This Valuable Watch Belonging To Adolf Hitler Was Looted By A French Soldier

On June 28, a Maryland auction house created controversy when it sold Adolf Hitler's watch for $1.1 Million. The wartime artifact was put up for auction by Alexander Historical Auctions, a Chesapeake City company. Although it carried a high price tag, the sale price actually fell below auctioneers' estimates (per The Washington Post). The gold timepiece was part of a catalog of Hitler/Nazi-related paraphernalia, including Eva Braun's blue dress, Hitler's beer glass, and the dictator's last letter to Germany. The watch received special attention for yielding the largest payout at the auction (via Alexander Historical Auctions).

The Jewish community spoke unfavorably about the auction, with 34 Jewish leaders co-signing an open in which they criticized the auction house for exploiting a painful history for monetary gain, per The Washington Post. The president of the auction house, Bill Panagopulos, is no stranger to the sale of objects, both controversial and not, and didn't agree with the objections. Despite the insistence that the watch holds little historic value, according to the open letter, the object was reported to have an intriguing backstory that traces from 1933 Bavaria to a French soldier in 1945, per The Washington Post.

Controversy Surrounding Its Sale

Rabbi Menachem Margolin wrote the open letter to Alexander Historical Auctions. Speaking frankly about the event, Rabbi Margolin called the auction "abhorrent" and questioned the motives of anyone who would want to own Nazi artifacts, per the European Jewish Association (EJA). Indeed, the BBC elaborated on the leader's concerns, reminding readers of the fact that Hitler was infamously responsible for the deaths of up to 11 million people, 6 million of whom were targeted and killed because they were Jewish. Furthermore, the EJA reported that Rabbi Margolin believed museums should possess Nazi artifacts to teach history but that the open-market approach of the auction house only exploits the " ... pain and suffering of others ... " for financial gain, per EJA.

Panagopulos responded by suggesting that his company does not decide the fate of its artifacts nor does it make ethical judgments. He stated (via The Washington Post), " ... others need money or simply choose to sell. That is not our decision." When interviewed, he expressed frustration at Rabbi Margolin's letter, claiming that there was a misunderstanding since the buyer — whose identity remains anonymous — is a European Jew, per The Washington Post.

The History of Hitler's Watch

According to Alexander Historical Auctions, the wristwatch is a gold, reversible Andreas Huber piece; a renowned watch manufacturer in Munich who serviced the Royal Court of Bavaria. Historians believe that the watch was first gifted to Adolf Hitler on April 20, 1933 on his 44th birthday. On that day, the Austrian-born dictator was granted honorary citizenship in Bavaria, along with Paul von Hindenburg (via Alexander Historical Auctions), who was the president of Germany and responsible for Hitler's appointment as chancellor (via Britannica).

Provenance research traced the watch back to Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian mountains, where a French soldier named Sgt. Robert Mignot (per All That's Interesting) took possession of it as "spoils of war" after the defeat of Germany in 1945. The looting occurred when Mignot's unit arrived at the vacant retreat, making them the first Allied troops to enter the area after the war, per Alexander Historical Auctions. The unit's arrival occurred about a week after Hitler and Braun died by suicide in Berlin, per History. Historians have authenticated the artifact, with a specialist stating (via BBC) that the watch more than likely belonged to Hitler, although they cannot verify if he actually wore it. Some features that speak to its authenticity include the black, lacquered initials "A.H.," a swastika, and an engraving of a Nazi eagle (via Alexander Historical Auctions).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.