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In 1940, Pittsburghers offered $1M reward for Hitler capture

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, May 1, 2018, 1:27 p.m.
Adolf Hitler salutes the Olympic flag at the opening of the Olympic Games in Berlin. Germany, Aug. 1, 1936.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Adolf Hitler salutes the Olympic flag at the opening of the Olympic Games in Berlin. Germany, Aug. 1, 1936. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

In May 1940, more than a year before the United States entered World War II, a group of Pittsburghers offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could capture Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

The New York Times reported then that Samuel Harden Church, president of the Carnegie Institute, led the group of 50 men and women who said they would supply the money if Hitler was delivered "alive, unwounded and unhurt" to the League of Nations to stand trial for "crimes against the peace and dignity of the world."

The reward, the equivalent of nearly $18 million today, stood for one month only. No one managed to capture the Fuhrer or claim the reward, but the offer garnered international attention.

The idea reportedly was developed over two or three months of discussion at Downtown's Duquesne Club.

Church said in a Times article published on May 1, 1940, that he felt there was "power in the idea, especially so because it is not in any sense an offer of reward for an assassination, and so I have come to believe that it will indeed catch peoples' imagination."

At the time, Hitler was chancellor of Germany and leader of its Nazi Party. Eight months before details of the Pittsburgh plan went public, Hitler had initiated World War II by invading Poland. The United States entered the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

A follow-up Times article published May 2, 1940, revealed opinions of the Pittsburgh plan ranging from "wrath, ridicule, amusement and seriousness."

A telegram to the Times from a group in Blowing Rock, N.C., described the idea as ridiculous and added: "We hung the Kaiser in 1917. Now they propose to hang Hitler on the same trumped-up charges."

Germany surrendered to Allied forces shortly after Hitler committed suicide in an underground bunker April 30, 1945.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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