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

 The National Archives and Records Administration will 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.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army Chief of Staff, decided that before sending the Hitler documents to the President, they should be authenticated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Colonel Hopkins, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), thus got in touch with the FBI.  On March 6, 1946, E. G. Fitch of the FBI sent a memorandum to FBI Assistant Director D. M. Ladd, in which he attached a so-called brochure or book entitled “Adolf Hitler Certificate of Marriage, Private Will and Political Testament.” This brochure he pointed out was prepared with the original document appearing on the left-hand side of the page and the English translation appearing on the right-hand side. The brochure had been handed to Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the Liaison Section by Colonel Hopkins.  Hopkins told Reynolds that the brochure had been prepared by the MIS so that the Chief of Staff might give it to the President, “who undoubtedly will eventually place it in the Library of Congress.”

Hopkins told Reynolds that he had been advised by General Vandenberg that Eisenhower was delighted with the attached material, but was reluctant to pass it to the President until some attempts has been made to verify the authenticity of the documents and Hitler’s signature.  Also attached in the memorandum were numerous captured documents which contained copies of Hitler’s signature; as well as documents containing the signatures of Martin Bormann and General Wilhelm Burgdorf. Hopkins told Reynolds that Vandenberg desired the Bureau to make a comparison of the signatures in the attached book with those appearing on the attached official documents in order to ascertain whether or not the signature on the alleged marriage certificate and wills were authentic.  Hopkins indicated to Reynolds that Eisenhower desired that this information be obtained as expeditiously as possible and cautioned Reynolds that the information appearing in the book, that is, the fact that the Army had what appears to be Hitler’s marriage certificate, private will and public testament, was not known at the present, and it was desired the matter be maintained secret by the Bureau until after the President has made it known publicly that United States authorities were in possession of these documents. Also included was a photostatic copy of the official documents which were handed to Reynolds by Hopkins. Fitch recommend that his memorandum with the attachments be forwarded to the FBI Technical Laboratory and an examination be conducted as expeditiously as possible and that the result be made known to the Liaison Section with the return of all the documents attached other than the photostat so that they may be returned to Hopkins.  Fitch added that it should be noted that the original documents could be removed from the book by releasing certain sections of scotch tape which held the documents in place. At the bottom of the memorandum was J. Edgar Hoover’s blue-inked “OK. H.”

The FBI lab on March 13 completed its work and Joseph A. Sizoo, the Chief of the Document Section of the lab transmitted its report on the document analysis to the Bureau hierarchy. Sizoo reported that the papers were, when received, mounted on cardboard pages of a leather binder, each being covering with cellulose sheets fastened with scotch tape for protection. To conduct the necessary examination, in accordance with express statements of MIS, he reported that several pages were removed from the covers. Since this endangered the specimens and additional preparations will be needed for permanent maintenance, this removal was confined to the minimum  “‘random tests.’” Pages 1 and 2 of the marriage certificate (the most questionable), the last (signature) pages of the private will and the political testament were the only sheets completely removed. One or two of the covers of other pages were lifted to gain access to the paper, but otherwise the mounts were not disturbed. Sizoo reported that it had been found that rubber cement was used at the top and corners to fasten the original papers to the cardboard. In replacing those removed, no additional adhesive was added and at no time was anything placed on the papers (in the nature of a test reagent, solvent, adhesive or any other Laboratory material such as might be applied in an examination). Sizoo then provided alternatives for permanent retention and display, citing methods used by the National Archives and Library of Congress. Sizoo indicated that the Bureau might want to suggest those methods to the MIS.  He concluded by indicating that the present mountings were restored in the leather binder and specimens were transmitted with his memorandum for personal delivery to MIS with the report if desired.  He also noted that photographic copies had been prepared for the records of the Laboratory. Hoover wrote in blue ink “Yes. H.” and also in blue ink that Hopkins was advised as above.

Later that day J. Edgar Hoover wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department, about the results of the examination. The FBI laboratory’s report provided detailed information on the physical material employed, the condition of these materials, typewriting, and handwriting, and while not providing a definitive rendering, still provided enough information to allow the reader of the report to conclude the documents were authentic in all respects. The Laboratory report was attached.  Special Agent Reynolds delivered the Hoover memorandum and the report to Colonel Hopkins. Hopkins read the report in the presence of Reynolds and indicated a great deal of satisfaction with the report and was extremely profuse in his praise of the manner in which the Laboratory handled the examination. Colonel J. R. Lovell, in charge of the Document Section, subsequently advised Reynolds that he had reviewed the Bureau’s report and he too was lavish in his praise of the manner in which the examination was conducted. Lovell advised Reynolds that he intended to recommend that the Bureau’s report be made a part of the original documents when they were delivered by the Chief of Staff to the President.

On March 16 Weckerling, the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 wrote Vandenberg attaching the original copies of Hitler’s certificate of marriage, personal will and political testament, together with Bormann’s letter of transmittal to Admiral Karl Doenitz. He indicated “these historic documents have been appropriately mounted in a protective binder together with translation of the documents.” Vandenberg was informed of the laboratory tests conducted by the FBI in order to determine the documents’ authenticity. Weckerling attached the FBI Laboratory report. He wrote that the significance of the documents was such that he recommended that they be transmitted to the President by the Secretary of War 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 of a memorandum to be transmitted to the Secretary of War with the recommendation that he sign a letter substantially as drafted, also attached, to the President forwarding the Hitler papers. According to a handwritten note on the retained copy, Weckerling delivered the package that day. Vandenberg must have immediately approved the recommendations because later that day Weckerling wrote Eisenhower with basically the same information as contained in his communication to Vandenberg, with the recommendation that an attached letter to the President be signed and dispatched with the Hitler papers.

On March 18 Eisenhower sent the Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson, a draft of a memorandum to the President, transmitting the original copies of Hitler’s certificate of marriage and his personal and political wills, together with a letter written by Martin Bormann. Eisenhower wrote that the documents were apparently authentic, as indicated by a very comprehensive laboratory test made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which he was attaching. “I recommend,” Eisenhower wrote, “that you transmit these historic documents to the President, suggesting that they be exhibited in the Library of Congress or in some other appropriate public institution.”

On March 19, Secretary of War Patterson wrote the President:

Our Military Intelligence personnel, through information furnished by the British Intelligence Service, recovered Adolf Hitler’s personal and political wills, his marriage certificate, and a letter transmitting these documents to Admiral Doenitz, signed Martin Bormann. The unique character of these papers and their historic significance prompt me to forward them to you as a matter of personal interest. A laboratory test by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that these documents are authentic.

Hitler’s final anti-Semitic tirate (sic), his frantic attempt to maintain a semblance of German government, and what amounts to a suicide pact between himself and Eva Braun vividly illustrates the closing hours of the Nazi regime. These are matters of great public interest. Might I suggest that these documents be placed on display in the Library of Congress or other suitable establishment.

President Truman on March 22 wrote Patterson thanking him for the Hitler material. He indicated that he was pleased to have looked at them before they went to the National Archives, where the other war documents were held.

On the morning of March 26 Brig. Gen. Harry H. Vaughn, Military Aide to the President brought the Hilter documents to Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck’s office, along with a letter from Secretary of War Patterson to President Truman transmitting the listed documents.  Buck wrote that it was his understanding with Vaughn that the documents were sent to him by the President to be added to the holdings of the National Archives and they were to be available for consultation, exhibition, or publication under his [the President's] direction.  Later that morning, Buck called in Mrs. Elizabeth E. Hamer, Chief of the Exhibits and Publications Staff and Thad Page, Administrative Secretary of the National Archives and Chief of the Legislative Archives Division, and turned over to them the items that Vaughn delivered. Apparently at this time it was decided that they would be placed on exhibition. Hamer took them back to her office to look at and then turned them over to Buck to keep in his office overnight.

The next day, March 27, Mrs. Hamer wrote a memorandum to Page requesting specific information in regard to the creation, discovery, and later history of the documents now in their possession, and forwarding to him copies of Secretary Patterson’s letter and an inventory of the documents. Later that day she took the volume of documents to Cleaning and Rehabilitation Staff and discussed removing them from the book and their subsequent rehabilitation with Arthur E. Kimberly, head of staff. The documents were left in the Cleaning and Rehabilitation laboratory so that they could be removed from the binding.

On March 28 Kimberly’s staff completed the removal of the documents from the book and Hamer took them to a colleague to discuss having them photographed the next morning and immediately returned. She then talked to Page about when they could put the documents on display. Page called the War Department to see whether someone could tell him what unit prepared the documents and gave them to Secretary Patterson. The response was the unit could not furnish all the necessary background information but that the War Department would work on the issue. At this point Page and Hamer decided not to display the documents until she came back from her vacation.  On March 29 the documents were photographed and returned to Hamer, who got them at the end of the day and put them in the Exhibition Hall for protection.

Meanwhile, on March 28 the National Archives wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, that it had just received from the President Hitler’s personal and political wills, his marriage certificate, and a letter to Doenitz from Bormann transmitting these documents. The material, the National Archives reported, was transmitted to the President by a letter from the Secretary of War under date of March 19 and that the National Archives intended to place the documents on display and to issue a publication concerning them. Before doing so, however, the National Archives indicated that more information concerning the documents would be desirable and requested background information about the documents, including how they had been obtained by the Army.  On March 29 the G-2 Secretariat asked the Chief of the MIS to prepare a response for the signature of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 to the National Archives letter.

On April 3 Hamer learned that Colonel Hopkins at the War Department could inform the National Archives about the discovery of the Hitler documents.  The documents were given to the archival unit that was to have custody of them and it was agreed that once they were processed, they would be returned to the Exhibits and Publications Staff who would send them to the Cleaning and Rehabilitation Staff for treatment.  With those arrangements made, Hamer on April 5 began her one and half-week vacation.

Hopkins was indeed the right person to contact about the documents. On April 8 the response to the National Archives was prepared and the MIS Chief sent it to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, indicating that that letter provided information about the seizure of the documents [the Fial report], that the FBI concurred in sending the National Archives its laboratory report, and recommending that the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 sign and dispatch the letter. The next day, April 9, the MIS Chief was informed that the letter to the National Archives had been signed by the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Brig. Gen. John Weckerling, and it had been dispatched.

The letter to the National Archives provided background information about the seizure of the documents that had been provided by the Counterintelligence Corps in the European Theater of Operations and enclosed a photostatic copy of the report by the FBI concerning the authenticity of the documents. The National Archives was informed that the translation, mounting and binding of the documents was done by MIS captured document specialists. Further, the National Archives was informed that: “While the translation is not particularly good one from a literary standpoint, particular care was taken to preserve preciseness of the original German meaning and wherever possible to retain the German sentence structure to facilitate reference between the translation and the original.”  The National Archives responded the next day, indicating it was very much indebted to Weckerling for furnishing them with the information concerning the Hitler documents. “This information,” the National Archives noted, “will be very helpful to us in preparing an exhibit of these documents.”

Hamer returned from her vacation on April 17 and with all arrangements made, the Hitler documents went on exhibit at the National Archives on April 26, less than a year after the documents had been created in the bunker in Berlin.


The National Archives has custody of scores of documents relating to the creation and disposition of the documents discussed in this blog series. The following lists those records most pertinent to the voyage of the Hitler documents from the Berlin bunker to the National Archives:

  • Memorandum from Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army to Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel, International Military Tribunal, Subject: Circumstances of Discovery of Hitler’s Wills, January 11, 1946, Hitler’s Private Testament and Political Testament, April 29, 1945, File: 3569-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 (National Archives Identifier 305264), Record Group 238
  • Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, for week ending February 27, 1946 – Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters, Publications (“P”) Files, 1950-1951 (National Archives Identifier 656424), Record Group 319
  • Capt. Robert E. Work, Air Corps, Chief Interrogator, Air Interrogation Unit (USDIC), Air Division, Headquarters United States Forces in Austria, Interrogation Summary No.1, “The Last Days in Hitler’s Air Raid Shelter,” October 8, 1945, File: Interrogation Summary US Forces in Austria, ibid.
  • File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1939-1976 (National Archives Identifier 645054), Record Group 319
  • File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], ibid
  • File: XE013274, Willi Johannmeier, ibid
  • File: 314.4 Germany, Project Decimal Files, 1941-1945 (National Archives Identifier 1685733), Record Group 319
  • File: 314.4, Personal Documents of Adolph (sic) Hitler, Army-AG Decimal File 1946-1948 (National Archives Identifier 6626121), Record Group 407
  • File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 (National Archives Identifier 2790598), Record Group 165
  • Memorandum, 1st Lt. Allen Fial, 303 CIC Det, Headquarters, Third United States Army to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army, Subject: Documents in Luggage of Wilhelm Zander, Alias Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin, December 28, 1945, File: 370.2 1945, Classified Decimal Files Regarding Captured Documents, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 5674542), Record Group 498
  • File: 65-53615-61, Headquarters Files from Classification 65 (Espionage) Released Under The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts, 1935-1982 (National Archives Identifier 565806), Record Group 65
  • Exhibits and Publications Daily Dairy, File: Diary, Fiscal Year 1946, Daily Diary of Activities, 1945-51 (National Archives Identifier 7580965), Record Group 64


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.

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