Ian Shapira of the Washington Post recently reported the following in his article entitled “From the Desk of the Fuehrer.”
“At CIA headquarters in Langley, one of the newest artifacts in the agency’s private museum is a message from a father to his 3-year-old son. The gold-embossed letterhead features a swastika and the name Adolf Hitler.
“Dear Dennis,” the seven-sentence letter begins. “The man who might have written on this card once controlled Europe–three short years ago when you were born. Today he is dead, his memory despised, his country in ruins.
“Dennis is Dennis Helms, now a 69-year-old intellectual-property lawyer in New Jersey. The letter writer was his father, Richard Helms, the CIA director during the Vietnam War and Watergate eras, who died in 2002.
“Right after Germany’s surrender, Lt. Helms, an intelligence operative, sneaked into Hitler’s chancellery in Berlin and pilfered the Fuehrer’s stationery. He dated the letter “V-E day” for May 8, 1945.
The letter astounded the CIA museum’s curatorial staff when it was acquired in May–and not only because Helms wrote with such paternal tenderness. It also conveyed a certain historical intuition about the evil that one man could do. The letter happened to arrive at Langley the day after Osama bin Laden was killed in May.”
As I read this article and followed up with a little more research of my own, I was struck by several thoughts; one of them being the realization that my interpretation of the Holocaust was still so childlike.
Born in 1960, it was likely after 1970 that I was introduced to the whole idea in history classes, and it was something that seemed so horrific I could never get my hands around the notion that it was allowed to happen.
In my simple assessment, at the ripe old age of 10, I thought, “Why doesn’t someone just kill that guy?” An idea that pushed me to later read the book “Codename Valkyrie,” the story of how Claus Von Stauffenberg and many others repeatedly tried to eliminate Hitler and change the frightening course of events that were being played out by the Germans.
I just kept thinking that something so bad could not be true.
But it evidently didn’t bother me enough to give me pause as life rolled on. I mean, genocide continues today in many other parts of the world as I calmly sip my coffee and write this story.
It seems incredible to us when we are forced to see it or hear about it, because we are so caught up in our own world. We complain about so many trite little things, yet our brethren are losing their lives simply for being born in places like Burma and Darfur. Look at the million-plus that were killed without reason or cause in Rwanda in 1994.
We’ve all seen the grainy black-and-white film of Hitler’s troops marching by or standing in miles of perfectly squared blocks, each soldier listening with spellbound loyalty as this maniac spewed forth his twisted views and idioms.
It plays like a horror movie. How could an entire nation fall under the spell of one measly little insignificant man? Yet he had the whole world waiting for his next move. Then suddenly, he was gone.
So just imagine the moment. Richard Helms is now sitting at the desk of Adolph Hitler, a desk from which thousands of morose and demented ideas have poured forth. The man is dead. The world is safer. Nations will breathe a collective sigh.
And to whom does Helms address his letter? His 3-year-old son; in essence–the future. Hoping that the lessons learned will stand the test of time and resonate with those who should be more reasonable because of the lessons of the past.
But ironically, the letter itself surfaces in the wake of the Osama Bin Laden assassination. And all that that implies.
The wheel goes round.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at email@example.com.