Hitler 'saved Jewish army veteran'
Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler intervened to prevent a Jewish First World War veteran being sent to a death camp, a German Jewish newspaper has reported.
The quarterly Jewish Voice says that a newly discovered letter appears to show Hitler wanted Erich Hess to be spared persecution because the two had served in the same German army unit. Hess died in 1983.
The newspaper says the letter from the SS paramilitary organisation was discovered in official archives containing files the Nazi secret police, or Gestapo, kept on Jewish lawyers and judges.
Historian Susanne Mauss, who found the letter, told the Associated Press its authenticity is corroborated by other documents, including one owned by Hess' daughter Ursula.
Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust under Hitler's rule.
Ernst Hess, a judge, had briefly been Hitler's commanding officer, said Ms Mauss.
"It was a wonderful chance find," she said of the letter. "There had always been rumours but this was the first written reference to a protection by Hitler."
The letter was found in official archives containing files that the Gestapo, kept on Jewish lawyers and judges.
In an article in the Berlin quarterly Jewish Voice From Germany, she wrote that Hess eventually lost his special protection, and was made to work as a forced labourer from 1943 until the end of the war in 1945.
After the war he turned down an offer to return to the judiciary and instead worked for the federal railways.
Other members of Hess' family did not survive. His sister Berta was murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Thomas Wwebbedeber, a historian at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland who has published on the Nazi era, said it was plausible that the letter was genuine. Mr Weber said military records showed Hess and Hitler had indeed served in the same unit together and were both wounded during the Battle of the Somme.
But he cautioned that the letter's order "not to harass H. in any way" may not have come directly from Hitler, but rather from someone who felt it would have been the Nazi leader's wish.
Hitler's aide Fritz Wiedemann, who also served in the Bavarian Infantry Regiment, was known to have had a sympathetic ear for Jewish veterans.
"I think it's likely that this was all done by Fritz Wiedemann because he did the same in other cases involving Jewish soldiers," Mr Weber said.
"But I can't exclude that Hitler intervened (on behalf of Hess). We do know that Hitler felt very close to the veterans of his regiment," he said.
That feeling was not mutual, according to Ursula Hess. The 86-year-old told Jewish Voice From Germany that Hitler had no friends in the regiment and was a loner.