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Escape Hitler Youth leader Arthur Axmann from the Führerbunker

13-09-2019

During Hitler’s last days in Berlin, Axmann was among those present in the Führerbunker. During that time it was announced in the German Press that Axmann had been 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, Konstantin Hierl Konstantin Hierl.jpg, 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. Following his early release, he lived in Heidelberg until his death on 23 September 1955, age 80.

On 30 April 1945, just a few hours before committing suicide, Hitler signed the order to allow a breakout. According to a report made to his Soviet captors by Obergruppenführer Johann “Hans” Rattenhuber the head of Hitler’s bodyguard, Axmann took the Walther PP pistol 1972 Walther PP.jpg which had been removed from the room in the Führerbunker by Heinz Linge Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1982-044-11, Heinz Linge.jpg  Hitler’s valet, which Hitler had used to commit suicide, saying that he would “hide it for better times”. Heinz Linge died age 66 on 09-03-1980 in Bremen.

On 1 May, Axmann left Führerbunker as part of a breakout group that included Martin Bormann , Werner Naumann   and SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger 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 railway tracks to Lehrter railway station. Bormann and Stumpfegger followed the railway tracks towards Stettner station . Axmann decided to go in the opposite direction of his two companions. When he encountered a Red Army patrol, Axmann doubled back. He saw two bodies, which he later identified as Bormann and Stumpfegger, on the Invalidenstrasse bridge near the railway switching yard (Lehrter Bahnhof); the moonlight clearly illuminating their faces.

  He did not have time to check the bodies thoroughly, so he did not know how they died. He avoided capture by Soviet troops and disappeared. His statements were confirmed by the discovery of Bormann’s and Stumpfegger’s mortal remains in 1972    

Axmann lived under the alias of “Erich Siewert” for several months. In December 1945, Axmann was arrested in Lübeck when a Nazi underground movement which he had been organizing was uncovered by a U.S. Army counter intelligence operation.

In May 1949, a Nurenberg de-Nazification court sentenced Axmann to a prison sentence of three years and three months as a ‘major offender’. On 19 August 1958, a West Berlin court fined the former Hitler Youth leader 35.000 marks (approximately E3,000, or $8,300 USD), about half the value of his property in Berlin. The court found him guilty of indoctrinating German youth with National Socialism until the end of the Third Reich, but concluded he was not guilty of war crimes.  During his trial, Axmann told the court he heard the shot by which Hitler committed suicide. He also stated he had attempted to escape from central Berlin along with Martin Bormann, who he said had died during the attempt.

After his release from custody, Axmann worked as a businessman with varying success. From 1971 he left Germany for a number of years, living on the island of Gran Canaria. Axmann returned to Berlin in 1976, where he died on 24 October 1996, aged 83. His cause of death and details of his surviving family members were not disclosed.

 

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