A watch believed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler has sold for $1.1m (£900,000) at a US auction. The Huber timepiece, which bears a swastika, Nazi eagle and the initials AH, was bought by an anonymous bidder.
An open letter signed by 34 Jewish leaders had called on the Maryland-based auction house, Alexander Historical Auctions, not to sell the wristwatch. But the auction house told German media that its aim was to preserve history.
The catalogue description for the watch says it was given to the Nazi leader as a birthday present in 1933, the year he was named chancellor of Germany.
It said the watch was seized as ‘spoils of war’ when around 30 French soldiers stormed Hitler’s Berghof retreat in the mountains of Bavaria. It was then resold and handed down through the generations.
Despite selling for over $1m, the watch was expected to fetch between $2m-$4m (£1.6m-£3.3m).
Other items auctioned included Wehrmacht toilet paper, cutlery and champagne glasses belonging to senior Nazi figures, and items owned by Hitler’s partner, Eva Braun, including a dog collar for her terrier.
The 34 Jewish leaders described the sale as “abhorrent” in their open letter.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chair of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
However, in comments to German press before the sale, Alexander Historical Auctions said most of their collectors kept the items in private collections or donated them to Holocaust museums around the world.
“If you destroy history, there is no proof that it happened,” said Mindy Greenstein, senior vice president at Alexander Historical Auctions.
“Whether good or bad history, it must be preserved.”