Private Letters of SS Chief Found in Tel Aviv

Hundreds of letters written by Heinrich Himmler to his wife are found, shedding light on the life of Hitler's second in command.

Hundreds of previously unpublished personal letters, notes and photographs from SS chief and Nazi Interior Minister Heinrich Himmler have surfaced in Israel, the German newspaper Die Welt reported.

The documents, shedding light on one of the most notorious members of Hitler's inner circle, include letters Himmler wrote his wife Marga from 1927 until five weeks before his suicide in 1945, as well as many photographs and even recipe books.

Some of the documents, stored in a bank vault in Tel Aviv, will be revealed in a series of articles by Die Welt in the coming weeks, starting on Sunday.

The documents were kept at the private home of an Israeli Jew until they made their way into the hands of a collector, the father of Israeli movie director Vanessa Lafa, who prepared a film based on them which will be screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

The second most important official of the Third Reich, Himmler was a key figure in the preparation of the Final Solution for the Jewish Problem in Europe, according to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. When Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces, Himmler attempted to flee under an assumed name but was apprehended by the British. On May 23, 1945, before being put to trial, Himmler swallowed a poison capsule concealed in his mouth and died.

The German Federal Archive (Bundesarchiv) has authenticated the documents. 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. The newly discovered letters also correspond with Himmler's wife's letters, kept by the German Federal Archives for years.

The wealth of documents found is exceptional compared to the personal written legacy by others in the Nazi top brass, historian Michael Wildt told Die Welt. "Adolf Hitler and his official deputy Hermann Göring left virtually no personal records. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, the fourth leading Nazi, left a huge inventory of handwritten diaries and daily dictations. But they are almost, without exception, material for future propaganda and not really private documents," he said.

The private correspondence adds many details previously unknown about Himmler's life, and offer a rare glimpse into his personality, day-to-day conduct and acquaintances, Die Welt reported. The letters paint a fuller picture regarding Himmler's rise in the Nazi ranks, as well as his developing relationship with Marga.

Keeping his wife out of the public eye, the two drifted apart due to his ongoing affair with his secretary, starting on 1938. However, the letters reveal that the two remained in good relations to Himmler's last day.