Martin Bormann was a famous figure during the Third Reich. He acted as Hitler’s deputy and there is a lot of controversy surrounding his death. Bormann was born on June 17, 1900. He was the son of a Prussian regimental sergeant major. He dropped out of school at an early age and started working at a farming estate in Mecklenburg. After this he worked as a cannoneer in field artillery during World War I. Soon after Bormann joined the rightist Rossbach Freikorps in Mecklenburg and was connected to a murder case. On March 1924 he was sentenced to one year imprisonment for assisting Rudolf Hoss in the brutal murder of a former teacher at elementary school, who had handed over a pro-Nazi leader Leo Schlageter to the French occupation authorities in Ruhr. After being released from prison Martin Bormann joined NSDAP, becoming its regional press officer in Thuringia soon after. He became the Business Manager of NSDAP in 1928.
From 1928-30 Martin Bormann was attached with the SA Supreme Command and in October 1933 became the Reichsleiter of NSDAP. A month later he was chosen as the Nazi delegate for Reichstag. He actively entered the Third Reich governance in July 1933 when he was selected Chief of Cabinet in the office of Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess. He briefly acted as the personal secretary and right hand man of Rudolf Hess. This model secretary, who was very hard working and clever rose to in the power apparatus, earning the trust of Adolf Hitler. He administered the Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund from German industry. This fund was raised as a voluntary tribute to the Fuhrer and given as gifts to the Nazi party officials. Bormann also looked after Hitler’s finances. He slowly made himself an indispensable part of Hitler’s close circles.
Following the flight of Rudolf Hess to Britain and his capture, Bormann ceased the opportunity to step into his shoes and became the head of Parteikanzlei and controlled the reins of the Nazi Party in 1941. This seemingly unimportant personality proved a master of intrigue, manipulation and political in-fighting to gain prominence during World War II. He was a fiercely orthodox Nazi follower. He was fanatic for the radical racial policy, anti-Semitism and war with churches (Kirchenkampf). Bormann was also responsible for strengthening the Nazi party against the growing power of SS and Wehrmacht. He influenced all key decisions of the regime from legislations, promotions to appointments of Party personnel. He established an army for espionage where the young officers were promoted to spy and had to keep an eye on political attitudes of various colleagues. He started the fight with churches with a memo to Gauleiters in 1942. Though it is held that Hitler personally did not want to enter into such a fight. Bormann was in favor of exterminating the Jews and Slavs. His memos led to mass killing.
It is learnt that he influenced many infamous decisions taken by Hitler. As a secretary his task was to shortlist the letters and set appointments for the Fuhrer. He used shrewdness to let through messages or people he willed. His summation of important events and news showed Hitler a completely different perspective. He even distanced the key Nazi figures such as Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and Speer from Hitler with his manipulation. Towards the last days of World War II, Martin Bormann was one of the most powerful men in Germany. Some called him the secret ruler. He had Goering dismissed and Himmler’s influence was largely marginalized.
But ironically, at the zenith of his power, the political career of Martin Bormann was cut short when the Axis Powers failed in World War II. Bormann was in the Chancellary Bunker and acted as witness to the marriage of Eva Braun and Hitler. He also watched the Fuhrer commit suicide in the bunker with the Allied Forces close on the heels. It is learned that Bormann wanted to follow his leader and commit suicide but Hitler asked Bormann to put nation’s interest over his personal interests. He left the Fuhrer Bunker on April 30, 1945 shortly before it was captured by the Allied forces. What happened next is a mystery.
According to Hitler’s chauffeur, Erich Kempka, Bormann was killed by an anti-tank shell while trying to cross the Russian lines in a tank. The tank carrying Bormann hit the shell and went up in flames. Kempka was temporarily blinded by the blast and claimed to have seen Bormann’s body. But, Youth Hitler leader Artur Axmann believed that Bormann had committed suicide by ingesting cyanide capsule and saw his body in Invalidenstrasse, north of River Spree in Berlin on May 2, 1945. In 1946 though, numerous sightings of Bormann in a North Italian monastery were reported. This was the same year when his wife Gerda died of cancer in South Tyrol in Austria. Many of the Nazis were reported to have used the route from Germany to Italy and then fled to the South American countries during this time. After some years, there were rumors that Bormann was living as a millionaire somewhere in Argentina. Others spotted him in Brazil and Chile.
In the meantime some British intelligence officers claimed that Bormann was brought to Britain as a POW. The British authorities used him to release Nazi funds lying in the Swiss banks. Later he was housed in a small British village. Other unconfirmed sightings of Bormann in various Scandinavian nations and other parts of Europe started coming in. Some even believed that Bormann had undergone plastic surgery to conceal his identity.
In 1972 construction workers uncovered remains at a location mentioned by Axxmann. After diagnosis of the body and identification by Bormann’s sons, the East German government officially declared the hunt for Martin Bormann closed. Though conspiracy theories suggest that this was a big cover-up.