If you follow my blogs, you know that i have come across many unusual things in my work as an antiques appraiser. Some are simply strange or unusual; others, like these items I’ll feature today, have a bloody history. Despite this, these objects are fascinating from a historical perspective. I am talking about Nazi memorabilia.
According to Wikipedia ‘Nazi memorabilia are items produced during the height of Nazism in Germany, particularly the years 1933 to 1945. The sale of Nazi memorabilia is strictly prohibited in parts of Europe. Even internet sites, such as Yahoo, was sued by the Union of Jewish Students for “justifying war crimes and crimes against humanity” by allowing such memorabilia to be sold via its auction pages. Yahoo!’s response was to ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia through its website. A Paris court cleared Yahoo! in 2003.
Fearing similar litigation, auction website Ebay enacted new guidelines regarding the sale of Nazi memorabilia in 2003. eBay’s policies prohibit items relating to Nazi media propaganda, items made after 1933 that contains a swastika, Nazi reproduction items such as uniforms, and all Holocaust-related products. Memorabilia such as coins, stamps, or printed period literature such as magazines, books, or pamphlets are not prohibited.’ (from Wikipedia site)
So, unless you are specifically looking for such items, you’re not likely to find them displayed openly in an antique store as the very fact that the items are being sold at all carries a negative connotation. This, of course, is not a problem when selling anonymously via the internet. So popular, and valuable are some of these items, that reproductions abound.
It was fascinating to do research on these two books. I was not worried about their authenticity because the provenance was solid. I have given many talks on the topic of art crime, thus I was familiar with some of the names associated with the highest echelon of the Nazi party. The 1936 Berlin Olympics book (shown above) featured a forward by Dr. Karl Ritter. Karl Ritter was a German diplomat, a member of the Nazi party, a special envoy to the Munich Agreement, and a senior official during the Third Reich.
At first glance I was surprised to see that the there appeared to be original photographs pasted inside these books because they were shiny, of a different colour, and a different paper type. The pages themselves were not particularily well bound either. I wondered if these were private copies, given to the party faithful.
My client had another book.
Note how the pictures are pasted onto the pages. Also on the spine of the book was the number 15. What did all of this mean? I began my research and found some very interesting facts about these books.
- They were both made by the hundreds of thousands. Cigaretten / Bilderdienst was a company that sold, you guessed it, cigarettes. They created these books with sections of each page left blank to allow the insertion of photographs. Each cigarette carton included a type of ‘coupon’ that could be redeemed for the appropriate image according to the text. This is no different from cigarette ‘silks’ and cards found in North America.
- The photographs were not true photos, but printed half-tone images that had been ‘varnished’ with a product that made them look like a real one.
- This company made 16 such books. Three were the most popular: Numbers 13 and 14 dealt with the Berlin Olympics and number 15 was the book on Adolf Hitler – hence the #15 on the spine of this book. These are quite commonly available and, based on condition, sell fro $50 -$125 per book. It is better to have both books on the Olympics rather than just one.
My research also unearthed forwards written by different people – two in particular: Joseph Goebells and Hermann Goring. This book was signed by Goering, or Goring as you see above. He was a monster extraordinaire, not only for his creation of the Gestapo, or Secret Police, but for his role in art theft on an unimaginable scale. Seeing his signature gave me a mixture of fascination and revulsion. The man who perpetuated such crimes against humanity all of a sudden came alive – no longer simply the topic of history.
I am always fascinated with history. I wished I could have seen my client’s copy of Mein Kampf, signed by Adolf Hitler but it is understandable that such an item not be on display. Memories are long, and although these pieces have bloody roots, they are nevertheless part of this particular family’s history. They will stay with the family.
Check out my next blog on Nazi Memorabilia 2/2.