The Jewish U.S. soldier who was instrumental in finding Adolf Hitler's last will and testament during World War II has died at the age of 86.
Arnold Hans Weiss – born Hans Arnold Wangersheim – a banker and attorney who lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, died of pneumonia. His wife predeceased him in 2005; he is survived by two sons and three grandchildren.
Weiss played a pivotal role in the final days of the war as a member of a counter-intelligence unit. Together with a British intelligence officer and historian, and a second U.S. intelligence agent, Weiss helped track down SS Standartenfuhrer Wilhelm Zander, chief aide to Martin Bormann. It was Bormann who had controlled access to Hitler.
After finding Zander posing as a gardener at a Bavarian farmhouse, Weiss translated as the team questioned him until he finally broke down, revealing his identity. Zander described Hitler's last days in the bunker and the fate of other Nazi officials as well.
At last, he said, “I suppose you want the documents.” He revealed that Hitler's last will and testament, as well as the certificate of his deathbed marriage to Eva Braun, were stored in a hidden compartment of a suitcase.
The bag, he said, had been thrown into a dry well for safe keeping.
Weiss later claimed that he was the first to read the documents, which blamed Jews and their sympathizers for the war and predicted a glorious future for the Third Reich.
“Above all, I charge the leaders of the nation and those under them to scrupulous observance of the laws of race and to merciless opposition to the universal poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry,” Hitler charged his followers in the document.
From German Jewish Orphan to US Army Hero
A product of a broken home, Weiss's parents divorced when he was six years old, sending him to live in a Jewish orphanage. He immigrated to the United States at 13 under the auspices of a Jewish social services organization.
After graduating high school, the young German immigrant studied at the University of Wisconsin prior to enlisting for military duty, taking a new last name from a local football star.
Although he lost his grandmother in Auschwitz, his mother and sisters managed to escape from Germany and reach the U.S. His father was trapped in Dachau; after the war, he moved to Brazil, where he eventually died.
Weiss earned an Army Commendation Ribbon for his role in capturing Zander and the recovery of Hitler's documents, events dated December 24-28, 1945. In the letter awarding him the commendation, Brig.-Gen. Edwin L. Silbert noted, “When called upon in an emergency you assumed the responsibility of apprehending a personality high in the annals of the Nazi system.”