Letter From Spy Father on Hitler’s Stationery Lands at CIA Museum

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Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post / Getty Images

A view of a new exhibit dedicated to the OSS, featuring a letter on Hitler's stationary written by Richard Helms to his son, upper right, has opened at the CIA in house museum on October, 19, 2011 in McLean, Va.

A letter from a CIA agent in Germany at the end of World War II to his three-year-old son in America is one of the newest artifacts at the agency’s private museum, reports the Washington Post.

The reason? The note, which arrived in a brown envelope postmarked May 29, 1945 bearing two 3-cent purple stamps, is embossed in gold with a swastika and the name Adolf Hitler. The writer, operative Richard Helms, pinched the paper from the Fuehrer’s Berlin chancellery and dispatched a message to his son.

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“Dear Dennis,” he began the remarkable seven-sentence letter, dated “V-E day” for May 8, 1945. “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.”

The then-lieutenant. Helms would later become CIA director during the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The younger Helms, now a 69-year-old lawyer in New Jersey, gave Langley the correspondence to display earlier this year. They sent Helms a glass-framed replica in exchange for the original, which he plans to give to his son, a college senior majoring in studio art and photography.

Following his introductory lines, Helms added of Hitler: “He had a thirst for power, a low opinion of man as an individual, and a fear of intellectual honesty. He was a force for evil in the world. His passing, his defeat — a boon to mankind. But thousands died that it might be so.”

The letter is only accessible to agency employees and their guests, but several other letters between the Helms men are available for public viewing at Georgetown University’s library.

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Joe Jackson is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @joejackson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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