Letters written by German soldiers stationed on the Channel Island of Jersey have finally been delivered, 71 years after they were stolen in an act of resistance against the Nazi occupation.
The 90 letters and cards were taken just before Christmas 1941 by a group of young men who ‘liberated’ a German military post box in St Helier. They were passed to a friend for safekeeping, who kept them hidden in his family’s piano.
Then five years ago, the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, handed them over to Jersey Archive where staff began the slow process of trying to get them to their original destination, a spokesman for the archive said.
Jersey Post got in touch with its German counterpart, Deutsche Post, which has now found ten families related to the original recipients who still live in the same places — and finally delivered some of the messages.
Engelbert Bergmann, a 55-year-old farmer from Frankfurt, received a letter written by Emil Adam, a neighbour of his grandfather who died in the mid 1980s.
“First I thought it might be a joke, but when I heard the whole story I was enthusiastic and was very keen to see what was in the letter,” Bergmann told the BBC, adding that Adam had died in the mid-1980s.
“I feel it is very important to have the other letters delivered in these cases where family or sons and daughters are still around.”
It was the second Christmas that the German soldiers had spent on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, and some of the letters reveal homesickness of the young men so far from home.
“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,” one of the soldiers wrote.
“These letters form a truly remarkable collection,” said Stuart Nicolle, acting head of Jersey Archive.
“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 Channel Islands, which were occupied by the Nazis between 1940 and 1945, are not part of the United Kingdom but are self-governing ‘crown dependencies’ with their own legal, financial and judicial systems.