Strands of hair purported to belong to Adolf Hitler and sold by controversial historian David Irving to Channel 4 for £3,029 ($5,000) in new series Dead Famous DNA have turned out to be fake.
The broadcaster bought the clippings thought to have been obtained by the Nazi dictator’s barber as part of an attempt to analyse Hitler's DNA, but further testing has proven the claim to be false. Channel 4 have confirmed that they have not made attempts to reclaim the payment from British historian Irving - who famously denied the existence of the WWII Holocaust.
“Whether he knew what he was selling was fake or not, we don’t know,” said Channel 4’s head of specialist factual, David Glover. “He may have sold it in good faith but what we can say is all the evidence suggests that the hair he claimed was Adolf Hitler’s, our DNA science strongly suggests it wasn’t.”
Scientist and series presenter, Mark Evans, added, “I have to assume he sold it to me in good faith as all the other people who sold the various relics.” When asked if he’d informed Irving about their findings, Evans replied, “David Irving is not a man I’m keen to have contact with at all.”
But Channel 4 have not given up on the quest to sequence Hitler’s genome – a process that would allow scientists to analyse specific mutations known as “variants” that could reveal medical disorders in individuals such as psychiatric illness.
An unnamed dealer in body parts – known only as Mr X – appears in the first episode of the three-part series, with what he claims to be a piece of Hitler’s rib cage and a vertebrate thought to have belonged to his wife, Eva Braun.
After their double suicide, the pair’s bodies were burnt and buried near the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin, but the two relics are believed to have been removed from Russian archives by a KGB agent and were given to series makers by Mr X.
The process of genetic testing resulted in the the destruction of the two relics, but Evans teased that audiences will be “utterly fascinated“ when the results are revealed later in the series, although he was keen to defend his quest to better understand Hitler’s genetic make-up:
“The very last thing that I want to do is in any way be able to give [Hitler] an excuse, potentially, which I could be accused of. If I find the truth and there is a marker for some kind of psychiatric illness, could that be interpreted as an excuse? I don't want to do that but the bottom line is that the truth is important.
"Hitler is a guy who there is an endless fascination historically, with lots of reasons because he was such a repugnant individual, but he had such an impact. Everything else about that man has been poured over in minute detail. The one thing no one has ever looked at is the one bit of him that he couldn't fabricate, he couldn't influence. He couldn't change his DNA - his DNA was what he was and that's what I wanted to have a look at. What we want to hear is the truth about Hitler and ultimately DNA doesn't lie.
Dead Famous DNA – which also features analysis of the likes of King George III and Charles Darwin – begins on Wednesday 26 March at 9pm on Channel 4.