Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate: From the Bunker in Berlin to National Archives in Washington, D.C. {Part IV: The Documents Travel Through Various Agencies and President Truman Before Arriving at the National Archives}

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is the last post in a four-part series.

 The National Archives and Records Administration will display Adolf Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate (National Archives Identifier 6883511) in the exhibit “Making Their Mark” beginning March 21, 2014. This series of blogs traces the aforementioned documents from the time of their creation to first being exhibited at the National Archives in 1946.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army Chief of Staff, decided that before sending the Hitler documents to the President, they should be authenticated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Colonel Hopkins, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), thus got in touch with the FBI.  On March 6, 1946, E. G. Fitch of the FBI sent a memorandum to FBI Assistant Director D. M. Ladd, in which he attached a so-called brochure or book entitled “Adolf Hitler Certificate of Marriage, Private Will and Political Testament.” This brochure he pointed out was prepared with the original document appearing on the left-hand side of the page and the English translation appearing on the right-hand side. The brochure had been handed to Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the Liaison Section by Colonel Hopkins.  Hopkins told Reynolds that the brochure had been prepared by the MIS so that the Chief of Staff might give it to the President, “who undoubtedly will eventually place it in the Library of Congress.”

Hopkins told Reynolds that he had been advised by General Vandenberg that Eisenhower was delighted with the attached material, but was reluctant to pass it to the President until some attempts has been made to verify the authenticity of the documents and Hitler’s signature.  Also attached in the memorandum were numerous captured documents which contained copies of Hitler’s signature; as well as documents containing the signatures of Martin Bormann and General Wilhelm Burgdorf. Hopkins told Reynolds that Vandenberg desired the Bureau to make a comparison of the signatures in the attached book with those appearing on the attached official documents in order to ascertain whether or not the signature on the alleged marriage certificate and wills were authentic.  Hopkins indicated to Reynolds that Eisenhower desired that this information be obtained as expeditiously as possible and cautioned Reynolds that the information appearing in the book, that is, the fact that the Army had what appears to be Hitler’s marriage certificate, private will and public testament, was not known at the present, and it was desired the matter be maintained secret by the Bureau until after the President has made it known publicly that United States authorities were in possession of these documents. Also included was a photostatic copy of the official documents which were handed to Reynolds by Hopkins. Fitch recommend that his memorandum with the attachments be forwarded to the FBI Technical Laboratory and an examination be conducted as expeditiously as possible and that the result be made known to the Liaison Section with the return of all the documents attached other than the photostat so that they may be returned to Hopkins.  Fitch added that it should be noted that the original documents could be removed from the book by releasing certain sections of scotch tape which held the documents in place. At the bottom of the memorandum was J. Edgar Hoover’s blue-inked “OK. H.”

The FBI lab on March 13 completed its work and Joseph A. Sizoo, the Chief of the Document Section of the lab transmitted its report on the document analysis to the Bureau hierarchy. Sizoo reported that the papers were, when received, mounted on cardboard pages of a leather binder, each being covering with cellulose sheets fastened with scotch tape for protection. To conduct the necessary examination, in accordance with express statements of MIS, he reported that several pages were removed from the covers. Since this endangered the specimens and additional preparations will be needed for permanent maintenance, this removal was confined to the minimum  “‘random tests.’” Pages 1 and 2 of the marriage certificate (the most questionable), the last (signature) pages of the private will and the political testament were the only sheets completely removed. One or two of the covers of other pages were lifted to gain access to the paper, but otherwise the mounts were not disturbed. Sizoo reported that it had been found that rubber cement was used at the top and corners to fasten the original papers to the cardboard. In replacing those removed, no additional adhesive was added and at no time was anything placed on the papers (in the nature of a test reagent, solvent, adhesive or any other Laboratory material such as might be applied in an examination). Sizoo then provided alternatives for permanent retention and display, citing methods used by the National Archives and Library of Congress. Sizoo indicated that the Bureau might want to suggest those methods to the MIS.  He concluded by indicating that the present mountings were restored in the leather binder and specimens were transmitted with his memorandum for personal delivery to MIS with the report if desired.  He also noted that photographic copies had been prepared for the records of the Laboratory. Hoover wrote in blue ink “Yes. H.” and also in blue ink that Hopkins was advised as above.

Later that day J. Edgar Hoover wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department, about the results of the examination. The FBI laboratory’s report provided detailed information on the physical material employed, the condition of these materials, typewriting, and handwriting, and while not providing a definitive rendering, still provided enough information to allow the reader of the report to conclude the documents were authentic in all respects. The Laboratory report was attached.  Special Agent Reynolds delivered the Hoover memorandum and the report to Colonel Hopkins. Hopkins read the report in the presence of Reynolds and indicated a great deal of satisfaction with the report and was extremely profuse in his praise of the manner in which the Laboratory handled the examination. Colonel J. R. Lovell, in charge of the Document Section, subsequently advised Reynolds that he had reviewed the Bureau’s report and he too was lavish in his praise of the manner in which the examination was conducted. Lovell advised Reynolds that he intended to recommend that the Bureau’s report be made a part of the original documents when they were delivered by the Chief of Staff to the President.

On March 16 Weckerling, the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 wrote Vandenberg attaching the original copies of Hitler’s certificate of marriage, personal will and political testament, together with Bormann’s letter of transmittal to Admiral Karl Doenitz. He indicated “these historic documents have been appropriately mounted in a protective binder together with translation of the documents.” Vandenberg was informed of the laboratory tests conducted by the FBI in order to determine the documents’ authenticity. Weckerling attached the FBI Laboratory report. He wrote that the significance of the documents was such that he recommended that they be transmitted to the President by the Secretary of War with the suggestion that the documents be forwarded to the Library of Congress or other appropriate agency for preservation and suitable public display. He attached a draft of a memorandum to be transmitted to the Secretary of War with the recommendation that he sign a letter substantially as drafted, also attached, to the President forwarding the Hitler papers. According to a handwritten note on the retained copy, Weckerling delivered the package that day. Vandenberg must have immediately approved the recommendations because later that day Weckerling wrote Eisenhower with basically the same information as contained in his communication to Vandenberg, with the recommendation that an attached letter to the President be signed and dispatched with the Hitler papers.

On March 18 Eisenhower sent the Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson, a draft of a memorandum to the President, transmitting the original copies of Hitler’s certificate of marriage and his personal and political wills, together with a letter written by Martin Bormann. Eisenhower wrote that the documents were apparently authentic, as indicated by a very comprehensive laboratory test made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which he was attaching. “I recommend,” Eisenhower wrote, “that you transmit these historic documents to the President, suggesting that they be exhibited in the Library of Congress or in some other appropriate public institution.”

On March 19, Secretary of War Patterson wrote the President:

Our Military Intelligence personnel, through information furnished by the British Intelligence Service, recovered Adolf Hitler’s personal and political wills, his marriage certificate, and a letter transmitting these documents to Admiral Doenitz, signed Martin Bormann. The unique character of these papers and their historic significance prompt me to forward them to you as a matter of personal interest. A laboratory test by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that these documents are authentic.

Hitler’s final anti-Semitic tirate (sic), his frantic attempt to maintain a semblance of German government, and what amounts to a suicide pact between himself and Eva Braun vividly illustrates the closing hours of the Nazi regime. These are matters of great public interest. Might I suggest that these documents be placed on display in the Library of Congress or other suitable establishment.

President Truman on March 22 wrote Patterson thanking him for the Hitler material. He indicated that he was pleased to have looked at them before they went to the National Archives, where the other war documents were held.

On the morning of March 26 Brig. Gen. Harry H. Vaughn, Military Aide to the President brought the Hilter documents to Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck’s office, along with a letter from Secretary of War Patterson to President Truman transmitting the listed documents.  Buck wrote that it was his understanding with Vaughn that the documents were sent to him by the President to be added to the holdings of the National Archives and they were to be available for consultation, exhibition, or publication under his [the President’s] direction.  Later that morning, Buck called in Mrs. Elizabeth E. Hamer, Chief of the Exhibits and Publications Staff and Thad Page, Administrative Secretary of the National Archives and Chief of the Legislative Archives Division, and turned over to them the items that Vaughn delivered. Apparently at this time it was decided that they would be placed on exhibition. Hamer took them back to her office to look at and then turned them over to Buck to keep in his office overnight.

The next day, March 27, Mrs. Hamer wrote a memorandum to Page requesting specific information in regard to the creation, discovery, and later history of the documents now in their possession, and forwarding to him copies of Secretary Patterson’s letter and an inventory of the documents. Later that day she took the volume of documents to Cleaning and Rehabilitation Staff and discussed removing them from the book and their subsequent rehabilitation with Arthur E. Kimberly, head of staff. The documents were left in the Cleaning and Rehabilitation laboratory so that they could be removed from the binding.

On March 28 Kimberly’s staff completed the removal of the documents from the book and Hamer took them to a colleague to discuss having them photographed the next morning and immediately returned. She then talked to Page about when they could put the documents on display. Page called the War Department to see whether someone could tell him what unit prepared the documents and gave them to Secretary Patterson. The response was the unit could not furnish all the necessary background information but that the War Department would work on the issue. At this point Page and Hamer decided not to display the documents until she came back from her vacation.  On March 29 the documents were photographed and returned to Hamer, who got them at the end of the day and put them in the Exhibition Hall for protection.

Meanwhile, on March 28 the National Archives wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, that it had just received from the President Hitler’s personal and political wills, his marriage certificate, and a letter to Doenitz from Bormann transmitting these documents. The material, the National Archives reported, was transmitted to the President by a letter from the Secretary of War under date of March 19 and that the National Archives intended to place the documents on display and to issue a publication concerning them. Before doing so, however, the National Archives indicated that more information concerning the documents would be desirable and requested background information about the documents, including how they had been obtained by the Army.  On March 29 the G-2 Secretariat asked the Chief of the MIS to prepare a response for the signature of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 to the National Archives letter.

On April 3 Hamer learned that Colonel Hopkins at the War Department could inform the National Archives about the discovery of the Hitler documents.  The documents were given to the archival unit that was to have custody of them and it was agreed that once they were processed, they would be returned to the Exhibits and Publications Staff who would send them to the Cleaning and Rehabilitation Staff for treatment.  With those arrangements made, Hamer on April 5 began her one and half-week vacation.

Hopkins was indeed the right person to contact about the documents. On April 8 the response to the National Archives was prepared and the MIS Chief sent it to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, indicating that that letter provided information about the seizure of the documents [the Fial report], that the FBI concurred in sending the National Archives its laboratory report, and recommending that the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 sign and dispatch the letter. The next day, April 9, the MIS Chief was informed that the letter to the National Archives had been signed by the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Brig. Gen. John Weckerling, and it had been dispatched.

The letter to the National Archives provided background information about the seizure of the documents that had been provided by the Counterintelligence Corps in the European Theater of Operations and enclosed a photostatic copy of the report by the FBI concerning the authenticity of the documents. The National Archives was informed that the translation, mounting and binding of the documents was done by MIS captured document specialists. Further, the National Archives was informed that: “While the translation is not particularly good one from a literary standpoint, particular care was taken to preserve preciseness of the original German meaning and wherever possible to retain the German sentence structure to facilitate reference between the translation and the original.”  The National Archives responded the next day, indicating it was very much indebted to Weckerling for furnishing them with the information concerning the Hitler documents. “This information,” the National Archives noted, “will be very helpful to us in preparing an exhibit of these documents.”

Hamer returned from her vacation on April 17 and with all arrangements made, the Hitler documents went on exhibit at the National Archives on April 26, less than a year after the documents had been created in the bunker in Berlin.

The National Archives has custody of scores of documents relating to the creation and disposition of the documents discussed in this blog series. The following lists those records most pertinent to the voyage of the Hitler documents from the Berlin bunker to the National Archives:

  • Memorandum from Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army to Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel, International Military Tribunal, Subject: Circumstances of Discovery of Hitler’s Wills, January 11, 1946, Hitler’s Private Testament and Political Testament, April 29, 1945, File: 3569-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 (National Archives Identifier 305264), Record Group 238
  • Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, for week ending February 27, 1946 – Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters, Publications (“P”) Files, 1950-1951 (National Archives Identifier 656424), Record Group 319
  • Capt. Robert E. Work, Air Corps, Chief Interrogator, Air Interrogation Unit (USDIC), Air Division, Headquarters United States Forces in Austria, Interrogation Summary No.1, “The Last Days in Hitler’s Air Raid Shelter,” October 8, 1945, File: Interrogation Summary US Forces in Austria, ibid.
  • File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1939-1976 (National Archives Identifier 645054), Record Group 319, (the Junge file, while part of the Army CIC Personal Files is described with another National Archives Identifying Number: 12191624).
  • File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], ibid
  • File: XE013274, Willi Johannmeier, ibid
  • File: 314.4 Germany, Project Decimal Files, 1941-1945 (National Archives Identifier 1685733), Record Group 319
  • File: 314.4, Personal Documents of Adolph (sic) Hitler, Army-AG Decimal File 1946-1948 (National Archives Identifier 6626121), Record Group 407
  • File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 (National Archives Identifier 2790598), Record Group 165
  • Memorandum, 1st Lt. Allen Fial, 303 CIC Det, Headquarters, Third United States Army to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army, Subject: Documents in Luggage of Wilhelm Zander, Alias Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin, December 28, 1945, File: 370.2 1945, Classified Decimal Files Regarding Captured Documents, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 5674542), Record Group 498
  • File: 65-53615-61, Headquarters Files from Classification 65 (Espionage) Released Under The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts, 1935-1982 (National Archives Identifier 565806), Record Group 65
  • Exhibits and Publications Daily Dairy, File: Diary, Fiscal Year 1946, Daily Diary of Activities, 1945-51 (National Archives Identifier 7580965), Record Group 64