely and much-celebrated death. For all of the conquest and mass murder carried out in his name, Hitler came to a rather inglorious end.

As History reports, with Allied troops closing in on Berlin and the fall of Nazi Germany imminent, Hitler hunkered in his bunker underground, popped a cyanide pill, and shot himself in the head. He'd married his longtime mistress, Eva Braun, the day before. Then, in accordance with his wishes, his men burned his body with gasoline. However, because real cremation of a body requires greater temperatures than that generated by a lit accelerant, some of Hitler's remains survived. What happened next was a matter of dispute for decades, but in 2018, the question of what happened to Hitler's body was settled once and for all by a French forensics team.

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Conspiracies regarding Hitler's non-death

For a while, a conspiracy theory held that Hitler hadn't actually died in his bunker. Instead, the story went, he escaped to Argentina with Nazi officials such as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele and lived out the rest of his life without facing justice. Maybe he just waited for a rendezvous with future Argentinian dictator and military junta leader General Jorge Rafael Videla, who took power in 1976. Other conspiracies regarding Hitler's death involve a secret Nazi base in Antarctica and another secret Nazi base on the moon, of all places.

Such conspiratorial fluff flew in the face of the claims of the USSR, who said that Soviet troops had found and collected skull fragments, jaw fragments, and teeth belonging to Hitler mere days after his suicide and immolation. But interestingly enough, conspiratorial claims regarding Hitler's non-death were spread by none other than the Stalin-led Soviet Union itself under the nickname "Operation Myth." The intent of such a disinformation campaign was, as usual, to sow dissent and doubt among enemies of the Soviet Union. More specifically, Stalin wanted the world to think that American and British forces were hiding Hitler as part of a massive coverup. His hope was to draw lines between Hitler, Nazism, and Western nations.

Matching teeth, dentures, and hygienic habits

Only as of 2018 do we have conclusive evidence regarding the fate of Hitler's corpse and its remnants of tooth and bone. In March and July of the previous year, as Smithsonian Magazine says, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) gave a French research team access to Hitler's remains in the Russian State Archive. The results of the investigation, published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, are conclusive. As study lead Philippe Charlier told AFP (via Phys.org), "The teeth are authentic, there is no possible doubt. Our study proves that Hitler died in 1945. We can stop all the conspiracy theories about Hitler. He did not flee to Argentina in a submarine, he is not in a hidden base in Antarctica or on the dark side of the moon." 

Charlier and his team discovered white tartar stains on the teeth and no evidence of meat fibers. There were false teeth mixed in with the real teeth, which had blue stains on them that could have come from an interaction between cyanide and the metal in the dentures. Smithsonian Magazine reminds us that not only was Hitler a vegetarian, but he also had terrible dental hygiene in general, bad breath in his later years, and not too many of his original teeth left. All of this information syncs up with the findings described in the present study. Even more to the point, the teeth, jawbone, and dentures match an X-ray of Hitler's from 1944.

Boxed and stocked in the Russian State Archive

Further conclusive evidence regarding Hitler's death comes from the former führer's skull. As Phys.org explains, the skull kept in storage in the Russian State Archive presents a morphology (shape) that matches radiographic images of Hitler's skull taken before his death, much like the X-rays of his teeth. The skull itself had a hole on the left side, likely caused by an entering or exiting bullet. But because there were no remnants of chemicals like gunpowder on the teeth, it's likely that Hitler shot himself through the neck or forehead. The French team wasn't allowed to take any samples with them, so this information is all we've got and are likely to get for awhile. That being said, it's more than enough.

Investigations into Hitler's Russian-held remains hit a bump in the road in 2009, aside from all the decades worth of prior conspiratorial nonsense. Back then, a Connecticut-based archaeologist and "bone specialist" Nick Bellantoni, as Smithsonian Magazine puts it, came forward saying that he'd not only examined the skull fragments in the Russian State Archive but discovered that they belonged to a woman under the age of 40. His results were published — apparently without any decent degree of oversight or fact-checking — on the ever-dubiously-named "History" channel's 2011 movie, "Hitler's Escape." As Slate reports, Russian authorities say that they never gave Bellantoni access to Hitler's remains.