Hitler's deputy led government officials and journalists on a wild goose chase for years after his reported death. He was spotted everywhere from Switzerland to Bolivia much to the exasperation of the British security services, according to files released for the first time today.
The search for Martin Bormann inspired a series of increasingly wild news headlines, including the claim that he and Hitler were both alive and Bormann was plotting a Nazi revival.
As private secretary to the Fuhrer and head of the Party Chancellery, Bormann was extremely powerful in the Third Reich. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg tried him in absentia in October 1946 and sentenced him to death.
Although he was reported to have been killed trying to escape from the Reich Chancellery in May 1945 his body was not found until 1972 and it was not until it was DNA tested in 1998 that rumours that he had survived the war were finally put to rest.
But British security bosses were sufficiently convinced of his death by the late 1940s to take reports of sightings of him with a pinch of salt, as MI5 files released today at the National Archive in Kew show.
Bormann was variously described as living in Bolivia, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and the Middle East and in prison or having defected to Russia.
An official description of him stated that he was assuming various disguises including a thick beard, facial scars and — when in Gottingen, in Lower Saxony, Germany — wore traditional Bavarian clothing including halter braces and a Tyrolean hat.
As late as 1951 two different American newspaper correspondents were hoaxed by men contacting them and claiming to be Bormann.
The constant stream of news reports and sightings from agents out in the field left some in MI5 rather frustrated, the file shows.