BERLIN — In shaky handwriting on blue onionskin, the man who signed himself only as “C.” sent his final farewell.
“Dear Brigitte, my strength is leaving every day,” reads the letter attributed to famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh and written 10 days before he died. “The situation is extremely serious. It is very difficult just to write.”
“My love to you and the children, all I can send.”
A photograph of the letter, dated Aug. 16, 1974, is part of a book published this week in Germany with the cooperation of three siblings who say they are the out-of-wedlock children of the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Astrid Bouteuil, Dyrk Hesshaimer and David Hesshaimer worked with biographer Rudolf Schroeck on the 368-page “The Double Life of Charles A. Lindbergh,” published by Heyne Verlag, a division of Random House. The book describes a longtime secret relationship between Lindbergh and their mother, Munich hat maker Brigitte Hesshaimer.
The book also says Lindbergh had two children each with Brigitte Hesshaimer’s sister, Marietta, and with his German private secretary, Valeska, whose last name is not given. There are now no plans for an English edition of the book, the publisher said.
At the heart of the book are selections from letters kept by Brigitte Hesshaimer, who died in 2001. The letters were written in English.
The tone of the letters is often reserved — like Lindbergh himself. His marriage to writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh lasted until his death in Hawaii at age 72, but in the later part of his life he spent much of his time roaming the United States and the globe as a businessman and adviser to the U.S. government.
He and his wife had six children, including Charles Jr., who was kidnapped in 1932 and murdered. Anne Morrow Lindbergh died in 2001.
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Charles Lindbergh, born in Detroit and raised on a farm near Little Falls, Minn., caused a sensation by flying his single-engine plane “The Spirit of St. Louis” from New York to Paris in 33½ hours in 1927.
Dyrk Hesshaimer, who appeared Friday at a book signing in Berlin, said his family has been in contact with several of the Lindberghs from the United States and said they did not oppose the book. “It’s our own story,” said Hesshaimer, whose lanky frame and slightly slouched posture bear resemble old photos of Charles Lindbergh. “They had nothing against it.”
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He said that paternity was confirmed by DNA tests done at the University of Munich, for which a Lindbergh grandson, Morgan Lindbergh, gave a genetic sample.
Kelley Welf, a spokesman for the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation in Anoka, Minn., said the foundation had no comment on the book. A request for comment passed along to the family did not receive a response, she said.
The book says Lindbergh used a post office box in Connecticut to get letters from Hesshaimer and wrote to her at her home in Germany. His farewell letter was sent with no return address; like other letters, it is signed only with his first initial.
The subject matter of the letters is often veiled, including one said to be Lindbergh’s response to news from Brigitte that she was pregnant with Dyrk. “The news you send is wonderful, and I am tremendously happy about it,” the letter reads. “I just wish I could be there with you now, instead of writing this letter...”
Turmoil over his relationships with the two other women, the book notes, was elusively described as “various problems.”
“There are bound to be hurt feelings, as there have been,” the same 1958 letter reads.
Schroeck writes that for an outsider, the letter “would be completely incomprehensible. His relationship with Brigitte, Marietta and Valeska could only be suspected by someone who already knew about it.”
Lindbergh helped Brigitte financially and was generous and kind to the children, the book says.
The letters do describe one secret pleasure. Although Lindbergh was publicly a nonsmoker, one letter from “C.” recounts to Brigitte that “I just lit my second cigarette — wonderful! I wished I could have lit it for you.”
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