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Friday, November 22, 2013

Relics of the Reich

More often that not, if someone wants to see an important or unique item from history, they have to go to a museum to do it.  This is the case in for the majority of fields:  art, inventions, important documents, personal items from historic public figures, and even militaria.  Rock Island Auction Company is in a fortunate position to see numerous historic items pass through its doorway year after year, and this year has been no different.  In fact, this week's article will cover some items from Nazi Germany that any museum would be happy to have in their collection.  Let's dive right in to these historic and fascinating relics.


Estimated Price: $95,000 - $180,000


Despite being the smallest of the three historical German items, this baton carries the most dramatic price estimate.  It was once the property of Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg, Hitler's first Field Marshal.  Such batons were only given to Field Marshals and were issued in pairs.  The first of the pair, like the one shown here, was for everyday use and made of fine materials such as ebony, gold, silver, and platinum.  The second baton, known as the "parade baton," was a highly ornamented, richly jeweled, lavish presentation piece whose duties were little more than ceremonial.  The parade baton of von Blomberg currently resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

As with most high-ranking officials in Nazi Germany von Blomberg's tale of ascending the German military ranks, and his eventual downfall, is one of Machiavellian tactics, politcal backstabbing, blackmail, and murder.  His story is well documented in our item's description, but the short version would read something like this.  After joining the German military and climbing its ranks throughout World War I, von Blomberg continued in his promotions until 1935 when he was appointed to minister of war and commander-in-chief of the German Army. This was followed by a promotion in 1936 to the position of field marshal, which angered Hermann Goering who wanted the illustrious position for himself.  Goering then blackmailed von Blomberg with the criminal record of his pretty, young second wife who once had taken nude photographs and lived with a Jewish man.  In January 1938, Goering would have made the information public had von Blomberg not resigned.  This is an especially ruthless betrayal considering that Goering had stood as best man at his wedding.  Blomberg and his wife, Erna Gruhn, took a year long honeymoon (some say exiled) to the island of Capri.  For not having his marriage annulled, and therefore bringing shame to the German Army, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder dispatched Captain von Wangerhaim to Italy to convince Blomberg to commit suicide.  He did not oblige.  Blomberg's fall from office as well as that of Werner von Fritsch are often referred to as the "Blomberg-Fritsch Affair."  Eventually, Blomberg would be captured by Allied forces in 1945, testify at the Nuremberg Trials, but would die in captivity on March 14, 1946 of cancer.



The baton itself features an ebony shaft, masterfully crafted Germanic eagles, lightly beaded borders, and other incredible details.  As it appears in the picture the shaft has been broken and while the exact cause of the damage is unknown, the honor weapons and regalia of top-level German officers often took abuse when they were captured.  One documented case of this is when Field Marshal Erhard Milch handed his Interim Baton to a British Brigadier who promptly beat Milch with it until it broke.  This in mind, it wouldn't be too far of a stretch to imagine a G.I. breaking this baton over his knee when capturing the Blombergs.  The accompanying documents which show Blomberg holding the actual baton give a true sense of the history behind this item.  In ANY condition, these batons are rare, unique, and likely in museums.  Opportunities to have one in a private collection are far and few between.




Estimated Price: $25,000 - $40,000
While many people are aware of the infamy surrounding Hermann Goering, few are aware of that his German military career extends back to WWI.  It was during the Great War that Goering encountered Karl-Heinrich Bodenschatz, a decorated WWI veteran who served in the Army before being transferred to the Air Force and becoming the chief adjutant to Manfred von Richtofen, better known as The Red Baron.  Later Goering's path also took him from the infantry to the air where he would later assume commander duties of "The Flying Circus" (officially "Jagdgeschwader 1") from the Red Baron in the final days of World War I.  At the conclusion of the war, both men would go their separate ways; Bodenschatz would remain active in the military and Goering's path would lead to National Socialism.  In 1933, the two men would again cross paths when Bodenschatz would become Goering's adjutant in his role as Chief of the Luftwaffe.  It was two short years later, in April 1935, when Goering would wed actress Emma Sonnemann and receive this punch bowl from Bodenschatz as a wedding gift.


The inscription reads, "With the best wishes for the newlywed couple and good luck in the future of the German Empire!  From your old comrade Bodenschatz, General of Flyers, 10 April 1943."


The bowl itself is a testament to German craftsmanship and is constructed entirely of solid silver.  It measures 15 inches wide and 17 inches tall and covered in decorative Germanic motifs.  Noticeable throughout the bowl's design is the oak leaf and acorn patterns that Germany used liberally both before and during WWII.  Also elaborately shown is the motif of "bounty" shown in both the abundance of game, such as elk, grouse, and boar, as well as the more subtle heads of wheat.  The bowl is highly ornate with the animal figures of the elk and grouse serving as handles on this generous wedding gift.





Estimated Price: $35,000 - $65,000

With all the detail on this chair it may take some time before one sees the pair of H's on the backrest of the chair that indicate their first owner: Heinrich Himmler, Reichsf├╝hrer of the SS and architect of the Holocaust.

Himmler's notoriety and history is well known, but not his association with a man named Karl Willigut.  Willigut was often referred to as "Lord of the Runes" as well as "Himler's Rasputin" for his influence with Himmler as well as his obsession with the mystical and the occult.  Perhaps his greatest push on Himmler was to acquire Wewelsburg Castle and turn it into the nerve center for the "Society for the Promotion and Care of German Cultural Monuments," which would eventually become the headquarters of the SS.  There were four chairs ordered for Himmler from the master wood carvers of the Tyrol (a state in Austria) to be placed in the castle.  The only problem was that Himmler enjoyed the chairs so much that instead of sending them to the castle at Wewelsburg, he kept them at his home in Gmund am Tegernsee.  After the war, the chairs were almost destroyed under the post-war de-Nazification rulings, but instead were sold for a pittance to those that could promise collector or museum interest.  Of the four chairs made for Himmler, one was destroyed in a house fire and the other two reside in private collection, making this one of three existing "Great Chairs," and the only one available at open sale.

One of the first thoughts of a naturally curious person is, "What do all those runes mean?"  Thankfully, previous research has been completed and will be heavily sourced here:

Left side reading down


  • The victory ("Sig") runes shown side by side that came to represent the Shutzstaffel or SS organization. 
  • Next is the swastika or 'Hakenkreuz.' This is the one sign with the strongest effect on people even before Hitler’s Reich and its continual use dates back centuries by several cultures. It was the sun wheel to the Teutonic people and it is the symbol of productive life - "forever turning like a producing mill wheel."  In earlier centuries the swastika had been a talisman of good fortune. 
  • The Hagel Rune:  The all-surrounding Hagel. It literally means “I destroy!” The ancient Teuton believed that through the destruction of the enemy, overall peace is achieved.  Maybe because there would be no one left to fight. This symbol was very meaningful to the SS ideology. 
  • The Rune of Life of Man:  Its lifted arms depict the birth of a living creature. If the arms point down it indicates the cessation of life (death). This symbol was also used in the upraised form by the Ahnenerbe, the office of ancestral heritage, as their symbol and was worn on a patch that can be seen on their uniform sleeves.




Right side reading down
  • The first symbol seen is the double blitz or runes of victory. The symbol of the SS. 
  • The “Rod” Rune:  This is the symbol of male species’ strength to the ancients. It also can be a form of the rune of life previously mentioned, but with extra outstretched arms. Here it has been said that this symbolized the service and reverence of man to his God.
  • The Lily (a.k.a. fleur de lis): Very common in various coats of arms. The Christians made it a sign of purity, but in the Bronze Age it was a sign of generative power and the will to create. The lily is flame tongued between two cradle-like forms held by a horizontal tie.
  • The Three-armed Swastika or Drei Bein Hakenkreuz:  Possibly a symbol of Blut und Boden, blood and soil (supposedly where the Nazi flag got its colors). In 1940 the Celticist professor Gehard von Tevenar extolled the three-armed swastika as the exaltation of the native Germanic presence, “Germanness.” He talked about the varient with three legs as used by the people of the Isle of Man and known as a "triskeleon" in ancient times. This symbol suggests the act of running which in turn symbolized man’s energy and determination.  Used as far back as ancient Greece.


Obviously there is also much symbolism that is associated with the back of the chair and its depictions of oak leaves/acorns, the "Tree of Life," a ring, and the sun.  More information on these runes is included with the chair.






Nazi Germany will continue to be stain on the escutcheon of humanity for hundreds of years to come.  However, whether because of the notoriety or educational opportunities it will also remain an intensely fascinating period that gives many answers into human nature, but asks many more than may never be known.  The items above provide glimpses into a life of cruelly distributed opulence and wrongfully obtained luxury that is often rightly overshadowed by even more overwhelming atrocities.  Undoubtedly, these items will find a home with a collector or museum who will seize the chance not only to own items of such acute rarity, but also items that have been imbued with an eternal sense of horror, fascination, and endless opportunities to educate future generations.





SOURCES

http://www.germaniainternational.com/himmlerchair.html

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great info.Most people know little about the symbols that Germany used during this time.The germans had the best looking unuforms and great equipment of that period,And many who fought and came after the stuggle to get europe back in the hands of the countries they captured take pride in collecting from this period .As a collector myself I like learning from history and look forward to your information.Thank you.

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    1. I have collection of about 500 pieces of al types. SS, Kriegsmarina, Luftwaffe, Heer ect. I was given a German Nazi Battle flag in 1946 and have been collecting ever since. I have a wealking cane taken from Herman Goering's home. It is fitted with 2 Stag heads for the German hunting association which Goering was very much involved in. The balance if the cane is adorned with tinnies of German towns and cities. I took it to a antique dealer and all he could tell me was that it was very old. However I haveno way to prove its authenticity. Over the years I have found this period of history to be fascinating and a time we all hope will never be allowed again. tuledux@cot.net

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  2. Amazing offerings...Once again the RIAC has done self proud by presenting World Class items for auction.
    Chester

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  3. I cannot believe the rarity of these items, WOW!!!!!!!!! Great investments that you can hold and touch, good luck to all bidders!

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  4. Owing many Nazi items, I wonder when the interest in collecting Reich material will fade ?

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  5. I still have my Grandfathers uniform and all his jewelry and journals, I can't believe they left the family. Shame on you Gudrun.

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  6. why a disclaimer on Nazi items but not on Japanese, Russian and Chinese items. Countless millions were murdered under these regimes. Civil War items where American killed American and Native American items??????? Hypocritical? Enough said!

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  7. The interest in Reich materials is hot now but will subside in 5-10 years. the younger generations just dont care about these things and esp. the guns. The people buying now are WWII and some post war boomers but as we get older the value will decrease. I went to a gun show and a dealer had over 50 Lugers for sale and not a one sold. I have only 6 pieces of Reich Nazi items and wont buy any more.

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  8. The engraving on the bowl is fake. I feel sorry for the uninformed buyer. Obviously he didn't do his research.

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  9. What makes you say that the bowl's engraving is fake?

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