The Fleeing Nazi: Did Hitler’s Secretary Escape?

The Fleeing Nazi: Did Hitler’s Secretary Escape?

Patrick Lynch - February 13, 2017

Martin Bormann gained infamy as Adolf Hitler’s private secretary and was the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery. He retreated to the bunker with Hitler on January 16, 1945, and remained there until the Nazi leader committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Bormann attempted to flee Berlin with other officers on May 2 but didn’t make it out of the city as he was killed by Soviet soldiers. Or was he?

The Fleeing Nazi: Did Hitler’s Secretary Escape?
Martin Bormann. Alchetron

South American Sightings

Artur Axmann, the leader of the Hitler Youth, was with Bormann, SS Doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger, and Hans Baur, Hitler’s pilot, as they tried to leave Berlin. An attack by Soviet artillery caused carnage, and the panicked group split up. Once they got to the tracks at Lehrter Station, Axmann went in the opposite direction to Bormann and Stumpfegger. However, he encountered Soviet soldiers and returned to a bridge near the railway where he found two bodies. Axmann later said the bodies were Bormann and Stumpfegger, although he admitted that he never got the chance to examine the corpses.

It should have been an open and shut case, but as the Soviets never stated that they found the body of Martin Bormann, his fate remained in doubt for decades. In fact, there were numerous alleged sightings of the Nazi between 1945 and 1965 in Europe and South America. In 1967, legendary ‘Nazi Hunter’ Simon Wiesenthal said there was enough evidence to suggest that Bormann was still alive. Theories on how he escaped included a suggestion that he traveled to Argentina by U-Boat, while other conspiracy theorists believe he fled to Italy, then Spain, and eventually reached South America with the aid of a Nazi escape network.

The Fleeing Nazi: Did Hitler’s Secretary Escape?
Framepool Stock Footage

Discovery of a Body

The case of Martin Bormann’s disappearance rumbled on until 1972 when construction workers found human remains just meters away from where Axmann claimed Bormann and Stumpfegger died. Dr. Hugo Blasckhe reconstructed dental records which identified the skeleton as Bormann’s. Also, the corpse had damage to the collarbone consistent with injuries sustained by Hitler’s deputy in a motorbike accident in 1939. Furthermore, doctors found remnants of glass in the jawbones of both skeletons which suggests Stumpfegger and Bormann swallowed cyanide capsules.

Forensic examiners went a step further by analyzing the shape of the skull and size of the skeleton before concluding it was definitely Martin Bormann’s remains. The second skeleton was of a similar size to Stumpfegger, so the analysts were satisfied that it was the remains of the SS Doctor. The West German government declared Bormann officially dead, although his family couldn’t cremate the corpse in case further examination was necessary. This should have been the end of the affair, but there were further twists and turns to come.


In 1995, Hugh Thomas threw fresh fuel on the fire with his book Doppelgangers, which claimed there were inconsistencies with the forensic testing on Bormann’s remains in 1972. Apparently, the skull was caked in red clay mainly found in Paraguay. There was allegedly dental work performed on the head more recently than 1945 and the condition and position of the teeth supposedly belonged to someone a lot older than Bormann, who was 45 years old at the time of his death.

German authorities ordered genetic testing on fragments of the skull in 1998. DNA from one of Bormann’s relatives was compared to the skull and conclusively identified the skull as that of the Nazi Secretary. The remains were cremated and the ashes thrown in the Baltic Sea in 1999.

The Fleeing Nazi: Did Hitler’s Secretary Escape?
Bormann. Alchetron

Bormann in South America

Surely this was the end of the matter? Not quite. While it seemed indisputable that Bormann was dead, researchers were convinced that he had escaped Berlin and lived in South America. A military historian named Ladislas Farago published his work on Bormann which stemmed from a painstaking investigation into the Nazi officer in South America. His unanimous conclusion was that Bormann escaped to South America and lived in Argentina for a number of years. In 1998, Stewart Steven of the Daily Express published an article claiming the DNA testing was a cover-up instigated by a West German prosecutor. Steven was later fired for his actions.

A British Army Captain named Ian Bell claims he saw Bormann on a ship bound for Bari, and was ordered to follow but not apprehend him. In 1972, the forensic team supposedly failed to reveal that the dentistry performed in the skull could only have been completed in the 1950s due to the technology used. Since the DNA test in 1998, various people have come forward with testimony suggesting that Bormann did escape from Berlin.

An Argentine military commander gave an interview to Goldeneye Films in 2010 where he says he met Bormann regularly in Buenos Aires in 1952 and 1953. He even arranged security for the escapee and mentioned that the Nazi Secretary stayed in a luxury hotel in Argentina’s capital in 1953.

Another Wild Theory?

Those who suggest Bormann made it to South America use the remains of the dead Nazi to further their case. Remember, the skull was apparently covered with red clay found in Paraguay and not Germany. After he had died, his remains were buried somewhere in South America. Eventually, as part of a cover-up, the body was dug up, glass shards were planted in the skull, and it was shipped to Berlin where it was buried, waiting for discovery.

If the above sounds far-fetched, that’s because it is. Although the disappearance of Bormann proved an enduring mystery for decades, different examinations, including a detailed DNA test, show the skeleton found in Berlin was definitely Martin Bormann. While there are a few unanswered questions, the body of evidence that suggests he fled abroad and escaped justice is flimsy and dependent on testimony from witnesses decades after the event. The suggestion that his body was somehow transported to Germany from South America and buried is particularly ludicrous. All available evidence tells us that Bormann died in Berlin on May 2, 1945, and it is unlikely that anyone will ever be able to prove otherwise.


Sources For Further Reading:

Encyclopedia Britannica – Martin Bormann

Anesi – The Escape Route of Martin Bormann

The New York Times – Never Saw Bormann, Argentinian Declares

Sun Sentinel – Argentina Releases Nazi Files Evidence Shows Martin Bormann Was Never in Buenos Aires

The New York Times – Argentine Authorities Term Some of the Statements on Bormann Unfounded

Buffalo News – Answers to Fate Of Martin Bormann, Other Nazi Secrets, In Argentine Files

The Guardian – Secret Files Reveal MI5’s Obsession with Martin Bormann Manhunt

The Atlantic – Martin Bormann Has a Stomachache

The Independent – DNA Test Closes Book on Mystery of Martin Bormann

Harry Cooper – Hitler in Argentina: The Documented Truth of Hitler’s Escape from Berlin

History Collection – Angels of Death: 5 Nazi Officials Who Escaped to South America to Avoid Justice

The Independent – Bormann ‘Escaped but Died as Mengele’s Patient’

History Collection – 10 Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped Justice Because They Were Useful to the US