An Oxford academic has described how the discovery of a postcard written by Adolf Hitler sent a shudder down his spine.

Dr Stuart Lee was handed the previously unknown postcard – sent by Hitler when he was a First World War soldier – by a member of the public in Germany.

The academic had gone there to lead an appeal for First World War material and memorabilia to add to an online Great War archive created by Oxford University.

But he was left speechless when, at a family history roadshow in Munich, a man showed him a postcard sent in 1916, written and signed by Adolf Hitler.

At first sight it appeared to be just one of many postcards sent by soldiers serving in the trenches.

But Dr Lee quickly realised it was from Hitler, written when he was recovering after being wounded, to an army colleague called Karl Lanzhammer.

In it he describes a recent trip to the dentist and his desire to go back to the front line to rejoin the fighting as quickly as possible.

Dr Lee, director of Oxford University computing services, said: “I felt a shudder run through me. I found it hard to believe that at a local event to record ordinary people’s stories, I was seeing a previously unknown document in Hitler’s own hand.

“I looked at it and thought this is serious. I believed it looked genuine and to be a postcard from that period. But I wanted to make sure and consulted a number of experts who were there.”

After being authenticated by experts, the postcard was digitally recorded and returned to its owner.

Dr Lee said: “The father was a stamp collector and it had been given to him as a retirement present in the 1960s. But no academic had seen it before.”

It is believed the son has since sold the postcard. The original recipient of the postcard died in March 1918.

Dr Lee, one of a number of digital experts attending the roadshow, said, he was used to handling historic documents.

He said: “I am a medievalist and have held some very old documents. But I felt a sense of unease holding something Hitler had written and had touched. When you hold something created by him, all sorts of thoughts go through your head.”

The future dictator was 27 when he sent his greetings from Nuremberg, with the content suggesting he had trouble both with his teeth and his spelling.

Dr Lee said early glimpses of the young Hitler were rare, because he had insisted that documents relating to his early life were destroyed.

The creation of the European archive, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War in 1914, grew out of a university project to create an online archive, launched in 2008.