Julio Barreiro Rivas is a Spanish sculptor, composer, writer, and historian living in Venezuela. The octogenarian was born in the Galician province of Pontevedra and since then has led a pretty interesting life: heading up a family band called Los Hijos de la Casa Grande, masterminding an alleged orgy island for senior Venezuelan military officers, and claiming to have met Hitler. In fact, Julio has an interesting theory about Hitler: He says that history's most despised man never killed himself at all and actually died and is buried in a cemetery in Galicia, northwest Spain.
“This finding wouldn’t change Europe’s history; it would just modify it," he told me modestly during a 30-minute international call. "People in Berlin and Russia know that Hitler and Eva were very unlikely to commit suicide one day after their wedding. Their friend Franco needed to compensate them for their favors in times of war, so he kept Hitler’s gold in Spain."
Admittedly, there are a vast amount of holes in Julio's story. Who are these "people in Berlin and Russia" who "know" for certain that Adolf and his lover would not have spent their honeymoon killing themselves? And how does he know that the former fascist dictator of Spain owed Hitler a favor? Still, Julio is committed to his tale and tells it with a burning intensity. When you speak to him, you get the feeling that this isn't a prank, a joke, an attempt at being snide, or even some kind of artistic allegory. When I spoke with him, he genuinely seemed to believe what he was saying.
"Even more nonsensical is the story about their bodies being burned with gasoline in the chancellery garden," Julio continued. "Only those who would be truly interested in eradicating the memory of Hitler would believe it. That is, the Germans, who might believe it out of shame, and the Russians and the Americans, because they weren't able to catch him.” Or just people who don't really care about where exactly history's most evil man is rotting. But Julio went on.
“Hitler set off early in the morning of April 29th, 1945, aboard a three-engine airplane. He landed in a small village called Córneas, hidden amid the mountains of Lugo, where an escort from the Guardia Civil [the Spanish military police] and some donkeys carrying saddlebags full of gold bars and other relics were waiting for him. He headed for Samos, through the towns of Cebreiro, el Hospital, and Triacastela, where he would eventually meet a committee from Samos’s convent. I don’t think anyone can refute my theory, since I saw Hitler, alive and kicking, in the convent.”
I guess he's right. Who can dispute the claims of an 80-year-old Spanish man in a funny hat? According to Julio, he was 14 when he first encountered Hitler, Eva Braun, and some other German and Italian refugees. He was helping his uncle, a stonemason, build the Guardia Civil headquarters in Samos, and the contract included a little secret job: the construction of an underground maze beneath the building for Hitler to live in. Apparently Franco was on very good terms with Mauro Gómez, who was then serving as abbot of the monastery, and the fascist leader visited Samos in 1943. Julio said that it was thanks to this job that he got to see the Nazi fugitives.
“I was the master builder’s nephew and the friend and confidant of the monastery’s abbot. I gained the confidence of all the people lodged there. I got to meet Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva personally in 1945. Aside from being a very pretty woman, Braun was young and nice, and the only thing she could say in Spanish was, "Hola, ¿cómo estás, guapo?” ["Hello, how are you, handsome?"] I made friends, doing a job as their errand boy. He would tell me about all the things he used to buy for them and that Germans must have a lot of money, since they handed out really generous tips.”
I asked him about the specific purpose of the tunnels, but Julio was reluctant to provide an exact answer, apparently out of respect for his trade. “Soon after I arrived in Venezuela, I was hired by a government-owned company for the construction of a holiday resort and for other projects that I consider a state secret. What would the Venezuelan people think of me if I revealed these other secrets? I was not directly hired to build the Guardia Civil headquarters in Samos or Hitler’s bunker-apartment. But I think I am the only survivor who knows where he is buried. These jobs were commissioned by Franco. What would happen if I went to Spain and lifted the stone leading to Adolf Hitler’s tomb?"
I would pay to see that. I would also pay to see Hitler dressed as a Benedictine monk waltzing around a Galician convent. It is a fact, however, that Galicia was a strategic enclave for the Führer. Germans kept antennae in the town of Cospeito, submarines in the waters of the Atlantic coast, an airport in Las Rozas (Lugo), and even a tomb in San Amaro’s cemetery in A Coruña. Some alternative historians, like Abel Basti, also support the theory that the dictator didn’t pass away in his bunker but fled to Argentina from the Galician coast. Julio explains that he doesn’t know exactly how long Hitler could have been living in Galicia, although he is confident that his remains are still there. Unless a fire that occurred in 1951 eliminated all traces.
“It looked as if the monastery fire was a case of arson, with the only purpose of burning down any trace of Hitler and his cronies from Samos Convent," Julio asserted.
Based on this information found in a newspaper archive, Franco visited Samos again after it had been rebuilt in 1960. It wasn’t until 1947 that Julio found out how Hitler got to Galicia. “My master announced that we had to leave, loaded with suitcases crammed with iron, for the construction of a furnace. We went past El Cebreiro, arrived at Piedrafita, and we plunged into a stone path. After a long walk, we got to Córneas. The first thing we saw was the majesty of a German three-engine airplane that, as we found out, had landed there on the first of May, 1945, where it had remained for nearly a year.
"I spent three months working in Córneas. The landowner told me how they had ruined his potatoes. There were eight passengers on board, including a woman. He also said that one of the passengers got injured when landing. I believe there must be someone in this little village who remembers the plane.”
At this point, I started to feel like a detective in a Nazi B movie. It is easy to find data on the web apparently confirming that a three-engine aircraft, namely a C-352, did land in Córneas. For example, here’s a comprehensive article by Luis G. Pavón, published in issue 67–68 of the Revista Española de Historia Militar, with photographs and details about this most strange event. Most of the facts match Julio’s description: anonymous and mysterious passengers, a skilful Blue Division pilot, strange accidental deaths of some witnesses, the Guardia Civil reception, and the remains of the aircraft guarded by soldiers for months. According to this version, the plane landed in 1950, coming from Getafe (Madrid), and both the plane itself and its passengers were Spanish. I point this out to Julio.
“That story cannot be true, since by that time the war was over, and so was the Blue Division. I was at the Pontoneros barracks, in Zaragoza. The locals in Córneas told me that the plane landed on May 1, 1945, with a frightening noise. That was the same day the Second World War ended and the German disengagement was a fact, so all the Spaniards from the Blue Division had to rush out.”
I decided to travel to Córneas following in the supposed footsteps of the Führer. If you are ever looking for a place to hide and never to be found, this is it; it's basically just a bunch of micro-villages scattered throughout a mountain valley. According to Julio, the plane landed in a spot called Escanlar, on the property known as Finca do Noceiro. The mistress of the house confirmed it happened, though she could not specify a date. “It happened many years ago; I wasn’t here at that point. My husband knows about it, but he’s napping now,” she said. I decided against asking her if Hitler was one of the passengers. “Do you know if any of the passengers were German?” I asked. “No idea," she replied. "Those who were on board were fine. I think they just ran out of fuel.”
I asked a few more neighbors, who also said they were too young to remember. One of them said that a few years ago a Gypsy had visited the village who remembered things vividly. “He said that he came to help scrap the plane when he was a kid and that he had great memories of those days.” I didn’t find anything else, and I have no idea why I expected I would.
I asked Julio whether it was true that he had tried to contact Baltasar Garzón, the judge who avidly pursued the extradition of General Pinochet, the prosecution of the Basque separatist group ETA, and the opening of an inquiry into crimes against humanity committed by Franco. If there was one man in Spain who might be up for investigating Julio's version of the facts, it would be Garzón.
“I went to Garzón when I found out he was interested in looking for the dead bodies of the victims of Franco’s repressive regime. It would be important for Spain and the entire world if they searched the catacombs of the monastery of Samos and found the remains of the most dreadful criminal in the history of humanity. It took me so long to tell him my version of events because there used to be a strict control over state secrets."
Perhaps tellingly, Garzón never answered.
Hitler buried in a Galician tomb, secret tunnels, fascist monasteries, mysterious planes. Is Julio right or wrong? Is he crazy or not? Maybe no one should listen to the ranting of an 80-year-old man without skepticism. Draw your own conclusions. I only know one thing: There's a part of me that really wants to believe.