Lot 328

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An offering of great historic importance, the solid cast brass desk set owned and used by Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler in the signing of the Munich Pact in which the Sudetenland was ceded by France and England to Germany. The Munich Pact would have consequences far beyond just the annexation, effects felt to this day. This massive ceremonial presentation measures 24" wide, 14 3/4" deep and 1 3/4" tall, with two columned ink wells rising 2" above the base of the desk set. The ink wells are filled with solid glass, each bearing an opening which at one time either held a smaller ink cup, or was itself filled with ink. Between the two wells appears in high relief Hitler's initials "A H" beneath and flanking a large eagle facing to its left (symbolizing the Nazi Party vs. the military) which in turn clutches in its talons a wreath encircling a swastika. A raised rectangle beneath all supports a large, impressive brass blotter with a knurled knob, similar in design to the colonnaded ink wells. The underside of the set is lined in fine finished mahogany. In all, the desk set gives one the impression of an architectural model, thus in our opinion the set was designed by Hitler, who prided himself on his architectural acumen. Photographic research shows that this desk set was undoubtedly used at the signing of the Munich Pact on September 30, 1938. Multiple images from that historic event show Hitler, Mussolini, British Prime Minister Nevilel Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier with this relic during the signing, and in one image Hitler's initials on the piece are discernable. The desk set is also visible in 1940 Life Magazine images of Hitler's office (http://thirdreichcolorpictures.blogspot.com/2010/02/fuhrerbau.html). This historic desk set was discovered at Hitler's private office in Munich (the "Fuhrer-Bau") by Lt. John L. McConn, Jr. in the Spring of 1945. McConn was in command of a detachment of soldiers ordered to occupy and guard the building, and McConn himself slept only a few doors from Hitler's office, where the Munich Pact had been signed seven years earlier. In exploring the building, McConn's men found a trove of Hitler's personal effects in the basement of the building, stored there to prevent damage from the incessant bombing by Allied forces. Among the items uncovered were mother of pearl and gold inlaid presentation lugers, an enormous gold and ruby ring, and most importantly, a huge collection of Hitler's purchased and stolen art intended for display in the never-construced Fuhrermuseum. The Allied Military Government was notified of the discovery just as water had begun to flood the basement, threatening the priceless works, and Amy brass ordered the art packed and removed. As did every other G.I., McConn wanted to return home with a good war souvenir, and asked a corporal what items of any interest might remain in the basement. The corporal mention a "desk set with interesting ink wells" in the corner of the basement. McConn claimed it, crated it himself, and sent it home to his father in Texas with as much postage as he could fit on the box. In 1946 McConn returned home a hero, having been awarded the Silver Star for single-handedly taking a German machine gun nest and several prisoners in the process. Surprised that the desk set had actually arrived in the States, he kept it in his possession for 66 years. In the interim, he married, obtained his law degree, raised five children and served his community well. At times, the desk set was given to his children to bring to school for "show and tell", as its significance was not yet known. Thirty years ago, while watching newsreel footage, McConn saw his "war souvenir" being used at the signing of the Munich Pact and realised what it was he had found in the damp, dark basement of Hitler's offices. In addition to the clear photographic evidence placing this relic in Hitler's office at the signing of the pact (and it undoubtedly was used in signing other important agreements as well), included in the lot are the following items of provenance: an older photo (copy) of the blotter with original paper (now lost) which appears to hold reverse impressions of Hitler's signature; McConn's letter to his parents written on Hitler's official Munich correspondence card, May 6, 1945, with envelope postmarked May 9, self-censored, stating that he and his company had returned to Munich and expressing his joy that the war had ended; a 3pp. 4to. letter [undated] on the letterhead of the "Reichsschatzmeister" ("Head Treasurer") of the NSDAP Franz Schwarz in Munich describing an event in which Russian prisoners recognized their SS captors and beat them to death with iron pipes; an Adolf Hitler monogrammed table napkin recovered from the Fuhrer-Bau; a 2007 letter of authenticity from internationally respected militaria dealer Stephen D. Wolfe of Wolfe-Hardin describing the desk set: "...It is 100% original, and, unquestionably, the pieces [sic] used in the 1938 Munich Pact signing. They are certainly among the most important artifacts...and the provenance is wonderful! Although I can vouch for the authenticity of the pieces shown me, I cannot accurately price your items, as they are unique..."; and McConn's own 2007 notarized letter of provenance. This important relic has been displayed in locations around the world, and has never before been offered at auction. It has not been recently cleaned, and the brass has developed a fine patina, with only a few very trivial scattered spots. A museum-grade relic of great historic importance. In early 1938, already emboldened by his occupation of the Rhineland and annexation of Austria, Hitler cast his eyes upon the Sudetenland, a section of neighboring Czechoslovakia largely occupied by ethnic Germans. After meeting with Hitler, pro-Nazi Sudeten German Party leader Konrad Henlein issued the Carlsbad Decrees on April 24, 1938, demanding autonomy for the Sudetenland. As the previous appeasement of Hitler had shown, the governments of both France and the United Kingdom were set on avoiding war at any cost. Chamberlain believed that Sudeten German grievances were justified and that Hitler's intentions were limited. France feared a potential conflict with Germany without British support, so both countries advised Czechoslovakia to concede to the Nazi demands. Beneš resisted and on May 20 a partial mobilization was ordered. Ten days later, Hitler signed a secret directive for war against Czechoslovakia to begin no later than October 1. After mediation, Benes submitted to nearly all of the Hitler's terms, but intent on blocking the plan, the S.D.P. provoked riots, police intervened, and on September 15 Henlein demanded a German occupation. On the same day, Hitler met with Chamberlain and demanded the swift takeover of the Sudetenland by the Third Reich under threat of war. The Czechs, Hitler claimed, were slaughtering the Sudeten Germans. Chamberlain referred the demand to the British and French governments; both accepted. The Czechoslovak government resisted, arguing that Hitler's proposal would ruin the nation's economy and lead ultimately to German control of all of Czechoslovakia. The United Kingdom and France issued an ultimatum, making a French commitment to Czechoslovakia contingent upon acceptance. On September 21, Czechoslovakia capitulated. The next day, however, Hitler added new demands, insisting that the claims of ethnic Germans in Poland and Hungary also be satisfied. Outraged, the Czechs ordered general mobilization. The Soviet Union also announced its willingness to come to Czechoslovakia's assistance. Beneš, however, refused to go to war without the support of the Western powers. On September 28, Chamberlain appealed to Hitler for a conference. Hitler met the next day, at Munich, with the chiefs of governments of France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The Czechoslovak government was neither invited nor consulted. A deal was reached on September 29 and at about 1:30 AM on September 30, 1938, Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier signed the Munich Agreement: the German army was to complete the occupation of the Sudetenland by October 10, and an international commission would decide the future of other disputed areas. The Czechoslovak government, realizing the hopelessness of fighting the Nazis alone, reluctantly capitulated and agreed to abide by the agreement. The settlement gave Germany the Sudetenland and de facto control over the rest of Czechoslovakia as long as Hitler promised to go no further. On the same day Chamberlain asked Hitler to sign a peace treaty between the United Kingdom and Germany, to which Hitler agreed. Chamberlain returned to England waving the pact and declaring: "I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds...". The results of the Munich Pact were disastrous: the betrayal of Czechoslovakia cost the country its frontier defenses, 70% of its iron and steel, 70% of its electrical power, 3.5 million citizens and all of its territory. The avoidance of war prevented Hitler's generals from resigning en masse, or even staging a coup d'etat, as nearly all had predicted defeat at the hands of the French and British. Convinced they had successfully "appeased" Hitler, the French and British neglected rearmament while Germany built -up its military, and were totally unprepared when Germany invaded Poland a year later, with devastating results. The agreement even coercing Stalin into signing a peace pact with Hitler which would cost Russia millions of lives when Operation Barbarossa was launched in June, 1941.Stalin concluded that the West had colluded with Hitler, that they might do the same and partition the USSR. His fears would lead to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. When the Germans launched their invasion, the Russians were likewise caught totally surprised, lulled into a false sense of security. Russia's air force was essentially destroyed within days and within a week 600,000 Russians had been killed, missing, captured or wounded. Requires third-party shipping. Please see Terms and Conditions of Sale.

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December 8, 2011 11:00 AM EST
Stamford, CT, US

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

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