Nazi leader Adolf Hitler might have married a woman of Jewish descent, according to DNA analysis conducted for a TV documentary.
The Channel 4 programme will claim that Eva Braun, the lover whom the anti-Semitic fuhrer married shortly before they both killed themselves in 1945, was possibly of Jewish ancestry.
The Dead Famous DNA film – to be screened on Wednesday – tested hair samples which are said to have come from a hairbrush used by Braun and discovered at Hitler’s mountain retreat.
The German leader, behind the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War, was 23 years older than his lover – who fell in love with him when she was a teenager – and worried the relationship would affect his image, he kept her largely hidden away at his Alpine residence, the Berghof.
A team of scientists examined the hair – which was sourced by presenter Mark Evans – and they found a particular sequence within the DNA, which had been passed down the maternal line – the haplogroup N1b1 – which the channel said was “strongly associated” with Ashkenazi Jews, who make up around 80% of the global Jewish population. Many Ashkenazi Jews in Germany converted to Catholicism in the 19th century.
Evans said: “This is a thought-provoking outcome – I never dreamt that I would find such a potentially extraordinary and profound result.”
Although programme-makers said the provenance of the hair was strong, the only way to prove beyond doubt that it was from Braun would have been to take a DNA swab from one of her two surviving female descendants, but both refused when approached, so there is still an element of mystery.
The hairs came from a monogrammed hairbrush found at the Bavarian residence by American army intelligence officer Paul Baer, a US 7th Army captain, who had privileged access to the property and took a number of items from Braun’s private apartment. Photographs taken at Berghof in 1945 show him with the hairbrush.
His son Alan Baer said: “In our basement I remember there was a duffel bag and in the duffel bag there were several Nazi ceremonial daggers, a human skull and this case with the initials in gold, E.B.
“We opened it up and there was a mirror and a hairbrush. It was just a cosmetic box in a duffel bag brought from Hitler’s home.”
He went on: “My father was a German-born Jew who came to America in 1929.
“Because of his background he was in the CIC, which was a forerunner of the CIA, and he was allowed to go to these places.
“When the concentration camps were liberated he was allowed to go into them. His mother and two sisters were taken to the camps. He never found them.”
Following his father’s death in the 1970s, Mr Baer sold the brush to a dealer who in turn passed the hair on to a dealer who specialised in hair, John Reznikoff. Mr Evans bought eight strands of the hair from Mr Reznikoff for 2,000 US dollars (£1,205).
The final programme of the Dead Famous DNA series will be screened on Wednesday at 9pm. Other famous figures whose DNA has been examined by the shows have included Elvis Presley, John F Kennedy and Napoleon.