Hitler's Mobile Phone of Destruction Goes Up for Auction
The dictator likely took the red phone wherever he went to issue orders.
It was Hitler's version of a cell phone. The red, chipped, corded phone likely traveled with the dictator wherever he went.
Its handset was made to stay firmly in its cradle, unless rotated 60 degrees - a sign that the telephone was taken on bumpy travel. It was also outfitted with a braided connection cord ending in four metallic loops that would have fit into pin-type connectors for quick connections.
Now the Chesapeake City, Md.-based auction house, Alexander Historical Auctions LLC, plans to place the phone, through which the dictator likely barked out deadly orders, on the auction block on Feb. 19.
The starting bid for the Siemens-made phone, which the house calls "Hitler's mobile device of destruction," is $100,000 and bids are expected to go as high as $300,000.
Previous auctions for other artifacts connected to Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party have raised concerns that the items may be bought by Nazi sympathizers, or that the sales are a cynical way of profiting from a dark period in global history.
In June 2016, a buyer who said he came from Argentina spent more than €600,000 ($647,000) on Nazi memorabilia, including one of Adolf Hitler's jackets, at a controversial auction in Germany.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany condemned the event as a "scandalous and disgusting" way to make money.
In April 2014, the Vermot de Pas auction house in France canceled a Nazi memorabilia auction after Jewish groups objected to the sale.
But Bill Panagopulos, owner of Alexander Historical Auctions, says that such protests have not been an issue for his U.S.-based auction house. He told Seeker that people who bid on their historical items are strictly wealthy history buffs - often Jewish - and not neo-Nazis.
Nazi sympathizers, he said, are more likely to buy "cheap plaques or Nazi flags. They're not going to be spending big money on real historic artifacts like these."
Most Nazi-related items that have gone on auction were originally confiscated by Allied officers following Germany's defeat in World War II. According to Alexander Historical Auctions, Hitler's red telephone was taken by British Brigadier Sir Ralph Rayner.
Rayner had been ordered to establish contact with Russian Allied forces in Berlin on May 5, 1945, the day after the German surrender. Russian officers then offered Rayner a tour of Hitler's official residence, office and bunker.
Rayner's son, Ranulf Rayner, 82, recalled in a recorded YouTube video for the auction house that during the tour his father saw a black phone beside the bed of Hitler's longtime companion, Eva Braun, and a red phone beside Hitler's bed. The Russian officers offered the black phone to Rayner as a "trophy of war," but Rayner refused, saying he "loved the color red." So the Russian officers then offered him Hitler's red phone.
The phone, made specially for the Führer, is inscribed with an eagle above a swastika, a formal symbol of the Nazi Party, and the full name Adolph Hitler appears below.
The auction house is offering another item Rayner picked up during his tour of Hitler's headquarters - a porcelain statue of a German Shepherd, made at the Dachau concentration camp. Bids for that item start at $12,000.
"It's a pretty nasty thing," Ranulf Rayner told CNN, "just as sinister as the phone."
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