Martin Bormann was, by the time World War II was in full swing, one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany, second only to Adolf Hitler and one of the chief architects of the Holocaust. He was born on June 17, 1900 at Halberstadt, to a former Prussian regimental sergeant, who later became a post office employee. In his teens, Bormann dropped out of school to work at a farm in Mecklenburg, right until the outbreak of World War I, where he briefly served as a cannoneer in a field artillery regiment. After the war he joined the rightist Rossbach Freikorps in Mecklenburg and was later connected with the Feme murders.

In 1924 he was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison as an accomplice in the brutal vengeance murder of Walther Kadow (who incidentally was his former elementary school teacher). Kadow supposedly betrayed the proto-Nazi martyr Leo Schlageter to the French occupation forces in the Ruhr, which was the motivation for the killing.

After his release, he joined the NSDAP, or Nazi party as it was then known, and met Hitler for the first time, and very quickly became an important figure in the party's ranks, by 1928 becoming attached to the SA (brownshirts) Supreme Command. By October 1933 he became Reichsleiter of the NSDAP, and a month later Nazi delegate to the Reichstag. From 1933 to 1941 he served as Chief of Cabinet to the office of the deputy Führer, Rudolf Hess, acting as his personal secretary and right hand man. He later succeeded Hess in this post on May 12, 1941 after Hess's sudden flight to Scotland.

The 'Brown Eminence', as Bormann was afterwards known, proved to be a highly capable and astute political manueverer and machinator, earning the trust of the Führer himself, although he often worked behind the scenes. He was devoted follower of Nazi orthodoxy, a fanatic when it came to issues of race, anti-Semitism, and the Kirchenkampf (war against the churches), and it showed in the policies he eventually implemented.

As deputy Führer, Bormann became increasingly involved in the security of the Nazi party. He established a system of espionage within the Wehrmacht, similar to what the KGB was doing within the Red Army, getting younger officers promoted for spying on the attitudes and mentality of their superiors. He was the most anti-clerical of all the Nazis, the driving force behind the Kirchenkampf, declaring in a confidential 1942 memo that the power of the Christian Churches 'must absolutely and finally be broken.' Nazism and its world-view was fundamentally incompatible and diametrically opposed to Christianity, whose influence Bormann further regarded as a serious obstacle to totalitarian rule. Hitler himself wished to postpone this move against the churches to after the war for tactical reasons.

Bormann inevitably became among the chief advocates of the "Final Solution" against the Jews. He signed the decree of October 9, 1942 prescribing that 'the permanent elimination of the Jews from the territories of Greater Germany can no longer be carried out by emigration but by the use of ruthless force in the special camps of the East.' Another decree which he signed on July 1, 1943 gave Adolf Eichmann and the Gestapo absolute jurisdiction over all Jews in Nazi territory. These directives make Martin Bormann one of the chief architects of the Holocaust.

He also had a great hatred for Slavic peoples, whom he thought of as a 'Sovietized mass' of subhumans who had no claim to national independence. In a memo of August 19, 1942, he writes: 'The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we do not need them, they may die. Slav fertility is not desirable.'

By 1942 he was effectively Hitler's second-in-command, and showed an uncanny ability to manipulate the Führer's weaknesses and quirks to increase his own personal power, skillfully steering Hitler to approve of his own schemes. Because of this he was able to control dangerous rivals like Hermann Goering, Josef Goebbels, and even Heinrich Himmler, who controlled Bormann's access to the Führer. Throughout the war years he effectively became the power behind the throne.

Even to the end in the Bunker of Berlin, Bormann was there. He signed Hitler's testament, witnessed his marriage to Eva Braun, and watched them commit suicide. Ordered by Hitler to 'put the interests of the nation before his own feelings' and to save himself, Bormann left the Führerbunker on April 30, 1945. Accounts of what happened afterward vary widely.

According to Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, Bormann was killed when the tank they were using to escape was struck by a shell as they were crossing the Russian lines. Kempka, who was temporarily blinded by the explosion, claimed to have seen Bormann's body nevertheless. Hitler Youth Leader, Artur Axmann, on the other hand, believed that Bormann committed suicide and claimed to have seen Bormann's body on May 2, 1945 in the Invalidenstrasse, north of the River Spree in Berlin.

Doubts have persisted however, as to Bormann's final fate. Many believed he might have escaped, along with many high-ranking Nazis such as Eichmann and Josef Mengele, to South America via the infamous 'Vatican Route', aided and abetted by the Roman Catholic Church. Some say that under the guise of 'Father Augustine', he escaped to Brazil and even celebrated mass and presided over at least one wedding there. He has been persistently connected with the shadowy Colonia Dignidad in Chile, and is also rumored to have been be hiding as a reclusive millionaire in Argentina.

Bormann was, of course, sentenced to death in absentia for crimes against humanity by the War Crimes tribunal at Nuremberg on October 1, 1946. He was formally pronounced dead by a West German court in April 1973, however his precise fate remains unknown.

Sources:

"Martin Bormann - Biography", at http://www.thirdreich.net/Bormann_Bio.html

Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult, Peter Levenda and Norman Mailer.

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