Russians put the last remains of Hitler on display for first time

Patrick Cockburn
Thursday 27 April 2000 00:00

Russians will today see for the first time a fragment of Hitler's skull with a bullet hole in it which Soviet soldiers found in a shallow grave in Berlin in 1945.

The skull, along with a piece of a jaw, are the only remains of Hitler still surviving, according to the organisers of an exhibition on the death agony of the Third Reich which is opening in Moscow.

The bodies of Hitler and his immediate entourage were exhumed and reburied four times by Soviet officials before they were finally burned and their ashes thrown into a river near Magdeburg, in East Germany, in 1970.

The exhibition, which marks the 55th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, is also a sign of renewed interest in the Second World War. War films, seldom shown on television after the fall of communism in 1991, are once more becoming popular in Russia.

Included in the display is part of the blood-spattered sofa on which Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide, as well as the reports of the first Soviet investigators. Hitler's jaw is not exhibited because it is too fragile, but the NKVD security service officers who identified his remains repeatedly interviewed the Nazi leader's dentists to ensure that they had the right body.

The Russian State Archives, which organised the exhibition, called "The Agony of the Third Reich: Retribution", said it had carefully authenticated the pieces of Hitler's skull.

The exhibition brings together 150 items, hitherto held in the archives of the FSB, the successor to the NKVD, the defence ministry and the foreign ministry. There are several bland watercolours by Hitler, painted when he was a student, and pistols belonging to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, and his wife Magda.

Yakov Pogoniy, the head of FSB archives, said the collection of items from Hitler's bunker will dramatise the Soviet victory for young Russians. He said that, because of lack of interest by the mass media, young Russians "hear either little or nothing about the last war". In Soviet times war movies were shown ceaselessly on television and in cinemas. With the fall of communism they were replaced by dubbed Hollywood movies.

Sergei Shukhin, 44, a driver, expressed deep interest in the exhibition, studying a picture of Hitler's skull in the catalogue with fascination. "I would like to see more films about the war, not because I am a sadist but because I would like to know what really happened. Now they just show them in the week before Victory Day on 9 May."

Mr Shukhin said he wanted to know the real number of Soviets killed during the war, which he suspected was far higher than the 20 million figure usually quoted. He said nothing had changed much since the Second World War "since today they give us information about the war in Chechnya which has nothing to with reality".

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