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  • Steven Styles

8 Unsolved Mysteries of WW2

The Clarksvillian


In a global battle on the scale of World War II, there are a lot of issues that slip through the cracks. Whether it’s something we refuse to admit or simply something so foreign and bizarre that we just don’t know what to make of it, there remain several unsolved mysteries from World War II.


What Happened To The Blutfahne (NAZI Blood Flag)?


In 1923, Hitler made a failed attempt to overthrow the German government and install his own in its place. Spurred on by political actions that implied Germany was taking the fall for starting World War I, the 35,000 members of the Nazi party were aiming high, but their failure set the groundwork—and the mythology—for the rise of their party years later. Hitler and 600 of his men attempted to take over a beer hall at which the Bavarian Prime Minister was speaking . . . and Hitler managed to gain support of the audience. Now with 3,000 men, the Nazis attempted to take key government buildings. It was a failure, though. Hitler was arrested two days later and tried for treason.


During the shootout, 16 Nazi party members died. After Hitler was released from prison, he was given a flag that had been stained with the blood of his fallen comrades—they became the first martyrs of the Nazi party. The flag became known as “Die Blutfahne,” or “the Blood Flag,” and it was one of the earliest symbols of the mythos and ritual that would grow around the Nazi party. It was used in all the major ceremonies, its touch was thought to sanctify other flags with its power, and SS officers swore their oath to it. It even had its own keeper: an SS member named Jakob Grimminger.


The last time Die Blutfahne was seen in public was in October 1944. No one knows whether it was destroyed in the bombings at the end of the war, rescued and shuttled away, or whether an unwitting Allied soldier took it, unaware of its significance. The keeper of the Blood Flag not only survived the war, but later took a minor position as a city official in Munich. All his property had already been confiscated, and he died a poor man.


The Death Of Subhas Chandra Bose


Subhas Chandra Bose was the leader of the Indian National Army during the years surrounding World War II. From the Allied point of view, he was a dangerous traitor; Bose had visited both German and Japanese leaders and had been in the friendly company of Stalin. His actions have long been up for debate, with supporters saying that he was less interested in following along with Axis ideals than he was in finding an enemy of the British he could ally himself with. The stories of Bose’s life are worthy of a Bond movie—escaping British surveillance, fleeing to Italy, covert meetings, and taking different identities . . . there’s a lot that’s still unknown about the Indian revolutionary. One thing that’s always been questioned is how he died.


According to the official story, Bose died in a plane crash in 1945. His body was cremated, and his ashes were taken to a place of honor at the Renkoji Temple near Tokyo. There are many people that don’t believe the story, though; some even have named the man whose ashes really sit in Bose’s place: They say the ashes belonged to Ichiro Okura, a Japanese officer from a Taiwanese army. It’s claimed that the plane crash story was fabricated to throw people off the trail of the real Bose.


The entire country is still hoping that they might one day find out what happened to their patriotic leader, but it will not be happening soon. On December 1, 2014, the National Democratic Alliance refused another request to make public the classified files that are being held on Bose. There are 39 files that have been withheld from the public in varying degrees; sometimes, their contents—but not the actual files—have been divulged. The government also refused to publish documents that have already been marked as “Unclassified.” According to the public information officers responsible for denying the request, it was done because the information in the documents could harm India’s relationships with other countries.


The British Soldiers Of Auschwitz


In 2009, historians were doing routine maintenance on one building at the most infamous Nazi death camp of them all: Auschwitz. During their work, they uncovered a strange list. It contained the names of 17 British soldiers. There were check marks next to eight of the names. No one knows what the list was for. Also written on the paper were a few German words—and these words don’t make the mystery any clearer. The words that have been identified are “since then,” “never,” and “now.” But why were British prisoners taken to a place whose existence the Nazis wanted to keep top secret?


“I have struggled to answer that question,” says author Duncan Little. “It is strange that the Nazis would allow POWs to witness what they were doing. But if you look at the history of Auschwitz, it’s not so surprising. It was built haphazardly and was not initially intended to be a death camp but rather a facility for Russian prisoners of war. It developed into a concentration camp and from there into an extermination camp. It was all fairly ad hoc.”


However, amid the killing there were activities laid on for the POWs which would be familiar to anyone who has seen The Great Escape — there were even organized games of football.


There are a couple of guesses about the purpose of the list and who the men were. One is that they were British prisoners of war—there were many housed at Auschwitz in the E715 camp, where they were put to work laying cables and pipes, loading freight cars, or in skilled laborer positions. Another theory is that the names on the list were British men who had switched sides, working for the British SS Division during the war.


The Ness Gun Battery’s Mystery Artist


The Ness Gun Battery in Orkney was one of many sites that made up an invaluable defensive perimeter around the British Isles. During the war, it was staffed by soldiers who protected a naval anchorage called Scapa Flow. While they were there, someone created something stunning: a mural that decorates one wall in the mess hall. It shows a rural English village, a cottage, and several caravans; images of home and of a life much more idyllic than the one the men were living. There’s a signature—“A.R. Woods”—but no one’s sure who he really was.


The site is also notable for being the only surviving gun battery with the original, World War II–era wooden buildings. Conservation and restoration efforts uncovered the beautiful mural. Since then, a request was put out for any information on the identity of “A.R. Woods.”


Suggestions have come in from all over the world, but nothing’s panned out yet. One man named A.R. Woods is thought to be a candidate, but there’s no conclusive evidence in the surviving documents about the staff at Orkney. The Orkney Islands Council is hoping to find the man—or his descendants—someday. For now, they’re just preserving the mural.


What Really Happened To Raoul Wallenberg?


Wallenberg was a Swedish businessman who worked during the war to not only establish hospitals, soup kitchens, and safe houses throughout Budapest, but also to provide false papers to Jews threatened with concentration camps. By the time Budapest was liberated in 1945, over 100,000 Jews remained safely in the city because of papers provided by Wallenberg and his associates.


Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets in 1945. What happened to him after that is a mystery. According to one Soviet report by an attending physician, he died in 1947 after suffering a heart attack while being held in Lubyanka prison. However, there are also conflicting reports that refer to Wallenberg as “Prisoner 7,” who was subjected to 16 hours of questioning in July 1947—a week after he died. Russian responses to inquiries about his fate have been mixed. Some have showed there were no more documents about Wallenberg in their archives, while others admitted that the questions being posed about his fate were legitimate and further answers could be expected. In 2009, a letter delivered to the Swedish Embassy in Moscow hinted that the case wasn’t closed yet but gave no additional information.


What Really Happened To Heinrich Mueller?


Heinrich “Gestapo” Mueller was one of a handful of Nazi leaders who have continued to evade capture for decades; the head of the Gestapo, he disappeared during the last days of the war. Although many theories have circulated about his fate, nothing has ever been confirmed. Until now, it seems. According to a report by a German historian, there’s evidence that Mueller died in Berlin and was buried in a mass grave in a Jewish cemetery. The evidence includes a death certificate for Mueller, dated December 1945, and a 1963 testimony of a gravedigger who claimed he’d buried a uniformed German officer along with the other dead. He also matched Mueller’s face to the body.


At a second glance, though, the evidence leaves more questions than answers, and not everyone is so quick to support the above theory. Experts at the Simon Wiesenthal Center point out that many Nazis had fake documents—including death certificates—to help them disappear and make it out of Germany after the war. Also, if Mueller was buried in a mass grave, there’s almost no chance of getting DNA confirmation that the body is his. Well, after the war, there were rumors of Mueller being spotted in places like Cuba and Argentina, but no one’s ever been able to prove anything.


Who Really Betrayed Jean Moulin?


Jean Moulin was one organizer of the French Resistance. On June 21, 1943, someone had alerted the local Gestapo that there was going to be a meeting of Resistance leaders in Caluire. Gestapo stormed the meeting and arrested Moulin and other senior resistance leaders. Moulin had been arrested before, but after being tortured in Montluc Prison by the German secret police, he was shipped off to Berlin. He died in route.


No one has ever figured out just how the Gestapo knew about the meeting. Moulin and his associates pointed the finger at a junior member of the Resistance named Rene Hardy. At the time of the arrest, Hardy was the only one who wasn’t handcuffed; when he made a run for freedom, the only response of the Gestapo was to fire a few random shots in his direction. Raymond Aubrac, Moulin’s fellow Resistance leader who survived the war, always maintained it had been Hardy, but he had no proof.


Aubrac was arrested along with Moulin but was freed by his wife, Lucie, and their associates. Lucie, who was pregnant, convinced Aubrac’s captors to allow her to marry him in prison so their child was not born illegitimate. They allowed it, and Aubrac escaped. Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo officer in charge of the Resistance prisoners, also survived the war and fled to South America. Before dying in 1983, he issued a statement that pointed the finger at the Aubracs as the traitors. His claims were picked up in a book, and the Aubracs went to court over it. They were cleared, but that’s the accusation that never really goes away. Lucie died in 2007, Raymond Aubrac in 2012. They maintained their innocence until their deaths. No concrete evidence has ever been found of just who betrayed Jean Moulin.


Why Did Hermann Goring Have Access to Cyanide Capsules?


Hermann Goring was a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany, the head of the Luftwaffe (the German air force) and Reichmarschall of the German military. In 1946, Goring was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Nuremberg trials and sentenced to death.


Göring found his imprisonment at the infamous Nuremberg trial frustrating. He took pleasure in taunting guards and creating tension in the general area. He also became friendly with other guards by signing autographs and exchanging common childhood or wartime stories. Göring was a manipulative character capable of building influence over younger soldiers assigned to guard his cell or transfers. It was clear to the more senior offices; he was playing chess daily. He continued his game until his last day, after being found guilty and sentenced to death, and his unexpected suicide by cyanide.


How did he get the cyanide capsule that ended his life?


There has never been an explanation of how the Nazi war criminal Hermann Goring received the cyanide capsule used to commit suicide. Most theories surrounded bribes for guards to bring him capsules already among his personal belongings, which had been confiscated following his capture. In 2005, a former American soldier named Herbert Lee Stivers, who had served as one of Goring's guards following the trial, admitted that he had inadvertently brought the cyanide to him. According to his account, a woman named Mona told him that Goring was ill, and that the capsule was medicine that he needed. However, historians could not verify this account.

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