Authors: Irving Wallace
Tags: #Suspense & Thrillers
THE SEVENTH SECRET
Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press
Â© 2011 David Wallechinsky & Amy Wallace
Cover Design By: David Dodd
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For Sylvia Wallace my wife
Ed Victor my friend
Though a good deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.
When you have eliminated the im-possible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
-SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
hen he walked away from the small private room and the press conference, moved through the crowded CafÃ© Kranzler restaurant, and emerged onto the sundrenched KurfÃ»rstendamm, he felt highly elated.
Standing on the broad sidewalk of the lively Ku'damm this early afternoon in late July, Dr. Harrison Ashcroftâand now, since last year, Sir Harrison Ashcroftâconsidered delaying further work to enjoy a brief respite. On this, his tenth visit to West Berlin in five years, he knew that he had reached the climactic moments of his monumental work. He was on the verge of solving the great mystery and bringing his project to a successfulâperhaps world-shakingâconclusion.
He had managed a leave of absence from his post teaching modern history at Christ Church College at Oxford University to undertake this awesome biography. In the forty years since Adolf Hitler's end, the Fames remarkable story had begged to be written by him. At last, as his fourteenth book, and perhaps his most memorable one, Dr. Ashcroft had determined to write the definitive biography, Herr Hitler. But he had realized at the outset that at his ageâthen sixty-sevenâhe could not tackle all the research and writing alone. So he had invited his lively thirty-four-year-old daughter Emily, a brilliant lecturer in history at Ox-ford, to collaborate with him. From the start, he had known that he could not have made a better choice.
Emily Ashcroft had been uniquely qualified to assist her father on their mammoth effort. After his wife's death in a climbing accident more than twenty years ago, Dr. Ashcroft alone had raised his daughter. It now seemed inevitable that the little girl, brought up in an atmosphere of scholarly curiosity, amid thousands of books, and constant travel, should have become a historian like himself. She too had specialized in the modern history of France and Germany, and spoke the languages of both those countries fluently. Also, she had been fascinated by the now distantly romantic Second World War and the dominant role the strange and enigmatic Adolf Hitler had played in it. Twice, during the earlier research stages, Emily had accompanied her father to Berlin. This time, on what might be his last and most crucial visit to West Germany's first city, Dr. Ashcroft had again left Emily behind in Oxford to organize notes for their final push.
Their final push meant solving the last mystery of Adolf Hitler's death with Eva Braun, his wife of one day, in the depths of the underground
beside the Old Reich Chancellery on April 30, 1945.
Two months ago, after considerable firsthand researchâin West Berlin talking to surviving eyewitnesses, and in East Berlin examining the medical reports and photo-graphs made available by the Soviet Union through his friend and colleague, Professor Otto BlaubachâDr. Ashcroft, along with Emily, had been ready to accept the standard and authorized version put forth by biographers and historians of Hitler's demise.
Returning to Oxford from his previous visit to West Berlin, where his definitive biography of Hitler had been widely publicized, and about to undertake the final section of the long work, Dr. Ashcroft had received a surprising and disturbing letter from West Berlin, an unexpected letter that gave him pause.
The letter had been written by one Dr. Max Thiel, who identified himself as Hitler's last dentist. Dr. Thiel had read about Ashcroft's important biography. As one of the handful of survivors of those who had known Hitler personally, Dr. Thiel wanted the book to be more accurate than any that had preceded it.
And then, at the close of his letter, Dr. Thiel dropped his bombshell.
All histories to date on Hitler and Eva Braun may have been wrong. Hitler and Eva may not have com-mitted suicide in the
in 1945. Both may have fooled the world. Both may have survived. In fact, Dr. Thiel had evidence to prove it.
After the first shock, Ashcroft began to regain his objectivity. As his daughter Emily reminded him, the survival theories and clues about Hitler and Eva had never ceased since their deaths. Crackpots abounded and persisted, and Dr. Max Thiel sounded like another one of them. Surely, Emily pointed out, Dr. Thiel had brought his so-called evidence to the attention of previous biographers. Obviously they had seen fit to ignore him. Emily had urged her father to ignore him as well, throw away the silly letter and resume work with her to bring the biography to a final conclusion.
Yet the letter nagged at Ashcroft. He had always been a perfectionist. He had toiled too hard to disregard any challenge to his scholarship. Rereading Dr. Thiel's simple letter several times, Ashcroft became convinced of its sincerity. The thing to do was to learn whether this Dr. Thiel was really the person he purported to be.
Had he actually been Hitler's last dentist? A week's Investigation gave Ashcroft his disconcerting answer. Dr. Thiel had indeed been Hitler's last dentist, a Berlin specialist, really an oral surgeon, and he had treated the FÃ¼hrer
a number of times in the last six months of the German dictator's life. Furthermore, Dr. Thiel himself had written the disturbing letter and was still alive, at the age of eighty, in West Berlin.
Below his signature, on the fateful letter, Dr. Thiel had boldly printed out his telephone number.
Dr. Harrison Ashcroft had no choice but to call that number.
Dr. Thiel himself had answered the phone. His voice was deep, firm, and assured. What he had to say was lucid and certain. No senility there. Yes, he had the evidence he had written about. No, he did not wish to discuss details on the phone. However, he would be happy to receive Dr. Ashcroft at his home in Berlin and let Dr. Ashcroft see for himself and make up his own mind.
The invitation was irresistible, and Dr. Ashcroft's curiosity had mounted.
Three days ago, Ashcroft had arrived in West Berlin alone, checked into the Bristol Hotel Kempinski, whose entrance was just off the KurfÃ»rstendamm, and promptly gone to see Dr. Max Thiel. The meeting had been friendly, intriguing, and persuasive, and his scholar's heart had leaped at the chance to get at the truth.
To do so, he had realized, he would have to dig in what had once been the garden beside the
the garden where history books recorded that Hitler and Eva Braun's remains had been buried in 1945. One problem. The
area was on the East Berlin side of the wall that divided the city, actually inside a no-man's-land area surrounded by a cement wall and wire fencing and East Berlin soldiers. To get permission to enter the Security Zone and dig, Ashcroft would need a go-ahead from the Communist East Berlin government and therefore from the government of the Soviet Union, which had long considered the matter of Hitler's death closed. Fortunately, Ashcroft had a well-placed friend in East Berlin.
Years ago, shortly after the Second World War, at an international conclave of modern historians held at the Savoy in London, Ashcroft had served on a panel with Professor Otto Blaubach of East Germany. Ashcroft and Blaubach had found that they had much in common, including a shared interest in the rise and fall of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler. Ashcroft had entertained Blaubach at his own home in Oxford, and thereafter had met with him several times in East Berlin. Mostly, their friendship had ripened through correspondence. As time passed, Professor Blaubach's stature had grown in the German Democratic Republic. Now he was one of East Germany's eleven deputy prime ministers on the Council of Ministers.
If one wanted to unearth something in a highly guarded and forbidden zone in East Berlin, Professor Blaubach was obviously an influential person to contact. So Ashcroft had got in touch with his old friend, who had greeted him warmly. Blaubach regarded the request as unusual but possible to fulfill, and promised to try to obtain approval from his colleagues on the council for the dig.
The night before last, Blaubach had responded. Per-mission granted. Ashcroft could proceed with his dig.
Thrilled, Ashcroft had telephoned his daughter Emily in Oxford to report on his progress. Equally excited by her father's news, Emily had wanted details of Dr. Thiel's evidence that Hitler had not died in the
. Ashcroft had held back, preferring not to go into it on the phone. He had preferred to wait and spell it all out for her when he returned from Berlin with what might be a stunning new ending to their book.
"I'm going to start the dig the day after tomorrow. First I want to have the press conferenceâ"
"The what?" Emily had interrupted.
"Press conference. Just a few of the top television, radio, and print media reporters in West Berlin."