History Stories

The sale brings up the controversial issue of whether putting such artifacts on sale wrongfully encourages the trade of racist symbols and objects.

A set of silverware made to commemorate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday in 1939 has been sold at auction in Dorset, England for £12,500 (or $16,583 in U.S. dollars).

The rare set of cutlery—which included two knives, three spoons and three forks, each engraved with the initials “AH,” the Nazi eagle and a swastika—had been stashed in the drawer of the study of a late senior British military official. Rediscovered last year during the cleaning of his estate, it was auctioned off this week by Charterhouse Auctioneers, in Sherborne, Dorset.

The Daily Mail reported before the auction that the German silversmiths Bruckmann & Sohne produced a batch of 3,000 pieces of the silverware for Hitler’s 50th birthday, which the Nazi leader celebrated in April 1939, less than five months before the Nazis invaded Poland. The cutlery would have been distributed to places Hitler would be visiting, leaving open the possibility that he used the auctioned silverware himself. The British military officer may have acquired the cutlery when he was stationed in Germany in the years following World War II.

The two knives, three spoons and three forks were bought by one online buyer who remained anonymous. (Photograph courtesy Charterhouse Auctioneers)

The two knives, three spoons and three forks were bought by one online buyer who remained anonymous. (Photograph courtesy Charterhouse Auctioneers)

As with all auctions of former Nazi memorabilia, the sale of Hitler’s silverware brings up the controversial issue of whether putting such artifacts on sale is wrongfully encouraging the trade of racist symbols and objects. Facebook recently blocked the sale of some Nazi artifacts, but allowed others to remain for sale. And while major auction houses and the online auction site eBay also restrict the sale of Nazi propaganda and items with Nazi symbols, there is still a booming market for such goods, as this week’s auction indicates.  

The New York Postreported in 2015 that annual global turnover in the Nazi memorabilia market was estimated at more than $47 million. The Post reporter, Alex Preston, visited British collector Kevin Wheatcraft, owner of the world’s largest collection of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia, then valued at more than $160 million.  

While Hitler’s birthday cutlery had been expected to fetch up to £2,300 ($3,050), it ended up selling for more than five times that price. According to Charterhouse Auctioneers, an online buyer won the auction, but the auction house would not reveal any other details. “It’s a niche market,” Bromell told BBC News after the sale. “Some people will have interest, others will not—but it’s a big part of modern history.”

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