- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2000

A piece of Adolf Hitler's skull goes on display in Moscow today.
It is a fragment, really. There is a bullet hole through the bone, and it is blackened from fire.
But officials at the Russian Federal Archives Service believe it is part of history, and have included the fragment in a new exhibition called "The Agony of the Third Reich: The Retribution."
The display also includes Hitler's personal belongings taken from the secret Berlin bunker where he committed suicide on April 30, 1945.
According to published reports, the bodies of Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, were placed by aides in a nearby bomb crater, burned, then buried along with the bodies of Nazi minister Joseph Goebbels, his wife and their six children.
The Moscow exhibit includes Soviet forensic documents used to identify the remains, plus previously censored accounts of Russian interrogations.
The display "is not dedicated to Adolf Hitler," said curator Aliya Borkovets, "but to victory."
Archives director Vladimir Kozlov would not say where the skull came from.
But it is real, both insist. "No doubts remain," said museum director Borkovets.
The display may quell years of doubts and intrigue surrounding Hitler's death. Speculative media accounts have appeared sporadically, fueled by rumors that Hitler had escaped to Argentina.
A sensational 1993 newspaper report claimed the skull had been found in a cardboard box marked "Blue ink for pens," deep inside a Moscow archive, along with bloodstained leather from the sofa upon which Hitler died.
"I am holding in my hands the remains of Hitler's skull," journalist Ella Maximova wrote in Izvestia seven years ago.
"Don't be afraid," the director of the archives told her at the time.
A Hitler biographer pronounced the story a fake.
The true Russian role in the hunt for Hitler's remains surfaced in 1998 after a BBC producer pieced together a story of a secret investigation by SMERSH, the old Soviet counterintelligence unit.
At the time, Stalin wanted proof "with his own eyes" that Hitler was dead. The investigation, called "Operation Myth," included the forced testimonies of Hitler's personal aides, whose information eventually led SMERSH agents to the remains a few weeks after they had been buried.
SMERSH agents, one who called the charred bones "a prize," exhumed them and moved west with the Soviet Army, hiding the remains each night in the woods. In Berlin, Hitler's skull was reconstructed and blood and dental matches made.
Eventually, the remains were buried behind SMERSH's East German headquarters in Magdeburg, where they remained for 25 years.
Their voyage was not over yet.
Last year, a former KGB lieutenant general told another story. The bones, he said, were dug up and counted one night in 1970 in a clandestine project called "Operation Archive," ordered by then KGB chairman Yuri Andropov.
The bones were burned again, then dumped in the city sewer. According to the general, Mr. Andropov fretted the remains would be discovered and become a neo-Nazi shrine.
All that remained was the piece of Hitler's skull, now part of the Moscow display.
In the past, Nazi-themed exhibits in Russia and Germany have caused controversy. Some felt that relics like those found after old Nazi bunkers were unearthed in 1990 would glorify the era. Some historians thought public displays signaled Germany had confronted its "dark past."
"People have always been interested in extremes, and it can go beyond the rational and into the psychological or emotional," said Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League yesterday.
"Everything hinges on the way this material is presented, however, and in what context," he said. "To ignore it is not necessarily the best way to deal with it all."

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