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Denies any German relations at the close of the war
Eisenhower, Dwight

Dwight Eisenhower –initialed autograph note denying any relatives living in occupied Germany. Eisenhower’s writing is undated but certainly from April or early May 1945. His note is on a translation of an appeal for help from Leipzig on April 19, 1945, hours before its formal surrender.

As Leipzig was falling a German woman appealed to Eisenhower for some special treatment and protection. She was relying on a family story that her late husband was a first cousin of the Supreme Allied Commander. Undoubtedly this relationship was not talked about loudly during the war. As the city was falling and Americans arriving it was time to reveal the secret. The widow hoped family ties would spare her.

Just in case they had found one of Ike’s relatives, Army personnel apparently kept kicking the letter higher up the chain of command until it had nowhere higher to go. Eisenhower wasted no time sending it right back down the chain with an emphatic declaration that he has no close relatives in Germany and nobody would receive special treatment by claiming family ties.

Eisenhower’s note was no doubt also a directive to staff about how any future claims were to be handled. It reads: “No relative! No ancestor of either my mother or father has lived outside U.S. since 1740! Tell G-5 to write in above sense and saying she can appeal to local officials. D.E.”

It is easy to imagine Eisenhower’s anger at such a claim and any expectation that any conquered Germans would receive special treatment from him. Just days or weeks before seeing the letter he had toured the Ohrdruf concentration camp. Now after years of struggle and waiting for the complete destruction of Nazism some woman dares to expect special treatment based on an outrageous claim that he was one of them. It is harder to imagine how devastating the response must have been to the woman. Her world had turned inside out from the destruction of her country, loss of relatives and now fearing loss of her few physical possessions and property. She would soon learn that even the family stories that gave her hope were myths and her dead husband’s “family” would not help her.

Leipzig represented one of the last American engagements in Europe as Eisenhower held back from crossing the Elbe into Berlin. This letter is an intriguing example of how quickly Eisenhower was shifting focus from military conqueror to peacetime occupier overseeing the administration of a defeated country. It is a fascinating and rare example of one woman’s appeal actually reaching Eisenhower’s hands. [#5116]

$1,500.00