The Search for Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate Part III

Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park. This is the final part in a three part series.

General Truscott announced on December 29 that Third U.S. Army intelligence officers, after a long search, had uncovered important documents signed by Hitler. In announcing the find, Truscott was outspoken in his praise of the cooperation between the British counter intelligence and the 303rd CIC Detachment, the Third U.S. Army operatives who made the important discovery. Truscott indicated that the documents, some of which were to remain secret until further investigation by Third U.S. Army G-2 units could be completed, were of “inestimable value” in piecing together the whole picture of the closing days of the Nazis’ downfall. The desperation of those closing days, Truscott said, was shown by the “frantically penned” covering letter from Bormann to Doenitz.[1]

Before or after Truscott finished speaking on December 29, at the direction of the Assistant G-2, USFET, the Public Relations Branch of G-2, Third U.S. Army released to the world the first information of contents of Hitler’s Political Testament, Last Will, and other associated documents discovered. Not all the text of the two wills was released however. The press was given a summary of the circumstances of the discovery.[2] Not to be outdone publicity-wise, simultaneously with the Third Army’s announcement of the Hitler documents, British counter-intelligence officers reported the arrest of the man to whom the documents had been entrusted, Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin [Zander], identified as adjutant to Bormann. Readers of The New York Times on December 30 awoke to a page one story entitled “Hitler’s Private Will Found; Affirms His Suicidal Plans.”[3]

At Nuremberg on December 30 the British and Americans disclosed to the press the complete text of the Political Testament, as well the text of the personal will and marriage certificate as well as the Goebbels’ appendix.[4]

As the year ended British Major Peter Ramsbotham informed Trevor-Roper, then back at Bad Oeynhausen, that the Joint Intelligence Committee had referred the decision on what to say about Hitler’s will up to the Cabinet; but by then it was too late, as its discovery was being announced in banner headlines in newspapers around the world.[5]

At Herford, Germany on December 31 a British intelligence officer told the press that there could be no possible doubt that Hitler had perished with his bride in a bunker under the bomb-blasted chancellery. The officer, who disclosed the full story of how Hitler’s last documents were traced down through the combined efforts of British and American intelligence agents, said that the authenticity of the papers could not be questioned. The documents included the testaments and marriage contract-and exhaustive questions of all persons now in British hands who were known to have witnessed Hitler’s last hours have disclosed a full sequence of events that, the officer said, is accepted as the true version of Hitler’s death.  On the basis of accumulated evidence, the officer said that Hitler and Eva Braun died in the bunker about 3pm on April 30. The officer said that three complete sets of Hitler’s documents were made and the messengers were now in the Allies’ hands. The officer added that one set of the documents was still missing, and the captured messenger to whom it was entrusted had thus far refused to disclose its hiding place. He said that one set of the documents was a spare, possibly designed for posterity. One of the others was directed to Doenitz and the remaining one was for Schoerner; and added that neither set reached its destination. The messengers then in Allies’ hands, the officer reported, were Lorenz, Johannmeier, and Fredrich Wilhelm Paustin, alias Wilhelm Zander.[6]

A dispatch from the American Third Army’s headquarters in Bad Toelz, apparently on December 31, said that American intelligence had spent months running down every possible thread of evidence and were also convinced that Hitler had died with his wife.[7]

Weiss, after interrogating Zander, on December 30 made a report of the arrest and interrogation. As to the possible whereabouts of Martin Bormann, Zander stated that he last saw him on April 29 in the Bunker and claimed it was impossible for anyone to leave Berlin after he did.[8]  In forwarding the report through CIC channels Weiss’s supervisor reported that while publicity released from Third U.S. Army did not indicate the part played by Agent Weiss, that Weiss had played an important role in learning of Zander’s alias and location, as well as the location of the Hitler documents in Tegernsee.[9]

After Zander’s arrest, the interest switched again to Johannmeier whose story now had been shown to be untrue by Lorenz and Zander. Trevor-Roper met with him on January 1 and explained to him that Zander and Lorenz were both in Allied hands (he had already read in the newspapers about Zander’s arrest), and that in view of their independent but unanimous testimony, it was impossible to accept his statement that he had been merely an escort, and had not himself carried any documents. He nevertheless maintained his thesis for a period of two hours. He agreed that the evidence was against him, but insisted that his story was true. He gave a version of the words which Burgdorf had used when giving him his instructions to escort Zander and Lorenz. Asked if he was prepared to settle the matter in the presence of these others, he replied unhesitatingly, yes. Asked if could name any witness whose testimony might offset that of Zander and Lorenz, he stated that he had spoken to no one about his mission, and that the only man who knew the details was the man who had given it to him, General Burgdorf.  When told that Burgdorf was missing, and believed dead, he exclaimed “Dann ist meine letzte Hoffnung verschwunden, (Then my last hope is gone)” The position was put sympathetically to Johannmeier – that he must realize that the documents were already in Allied hands and that another revelation could add nothing to their knowledge, continued resistance to the evidence would entail his further, and perhaps indefinite imprisonment; but still he insisted that his story was the truth. He agreed to sign a written declaration to that effect. “If I had the documents, it would be senseless to withhold them now, but what I have not I cannot deliver. I cannot even prove that I have not got them?” By his otherwise unaccountable persistence in this story, by which he was condemning himself to imprisonment for no conceivable advantage to anyone, and by the ingenuousness of his protestations, Johannmeier had almost persuaded Trevor-Roper that these must after all be some flaw in the evidence against him, some element of truth in his improbable but unshakeable story.[10]

They were alone in the headquarters; everyone else had left for the holiday. Trevor-Roper had nowhere to put Johannmeier. He decided that he must admit failure and summon a truck to take him away.  Trevor-Roper left the room for two hours, trying to make a long-distance call. When he returned and began the mechanical questioning again (more to fill in the time than out of any hope of success) he became aware of a change in Johannmeier’s attitude.  Johannmeier, according to Trevor Roper, seemed already to have resolved his mental doubts, and after a little preliminary and precautionary fencing, in which he sought assurance that he would not be penalized, if he revealed his secret about the documents, he declared “Ich habe die Papiere! (I have the papers)” He stated that he had buried them in a garden of his home in Iserlohn, in a glass jar; and he agreed to lead Trevor-Roper to the spot and hand over the papers.[11]

On the long drive back to Iserlohn, Johannmeier spoke freely on various topics which were discussed.  When they stopped for a meal, Trevor-Roper asked him why he had decided to reveal the truth. Johannmeier said he had reflected that if Zander and Lorenz, both favored members who had risen high in the Party, had so easily consented to betray the trust reposed in them, it would be quixotic (for him) who was not a member of the Party or connected with politics, but who was merely carrying the documents in obedience to a military order, to endure further hardship to no practical purpose.  At Iserlohn they left the car some distance away, at Johannmeier’s request – he did not want the neighbors to see a British staff car outside his parents’ home. The two men walked together through the cold night to the house. It was now night-time and the ground had frozen hard. Johannmeier found an axe and together they walked out into the back corner of his garden. Johannmeier found the place, broke frozen surface of the ground with the axe, and dug up the glass bottle. Then he smashed the bottle with the head of the axe and drew out the documents, which he handed over to Trevor-Roper. They were the third copy of Hitler’s private and personal testament plus a vivid covering letter from Burgdorf to Schoerner describing the circumstances of its dictation, “under the shattering news of the treachery of the Reichsfuehrer SS.”  The Allies now had the three sets of documents that had been carried out of the bunker on April 29.[12]  Trevor-Report prepared a report to which he attached the documents and translations.[13] He returned to England early in 1946, and began writing a book about Hitler and his last days.[14]

Two sets of Hitler’s political testament and personal will ended up in the National Archives of the United Kingdom (file designation WO 208/3779).  The third set, and the marriage certificate (NAID 6883511), came to the National Archives in April 1946.  For that story, see my article in Prologue – “Hitler’s Final Words“.


[1] Draft press statement by Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Commanding the Third U.S. Army and the Eastern Military district, Bad Tolz, December 29, 1945, File: Hitler, Adolf, XE003655 (NAID 7359097), Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, RG 319.

[2] Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army, Section C, Appendix III, G-2 Section, Report for the Month of December 1945, pp. 1, 7, File: G-2 Section, Headquarters, Third United States Army, Quarterly “Report of Operations,” 1 October-31 December 1945, Appendix III, Historical Division; Program Files; Third U.S. Army G-2 Operations Reports, 1945 – 1947 (NAID 5896761), RG 498; Hitler’s Marriage Contract and Testaments, Annex No. 2 to Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army, G-2 Weekly Intelligence Report No. 32, for Week Ending 021200A January 1946, attachment to Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army, Section A, Appendix III, G-2 Section, Report for the Month of January 1946, p. 1, ibid.; Memorandum, 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 (NAID 305264), RG 238; United Press, “Texts of Hitler and Goebbels Documents Seized by the Allies,” The New York Times, December 31, 1945, p. 6.

[3] Associated Press, “Hitler’s Private Will Found; Affirms His Suicidal Plans,” The New York Times, December 30, 1945, pp. 1, 6.

[4] United Press, “Texts of Hitler and Goebbels Documents Seized by the Allies,” The New York Times, December 31, 1945, p. 6.

[5] Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, p. 141; Davenport-Hines, ed., Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Wartime Journals, p. 278.

[6] Associated Press, “British Satisfied of Hitler’s Death,” The New York Times, January 1, 1946, p. 18.

[7] ibid.

[8] Memorandum, Arnold H. Weiss, Special Agent, CIC, Munich Sub-Regional Office  to the Officer in Charge, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Re: Location and Arrest and Recovery of Hitler’s Documents, December 30, 1945, attachment to Memorandum, 1st Lt. Marvin L. Edwards, CIC, Commanding to Commanding Officer, 970/CIC, Regional Office IV, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Adjutant to Bormann; Unterholzner, Ilsa, secretary to Bormann, January 4, 1946; 1st Indorsement, 1st Lt. Joseph E. Gagan, Executive, CIC Region, IV to Chief, CIC, CIB, Headquarters, USFET, January 4, 1946, File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976 (NAID 645054) RG 319. Weiss suggested that CIC Headquarters at USFET be contacted for further exploitation of information which Zander might be able to supply. He opined that Zander might be able to furnish information for use in War Crimes Trial of Bormann (in absentia) at Nuremberg. ibid.

[9] Memorandum, 1st Lt. Marvin L. Edwards, CIC, Commanding to Commanding Officer, 970/CIC, Regional Office IV, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Adjutant to Bormann; Unterholzner, Ilsa, secretary to Bormann, January 4, 1946; 1st Indorsement, 1st Lt. Joseph E. Gagan, Executive, CIC Region, IV to Chief, CIC, CIB, Headquarters, USFET, January 4, 1946, File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976 (NAID 645054).

[10] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546), Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, ca. 1977 – ca. 2004, RG 319; 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,” [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314, Publications Files, 1946-1951, RG 319

[11] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546); 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,” [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314); Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, p. 141; Davenport-Hines, ed., Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Wartime Journals, p. 279.

[12] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546); 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,” [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314); Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, pp. 141-142.

[13] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546).

[14] Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, p. 142. Maj. H. R. Trevor-Roper, “Hitler—New Light on a Dark Career,” The New York Times, March 17, 1946 and H. R. Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947).

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