The four-inch skull fragment has a hole where a bullet reportedly passed through Hitler’s left temple when he shot himself and is kept in Russia’s federal archives along with what are said to be his jawbones. Together, they are all that is left of Hitler’s body, the charred remains of which Soviet forces first recovered in 1945. For years, the Russians have held up the artefacts as proof that Soviet troops found Hitler’s body in the ruins of Berlin and that he died on April 30 when he shot himself just after taking cyanide.
But a History Channel documentary programme broadcast in the US called Hitler’s Escape claims the skull fragment belongs to a woman under 40 and not Hitler, who was 56 when he died. It quotes Nick Bellantoni, an archaeologist and bone specialist who took DNA samples from the skull in Moscow and had them tested at the University of Connecticut. He and his colleagues are sceptical that the skull fragment could belong to Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-time companion, since she is thought to have committed suicide by cyanide rather than with a gun.
The findings are likely to revive conspiracy theories suggesting that Hitler did not die in 1945 but survived and fled to South America or elsewhere. Proponents of that theory believe Soviet troops found only his body double.
However, the Russians have never held up the skull as exhibit one, always insisting that the jawbones — said to be in perfect condition – are confirmation. Soviet forces tracked down an assistant to Hitler’s dentist in 1945 who confirmed their authenticity. The contested skull fragment was found later, in 1946, when the Russians began an investigation after rumours that Hitler was still alive. It was found in the same hole outside Hitler’s bunker where his body was first found.