Site menu:

Subscribe to email updates

Links:



Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Recently, I found additional documentation regarding Hildebrand Gurlitt and his art treasures that may be of interest to those following the current inquiry in Germany into his art works.  The documents were found in: File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.), Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260.

While the records did not provide new or detailed information regarding Gurlitt’s artworks, they do add to our understanding of the U.S. Army’s dealing with Gurlitt and Karl Haberstock at Aschbach, Germany, during May and June 1945.  This information allowed the assembling of a chronological narrative, which follows, of the events that took place during those months.

During the second week of April 1945, American forces passed through Aschbach, a village in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria, twenty or so miles southwest of Bamberg and thirty miles east of Wurzburg.  There they probably learned of German art dealers, Karl Haberstock and Hildebrand Gurlitt, were staying in the Aschbach Castle, along with some of their art treasures.

On May 1 Captain Robert K. Posey, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Officer, with the G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, still wrapping up his activities associated with the contents of Merkers Mine, reported that German art dealers Haberstock and Gurlitt had been located and would be questioned by the MFA&A subsection.[1]  On May 2 Posey inspected the Aschbach Castle and interrogated Haberstock about his artworks and art dealings. [2]

Posey, on May 4, visited Captain Thomas Giuli, MFA&A Officer with Military Government Detachment FIA3 at Wurzburg, and requested he make an inspection of certain art collections, some of which were outside of Giuli’s area of operation.  Posey told him that other detachments were not then set up to take care of some matters, some of which were urgent.[3]

At some point on May 1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer, Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, visited the Aschbach Castle, and noted that among the valuable art treasures there were those of Hildebrand Gurlitt and Baron von Poellnitz. He also noted that Gurlitt was living in the castle with his art works.  He placed the castle “Off Limits” (signing the signs himself) and ordered an inventory be made of the art works stored there and the inventory be reported through normal channels. [4]

Captain Giuli on May 16 visited the Aschbach Castle, unaware that Aschbach was outside his area of responsibility by a few kilometers. [5]  He reported that present at the castle were the owner (Baron von Poellnitz), son, [and] “Mr. H. Gurlitt dealer from Hamburg with many Nazi-connections.”  Giuli reported that there were: “one large upstairs room with 34 boxes, 2 packages with rugs, 8 packages with books belonging to Mr. H. Gurlitt” and “one downstairs room contains further 13 boxes belonging to Mr. Gurlitt.”  He added that:

 Several sign[s] ‘Off Limit’ were posted on inner and outer doors of the castle and the owner admonished not to have anything removed from his place without special permission by this office. The castle had been previously visited by Capt. Posey, who has left a[n] “Off Limits” sing (sic). Up to now there has been no occupation by American troops of the place and no damage done. [6]

Two days later Giuli inspected Castle Aschbach, and it was reported that:

 c. Questionable Collections: In addition to the collections of private and public art treasures, the castle was found to contain certain rooms containing paintings, tapestries, statues, valuable furniture and records belonging to two notorious art collectors of Germany. Superficial inspection showed:

(3) A room on the second floor-34 wooden boxes containing paintings, 2 rugs, and 8 boxes of records, belonging to Mr. H. Gurlitt-art collector.

(4) Another room on the first floor-13 wooden boxes of art objects-also belonging to Mr. Gurlitt.

e. Mr. H. Gurlitt was an art collector from Hamburg with high Nazi-connections. He operated on behalf of other Nazi Officials and made many trips to France bringing back art collections. Mr. Gurlitt also was unable to give an inventory of his claimed possessions.

f. There are strong reasons to believe that these private art collections represent ‘Loot’ from other countries. Therefore this office has taken the following steps.

(1) Taken tem[p]orary possession of the art collections in the care of the U.S. Army.

(2) Posted the rooms ‘Off Limits’ with warning that nothing is to be disturbed or removed.

(3) Assigned Dr. Berger, art historian and fine art adviser in this office to make a complete inventory of all art treasures of wuestionable(sic) ownership.

(4) Made arrangements to have Mr. Haberstock and Mr. Gurlitt who are at present living in the castle, brought in to Wurzburg for questioning.

g. Dr. Berger, estimated the intire(sic) castle to contain 100,000,000 Dollar[s] worth of art treasures.[7]

After talking to his commanding officer, Giuli was instructed to bring Haberstock to Wurzburg. [8] Apparently Gurlitt would be left behind at Aschbach Castle.

Captain Giuli’s daily report for May 19, indicated that Haberstock was brought to Wurzburg from Aschbach and placed in the civilian jail and then turned over to the CIC for questioning.  He reported that an itemized inventory of paintings and other art objects belonging to Gurlitt had been obtained by his office. [9]  Giuli’s daily report of May 20 provided a list of paintings in the possession of Dr. Hans(sic) Gurlitt and then stored in the Aschbach Castle. The list only contained 22 works of art, including those by Corot, Fragonard, Picasso, and Courbet. [10]

When Giuli became aware that Aschbach was outside of his district, he called Posey for his guidance.  Posey approved the action he had taken and informed him that in certain cases MFA&A operations could not be restricted to definite areas and instructed him to continue the Haberstock-Gurlitt investigation. [11]

Meanwhile, 1st Lt. T. H. Murphy visited Baron Poellnitz on May 20 and learned that an inventory had been prepared of the treasures of the castle but that it had been taken into custody by Captain Giuli of the Wurzburg detachment. [12]On May 24, Murphy wrote the Commanding Officer, Detachment F2A3, 3rd Civil Affairs Regiment, to complain about the situation.  He reported the facts regarding what his detachment had done with respect to the castle and learning that Giuli had taken the inventory which had been prepared and that Giuli and Dr. Berger had reinventoried the contents of the castle.  He reported that “Off Limits” signs, signed by Giuli had been placed on the castle, and that the signs he had signed had been removed.  “Due to the circumstances cited above,” he concluded, “I felt it unnecessary to reinventory the art treasures there and request notice as to what authority Capt. Guili (sic) has for operating within our Landkreis.” [13]

On May 25 Giuli called MFA&A, Third U.S. Army to talk to Capt Posey. Posey being absent [he was off to the mines at Alt Aussee and Laufen] he spoke to Lincoln Kirstein, Posey’s assistant, about Haberstock.  Kirstein told him that Lt. George L. Stout, USNR, at Twelfth Army Group was very much interested in Haberstock and suggested that Stout be contacted by phone.  Giuli then called Stout, but he not being available, he spoke to Capt. L. Bancel LaFarge.  Giuli told LaFarge what he knew about Haberstock, and LaFarge instructed him to hold Haberstock until further instruction was received from the Twelfth Army Group. [14]

Prompted to action by Murphy’s May 24 communication, the Executive Officer of Military Government Detachment F2A3, on June 2, wrote Military Government Officer, Detachment F1A3, attaching a copy of the letter, and requesting that all the papers removed by Giuli or by Capt. Schuler of his [Wurzburg] Detachment relating to Aschbach Castle or any of its contents be removed to the Arts and Monuments Officer of Detachment H1B3.  “It is,” he concluded, “also understood that OFF LIMITS signs on the premises will be in the future be as authorized by Det. H1B3.” [15]

On June 4 1st Lt. Dwight McKay, Judge Advocate General Section, Headquarters, Third U. S. Army interviewed Giuli about Haberstock. Giuli turned over to McKay all the records and files which were held in his office in Wurzburg pertaining to Haberstock and released Haberstock from the civilian jail to the custody of McKay. [16]  McKay completed his investigation of Haberstock on June 6 at Wurzburg and took him away.  Dr. Erik Berger, an art historian employed by the Military Government accompanied McKay and Haberstock, to provide his assistance. Giuli reported that day “As far as this office is concerned it has no further responsibility relative to this matter.” [17] On June 8 Giuli, in reporting on the Haberstock matter, noted:

 This office assumes no authority-nor has any interest outside of its area.

It did not remove any signs which were posted on the Castle Aschbach-it simply supplemented those which were posted by Capt. Posey.

It does not further possess any documents and papers which were taken from Aschbach for purpose of evidence, all such records were turned over to Lt. McKay. [18]

Dr. Berger, at Aschbach, on June 8, wrote Captain Giuli at Wurzburg that “the complicated investigations at Aschbach are still going on.” [19]   Indeed they were. On June 8, 9, 10, Lt. McKay, assisted by Dr. Berger, questioned Haberstock and Gurlitt about themselves and their artworks.  On June 10 McKay had Haberstock and Gurlitt sign documents acknowledging their arrests and the freezing of their property at the Aschbach Castle.  He also had Gurlitt sign an oath that all of the information he had provided in a ten-page statement was true and that he had “made a full and complete declaration of all my possessions, property and fortune, especially all paintings, sculptures, pictures and air works.” [20]  McKay also had Haberstock on June 12, at Aschbach, swear to the truthfulness of 120 documents, cards, and photographs, regarding his art works at Aschbach. [21]

Meanwhile, on June 5, a discussion was held with Mrs. Haberstock in a CIC office. She provided information about her husband.  Associated with the report of this discussion is a report on Aschbach castle and Haberstock.  It notes that at the castle was Hildebrand Gurlitt and his paintings and that “His business dealings also brought him in contact with the [Nazi] party but only in a minor capacity.” [22]

On June 9 Headquarters, Detachment F1A3 responded to the June 2 communication from Detachment F2A3, regarding Lt. Murphy’s complaints.  It laid out the chronology of events, from Posey’s visit to the castle on May 4 to June 6, when McKay was given all the records and papers relative to the matter of the art treasures in the castle.  The communication concluded by indicating that the Fine Arts and Monuments Officer of the detachment stated he did not remove any “Off Limits” signs that were at the castle, but merely supplemented those posted by Capt. Posey. [23]

On June 12, the Executive Officer of Military Government Detachment FIA3 sent to the G-5 Section, Third U.S. Army, at its request, a list of the possessions of Gurlitt then at Aschbach Castle. The list consists of 45 boxes and 8 packages. [24]

The following day, June 13, Berger returned to Wurzburg.  He reported that he had worked with McKay, on the questioning, inventorying of transactions, and translating the statements made by Haberstock, Gurlitt, and the von Poellnitz family. He noted that Haberstock and Gurlitt “have been put under house arrest” and both “most probably to go to the saltmines in Aussee, where the paintings of the Fuehrer are kept.” He added that McKay would call at the Wurzburg MFA&A office within the next seven days. [25]

On June 29 Military Government Detachment E1B3 wrote Military Government Detachment F1A3 requesting that all papers taken by Captain Giuli, which still remained in its possession, be forwarded to Military Government Detachment H1B3.  Two weeks later Military Government Detachment F1A3 responded that the Fine Arts and Monuments Officer of the detachment was not in possession of “any papers, records, or other documents” responsive to the request. [26]

On July 31, Captain Giuli made his final report regarding Haberstock and Gurlitt and their art works at Aschbach Castle. He wrote:

 …Lt. McKay of the War Crimes Sect. of the Judge Adv Office Hq Third Army has investigated these two men and has made photostatic records of all their purchases in France, Holland and Belgium from 1940 to present date. These records and other data concerning Aschbach in general are in the War Crimes Office of Third Army HQ….It is understood by this office that the above mentioned dealers are under house-arrest at Aschbach and that the owner Baron Poelnitz (sic) is in jail. [27]


[1] Robert K. Posey, Captain, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army to MFA&A, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, Subject: Semi-Monthly Report on Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives for Period Ending 30 April 1945, May 1, 1945, Third U.S. Army Reports – January Thru May 1945, Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), Record Group 260 (hereafter cited as RG 260). NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[2] Robert K. Posey, Captain, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army to MFA&A, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, Subject: Semi-Monthly Report on Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives for Period Ending 15 May 1945, May 16, 1945, Third U.S. Army Reports – January Thru May 1945, Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260, NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[3] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[4] [1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer], Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, Co. B., 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Det. F2A3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Attn: Fine Arts and Monuments Officer, G-5 Section, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, May 24, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260. In a Intra-Office Memo, dated May 20, 1945, it was noted that Murphy had indicated that he had been working at the castle with Hildebrand Gurlitt “and a well known art dealer, listing and cataloging paintings.” ibid.

[5] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[6] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 16, 1945, Annexure 6 to Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Army Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[7] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 18, 1945, Annexure 7 to Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Army Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[8] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[9] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 19, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[10] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 20, 1945, Annexure 8 to Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[11] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[12] [1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer], Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, Co. B., 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Det. F2A3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Attn: Fine Arts and Monuments Officer, G-5 Section, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, May 24, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260.

[13] ibid.

[14] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 25, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[15] Garrett C. Houman, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment F2A3, Co. A., 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Officer, Detachment F1A3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 2, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260.

[16] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” June 4, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), NARA M1946, Roll 98; Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, ibid.

[17] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” June 6, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98; Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, ibid.

[18] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[19] Erik Berger, Aschbach to Captain Thomas Giuli, Military Government, Wurzburg, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[20] The referenced documents can be found at Interrogations: Statements Of Art Dealers, Restitution Research Records, 1945-1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 134.

[21] The referenced document can be found at Haberstock, Karl: Material Not Used In Linz Report, Restitution Research Records, 1945-1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 131.

[22] Lt. Frank, Third Army to Capt. Robert K. Posey, MFA&A, third U.S. Army, Discussion with Mrs. Haberstock in the CIC office, June 5, 1945, Haberstock, Karl: Material Not Used In Linz Report, Restitution Research Records, 1945-1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 131.

[23] R. P. Chestnutt, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Detachment F1A3, 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Detachment F2A3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment, 1st Indorsement, June 9, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260.

[24] R. P. Chestnutt, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, 1st Ind., to Commanding General Third U.S. Army, Attn: Maj. Mick G. Williams, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5 Section, June 12, 1945, and undated enclosure entitled Possessions Dr. Hans (sic) Gurlitt, at present Castle Aschbach, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[25] Memorandum, E. B., Subject: Castle Aschbach, June 13, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[26] James T. Tillinghast, Captain, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment E1B3, Co. B, 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Detachment F1A3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment, 2nd Indorsement, June 29, 1945; File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260; R. P. Chestnutt, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Detachment F1A3, 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Detachment E1B3, Co. B, 3rd ECA Regiment, 3rd Indorsement, July 9, 1945, ibid.

[27] Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Army Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.



Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is the third post in a four-part series.

 The National Archives and Records Administration plans to display Adolf Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate (National Archives Identifier 6883511) in the exhibit “Making Their Mark” beginning March 21, 2014. This series of blogs traces the aforementioned documents from the time of their creation to first being exhibited at the National Archives in 1946.

On January 3, 1946, Brig. Gen. Edwin L. Sibert, G-2, United States Forces European Theater (USFET) telephoned Lt. Col. Harold H. May, Intelligence Chief, Office of G-2, Third U. S. Army, regarding whether or not they had made any publication of the recently discovered Hitler documents. May answered that there was only the general release that the papers had been given. Sibert said that the British had been making statements to the effect they had the documents at one time and would soon make publication of them. May informed Sibert that this may be true and also that they may have found out their contents from Zander who was in possession of them. He further informed Sibert that the British had been looking for these papers for some time. Sibert was wondering what had happened to the original translations of these documents, and was informed that they were at the Executive Branch, G-2, Third Army. Sibert requested that they be made as secret as possible, with reference to the contents.

On January 2 Foreign Service Officer J. D. Beam wrote Ambassador Robert Murphy, U. S. Political Adviser for Germany, that Colonel S. Frederick Gronich (the Officer in Charge of the Documents Control Center at Frankfurt) brought to him that day copies of Hitler’s will and marriage license. Beam observed that they were highly interesting documents and seemed altogether authentic. He indicated that G-2 was sending the original documents to Washington where they may be deposited with the Library of Congress. This action was being taken, he noted, to forestall any demands from other countries for custody of the documents.  He reported that photostatic copies had been made and that Murphy’s office was to be furnished with two, one of which would be sent on immediately to the State Department.  On January 4 Murphy cabled the State Department that it would have seen the translation of Hitler’s political will which was released by the British and transmitted by the Associated Press from a copy which the British apparently had in their possession for several weeks. He then proceeded to provide the circumstances of the capture of the will and other documents as related to his office by G-2 USFET.  Murphy added that Zander was last reported to be in custody in Munich and that G-2 accepted the authenticity of the documents.  He indicated that with his concurrence, the original documents were being forwarded shortly to the War Department for possible later custody by the Library of Congress and that it was understood that photostatic copies would be given to other interested Allied nations and that he was to receive a copy which would be sent to the State Department.

In a dispatch sent to the State Department on January 8, Beam included a copy of a report received by G-2 USFET regarding the circumstances attending the discovery of Hitler’s political testament and other documents which were found with Zander. In addition to the report the dispatch included information about the intended destination of the documents and the existence of other copies. Beam reported that it was understood that the original documents were on their way to the War Department and may be later delivered to the Library of Congress. He also added that from a conversation with Mr. Steel (Chief of the Political Division of the British delegation on the Control Council) it was gathered that there were probably three signed originals of Hitler’s wills, including the one found in Bavaria when Zander was captured. The British discovered the other two copies, one which was apparently sent by Martin Bormann to Admiral Karl Doenitz, just before the fall of Berlin by special courier which never arrived. The dispatch enclosed translations and photostats of letters of transmittal, marriage license, private will, and personal testament, and 1st Lt. Allen Fial (303rd Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment) December 28 memorandum. Beam surmised, that the documents captured by the United States authorities in Bavaria contained the single original of Hitler’s marriage certificate.

Another letter tracking the whereabouts of the Hitler’s documents was sent on January 11 by Colonel Edward M. Fickett , Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army to the Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel, International Military Tribunal, at Nuremberg. This dispatch included a complete set of photocopies of documents and photographs discovered by the 303rd CIC Detachment, Third U.S. Army, on December 28, 1945. Fickett indicated that he did not know where the originals were, but he believed that they had already been forwarded to the War Department “for transmission to the Library of Congress.” He also indicated that Zander was presently in Third U.S. Army custody.

The British also had their concerns about the Hitler documents. The British Embassy in Washington on January 9, 1946, prepared an aide memorie (later sent by First Secretary Donald Maclean) for the State Department stating that while the complete texts of Hitler’s political and personal testaments had been published in the press, the Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Bevin, felt that the less public notice the documents received in Germany or elsewhere the better, and that the British Government intended to avoid any mention of the documents whatever in its propaganda to Germany or Austria. The Embassy then raised the question of the disposal of the original documents, two sets of which were in British hands and one set in American hands, stating that

“It is possible that these might in time become objects of great sentimental and political value to many Germanys. Mr. Bevin is considering whether it would not be wise to destroy these sets. This could be done at any time but meanwhile he intends that the British sets should be removed from Germany and safely interred in the British official archives…Mr. Bevin hopes that the State Department will take similar steps and will also agree that the number of microfilm copies should be very strictly limited as well. Even facsimiles might become objects of veneration and these could be multiplied in Germany if a single facsimile copy got into the wrong hands.”

Within a short time of receiving the British aide memorie Dean Acheson, the Acting Secretary of State, informed Murphy of the British government’s intended plans for the Hitler documents. While the State Department, Acheson wrote, was not impressed by the British argument in view of publication of texts, he asked Murphy whether photostatic copies mentioned in his January 4 cable had actually been given to other interested allied nations and whether the original set had been forwarded to the War Department.

On January 22 Beam wrote Colonel W. D. Hohenthal, Chief Intelligence Branch, Office of the Director of Political Affairs, Office of Military Government (U.S.) from Frankfurt that Hitler’s political and personal testaments in United States hands had been dispatched to the War Department, that copies had been furnished to the British and French, and that arrangements were made to provide photostats to news representatives.

On January 24 Murphy wrote the Secretary of State, passing on information in Beam’s report regarding the Hitler documents. Murphy reported that the United States Army recovery included the only originals of Hitler’s marriage certificate and Bormann’s letter of transmittal to Doenitz, indicating that this set was the one intended for despatch to Doenitz by special courier.  The British find, he added, included a memorandum by Goebbels and a letter from a German General in Berlin. He reported that photostatic copies of the above documents were being exchanged with the British to complete respective sets and that G-2 had not yet received an interrogation report on Zander.

 

Bormann's Letter of Transmittal

Bormann’s Letter of Transmittal

With the above information the State Department crafted a memorandum regarding the British aide memoire of January 9.  In it the State Department acknowledged receiving the British Embassy’s aide memoire regarding the disposition of the original texts and microfilm copies of Hitler’s political and personal testaments. The memorandum indicated that the State Department agreed with the British Foreign Office “that the less public notice the documents receive in Germany or outside the better” and that it had no present intention of mentioning these documents in broadcasts to or in press releases for Germany. The State Department indicated that it had been informed by its political representative in Germany that the original signed texts of the documents which were in US hands had been transmitted to the War Department and that Murphy reported that the US military authorities arranged to furnish copies of these documents to the British, Russian and French military officials, and also to give photostatic copies to representatives of the American press. Concluding, the memorandum stated that:

“The Department recognizes that it would be undesirable to have facsimiles of these documents distributed throughout Germany. It should be possible to prevent such distribution during the period of Allied control over publications, publishing establishments and printing presses in Germany, in view of the release of photostatic copies that has already taken place, the Department does not see what steps could be taken at this time to prevent facsimiles from falling into German hands at some future date.”

On January 25 Colonel Richard L. Hopkins, Deputy Chief, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), drafted a communication for the Chief, MIS to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Maj. Gen. Clayton Bissell in which photostatic copies of Hitler’s marriage certificate, personal will, political testament and allied papers were attached.  Bissell was informed that MIS had possession of the original documents which had been evacuated from Germany and the documents were recovered by CIC personnel as a result of information furnished by a British Counterintelligence Officer, Major Trevor-Roper.  It was recommended to him that the following action be authorized: a protective folder, suitable for presentation be made which will accommodate both the original documents and translations thereof; the documents be forwarded to the Chief of Staff for presentation to the President with the recommendation that the President permit the documents to be placed in a public display in the Library of Congress; and photostatic copies of the documents be passed to the State Department for presentation to the Allied Governments of Russia, France, and Great Britain.

That same day, Brig. Gen. John Weckerling, the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, drafted a response for Bissell that indicated approval for making the protective folder and indicating that that the transmittal to foreign governments be done on the Secretary of War to Secretary of State level. MIS was requested to prepare a letter from the Chief of Staff to the President which would be handled by the Liaison Officer to the White House if MIS’s proposals regarding the President were approved.

It would be another month before MIS responded, in a letter drafted by Colonel Hopkins for the Chief of MIS. The Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 was informed that in accordance with instructions, a letter from the Chief of Staff to the President had been drafted for transmittal of the personal documents of Hitler. The State Department, he was informed, had been contacted through the Washington Liaison Branch to determine how many photostatic copies of the documents were required for their purposes and for forwarding to Allied Governments.  However, no reply had been received. MIS indicated that negative photostats of the documents had been retained by their office and it recommend an attached Summary Sheet to the Chief of Staff be signed and dispatched. A handwritten note indicated that it was rewritten and carried to the Office of the Chief of Staff on February 27.

Colonel Hopkins on February 28 sent Lt. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the new Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, the originals of Hitler’s certificate of marriage, will and testament, together with Bormann’s letter of transmittal to Doenitz. Hopkins informed Vandenberg that the documents had been appropriately mounted in a protective binder together with translations of the documents. He suggested that the significance of the papers was such that they be presented to the President with the suggestion that the documents be forwarded to the Library of Congress or other appropriate agency for preservation and suitable public display. He attached a draft letter to the President and requested Vandenberg to approve his recommendation. Later that day, according to a pencil notation on the retained copy, the documents were hand carried to the Office of the Chief of Staff.

But action was not taken immediately. Eisenhower decided that before sending the material to the President, it should be authenticated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

 Bibliographic information will be furnished in the fourth part of this series of blogs.



Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is the second post in a four-part series.

The National Archives and Records Administration plans to display Adolf Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate (National Archives Identifier 6883511) in the exhibit “Making Their Mark” beginning March 21, 2014.  This series of blogs traces the aforementioned documents from the time of their creation to first being exhibited at the National Archives in 1946.

At around 6am April 29, 1945 the regular intense Russian artillery bombardment began with the whole area around the Reich Chancellery and the government district coming under fire. The Soviets launched their all-out offensive against the center of Berlin – fighting was soon in progress on Kurfuestendamm and on Bismarckstrasse and Kantstrasse. The front line was now only some 450 yards from the Chancellery.

During those same early morning hours, Adolf Hitler planned for the three copies of his personal testament and personal will to be taken out of Berlin and delivered to Grand Admiral Doenitz and Field Marshal Schoerner, commander of Army Group Center in Bohemia (and, by way of Hitler’s political testament, newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army).

At about 8am Lieutenant General Burgdorf sent for Major Johannmeier (Hitler’s 31 year old adjutant to the Army) and told him that an important mission had been entrusted to him. He was to carry a copy of Hitler’s political testament and personal will out of Berlin, through the Russian lines, and deliver them to Field Marshal Ferdinand Schoerner. With him would go two other messengers, bearing similar documents. They were SS-Colonel Wilhelm Zander, an aide representing Bormann, and Heinz Lorenz, an official of the Propaganda Ministry representing Goebbels. These two men would receive separate instructions. Johannmeier was charged to escort the party on their journey through enemy lines. Burgdorf then gave him the documents he was to carry, along with a covering letter from himself to Schoerner, transcribed below:

Fuhrer’s HQ April 29, 1945

Dear Schoerner

Attached I send you by safe hands the Testament of our Fuehrer, who wrote it today after the shattering news of the treachery of the RF SS [Himmler]. It is his unalterable decision. The Testament is to be published as soon as the Fuehrer orders it, or as soon as his death is confirmed.

All good wishes, and Heil Hitler!

Yours,

Wilhelm Burgdorf

Maj. Johannmeier will deliver the Testament.

About the time Burgdorf was meeting with Johannmeier, Zander was receiving his instructions from Bormann, the most important of which was to take copies of Hitler’s personal will and political testament to Doenitz.  When Zander expressed his desire to stay, Bormann went to Hitler and explained Zander’s desire. Hitler said he must go and Bormann conveyed this to Zander. Thereupon he handed Zander copies of Hitler’s personal and private testaments, and the certificate of marriage of Hitler and Eva Braun.  To cover these documents Bormann scribbled a short note to Doenitz: ”Dear Grand Admiral,-Since all divisions have failed to arrive, and our position seems hopeless, the Fuehrer dictated last night the attached political Testament. Heil Hitler.-Yours, Bormann.” Later that morning Zander sewed the documents into his clothing.

Later that morning, Lorenz reported to Goebbels sometime before 10am, and was told to go to Bormann where he would receive copies of Hitler’s personal and political testaments. Bormann told Lorenz that he had been given this mission because as a young man with plenty of initiative, it was considered that he had a good chance of getting through. Lorenz then returned to Goebbels, who gave him his Appendix to Hitler’s political testament. It is unclear where Goebbels told him to take the documents. It seems that he was to take them to Doenitz if possible or failing him, to the nearest German High Command, and if all else failed, he was to publish the wills for historical purposes, and ultimately, store the documents at the Party Archives in Munich.

With the will and testament in his possession, Johannmeier went to see Hitler around 9am. Hitler told him that this testament must be brought out of Berlin at any price, that Schoerner must receive it, and that he believed he would succeed in the task.  Johannmeier said they both realized that they would not see each other again and this influenced the tone in which they said goodbye. Hitler spoke very cordially. Hitler shook his hand. Johannmeier realized that Hitler was going to die.

While Johannmeier, Zander, and Lorenz were getting their instructions, the Russian attack drew ever relentlessly near the bunker. At about 9am the Russian artillery fire suddenly stopped, and shortly afterwards runners reported to the Bunker that the Russians were advancing with tanks and infantry towards the Wilhelmplatz. It grew quite silent in the bunker and there was great tension among its occupants.

Later on that morning Secretary Gertrude Junge went back to Hitler’s bunker to see whether any changes had taken place. She noted that Hitler was uneasy and walked from one room to another.  Hitler told her he would wait until the couriers had arrived at their destinations with the testaments and then would commit suicide.

At noon, with the Russians closing in on Hitler’s bunker, Hitler held his situation conference. Joining Hitler were Bormann, Krebs, Burgdorf, Goebbels, and a few others. Also around noon, the couriers (Lorenz in civilian clothes; Zander in his SS uniform; and Johannmeier in a military uniform) joined Corporal Heinz Hummerich (a clerk in the Adjutancy of the Fuehrer Headquarters) left the Bunker, and headed west.

The following afternoon Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide in the bunker in Berlin. On May 1 at 246pm Goebbels, about six hours before committing suicide, sent Doenitz a message (received at 318pm) that Hitler had died at 330pm on April 30, and that his Testament of April 29:

“appoints you as Reich President, Reich Minister Dr. Goebbels as Reich Chancellor, Reichsleiter Bormann as Party Minister, Reich Minister Seyss-Inquart as Foreign Minister. By order of the Fuehrer, the Testament has been sent out of Berlin to you, to Field-Marshal Schoerner, and for preservation and publication. Reichsleiter Bormann intends to go to you today and to inform you of the situation. Time and form of announcement to the Press and to the troops is left to you. Confirm receipt.-Goebbels.”

At 1026pm May 1, Doenitz, over Hamburg Radio, announced Hitler’s death and his own succession.

As Berlin surrendered, Lorenz, Zander, Johannmeier, and Hummerich were on the Havel River on the 2nd of May, 1945. Before dawn on May 3, they made their way to Potsdam and Brandenburg, and on May 11 crossed the Elbe at Parey, between Magdeburg and Genthin, and ultimately, as foreign workers, passed into the area of the Western Allies, transported by American trucks. By this time the war was over, and Zander and Lorenz lost heart and easily convinced themselves that their mission now had no purpose or possibility of fulfillment. Johannmeier allowed himself to be influenced by them, although he still believed he would have been able to complete his mission.

After abandoning their mission, the four men split up. Zander and Lorenz went to the house of Zander’s relatives in Hannover.  From there, Zander proceeded south until he reached Munich where he stayed with his wife, and then continued to Tegernsee. At Tegernsee, Zander hid his documents in a trunk. He changed his name, identity, status, and began a new life under the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin. Johannmeier meanwhile went to his family’s home in Iserlohn in Westphalia, and buried his documents in a bottle in the back garden. Lorenz ended up in Luxembourg and found work as a journalist under an assumed name.

Lorenz and the documents he was carrying were seized by the British Army, in the British Zone of Occupation of Germany, in November 1945.  The Americans captured Zander and the documents he was carrying (including the original marriage license of Hitler and Braun, and the hand-written letter of transmittal for the documents from Bormann to Doenitz) with the assistance of British intelligence officer Major H. Trevor-Roper, in Bavaria on December 28.

After Zander’s arrest, interest switched to Johannmeier, who had been living quietly with his parents in Iserlohn, in the British Zone of Occupation.  Trevor-Roper had him detained and interrogated on December 20th. Johannmeier maintained that he had no documents, but had just escorted Zander and Lorenz out of Berlin. Trevor-Roper met with Major Johannmeier on January 1, 1946, and explained to him that Zander and Lorenz were both in Allied hands (he had already read in the newspapers about Zander’s arrest), and that in view of their independent but unanimous testimony, it was impossible to accept his statement that he had been merely an escort, and had not himself carried any documents. He nevertheless maintained his story. He agreed that the evidence was against him, but insisted that his story was true.

He gave a version of the words which General Burgdorf had used when giving him his instructions to escort Zander and Lorenz.  Asked if he was prepared to settle the matter in the presence of these others, he replied unhesitatingly, yes. Asked if he could name any witness whose testimony might offset that of Zander and Lorenz, he stated that he had spoken to no one about his mission, and that the only man who knew the details was the man who had given it to him – Burgdorf. When told that Burgdorf was missing, and believed dead, Johannmeier exclaimed “Then my last hope is gone.”

The position was put sympathetically to Johannmeier: that he must realize that the documents were already in Allied hands, and that another revelation could add nothing to their knowledge, and continued resistance to the evidence would entail his imprisonment; but still he insisted that his story was the truth. He agreed to sign a written declaration to that effect. “If I had the documents, it would be senseless to withhold them now, but what I have not I cannot deliver. I cannot even prove that I have not got them?” By his otherwise unaccountable persistence in this story, by which he was condemning himself to imprisonment for no conceivable advantage to anyone, and by the ingenuousness of his protestations, Johannmeier had almost persuaded Trevor-Roper that there must after all be some flaw in the evidence against him, some element of truth in his improbable but unshakeable story.

They were alone in the headquarters; everyone else had left for the holiday. Trevor-Roper had nowhere to put Johannmeier. He decided that he must admit failure and summon a truck to take him away.  But when he left the room for two hours for a long distance phone call, Johannmeier had leisure to think. When Trevor-Roper returned and began the mechanical questioning again, he became aware of a change in Johannmeier’s attitude.  Johannmeier, according to Trevor-Roper, seemed to have already resolved his mental doubts, and after a little preliminary and precautionary fencing, in which he sought assurance that he would not be penalized if he revealed his secret about the documents – he declared “I have the papers.” He stated that he had buried them in a garden of his home in Iserlohn, in a glass jar; and he agreed to lead Trevor-Roper to the spot.

On the long drive back to Iserlohn, Johannmeier spoke freely on various topics which were discussed.  When they stopped for a meal, Trevor-Roper asked him why he had decided to reveal the truth. Johannmeier said he had reflected that if Zander and Lorenz had so easily consented to betray the trust reposed in them, it would be quixotic for him, who was not a member of the Party or connected with politics, but who was merely carrying the documents in obedience to a military order, to endure further hardship to no practical purpose.  In Iserlohn they left the car some distance away at Johannmeier’s request – he did not want the neighbors to see a British staff car outside of his parents’ home. The two men walked together through the cold to the house. It was now night-time and the ground had frozen hard. Johannmeier found an axe and together they walked out into the back corner of his garden. Johannmeier found the place, broke frozen surface of the ground with the axe, and dug up the glass bottle. Then he smashed the bottle with the head of the axe and drew out the documents which he handed over to Trevor-Roper. They were the third copy of Hitler’s private will and personal testament plus a covering letter from Burgdorf to Schoerner. The Allies now had the three sets of documents that had been carried out of the bunker on April 29, 1945.

Bibliographic information will furnished at the end of the final post in this series.



Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is the first piece in a four-part series.

The National Archives and Records Administration plans to place Adolf Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate (National Archives identifier 6883511) on exhibit beginning March 21, 2014.  This series of posts traces these documents from the time of their creation to their first exhibition at NARA in 1946.

In The Washington Post on April 28, 1946, there appeared a list of things going on in Washington, D.C. At the National Archives, it was noted, one could see the World War II surrender documents and the “last documents signed by Hitler, including his marriage certificate and will.”  A year beforehand, those documents had not even been created, and even four months earlier the documents were still hidden in German hands. The travels of the Hitler documents from his bunker in Berlin to the National Archives a year later began in Berlin in late April 1945 with the Russian forces on the verge of capturing the city.

The marriage certificate of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (double-click to enlarge):

certificate1 certificate 2

On the evening of April 28, 1945, deep in his underground bunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Reich Chancellor and President, had a lot on his mind. News arrived during the day that there had been an uprising in upper Italy, Mussolini had been arrested by the Partisans, armistice negotiations were being initiated by commanders in Italy, as well as news of an attempted coup in Munich. Russian forces were only some 1,000 yards from the bunker and news had arrived that day the German Ninth Army ordered to break through the Russian-encircled capital of the Reich to rescue Hitler would most not likely to be able to accomplish their mission. Still, Hitler held a slim hope that General Wenck’s Twelfth Army, heading towards Potsdam and then into Berlin to rescue him, would succeed. Nevertheless, Hitler knew that he soon would have to commit suicide. Before doing so, he desired to marry his long-time mistress Eva Braun and write his final political testament and personal will. As the evening progressed, Hitler received confirmation that Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was negotiating with the western allies. This news led Hitler, around 11pm, to having Eva Braun’s brother-in-law, SS-Gruppenfuehrer Hermann Fegelein, Himmler’s Liaison to Hitler, executed for desertion and treason.

Hitler’s secretary, 25-year-old Gertrude Junge, tried that evening to sleep for an hour. Sometime after 11pm she woke up. She washed, changed her clothes, and thought it must be time to drink tea with Hitler, the other remaining secretary (31-year-old Frau Gerda Christian), and Hitler’s vegetarian cook (25-year-old Fraulein Constanze Manzialy), a nightly occurrence.When she opened the door to Hitler’s study, Hitler came toward her, shook her hand and asked “‘Have you had a nice little rest, child?’” Junge replied “Yes, I have slept a little.” Thereupon he said, “Come along, I want to dictate something.” This was between 11:30pm and midnight.

They went into the little map, or conference, room near Hitler’s quarters. She was about to remove the cover from the typewriter, as Hitler normally dictated directly to the typewriter, when Hitler said “Take it down on the shorthand pad.” She sat down alone at the big table and waited. Hitler stood in his usual place by the broad side of the table, leaned both hands on it, and stared at the empty table top, no longer covered that day with maps. For several seconds Hitler did not say anything. Then, suddenly he began to speak the first words: “My political testament.” As Hitler began speaking, she had the impression that he was in a hurry. “In tones of indifference, almost mechanically, the Fuehrer,” Junge would later observe, “comes out with the explanations, accusations and demands that I, the German people and the whole world know already.”

After finishing his political testament, according to Junge, Hitler paused a brief moment and then began dictating his private will. Hitler’s personal will was shorter. It explained his marriage, disposed of his property, and announced his impending death.

The dictation was completed. Hitler had not made any corrections on either document.  He moved away from the table on which he had been leaning all this time, and “suddenly there is an exhausted, hunted expression in his eyes.” Hitler said, “Type that out for me at once in triplicate and then bring it in to me.” Junge felt that there was something urgent in his voice, and thought the most important, most crucial document written by Hitler was to go out into the world without any corrections or thorough revision. She knew that “Every letter of birthday wishes to some Gauleiter, artist, etc., was polished up, improved, revised–but now Hitler had no time for any of that.”

Junge took her notepad and typewriter across the hall to type up the political and personal wills. The room she used was next to Joseph Goebbels’ private room.  There she began typing up her shorthand notes of the two documents, knowing that Hitler wanted her to finish as fast as possible. As she began typing the wedding at this point had not taken place.

The next item of business was the Hitler-Eva Braun marriage. Once Junge departed the conference, guests began entering to attend the wedding ceremony. In the meantime Hitler was in his sitting room with a few people, trying to get the wedding ready in a dignified way, while the conference room was turned into a registry office and set up for the wedding ceremony.  SS-Major Heinz Linge (Hitler’s valet since 1935) began getting things ready for the post-wedding ceremony, including gathering up food and drink for Hitler’s inner circle.

Meanwhile, Josef Goebbels, in his capacity of Gauleiter of Berlin, knew of someone authorized to act as a registrar of marriage who was still in Berlin, fighting with the Volkssturm.  He was a 50-year-old municipal councilor named Walter Wagner. A group of SS men was dispatched across the city to bring him back. Wagner appeared shortly before 1am April 29 in the uniform of the Nazi Party and the arm-band of the Volkssturm. The ceremony took place in the small conference room or map room, probably at some point between 1am and 2am.  Hitler and Eva Braun left their apartment hand in hand and went into the conference room. Hitler’s face was ashen, his gaze wandered restlessly. Eva Braun was also pale from sleepless nights. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, and Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and private secretary to Hitler, were waiting for them in the antechamber.

In the conference room Hitler and Eva greeted the functionary who had taken up his position at the table. Then they sat down in the first two chairs, and Bormann and Goebbels too went to their assigned places. The door was closed. The two parties declared that they were of pure Aryan descent and were free from hereditary disease. In a few minutes the parties had given assent, the register had been signed, and the ceremony was over. When the bride came to sign her name on the marriage certificate she began to write “Eva Braun,” but quickly struck out the initial letter B, and corrected it to “Eva Hitler, nee Braun.” Bormann and Goebbels and Wagner also signed the register as witnesses. The ceremony lasted no longer than ten minutes.

Bormann opened the door again when Hitler and Eva were signing the license. Hitler then kissed Eva’s hand. They went into the conference passage where they shook hands with those waiting.  They then withdrew into their private apartments for a wedding breakfast. Shortly afterwards, Bormann, Goebbels, Frau Goebbels, and Hitler’s two secretaries, Frau Gerda Christian and Frau Junge, were invited into the private suite. Junge would not come right away as she was typing across the hall. Wagner lingered for some 20 minutes at the reception. He munched a liverwurst sandwich, had one or two glasses of champagne, chatted with the bride, and headed back to the front lines.

For part of the time General of Infantry Hans Krebs, Lt. Gen. Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Lt. Col. Nicholaus von Below (Hitler’s Luftwaffe Adjutant since 1937) came in and joined the party, as did Werner Naumann (State Secretary in Ministry of Propaganda since 1944), Arthur Axmann (Reich Youth Leader since 1940), Ambassador Walter Hewel (permanent representative of Foreign Ministry to Hitler at Fuehrer headquarters since 1940), Heinz Linge (Hitler’s valet), SS-Major Otto Guensche (personal adjutant to Hitler), and Fraulein Manzialy, the vegetarian cook. There they sat for hours, drinking champagne and tea, eating sandwiches, and talking. Hitler spoke again of his plans of suicide and expressed his belief that National Socialism was finished and would never revive (or would not resurrect so soon again), and that death would be a relief to him now that he had been deceived and betrayed by his best friends.

While Junge was busy typing the two documents, the wedding took place and the party had begun.  At some point during the party Junge stopped her typing and walked across the corridor to the room where the party was taking place to express her congratulations to the newlyweds and wish them luck. She stayed for less than fifteen minutes and then returned to her typing.

And during the time she was typing, Hitler left the party and came in three times in order to ask how far she had gotten. According to Junge, Hitler would look in and say “Are you ready?” and she said, “No my Fuehrer, I am not ready yet.”  Bormann and Goebbels also kept coming to see if she was finished.  Not only did these comings and goings make Junge nervous and delay the process, but being upset about the whole situation, Junge made several typographical errors. Those were only crossed out in ink.

Also complicating the finishing of the typing was that the names of some appointments of the new Doenitz government needed to be added to the political testament. During the course of the wedding party, Hitler discussed and negotiated the matter with Bormann and Goebbels. While she was typing the clean copies of the political testament from her shorthand notes, Goebbels or Bormann came in alternately to give her the names of the ministers of the future government, a process that lasted until she had finished typing the three copies.  

Towards 5am, Junge finished typing the three copies each of the political testament and personal will. They were timed at 4am as that was when she had begun her typing of the first copy of the political testament.  Just as she finished, Goebbels came to her and wanted the documents, almost tearing the last piece of paper from the typewriter. She gave them to Goebbels without having a chance to review the final product because Goebbels was in such a hurry. She asked Goebbels whether they still wanted her. Goebbels said “no, lie down and have a rest.” Junge went into one of the room where there were sleeping accommodations and lay down. At that point Eva Braun had already retired and the wedding party had ended or just about to end. Goebbels, meanwhile, took the copies of the documents to Hitler.  

The documents were ready to be signed. First Hitler asked Goebbels and Bormann whether everything was correct. Apparently they answered in the affirmative. The personal will was signed by Hitler and signed by the witnesses: Bormann, Goebbels, and von Below. The political testament was also signed at the same time by Hitler and the witnesses Goebbels, Bormann, Burgdorf, and Krebs.  After signing the wills, sometime before 6am, Hitler retired to rest.

Junge believed that Hitler would send the documents out by courier and then his suicide would only be a question of a short time. He only wanted to wait, she thought, for a confirmation that the wills had arrived at their destination before committing suicide.  By 6am with her work completed, Junge slept for some hours in the bunker and then retreated to the shelter room of the New Chancellery, which she shared with Frau Christian, Miss Krueger (Bormann’s secretary), and three Reich Chancellery secretaries.

The marriage certificate in translation:

translation1 translation2

 

Bibliographic information will furnished at the end of the final post in this series.



Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher.

The National Archives began to think, after the invasion of North Africa in World War II, of the practical importance of records in connection with the government of conquered territory.  Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck and senior National Archives official Oliver W. Holmes took an active interest in the proper organization of archives in enemy and other occupied territory and, according to The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, “were primarily responsible for establishing plans and personnel for the effective preservation of much of this irreplaceable documentary material.” Also taking an interest in the fate of archives and records in Europe was Dr. Ernst Posner, professor of archival administration at American University.

Ernst Maximilian Posner, born in Berlin on August 9, 1892, attended the University of Berlin and served in the peacetime military.  When World War I began he rejoined the infantry and saw action on both the western and eastern fronts, and before he was mustered out in December 1918, he had been awarded both first and second class of the Iron Cross.  He then resumed his studies at the University of Berlin, where he received his doctorate in 1920, and that year he became an archivist with the Prussian State Privy Archives.  As a result of the Nuremberg laws of 1935, he was involuntarily pensioned off from his position.

In 1938, deciding it was time for he and his wife to leave Germany, Posner made a two-month trip to the United State to explore job prospects.  While in this country he delivered, in English, a lecture at the National Archives in April on German archival administration.  Despite Buck thinking highly of Posner he was not in a position to offer employment.  Posner returned to Germany, and then in November, after the Kristallnacht riots, he was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  In January 1939, thanks in part to Buck’s assistance, American University offered Posner a lectureship in archival administration.  It was not until much later that year he was able to get to the United States, where, in the fall of 1939, he began teaching, with Buck, a two-semester course entitled “The History and Administration of Archives” at American University. After Buck became Archivist of the United States in 1941, Posner taught the course by himself. Besides teaching archives administration he subsequently taught in the History Department, including, among others, courses on the Middle Ages, Europe, Germany, and historical research.

Posner’s suggestive paper, entitled “Public Records Under Military Occupation,” first read to a small luncheon group at the National Archives on May 5, 1943 and soon thereafter published by the National Archives, was the spark that, according to Holmes, “suddenly lit our sluggish imagination and opened our eyes to the importance of protecting records as a military measure.” 

Posner’s paper prompted Fred Waldo Shipman, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, NY, who had listened to Posner’s presentation, to write a memorandum the next day to President Roosevelt in which he set forth the importance of protecting records in war areas, both for their eventual usefulness to military government and for their cultural value. Two days later Roosevelt read the memorandum at one of his regular cabinet meetings and asked that the members give the problem their attention and issue any orders required to ensure that records in war areas were given necessary protection.

Following up on Roosevelt’s interest and concern, on May 8, General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, sent cables to Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower (then Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces) and Jacob L. Devers (then commander of European Theater of Operations, United States Army) that it was felt that the great loss suffered in the past because local archives in cities and towns had been destroyed could be avoided during the war if special care was taken to preserve such archives.  He informed them that the President was anxious that every effort possible be made for their preservation at the time of initial occupation and during the period of occupation, and all appropriate commanders in the field were directed to issue the necessary instructions to prevent damage to archives in localities occupied.

The first full meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas took place on in New York City on June 25. At the meeting, Buck, who was a member of the committee, expressed the hope that archival material would not be overlooked and that information concerning this material was readily available in the National Archives.  Copies of Posner’s paper were circulated and Buck stated that Posner would be interested in helping to prepare a full inventory of archival institutions of Europe.

On July 9, William B. Dinsmoor, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and the committee’s executive secretary Sumner Crosby met with Maj. Gen. J. H. Hilldring, Chief of the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department.  At this meeting Hilldring approved the committee’s idea of providing the War Department with cultural maps.  Five days later Dinsmoor wrote Hilldring that the committee was proceeding with the greatest possible speed in the preparation of maps of cities in European war areas, beginning with Italy.  He noted that the collection of the factual data to accompany the maps was proceeding in collaboration with the Library of Congress, National Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution and that on July 15 they were preparing to start a similar program at the Frick Art Reference Library.

Early in July, Dinsmoor and Crosby visited the National Archives and asked for its advice and cooperation in the development of lists of cultural monuments, treasures, and institutions to be made available to the armed forces, the military authorities having already indicated to these committee officials that such lists would be welcome and highly useful. A plan for the compilation and furnishing of such information by the National Archives on archival repositories in Europe was presented and agreed upon.

Most of the needed information was in the National Archives library, but a person of Posner’s background, knowledge, and general ability was required to interpret and organize it in usable form. Posner was eager to help.  The National Archives furnished overall supervision, materials, typing assistance, and assistance in revision, and editing; and, according to Holmes, Posner addressed the project “with his customary energy and efficiency in the months that followed, giving, except for his classes, almost full time to the project.”  Work was begun on archival repositories in Italy a few days before the invasion of Sicily on July 10. Before that campaign was over, information as to the name, location, official head, holdings, and buildings for some 140 archival repositories had been furnished on four-by-six inch cards to Dinsmoor’s committee.  Similar information to that produced on Italian archives was furnished for archival repositories in Greece, Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Bulgaria in August.  Before the end of September, similar material had been furnished for about 370 archival repositories in France.

At the end of August, Buck, in sending a copy of the National Archives-Posner 29-page listing of archival repositories to Hilldring, wrote that the National Archives had been compiling for and sending to the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas data concerning archival repositories in various countries.  He noted that the National Archives had furnished data on archival repositories to the committee for Italy, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia and they were nearly ready for France. These data, he wrote, were supplied in the form of slips, in order that they may be readily combined with data from other sources. Buck wrote that the National Archives had put together the data concerning Italian archival repositories and reproduced it in a limited number of hectographed copies, one of which he was transmitting. He asked Hilldring whether, in his opinion, similar assembled lists of archival repositories in other countries would be likely to be of sufficient use to justify the National Archives proceeding to produce the hectographed copies for other countries, in addition, of course, to the combined data that would be supplied by the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas.  Upon his receipt of “Archival Repositories in Italy,” Hilldring had a copy immediately sent to General Eisenhower, where it was intended that it be distributed to the proper officer for use in protection of archives within Italy.

On September 7, Hilldring responded to Buck that until the War Department had received reports on the usefulness of the Italian list he was not in a position to say whether the National Archives should prepare similar assembled lists for other countries. If possible, however, he informed Buck that he believed that the project should be coordinated with pending studies of the newly established American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (in 1944 “Europe” changed to “War Areas”).  He added that on August 25, the Commission had held its organizational meeting and appointed various committees to consider the whole problem of protecting works and materials of cultural, historical, and scientific value in countries occupied by the Allies.  Hilldring wrote that he was hopeful that one result of these studies would include the Commission’s preparation of a comprehensive program for the protection and restitution of all such works and materials.  Such a program might well contain specific recommendations covering the points raised by Buck’s letter, if the Commission considered that archival repositories and materials were included within its responsibilities.  Hilldring noted that he agreed with Buck that every practicable effort should be taken to preserve local archives, and that the War Department would be glad to consider any specific additional measures consistent with military necessity that the National Archives might recommend.  He added that ample general instructions had already been issued for all efforts to be made to preserve local archives and to utilize the information contained therein.

As it turned out, the Committee, the Commission, and the War Department welcomed the assistance the National Archives provided, all realizing the importance of archives and archival institutions.  Much of the information on archival repositories in enemy-occupied territory that the National Archives furnished army authorities was incorporated onto maps prepared by the Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and published and distributed by the Military Government Division of the Provost Marshal General (PMG)’s Office.  Lists of archival repositories and information on record keeping practices of existing agencies were also furnished directly to the PMG’s Office, which distributed them to overseas theaters of operations.  These lists contained the names, location, official head, holdings and buildings for 1,619 important archival repositories in Europe.  When these lists of archival repositories were received they were generally used as reference tools by Intelligence units and the information in them incorporated on maps used by bomber commands. They were also distributed to the Monuments Men of the various Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives units for the purpose of identifying and checking on the fate of important archival collections, and subsequently providing for their care and protection.

For additional information regarding Posner, the National Archives, and the protection of European archives see Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949, General Records, Civil Affairs Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165; The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Report of The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1946); Oliver W. Holmes, “The National Archives and the Protection of Records in War Areas,” American Archivist, Vol. IX No. 2 (April 1946), pp. 110-127;  and, Rodney A. Ross, “Ernst Posner: The Bridge Between the Old World and the New,” The American Archivist, Vol. 44 No. 4(Fall 1981), pp. 304-313.

 

Archives

Categories

Tags