Did Hitler Survive World War Two?

Does evidence really suggest that the Fuhrer fled Germany to enjoy a long, peaceful retirement in South America?

Did Adolf Hitler die in the bunker in Berlin?

The official line on Adolf Hitler is that he committed suicide on 30 April 1945, but some historians believe the brutal dictator lived for many years after that. Weigh up both arguments and have your say below.

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Jamie Theakston presents the historical mystery series.

ARGUMENT 1: HITLER ESCAPED BERLIN

Picture the scene: Berlin, 1945. The city has been shattered by Allied bombings. Soviet soldiers are fighting in the streets, getting ever closer to Adolf Hitler's underground bunker where he and his new bride Eva Braun, along with the Fuhrer's last remaining friends and advisors, slowly face up to the truth of their defeat.

According to the generally accepted version of events, Hitler and Eva Braun decided to commit suicide rather than be taken into enemy hands. But according to controversial historian Gerrard Williams, author of Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler, that's not exactly what happened.

"There's no forensic evidence whatsoever to suggest that Hitler or Eva Braun died in the bunker," Williams says. "There is a huge amount of contemporary news reporting to say that he escaped and made it to Argentina where he lived until 1962."

According to Williams and other historians, Hitler and his wife made their escape through a network of bunkers beneath battle-torn Berlin. They resurfaced at a boulevard which had been turned into a makeshift runway. Here, a Luftwaffe pilot called Peter Baumgart frantically flew the Fuhrer and Eva Braun to Denmark. They later flew on to Spain where they were allegedly aided by dictator General Franco, and eventually took a gruelling submarine trip across the Atlantic to Argentina.

Peter Baumgart would later testify in court that he did indeed fly Hitler to safety in 1945. Numerous eyewitness reports also claim that Hitler was spotted in Argentina for years after that, in locations ranging from restaurants to hotels to hospitals. Many parts of Argentina were thoroughly "Germanified", complete with Nazi ex-pats and buildings modelled after Bavarian cottages, so Hitler would have fitted in rather well, just like infamous Nazis Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann. There is even the possibility that the Nazis cut a deal with the Allies, bribing them with German military secrets in order to be left alone.

Here's another thing to bear in mind. Skull fragments recovered by the Soviets in Berlin, once thought to belong to Hitler, were later discovered to have come from a woman. Stalin himself believed Hitler had evaded capture, and recently declassified FBI reports reveal that J. Edgar Hoover had pondered the real whereabouts of the Fuhrer.

In the words of war hero General Eisenhower, who would go on to become US President, "There is every assumption that Hitler is dead, but not a bit of conclusive proof that he is dead."

Adolf Hitler addressing a Nazi party rally.

Adolf Hitler addressing a Nazi party rally.

ARGUMENT 2: HITLER DIED IN THE BUNKER

Or perhaps all of that is absolute nonsense. Perhaps the official account is correct, and Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun did indeed end their own lives in the bunker. After all, they had every reason to do so. Would Hitler, a man of limitless narcissism and vanity, who had staked his future on the dream of a German empire, really have wanted to flee and live in pathetic obscurity halfway across the world?

Surely not. Eyewitnesses in the bunker have testified that he was terrified of being captured alive and humiliated by the Soviets. He certainly wanted to avoid the fate of his fellow fascist Mussolini, who had been strung up and shot in public. Ailing, trembling, weak and disgusted by what he regarded as the betrayals of his own minions, Hitler would surely have preferred to end it all in the comfort of the bunker, rather than make a desperate, far-fetched dash for freedom across a war-torn Europe.

But what about the story of Peter Baumgart, who claimed to have flown the Nazi leader out of Berlin? Writer and historian Guy Walters, author of Hunting Evil, dismisses him entirely. "Baumgart needed psychiatric evaluation, clearly the man was a fantasist," he says. "The Baumgart thing is by no means compelling and can by no means be considered evidence."

As for the lack of bodies at the site, the most straightforward explanation is that Hitler and Eva Braun's corpses were doused with petrol and burnt for several hours. While the skull fragment may not have been Hitler's, segments of jaw bones WERE found, and matched Hitler's dental records. "So either someone was burnt with crowns and bridges in his mouth that were identical to Hitler's," Guy Walters says, "or it was Hitler. I don't know which one you want to believe."

What about the apparent stories of Hitler being spotted in Argentina? Many historians dismiss these as false claims by fraudsters eager to cash in on the Hitler phenomenon, to be taken no more seriously than stories of a still-living Elvis Presley. In fact, it's commonly thought that Stalin and Soviet agents deliberately spread rumours of Hitler surviving to make the Allies look bad - a disinformation battle that was part and parcel of the early Cold War.

What do you think? Did Hitler have the last laugh in Argentina, or did he put a bullet in his own brain in 1945?