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Russians insist skull fragment is Hitler's

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What happened to Hitler's body?
  • Debate over authenticity of the remains of Adolf Hitler's skull continues
  • U.S. researchers say skull fragment say DNA evidence proves that skull fragment isn't Hitler's
  • Fragment of Hitler's alleged skull and jawbone held in Russian state archive
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Russia

Editor's Note: Watch Matthew Chance's report on Hitler's skull tonight on Connect the World at 9pm GMT, 4pm ET

(CNN) -- Nearly 65 years after his demise by his own hand in a bunker beneath the streets of Berlin, Adolf Hitler is still managing to cause controversy.

The latest dispute has pitched U.S. researchers against the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in a debate over the authenticity of fragments of skull and jawbone said to belong to the Nazi dictator.

The origins of the dispute date back to 2000 when Russian officials put the fragments on public display in Moscow. The skull fragment has a hole near the temple. Proof, said officials, that Hitler had committed suicide by putting a gun to his head.

But earlier this year, researchers from the University of Connecticut released the results of a DNA test on the skull which they say proves not only that it didn't belong to the Nazi leader, but the remains were that of a female aged between 20 and 40 years old.

The findings might have encouraged one of the wilder conspiracy theories about Hitler to flourish, but researchers were not claiming that Hitler was a woman.

Nor do they think that the remains are likely to be those of Hitler's long term partner Eva Braun, who, so the story goes, killed herself at the same time and place as the Fuehrer in 1945.

Yet despite the new evidence, Russian officials remain adamant that the remains are Hitler's and, in their defense, have released archive documents in an attempt to prove the bones are authentic.

A report published by Russia's Interfax news agency this week quotes the head of the FSB archives saying Hitler's remains, except parts of his skull and jaw, were burnt in 1970 and thrown into the Biederitz River in what was then East Germany.

FSB archives' chief Lieutenant-General Vasily Khristoforov told Interfax that the decision to destroy Hitler's remains and those of Eva Braun and the Goebbels family was ordered by the head of Russia's KGB -- forerunner to the FSB -- Yury Andropov [who briefly became Soviet leader in 1982].

"Andropov clearly listed the plan: To remove and destroy the remains of the war criminals, buried in Magdeburg [Germany] on February 21, 1946..." Khristoforov told Interfax.

Khristoforov said Andropov's decision to dispose of Hitler's ashes in the river nearly 40 years ago was "motivated by the KGB and Communist Party leaders' fears that the place where Hitler was buried could become a place of attraction for supporters of his ideas."

Interesting though they are, the Khristoforov's revelations don't shed any more light on the authenticity of the skull.

For now, U.S. researchers stand by their evidence saying the skull fragment is definitely from a female, while Russia insists that the jawbone -- which the U.S. researchers didn't test -- is most definitely male.

Whatever the eventual outcome is, in this, the latest in a long line of investigations into the most reviled figure of the 20th century, it seems certain that experts and conspiracy theorists alike will be picking over the bones of Hitler's life and legacy for decades to come.