On the night of October 15, 1946, ten of the twelve major war criminals,condemned to death at the Nuremberg trials, were executed. Of the two who eludedthe hangman, one was ReichMarshal Hermann Goring, who committed suicide byswallowing a lethal vial of cyanide two hours before his execution. The otherman was Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, who had managed to gain an enormous amountof power within the Nazi Party. He was virtually unknown outside of the Partyelite as he had worked in the shadows of Hitler. As the end of the war drewnear, many of the top Nazis were fleeing. Hermann Goring had fled west, and hadbeen captured by American soldiers, after the death of Hitler had beenannounced. In Hitlers political will, Goring had been expelled from the partywhile Martin Bormann had been named Party Minister . According to Jochen VonLang, Gobbels and Bormann had “held a military briefing on the night of May 2,1945. ” Gobbels had already decided to commit suicide but Bormann desperatelywanted to survive. The last entry into his diary was “escape attempt! “Martin Bormanns whereabouts after this night is unknown. There are manyspeculations as to his fate ranging from the probable to the spectacular.
Reichsleiter Bormann who, according to A. Zoller, “exercised absolute controlover the whole structure of the Reich” and yet, virtually unknown to thepublic, was born June 17th, 1900. He was born in Saxon to a Postal Clerk.
Bormann joined an anti-Semitic organization in 1920 and by 1923 he was a memberof the Freikorps. During this period, he was imprisoned for a year for murderand one year after his release Bormann joined the Nazi Party as a financialadministrator. By 1933 he had worked his way to being made a Reichsleiter, aGeneral of the SS and the Chief of Staff to Rudolf Hess. When Hess took flightto England, Bormann gladly inherited his position and became Hitlers deputy.
He had many enemies in the Party and Goring explained that even Goebbels fearedhim and his power . Bormann saw himself to be quite a noble character and in aletter to his wife dated April 2nd, 1945 he wrote that, “if we are destined,like the Nebeliung, to perish in King Attilas hall, then we go to deathproudly and with our heads held high.” For all his bravado, as the time tofight arrived, Bormann made a frantic attempt to survive. At the end of the war,the allied leaders decided to prosecute top Nazis as War Criminals in Nuremberg.
As Martin Bormann was missing, it was decided that he would be tried inabsentia. Although the allies had testimony stating that Bormann was dead, theyignored it because if “Bormann at this point was to be declared dead by thecourt, and then to surface later on, die-hard Nazis would suspect that perhapsthe Furher was alive too.” In order for allied credibility to remain intact,Bormann was to be tried for Crimes against Peace, War Crimes and Crimes againstHumanity. Dr. Friedrich Bergold was appointed to this difficult task ofdefending a missing man. He considered it “a miscarriage of justice for theTribunal to try his client in absentia.” The International Tribunal sentencedReichsleiter Martin Bormann to death. The night of May 1-2, 1945 is the lastknown whereabouts of Martin Bormann. The Reichsleiter was desperately trying toleave Berlin alive. He had tried to negotiate with the Russians for a briefcease-fire in order for him to obtain a safe passage through the enemyslines. It had been rejected. The survivors in the Fuhrerbunker were attemptingto escape the city and every twenty minutes a group left. Bormann emergedwearing an SS uniform without rank and a leather overcoat. His pocket containeda copy of Hitlers will, securing him to power. His group, that includedAxmann, Kempka and Stumpfegger, arrived at the Friedrichstrasse Subway stationbut were held up at the Weidendammer Bridge. The Russians held the other side ofthe bridge and therefore made it impossible to cross without the cover of tanks.
Miraculously, some German tiger tanks and a few armoured personnel carriersdrove up . Bormanns goup crouched around the tanks and began to cross thebridge. Bormann and Stumpfegger were together, Kempka was behind them andfurther behind was Axmann. A Russian projectile hit the tank beside Bormann andit exploded . After this point, the truth of the fate of Bormann is difficult todecipher from the differing stories. The events up until this point are notdisputed in the available sources. Two of the widely believed testimonies arefrom two of the men with Bormann on this night. One of these men was Hitlerschauffeur, Erich Kempka. Kempka testified that when the tank exploded he sawBormann collapse in a sheet of flames. Kempka himself was knocked unconscious bythe blast and when he revived he did not see Bormanns body, although hethought him to be dead. The other witness on this night was Artur Axmann, thehead of the Hitler Jugend. He claimed that after the blast the group hadseparated but Bormann and Stumpfegger had rejoined him and Gunter Weltzin (Axmannsadjutant) and together they had approached Lehrter Bohnn of 5-Bahn station.
There had been Russians on the platform. This apparently had scared Stumpfeggerand Bormann and they ran away . At approximately three in the morning, Axmanncame across the bodies of Bormann and Stumpfegger. They appeared to be dead butwithout blood or injury. The bunker elite had been issued poison capsules.
Axmann presumed that both had used them to kill themselves. UnfortunatelyWeltzin could not confirm this testimony as he died in Russian captivity. Thesetwo men were the last to see Bormann. There has been much discussion on thevalidity of their statements. One obvious confound is the fact that bothwitnesses were top ranking Nazis. There was certainly a motive for a deliberatefalse story, although they both asserted that they were no friends of his as didmany of those know to Bormann . The fact that the men had both been on thebridge and in sight of Bormann and yet their stories contradict each otherthrows suspicion upon their testimonies. Both men had been close to Bormann whenthe tank exploded but Kempka reported that Bormann could not have survived theblast. But, as he did not see the body even further suspicion is cast upon histestimony. Axmann did claim to see the body but even he said that although hepresumed them to be dead he was not a medical man. His statements were not usedin Bormanns Nuremberg trial, as they were unverifiable. Without a body it wasdifficult to verify either of these claims. Those who believed Bormann dead werevery interested in finding his body, if only to put the incredible stories ofhis post-war adventures to rest. In 1964, Jochen Von Lang and First PublicProsecutor Joachim Richter dug for the remains of Martin Bormann. A man whoclaimed to have been forced by the Russians to bury Bormann and Stumpfegger hadidentified the supposed grave. The man knew the body had been that of Bormannbecause of the pocketbook found upon the body by the mans boss. Von Langverified this story. The man led Von Lang and Richter to the spot where thebodies had lain before he had moved them to the burial site. It was the exactspot where Axmann had testified to having last seen them. Nevertheless, thesearch revealed nothing. Seven years later the city of Berlin was excavating thearea near the suspected grave. Von Lang attended and two bodies were discoveredand were identified as those of Bormann and Stumpfegger. They were foundthirty-six feet away from the site of the previous search. The dental recordsrecreated from memory by Dr. Hugo Blaschke, in 1945, identified the bodies. Apress conference in West Germany announced the discovery of the remains. Sincethe dental records were recreated from memory their authenticity isquestionable. Also, the pocketbook found by the Russians could have been fake oreven a diversion. Interestingly enough, those who wished to discredit the finddid not attack the dental records. Instead one man wrote that the remains were aclever fake, where a man from a concentration camp had been fitted for MartinBormanns dental work. Another disputed on the grounds that according to aSoviet source the Russians had, upon receiving instructions from Moscow,unearthed Bormann from his Berlin grave and reburied him elsewhere in EastGermany in an unmarked grave. Both of these reasons seem to be speculated andgenerally unfounded. The remains were also often jeered at because they werefound by a group of ditch diggers. The reason behind this was that the Germanauthorities would not have appreciated the entire area of the speculated graveexcavated. The stories about Martin Bormanns survival are plentiful and inmany cases are quite incredible. In 1961, Dr. Fritz Bauer, a well-knownprosecutor of Nazi War Criminals, declared that he was convinced that Bormannwas still alive. A flurry of stories about Martin Bormanns location came intothe limelight. A man claimed that he saw Bormann inside a tank in Berlin, notbeside, and another stated that he knew exactly where in Argentina that Bormannwas living. Another claimed that Bormann had been corresponding with his wifewho lived in Italy after the war. These stories turned out not only to beunfounded but the absolute truth still unknown. Many more stories also surfaced.
Paul Manning wrote a book about the post-war life of Bormann. He explained thatBormann had escaped to Spain via the Salzburg airport. The bishop of Munichconfirmed this story. Manning went on to explain that this living Bormann hadbeen “largely responsible for West Germanys post-war economic recovery.”This story, which it ultimately must be called, becomes even more ridiculouswhen the author begins to speak of the harassment that he received from MartinBormanns own private Gestapo. His proof mainly seems to be a photocopy ofBormanns Argentinean bank account, which seems rather unsubstantial.
Unfortunately, Von Lang manages to almost nullify this proof with his discoverythat the Argentinean Secret Service was bribed for the mere sum of fiftyAmerican dollars. Another book tells of the theory that Bormann escaped Germanywith the help of a submarine. (Coincidentally, some sources do say that Bormannwas aboard a submarine sunk by the British. Perhaps this helps prove thistheory.) He managed to arrive in Chile and then moved to Argentina and survivedwith the help of President Peron. Farago then explains to the reader how Ricther(who replaced Joachim Bauer in searching for Bormann) regarded Faragosinformation as ” vague… and proved useless in our investigation.” Theauthor seems to have discredited himself. The Soviet KGB assigned a Major L.
Besymenski to investigate Martin Bormann. After two years of painstakingresearch, his report entitled On the Trail of Martin Bormann concluded thatBormann had made a successful escape to South America. This report was writtenduring the Cold War, where, according to many sources, that both sides saw fitto implicate the other in the disappearance of Martin Bormann. Obviously itwould be good propaganda to accuse the other side of helping the evil NaziEmpire. Although many more books have been written on the fantastic adventuresof Martin Bormann, after his escape from Berlin, than on his death on that nightin May of 1945 the books that depict him surviving seem to be highly fictional.
Each one is based upon a conspiracy and circumstantial evidence. The remainsthat were found in West Germany were, on the other hand, identified to be thoseof Martin Bormann. Since Bormann was not officially declared to be dead by aWest German court but only by a press conference, the remains cannot be known tobe one hundred percent truth. The fate of Martin Bormann will most likely neverbe completely solved but the mystery surrounding his disappearance has intrigueda great many. The legend has been kept alive by Nazi-hunters who want to bringguilty parties to justice which is legitimate. Those who witnessed the evils ofthe Nazi Party cannot be free of this immorality until everyone involved hasbeen punished.
BibliographyBormann, Martin. The Bormann Letters. Ed. H. R. Trevor-Roper. London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1954. Farago, Ladislas. Aftermath: Martin Bormann andthe Fourth Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974. Manning, Paul. MartinBormann: Nazi in Exile. Secaucus: Lyle Stuart Inc., 1981. McGovern, James.
Martin Bormann. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1968. Stevenson,William. The Bormann Brotherhood. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.,1973. Telford, Taylor. The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. Von Lang, Jochen. Bormann: The Man WhoManipulated Hitler. Translated by Chista Armstrong and Peter White. New York:Random House, 1979.