News, Culture & Society

Headmistress thanks Hitler for ‘warm-hearted hospitality’ in unearthed documents

A headmistress thanked Hitler for his ‘warm-hearted hospitality’ in remarkable documents that detail a British schoolgirls’ Berlin exchange visit in 1937.   

The newly discovered archive outlines how 16 pupils at the Simon Langton School for Girls in Canterbury, Kent, came to spend their 1937 Easter holidays in Berlin on a foreign exchange trip.

The school went to extraordinary lengths to try and arrange a face-to-face meeting between the girls and Adolf Hitler.

The pupils, aged about 15, were to present him with gifts including a photo of Canterbury Cathedral and a presentation copy of The Canterbury Tales.

However, while they did not end up meeting Hitler, they were shown around the Reich Chancellery by his minister Otto Meissner.

The newly discovered archive outlines how 16 pupils at the Simon Langton School for Girls in Canterbury, Kent, came to spend their 1937 Easter holidays in Berlin on a foreign exchange trip (pictured)

The archive contains several black and white photos of the meeting as the smartly dressed girls in bonnets handed Meissner a photo.

On it was a signed declaration from the school’s head mistress expressing her ‘respect’ and ‘gratitude’ to the Nazis for facilitating the visit.

It reads: ‘To the Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor, from the Simon Langton Girls’ School in Canterbury, as a mark of respect and of gratitude for the warm-hearted hospitality which we were able to enjoy during our exchange visit to Germany.’

Another letter in the collection discloses that the girls considered their visit to the Chancellery the ‘high point’ of their time in Germany.

The trip appears to have been the brainchild of the Dean of Canterbury Hewlett Johnson, who was chairman of the school’s board of governors.

The school had welcomed German school girls from Halle the previous year who had enchanted him with their folk songs and dances.

The archive contains a letter which reads: 'To the Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor, from the Simon Langton Girls' School in Canterbury, as a mark of respect and of gratitude for the warm-hearted hospitality which we were able to enjoy during our exchange visit to Germany'

The archive contains a letter which reads: ‘To the Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor, from the Simon Langton Girls’ School in Canterbury, as a mark of respect and of gratitude for the warm-hearted hospitality which we were able to enjoy during our exchange visit to Germany’

A letter in the archive signed by Dr Heinrich Doehle, of the Reich Chancellery, dated March 15, 1937, states: On 5th and 6th April this year, 16 English schoolgirls will be in Berlin.

‘They want to bring greetings to the Fuhrer from the Dean of Canterbury… The Dean is a clergyman, who comes under the Archbishop of Canterbury.

‘Unlike the latter, he is supposed to be friendly towards Germany. The schoolgirls are apparently ready to travel to Berchtesgaden, if the Fuhrer should be there.

‘I have replied that the visit, since it falls outside the bounds of normal practice, will perhaps not be possible.’

An extract from a letter by Dr Schulz zur Wiesch, of the Advisory Centre for Study Visits in English-speaking countries, addressed to the Chancellery, states: ‘This is in return for an exchange visit by a group from a school in Halle last summer in a camp set up by the Simon Langton School.

‘The German group understood how to gain the interest not only of the school, but also of the general public in Canterbury, by their mode of behaviour there, and especially by their performance of the folk songs and dances.

‘The work of our group in this way gained such a significance – far beyond the normal run of school exchanges – that the Dean of Canterbury interested himself personally, to a very special degree, in the idea of German-British school exchange visits.

‘The sympathy of this important dignitary went so deep that he involved himself personally in the German-British camp.’

However, it is believed that Hitler declined to meet the girls as the Dean of Canterbury was seen as ‘pro-Communist’, although he allowed his minister to do so.

The documents, which have belonged to a British private collector for 40 years, are tipped to fetch £600 when they are sold with C & T Auctions, of Ashford, Kent.

Tim Harper, specialist art C & T Auctions, said: ‘There is some fascinating paperwork and photos which shed light on the schoolgirls’ trip to Berlin just two years before the countries were at war.

‘A lot of people were perhaps naive to Hitler and thought he was full of bluster but not a threat, while some admired his work policies.

‘We believe these were the only British schoolgirls to visit the chancellery and in hindsight the trip does seem inappropriate.’

The sale takes place on May 26.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk