Martin Bormann

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Martin Bormann
Martin Bormann.jpg
Birth June 7, 1900, Flag of German Empire Wegeleben, Germany
Death May 2, 1945, Flag of Germany Berlin, Germany
Party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Party and Political Positions
  • Regional press officer and business manager (1928–1945)
  • Reichsleiter (1933)
  • Personal Secretary to the Depute Führer (1933–1941)
  • Chief of the Parteikanzlei (1941–1945)

Martin Bormann (June 17, 1900 – May 2, 1945) was a prominent Nazi official. He became head of the Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and private secretary to German dictator Adolf Hitler. He gained Hitler's trust and derived immense power within the Third Reich by controlling access to the Führer. Many historians have suggested Bormann held so much power that, in some respects, he became Germany's "secret leader" during the war.

Bormann's bureaucratic power and effective reach broadened considerably by 1942. Faced with the imminent demise of the Third Reich, he systematically went about the organizing of German corporate flight capital, and set up off-shore holding companies and business interests in close coordination with the same Ruhr industrialists and German bankers who facilitated Hitler's explosive rise to power ten years before.[1]

There has been speculation and controversy over the death of Bormann. He was ultimately indicted and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials in October 1946, however his fate remains a mystery.

Contents

Early life and family

Bormann was born in Wegeleben (near Halberstadt) in the German Empire. He was the son of post office employee Theodor Bormann and his second wife, Antonie Bernhardine Mennong. He had two half-siblings from his father's first marriage to Louise Grobler, who had died in 1898. Later that year, he married Antonie. She gave birth to three sons, one of whom died in infancy. Martin and Albert survived to adulthood.

Bormann dropped out of school to work on a farm in Mecklenburg. He served briefly with an artillery regiment at the end of World War I—which never saw combat—Bormann became an estate manager in Mecklenburg, which brought him into contact with the Freikorps residing on the estate. He became involved in their activities, mostly assassinations and the intimidation of trade union organizers.[2]

In March 1924, he was sentenced to a year in prison as an accomplice to his friend Rudolf Höss in the murder of Walther Kadow, who may have betrayed Albert Leo Schlageter to the French during the occupation of the Ruhr District.[3] In 1925, after his release from prison, Bormann joined the NSDAP in Thuringia. He became the party's regional press officer and business manager in 1928.

On September 2, 1929, Bormann married 19-year-old Gerda Buch, whose father, Major Walter Buch, served as a chairman of the Nazi Party Court. Bormann had recently met Hitler, who agreed to serve as a witness at their wedding. Over the years, Gerda Bormann gave birth to ten children; one daughter died shortly after birth.

Gerda Bormann suffered from cancer in her later years, and died of mercury poisoning on March 23, 1946, in Meran, Austria. All of Bormann's children survived the war. Most were cared for anonymously in foster homes. His oldest son Martin was Hitler's godson. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1953, but left the priesthood in the late 1960s. He married an ex-nun in 1971 and became a teacher of theology.

Reich Leader and Head of the Party Chancellery

In October 1933, Bormann became a Reich Leader of the NSDAP, and in November, a member of the Reichstag. From July 1933 until 1941, Bormann served as the personal secretary for Rudolf Hess. Bormann commissioned the building of the Kehlsteinhaus. The Kehlsteinhaus was formally presented to Hitler in 1939, after 13 months of expensive construction.

In May 1941, the flight of Hess to Britain cleared the way for Bormann to become Head of the Party Chancellery that same month. Bormann proved to be a master of intricate political infighting. He developed and administered the Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund of German Industry, a huge fund of voluntary contributions made by successful entrepreneurs. Bormann re-allocated these funds as gifts to almost all of the party leadership.

Bormann took charge of all Hitler's paperwork, appointments, and personal finances. Hitler came to have complete trust in Bormann and the view of reality he presented. During a meeting, Hitler was said to have screamed, "To win this war, I need Bormann!".[4] A collection of transcripts edited by Bormann during the war appeared in print in 1951 as Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944, mostly a re-telling of Hitler's wartime dinner conversations. The accuracy of the Table Talk is highly disputed, as it directly contradicts many of Hitler's publicly held positions, particularly in regards to religious adherence. The Table Talk is the only original source to claim that Hitler was an atheist. While Hitler's true religious feelings are unknown, Bormann was one of the few vocal atheists in the Nazi leadership.

At the Nuremberg trials, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the Reich Commissioner for The Netherlands, testified that he had called Bormann to confirm an order to deport the Dutch Jews to Auschwitz, and further testified that Bormann passed along Hitler's orders for the extermination of Jews during the Holocaust. A telephone conversation between Bormann and Heinrich Himmler was overheard by telephone operators during which Himmler reported to Bormann about the extermination of the Jews in Poland. Himmler was sharply rebuked for using the word "exterminated" rather than the codeword "resettled," and Bormann ordered the apologetic Himmler never again to report on this by phone but through SS couriers.

Berlin

Bormann was with German dictator Adolf Hitler in the Führer's shelter during the Battle for Berlin. The Führerbunker was located under the Reich Chancellery in the center of Berlin.

On April 28, Borman wired the following message to German Admiral Karl Dönitz: "Situation very serious… Those ordered to rescue the Führer are keeping silent… Disloyalty seems to gain the upper hand everywhere… Reichskanzlei a heap of rubble."

On April 29, 1945, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, Hans Krebs, and Bormann witnessed and signed Hitler's last will and testament. Hitler dictated this document to his personal private secretary, Traudl Junge. Borman was Head of the Party Chancellery and was also the private secretary to Hitler.

Late on April 30, as the Soviet forces continued to fight their way into the center of Berlin, Hitler married Eva Braun in the Führerbunker. Hitler and Braun then committed suicide. Braun committed suicide by taking cyanide and Hitler by shooting himself. Per instructions, their bodies were taken to the garden and burned. In accordance with Hitler's last will and testament, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, became the new "Head of Government" and Chancellor of Germany.

At 3:15 am on May 1, Goebbels and Bormann sent a radio message to Dönitz informing him of Hitler's death. Per Hitler's last wishes, Dönitz was appointed as the new "President of Germany." Goebbels committed suicide later that same day.

On May 2, the Battle of Berlin ended when General of the Artillery Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army. It is generally agreed that, by this day, Bormann had left the Führerbunker. It has been claimed that he left with Ludwig Stumpfegger and Artur Axmann as part of a group attempting to break out of the city.

Axmann's account of Bormann's death

As World War II came to a close, Bormann held out with Hitler in the Führerbunker in Berlin. On April 30, 1945, just before committing suicide, Hitler urged Bormann to save himself. On May 1, Bormann left the Führerbunker with SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger and Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann as part of a group attempting to break out of the Soviet encirclement. They emerged from an underground subway tunnel and quickly became disoriented among the ruins and ongoing battle. They walked for a time with some German tanks, but all three were temporarily stunned by an exploding anti-tank shell. Leaving the tanks and the rest of their group, they walked along railroad tracks to Lehrter station where Axmann decided to go alone in the opposite direction of his two companions. When he encountered a Red Army patrol, Axmann doubled back and later insisted he had seen the bodies of Bormann and Stumpfegger near the railroad switching yard with moonlight clearly illuminating their faces.[5] He assumed they had been shot in the back.

Tried at Nuremberg in absentia

During the chaotic closing days of the war, there were contradictory reports as to Bormann's whereabouts. For example, Jakob Glas, Bormann's long-time chauffeur, insisted he saw Bormann in Munich weeks after May 1, 1945. The bodies were not found, and a global search followed including extensive efforts in South America. With no evidence sufficient to confirm Bormann's death, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg tried Bormann in absentia in October 1946 and sentenced him to death. His court-appointed defense attorney used the unusual and unsuccessful defense that the court could not convict Bormann because he was already dead. In 1965, a retired postal worker named Albert Krumnow stated that he had personally buried the bodies of Bormann and Stumpfegger.

Two decades of unconfirmed sightings

Unconfirmed sightings of Bormann were reported globally for two decades, particularly in Europe, Paraguay, and elsewhere in South America. Some rumors claimed that Bormann had plastic surgery while on the run. At a 1967 press conference, Simon Wiesenthal asserted there was strong evidence that Bormann was alive and well in South America. Writer Ladislas Farago's widely-known 1974 book Aftermath: Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich argued that Bormann had survived the war and lived in Argentina. Farago's evidence, which drew heavily on official governmental documents, was compelling enough to persuade Dr. Robert M. W. Kempner (a lawyer at the Nuremberg Trials) to briefly re-open an active investigation in 1972.

Axmann's account gains support

Axmann and Krumnow's accounts were bolstered in late 1972 when construction workers uncovered human remains near the Lehrter Bahnhof in West Berlin just 12 meters from the spot where Krumnow claimed he had buried them. Dental records—reconstructed from memory in 1945 by Dr. Hugo Blaschke—identified the skeleton as Bormann's, and damage to the collarbone was consistent with injuries Bormann's sons reported he had sustained in a riding accident in 1939. Fragments of glass in the jawbones of both skeletons indicated that Bormann and Stumpfegger had committed suicide by biting cyanide capsules in order to avoid capture. Soon after, in a press conference held by the West German government, Bormann was declared dead, a statement condemned by London's Daily Express as a whitewash perpetrated by the Brandt government. West German diplomatic functionaries were given the official instruction: "If anyone is arrested on suspicion that he is Bormann we will be dealing with an innocent man."[6] In 1998, a test identified the skull as that of Bormann, using DNA from an unnamed 83-year-old relative.

Continuing Controversy

Some controversy continued, however. For example, Hugh Thomas' 1995 book Doppelgangers claimed there were forensic inconsistencies suggesting Bormann died later than 1945. According to this work and the very controversial The Nazi Hydra in America: Wall Street and the Rise of the Fourth Reich by Glen Yeadon, there were not only significant forensic inconsistencies with Bormann's having died in 1945, but there were also a very many credible sightings of Bormann in South America well in to the 1960s. The forensic inconsistencies included the following:

1) A certain type of volcanic red clay that was found caked on much of the skull, which suggested that the skull had been dug up and moved since that type of soil doesn't exist in the ground in Berlin, but is instead largely found in Paraguay (which is where several of the Bormann sightings were reported to have occurred).

2) Record of dental work. Although Bormann's dental records dating back to 1945 matched dental work done on that skull, there was also other, more recently performed dental work that didn't show up on the 1945 dental records, but appeared to exist in addition to all of the other dental work that matched exactly the 1945 records.

3) The position and condition of the teeth in the skull indicated that the skull belonged to someone of a more advanced age then Bormann's almost 45 years at the time of his supposed 1945 death.

Since 1998 DNA testing revealed the skull to in fact be Bormann's, the theory that is suggested by the above evidence is that Bormann lived outside of Germany for some time, and that after his death his remains were buried somewhere (presumably near where he had been living). Then, sometime later, as part of a cover-up, his remains were exhumed, altered appropriately (such as the planting of glass shards in the lower jar to mimic the result of having bitten down on a glass cyanide ampule, and then "planted" as evidence, with the intention of them being found in Berlin by "accident," to lend credence to story that Bormann had fallen nearby, in 1945, and that that was where his body was ultimately buried by someone who perhaps didn't recognize him or who did but didn't want it to be found at the time.

People have questioned why Bormann, if he had indeed been buried abroad, would have been exposed directly to the soil as opposed to being in a casket or sarcophagus of some kind. Theorists of this conspiracy suggest that perhaps, during his period of hiding, the plan had existed all along (or was conceived at least at the time of his death) and therefore he was buried locally to allow his body to naturally biodegrade before being exhumed and relocated back to a site in Berlin where it would eventually be found.

Theories as to who perpetrated this crime abound, from the West German government wanting to cover-up his escape to the Mossad wanting to cover-up the fact that they knew his whereabouts but were unable or unwilling to abduct him and bring him to justice as they had with Eichmann to elements of the British government wanting to cover-up the fact that they had helped him escape in order to get access to his vast fortune to the Soviets wanting to cover-up the fact that he had in fact been the deep-cover mole codenamed "Werther."

Notes

  1. Martin Bormann – Nazi in Exile Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  2. Martin Borman query Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  3. Martin Borman query Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  4. Martin Bormann-The Face Of The Third Reich Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  5. H.R. Trevor-Roper, The last days of Hitler (New York: Collier Books, 1962, ISBN 9780333075272).
  6. Martin Bormann – Nazi in Exile Retrieved March 6, 2008.

References

  • Farago, Ladislas. Aftermath: Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974. ISBN 9780671216764
  • Kilzer, Louis C. Hitler's traitor: Martin Bormann and the defeat of the Reich. Novato, Calif: Presidio Press, 2000. ISBN 9780891417101
  • Manning, Paul. Martin Bormann, Nazi in exile. Secaucus, N.J.: Stuart, 1981. ISBN 9780818403095
  • Stevenson, William. The Bormann brotherhood. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973. ISBN 9780151135905




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