Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Graves of the Third Reich

What Happened to the Leaders of the Third Reich?

Erwin Rommel gravesite Third Reich graves

The leaders of the Third Reich met a variety of fates. Some were assassinated, others committed suicide, many went to prison, and a surprisingly large fraction escaped virtually any real consequences and lived out their normal life spans. Millions of Germans lost their lives in World War II, and there were hundreds if not thousands of recognizable names from the twelve-year history of the Third Reich. So, no article like this can be comprehensive. The intent is to summarize in succinct fashion the final resting places of the leaders of the Third Reich to the extent that they are known.

The Fate of Third Reich Political Leaders

Nuremberg trial Third Reich graves
Defendants in the dock at the first Nuremberg trial. Front row from left to right: Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walther Funk, Hjalmar Schacht. Second row from left to right: Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Franz von Papen, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, Konstantin von Neurath, Hans Fritzsche.
The top German government officials and military officers of World War II were hanged and their bodies were cremated. The sentences were carried out in the gymnasium of Nuremberg Prison by the United States Army. The men executed were:
  • Hans Frank
  • Wilhelm Frick
  • Alfred Jodl
  • Ernst Kaltenbrunner
  • Wilhelm Keitel
  • Joachim von Ribbentrop
  • Alfred Rosenberg
  • Fritz Sauckel
  • Arthur Seyss-Inquart
  • Julius Streicher
The court sentenced Hitler's top aide, Martin Bormann, to death in absentia. However, Bormann escaped from the Fuehrer bunker at the end of the war. There is speculation that Bormann perished from artillery fire during this escape. A skull unearthed in Berlin along his projected escape route was tested for DNA in 1998 and found to be a close match with Bormann's son, so he is presumed to have died within minutes or hours of his exit from the bunker.

Martin Bormann death site, Third Reich graves
Martin Bormann's end apparently came in Berlin near those white sheds on the right, at the now-abandoned Invalidienstrasse bridge which crossed some railroad tracks.
Joachim Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, and the others hanged at Nuremberg were cremated at Ostfriedhof, Munich, and their ashes were scattered in the Isar River (specifically, they were thrown into the Wenzbach/Conwentzbach, a small stream in Munich).

Final picture of Hermann Goering, Third Reich graves
The final photo of Hermann Goering.
Hermann Goering, who committed suicide right before his scheduled hanging, also had his remains cremated and his ashes scattered. Some sources state that Goering’s ashes were scattered (poetically) at Dachau or Auschwitz, but they were almost certainly scattered at the same place as the remains of Ribbentrop and the others.

Fuhrer bunker, Third Reich graves
The site of the Fuhrer Bunker in Berlin, where Joseph Goebbels' remains were found. The site is now a parking lot and apartment complex.
Joseph Goebbels committed suicide in the Berlin bunker with Hitler and his body was burned there (though not completely). After that, the trail becomes tenuous. Goebbels’ corpse was taken to an unknown location in the Soviet Union where the cremation was completed. According to the Soviets, the ashes were scattered at an undisclosed location. There is very little proof of this, though there are some very clear pictures of Goebbels’ charred corpse in Berlin.

Karl Dönitz tombstone, Third Reich graves
Gravestone of Karl Dönitz (Doenitz).
Karl Dönitz, last Fuehrer of Greater Germany, last Großadmiral to date of Germany, and longtime U-boat fleet commander, spent ten years in captivity. After his release on 1 October 1956, Dönitz retired to Aumühle and wrote two autobiographical books. Dönitz passed away there from a heart attack on 24 December 1980 at the age of 89. He is buried in Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Aumühle.

Heinrich Himmler final photo, Third Reich graves
One of the last photographs of Heinrich Himmler.
Heinrich Himmler took cyanide after the British captured him in northern Germany shortly after the end of the war (he was in disguise and trying to escape to parts unknown). Himmler’s remains were buried in an undisclosed location in northern Germany, supposedly in a forest. The British soldiers who buried Himmler did not tell anybody the location, including, apparently, their superiors. Their reason for keeping this secret was to prevent the creation of a fascist shrine. The spot, if anyone still knows where it is, remains a secret.

Albert Speer tombstone, Third Reich graves
Albert Speer's gravesite.
Albert Speer spent 20 years in Spandau military prison and was released in 1966. Afterward, he embarked on a sustained campaign to rehabilitate his image which was at least partially successful. He died of a suspected cerebral hemorrhage/stroke in London in 1981 and is buried in Heidelberg. The bodies of others who were imprisoned and ultimately released were treated individually.

Rudolf Hess gravesite, Third Reich graves
The temporary grave of Rudolf Hess in Bavaria.
Rudolf Hess spent the better part of five decades in various prisons beginning in 1941 after his 10 May 1941 flight to Scotland. Hess committed suicide at the age of 93 in Spandau Prison in August 1987. Hess initially was buried at a secret location to avoid media attention or demonstrations by fascist sympathizers. However, his body quietly was reinterred in a family plot at Wunsiedel on 17 March 1988.  However, because the Hess gravesite became a favored pilgrimage for his fans, his family, the town, and the church had his body exhumed and cremated and the gravesite eliminated in 2011. According to news reports, Rudolf Hess' ashes were scattered at sea.

The Fate of Third Reich Generals

German generals usually were buried in military cemeteries and remain there, though some have been dug up and reinterred in new locations for various reasons. The locations vary widely, and a lot depended upon how long after (or before) the end of the war the officer died and where his family (or body) was located. Some locations are not known, including that of Field Marshal Paul Ludwig “Ewald” von Kleist, who was starved to death in captivity at Vladimir Prison Camp in the Soviet Union and buried there.

Heinz Guderian grave, Third Reich graves
Heinz Guderian’s grave in Goslar.
Most of the graves of German generals are known, however. Heinz Guderian, for instance, is buried at the Friedhof Hildesheimer Straße in Goslar (“Friedhof” is just German for graveyard or cemetery).

Erwin Rommel grave, Third Reich graves
Erwin Rommel gravesite.
Erwin Rommel is buried in Herrlingen, Blaustein, Baden Württemberg, Germany. The longer after the war the death occurred, the more say the family had in what to do with his or her remains.

Hans-Valentin Hube tombstone, Third Reich graves
The gravestone of Hans-Valentin Hube.
The graves of Rommel and Guderian are quite grandiose. A somewhat more typical grave of a German general is that of Generaloberst Hans-Valentin Hube, who perished in a plane crash in April 1944. Hube was extremely popular in the Third Reich during World War II but is largely forgotten today. Hans-Valentin Hube is buried at the Invalidenfriedhof, Berlin-Mitte, Mitte, Berlin, Germany.

The Fate of Female Third Reich Leaders

Hanna Reitsch tombstone, Third Reich graves
Gravestone of Hanna Reitsch.
Incidentally, there were some top female members of the Third Reich, though they tended to serve in an unofficial capacity. Hanna Reitsch, for instance, was a famous test pilot, though not officially a member of the Luftwaffe (which helped to keep her out of prison after the war). Reitsch committed suicide in Frankfurt in 1979 and is buried in Austria, Salzburg, Kommunal Friedhof.

Leni Riefenstahl gravesite, Third Reich graves
Leni Riefenstahl's grave (Wikipedia).
Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker who created the famous/notorious “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympiad,” lived to be 101. Like Speer, Riefenstahl somewhat rehabilitated her reputation and definitely outlived many of her critics. Riefenstahl died in her sleep on 8 September 2003 at her home in Pöcking, Germany, She is buried at Munich Waldfriedhof, Munich, Germany.

The Fate of Third Reich Ordinary Soldiers

Kurt Knispel tombstone, Third Reich graves
The grave of Kurt Knispel.
It is the nature of war that ordinary soldiers are buried or wound up at every battlefield, under every ocean, on every mountain range. Remains of German soldiers are being recovered to this day and reburied. Some of the Germans being found were very prominent in the Third Reich, though that does not necessarily mean they are well-known today. The usual burial spot now is a military cemetery in the country considered most appropriate, which is not necessarily Germany. This, for instance, was the case with top panzer ace Kurt Knispel, whose body was found in 2013 in a mass grave in the village of Vrbovec, Czech Republic. The German War Graves Commission reburied Knispel, an ethnic German from Czechoslovakia, in 2014 in the Central Brno military cemetery in Brno, Czech Republic.

Joachim Peiper tombstone Third Reich graves
Joachim Peiper's tombstone.
Joachim “Jochen” Peiper was a colonel (Standartenführer) in the Waffen-SS who served as a unique bridge between the troops and the Third Reich hierarchy. He alternated between field commands and serving at Heinrich Himmler's side as one of his adjutants. Peiper survived the war and also survived an Allied death sentence for war crimes when his sentence was commuted and he was released. After holding a variety of auto manufacturer jobs, Peiper retired to Traves, France in 1972. On the night of 13/14 July 1976, unknown assailants burned down Peiper's house with him in it. His charred corpse was found with a bullet hole in the head. Peiper was buried at Schöndorf am Ammersee Village Cemetery, Schondorf, Germany. He remains there as of this writing, but there is some sentiment to remove him just as the grave of Hess was removed.

The Fate of Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler final photo, Third Reich graves
The last known photo of Adolf Hitler, taken at the entrance to the Fuhrer Bunker in Berlin in 1945.
As for Adolf Hitler, well, nobody really knows his final resting place, though there are various claims of varying degrees of certainty. Hitler’s final location has been the subject of intense study and debate that continues to this day. Some obscure Soviet functionaries claimed to have cremated Hitler’s remains around 1970 and thrown the ashes into a river in East Germany. That is unconfirmed, though there is some corroborating evidence (such as the remains of a primitive crematorium at the location in question). This account appeared only decades after the war, which raises questions about its authenticity. Joseph Stalin, who presumably would have known any developments in the search for Hitler because it was an issue that obsessed him, reportedly believed that Hitler had escaped. Bone fragments purported to be of Hitler’s cranium are held in the Kremlin, but they have been tested and found to be those of a woman. So, the location of Hitler’s body or ashes is unknown.

Graves of Fallschirmjaeger, Third Reich graves
Graves of German Fallschirmjaeger (paratroopers).


Monday, May 13, 2019

Happy Hitler Pictures

Smiling Adolf

Adolf Hitler smiling
Adolf Hitler.
Happy Hitler!

One thing that you quickly notice about Adolf Hitler's pictures is that there is not an abundance of them where he is smiling or even laughing. Partly that was due to the fact that he did not feel that expressing joy conveyed the proper heroic image, partly due to the customs of the day wherein it was not considered proper to smile for the camera, and partly due to the simple fact that Adolf Hitler was a pretty grim fellow. So, just to show that Hitler did have a lighter side, here we have pictures of Adolf Hitler smiling and laughing.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Adolf Hitler had a lot to be happy about at times. He went from a virtual beggar in the streets of Vienna to leading Germany and then the majority of continental Europe. He did this by indulging in his worst, most wicked impulses, which undoubtedly helped him to work off a lot of aggression.
Adolf Hitler smiling
After becoming the Fuehrer of Greater Germany, Hitler allowed himself more moments of public levity. Whether or not that was planned is debatable, but it did help Hitler to soften his image for his many female supporters.
Adolf Hitler smiling
There are some definite high points during his reign that stand out as happy occasions. One was presiding over the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. It was a dream come true for Hitler, as he commanded the world stage in an almost unimaginable fashion. He made the most of it despite some public relations setbacks such as Jesse Owens of the United States beating his Aryan supermen.
Adolf Hitler smiling
There was a famous incident during the Berlin Olympics when an American woman visiting from California ran over to Hitler's front-row box and planted a big one on the Fuehrer. Hitler roared with laughter and seemed to enjoy the kiss. After that, he sat in a private box in an upper tier.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Another highpoint, and perhaps the greatest, was defeating France in 1940. It is often assumed that World War II was just a series of defeats for Hitler, but, in fact, he reached his highpoint of popularity during the first two years of the war.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Barnstorming the Reich in his Junkers Ju 52 transport in the 1930s was also a pleasure for Hitler. Or, maybe he was just happy to get safely back on the ground. His plane was tricked out with some very advanced safety features, such as a personal ejection seat equipped with a parachute, though it just sort of dropped out of the plane when necessary. The same sort of equipment today is on board Air Force One.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler also basked in the adoration of the masses. He fed on the adulation of the vast crowds at the annual Nuremberg rallies.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler also enjoyed reading the newspapers. Of course, the Reich papers just printed what Hitler liked to see, so there weren't any big surprises in those. However, he also received copies of foreign (such as Swedish and English) newspapers. He liked to read about his triumphs.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler also liked to tour the front now and then, especially during the early days of the invasions of Poland and Russia. He even visited the coastal fortifications on the French coast around Christmas in 1940.
Adolf Hitler smiling with Dr. Goebbels
Hitler's birthday was always a major event in the Third Reich. To a slightly smaller degree so was Hermann Goering's, but everyone went all out for the Fuehrer's birthday. It was understood by everyone that this was the time for Hitler's cronies to try to outdo each other in giving Hitler the most pleasing gift in order to curry favor. Everyone knew that Hitler loved paintings, as long as they were on certain themes. For some reason, Hitler held Frederick II of Prussia, the beneficiary of The Miracle of the House of Brandenburg during the 18th Century, in particularly high esteem. The above photo of Dr. Goebbels with the Fuehrer is hard to pin down to a particular situation, but the guess here is that Goebbels is presenting Hitler with the artwork as a birthday present, perhaps on 20 April 1939. Further, based on speculation, the painting may be a portrait of Frederick II. Whatever the situation, Hitler obviously is pleased and Goebbels has scored a major success in ingratiating himself just that little bit more with the guy who controlled his fate.
Adolf Hitler smiling
However, his happiest times outside of politics seemed to be spent in nature. He is often seen smiling in pastoral settings and with his dogs.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler even managed a smile during his very last public appearance in March 1945. Now that must have taken some effort.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler used the telephone a lot. He was captured smiling when he received some good news from a supporter in Bavaria during the 1930s.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler also liked the ladies. He also liked to go to the opera. When he could combine the two, he was in heaven. A private moment with Hitler at the opera was a moment of pure bliss for Aryan maidens.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler was photographed visiting the League of German Girls or Band of German Maidens (Bund Deutscher Mädel, abbreviated as BDM) from time to time. These apparently were public relations visits, but he sometimes would just drop in on a group of them unexpectedly, too.
Adolf Hitler during the 1930s Adolf Hitler during the 1930s
Hitler went on a sea cruise in ca. 1930 with Geli Rabaul and her family. Above on the left, Adolf is quite happy with Geli and her sister. On the right, he seems a bit less happy with Geli's mother.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Everyone knows that Hitler's true love was Eva Braun. Eva replaced Geli in Hitler's affections. She then kicked Geli's mom out of the Berghof. Permanently.
Adolf Hitler smiling
But, in general, Adolf was happy with young ladies. In fact, he even at times seemed a bit boyish.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler also could be jovial with his underlings. Of course, the joke invariably was on them, not him.
Adolf Hitler smiling
It is widely assumed that Hitler had an affair with the very Prussian and icy Inge Ley, above. Hitler seems a bit too... stiff in the above photo. Perhaps he's consciously trying to conceal any hint of affection so nobody catches on to what is really going on. But you can see a little smile playing across his face anyway.
Adolf Hitler smiling
One thing that is certain is that Adolf Hitler loved to drive. He had a collection of cars and a dedicated chauffeur. His chauffeurs, in fact, usually went on to high army commands regardless of their military qualifications. This actually didn't turn out too badly for the Wehrmacht because, as Hitler himself liked to point out, ordering men to their deaths in pointless and futile battles designed only to burnish Hitler's personal prestige was very easy in the Third Reich. Anyone could do it!
Adolf Hitler smiling
One must qualify, however, the observation that Hitler liked to drive. Hitler didn't actually drive. In fact, there is no indication that he ever had a driver's license, and it is unknown if he knew how to drive. It is better to say that he liked to be driven. Fast.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler had a special car outfitted with a flashing light so that nobody would slow him down on the roads. And, you wouldn't want to be the one to slow down Hitler in the Reich. No, you wouldn't. Definitely not.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Hitler liked to play around at his mountainside retreat in Bavaria called the Berghof. He liked to be photographed with birds and squirrels and so forth.
Adolf Hitler smiling
But Hitler also could laugh while being adored by his public, too.
Adolf Hitler smiling
Nobody was going to make the Fuehrer feel bad. That was not your route to promotion.
Adolf Hitler smiling
So, Hitler did like to smile. But let's leave Adolf Hitler with a frown like he left so many others.
Adolf Hitler frowning