Chilling tale behind Hitler letter on show in Bangor
Hitler's signature on the letter which can be seen at Bangor Universrity
A letter signed by Hitler sent to a man of Jewish descent who helped organise the 1936 Berlin Olympics has gone on display at Bangor University.
The tale behind the note is both fascinating and a stark illustration of the fear and intimidation which characterised pre-World War II Nazi Germany.
It had passed through several owners before German-born Renate Ellis Jones of Tregarth, near Bangor, loaned it for public display.
The note, dated 1936, was sent by the Nazi Party to Theodor Lewald, a senior civil servant and head of the games organising committee, to thank him for his work as he was retiring because of old age.
Renate Ellis Jones, who owns the letter, at Bangor University library
But the truth was that Dr Lewald, a baptised Christian with one Jewish parent, had been allowed to stay in post only under pressure from the International Olympic Committee.
The Nazi Party had allowed this as long as he left immediately after the games.
Given the status of a letter bearing the Fuhrer's signature, Dr Lewald passed it on to his friend, Dorothea Wegle, a teacher and an upper-middle class German who did not support the Nazi regime.
By the mid-1940s, the war was not going Germany's way and those accused of defeatism or attacking Hitler and the party could face the People's Court, leading to a long term of imprisonment or even a death sentence.
"She was somebody who always said what she thought, and her thoughts on the Hitler regime weren't positive," said Mrs Ellis Jones, a pupil of Dr Wegle.
"She had been threatened several times. So Leward gave her this letter and said, 'the next time some party bonze [bigwig] bothers you, just show him this letter and they will be sufficiently impressed by his signature to leave you alone'.
"And she carried it around with her for many years."
Although Mrs Ellis Jones married a Bangor University lecturer and settled in north Wales, she kept in touch with her favourite teacher.
Wegle narrowly escaped prosecution after a class discussion on Hitler
Dr Wegle had never married, so she gave her letter to her friend, who has kept it safe ever since.
"When I came across it again a few weeks ago, I said we must show it to the present archivist [of Bangor University] and see whether or not something can be done about its deterioration," said Mrs Ellis Jones.
"We did show it, and he became very enthusiastic, and it was on his instigation this exhibition happened.
"I'm delighted more people can see it.
"I'm only sorry that not more of her old pupils, who all rather adored her, are still alive to see it too."
The letter will be on show at the library until the end of term, 18 December 2010.