What happened to Heinrich Mueller?
As the Russian artillery pounded Berlin in late April 1945, and the western Allies closed the ring around Germany, there was little doubt among the Nazi leaders what their fate would be if they fell into Russian hands. Alternatives were surrendered to the Americans and British, escape to a neutral country and thence to South America, or suicide. For the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Mueller, it mattered little if he was taken into custody by Americans or Russians, his status as a war criminal was a given.
In the end, it didn’t matter. He was never taken into custody, at least not as Heinrich Mueller. What happened to Mueller remains a mystery to this day, with many possible answers arising from speculation, but nearly all of them disproved by facts. What is known is that the last confirmed sighting of Mueller was in Hitler’s bunker under Berlin on the evening of May 1, 1945, when he spoke to Hitler’s former pilot of his intention not to be taken by the Russians.
Early speculation over the fate of the Gestapo head centered round his recruitment by the Russians, but Mueller’s own fear of the Russians would seem to deny that possibility. Later it was proposed that he had been recruited by the American OSS (later CIA) but that seems equally implausible to all but the most hardened conspiracy buffs. If he died in the final assault on Berlin his body was never found, he was too well known to have escaped identification unless maimed beyond all recognition.
The possibility that he escaped to South America is supported simply by the fact that so many other senior Nazi officials, and a good many less senior, did just that. Mueller would have had access to all means of escape at the disposal of the Nazis, and presumably a few unknown to any but the most senior. Many reports of bodies being found bearing papers identifying the corpse as Mueller turned up in the rubble of Berlin, their sheer number support the theory of papers being planted on the dead to throw the hounds off the scent.
It is likely that the disappearance of Heinrich Mueller will never be solved. As the head of the Gestapo, he had access to all of the deepest secrets of Nazi Germany, as well as its considerable resources. He may have died in Berlin, he may have worked for the Russians, or he may have whiled away the rest of his life in an Argentine German village. There were many charming such villages there from which to choose.