Adolf Hitler almost married a Sussex orphan who adored him to her dying day, historians have claimed.

Hastings-born Winifred Wagner helped the German dictator write his infamous book Mein Kampf, a documentary will show next week.

It has also been suggested that Hitler cheated on his mistress Eva Braun with Winifred, who herself married the gay son of composer Richard Wagner. Winifred always denied the rumours.

She nicknamed the Fuhrer "Wolf" but, despite being captivated by him, used her influence to save some Jews, Communists and homosexuals from the Nazi death camps.

She was born Winifred Marjorie Williams in June 1897 to journalist and critic John Williams and his German wife Emily Karop, who both died by the time she was two.

The documentary, for Welsh channel S4C, claims she was then brought up in a Hastings orphanage for eight years, although a biography by Vienna-based historian Brigitte Hamann has placed it in East Grinstead.

Aged ten she was adopted by distant cousins of her mother in Berlin, who were friends of Richard Wagner's widow Cosima and who introduced her to the Wagner family in Bayreuth, southern Germany.

In 1915, aged 18, she began a marriage of convenience to Wagner's son Siegfried, who was 28 years older than her.

Hitler, a devoted fan of Wagner's music, got to know Winifred through the family and they became friends just as he was launching his political ambitions after the First World War.

The documentary, Adar Drycin, claims she became "captivated" by Hitler and their friendship bloomed through her admiration of Nazi politics and a shared love of opera.

Hitler was jailed in 1924 after leading a failed putsch in Munich and Winifred sent him the paper on which he wrote his political manifesto Mein Kampf while in prison.

Siegfried died in 1930 and Hitler is said to have become like a second father to Winifred's five children, although speculation they would marry came to nothing. She once wrote in a note to Hitler: "My dear, dear friend and Fuhrer. You provide happiness which is beyond words."

He responded by sending a painting of himself.

Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves in a bunker in the closing days of the Second World War, as Allied forces overcame the German army and uncovered the full extent of Nazi atrocities.

Winifred went on trial for her association with Hitler but 50 Jews sent letters of support and 30 testified she had saved them from death. A Bavarian denazification court sentenced her to 450 days' special labour and to have half her property confiscated in July 1947.

Her private correspondence has shown how Winifred told Hitler she was "disgusted" by his persecution of the Jews. But she remained a defiant admirer of him until she died in 1980.

Adar Drycin will be shown on S4C in Wales and, for English viewers, on satellite channel 184, on Tuesday at 9pm.