In April of 1945, with the Allied powers closing in on his Berlin bunker, German Führer Adolf Hitler, the greatest war criminal in human history, took his own life, presumably rather than face the music on the whole exterminating six million people thing. Or maybe that’s just what they want you to think.
It is well known that thousands of Nazis fled Germany and sought refuge around the world in the aftermath of the war. Less well known is that there is uncertainty as to whether Hitler actually died in his bunker, or if he was among the Nazi diaspora.
The notion that Hitler left body doubles for himself and his wife in that bunker while they escaped is not uncommon in certain conspiracy circles, but newly declassified FBI documents suggest that the idea circulated freely through the US intelligence community, and History’s new series Hunting Hitler sets out to investigate and settle “the biggest mystery in human history” matter once and for all.
Led by CIA lifer Bob Baer, upon whom George Clooney’s character in the 2011 film Syriana was based, a team of investigators, war criminal hunters, and sophisticated-looking computers quickly determines that Argentina had more postwar Hitler sightings than anywhere else in the world. Given the robust Nazi presence there at the time, this is hardly surprising, and given the number of Elvis sightings reported since August 1977, it’s hard not to be skeptical.
In any case, the away team – a Special Forces vet who was part of the search for Bin Laden, an investigative journalist, and a “Nazi hunter” – assembles in Charata, Argentina to speak to the oldest living German resident, who directs them to a local military school that served as a chapter of the Hitler Youth.
The school does not contain the underground bunker mentioned in one FBI report, but a local historian reveals that there is a basement under a farm east of town, where “banners, weapons, and documents” were once discovered, and the investigators rush over for a closer look.
The current residents of the farm deny the presence of Nazis, but confirm that there is a basement on the property, and it turns out to be rather large and expertly built. This proves nothing, of course, and after treating this discovery as a massive historical bombshell, the Special Forces guy says, “Is this the bunker mentioned in the documents? Probably not. But could it be part of a larger network moving German war fugitives in and out of Charata? Absolutely.” How did they figure out that this bunker was probably not the one they were looking for? They don’t bother to explain. Maybe because the declassified document asserted Hitler’s presence in a basement west of Charata, and the one they went to was east?
Doubling back to the headmaster of the Hitler Youth school, a known Nazi, the team goes to his former compound with a newfangled ground-penetrating radar gizmo in hopes of finding the bunker. Why did they not go to the headmaster’s compound in the first place? Unclear. The investigators get excited when there’s a blip on the gizmo, but the area they want to investigate has five tons of bricks on top of it. (If I were trying to conceal an underground bunker, I would not stack 11,000 pounds on it, but then I’m not part of the Nazi Corps of Engineers.) After putting the gizmo on top of the bricks, the team determines that there may be something buried 8 feet below the surface. But after pointing out that they’re on private property and won’t be able to get permission to dig, the lead investigator apparently decides this can’t be the bunker they’re looking for, and back at the command post, Baer quickly redirects the investigation to another town seven hours away.
So are they going to prove that Hitler escaped to Argentina? Considering that such a discovery would already have been all over the news for a month, I’m going to say [SPOILER ALERT] that they won’t. But I still had fun watching this show, as it is filled with interesting historical details, and whether Hitler ever made it there, the Nazis' afterlife in Argentina is a fascinating topic worthy of tourism, which this show more than provides. Judging by the This Season On trailer that ended the pilot, it looks like the clues and locations are going to get a lot more compelling than a basement.
And if you’re someone who enjoys a cold beverage on occasion, a game where you drink every time says “this could be” or “it’s possible that” or “this might mean” would be fun; just make sure you have a good meal beforehand.
New episodes of Hunting Hitler premiere at 10pm ET Tuesdays on History; recent episodes are available On Demand.