Hitler’s watch sells for $1.1 million at controversial auction – Smithsonian Magazine | Hot Mobile Press

The watch that probably belonged to Adolf Hitler
Courtesy of Alexander Historical Auctions

Despite strong objections from Jewish leaders, a Maryland auction house has sold a wristwatch believed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler for $1.1 million.

Alexander Historical Auctions, based in Chesapeake City, Maryland, sold the controversial artifact to an anonymous buyer on July 28, according to the company’s website. The auction house also sold other Nazi items, including a golden eagle from Hitler’s bedroom, several sketches and paintings of the genocidal dictator, and a dress that belonged to Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife.

Representatives of the auction house assume that Hitler received the golden reversible watch from Andreas Huber on April 20, 1933, his 44th birthday. It bears the letters “AH”, a swastika and a Nazi eagle, and two dates: April 20, 1889, Hitler’s birthday, and January 30, 1933, the day he became Reich Chancellor.

According to Alexander Historical Auctions, a French soldier snatched the watch on May 4, 1945, when his Allied unit arrived at Hitler’s summer home in Bavaria.

“The watch and its history have been researched by some of the most experienced and respected watchmakers and military historians in the world, all of whom have concluded that it is authentic and did indeed belong to Adolf Hitler,” according to the auction house.

Before the sale, 34 Jewish leaders signed an open letter urging Alexander Historical Auctions to cancel the auction, which they described as “an abomination.”

“While it is obvious that the lessons of history must be learned – and legitimate Nazi artifacts belong in museums or colleges – the items you sell clearly do not,” wrote Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish association, in the letter. “For them to be sold on the open market to the highest bidder is an indictment of our society in which the memory, suffering and pain of others are overridden for financial gain.”

view details

The watch, made by Andreas Huber, bears the letters “AH”, a swastika and a Nazi eagle.

Courtesy of Alexander Historical Auctions

Bill Panagopulos, the auction house’s president, defended the sale and said so Washington Post‘s Andrew Jeong that he found the views of the Jewish leaders frustrating. He declined to identify the person who bought the watch, but said the person was a European Jew.

He and his family had received death threats over the auction, he added, and most of the auction house’s sales had nothing to do with the Nazis.

“Lots of donations [Nazi artifacts] to museums and institutions, as we have done,” says Panagopulos Washington Post. “Others need the money or just decide to sell. It’s not our choice.”

This isn’t the first time the auction house has come under fire over controversial sales. In 2011, the company sold the diaries of Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who tortured Auschwitz prisoners by subjecting them to inhumane medical experiments.

Whoever buys these kinds of artifacts, said Panagopulos Daily Beast‘s Dan Ephron in 2011 that buyers “are often Jews representing Jewish organizations or Jewish collectors planning to open their own museums.”

Contrary to popular belief, the buyers are not neo-Nazis who are “too poor and too stupid to appreciate historical material,” Panagopulos told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s (JTA) Cnaan Liphshiz.

“What we sell is criminal evidence, no matter how insignificant,” he tells JTA. “It is tangible, real evidence that Hitler and the Nazis lived and also persecuted and killed tens of millions of people.”

The auction house eventually pushed the sale forward, though the watch’s asking price of $1.1 million fell short of the pre-auction estimate of $2 million to $4 million.

“This auction, whether unknowingly or not, does two things: First, it supports those who idealize what the Nazi Party stood for. Second, offer buyers the opportunity to please a guest or loved one with an item belonging to a genocide killer and his supporters,” Margolin wrote in the open letter. “Either way, it can’t stand.”

Leave a Comment