So how did Heinrich Himmler’s personal letters end up in a Tel Aviv bank vault, and why have they only come to light 69 years after the SS chief committed suicide at the end of World War II?
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German newspaper Die Welt has reported that 700 letters written by Himmler ended up in a Tel Aviv bank vault. The paper plans to publish some of them in the coming weeks.
According to Die Welt, many of the letters are signed “Dein Heini” (“Your Heini”) or “Euer Pappi” (“Your Daddy”) and the handwriting matches other verified letters by Himmler.
"I'm off to Auschwitz, kisses, your Heini," Himmler wrote in one of them.
After the war, two American soldiers collected hundreds of letters and documents from Himmler’s home in Bavaria. According to Die Welt, these papers found their way into the possession of Chaim Rosenthal of Tel Aviv. Rosenthal kept the letters for 40 years under his bed.
In the 1980s, Rosenthal tried to sell the letters after the German Federal Archives had authenticated them. But in 1983 German magazine Stern published excerpts from an alleged Hitler diary that turned out to be fake. In that atmosphere, the world wasn’t interested in more documents from Nazi leaders that could turn out to be forgeries.
When Rosenthal was 90, his son finally persuaded him to hand over the material for publication and, in 2007, Belgian diamond dealer David Lapa bought them for a symbolic fee, Die Welt reported. Lapa gave the documents to his daughter Vanessa, a film director, to make a documentary about them.
In 2011, Vanessa Lapa approached a reporter at Die Welt through her lawyer and proposed that the material be published. Later, at a meeting with a reporter from the paper, she brought Himmler's letters and photographs from 1927 to 1945 – the year he committed suicide.
In the three years since, Die Welt has been authenticating the letters with the help of the German Federal Archives. The handwriting matches that in letters from Himmler to his wife in the archives.
On June 22, 1941, after hearing on the news about Operation Barbarossa – the German invasion of the Soviet Union – she wrote to her husband: "There is still caviar left in the fridge. Take it." His daughter, Gudrun, wrote: "It is terrible we are going to war with Russia. They were our partners. After all ... Russia is too big. The battle will be very difficult – if we want to conquer it all."
Two days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Himmler made his way to Hitler. He tried ringing home almost every day but forgot about one very important date. "I am so sorry that I forgot our anniversary," he wrote to Marga four days late on July 7, 1941. "Many things happened during those days," he added. "The fighting was very difficult, especially for the SS."
The collection also includes some love letters and erotic messages.
"I am so fortunate I have a bad husband who loves his bad wife… as she loves him," Marga wrote. In other instances, the lovebirds use the word "revenge" flirtatiously." The revenge - it will be fun," he wrote to her on January 9, 1928, while aboard a train to Munich. "I am nothing but revenge. Forever," he added. "My black soul thinks about impossible things."
"We, the thugs of the German struggle for freedom, are meant to be lonely and banished," he wrote to her on Christmas of 1927. And on December 30 of the same year, he wrote, "I can imagine the horror waiting for us in the future, that sooner or later I will bring pain and suffering to the dearest to my heart on Earth."
Soon after, in January of 1928, Marga called her husband, a "bad man with a hard and coarse heart." In response, he called her a "small woman."
Marga's anti-Semitism is apparent in the couple's correspondences.
On February 27, 1928, she wrote to him about "the Jewish scum." Himmler responded: "My poor love, you have to deal with the Jews because of the money." Before they wed, she had sold her share in a Berlin clinic to her Jewish partner. "A Jew will always be a Jew," Himmler wrote to his wife, after she complained to him. "If only I could help you," he wrote.
On November 14, 1938, after Kristallnacht, Marga wrote in her journal: "This thing with the Jews – when will the scum leave us alone so that we can live our happy lives?"
The correspondence contains no mention of the genocide against the Jewish people, nor any mention of the concentration camps. "I'm off to Auschwitz, kisses, your Heini" is an example of how Himmler brought up his work. "In the coming days I'll be in Lublin, Auschwitz, Lviv and then in new parts. I wonder if I'll be able to phone…best wishes, have a nice trip and enjoy our little daughter. Many warm blessings and kisses, you daddy," he wrote to his wife on July 15, 1942.