Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Death of Hitler

This book is a detective story. It explores one of the most enduring mysteries of our day: how, exactly, did Adolf Hitler die? For fifty years historians, soldiers, forensic doctors and weapons experts have wrangled over Hitler's last days, painstakingly piecing together the evidence in an effort to understand what happened in the Berlin Bunker in the last week of April 1945. New theories have appeared every few years, each one adding to the story - and to the mystery and confusion. No one vet has been able to answer all the doubts and uncertainties which remain since then. This book began when its British author, Peter Watson, was in New York in January 1995 attending a conference entitled "The Spoils of War". This conference was a first attempt to bring together scholars from several countries - most notably Russia and Germany - to try to settle the issue of what to do about the many paintings and sculptures and other art objects that had been taken from Germany by the Red Army at the end of World War Two and which were now turning up in Russia. Peter Watson's previous book, a biography of the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, had taken him to Russia many times. There he had befriended Konstantin Akinsha and Gregorii Kozlov, the two art historians and journalists who had first exposed the fact that the gold of Troy - known as Schliemann's Treasure - which was taken from Berlin at the end of World War Two, was actually in the basement of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.