Nazi soldiers’ Christmas cards stolen during occupation of Jersey are finally delivered… 70 years later
Dozens of Christmas messages written by German soldiers stationed in Jersey have finally been delivered – 70 years after they were hidden by defiant British teenagers.
The festive cards and letters were due to be sent home from Nazi soldiers based on the Channel Island during its occupation in the Second World War.
But the cards, dated 1941, were stolen by a group of youths who broke into an Army post office in the capital St Helier.
The youngsters wanted to stop the German troops getting their messages home and hid the sack of mail in a secret location.
All the letters were hidden for 66 years before they were taken to the Jersey Archive five years ago by a man who wants to remain anonymous.
The archive has been working with Deutsche Post in Germany to deliver as many of the messages as possible to their intended recipients.
Felix Blaich, from Deutsche Post, said work began in September to track the families down and ten of the ninety letters have already been delivered.
He said many people had moved or were no longer alive, some were addressed to PO Box numbers which no longer existed and others were marked for places which were not part of modern Germany.
Mr Blaich said: “We had to translate the old street names into the 2012 addresses.
“Then we found out that not many of the addresses had people living with the same name any more so we used our address expertise, our databases, our military mail experts as well as registry offices.”
Farmer Engelbert Bergmann, 55, of Frankfurt, received a letter written by soldier Emil Adam, a neighbour of his grandfather.
Mr Bergmann said: “I feel it is very important to have the other letters delivered in these cases where family or sons and daughters are still around.”
Jersey was occupied by Nazi forces from 1940-1945 during WWII.
The ten letters were delivered on Tuesday – the date they would originally have been received, December 18.
Officials say they thought the job of delivering the Nazi post would be ”impossible”.
Michael McNally, head of international development at Jersey Post said: ‘’When we were first asked to help we thought it would be an impossible task.
”So much time has passed and Germany has changed considerably, both geographically and demographically.
”But after our initial conversation with counterparts at Deutsche Post, we grew more confident that we could do something.
”When we started out on this journey we thought it would be fantastic if we could find members of just one of the families involved to find ten is beyond our hopes.
”As time goes on our aim is to locate even more people to receive these letters. I was there when the letters were finally handed over and I can tell you it was a really emotional experience for all.
”That’s the power of receiving something hand-written from someone close to you.”
The letters were all posted at the German field post office at Falle’s shop, which was at 12-14 Beresford Street.
At the time islanders were beginning to show their defiance and ”V for Victory” signs had begun to appear around the island.
Small acts of resistance began to occur and many Islanders were prosecuted in German courts for insulting the authorities.
Historians says if the young men been caught taking the letters they would have been ”severely punished”.
The archive says it was the second Christmas that German soldiers had spent in the Island and morale ”was beginning to wane among the young men stationed here”.
In December 1941, one letter wrote: “I wish you a merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.
”But what I hope most is that the war will come to an end soon, so that we can all enjoy life again.”
Stuart Nicolle of Jersey Archive said: ”These letters form a truly remarkable collection.
”We have plenty of evidence of how islanders were coping with the conditions during the Occupation.
”But these letters give a unique and fascinating insight into how the occupiers were feeling.
”The letters are very personal, detailing what life was like and showing how far away from home the young men felt at Christmas time.
”We are very grateful to the person who shared these letters with us, and to Jersey Post and Deutsche Post in helping us to get them to their original destinations.’
Kevin Keen, CEO of Jersey Post said: ‘’Christmas is a traditional time to receive news and greetings from family and friends and even though a terrible war prevented these letters from reaching their destination in 1941, we are absolutely delighted to have been able to play our part in delivering these messages to their rightful destination.
”Our colleagues at Deutsche Post have been fantastic – they embraced the whole idea from the outset and have gone to enormous lengths to make this possible.”
Thomas Kipp, CEO of Deutsche Post’s international mail branch DHL Global Mail, said: ”This is a great example of the uniqueness of the postal sector and its international connectedness.
”Passionate postmen from two companies do their best to deliver personal and very emotional messages even after 71 years.”