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American auction house is trying to sell fake Hitlers

Among other things a sketch of an Aryan Superman by Hitler counterfeiter Konrad Kujau

Door: , 14:23, 15 januari 2019
Het vermeende olieverfschilderij van Adolf Hitler en een tekening van een soort Arische superman. (Beeld: Milestone Auctions)

Among other things a sketch of an Aryan Superman by Hitler counterfeiter Konrad Kujau

On the 19th of January 2019, American auction house Milestone Auctions in Willoughby (Ohio) hopes to sell four drawings, an oil painting, and one handwritten letter by Adolf Hitler. They’re expecting to sell these works for an amount between 40,000 and more than 60,000 dollars. The auction house suggests everything is authentic, but refuses to provide any guarantee of authenticity. Unsurprisingly, the entire Hitler selection is comprised of crude forgeries. Remarkably, the forgeries were delivered by Konrad Kujau. Kujau achieved worldwide fame with the forged Hitler diaries in 1983. This is made clear in an investigation by Dutch news site TPO.nl.

The still life
As far back as 1936, on the 19th of November in Vienna, art dealer Jakob Altenberg made the following statement during a police investigation into forged Hitler paintings: Hitler only painted watercolours of cityscapes, certainly no still lifes and oil paintings. Though this didn’t prevent forgers launching a series of ‘Hitler’-oil paintings, often still lifes.

But Altenberg would know: the Viennese businessman was Hitler’s biggest buyer of watercolours in the period of 1910-1913. He had bought around 25 works, he said to remember in 1936. Altenberg knew precisely which works he had bought and what they looked like, even a quarter of a century later. This is because he had sold the last of Hitler’s works in 1935 and still owned pictures of them when he was approached by Viennese police to be an expert witness. In March of 1938, the police report containing Altenberg’s statement was seized by the NSDAP Hauptarchiv in München after the annexation of Austria. After the war the police report made a meandering journey before ending up in the German Federal Archives, where it can be viewed as file NS 26/2599/48. Investigators interviewed more people who knew the young Hitler in the period 1910-1913, establishing that Hitler signed all his works with ‘A. Hitler’ or ‘A.H.’

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this oil painting on sale at Milestone Auctions – a still life of flowers signed by ‘Adolf Hitler’, expected to sell for around 30,000-50,000 dollars – is an extraordinarily shoddy fake. We’ve laid out the details about that particular work in this report (pdf).

The letter and drawings were created by Hitler-forger Konrad Kujau
According to the auction house’s ‘experts’ the four drawings were created in the period 1916-1940 and signed with the names ‘Adolf Hitler’, ‘A. Hitler’ and ‘A.H.’. Only that last bit is correct: forger Konrad Kujau signed these drawings (among which a kind of Aryan Superman) with diverse variations on Hitler’s signature.

The style of the drawings, as well as the many ‘Hitler’-writings found therein – written in significantly different handwriting than Hitler’s own – match Kujau’s other known Hitler forgeries to a T.
At least one of the drawings, lot 561, ‘Soldier with dog’, was explicitly known as a forgery. This was revealed by American handwriting expert Charles Hamilton in his 1991 book Hitler Diaries (pages 116-117). Hamilton noted: ‘’Many of Kujau’s forgeries are still circulating on the market. The aforementioned drawing was recently offered for sale in New York.’’

In a span of two years (1982-1983) Konrad Kujau, working alongside journalist Gerd Heidemann, scammed the German magazine Stern for a sum of well over 9 million Deutsche Marks. They had sold the magazine ‘authentic’ Hitler diaries. In reality it was some 60 notebooks in post-war format, filled in by Kujau from 1978 onwards. Kujau had based the contents on well-known records of Hitler’s life. Heidemann and Kujau were sentenced to four and a half years in prison for the swindle.

Miles King of Milestone Auctions
Auctioneer Miles King told TPO that all his Hitler-works originate from the collection of a collector ‘who travelled the world, but has passed away.’ He added: “So I am not able to ask where the items were bought at. I wish I had more information. TPO: ‘’So you actually have no idea whether these works are authentic?’’ King:”No we have no written authentication for any of the pieces. I honestly don’t know where of how you could get any of these pieces authenticated. We do have experts that do our descriptions and evaluate every item. All I can go by is their opinions.King also said Hitler-works from the same collection were sold at a previous auction. ”This is the second part of the collection we are selling. You can look on our past auctions and see some of the other similar pieces from his collection that were sold last January. I can tell you we had no issues with any of the other pieces sold. All the buyers were satisfied.”

So we decided to investigate that auction as well. On the 26th of August 2017, Milestone Auctions sold nine lots with texts attributed to Hitler, in the style of Konrad Kujau. Payoff: nearly 19,000 dollars. The texts included a poem, supposedly written by Hitler, but actually written by Holocaust victim Gustav Hochstetter (1873-1944). The ‘experts’ at Milestone Auctions (if they even exist) didn’t discover the true writer of the poem (a piece of cake: entering the poem’s text in Google should reveal as much), nor notice the handwriting was Kujau’s style, not Hitler’s.

Simon Wiesenthal Center: ‘’Caveat Emptor!’’ (Buyer beware!)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles is not a proponent of these types of auctions. Senior researcher Aaron Breitbart told TPO: “As you are well aware, forgery in the legitimate world of art has always been a problem. Money, of course, is the primary motivator for those who engage in forging and/or selling non-authentic pieces. Buyers who purchase ‘Nazi artwork” are fooling themselves to believe that such works are authentic,because almost all of the time,they are not. Yet,they buy them either because they hope to sell them at a profit to someone even more naïve, or may have Nazi sympathies and are happy to surround themselves with Nazi memorabilia. Whatever the case, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is opposed to this form of commerce-with the possible exception of museums, institutes of higher learning and documentation centers – to educate the public about the Nazi era. We have no pity, however, for nazi enthusiasts who lose money in purchasing forgeries.And as for legitimate collectors,caveat emptor!”

In collaboration with Jaap van den Born.

 
 
 
 

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