James O'Donnell, 72; Editor, Author of Hitler Best-Seller

From Times Wire Services

James P. O'Donnell, a former European correspondent and editor who wrote a best-selling book on Adolf Hitler's final days, has died of cancer.

O'Donnell, a professor at Boston University and former writer for Newsweek and the Saturday Evening Post, was 72. He died Monday at a Boston hospital.

O'Donnell, who wrote hundreds of articles on Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, met Hitler on several occasions while a student in Germany. He also met or interviewed Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle.

He covered the Nuremburg war crimes trial and the Berlin airlift as Berlin bureau chief for Newsweek from 1945 until 1948.

After his release from the Army in July, 1945, Newsweek had sent him to Berlin to write about Hitler's bunker, where he found written materials ranging from loose-leaf notebooks and files to diaries and appointment books.

"At least five Red Army search teams had been in the bunker the day it fell," he later wrote after gaining access to the bunker by giving a Russian guard a pack of cigarettes. "They had been looking for only one thing, the body."

He was a Paris correspondent for New York's Daily News from 1949 to 1950. For the next decade, he was contributing editor and associate editor for Europe for the Saturday Evening Post.

His book about Hitler, "The Bunker," was a best-seller in 1978. It was published in 48 countries and was a History Book Club selection.

A boyhood friend of the Kennedy clan, he worked on John F. Kennedy's successful 1960 presidential campaign, and later advised him on Berlin and Germany.

O'Donnell was working on his second book about Hitler, to be titled "The Hitler Court," when he died.

He was a 1939 graduate of Harvard University, and received a master's degree in modern European history there a year later.

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