In one of the more perplexing and disturbing twists of World War II, it appears that a key Nazi architect of the Final Solution was buried in a Jewish cemetery shortly after the end of the bloody six-year conflict.
Heinrich Müller, the chief of Hitler’s dreaded Gestapo, or secret police, and the most senior figure of the Nazi regime who was never captured or confirmed to have died, was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Berlin in 1945, a German newspaper reported Thursday.
For 68 years, the fate of Müller has been unclear but Bild, based on documents found by a historian, said he was killed at the end of the war and was buried in a common grave in a Jewish cemetery in central Berlin.
Professor Johannes Tuchel, the executive director of the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin, claims to have uncovered a document indicating that Müller was killed, probably on May 1, 1945, hastily buried in a provisional grave near the Nazi Air Force ministry, and reburied later that year in a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery in Mitte, in the heart of Berlin.
Not surprisingly, the news was met with outrage among Jewish officials.
“I can’t think of a worse desecration of a Jewish cemetery than to bury Heinrich Müller there,” Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the New York Times.
For decades, Müller was rumored to have survived the war, with the Munich native believed to have escaped to such locales as the US, Czechoslovakia and Brazil.
But Tuchel told Bild that Mueller’s body was found dressed in general’s uniform in August 1945 in a provisional grave near the former Reich’s aviation ministry.
“In the inner left breast pocket was, among other things, his service certificate with a photo,” Tuchel said.
Bild also printed a document it said was from the registrar’s office in Berlin-Mitte showing Mueller was buried in the district’s Jewish cemetery.
Müller attended the Wansee Conference at a villa on the outskirts of Berlin in January 1942 at which senior Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann and Reinhard Heydrich, plotted the “Final Solution,” the formal plan to exterminate all Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Müller, a decorated pilot in World War I, served as the head of the Munich Political Police Department during Germany’s Weimar Republic, prior to the Nazis’ ascendency.
However, Müller was apparently no dyed-in-the-wool National Socialist as he supported using force against the Nazis in early 1933 when the latter deposed the Bavarian People’s Party, which the ruling party of the state of Bavaria at the time.
Müller’s antipathy toward the Nazis actually aided his career, making him dependent upon the patronage of Heydrich. The latter came to appreciate Müller’s professionalism and skill as a policeman, and, being aware of Müller’s past, knew he could make good use of him.
“Müller was a stickler for duty and discipline, and approached the tasks he was set as if they were military commands,” historian Richard J. Evans wrote in his 2005 work “The Third Reich in Power.” “Müller was determined to serve the German state, irrespective of what political form it took, and believed that it was everyone’s duty, including his own, to obey its dictates without question.”
Müller occupied a position in the Nazi hierarchy between Himmler, the overall head of the Nazi police apparatus and the chief architect of the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, and Eichmann, the man who arranged the deportations of Jews to the eastern ghettos and death camps.
Müller’s chief responsibility was always police work within Germany, but he was fully in charge of the extermination of European Jews.
During 1941 he dispatched Eichmann on tours of inspection of the occupied Soviet Union, and received detailed reports on the work of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile death squads that killed an estimated 1.4 million Jews in 12 months.
After the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt against Hitler, Müller was placed in charge of the arrest and interrogation of all those suspected of involvement in the resistance. Over 5,000 people were arrested and some 200 executed, with many more tortured.
(Top: Heinrich Müller, front, left, with Reinhard Heydrich, front center, two key architects of the “Final Solution.”)