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didn’t narrow it down much. A British agent in Sri Lanka named Mr Merry seriously asked for a photograph in case Bormann’s peregrinations should take him to that part of the Indian Ocean. An MI5 officer responded: “The press is doubtless waiting to break the Silly Season scoop: that he has been seen riding the Loch Ness Monster.” Well, not quite. But, one evening in November


1972, it emerged that the Daily Express was vastly increasing its print run for the next day’s paper; it clearly was on to some very big story. Syndicated in the New York Times, this turned out to be the exclusive news that Bormann was alive and well and on his perch in South America. An interview with the journalist in charge of the story, Stewart Steven, who went on to edit the Mail on Sunday and then the Evening Standard, can still be found on the internet. “The difference between this story and every other Martin Bormann story is that we have got total documentary evidence of every word we say,” he declared. (Unfortunately, the similarity between the Express story and everyone else’s was that they were all absolutely barking – up the wrong tree.) “Have you yourself spoken to Bormann?” probed the bewildered interviewer. “No, we didn’t.” “Did you meet him?” “No.” “Have you seen him?” “No.”


Führerbunker uncovered a skeleton identified as Bormann’s, which was confirmed by DNA in 2009. Yet the rumour mill rolled on. “I hope the thing you won’t do is jeer at this


He added that the runaway used ‘several


names’ and went to ‘a specific country’ after the war. He knew ‘precisely’ where Bormann was. “There is virtually nothing this man has done which is not known,” he said. That at least was dead right in the sense that


‘this man’, being dead, had done nothing since 1945. Six days after the story appeared, the Express discovered that the source, a man named Ladislas Farago, was a conman who had given the paper a farrago of lies. The Express photographs were of an Argentinian teacher disappointingly innocent of a single war crime. In the following month, excavations near the


story,” begged Milton Shulman, the late Evening Standard theatre critic, in a 1995 radio interview. Someone had informed him that, towards the end of the war, Ian Fleming plus a band of crack commando kayakers had captured Bormann and paddled back to Britain, where the war criminal had lived quietly ‘in a village’ until dying a decade later. As Shulman says, we should try not to laugh too loudly at this account – or, I must add, the rest of the ‘Bormann was here’ reports. As the Bible nearly says, Let he who has never featured in a Corrections column cast the first Rolling Stone. There but for the grace of Goebbels goes any journalist who gets carried away. We all make mistakes; remember The Sunday Times and the Hitler Diaries, said to have been rescued from a plane crash in Germany? That plane crash did take place but what was in fact rescued was not the forged Führer’s memoirs but the luggage of one of the passengers booked on the flight. She was duly declared dead. It turned out later that she had missed the plane and was still alive. So, although he himself may not have enjoyed any sort of resurrection, Bormann’s secretary was the one who in a sense came back from the grave.


theJournalist | 17


KEYSTONE PRESS / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO


Looking back to:


1945


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