London| Adolf Hitler, the anti-Semitic Nazi German leader responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, could have unwittingly been a Jew himself. The revelation appears in a new Channel 4 documentary series, Dead Famous DNA, in which Mark Evans sets out to track down the remains of some of history’s most famous figures, including Elvis Presley, John F Kennedy and Napoleon.
DNA analysis of hair samples from a hairbrush claimed to belong to Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-term lover who married the fascist dictator shortly before the couple killed themselves at the end of World War II, shows that it contained the hair of someone who could have had Jewish ancestry. This was, at first, seen as evidence of the jewish origins of Eva Braun, but the hair turned out to have belonged to a male. Considering the controlling nature of the Führer, it is unlikely that hair from another male could have found it’s way on Braun’s hairbrush.
The hairs have a strong provenance: they came from a monogrammed hairbrush found at the end of the Second World War in Eva Braun’s luxurious apartment at Hitler’s Alpine residence, the Berghof in Bavaria, by a young American army intelligence officer. In the summer of 1945 Paul Baer, a US 7th Army captain, was stationned to the Berghof. Working for the precursor of the CIA called the OSS, Baer had privileged access to Hitler’s former retreat and took personal items, including the hairbrush, from Eva Braun’s private apartment. There are photographs of Baer at the Berghof in 1945 and the hairbrush has been formally authenticated by experts.
On his father’s death in the 1970s, Alan Baer sold Braun’s hairbrush to a relic dealer who separated the hair and sold it on to hair dealer John Reznikoff. Mark Evans purchased eight small strands of the hair from Reznikoff for two thousand dollars. The hair was then sent to an international team of forensic scientists for analysis.
The scientists’ analysis revealed something unexpected and extraordinary. They found a rare and specific sequence within the mitochondrial DNA, a small genome within the mitochondria of the cell that is passed down the maternal line from mother to daughter unchanged over the generations, belonging to haplogroup N1b1, which is generally associated with Ashkenazi Jews. In the nineteenth century, many Ashkenazi Jews in Germany converted to Catholicism, so Hitler is highly unlikely to have known his ancestry despite research he instigated into his racial background.
“This is a thought-provoking outcome – I never dreamt that I would find such a potentially extraordinary and profound result,” says Mark Evans. “Racism & Fascism – ideas that one racial group is superior to another – made a mockery of by studying dead famous DNA.”