Just two months before he launched Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler received a pencil as a gift from his long-term partner Eva Braun on his 52nd birthday (April 20, 1941). Featuring an inscription of her name “Eva” on the side and the initials “AH” on the top, the pencil is now up for an auction and expected to fetch 80,000 GBP (around Rs 81,84,184). The bid, which has been organised by Bloomfield Auctions in Belfast, will take place on June 6.
The pencil and its provenance
The 8.5 cm pencil in white metal was reportedly purchased by its current owner at an auction in 2002 and has remained in the collector’s family since.
Speaking to The Independent, Karl Bennett, managing director of Bloomfield Auctions, said, “The importance of Hitler’s engraved personal pencil lies in the fact that it helps to unravel a hidden piece of history, giving a unique insight into Hitler’s personal relationships, which he scrupulously kept hidden from the public eye.”
He added: “Much of Hitler’s personal appeal during his dictatorship derived from his carefully constructed identity as the father of the German nation, who rejected personal connection in favour of loyalty to his country… This love token of a personalised pencil from Eva on his birthday helps reveal the deception behind Hitler’s public facade.”
The pencil will come under the hammer as part of the “Militaria, Police & Important Irish Historical Items” sale that will also comprise cutlery items used by Hitler and a personally signed photograph of him, from the late ’20s-early ’30s.
Who was Eva Braun?
A German photographer, Braun reportedly first met Hitler in Munich in 1929 as a model and 17-year-old assistant to Heinrich Hoffmann, who was Hitler’s personal photographer and a Nazi politician. Her relationship with Hitler, who was 23 years her senior, started a few years later, and by 1935 the German dictator had reportedly provided her with an apartment in Munich.
The two hardly had any public appearances together, and the only published news photo of them with each other was during the 1936 Winter Olympics. By then, she was reportedly a regular resident of Hitler’s house at Berghof near Berchtesgaden when he was there. In Inside the Third Reich (1969), architect Albert Speer mentions that Braun had a room adjoining Hitler’s at Berghof and the Führerbunker complex in Berlin.
Not a formal member of the Nazi party, she arguably did become his private secretary at one point in time as that would help her be around Hitler, without raising any suspicion about their relationship. The two are believed to have married each other days before they committed suicide in April 1945, in a small bunker, with Nazi politicians Paul Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann as witnesses.
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Why did Hitler keep his relationship with Braun under wraps?
Sharing a relationship that has been described as rather complicated, it is believed that during the early years, Braun attempted suicide twice, in order to attract more attention from Hitler — in 1932 she shot herself in the chest, while in 1935 she took an overdose of pills. In Eva Braun: Life with Hitler (2010) German historian Heike Görtemaker states that the German public was largely unaware of their relationship until after the war.
How the sale of Hitler’s belongings has led to a backlash
In the past, Hitler’s personal items have fetched enormous amounts at auctions but their sale has also invited severe criticism, and there have been demands to ban or curb their trading. While Austria, France and Germany have restrictions with regard to the sale of Nazi-associated items, its critics also include prominent auction houses such as Christie’s, Bonham’s and Sotheby’s.
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Last year, when Alexander Historical Auctions in the US sold several items belonging to Hitler, including his Andreas Huber reversible watch — sold for $1.1 million — in an open letter the European Jewish Association demanded that the sale be cancelled.
Signed by its chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the letter stated, “This auction, whether unwittingly or not, is doing two things: one, giving succour to those who idealise what the Nazi party stood for. Two: offering buyers the chance to titillate a guest or loved one with an item belonging to a genocidal murderer and his supporters… Whilst it is obvious that the lessons of history need to be learned – and legitimate Nazi artefacts do belong in museums or places of higher learning – the items that you are selling clearly do not. That they are sold to the highest bidder, on the open market is an indictment to our society, one in which the memory, suffering and pain of others is overridden for financial gain,”
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Likewise, in 2021, the Anti-Defamation Commission in Australia denounced an auction by JB Military Antiquities that featured multiple objects once owned by Hitler, including his cigarette box, decanter, ice bucket and hairbrush.