From the National Police Gazette: Hitler is Alive!

Available now in print and eBook: Hitler is Alive! a collection of sensational National Police Gazette articles, edited by Steven A. Westlake, son of legendary crime writer Donald Westlake!

As the Allied armies closed in on Berlin, the Nazi high command scrambled to escape their shattered city. On May 1, 1945, reports went out that Adolf Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, committed suicide in an underground bunker—but their bodies were never found. In this landmark exposé by the legendary National Police Gazette, the truth is finally told. As peace fell across Europe, two U-Boats made mad dashes for Argentina, remaining underwater for weeks at a time to evade detection. In their incredible journeys lies the shocking secret of how the greatest mass murderer in history escaped punishment for his crimes.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Police Gazette ruthlessly investigated any rumor of Hitler’s survival in South America. Hitler Is Alive! is a true epic of twentieth-century sensationalism.

Want to know more? Here's Steven's fantastic introduction to the collection... 

How Adolf Hitler Remained Alive Until the 1970s

A Police Gazette Primer


Nearly two centuries ago, the National Police Gazette made history as North America’s first-ever tabloid. Its groundbreaking, no-holds-barred style changed journalism forever, and it would go on to become one of the continent’s five longest-running periodicals.

 

During the 1800s, while the underbelly of America was hidden beneath the skirts of Victorian purity, the Police Gazette delighted in foisting in-your-face stories of adultery, boozing, drug taking, corruption and gambling onto a shocked public. Tom Wolfe, a literary ground breaker himself, observed that “Victorian concepts of dignity were simply trampled on in the Police Gazette.... Yet its writers did provide a look at a side of American life that more serious and fastidious writers, including the major novelists of the period, never approached.”

 

The Gazette reported it all with a quirky sensibility that is still present in media today. Its graphic pictures and articles were presented with a—not too visible—wink; some sort of punch line was never very far from anything published in the National Police Gazette. So when James Joyce had his characters in Ulysses “giggling over the Police Gazette” he may not have realized how very much to the point this was.

 

In the 1880s, for example, the Gazette cheerfully reported on the adventures of its “religious editor.” Whether he was depicted being sexually aroused by the sight of Oscar Wilde’s legs, blown up by an alcohol-soaked minister, or visited by a member of the Society of Clerical Kleptomaniacs, the Gazette’s religious editor always maintained the height of decorum and integrity befitting one of the “Police Gazette species.” Of course, the Gazette had no religious editor. Religious America hated the National Police Gazette with a passion, seeing it as the most dangerous force for the corruption of youth and degradation of the morals of responsible adults the country had yet known.

 

This blurring of the distinction between real and fake news correspondents—not to mention real and fake news—became a Police Gazette specialty. The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Sacha Baron Cohen—even the old SPY Magazine—all have a direct ancestor in the National Police Gazette. So it is no surprise that 170 years since it was first published, the Gazette’s keen observation of America has made the magazine hip again.

 

Internet humorist SeanBaby recently published his “6 Reasons the Police Gazette is the Craziest Magazine Ever” at Cracked.com, which elicited comments ranging from shocked to disgusted to a profound desire for the return of such a “wonderful magazine.” He got the tone just right, as this is exactly the response the Gazette evoked from readers when it was at its best. The closest correlation we have today would be the Howard Stern fan in the 1990s trying to explain to a nonbeliever how Stern really was NOT racist, sexist, or homophobic, and was actually hysterically funny and even provided a valuable service to society.

 

Yet, despite its low-brow reputation, a few heavyweight thinkers have tried explaining the Police Gazette over the years. Tom Wolfe is quoted above, while author and editor H.L. Mencken wrote “The Europeans, the English in particular were quick to see through the cheap yokel disesteem in which [the Gazette and its owner Richard K. Fox] were held and to estimate the fellow in the terms of the peculiar genius that was his.... He was regarded on the Continent as the most enterprising, the most audacious and the most thoroughly honest of the American editors of his day.” 


The Police Gazette was the first publication to see through the hypocrisy of the times and give the people what they wanted without the non-load-bearing facade of self-importance. The Gazette mocked self-important posturings in American society with everything from features on corrupt religious leaders in its “Crimes of the Clergy” column to referring to itself with a satiric grandiosity that would make Stephen Colbert blush. “The POLICE GAZETTE first—Our Country next,” declared one religious-editor dispatch.

 

Ironic pomposity aside, however, a list of the Police Gazette’s accomplishments reads like the Big Bang of pop-culture journalism. The Gazette invented or perfected the illustrated news weekly, the illustrated sports weekly, the newspaper sports department, comprehensive theater & entertainment coverage, the celebrity gossip column, Guinness World Record-style chronicling of crazy human achievement, the mainstream girlie magazine, the men’s lifestyle magazine, and the sensational/tabloid journalism we know today. Joseph Pulitzer, who came to New York six years after Fox began using the Gazette to revolutionize journalism and pop culture, spoke of the substantial influence the Police Gazette had on his own approach to revolutionizing the daily newspaper.

 

Of course, a publication like this could not help but also perfect the art of the sensational headline, and article toppers like “Battle with Corpse-Eating Cats” or “Insane Asylum Horrors” kept the pages turning. So it was, six years after the alleged death of the person most directly responsible for the deadliest war in human history, the Police Gazette first presented evidence that “HITLER IS ALIVE!”

 

Like Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit, who needed to see the acts of Jesus with his own eyes or else there was “No pleasure but meanness,” the story told to us about the demise of the worst—or best, if it’s a measure of skill—mass murderer in history is maddening for its lack of our having seen it with our own eyes. Similarly, the bullets of Star Trek’s O.K. Corral gunfighters, though imaginary, could still kill you if you had even one quark-sized bit of doubt that they were not real, illustrating it only takes one tiny crack of doubt to open up a canyon of fear. And riding into that canyon, like a donut salesman at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, came the National Police Gazette, ready, willing, and able to fill the canyon to overflowing... and then some. If one article about how Hitler escaped death and was planning a comeback was good, then several dozen had to be that much better!

 

The Gazette’s coverage of Adolph Hitler began predictably enough. In June 1939, even before the start of the war in Europe, the Police Gazette published an article proving Hitler was a raging homosexual. Then, following oddly little coverage during the war itself—perhaps the real-life absurdities reported daily in the newspapers were enough—a portent of things to come was published in the October 1946 issue. A caption under the photo of a Führer lookalike begins “Is Hitler Dead?” But, except for an article in September 1947, it would be another five years before the Gazette revisited the Hitler subject. And this time it would be revisited with a vengeance.

 

For those keeping score, from 1951 to 1968 the Police Gazette published 76 Hitler-related articles—including 13 excerpts from Alan Bullock’s respected biography Hitler: A Study in Tyranny—and featured him on the cover 37 times, not counting a few more covers where his name was only mentioned in small print. During this period, a prominent Hitler grabber appeared on a Gazette cover an average of over twice per year.

 

Adolph Hitler being proven alive ended up the longest running gag in the long history of the National Police Gazette—all of it, of course, done with a completely straight face. Journalist and former Gazette employee Edward Van Every had lamented during a weak stretch, “The Gazette ceased to be funny when it started to take itself as a joke.” But his worry during the Hitler series for the most part was dodged, in spite of the increasingly obvious comic device of repeating something to the point of absurdity.

 

So at the risk of beating a dead Führer, presented here all in one place for the first time, the collected wisdom of the investigative staff of the National Police Gazette on just what happened to the most notorious figure in a millennium of human history.

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Tags: Steven A. Westlake, Police Gazette, Adolph Hitler