The Latin American writer Abel Basti came out with a provocative book called Hitler’s Exile: Proof of the Escape of the Fuehrer to Argentina. It was a runaway bestseller in South America, but was suppressed in the USA and Russia, until Random House came out with an English translation (2010), now available through Barnes and Noble. Basti claims Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889-30 April 1945) did not die in 1945, as many assume, but escaped to live out his natural life in Argentina, into the 1960s.
The idea is plausible—the Chicago Times, 16 July 1945, reported Hitler had fled to South America. Many Nazis did. Josef Stalin (1878-1953) himself alleged Hitler had escaped. There was a story of suicide and charred remains, but Hitler’s bones were never found. When I was younger, encyclopedia and almanacs did not give an end date for Hitler, as if his demise were inconclusive. More recently, when a reader stumbled across the story of Basti’s book on Before It’s News, he commented of Hitler, “He’s dead and who cares what year he died.” Young people may not care, but, of course, historians do.
My husband was a history major—all he read was history—and a history buff myself, I shared his interest. Together, in the 1970s, he and I watched, on Superstation TBS-TV, a series of real-life documentaries of World War II, much of it captured on old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape by the Nazis themselves. No one could watch hour after hour of that film without observing that Hitler, a brutal, sadistic murderer, was not a typical German or Austrian. His body language and his behavior said “mental.”
During the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, a young American journalist was living in Paris. He was one of the most brilliant minds—if not, the most brilliant mind—I have ever encountered, and, in his early years at least, a God-fearing Presbyterian. That young journalist, William L Shirer (1904-1993), initially a European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, wound up living in Germany—Berlin—broadcasting for CBS. Living and working in the Third Reich, Shirer witnessed first-hand the Nazi takeover of Germany, and the black-booted goose-stepping Gestapo. After World War II, Shirer produced several books chronicling his experiences—Berlin Diary, The Nightmare Years, and his magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Shirer stayed with Hitler and talked with him armchair to armchair, eyeball to eyeball. “There is something glassy in his eyes, the strongest thing in his face” (Shirer). Shirer said he could be talking with Hitler when he would suddenly disappear—just evaporate from the room. Where did he go? Later Shirer would find him outside, talking with his generals. Shirer reasoned that the only explanation for such behavior was the occult.
The only explanation for the good German people being taken in by Hitler was “enchantment” or seduction. About ten o’clock I got caught in a mob of ten thousand hysterics who jammed the moat in front of Hitler’s hotel, shouting: “We want our Fuehrer.” I was a little shocked at the faces, especially those of the women, when Hitler finally appeared on the balcony for a moment….They looked up at him as if he were a Messiah, their faces transformed into something positively inhuman. If he had remained in sight for more than a few moments, I think many of the women would have swooned from excitement. ~William L Shirer, Berlin Diary, 4 September 1934, Nuremberg
Shirer further observed: This morning I noticed something very interesting. I was having breakfast in the garden of the Dreesen Hotel, where Hitler is stopping, when the great man suddenly appeared, strode past me, and went down to the edge of the Rhine to inspect his river yacht. …one of Germany’s leading editors, who secretly despises the regime, nudged me: “Look at his walk!” On inspection it was a very curious walk indeed. In the first place, it was very ladylike. Dainty little steps. In the second place, every few steps he cocked his right shoulder nervously, his left leg snapping up as he did so. I watched him closely as he came back past us. The same nervous tic. He had ugly black patches under his eyes. I think the man is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And now I understand the meaning of an expression the party hacks were using when we sat around drinking in the Dreesen last night. They kept talking about the “Teppichfresser,” the “carpet-eater.” At first I didn’t get it, and then someone explained it in a whisper. They said Hitler has been having some of his nervous crises lately and that in recent days they’ve taken a strange form. Whenever he goes on a rampage about Benes or the Czechs he flings himself to the floor and chews the edges of the carpet, hence the Teppichfresser. After seeing him this morning, I can believe it. ~William L Shirer, Berlin Diary, 22 September 1938, Godesburg
I broadcast the scene from a seat in the balcony just above Hitler. He’s still got that nervous tic. All during his speech he kept cocking his shoulder, and the opposite leg from the knee down would bounce up. Audience couldn’t see it, but I could. As a matter of fact, for the first time in all the years I’ve observed him he seemed tonight to have completely lost control of himself. When he sat down after his talk, Goebbels sprang up and shouted: “One thing is sure: 1918 will never be repeated!” Hitler looked up to him, a wild, eager expression in his eyes, as if those were the words which he had been searching for all evening and hadn’t quite found. He leaped to his feet and with a fanatical fire in his eyes that I shall never forget brought his right hand, after a grand sweep, pounding down on the table and yelled with all the power in his mighty lungs: “Ja!” Then he slumped into his chair exhausted. ~William L Shirer, Berlin Diary, 26 September 1938, Berlin
The Hitler we saw in the Reichstag tonight was the conqueror…so wonderful an actor, so magnificent a handler of the German mind…His voice was lower tonight; he rarely shouted as he usually does; and he did not once cry out hysterically as I’ve seen him do so often from this rostrum. His oratorical form was at its best. I’ve often sat in the gallery of the Kroll Opera House at these Reichstag sessions watching the man as he spoke and considering what a superb actor he was, as indeed are all good orators. I’ve often admired the way he uses his hands, which are somewhat feminine and quite artistic. Tonight he used those hands beautifully, seemed to express himself almost as much with his hands—and the sway of his body—as he did with his words and the use of his voice. I noticed too his gift for using his face and eyes (cocking his eyes) and the turn of his head for irony…I noticed again, too, that he can tell a lie with as straight a face as any man. ~William L Shirer, Berlin Diary, 19 July 1940, Berlin
Hitler was not normal mentally, physically, or emotionally. Shirer described Hitler as “insane,” masochistic with women, and his last days as “mad.” So it is inconceivable that following World War II, as Basti suggests, Hitler went on to live a normal domestic life with Eva Braun in first Patagonia, then Argentina. Maybe Hitler did escape. Maybe. Considering what we know about Valkyrie, and if Shirer was right about Hitler’s occult involvement and astral travel, how could such a man even be killed? But that he went on to sire a family and lead a normal life, impossible. And technology being what it is today, anyone could fake a picture.
What happened to Hitler, I don’t know. The one thing to support Basti’s conclusion is that the announcement of Hitler’s death was made by Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), Minister of Propaganda. Overall, however, Basti’s tale does not correspond with the psychological profile of Hitler given in either the real-life documentary films of the World at War (1973) or the eyewitness account of William L Shirer, who knew Hitler as well as any contemporary. Therefore, I would say: “Don’t waste your time or money on Basti’s book—read Shirer.”
Copyright © 2011 Alexandra Lee