Showing posts with label Hitler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hitler. Show all posts

February 2, 2017

The very fine line between 'collecting' & 'obsession' - Alexander Historical Auctions auctions a looted Adolf Hitler's telephone

“I picked up all of Hitler’s furniture at a guesthouse in Linz,”.....“The owner’s father’s dying wish had been that a certain room should be kept locked. I knew Hitler had lived there and so finally persuaded him to open it and it was exactly as it had been when Hitler slept in the room. On the desk there was a blotter covered in Hitler’s signatures in reverse, the drawers were full of signed copies of Mein Kampf. I bought it all. I sleep in the bed, although I’ve changed the mattress.”

--British Millionaire, Kevin Wheatcroft, owner of the Wheatcroft Collection, widely regarded as the world's largest private accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia. 

The French sociologist and theorist of postmodernism Jean Baudrillard once noted that collecting mania is found most often in “pre-pubescent boys and males over the age of 40” reminding us in Le Système Des Objets  that “what you really collect is always yourself.”

With that in mind, it is interesting that at a time when most of the major auction houses, and even eBay have some semblance of restrictions on the ghoulish and macabre trade of Nazi memorabilia, Alexander Historical Auctions, in Chesapeake City, Maryland, and their online partner Invaluable have chosen to auction Hitler's telephone.

Looted from the subterranean Führerbunker near the Reich Chancellery in Berlin in the days following Germany's surrender, the fürer's phone was smuggled into England by British officer Brigadier Sir Ralph Herbert Rayner MBE who kept the Nazi relic in his English country manor, Ashcombe Tower from 1945 onward.

Part-home, part-personal museum, Ashcombe Tower is filled with the Brigadier's collection,  of which the blood-red phone was just one of the trinkets collected by the conservative MP before his death. In an article written by the UK’s Western Morning News in May 2011, Major Ranulf Rayner, the Brigadier's son, said the gruesome family heirloom was “not for sale at any price” but I guess the family has had a change of heart or perhaps financial circumstance.

Sale 66, Lot 1040 of their February 19th sale reads:


“ADOLF HITLER'S PERSONAL TELEPHONE, presented to him by the Wehrmacht and engraved with his name, gifted by Russian officers to Montgomery's Deputy Chief Signals Offcer [sic] who had arrived at the Fuhrerbunker only days after the fall of Berlin.”


Collecting the relics of death is big business.

Despite what is morally acceptable or what is blatantly offensive, the law remains on the side of the dealers who willingly profit from the sale of this disturbing and ghastly material.  America, Russia, and China and to a lesser extent England remain burgeoning markets in Third Reich-era memorabilia, where original Nazi uniforms and concentration camp clothing can sell for tens of thousands of dollars to private collectors.

In 2015 three copies of Hitler's racist autobiographical manifesto sold through Los Angeles auction house Nate D Sanders in just a month.  Two sold for $64,850 and the third sold for just over $43,000.

Dealers justify their commerce saying collectors who buy this material are fundamentally people who are interested in preserving military history.  In defense of the trade they are often quoted as saying that the majority of their clients are not Fascists or skinhead extremists but regular Joe's like the people scene in this video, who choose to collect this type of divisive heritage as a means of remembrance.

I once knew a boutique freight forwarder who used to have a client who collected instruments of torture, shipping them from all around the world. They finally decided to sever their relationship when the collector asked for a quote to import a gas chamber. (I can't even imagine the customs paperwork on that).

For me the line between remembrance and obsession stops short of sleeping in Hitler's bed, showing your friends and hunting party guests your Hitler telephone or making room in your house for your very own private gas chamber.

Macabre objects of this type belong in museums, where they can be displayed in the proper context as reminders of mankind's tragic past, not in settings where there is a risk of being used to sensationalize, glorify or aggrandize the horrors of the Nazi movement.

Op Ed: Lynda Albertson

June 2, 2015

Arthur Brand’s Art Investigation Uncovers Nazi Art Hoard — A treasure of propaganda

Two bronze horses recovered in Germany
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
  ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dutch Art Investigator Arthur Brand’s work over the past 1 1/2 years to recover, amongst others, two bronze statues commissioned by Adolph Hitler and once thought destroyed is well-documented in the English media in an interview by NPR (“An Epic Art Tale: Commissioned By Hitler, Recovered by German Police”, May 30, 2015); in Spiegel Online (“The Quest for Hitler’s Lost Treasures” by Konstantin von Hammerstein, May 26, 2015); and in The Wall Street Journal (“A Dark Niche Emerges in German Market: Nazi Art”, by Harriet Torry and Andrea Thomas, May 26, 2015).

On Monday, June 1, I spoke with Arthur Brand via Skype and asked him if the information in the Spiegel Online article was accurate. Brand confirmed that he had worked with the journalist, Konstantin von Hammerstein, who not only has an excellent reputation, Brand said, but worked with him throughout the investigation.

“It’s good to be backed by a journalist,” Brand said. “What if the police don’t believe you? Konstantin did a lot of research. I really owe him. We did it together, and at some point we joined with Renee Allonge of the Berlin police. We worked secretively and well together.”

I asked him why a former art dealer with no money had been approached in 2013 about the sale of the two bronze horses sculpted by Josef Thorak as propaganda for Nazi ideals.

“The market for Nazi memorabilia for high-end stuff is very small, secretive, and you must have money,” Brand said. “These statues were only moving within 3-4 families. Not only Nazis but art historians and even some Jews are interested in these pieces because they are a part of history.

“The people who were trying to find a buyer didn’t actually have access to the horses,” Brand said. “They were trying to offer buyers to the owners. This woman (the former art dealer) walks around well-dressed and pretends to be rich although she lives in a small apartment in a poor neighborhood in Berlin. She had neither access to the horses, nor could she provide a buyer. Although she passed on the information to the police, she could not go forward.

“Michel van Rijn was approached by a Stephen from Belgium who offered two bronze horses for sale. Michel is half Jewish and retired so he contacted me to give it a try,” Brand said. “It took me 1 1/2 years to infiltrate and gain confidence because I was going through middlemen. I told Stephen that I had an oil baron from Dallas who would be interested in purchasing unique pieces with a story attached. Stephen then offered the two bronze horses by Thorak but that was only the first step. Finally, I gained his confidence and we had meetings that I filmed for hours and he made a few mistakes that provided information about the men he was working for, the owners of the horses. Konstantin and I arranged satellite photos of the garden of one of these men and we saw the bronze army known as “Die Wehrmacht” — the most famous statue of Nazi propaganda which was shown in Nazi films as standing in the Reichs Chancellery. We couldn’t believe our eyes.

"Then in another conversation, Stephen slipped and finally we gave rumors to German police and with this witness statement they could do these raids. So many places, so many policemen had to be coordinated. If it had gone wrong, I could be able to speak to the press today. One of the police officers told me and Konstantin that when they entered one of the warehouses, they stood there for 5 minutes to just look at the horses, the 40,000 kilo statue, and the other Reichs Chancellery statues that we recognized from old films. They said it was more than they could have imagined.”

This recovery of cultural property and lost art is not art stolen by the Nazis but art commissioned by Hitler between 1933-1945. I asked him what it’s like to recover such art from such a difficult period of history.

“It’s a dual feeling. Nazi art, you can ask every historian, is part of history and should be preserved,” Brand said. “Art itself does not kill. It was art created by artists who were famous before and after the war although the art was used as propaganda to demonstrate what the perfect human being should be. These pieces can teach us that totalitarian regimes are not that far apart — Hitler’s statues were procured during Stalin’s reign and hidden on a Russian army base. You can look at art and recognize the elements that reflect totalitarian regimes — art can show us what is behind certain ideologies such as those repressive governments in Eastern Europe or Africa.”

One of the downsides of recovering lost art, Arthur Brand said, is the impact it has on other people. In this case, Brand is going to drink a beer with one of the art dealers involved in this case. “It was not my intention, when these horses were found, to get these art dealers who are in their 70s in trouble," Brand said. "The owners of this Nazi art wanted to sell them because their children had threatened to destroy the art as a way of erasing their family ties to a Nazi past.

“The art idealized the masculine and feminine. Art was an important propaganda tool for the Nazis and continues to be so for other totalitarian regimes. Art is a warning sign of the intentions of certain governments. Showing Nazi art can be an educational tool. Exposing these pieces can show people and help explain why they did this — the propaganda art was meant to prepare people’s minds to dehumanize others who were sent to concentration camps. This Nazi art was used to support their ideology.

“You cannot erase history by destroying art you don’t agree with. Hitler tried it. Stalin tried it. We need to show it, teach it, and explain it so that we recognize totalitarian and repressive regimes when they emerge."


Other articles may be found through Arthur Brand's Facebook page.

Brand also worked on the recovery of art in a theft at the Museum van Bommel van Dam.

January 31, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor Patricia Kennedy Grimsted on Plundering Libraries in World War II

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted wrote “The Postwar Fate of Einsatzstab Riechsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records” in the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of Art Crime. In her abstract, Dr. Grimsted wrote:
“Alfred Rosenberg was one of Nazi Germany’s most successful “looters.” The Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), organized specifically for plunder under his direction, seized cultural property across Nazi-occupied territories. This article traces what happened to the ERR’s hoard of books and archival materials that ended up at war’s end in the ERR evacuation center headquartered in Ratibor (now Polish Racibórz) in Upper Silesia. In contrast to the treasures found in the Western occupation zones of Germany and Austria, a large part of the property in Silesia fell into Soviet hands. Thus plundered a second time, it was held in secret for decades. Only recently has it been possible to find and identify the displaced books and archives, and to raise the issue of restitution. The author also addresses the issue of where and why the ERR’s own records were scattered, as well as current efforts to identify them and make them more accessible to researchers electronically on the Internet.”
Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted is a Senior Research Associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute and an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and an Honorary Fellow of the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam). She received her Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964 and has taught at several universities, including American University and the University of Maryland. Among many fellowships and awards, she was a Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2000-2001), and in 2002 she received the Distinguished Contribution to Slavic Studies Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Dr. Grimsted is the West’s leading authority on archives of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the other Soviet successor states. She is the author of several historical monographs, documentary publications, and a series of directories and many other studies on Soviet-area archives, including the comprehensive Archives of Russia: A Directory and bibliographic Guide to Holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Russian edition, 1997; English edition, 2000). She currently directs the Internet version of ArcheoBiblioBase, a collaborative electronic directory project with data from the Federal Archival Service of Russia, maintained by the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam).

She has also written widely on World War II displaced cultural treasures (see below). In 1990 she was responsible for revealing information about the archives from all over Europe that were captured by Soviet authorities after the war and long hidden in Moscow. With Dutch colleagues she edited the volume Returned from Russia: Nazi Archival Plunder in Western Europe and Recent Restitution Issues (Institute of Art and Law, UK, 2007), soon to be released in an updated paper edition. Most recently, she edited and was a major contributor to the collection Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage: The Russian Cultural Property Law in Historical Context, published as International Journal of Cultural Property 17, no. 2 (2010). She is currently consulting for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and has just completed the guide Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), soon to be released on the Internet, which is already serving as the basis for virtual display of many dispersed fragments, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives).

ARCA blog: You write about meeting a retired Belarusan professor of French philology, Vladimir Makarov, who had found in Minsk books with autographs of French writers such as André Gide, André Malraux, and Paul Valéry. He told you in 2003 that he had not found anyone else so concerned about the provenance and fate of these books. More than six decades after World War II, what is it about these stolen and misplaced libraries that is so compelling for you? And are you surprised that these volumes have not been destroyed?
Dr. Grimsted: Over the past decade and a half there has been a renewed interest in the fate of cultural valuables looted during the war. I find it tragic that many of these books were looted from Holocaust victims and other prominent individuals in Western Europe, and that unlike countries in Western Europe, the Soviet Union never made any effort to return them to their owners. Only since the 1990s have we learned about the fate of the art, archives, and libraries books looted a second time by the Soviets after the war.

Some of the volumes from Western Europe the Soviets captured were destroyed, but close to half a million survived. The rare books that were hidden away for half a century in Belarus, many with famous autographs, are finally being catalogued. However, Belarus librarians have no interest in returning them to their owners, and prefer to consider them “compensation” for their own war losses..
ARCA blog: You write that owners of half a million plundered books from Western Europe and the Balkans that went to Minsk (and another half million plundered from Soviet libraries) never knew that their books had survived and been “saved” by the Red Army. The information was classified or secret for half a century. You think that even today the Rothschild family or the heirs of Léon Blum, Georges Mandel, or Louise Weiss may not know that some of the treasures from their family libraries traveled to Minsk. Are people making inquiries now that ERR records of plunder are being gathered, digitized and made available on the internet?
Dr. Grimsted: Some of those people have learned about the books that went to Minsk after my articles revealed the story of their fate, and there have been a number of inquiries about them since. There is considerable interest, especially among the families and heirs of Holocaust victims in learning more details, and even the suggestion of setting up a database about the looted collections.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.