The controversy surrounding Adolf Hitler's skull fragments is a little embarrassing for the Russian secret services. In 2000 they presented a skull fragment and a piece of jawbone that they claimed were the remains of the Nazi leader. It was an attempt to quash outlandish rumors that he had escaped alive at the end of World War II.
But in October US researchers presented the results of DNA tests on the skull and said it definitely didn't belong to the dictator because it was from a female. Scientists had already harbored doubts about the authenticity of the piece of bone because it was thinner than a male's usually is.
"The bone seemed very thin -- male bone tends to be more robust. It corresponds to a woman between the ages of 20 and 40," said Nick Bellantoni of the University of Connecticut. The position of the exit wound at the back of the skull also made scientists suspicious because eyewitnesses said Hitler had committed suicide by firing into his right temple.
Russia's FSB intelligence service, the successor to the KGB, has now rejected the doubts. The bones are definitely Hitler's, Vasily Khristoforov, the director of the FSB archives, told the newspaper Izvestiya. "These researchers never got in contact with us," Khristoforov said, adding, "with what could they have compared the DNA?"
Moscow is the only place with the mortal remains of Hitler, Khristoforov said. However, Bellantoni said he was allowed to work on the skull for an hour. When he flew home from Moscow he had two samples in his luggage: a sample from the skull fragment and one sample of blood from the sofa on which Hitler is said to have shot himself.
Bellantoni was able to compare the bloodstains on the blood-stained fabric with photos the Soviets took after they seized Hitler's bunker in Berlin. The stains had matched those in the photos. The research showed that the sofa blood DNA did not match the skull DNA. The sofa blood was male and the skull belonged to a woman, claimed Bellantoni.
Khristoforov insists that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin himself had ordered a precise investigation if the bone pieces because he was not convinced Hitler was dead. The comparison of the jaw bones with X-ray photos of Hitler made in 1944 had satisfied Stalin that Hitler was dead.
The archive director said the corpses of Hitler and Eva Braun, Joseph Goebbels and his wife and their six poisoned children had been destroyed on April 4, 1970. "The order came from KGB chief Yuri Andropov, the later state and party leader," said Khristoforov.
The remains had been stored in the eastern German city of Magdeburg but had then been incinerated and the ash was scattered in the river. "That was probably the right solution. Otherwise the burial site would have become a piligrimage site for fascists who exist everywhere -- regrettably in Russia too."
However, Russian officials don't all agree on whether the bones are really Hitler's. After the US research was revealed in October, the vice president of the Russian state archive, Vladimir Kozlov, said: "No one claimed that was Hitler's skull."