Martin Bormann


Artur Axman

(18 February 1913 – 24 October 1996) was the German Nazi leader of the Hitler Youth (Reichsjugendführer) from 1940 through war's end in 1945. He was the last living Nazi with a rank equivalent to Reichsführer.

Axmann was born in Hagen on 18 February 1913. He studied law and in 1928, founded the first Hitler Youth group in Westphalia.


In 1932, he was called to be a Reich Leader (Reichsleiter) of the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) to carry out a reorganization of Nazi youth cells and in 1933, became Chief of the Social Office of the Reich Youth Leadership. Axmann gained a place for the Hitler Youth in the direction of state vocational training and succeeded in raising the status of Hitler Youth agricultural work. He was on active service on the western front until May 1940. In August of the same year he succeeded Baldur von Schirach as Reich Youth Leader (Reichsjugendführer) of the Nazi Party. In 1941, he was severely wounded on the eastern front, losing an arm.

During the last weeks of the war, Axmann commanded units of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend), which had been incorporated into the Home Guard (Volkssturm). His units consisted mostly of children and adolescents. They primarily fought in the Battle of Seelow Heights (Seelower Höhen), which was a part of the larger Battle of Berlin (Endkampf um Berlin). Many of the young people fighting for Germany under Axmann died having received neither military training nor equipment.

On 4 January 1944, Axmann was awarded the German Order, the highest decoration that the Nazi Party could bestow on an individual, for his services to the Reich. He and one other recipient, K. Hierl, were the only holders of the award to survive the war and its consequences. All other recipients were either awarded it posthumously, or were killed during the war or its aftermath.

During 1945, Axmann was continually pressured into letting young women be conscripted into combat roles for the last defense of Germany. Although Axmann had permitted young boys to fight in the final days, he refused to allow girls to fight. He stated, "Women bring life into the world, they do not take it."

During Hitler's last days, Axmann was among those present in the Führerbunker. On 30 April 1945, just a few hours before committing suicide, Hitler signed the order to allow a breakout. On 1 May, Axmann left the Führerbunker with SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger and Martin Bormann as part of a group attempting to break out of the Soviet encirclement. Their group managed to cross the River Spree at the Weidendammer Bridge.

Leaving the rest of their group, Bormann, Stumpfegger, and Axmann walked along railroad tracks to Lehrter station. Bormann and Stumpfegger followed the railway tracks towards Stettiner Station. Axmann decided to go alone in the opposite direction of his two companions. When he encountered a Red Army patrol, Axmann doubled back and later insisted he had seen the bodies of Bormann and Stumpfegger near the railroad switching yard (Stettiner Bahnhof) with moonlight clearly illuminating their faces. He did not check the bodies, so he did not know how they died.
Axmann could see no signs of an explosion, and assumed that they had been shot in the back.

He continued on his way, escaping from Berlin and spending the next six months hiding out with the Hitler Youth in the Bavarian Alps, He avoided capture by Soviet troops and disappeared. Axmann, presumed dead, lived under the alias of "Erich Siewert', hiding out with the Hitler Youth in the Bavarian Alps" for several month, where he was eventually captured.
Axmann was arrested in December 1945 when a Nazi underground movement which he had been organizing was uncovered. A Nuremberg de-Nazification court sentenced him in May 1949 to a prison sentence of three years and three months as a 'major offender'.

After his release, Axmann worked as a sales representative in Gelsenkirchen and Berlin. On 19 August 1958 a West Berlin de-Nazification court fined the former Hitler Youth leader 35,000 marks (approximately 3,000 pounds, or $8,334.00 USD), about half the value of his property in Berlin. The court found him guilty of indoctrinating German youth with National Socialism right until the end of the Third Reich, but concluded that he had been a Nazi from inner conviction rather than base motives. During his trial, Axmann told the court that he had heard the shot by which Hitler committed suicide. He also stated that he had attempted to escape from central Berlin along with Martin Bormann, who he said had died during the attempt. Axmann became a prosperous businessman after the war.

Artur Axmann, who had sent thousands of young Germans to fight the Red Army and who later claimed to have been the last person to see Hitler alive, died in Berlin on October 24, 1996. He was 83.

Martin Bormann - Nazi Ideologue or Russian Spy?
By Ben Goldby

The Case

Martin Bormann was among the most sinister and feared members of the Nazi high command.

A trusted member of Hitler's inner circle, and head of the chancellery, Bormann was the Fü’hrer's right hand man.

He was regarded by the Nazis as a true believer, a zealot to the fascist cause, so completely committed to the Third Reich's odious aims of racial purification that he was above suspicion.

But as the Nazi regime crumbled, and the Soviet troops stormed Berlin, things rapidly changed for this pragmatic bureaucrat. It is suggested that Bormann may not be the dedicated, boot-licking Hitler devotee that he made himself out to be.

Conspiracy theorists believe Bormann was in fact a Russian spy, a murky contact known to Stalin's intelligence chiefs as "Werther".

There is little doubt that a high-ranking German had been turned by their communist foes, but Bormann was not just any member of the high command, he was the personification of the Nazi stooge, Hitler's personal secretary, and a fearsome ideologue.

If the Russians did turn Bormann, it must be regarded as the espionage coup of the century.

But could a rabid, Fü’hrer-worshipping Nazi like Bormann really have fed information to Hitler's most hated foe, and if he did, how on earth did he manage to get away with it?

The Official Story

Bormann joined the Nazi party in 1925 and quickly rose through the ranks.

By the time Hitler seized power in 1933, Bormann was a trusted lieutenant and was handed the plum role of party chancellor.

Initially he lagged behind Rudolf Hess in the Fü’hrer's pecking order, but as the war in Europe intensified, the ruthless and bloodthirsty Bormann soon emerged as the perfect Nazi to become Hitler's deputy.

When Hess left for Britain, Bormann stepped up to become the Fü’hrer's right hand man, earning a reputation as a brutal, fanatical Nazi.

All of Hitler's papers, his diary, his day-to-day movements, were governed by Bormann, he alone controlled access to the leader, and therefore wielded huge power over the direction of the war effort.

A devious, manipulative power-broker, he jousted with SS chief Heinrich Himmler for dominance in Berlin.

Bormann was instrumental in devising and implementing the final solution, and his role in the holocaust was well-documented during the Nuremberg war crimes trials that followed the war.

Much of the administrative work that went into the mass transportation and extermination of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and other groups went through Bormann to Hitler, and some were even authorised by the deputy leader.

Such was his obsession with exterminating Jews, Bormann reportedly made furniture from the remains of those killed in the concentration camps.

As the war drew to a close and Berlin was surrounded Bormann was present in the Führerbunker where Hitler would take his own life, even acting as a witness to the leader's last will and testament.

He fled the bunker with two other senior Nazis, and was reported dead by Artur Axmann, a fellow escapee and leader of the Hitler youth who had spotted Bormann's dead body near a rail line after they had separated in their bid to escape Berlin.

This account remained in serious doubt for five decades, despite the discovery of remains on the site Axmann identified as the scene of Bormann's demise in 1972.

As the only identification that could be carried out was based on a doctor's memory of Bormann's dental ecords from 1945, this account still remained in serious doubt, until a DNA test on the suspected Bormann body in 1998 confirmed the corpse to be his.

His remains were burned and scattered into the sea.

The Conspiracy Theory

The theory begins with Bormann's escape from Berlin.

Conspiracists claim that Axmann, a committed fanatic who wanted to continue Nazism from his hiding place in Austria, was not a credible witness, and could not even say how Bormann had died.

It is suggested that Bormann made good his escape, fleeing through Austria and on to one of a dozen different locations pointed to by theorists.

The two most popular conspiracies are:

1. That Bormann, who had unprecedented access to the funds of the Nazi party, had created a slush fund for fleeing party members, and was able to use this to escape to South America, where he lived into old age in either Chile or Argentina, and was easily able to bribe his way through any questions about his past.

2. The former deputy Fü’hrer, a trusted subordinate with the ear of Hitler, spent the war passing detailed intelligence on German troop movements to the Soviets under the code name Werther. As the Red Army surrounded Berlin, he split from Axmann and his fellow Nazis and handed himself over to the Russians, securing a life of luxury paid for by the communist state for his role in winning the war for Stalin.

Nazi hunters, including the celebrated Simon Wiesenthal, argued fervently that Axmann's account was a lie, and that Bormann had been allowed to escape to South America.

But the sensational theory that he was a Russian spy has received even more attention from the conspiracy community.

Former Wehrmacht General Reinhard Gehlen made the allegations in the 1970s after becoming convinced that the only way Stalin could have been so well informed was if he had a spy inside the Nazi elite.

Fingers were pointed at Bormann based on information received from Soviet intelligence officers, and on the fact that as private secretary to the Fü’hrer, Bormann would have had access to everything he needed to pass sensitive information to the Russians.


Axmann was a notorious Nazi zealot, who was caught within months of his escape while trying to restart Nazism in Austria. If he felt he could aid a fellow ideologue's escape from Allied clutches, he would certainly have lied about seeing Bormann's body. As he is the only witness, the account of Bormann never escaping Berlin is shaky.

British Nazi hunter Ian Bell says Bormann hid in the Austrian Alps, and that he spotted the top-ranking Nazi trying to escape through Italy. He claims to have tracked him to Bari and watched him board a ship after being told not to engage him by the top brass.

When Bormann's body was exhumed for DNA testing in the 90s it was covered in red clay rather than the yellow sand common beneath the soil of Germany. This suggests his body was transported from somewhere else before being tested.

In 1972 the Nuremberg file on Bormann was reopened after compelling evidence was presented that he had not died in Berlin, and could still have been alive in South America.

The Red Army sometimes knew movement orders for German units in the field within hours of their release to German commanders. The only way they could gain such information was to have a mole at command level, with Bormann the prime candidate due to his unfettered access to documents.

In his book Hitler's Traitor, author Louis Kilzer, makes a powerful case for Bormann being "Werther" the high-ranking Russian spy. He details how information was passed through Switzerland back to Stalin, and how only Bormann could have provided it.


While lax about the security of some information, Hitler was a paranoid megalomanic who constantly assessed the threat coming from those beneath him. It is hard to imagine Bormann operating with impunity for more than five years to pass intelligence to Russia at the height of the war.

Bormann was hated by fellow Nazi leaders for his closeness to Hitler and his repeated efforts to enhance his own standing at the expense of others. Had he been passing information to the Soviets, Himmler, Göring, or any of the other lieutenants who sought to undermine Bormann's position would have been able to discover it, and would not have hesitated to expose Bormann.

The DNA testing seems to back up Axmann's account of Bormann's death as he attempted to flee Berlin. However, this counts for little as the body tested in the 90s could easily have been dumped at any stage by the German government. It is not conclusive proof that Bormann failed to escape.


Martin Bormann was a fearsome Nazi, a cruel, devious man who manipulated his way right to the top of Hitler's high command. That he was also working for the hated Soviet's was entirely possible, for however committed to the horrors of the holocaust and the twisted Nazi world view he was, he remained an arch pragmatist, willing to play all sides against the middle. Axmann's account of Bormann's death is unconvincing, and the numerous sightings of him all over the world suggest he did escape Berlin. The Russians would surely have protected such a valuable asset, a man who had helped them win the war, and had signed the death warrant for the Third Reich through his treachery. As more and more documents are declassified, the case against Bormann strengthens, and it seems this conspiracy theory could well become historical fact in the future. For now it remains an enthralling theory, with some gaps in the evidence that have yet to be filled...