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The Most Mysterious Political Decoy Cases in History

List RulesThe most compelling & mysterious political decoy cases in history.

A political decoy is a person employed to impersonate a politician, to draw attention away from the real person or to take risks on their behalf. The political decoy is an individual who has been selected because of their strong physical resemblance to the person they are impersonating. This resemblance can be strengthened by plastic surgery. Often, such decoys are trained to speak and behave like their "target".

Some of the stories surrounding the use of doppelgangers for high profile political figures are so fantastical that they seem like they could come out of a comic book. Because some of these figures are known to have used decoys, conspiracy theories continue to swirl around them. While some of these instances rely primarily on anecdotal evidence and the credibility of witnesses, key moments of the historical narrative would be open to huge possibilities if certain voices had the chance to utter the words, "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

What cases of political decoy use are the most compelling or mysterious?

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  • Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S33882 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE
    Adolf Hitler is known to have employed at least one double and it has been alleged that he employed as many as six. One of these men, Gustav Weler, was later knowingly executed by guards as part of a disinformation strategy and his corpse was found by Allied forces who initially believed it to be Hitler. However, the British surgeon and historical writer W. Hugh Thomas reported in his 1996 book “Doppelgangers” that Gustav Weler was found alive after the war and that Allied troops interviewed Weler following Hitler’s death.
    • Birthplace: Braunau am Inn, Austria
    • Nationality: German Reich
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  • Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain

    Hugh Thomas claims that the man who committed suicide after his capture in Lüneburg in May 1945, was not in fact Heinrich Himmler.

    This claim is based on a number of physical discrepancies, including the apparent lack of a dueling scar on the corpse. Himmler was known to have a 'Y'-shaped scar on his left cheek, left by an epee; the corpse had none. Thomas claims that the substitution was deliberate, in order to throw the Allies off Himmler's scent. It is known that British intelligence agents, including Kim Philby, did not believe the Lüneburg prisoner was Himmler. Thomas's book on this subject, SS-1: The Unlikely Death of Heinrich Himmler, set out the alleged deception in great detail. This theory is not generally accepted by historians.
    • Birthplace: Munich, Germany
    • Nationality: German Empire, Germany
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  • Photo: flickr / CC0

    In 2003, German television network ZDF broadcast claimed that Iraq's former president Saddam Hussein was frequently replaced with doubles for TV appearances. This analysis was based on sophisticated measuring techniques, which detected discrepancies in the position of Hussein's facial features and blemishes from appearance to appearance. It was supported by the opinion of Jerrald Post, the man who created the CIA's Psychological Profile Unit.[22] It was also alleged that Austrian politician Jörg Haider had actually met a double when he thought he was meeting Hussein.[23]

    This claim is however disputed. Dr Ala Bashir, Saddam Hussein's former personal physician stated "The stories about Saddam Hussein having body doubles, to foster the impression that the Iraqi dictator was everywhere, are nonsense."[24]

    • Birthplace: Al-Awja, Iraq
    • Nationality: Iraq
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  • Photo: uploaded by Switchdoctor / uploaded by Switchdoctor / uploaded by Switchdoctor

    Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is alleged to have had a double, identified only as "Rashid". Officials at the KGB allegedly learned that Rashid was a "double" for Stalin and employed him to replace Stalin for some public functions after World War II. Rashid spent two years studying with Alexei Dikiy, an actor who played the role of Stalin in propaganda films. Rashid claimed there were other Stalin lookalikes employed by the KGB, although he never met any. He claimed to have heard of another Stalin double who was hired to live in the dictator's dacha outside of Moscow in the late 1940s and 1950s when Stalin was dying. This double filled in for Stalin for media events and at times when Stalin had to meet government functionaries and others. Rashid died in 1991, aged 93.[12]

    In 2008 another one of Stalin's doubles came forward, having written a book about his adventures as a political decoy. The Putin government gave Felix Dadaev permission to tell his story at age 88.[13] He appeared in a 2014 documentary about Stalin's last days on German television.[14]

    • Birthplace: Gori, Georgia
    • Nationality: Russian Empire, Soviet Union
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