Letters written by a couple whilst they were interned on the Isle of Man during the Second World War have been saved by Manx National Heritage’s Library and Archive.

Gustav Kahnweiler and his wife Elisabeth, known as Elly, fled Germany in 1933 and moved to Britain in 1935.

However in 1940 amid British fears of possible German invasion, the Kahnweilers were rounded up like other enemy aliens and interned.

Both were sent to camps on the Isle of Man, Gustav to Central Camp (Douglas) and Elly to boarding houses in Port Erin.

Gustav Kahnweiler was director of the Gallerie Flechtheim in Frankfurt from 1922 and with his wife bought works by Juan Gris, including Bottle of Rum and Newspaper, 1913-14, Overlooking the Bay, 1921, and Masson’s Pedestal Table in the Studio, 1922.

The letters, mostly written by Gustav, show them attempting to cope with being imprisoned separately.

Gustav’s letters share news and reveal something of the impact of being interned separately over a seven-month period from June until December 1940.

His correspondence includes a letter written from Huyton Camp before his transfer to the Isle of Man, and a further letter written from Catterick Camp after his release.

A telegram sent in July 1940 implores his wife not to worry or fear.

Eventually Gustav joined the Pioneer Corps and gained an early release in December, and they were finally reunited properly after Elly’s release in mid January 1941.

The letters were the only manuscript lot in an antique sale by J S Fine Art Auctioneers in Banbury.

After a tip-off about the letters by The National Archives, Manx National Heritage bought them.

Among the fascinating papers in the lot are Elly’s summons to appear before the Home Office Advisory Committee at Douglas Court House, November 21 1940, and permits allowing twice weekly visits from her husband Gustav and for Elly to attend classes at the Port Erin Marine Biological Station.

It also allowed her to be out after curfew for special occasions, including as late as 10.30pm on New Year’s Eve.

Among the letters there are also wartime permits, receipts and notices MNH haven’t got elsewhere

The one letter from Elly is written to a friend but did not pass the censor’s scrutiny and was returned, from it we learn about her routine and concerns.

According to Manx National Heritage, the letters give historians an idea of life on the Isle of Man during the Second World War.

Wendy Thirkettle, archivist at Manx National Heritage, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted.

‘In addition to the touching correspondence is other content of note telling Elly’s internment story and providing examples of communications which we haven’t got elsewhere.

‘This alert was very much appreciated’.

It’s rather unusual for Manx National Heritage to actively bid in an auction for historic resources, that’s why they rely so heavily on public donations to bolster their archival collections. But this was an opportunity not to be missed, Wendy emphasised.

James Travers, cultural property manager with The National Archives'’ sales monitoring service said: ‘We are delighted that Manx National Heritage Library and Archives was able to preserve a correspondence which might otherwise have been dispersed or lost entirely.

‘They are fascinating letters of prominent art dealers and philanthropists.’

Members of the public can read the historic letters and find out much more detailed information about Gustav and Elle by visiting MNH’s Library and Archive room in the Manx Museum.

It’s open from Wednesday to Saturday from 10am until 4.30pm and you can make use of their free research facility, with staff on hand to assist with general enquiries, family history, Manx history, culture, language, folklore, archaeology, landholding and much more.