Bormann was born on June 17th, 1900, in Wegeleben. He was the son of a post-office employee. Bormann dropped out of education and went to work on a farm in Mecklenburg. He served for a short while in the German Army towards the end of World War One. When the war ended, Bormann joined the Freikorps (Free Corps). Members of the Freikorps believed that the German communists had stabbed Germany in the back during the war – hence her defeat. This was the so-called ‘dolchstusslegende’ They were very nationalistic and violently put down a communist uprising in Munich. Violence and the Freikorps seemed to go hand-in-hand. In March 1924, Bormann was sent to prison for 12 months for being an accomplice to the murder of Walther Kadow who was supposed to have betrayed Leo Schlageter, a Nazi ‘martyr’, to the French authorities during their occupation of the Ruhr.
When Bormann was released from prison, he joined the Nazi Party – as had many Freikorps men. He gained a reputation for administrative efficiency and in 1928, he became the party’s business manager. He was also attached to the SA Supreme Command. However, at this time the party was small with just 12 seats in the Reichstag. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was to bring about a change in the party’s fortunes.
Bormann got married in 1929 – Hitler was a witness at the marriage.
In July 1933, Bormann became personal secretary to Rudolf Hess, the deputy leader of the party. In October 1933, Bormann was appointed a Reichsleiter in the Nazi Party and one month later, he was elected to the Reichstag.
From July 1933, after his appointment to be Hess’s secretary, Bormann cultivated friendships within the hierarchy of the party. He remained Hess’s personal secretary up to May 1941, when Hess fled to Scotland. Bormann’s association with Hess could have spelt the end of his career. However, his ability had been recognised and he was made head of the Party Chancellery in the same month that Hess fled. Bormann also probably knew how to handle Hitler as shortly after the flight of Hess – an action that infuriated Hitler – he gave to Hitler a German Shepherd – ‘Blondie’ – that was to become a favourite of Hitler’s.
By now, Bormann had become a master of knowing who he could work with and trust and who he could not. Seemingly working quietly in the shadows of Hess’s office, he gained an intimate knowledge of those in the Nazi Party’s hierarchy. Now as head of the Party Chancellery, he administered the ‘Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund of German Industry’. This was a huge fund of money – ‘voluntary’ contributions made by successful businessmen to Hitler. Bormann had the privileged task of allocating this money, much of which went to senior party figures – thus further cultivating his influence.
Despite his previous association with the denounced Hess, Hitler came to trust Bormann. He took charge of overseeing the Führer’s appointments, his personal finances and his paperwork. As such, Bormann acquired huge power within the Nazi hierarchy as he controlled who met with Hitler – something he could do on a daily basis. He also oversaw the development of homes for Nazi leaders at Berchtesgaden in the German Alps – an area where Hitler claimed he found peace.
Bormann became more and more dominant in the Nazi Party to such an extent that he seemingly controlled domestic legislation and appointments and promotions within the party. With Hitler concentrating his time on the war effort, Bormann was all but left clear to handle domestic policy.
In particular he tried to target the church in Nazi Germany. Bormann simply believed that there was no place for a Christian church in Germany and in 1942, he sent a confidential memo to all Gauleiters that the power of the church “must absolutely and finally be broken.”
An anti-Semite, Bormann also signed the documents that led to Jews in Germany being deported to the death camps set up by the Nazis in Poland. On October 9th, 1942, he signed a decree that stated that “the permanent elimination of the Jews from the territories of Greater Germany can no longer be carried out by emigration but by the use of ruthless force in the special camps of the East.” On July 1st, 1943, Bormann signed a decree which gave Adolf Eichmann total power over the ‘Jewish Problem’.
Bormann also shared Hitler’s hatred of Slavs. On August 19th, 1942, he issued a memo that stated “the Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we do not need them, they may die. Slav fertility is not desirable.”
As the war progressed, Bormann remained a loyal servant to Hitler. In the final weeks of the war, Bormann was at the Führerbunker in Berlin. He signed Hitler’s political testament and was a witness to Hitler’s marriage to Eva Braun. Hitler called him “my most loyal party member”.
On May 1st, 1945, he left the bunker with SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger, and the leader of the Hitler Youth, Artur Axman. Axman claimed that he saw the bodies of both Bormann and Stumpfegger as they tried to flee Berlin. However, Bormann’s body was never found and in October 1946, Bormann was tried in absentia at Nuremberg. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. The evidence presented at the Nuremberg Trials showed that Bormann knew about the mass deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz.
In 1972, repairs at a railway station in West Berlin led to a human skeleton being uncovered. Dental records showed that it was Bormann. In 1999, a DNA test was done on it which confirmed the finding. It seems likely that Bormann’s body was covered by the rubble that Berlin was being reduced to as the war in Europe came to an end.