In 1945, the Red Army finished the push into Germany, surrounded Berlin, and proceeded to systematically rape the city. Hitler hid in his bunker, with his mistress and a few aides, as the last remnants of his empire of blood were savaged around him. He took his easy way out and the last few adherents fled into Berlin to try to survive the Russians and sneak through the lines in a desperate attempt to reach allied forces to surrender instead to them.
An aide named Martin Bormann was there to the very end. His is a name mostly forgotten to history, though his influence was astounding. Goering, Himmler, Hess, Goebbels, all these names of horrible men are etched on history, but their influence on the regime was eclipsed at one point or another by this dull thug and his adoration for the fuhrer. See, Bormann was an idiot savant of bureaucratic power play. And so he used his official capacity to screen the communications and meetings of Hitler to his own ends of power. Anger Bormann, and one’s influence in the Third Reich was over.
And so in the end, it was Bormann who was officially named the executor of Hitler’s estate the day before Hitler’s suicide. That’s such a German exercise of futile legalism isn’t it? That Hitler legally had a will and testament along with an executor, there as Germany itself was devoured and divided? I wonder who got the china set, who got Aunt Helga’s hummel figurines, and who got the lampshades made of human skin.
Bormann never made it out of the city. He killed himself two days later, his body buried by a postman while held at gunpoint by Soviet troops. The postman hadn’t know who it was he buried in that anonymous grave, and so it was not until 1972 that construction workers stumbled across the makeshift grave and Bormann’s name was finally taken off the list of escaped Nazis still being hunted around the world.
He was an evil man with a small mind, a pissant waste of a soul if such things do exist.
But as is always the case, he was also a human being with family and children who loved him. Everyone would be mourned by someone, no matter how absolutely horrible they are. No matter how much they deserve the noose, there is someone who will sob at their passing.
Bormann’s wife survived the end of the war for less than a year, interrogated constantly to glean some hint at where the bastard might be hiding, succumbing to cancer alone in an Italian prison hospital. She never saw her children again, all eight scattered to foster homes in the wake of the war and her arrest.
Her oldest son, Martin Adolf, named for his father and the fuhrer, had been taken in by a Catholic priest, who no idea who he was. The boy’s godfather was Hitler himself. He learned of his mother’s death from a newspaper and told his benefactor. After a childhood in the Hitler Youth, of being part of the upper echelon of elite children, Bormann the junior became a Catholic priest and sought to atone for his father’s crimes. He served in Africa as a missionary, almost died in 1969, and left the priesthood to marry the nurse who saved him. He taught theology, and made a practice of visiting schools (including one trip to Israel) to lecture on the horrors of the Holocaust.
And remember that the world thought it likely Bormann was still in hiding somewhere all the way until 1972. All those years, Bormann the younger went through life as a man trying to be good knowing that at any moment he might receive a letter from the old devil of his father. That has to do something to a man, it has to render his every action something that feels like it must be considered in advance.
He spent a life atoning for the sins of the father. A father who he could only remember personally as loving, even while he knew the truth of his evil. And who might still be watching.
The German government held on to his father’s remains until 1999, when the advance of DNA testing reached the point that they could conclusively verify the remains that dental records had told them were Bormann’s twenty-five years previously. And Bormann the younger had it cremated, and scattered the old Nazi’s ashes into the Baltic Sea.