Lot 548

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A fine group of three relics liberated from the Munich apartment of Adolf Hitler by an American officer, days before Hitler's suicide and Germany's surrender. The group includes a standard-style red cloth NSDAP "kampfbinde", or armband, 8 1/4" x 4", with a sewn-on white fabric disk at center containing an applied mobile swastika of black fabric. The armband shows a few spots of soiling and small mounting remnants to the reverse, else very good. The second piece is an original photo portrait, 9 1/4" x 11 3/4" b/w, presenting a well-known waist-up formal image of Hitler in uniform. The images is printed on period "Agfa-Brovira" photographic paper, and the verso bears the studio backstamp of Hitler's personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, at bottom right. It shows two 1" tears to the right edge, with numerous additional folds and creases overall, still very good. The collection is rounded out by a black silk bow tie, 31 1/2" x 1 1/4", the reverse bearing three white silk labels. The first of these gives the size "82", while the second identifies the Bayreuth maker or retailer Ludwig Gerken. The third, detached but present, gives the brand "Rotsiegel". Besides the detached label, the tie is in fine condition. The three relics are accompanied by several articles of provenance, most importantly a T.L.S., 1p. 4to., "Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth", [Nov. 6, 1948], from U.S. Army major Gardner A. Williams, to Lt. Commander Lester L. McDowell. Williams describes his capture of the armband and photo portrait described above, in part: "...On 30 April, 1945, the 179th Infantry regiment of the 45th Infantry Division attacked the city of Munich... At the time I was Executive Offcier of the regiment... From intelligence information we knew that Hitler's residence... was located on the Prinzregentenstrasse [sic]. It was in this apartment that we established the command post... Both the Red-White-Blue [sic] Swastika arm-band and the portrait of Hitler in his uniform which I gave you shortly after the end of the war were in Hitler's apartment when we occupied it. The arm-band was found in the clothes closet of Hitler's own bedroom; the portrait was in the library..." Williams signs at the conclusion in black ink, with another lieutenant colonel countersigning as a witness. The additional pieces of provenance include: a personal T.L.S., 1p. 4to., Fort Leavenworth, Nov. 8, 1948, from Williams to McDowell, transmitting the above statement; a partly-printed "Company of Military Collectors & Historians" display label, 3" x 5", with a typed note briefly indicating the origins of the armband and portrait, and their placement in Lester McDowell's collection; a 3" x 5" color photo of the armband and portrait on display with Williams' letter of provenance and the display label described above; a typed letter (unsigned), 1p. 4to., Chatham, New Jersey, April 8, 1976, from McDowell's widow, Janet, to autograph dealer Charles Hamilton, in part: "...I have in my possession a bona fide Hitler arm band that is documented by an Army officer [Williams] who got it in Germany during the second world war. I also have a picture of Hitler and a dress bow tie of his. The Army officer is still living and willing to answer inquiries regarding the above..."; a T.L.S., 1p. 4to., Phoenix, Dec. 15, 1993, from Janet McDowell to Dr. Calvin Schneider, a notarized statement indicating that all three relics were given to Lester McDowell by Gardner Williams for his militaria collection; a 5" x 6 3/4" color photo showing all three relics on a display board accompanied by the original display label, letter of provenance, transmittal letter and initial letter from Janet McDowell to Charles Hamilton, bearing on the verso a typed and signed statement from Janet McDowell, again attesting that the items were given to her husband by Williams and have been in their possession since the end of the war; and an A.L.S., 2pp. 8vo., [Annandale, March 17, 1976], with original transmittal envelope, from Gardner Williams' wife Elsie to Janet McDowell, expressing her condolences on Lester McDowell's passing, and including a brief note that Gardner would be willing to share more information regarding the relics. As the bow tie is not mentioned or pictured among the group until Janet McDowell's letter to Charles Hamilton of 1978, we surmise that Williams presented the tie to McDowell at an uncertain date sometime after his gift of the armband and photograph. Altogether, an exhaustively documented group of personal and evocative Hitler relics.

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July 30, 2019 10:00 AM EDT
Chesapeake City, MD, US

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