Russia destroyed remains of Hitler, Eva Braun, Josef Goebbels in 1970, archivist says

Despite claims to the contrary by some American scientists, the chief archivist for Russia's security service insists the Russian government is in possession of part of Adolf Hitler's skull and jawbone.

Vasily Khristoforov of Russia's Federal Security Service -- formerly known as the KGB -- told Russian media in interviews this week that the country had been in possession of the remains of Adolf Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, as well as the remains of Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels and his wife.

Khristoforov told Russian media that the remains had been buried in the East German city of Magdeburg until 1970, when then-KGB head Yuri Andropov ordered the bodies destroyed and dumped in a nearby river. Andropov was evidently worried about the Magdeburg graves becoming a neo-Nazi shrine if word ever got out that the German dictator was buried there.

“It was not worth leaving any grounds for the rise of a cult of worship," the UK's Daily Telegraph quotes Khristoforov. "There are people who profess the fascist ideology, regrettably even in Russia.”

But Andropov, who would later become the Soviet leader, had part of the dictator's skull and jawbone sent to the Kremlin, "as a trophy of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany," the Times of London reports.

As the German weekly Der Spiegel reports, the Russian government originally announced that it had Hitler's remains in 2000, evidently to stifle conspiracy theories that he had survived the end of World War II. (Hitler is generally believed to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a bunker in Berlin at the end of the war, after having taking a cyanide pill.)

Khristoforov says Soviet dictator Josef Stalin himself was uncertain that Hitler was dead, and ordered an analysis of the bones at Magdeburg. The analysis evidently satisfied Stalin that the Soviet Union had Hitler's remains in its possession.

But researchers from the University of Connecticut who studied the bone fragments reported to be Hitler's for a History Channel show earlier this year disputed that the skull could have come from Hitler, pointing principally to evidence that the skull had belonged to a female. Der Spiegel reports:

"The bone seemed very thin -- male bone tends to be more robust. It corresponds to a woman between the ages of 20 and 40," said Nick Bellantoni of the University of Connecticut. The position of the exit wound at the back of the skull also made scientists suspicious because eyewitnesses said Hitler had committed suicide by firing into his right temple.

Bellantoni was able to compare the bloodstains on the blood-stained fabric with photos the Soviets took after they seized Hitler's bunker in Berlin. The stains had matched those in the photos. The research showed that the sofa blood DNA did not match the skull DNA. The sofa blood was male and the skull belonged to a woman, claimed Bellantoni.

The following video, featuring University of Connecticut anthropologist Nicholas Bellantoni arguing that the Russian skull fragment doesn't belong to Hitler, was posted to the Web by the University of Connecticut Sept. 29, 2009.

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