The finds were far greater in number than originally thought.
Massive flooding across Europe in the summer of 2021 has caused widespread damage to buildings and property that is still being assessed. Rivers and streams rose to dangerous levels after heavy, unseasonable rainfall bombarded the region. Areas affected were the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Croatia. Germany was one of the hardest hit areas with the Rhine flooding all along its snaking path through the whole country, causing untold damage and killing more than 200 people. In the western region of Germany in Hagen the waters severely damaged a building that turned out to be hiding a cache of Nazi-related items from World War II.
Hagen is a small city in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, about 40 miles from Düsseldorf. The city has many older buildings built in historical half-timber and also boasts a small, open-air museum dedicated to showing what the past was like. But, the city also had strong ties to the Nazi party before and during World War II.
The main drag near the train station in the 1930s was renamed for Adolf Hitler (as were many city centers and streets in other cities), so it stands to reason that either willingly or not the city was filled with supporters of the Third Reich. However, due to holdouts in the region the city was heavily bombed by English and American forces.
US forces came into the area in April of 1945, having broken up the so-called “Ruhr pocket” of combatants in the region who had been instructed to fight to the bitter end.
Despite orders to fight to the death, many amateur German soldiers made mad dashes to quickly surrender to Allied forces. But, it appears that some faction leaders and locals took to stashing their Nazi items inside the walls rather than face the option of being discovered with such hard evidence.
The devastating floods damaged many homes and offices, among them the building that concealed a trove of Nazi documents and other artifacts. The stash was placed there by members of the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (NSV for short). The name translates to National Socialist People’s Welfare.
Social welfare was not chief among the concerns of the Nazi party, but the group got its roots in the aftermath of World War I in the early 1920s. By the 1930s the Great Depression meant that some amount of aid was critical to the functioning of society, which the NSV provided.
By the time the Second World War began the NSV was responsible for some of the children’s programs of indoctrination, such as the Kinderland transit which moved children to Hitler Youth camps around Europe for training.
The items hidden by the NSV were found by Sebastian Yultseven when he was helping to clean and renovate his aunt’s home in the Eckesey district of Hagen following the flooding. At first it was only a small trove of items that Yultseven thought he had found, but in the end enough artifacts to fill dozens of boxes were removed from the scene. He later recalled that the discovery gave him goosebumps.
Included in the artifacts are many Nazi documents pertaining to various Nazi programs, a revolver, and some brass knuckles the type of which were issued between 1931 and 1940.
A huge collection of gas masks (ranging from infant sizes to adult male sizes) was also part of the hidden cache. The NSV was responsible to making sure German citizens had their gas masks, which explains the huge selection of masks at the site. A portrait of Adolf Hitler was also found in the cache buried in the brick walls and covered over with a wall.
Other items in the hoard included medals, and an account book for the local chapter of the NSV. The number of artifacts and the sensitive nature of the documents suggests that this building was the center of operations for the Hagen NSV, of which there were 8 cells during the war.
An unexpected find at the site among all the Nazi items was a love letter from one Rudolf Busch dated to 1905. In the heartfelt note he expresses his affection for a woman whom he says he loves “with all the embers of my heart.”
Workers from the Hagen City Archives and LWL Archaeology for Westphalia are still poring through all the items and trying to catalog them in some kind of logical order.
Dr. Ralf Blank of the city archives said that, “Such hasty disposal operations are known from countless diary campaigns, but to actually be able to secure such a find once, that alone is a very exciting thing.” He also said that he hoped that records of the dispersal of “Jewish furniture” would be included in the papers as a way of tracing what happened to some of the Jewish estates that were seized by the Nazis in their brutal campaigns.
NSV duties varied by region and not much is known about their local operations in Hagen. No doubt the vast stockpile of documents found in this cache will be able to provide some information and history on this government organization.