Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2003

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The man told him he had bought it for a song from a little old lady in Florida.

Don S 


June 28, 2003 (Saturday)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

FROM 11 a.m. to 1:30 pm I have a first meeting at the Sheraton with Don S., who is an art dealer and expert. Don is now aged 77; he is dark haired, short, and has lost 90 pounds in the last five months on doctor's orders.

As his friend John L. unfolds, unrolls, unwraps and delicately lays out the remarkable wares on a table in a secluded corner of the hotel foyer, Don tells me his story.

The Hitler collection

We have prepared a full selection of thumbnails and images, but at the request of the owner this is being held over for a few days

In 1995 or perhaps 1996 he was approached by Michael C. of Fort Lauderdale, a coin collector, who told him the following. (C. is still available and will confirm this, says Don.) He had seen somebody with a gold coin, which he had instantly recognized as being of colossal value; the man told him he had bought it for a song from a little old lady in Florida.

C. had visited the lady at an address in Homestead, and bought the rest of the coin collection from her; she had also produced a few documents, on which he, C., is not an expert, and apart from buying one document, the content of which he had forgotten, he had not bought any more.

Don asked if he could himself now visit the lady, and C. willingly gave him the phone number, which turned out to be some years out of date. The number was no longer in service. C. did not recall the lady's address either. Don gave him a hundred dollars to go down to Homestead with his girlfriend one Sunday and drive around looking for the house; C. did so, but could not find the street or house.

Don then called in a favour with a guy "on the force" who does such things, and gave him the old phone number and asked him to find out the address which went with it. Thus armed, Don went down to Homestead. There was no answer at the door. Don left a note attached to the door, identifying himself as somebody who had done business with C., and he too wanted to buy.

He drove back two hours later to the house; the note was gone from the door, and a car was in the driveway. Eventually the lady let him in. Don says he took a trunk full of cash with him, as the only way to do business on such occasions (he does not reveal to me the amount). The lady identified herself only as "Kate" (or Kathe); her hair was died black, she was aged 90, so is probably dead now, eight years later). She displayed a state of great fear of the authorities, as her husband had been "an SS man close to Hitler" and "a war criminal" -- no name was given or, if it was, Don did not bother to recall it; and she was fearful that now he had died, some three or four years earlier, if Don recalled correctly, she might be deported. She just wanted to be left alone. Don thinks she had even changed her name from her husband's.

Having viewed all the items, Don asked her to write down a figure on a piece of paper representing the sum that she would ask, and he would do the same, writing down what his offer would be. Prudently, he looked at hers before showing her his, and hers was way below what he would have offered. He gave her that, her asking price. (He does not say how much).

He rapidly did a deal with her for all the documents, including about five hundred pages of writing, and four framed oil paintings by Hitler which she had also from her late husband.

They had all been given to her husband by Hitler himself, she said. The earliest item is 1920; there is also a one-page epigram signed by Hitler, and dated Landsberg (fortress), August 1924.

Her husband had continued his interest in such things after coming to the United States in the late 1940s or early 1950s, where he had become wealthy, and he had collected other items of interest.


IT IS a remarkable collection that is spread out in the Sheraton foyer. Some are obviously genuine: some are less obviously so: some need further examination.

All the paper items have a serial-number methodically written in pencil on one corner of the reverse side, e.g. "3/8", page 3 of an eight page document; which is a good thing, as they were all higgledy-piggledy at one stage, says John. The paintings have handwritten sheets glued to the back of the frame, in which the artist identifies them as the work of "A Hitler, Kunstmaler" of Vienna, and the date 1910. They are rural views, a still life of roses, and a watermill.

One of the items that are otherwise foreign to the Hitler provenance is a letter written by Hermann Göring to Emmy Göring from Nuremberg captivity, revealing his dissatisfaction with his defence counsel; he sneers at his fellow defendants, and talks of his love for her and daughter Edda, 8. This letter is obviously genuine in every respect -- I tell Don I have seen scores of them in various locations, when writing my Göring biography. (It may seem strange, but Emmy and Edda sold off these letters in the post war years, and his photo albums too, which latter went to Gerd Heidemann, as they needed the money to live).

The other items are then unwrapped and shown to me in detail. Sheafs of paper, I have never seen so much Hitler handwriting in my life before. There are drafts of Aufrufe, letters to Hindenburg, a message to the writer's congress of 1933, an Aufruf before the 1933 Parteitag, an 80-page handwritten draft of a speech of 1930, and more of the same kind. John, who is joint custodian of the collection, has now provided an improved inventory which he gives me along with Xeroxes of the main items.


MOST impressive is a bound volume of caricatures of Hitler and the Movement, entitled Hitler in der Karikatur der Welt: Tat gegen Tinte (Hitler as seen by the world's cartoonists: Facts vs. Ink) with a page signed by Rudolf Hess bound in at the front, dated May 1934, containing his typed explanation that he had shown the proof copy to Hitler, who had promptly taken it away and returned it to him, with a handwritten note congratulating these often hostile caricaturists for keeping the Party and himself in the public eye, which could only be to the good; Hitler had however, as he explained in writing, allowed himself to expand the brief texts accompanying the cartoons and caricatures -- and how!

Every page has an epigram of from two to fifteen lines written in ink by Hitler, signed and dated, commenting good-naturedly on each caricature. The volume is just priceless, and should perhaps be published as a facsimile. Hess typed an explanation of this extraordinary literary effort by Hitler, and had it bound into the front of the cheap, paperbound volume.

Berlin, im Mai 1934
Vor einigen Monaten sprach mich der Führer auf dieses
Buch an, mit den Worten: "Na Hess, was macht das Buch
mit den über mich und die Bewegung erschienenen Kari-
Mit gemischten Gefühlen übergab ich dem Führer am näch-
sten Tag ein Exemplar.
Wie staunte ich als der Führer mir Wochen später die-
ses Buch mit den Worten zurückgab: "Ich habe den Text
der Taten ergänzt."
R Heß
Der Stellvertreter des Führers

In the collection there are also six moderately well drawn caricatures of French officers and Germans in World War I; I suspect that Hitler copied them from publications of the day, as they are not his style, although he has signed them. Party newspaper publisher Max Amann sent them to Hitler with a covering letter dated September 28, 1938, saying that they had been sent to him by a Verlagsleiter.

Other items in the collection include a list of officers being retired to the reserve, signed by Hitler and his Wehrmacht adjutant Rudolf Schmundt -- the latter's signature leaps out of the page at me, as I recall the pleasant evenings which I spent with his widow Anneliese and her neighbour Rear-Admiral Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer, Hitler's naval adjutant, back in the 1960s. Schmundt died in agony of his injuries sustained in the 1944 Bomb Plot. I told her that his fellow officers had always spoken highly of his intelligence -- she chuckled and said, "I doubt it. Intelligence was not his strong point, Mr Irving." There was evidently a limit to the amount of indirect flattery these elderly widows could take.


TALKING of Nazi relatives, the most poignant item -- apart from the paintings primitively executed by Hitler in 1910 in Vienna -- is a large certificate painted by him, copied from a medal citation, which he sends to his dear sister Paula Hitler in August 1918, signing it "Your Little Lamb Adolf," and conveying to her his immense pride (Stolz, although he spells it Stoltz) at having been awarded the Iron Cross First Class, on the battlefields of France in World War I.

The question is, how authentic is this high-value collection? What was its real route to that little old lady in Homestead, Florida. The most difficult-to-forge item, if this collection had been counterfeited, is a 1935 certificate signed by Hitler commuting the death sentence imposed on the murderess Anna Launhardt to life imprisonment in the Gefängnis, which word Hitler has pedantically crossed out and altered in his own handwriting to Zuchthaus; the certificate is heavily embossed with an official stamp several inches across.

The items which look least authentic at first blush are two sketches signed by Hitler, again probably copied from a publication, of two infant boys and girls, one with a feeding bottle; his handwritten caption says that these are illustrations of the coming "volkspolitisches Problem" for the German nation, and another document elsewhere in the collection repeats this phrase and suggests the pictures are designs for part of a manual or handbook. The sketches are poorly drawn, in pencil, but since there are similarly badly drawn items which are almost certainly by him, I think they are as genuine as the rest of the collection.

The little old lady, Kathe, also had at one time about fifteen pencil sketches done by Hitler, as an aspiring art student in 1908. A friend had asked to borrow them, and returned them at her instance some months later in a package. Years later, she opened the package and found it contained only glossy high grade photographic copies of the originals. The friend and the originals had all vanished. Now that is a story we can all identify with. Been there, done that: we've all had the misfortune to know friends like that.

The pictures are nearly all life drawings, rather coy sketches of female nude models posing, which I shall scan at high res for my private archives; they suggest strongly the reasons why Hitler was never accepted as an entrant to the academy.

I take twenty-three snapshots as samples of the main items. John has also provided to me Xeroxes of the main items. They are clearly worth a lot. Don has had one offer of $1.6m from a UK connoisseur already, but he is not willing to break up the collection. Its such as these really belong in the German Federal Archives, the Bundesarchiv, but their president has become rather pig-headed of late when I have drawn his attention to such residual collections of wartime era documents scattered around the world.

I tell Don that, in my view, to achieve the large sums he is hoping for from a private sale of these highly unusual items, he will need first to establish primarily two things: the age of the paper, and the age of the ink. A competent forensic laboratory can do this task for a modest fee. These are standard tests at fraud laboratories. The firm of Hehner & Cox in the City of London again comes to mind.

The ink test is more crucial than the paper test (as old paper can readily be obtained; I myself have, or rather had until May last year, a few sheets of blank headed "Der Führer" notepaper -- but even then its style and heading changed as the years passed).

I would also want to see microscopic examination of the edges of a number of the sheets, on which Hitler had drafted 1933 letters to President Hindenburg and the 80 page speech of 1930; these appear to have been torn from writing pads, and it will be salutary to ensure that they came from different pads, and different in particular from the pad on which a 1920 item was drafted. The characteristics (minute dents, nicks etc) of a trimming guillotine are as unique as the striations on cartridge casings that are so often a gunman's downfall.


July 1, 2003 (Tuesday)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

At 5:29 pm Don telephones in some urgency to request that we do not yet post the pictures of the documents in this collection, as a major purchaser in England is currently offering [...] for the items, and argues that this will infringe his rights. Not pleased. [Suggestion: Bookmark this page and return in a week]

Related item on this website

Adolf Hitler dossier

The Robert Gutierrez dossier: David Irving releases the extraordinary story of his search for the Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun diaries and private correspondence [Radical's Diary] [dossier] | What happened to Hitler's letters to Eva Braun and her private diaries?


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Global vendetta
[This is the early draft of a publication being prepared on the international campaign mounted to silence to author David Irving since 1989. In its final form it will be longer, illustrated, and have links to key documents on which the narrative is based]

[Download a different and better printed form as a pdf file]
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