Adolf Hitler is a name every generation around the globe is au fait with. There are scores of history books documenting the reign of the Führer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. He’s also been the subject of movies and documentaries.
So what inspired History Channel’s Hunting Hitler series, which is back for a second instalment?
Well, it was the FBI’s declassification of more than 700 pages of information on Hitler, which suggest he survived the fall of Nazi Germany and fled to South America.
This piqued the curiosity of CIA veteran Bob Baer and Dr John Cencich, a senior professor of criminal justice, to pursue this conspiracy theory.
Tim Kennedy, a Sergeant First Class with the 7th Special Forces Group of the US Army who is still part of the most elite section of the Special Forces, also joined them on their expedition.
In a chat with Tonight, Kennedy raved about South Africa.
He says: “I love your country. It’s one of my favourite places to live and work. I have worked in Limpopo. I was in Johannesburg for about four months and then I took my wife to Cape Town on vacation. And I went scuba diving on a different trip.”
While revisiting those fond memories, especially of he and his wife dedicating two weeks to drinking wine, he got to talking about the special skill set he brings to the show.
Kennedy explains: “They were looking for an investigator familiar with being on the ground, and drones. Having been a part of the Special Forces group and still with them, my career has pretty much involved looking at high value targets like Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda head of Zarqawi.”
Having worked in some of the world’s most treacherous places, like the Middle East and South America, he has received multiple commendations, among them the Army’s Bronze Star Medal for valour under fire.
As for how comfortable he was in front the camera, he says: “In my team (in the army), we were the guys who, let’s say if CNN, BBC or Reuters were going to be sending a journalist into combat, would bring them in, keep them safe and let them get a real perspective of what war is. So I was comfortable with having cameras around, in a way.”
On the germination of this series, he notes: “It is an opportunity to revisit a chapter in our history that has maybe been, I wouldn’t say forgotten, but is being intentionally ignored. What we know from history is that history repeats itself.”
He continues: “Adolf Hitler personified the worse of our species. He was able to manipulate and control those humans to do the most atrocious things imaginable. So, first, we had to revisit history to see who this man was.
“The investigation was moving forward with an assumption: if a man like that could rally such radicals around him, is he a man who would die in a Führerbunker? Logic says, maybe not!”
Although season one looked into who Hitler was and what he would do, the second season takes the investigation further.
It was a perilous undertaking, to say the least.
Kennedy reveals: “We had people following us. We had people tracking us. We would fly from one airport to another and the person we saw at the last restaurant (in a different country), we would see again. We had groups of people that were actively following us, trying to inhibit us from getting actual information. There were times when I would be trying to talk to someone and people would walk into the restaurant with SS tattoos and swastikas on their arms. There was no question as to why they were there. And then I could see the person I was talking to recognise them, seated three or four tables away from us, and everything about them would change.”
Aside from that, the team encountered many obstacles, including border agents who were paid off by locals, and immigration officers.
This part of history may be over but the current-day threat remains to those looking into Germany’s past. Nonetheless, the Hunting Hitler team of experts soldier on with their mission to “uncover the truth”.
Hunting Hitler, History Channel (DStv Channel 186), Fridays, 7.20pm.