BERLIN — The hunt for Heinrich “Gestapo” Mueller, who ran Adolf Hitler’s infamous secret police and was involved in Nazi atrocities ranging from the formation of “The Final Solution” to fabricating the reasons needed to justify the invasion of Poland in 1939, started pretty much as soon as Berlin fell in World War II.
The Americans, the Soviets, the British were all involved. Later, his whereabouts would become a focus of private Nazi hunters and Israeli intelligence. Some initial stories said he was dead. But over the years, others claimed Mueller escaped the collapse of his Nazi state to a small Bavarian town, The Soviet Union (Moscow), Turkey, Albania, Czechoslovakia and Argentina, among other spots.
Then, this week in Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, a Berlin historian said he solved the mystery. The final resting place of one of the architects of the Holocaust was a well-known Jewish cemetery in the middle of Berlin.
Johannes Tuchel, head of the Memorial to the German Resistance, told Bild: “His body was interred in a mass grave in 1945 at the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Mitte…The intelligence agencies were completely wrong.”
Tuchel’s story, which he backs up with archival material, isn’t new. In the 1960s the West German government had reports that Mueller had been buried in an ancient Jewish cemetery on Grosse Hamburgerstasse. That is Berlin’s oldest Jewish cemetery, the Jewish Community of Berlin website notes that it was used between 1672 and 1827.
The online Jewish Virtual Library entry on Mueller, which lists Timothy Naftali, Norman J.W. Goda, Richard Breitman and Robert Wolfe as authors, talks about all possible scenarios for where Mueller ended up. They note:
“Hans Baur, Hitler's pilot and an old friend of Mueller's, recounts Mueller as saying, ‘We know the Russian methods exactly. I haven't the faintest intention of … being taken prisoner by the Russians.’ Another claimed that Mueller refused to leave with the rest of Hitler's entourage, and was overheard saying ‘the regime has fallen and…I fall also.’ “
And, they note of several stories about Mueller’s death in Berlin in 1945:
“The final story came from Walter Lueders, a former member of the German Volkssturm (civilian fighters) who maintained that he had headed a burial detail in the summer of 1945. Of the hundreds of bodies buried by the detail, only one, said Lueders, wore an Gestapo-General's uniform, and it was found in the garden of the Reich Chancellery with a large wound in the back. Though the body had no medals or decorations, Lueders recalled with certainty that the identity papers were those of Gestapo Mueller. It was moved to the old Jewish Cemetery on Grosse Hamburgerstasse in the Soviet Sector, where it was placed in one of three mass graves. In fact, in 1955 the German Armed Forces Information Office inquired with district authorities in East Berlin and received confirmation that Gestapo Mueller was buried at the Grosse-Hamburgerstrasse cemetery in 1945. Since the grave was a mass grave, however, there was no actual plot.”
And that entry goes on to conclude: “Taking into account the currently available records of the War Room as well as other documents in the National Archives, the authors of this report conclude that Mueller most likely died in Berlin in early May 1945.”