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9 Oct, 2009 10:10

Hitler’s skull belonged to a woman?

The mystery over Adolf Hitler’s remains and the circumstances surrounding his death is heating up. A pair of American scientists claim his skull, held in Russia’s State Archive, isn’t actually that of the Nazi dictator.

What happened the day the notorious Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler died? Over 60 years later, the mystery lives on.

Hitler's only remains are his jawbone and his skull, both kept in an archive in Russia.

But American archaeologist Nick Bellantoni and geneticist Linda Strasbaugh say the skull actually belongs to a woman under 40 years old. It all started when Bellantoni traveled to Russia to see Hitler's skull for himself.

“Hitler was a middle-sized male, and usually males in our species are bigger, more robust, the bone is thicker. This bone was very small, very fragile, and very thin,” says the archaeologist. “And I remember looking at it, and saying, ‘Gee, it's more like a woman's or a very small man.’ Somebody I would expect to be 20 to 40 years of age. And Hitler was 56 years old when he died.”

The traditional version of his death says Hitler and the love of his life, and new bride, Eva Braun committed suicide on April 30th, 1945. The dictator is said to have taken a pill and shot himself in the head. After being discovered, Hitler's and Braun's bodies were burnt. Later – a jawbone, and then a skull were found and claimed to be those of the dictator.

Nick isn't the only one saying the skull kept in Moscow has nothing to do with Hitler. His colleague Linda carried out DNA testing on pieces that Nick somehow managed to bring to the US from Russia.

“We had two ‘Eureka!’ moments. The first was when we actually were able to get DNA. The second was when we saw the profile, because it was clear to us that it was not the skull of a man,” says geneticist Linda Strasbaugh.

But specialists in Moscow reject the American pair’s methods and conclusions.

“There's been no official permission from the State Archive to examine the fragment of Hitler's skull in any way. If any such tests were actually carried out, they were done illegally. And from a scientific point of view, such actions can in no way create a basis for any sort of conclusions,” says Vladimir Kozlov, deputy head of Russia’s State Archive in Moscow.

Moreover, forensic expert Viktor Zvyagin says the tests carried out by archaeologist Bellantoni are far from enough to find the truth.

“Making assumptions about whether a skull belongs to a man or a woman visually is impossible,” says the expert.

Zvyagin is the only living Russian scientist who’s carried out detailed tests on the skull. The expert says the characteristics of the skull do not simply indicate the age of the person.

“The marks that we have here on this skull (a sample held for demonstration) mean it belonged either to a person of 20 to 24 years of age or to a person who regularly suffered strong headaches,” says forensic expert Viktor Zvyagin.

Back in the US, archaeologist Belantoni isn't convinced, and says all the confusion is caused by an assumption made a long time ago.

“A soldier working near the crater where they [the remains] were found, finds the skull. And it has a bullet hole. And it's burnt. And I think an assumption was made – this must be Hitler, and now we know it's a wrong assumption,” Bellantonis says.

Scientists and hungry minds all over the globe are pushing to reveal the truth behind Hitler's death. And even though one of the most infamous figures in world history has long been gone, the truth is still out there, and the answers to the mystery are yet to be discovered.