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Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007

End of story? Not quite: Mother and daughter were of Jewish blood.

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December 28, 2007 (Friday)
Windsor (England)

... INTENDING to go to the PRO, but I have so much paperwork left that I resign myself to staying here all day. I write this letter to DLA [solicitors acting for the Official Trustees who seized my property]; it occured to me during a sleepless night, a minor advantage from having eaten that foul vegetable soup last-use-dated (I now find) three weeks ago:

The letter of Mishcon de Reya to your goodself dated November 26, 2003 makes plain that my file "Judenfrage" was among the boxes inspected by Lipstadt's expert historian Dr Tobias Jersak in 2003.

The "file Judenfrage" was my White Archive Box 51, "Judenfrage", a list of whose contents is Exhibit 2 to my recent Witness Statement. I collected it for my Himmler biography, on which I am still working. Archive Box 51 is now one of those that are missing. The identity is established thus: The document which Dr Jersak praised as "extremely valuable" (a document from the Auschwitz commandant, dated August 12, 1942) is Item 352 on page 37 of that list.

This box therefore ... was among the items wrongfully seized by your clients on May 23, 2002. That it is now missing ... indicates that at some time after November 2003 it and no doubt the others too were disposed of by your clients, against the advice you had rendered to them, and perhaps even sold to my rivals; which would of course double the loss inflicted on me.

When we reach Disclosure no doubt your clients' files will reveal the true story.

10:50 a.m I email it to DLA. Right between the eyes. [...]

Into Eton at three p.m. and look at two desks in the High Street; a small partner's desk with hideous clear plastic (storeowner insists: original glass) drawer knobs is marked at £5,500; a better, rather wider, partner's desk, by Maples in 1920, is marked at £2,200, owner says he would come down to £1,750, as I am local. I flee, bitter that my own fine partner's desk in Duke Street, purchased from Harrods for £750 thirty years ago, and worth at least £5,000 by these standards, went for £35 in the hands of those thieves, the Trustees. A sweet deal for somebody.


December 29, 2007 (Saturday)
Windsor (England)

IN the afternoon I work in the study on Himmler drafting. B. ... has sent Jessica out to buy slippers. ... She asks a for dressing gown too, as she is certain to be admitted. We go to Oxford Street; but there are no dressing gowns left at all in Marks & Spencer or at Selfridges. What a city. Over supper ... Jessica mentions, upon my cautious inquiry, that after scoring twelve "One-A's" on her school report at half-term, the score in her end of term report is only three; she has not volunteered this fact or shown me the report. I must get to the bottom of it. She's full of a grammar-school dance on January 2: needs a white dress to attend, etc.... Okay (reluctantly, with strict conditions on the time by which she must be home).

Hitler and Bernile Nienau hand in hand8:40 p.m I ask Bente about the school results, and she says that Jessica had nine One-A's. Typical Jessica, hiding her light behind a bushel.

Picture right: Hearing that a little girl in the crowd has the same birthday as him, Hitler fetches her up to the Berghof. She is Bernile Nienau (see below)

December 29, 2007 (Saturday)
Windsor (England)

IN 1962, after my first book The Destruction of Dresden was ready for publication, my London publisher asked me what I would write next. I said that I planned to use the same methods -- direct archival research, and meeting personal sources at first-hand -- that I had used for Dresden, to discover the truth about Adolf Hitler.

Forty-five years have passed since that naive conversation. The years did not roll past without their setbacks and pain: it has been a long journey, and I still cannot claim that I have unearthed the whole story about this man who shaped the twentieth century, if not his millennium.

Back in the 1960s, when I first started using the German Federal Archives in Koblenz, I came across the records of Hitler's private chancellery -- which handled his personal correspondence after he came to power. I selected about a hundred pages for microfilming, the only way of copying in those days, and bound the resulting prints into a blue volume -- it is, or was, in one of the 170 boxes that the authorities returned to me from my archives on October 16.

JersakI say was, because Tobias Jersak of Stuttgart university (left), the history "expert" appointed by Professor Deborah Lipstadt to evaluate my files during her later abandoned High Court claim to seize possession of them herself, reported that much of them was "extremely valuable" (his words); so valuable in fact that he was caught actually leaving the Trustee's warehouse with items he had filched from my collection. (The whole of my "extremely valuable" archive box No. 51, "Judenfrage," was certainly in the warehouse when he walked in in November 2003, and it is now, uh, missing.)


Left: Lipstadt's historican expert Dr Tobias Jersak, of the University of
Stuttgart: a thief with a degree in kicking people when he thinks they're down


TO continue: I have not located that blue volume, but I do recall over the years that the files contained a puzzling letter written to "Uncle Adolf" in a rounded, childish hand by "Bernile" -- and that Adolf had taken unusual pains to answer it in person. Normally his private chancellery sent back the kind of letter that a reader sent me last month (below) to evaluate (it was clearly genuine -- a polite refusal to supply an autograph, as the Führer and Reich Chancellor no longer did so).


I had always known that Hitler enjoyed meeting his people -- that most afternoons in peacetime, a crowd of villagers and tourists would wind its way up the hillside to his home (see the picture above), to file past him and wave: he stood in the shade of a tree planted overnight for him by Martin Bormann, and waved back as their camera shutters clicked -- just as our beloved national leaders like Bush, Blair, and Brown would no doubt stand and wave, if the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns, the police, the armourplate and bullet proof glass did not get in the blasted way.

Later I kept finding a touching photo of Hitler with an infant girl -- he liked children, and not just when the camera lenses were around -- and his private staff identified her to me, with indulgent smiles, as a girl from the city, Bernile Nienau, who was always a welcome visitor with her mother at his mountainside home. Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf's court photographer, confirms the identity in his 1955 memoirs, Adolf Hitler Was My Friend.

Hitler called her his "little sweetheart". She featured in many of the photos and picture postcards that Hoffmann sold at that time.

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Next cities Liverpool Jan 12, and Halifax: buffet and talk 7-10 pm

End of story? Not quite.

Last week I had a package from Don B., who lives in darkest Pennsylvania. I last saw him on October 3, 2000 -- I drove up from Washington DC to see his extraordinary collection of Heinrich Himmler stuff, about which readers will find more in my forthcoming biography of the Reichsführer.

Don has just acquired the papers of Bernile Nienau's mother, and it contains the most extraordinary pictures, sent by Hitler and suitably embellished, to the mother and daughter -- about whom I shall reserve the most significant fact until last. Rosa Bernile Nienau -- she did not use her first name -- and her mother visited Hitler from 1932 until 1938. Adolf and Bernile shared the same birthday, April 20.

"The first photo in the original Hoffmann folder," writes Don, "is addressed to Rosa's mother, Frau K. Nienau, Doctor's widow, of Munich, Laimer Strasse 31, ground floor". The photo was taken in 1933 and has Hitlers favorite flower the Edelweiss attached to it. It has a hand dedication by Hitler which reads: Der lieben und braven Rosa Nienau, Adolf Hitler, München, den 16/ Juni 1933 (To my darling and good Rosa Nienau, Munich, June 16, 1933. Adolf Hitler). [Click signature-area for enlargement]

Hitler and Bernile

Hitler glued Edelweiss, white heather, to two of the photos, and the flora are still adhering to the pictures in the frames that Don has acquired. They have the original Heinrich Hoffmann imprints on the back.

In 1936 they visited the Berghof, and Hitler gave her a photograph taken of their first visit four years earlier, to the then "Haus Wachenfeld", in 1932. It also has Edelweiss attached to it. This time Hitler's dedication reads: Der lieben Gretele, Adolf Hitler, Obersalzberg 1936 -- To the darling Gretel. Adolf Hitler, Obersalzberg, 1936, a possible reference to the Hansl and Gretl story.

The other picture acquired by Don is a large photo with no flowers attached signed in ink just "Adolf Hitler" .

End of story? Not quite: Mother and daughter were of Jewish blood. As the Vienna University Professor Brigitte Hamann wrote in her otherwise conformist book, Hitlers Wien, it is one of the Big Lies of history to say that anti-semitism drove Hitler after he came to power. The reverse is true. His was the foot on the brake. (Talking of feet, if I ever set mine on German soil again, I would be imprisoned even for writing those words; but -- while the camera can, it does not always lie.)

When the evil men around him dug up the facts about Bernile and her mother in 1934, Hitler sent the bearers of bad tidings away, not the charming couple: and they continued to be welcome at the Berghof until 1938 if not beyond.

Don reports: "Hitler became aware of her Paternal Grandparents who were Jewish in 1934 and [of] two uncles who were in Dachau concentration camp, but continued to let her and her mother come to the Obersalzberg to visit until 1938, as he looked forward to her visit."

Don is going to write a book about them now. I wonder if he knows how long and painful his journey is likely to be?

Postscript, August 4, 2008: With the help of Volker Dahm of the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte, correspondent Stephen Lehrer has filled in the last gap on Bernile Nienau. She died, evidently of natural causes, in a Munich hospital in 1944, aged 17. There is no patient file however. In 1944 many people were dying in Germany, and she may equally have been injured in an air raid.

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[Previous Radical's Diary]

A gallery of original Hitler photos and snapshots | Hitler with Bernile Nienau | Hitler sends a photo with Edelweiss to another child, Eva, in 1934
Another gallery with more excellent photos of Hitler with Bernile (scroll down)
Brigitte Hamann, a Vienna-based historian: biography Winifred Wagner or Hitler's Bayreuth
Mommsen: on Brigitte Hamann (Hitlers Wien. Lehrjahre eines Diktators. Piper Verlag)
© Focal Point 2007 F DISmall David Irving