A German historian has found conclusive proof that Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller died in the final days of World War II and was buried in a mass grave in a Jewish cemetery in Berlin, the German daily Bild reported Thursday.
The research carried out by historian Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin, appears to resolve one of the most enduring mysteries of the Nazi era and discredit decades of reported sightings of the secret police chief in Latin America after the war.
As head of Adolf Hitler's notorious Gestapo, Mueller played a key role in orchestrating the Holocaust with his oversight of the arrests, deportation and extermination of European Jews.
Tuchel was researching a wartime massacre reportedly ordered by Mueller when he came across a death certificate that indicated the Nazi general had been buried near the Luftwaffe headquarters in the final, chaotic days ahead of the May 1945 Allied defeat of the Nazis. The cause of his death was not immediately clear.
Mueller's remains and those of others disinterred from the Luftwaffe site, in a part of Berlin that fell under Communist East German rule after the war, were later moved to the Jewish cemetery that had been desecrated by the Nazis and used as a mass grave.
Testimony given by the grave digger in 1963 about medals and ribbons on the dead general's uniform provided identifying details that allowed Tuchel to cross-reference the honors with U.S. and German intelligence records, Bild said (paywall link in German).
"Mueller's death was registered by the Mitte registry office, with the place of burial being listed as the Jewish cemetery,” Tuchel told Bild. But the papers were lost for years, leaving Mueller's fate uncertain after he was last seen in Hitler's bunker on May 1, 1945, the day after the Nazi leader's suicide.
Mueller was thought by some to have escaped to Latin America along with thousands of other Nazis, including concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele and mobile gas-chamber architect Walther Rauff. Sightings of the "missing" Gestapo chief were reported from Cuba, Argentina and Czechoslovakia. Mueller was also reported in the early 1950s to have gone to work for East Germany's Stasi secret police force.
Tuchel's revelation that Mueller was buried in the Jewish cemetery, which is now a memorial site honoring revered Jewish figures such as philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, was met with revulsion by international Jewish leaders.
"It's an insult to the memory of the victims" of the Holocaust, Dieter Graumann, chairman of Germany's Central Council of Jews and vice president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement. "That one of the most brutal Nazi sadists is buried in a Jewish cemetery, of all places, is a terrible iniquity."
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