Hitler’s signature passed on as security
A heart-warming story of courage and friendship lies behind an interesting letter signed by Adolf Hitler is being displayed at Bangor University’s Main Arts Library.
The letter bearing Hitler’s signature was sent to a senior Civil Servant, Dr Theodor Lewald, thanking him for his assistance in staging the Berlin Olympics in 1936- he was the head of the German Organising Committee. It contains a lie, however, Dr Lewald was not retiring due to old age as the letter states. He was coerced into leaving his post because he was of Jewish descent. He passed the letter on to schoolteacher, Dr Dorothea Wegle, who was one of a number of upper middle class Germans who did not support the Nazi movement and everything it represented. She had become known locally for her opposition to the Nazi regime which eventually led to her being reported and forced to resign her post as a teacher. Dr Lewald hoped that giving the letter to Dorothea Wegle might save her life if she was stopped by the Gestapo.
Dr Wegle did survive the war, as did Dr Lewald. Some years later, she gave the letter to a former pupil who had stayed in touch with her. That pupil, Mrs Renate Ellis Jones, now lives in Tregarth and has loaned the letter to the University Archive.
Bangor University Archivist, Einion Thomas, takes up the story: “Dr Lewald’s main passion was sport. He had headed the German Organising Committee which had won the 1916 Olympic Games for Berlin, but due to the war they were not held. As a member of the International Olympic Committee he was successful in arguing that Germany should be allowed to compete once more in the Olympic Games. In 1931, due to his efforts, Berlin was awarded the 1936 Olympic Games. In 1932 he became the chairman of the Organising Committee of the Berlin Games.”
“The coming of the Nazi’s into power in January 1933 posed a personal problem for Lewald. He was half Jewish by birth, and even though he had been baptised a Christian, as far as the Nazis were concerned, he should be removed from the Chair of the Olympic Games Organising Committee. Following pressure from the International Olympic Committee, he was allowed to stay as Chairman, with the proviso that he step down as soon as the Games had ended.”
“During the war, he moved in the same circle as a well-educated teacher, Dr Dorothea Wegle, who came from an upper middle class German family.”
“She was one of numerous others from a similar background who were contemptuous of Hitler and the Nazis.”
“Her views became so well-known that she too, was forced to resign her post- though she had been regarded as a brilliant and inspiring teacher. Sometime during the period when she was teaching, she met Theodore Lewald. He realised the great danger that she was in. The war was going badly for Germany and anybody accused of defeatism or attacking Hitler and the party could find themselves before the infamous People’s Court facing a long term of imprisonment or even a death sentence. Dr Lewald gave her the letter telling her to keep it with her at all times and if she was ever stopped or questioned by the Gestapo she was to show it to them. He hoped that this would guarantee some protection for her.”
Dorothea kept the letter with her and ironically after the war, she still carried it around in her handbag.
In 1960 she gave the letter to Renate Ellis Jones, who had been a pupil of hers and had kept in touch with her former teacher.
Mrs Renate Ellis Jones said: “I feel privileged to have had a lifelong friendship with Dorothea Wegle. My friendship with her had a great influence on my life. The most important things were that she inspired in me a love of English which led to my studying English and coming to England after the war, and a love of Classical Greece, which is why I went to Greece and how I came to meet and marry my Welsh husband.
I believe she gave me the letter as she wanted me to have something which she valued.”
Main Arts Library opening hours: Mon-Thur 8.45am-9pm Friday 8.45am-8pm Saturday & Sunday 12-5pm until 17.12.10
Publication date: 22 November 2010