Reality TV Masquerading as History.
I recently came across the 2015 History Channel series Hunting Hitler. Season 1 starts off plausibly enough. Seizing on 700 pages of FBI files declassified in 2104, former CIA officer Bob Baer leads a team of former Seals and special operations officers in amassing physical evidence to verify dozens of recorded witness sightings of Hitler in South American in 1945-48. The series makes no pretense of presenting an accurate historical record. In fact, it appears the History Channel’s main objective (helped by dramatic voice overs and atmospheric music) is to glorify the hyper macho physical and technological supremacy of US (semi-legal) special operations activities.
Baer draws the tentative conclusion that Nazis supporters most likely faked Hitler’s suicide, while he himself escaped from his underground Fuhrerbunker. The hypothesis Baer offers is that the former dictator used a series of underground tunnels to evade invading Russian troops and took one of ten flights that left the former Tempelhof Airport on April 21, 1945 carrying Nazi war criminals abroad.*
Both the FBI files and the Baer’s physical evidence make a superficially plausible case that Hitler’s plane could flown to fascist Spain (under Franco), continuing to Argentina via U-boat (submarine).
Baer maintains the evidence supporting Hitler’s escape is much stronger than that supporting his suicide. Because loyal Nazis burned his corpse, the only physical remains invading Soviets found were a partial skull (which remains in Russia) and a partial jawbone and teeth (which remain in the Ukraine). In 2009, the Russians allowed a Connecticut archeologist to perform DNA testing on the skull fragments, which revealed its former owner to be a female.
It does, however, delve deeply into Stalin’s repeated claims that Hitler was still alive and had escaped to Argentina via Spain. The latter would trigger massive investigations by US, UK and French intelligence, as well as hundreds of reports from all over the world related to Hitler sightings in South America.
To its credit, Hunting Hitler does make reference to the “Rat Line,” a scheme whereby the Catholic Church and Red Cross assisted hundreds of Nazi war criminals to escape from Germany to Argentina and other South American countries. The tunnels Baer’s team uncovered leading to Templehof Airport, the Spanish monasteries that hid Nazi war criminals, the 46 missing U-boats and the elaborate secret Argentinian hideouts filled with Nazi paraphernalia all provide important insight into the Rat Line’s actual operation.
I find it really interesting that former CIA operative Baer (and the History Channel) choose to focus on an individual (Hitler) with no known historical role in post war fascist regimes in South America. Especially given the prominent role other Nazi war criminals played in South American cocaine networks and death squads. For example Klaus Barbie in Colombia (see Klaus Barbie: America’s CIA Cold War Cocaine and Death Squads) and Otto Skorzeny in Bolivia (see Mae Brussell: The Nazi Connection to the JFK Assassination)
*The Russians would capture central Berlin on May 1, 1945.
** Hunting Hitler Season 2 focused on additional from CIA, MI6 and Russian, German and Argentinian government authorities. Season 3, which premiered in December 2017, investigated Nazi weapons of mass destruction. Season 4, scheduled to air in 2018, was canceled.
Hunting Hitler can be viewed free at https://play.history.com/shows/hunting-hitler/season-1/episode-1
The Death of Adolf Hitler: History of a State Secret can be viewed free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QSXKDCFh7o&bpctr=1606277048