An Englishman owns the largest collection of Nazi artifacts As the crimes of the Nazi regime retreat further into the past, there seems to be an increasing desperation in the race to get hold of mementos of the darkest chapter of the 20th century. In the market for Nazi memorabilia, two out of the three principal ideologies of the era — fascism and capitalism — collide, with the mere financial value of these objects used to justify their acquisition, the spiralling prices trapping collectors in a frantic race for the rare and the covetable

An Englishman owns the largest collection of Nazi artifacts As the crimes of the Nazi regime retreat further into the past, there seems to be an increasing desperation in the race to get hold of mementos of the darkest chapter of the 20th century. In the market for Nazi memorabilia, two out of the three principal ideologies of the era — fascism and capitalism — collide, with the mere financial value of these objects used to justify their acquisition, the spiralling prices trapping collectors in a frantic race for the rare and the covetable

largest collection of Third Reich Militaria 

An Englishman

owns the largest collection of Third Reich Militaria 

leather flying helmet

When he was 5 years old, He received an unusual birthday present from his parents: a bullet-Damaged Waffen  SS  helmet, A lightning bolt transfer on It’s side. It was a special request.

WAFFEN-LOESCHE BLADE

 

The next year, at a car auction in Monte Carlo, he asked his multimillionaire father for a Mercedes: the G4 that Hitler rode into the Sudetenland in 1938.

Father refused to buy it and his son cried all the way home.

Graf Spee

At 15, he spent birthday money from his grandmother on three WWII Jeeps recovered from the Shetlands, which he restored himself and sold for a tidy profit. He invested the proceeds in four more vehicles, together with his very first  tank.

Wheatcroft Collection

The Englishman begged  his father to buy him Hitler’s Mercedies  when he was just six-years-old, and cried when his father refused. He now owns it.

selling bayonets
After leaving school at 16, he went to work for an engineering firm, and then for his father’s construction company. He spent his spare time touring wind-blasted battle sites in Europe and North Africa, searching for tank parts and recovering military vehicles that he would ship home to restore.

Wheatcroft Collection

Wheatcroft Collection

The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the  — widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia.

The collection has largely been kept in private, under heavy guard, in a warren of industrial buildings. There is no official record of the value of His collection, but some estimates place it at over $160 million.

Since that initial stormtrooper’s helmet, His life has been shaped by his obsession for German military memorabilia. He has traveled the world tracking down items to add to his collection, flying into remote airfields, following up unlikely leads, throwing himself into hair-raising adventures in the pursuit of historic objects.

Wheatcroft Collection

He readily admits that his urge to accumulate has been monomaniacal,

Often elbowing out a regular social and family life. The French theorist Jean Baudrillard once noted that collecting mania is found most often in “pre-pubescent boys and males over the age of 40”; the things we hoard, he wrote, tend to reveal deeper truths.

Wheatcroft Collection

Despite the trade of Nazi antiquities being banned or strictly regulated in many countries, the market’s annual global turnover is expected to be in excess of $47 million. A signed copy of Mein KampfWheatcroft Collection goes for around $31,000.

His Father  came back with a wife, who he had first seen from the turret of a tank as he pulled into her village in  Germany.

Father made hundreds of millions in the post-war building boom, then spent the rest of his life indulging his zeal for motor cars.

Our Englishman speaks of his late father as “not just my dad, but also my best friend Despite being one of seven children,he was the sole beneficiary of his father’s will. He no longer speaks to his siblings.

Wheatcroft Collection

It is hard to say how much the echoes of atrocity that resonate from Nazi artifacts compel the enthusiasts who haggle for and hawk them. The trade in Third Reich antiquities is either banned or strictly regulated in Germany, France, Austria, Israel and Hungary.

 

Wheatcroft Collection

Wheatcroft Collection                                                      

Still, the business flourishes, with burgeoning online sales and increasing interest from buyers in Russia, America and the Middle East; The Englishmans biggest rival is a mysterious, unnamed Russian buyer.

A Holocaust denier runs one of the most-visited Nazi antiquities websites, and is currently verifying charred bones said to be those of Hitler and Eva Braun
Naturally, exact figures are hard to come by, but the market’s annual global turnover is estimated to be in excess of $47 million. One of the most-visited websites is run by Holocaust denier David Irving, who in 2009 sold Hitler’s walking stick (which had previously belonged to Friedrich Nietzsche) for $5,750. Irving has offered strands of Hitler’s hair for $200,000, and says he is currently verifying the authenticity of charred bones said to be those of Hitler and Eva Braun.

Military valuations

There is also a roaring trade in the automobiles of the Third Reich — in 2009, one of Hitler’s Mercedes sold for almost $7.8 million. A signed copy of Mein Kampf will set you back $31,000, while in 2011 an unnamed investor purchased Joseph Mengele’s South American journals for $473,000.

Wheatcroft Collection

As the crimes of the Nazi regime retreat further into the past, there seems to be an increasing desperation in the race to get hold of mementos of the darkest chapter of the 20th century. In the market for Nazi memorabilia, two out of the three principal ideologies of the era — fascism and capitalism — collide, with the mere financial value of these objects used to justify their acquisition, the spiralling prices trapping collectors in a frantic race for the rare and the covetable.

Wheatcroft Collection

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau observed that “the things we own can own us too”; this is the sense I  — that he started off building a collection, but that very quickly the collection began building him.

‘I was in the area’

Inside one of the countless rooms where Our gentleman keeps his artifacts.He speaks  of wanting people to see his collection, “I’m only one man and there’s just so much of it.
When I went to Leicestershire near the end of last year to see the collection, a visibly tired Our Man met me off the train. “I want people to see this stuff,” he told me. “There’s no better way to understand history. But I’m only one man and there’s just so much of it.”

He had been trying to set his collection in order, cataloging late into the night, and making frequent trips to Cornwall, where, at huge expense, he was restoring the only remaining Kriegsmarine S-Boat in existence.

Wheatcroft had recently purchased two more barns and a dozen shipping containers to house his collection. The complex of industrial buildings, stretching across several flat Leicestershire acres, seemed like a manifestation of his obsession — just as haphazard, as cluttered and as dark.

As we made our way into the first of his warehouses, He stood back for a moment, as if shocked by the scale of what he had accumulated. Many of the tanks before us were little more than rusting husks, ravaged by the years they had spent abandoned in the deserts of North Africa or on the Russian steppes.

They jostled each other in the warehouses, spewing out to sit in glum convoys around the complex’s courtyard.

“I want people to see this stuff. There’s no better way to understand history.”

“Every object in the collection has a story,” He told me as we made our way under the turrets of tanks, stepping over V2 rockets and U-boat torpedoes. “The story of the war, then subsequent wars, and finally the story of the recovery and restoration. All that history is there in the machine today.”

We stood beside the muscular bulk of a Panzer IV tank, patched with rust and freckled with bullet holes, its tracks trailing barbed wire.

Wheatcroft scratched at the palimpsest of paintwork to reveal layers of color beneath: its current livery, the duck-egg blue of the Christian Phalangists from the Lebanese civil war, flaking away to the green of the Czech army who used the vehicles in the 1960s and 70s, and finally the original German taupe.

The tank was abandoned in the Sinai desert until Wheatcroft arrived on one of his regular shopping trips to the region and shipped it home to Leicestershire.

Wheatcroft owns a fleet of 88 tanks — more than the Danish and Belgian armies combined. The majority of the tanks are German, and Wheatcroft recently acted as an adviser to David Ayer, the director of “Fury” (in which Brad Pitt played the commander of a German-based US Sherman tank in the final days of the war). “They still got a lot of things wrong,” he told me. “I was sitting in the cinema with my daughter saying, ‘That wouldn’t have happened’ and ‘That isn’t right.’ Good film, though.”

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A Panzer (or Panzerkampfwagen) III, used by the German forces during World War II. Wheatcroft owns a Panzer IV tank, as well as a fleet of 88 other tanks.Photo: Getty Images
Around the tanks sat a number of strange hybrid vehicles with caterpillar tracks at the back, truck wheels at the front.The enthusiast explained to me that these were half-tracks, deliberately designed by the Nazis so as not to flout the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which stipulated that the Germans could not build tanks.

He owns more of these than anyone else in the world, as well as having the largest collection of Kettenkrads, which are half-motorbike, half-tank, and were built to be dropped out of gliders.

A Kettenkrad, an army motorcycle that the Germans built during World War II after the terms in the Treaty of Versailles stipulated the Germans could not build tanks. He owns more of these half-motorbike, half-tank vehicles, than anyone in the world.Photo: AP
“They just look very cool,” he said with a grin.

Alongside the machines’ stories of wartime escapades and the sometimes dangerous lengths that He had gone to in order to secure them were the dazzling facts of their value. “The Panzer IV cost me $25,000. I’ve been offered two and a half million for it now. It’s the same with the half-tracks. They regularly go for over a million each. Even the Kettenkrads, which I’ve picked up for as little as $1,500, go for $235,000.”

I tried to work out the total value of the machines around me, and gave up somewhere north of $78 million. He had made himself a fortune, almost without realizing it.

“Everyone just assumes that I’ve inherited a race track and I’m a spoilt rich kid who wants to indulge in these toys,” he told me, a defensive edge to his voice. “It’s not like that at all. My dad supported me, but only when I could prove that the collection would work financially. And as a collector, you never have any spare money lying around. Everything is tied up in the collection.”

Leaning against the wall of one of the warehouses, I spotted a dark wooden door, heavy iron bolts on one side and a Judas window in the centre. The collector saw me looking at it. “That’s the door to Hitler’s cell in Landsberg. Where he wrote ‘Mein Kampf.’ I was in the area.”

A lot of Wheatcroft’s stories start like this — he seems to have a genius for proximity. “I found out that the prison was being pulled down. I drove there, parked up and watched the demolition. At lunch I followed the builders to the pub and bought them a round. I did it three days in a row and by the end of it, I drove off with the door, some bricks and the iron bars from his cell.”

It was the first time he had mentioned Hitler by name. We paused for a moment by the dark door with its black bars, then moved on.
Hermann Göring and Hitler in 1944. Wheatcroft owns a signed photograph of the Nazi duo and says, “I think I could give up everything else, the cars, the tanks, the guns, as long as I could still have Adolf and Hermann.”Photo:
Sometimes the stories of search and recovery were far more interesting than the objects themselves. Near the door sat a trio of rusty wine racks.

“They were Hitler’s,” he said, laying a proprietary hand upon the nearest one. “We pulled them out of the ruins of the Berghof [Hitler’s home in Berchtesgaden] in May 1989. The whole place was dynamited in ’52, but my friend Adrian and I climbed through the ruins of the garage and down through air vents to get in. You can still walk through all of the underground levels. We made our way by torchlight through laundry rooms, central heating service areas. Then a bowling alley with big signs for Coke all over it. Hitler loved to drink Coke. We brought back these wine racks.”
The cell in Landsberg prison where Hitler was incarcerated in 1923. When Wheatcroft heard the prison was being pulled down, he drove to watch the demolition and collected the door, bricks and the iron bars from Hitler’s cell.Photo: Getty Images
Later, among engine parts and ironwork, I came across a massive bust of Hitler, sitting on the floor next to a condom vending machine (“I collect pub memorabilia, too,” Wheatcroft explained). “I have the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world,” he said, a refrain that returned again and again. “This one came from a ruined castle in Austria. I bought it from the town council.”

“Things have the longest memories of all,” says the introduction to a recent essay by Teju Cole, “beneath their stillness, they are alive with the terrors they have witnessed.” This is what you feel in the presence of the Collection — a sense of great proximity to history, to horror, an uncanny feeling that the objects know more than they are letting on.

Wheatcroft’s home sits behind high walls and heavy gates. There is a pond, its surface stirred by the fingers of a willow tree. A spiky black mine bobs along one edge. The house is huge and modern and somehow without logic, as if wings and extensions have been appended to the main structure willy-nilly.

When I visited, it was late afternoon, a winter moon climbing the sky. Behind the house, apple trees hung heavy with fruit. A Krupp submarine cannon stood sentry outside the back door.

One of the outer walls was set with wide maroon half-moons of iron work, inlaid with obscure runic symbols.

“They were from the top of the officers’ gates to Buchenwald,” Wheatcroft told me in an offhand manner. “I’ve got replica gates to Auschwitz — Arbeit Macht Frei — over there.” He gestured into the gloaming.

I had first heard about Wheatcroft from my aunt Gay, who, as a rather half-hearted expat estate agent, sold him a rambling chateau near Limoges. They subsequently enjoyed (or endured) a brief, doomed love affair.

Despite the inevitable break-up, my father kept in touch with Wheatcroft and, several years ago, was invited to his home. After a drink in the pub-cum-officers’ mess that Wheatcroft has built adjacent to his dining room, my dad was shown to the guest apartment.

“It was remarkable,” he said, mostly for the furniture. “That night, my dad slept in Hermann Göring’s favorite bed, from Carinhall hunting lodge, made of walnut wood and carved with a constellation of swastikas. There were glassy eyed deer heads and tusky boars on the walls, wolf-skin rugs on the floor. My father was a little spooked, but mostly intrigued. In an email soon after, he described Wheatcroft to me as “absurdly decent, almost unnaturally friendly.”

Darkness had fallen as we stepped into the immense, two-story barn conversion behind his home. It was the largest of the network of buildings surrounding the house, and wore a fresh coat of paint and shiny new locks on the doors. As we walked inside, Wheatcroft turned to me with a thin smile, and I could tell that he was excited.

“I have to have strict rules in my life,” he said, “I don’t show many people the collection, because not many people can understand the motives behind it, people don’t understand my values.”

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The walls where Wheatcroft houses his collection are covered with signs, iron swastikas, Hitler’s sketches, and posters that read “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer.”Photo: Getty Images
He kept making these tentative passes at the stigma attached to his obsession, as if at once baffled by those who might find his collection distasteful, and desperately keen to defend himself, and it.

The lower level of the building contained a now-familiar range of tanks and cars, including the Mercedes G4 Wheatcroft saw as a child in Monaco. “I cried and cried because my dad wouldn’t buy me this car. Now, almost 50 years later, I’ve finally got it.”

On the walls huge iron swastikas hung, street-signs for Adolf Hitler Strasse and Adolf Hitler Platz, posters of Hitler with “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer” written beneath.

“That’s from Wagner’s family home,” he told me, pointing to a massive iron eagle spreading its wings over a swastika. It was studded with bullet holes. “I was in a scrap yard in Germany when a feller came in who’d been clearing out the Wagner estate and had come upon this. Bought it straight from him.”

We climbed a narrow flight of stairs to an airy upper level, and I felt that I had moved deeper into the labyrinth of Wheatcroft’s obsession. In the long, gabled hall were dozens of mannequins, all in Nazi uniform. Some were dressed as Hitler Youth, some as SS officers, others as Wehrmacht soldiers.

It was bubble still, the mannequins perched as if frozen in flight, a sleeping Nazi Caerleon. One wall was taken up with machine guns, rifles and rocket launchers in serried rows. The walls were plastered with sketches by Hitler, Albert Speer and some rather good nudes by Göring’s chauffeur.

On cluttered display tables sat a scale model of Hitler’s mountain eyrie the Kehlsteinhaus, a twisted machine gun from Hess’s crashed plane, the commandant’s phone from Buchenwald, hundreds of helmets, mortars and shells, wirelesses, Enigma machines, and searchlights, all jostling for attention. Rail after rail of uniforms marched into the distance.

“I brought David Ayer in here when he was researching Fury,” Wheatcroft told me. “He offered to buy the whole lot there and then. When I said no he offered me 30 grand for this.” He showed me a fairly ordinary-looking camouflage tunic. “He knows his stuff.”

“I try not to answer when people accuse me of being a Nazi, I tend to turn my back and leave them looking silly. I think Hitler and Göring were such fascinating characters in so many ways. Hitler’s eye for quality was just extraordinary.”

We were standing in front of signed photographs of Hitler and Göring. “I think I could give up everything else,” he said, “the cars, the tanks, the guns, as long as I could still have Adolf and Hermann. They’re my real love.”

I asked Wheatcroft whether he was worried about what people might read into his fascination with Nazism. Other notable collectors, I pointed out, were the bankrupt and discredited David Irving and Lemmy from Motörhead.

“I try not to answer when people accuse me of being a Nazi,” he said. “I tend to turn my back and leave them looking silly. I think Hitler and Göring were such fascinating characters in so many ways. Hitler’s eye for quality was just extraordinary.”

He swept his arm across the army of motionless Nazis surrounding us, taking in the uniforms and the bayonets, the dimly glimmering guns and medals. “More than that, though,” he continued, “I want to preserve things. I want to show the next generation how it actually was. And this collection is a memento for those who didn’t come back. It’s the sense of history you get from these objects, the conversations that went on around them, the way they give you a link to the past. It’s a very special feeling.”

The greatest find

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A billboard posted at the entrance of the Belsen concentration camp after its liberation in April, 1945. Wheatcroft once purchased a backpack and discovered an undeveloped roll of film in it, which had five unpublished photos of Bergen-Belsen on it.Photo: Getty Images
We walked around the rest of the exhibition, stopping for a moment by a nondescript green backpack. “There’s a story behind this,” he said. “I found a roll of undeveloped film in it. I’d only bought the backpack to hang on a mannequin, but inside was this film. I had it developed and there were five unpublished pictures of Bergen-Belsen on it. It must have been very soon after the liberation, because there were bulldozers moving piles of bodies.”

The most treasured pieces of Wheatcroft’s collection are kept in his house, a maze-like place, low-ceilinged and full of staircases, corridors that turn back on themselves, hidden doorways and secret rooms. As soon as we entered through the back door, he began to apologize for the state of the place. “I’ve been trying to get it all in order, but there just aren’t the hours in the day.” In the drawing room there was a handsome walnut case in which sat Eva Braun’s gramophone and record collection. We walked through to the snooker room, which housed a selection of Hitler’s furniture, as well as two motorbikes. The room was so cluttered that we could not move further than the doorway.

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Eva Braun and Hitler. Wheatcroft owns Braun’s gramophone and record collection.Photo: AP
“I picked up all of Hitler’s furniture at a guesthouse in Linz,” Wheatcroft told me. “The owner’s father’s dying wish had been that a certain room should be kept locked. I knew Hitler had lived there and so finally persuaded him to open it and it was exactly as it had been when Hitler slept in the room. On the desk there was a blotter covered in Hitler’s signatures in reverse, the drawers were full of signed copies of Mein Kampf. I bought it all. I sleep in the bed, although I’ve changed the mattress.”

A shy, conspiratorial smile.

We made our way through to the galleried dining room, where a wax figure of Hitler stood on the balcony, surveying us coldly. There was a rustic, beer-hall feel to the place. On the table sat flugelhorns and euphoniums, trumpets and drums. “I’ve got the largest collection of Third Reich military instruments in the world,” Wheatcroft told me. Of course he did. There was Mengele’s grandfather clock, topped with a depressed-looking bear. “I had trouble getting that out of Argentina. I finally had it smuggled out as tractor parts to the Massey-Ferguson factory in Coventry.”

Wheatcroft briefly opened a door to show the pub he had built for himself. Even here there was a Third Reich theme — the cellar door was originally from the Berghof.

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Wheatcroft also owns the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world.Photo: Getty Images
The electricity was off in one wing of the house, and we made our way in dim light through a conservatory where rows of Hitler heads stared blindly across at each other. Every wall bore a portrait of the Führer, or of Göring, until the two men felt so present and ubiquitous that they were almost alive. In a well at the bottom of a spiral staircase, Wheatcroft paused beneath a full-length portrait of Hitler. “This was his favorite painting of himself, the one used for stamps and official reproductions.” The Führer looked peacockish and preening, a snooty tilt to his head.

We climbed the stairs to find more pictures of Hitler on the walls, swastikas and iron crosses, a faintly Egyptian statuette given by Hitler to Peron, an oil portrait of Eva Braun signed by Hitler. Paintings were stacked against walls, bubble wrap was everywhere. We picked our way between the artefacts, stepping over statuary and half-unpacked boxes. I found myself imagining the house in a decade’s time, when no doors would open, no light come in through the windows, when the collection would have swallowed every last corner, and I could picture Wheatcroft, quite happy, living in a caravan in the garden.

We passed along more shadowy corridors, through a door hidden in a bookshelf and up another winding staircase, until we found ourselves in an unexceptional bedroom, a single unshaded light in the ceiling illuminating piles of uniforms.

Wheatcroft reached into a closet and pulled out Hitler’s white dress suit with careful, supplicatory hands.

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Hitler (center) in 1939. Wheatcroft says his greatest find was a locked suitcase that held Hitler’s white dress suit.Photo: Getty Images
“I was in Munich with a dealer,” he said, showing me the tailor’s label, which read Reichsführer Adolf Hitler in looping cursive. “We had a call to go and visit a lawyer, who had some connection to Eva Braun. In 1944, Eva Braun had deposited a suitcase in a fireproof safe. He quoted me a price, contents unseen. The case was locked with no key. We drove to Hamburg and had a locksmith open it. Inside were two full sets of Hitler’s suits, including this one, two Sam Browne belts, two pairs of his shoes, two bundles of love letters written by Hitler to Eva, two sketches of Eva naked, sunbathing, two self-propelling pencils. A pair of AH-monogrammed eyeglasses. A pair of monogrammed champagne flutes. A painting of a Vienna cityscape by Hitler that he must have given to Eva. I was in a dream world. The greatest find of my collecting career.”

Wheatcroft drove me to the station under a wide, star-filled night. “When David Ayer offered to buy the collection, I almost said yes,” he told me, his eyes on the road. “Just so it wouldn’t be my problem any more. I tried to buy the house in which Hitler was born in Braunau, I thought I could move the collection there, turn it into a museum of the Third Reich. The Austrian government must have Googled my name. They said no immediately. They didn’t want it to become a shrine. It’s so hard to know what to do with all the stuff. I really do feel like I’m just a caretaker until the next person comes along, but I must display it, I must get it out into the public — I understand that.”

We pulled into the station car park and, with a wave, he drove off into the night.

Wheatcroft’s madness

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A fallen Nazi eagle and swastika amidst the ruins of Hitler’s Reich Chancellery July, 1945.Photo: Getty Images
On the way home I stared out of the train window, feeling the events of the day working themselves upon me. The strange thing was not the weirdness of it all, but the normality. I really don’t believe that Wheatcroft is anything other than what he seems — a fanatical collector. I had expected a closet Nazi, a wild-eyed goosestepper, and instead I had met a man wrestling with a hobby that had become an obsession and was now a millstone.

Collecting was like a disease for him, the prospect of completion tantalizingly near but always just out of reach. If he was mad, it wasn’t the madness of the fulminating antisemite, rather the mania of the collector.

Many would question whether artifacts such as those in the Wheatcroft Collection ought to be preserved at all, let alone exhibited in public. Should we really be queueing up to marvel at these emblems of what Primo Levi called the Nazis’ “histrionic arts”? It is, perhaps, the very darkness of these objects, their proximity to real evil, that attracts collectors (and that keeps novelists and filmmakers returning to the years 1939-45 for material).

In the conflicting narratives and counter-narratives of history, there is something satisfyingly simple about the evil of the Nazis, the schoolboy Manichaeism of the second world war. Later, Wheatcroft would tell me that his earliest memory was of lining up Tonka tanks on his bedroom floor, watching the ranks of Shermans and Panzers and Crusaders facing off against each other, a childish battle of good and evil.

After I sent him a copy of Laurent Binet’s 2010 novel “HHhH,” a brilliant retelling of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the principal architects of the Holocaust, Wheatcroft emailed me with news of an astonishing new find in the house of a retired diplomat. “I’d fully intended to ease up on the collecting,” he told me, “to concentrate on cataloguing, on getting the collection out there, but actually some of the things I’ve discovered since I saw you last, I’ve just had to buy. Big-value items, but you just have to forget about that because of the sheer rarity value. It’s compounded the problem really, because they were all massive things.”

His latest find, he said, was a collection of Nazi artefacts brought to his attention by someone he had met at an auction a few years back. The story is classic Wheatcroft — a mixture of luck and happenstance and chutzpah that appears to have turned up objects of genuine historical interest. “This chap told me that his best friend was a plumber and was working on a big house in Cornwall. The widow was trying to sort things out. The plumber had seen that in the garden there were all sorts of Nazi statues. He sent me a picture of one of the statues, which was a massive 5 ½ foot stone eagle that came from Berchtesgaden. I did a deal and bought it, and after that sale my contact was shown a whole range of other objects by the widow. It turned out that this house was a treasure trove. There’s an enormous amount I’m trying to get hold of now. I can’t say an awful lot, but it’s one of the most important finds of recent times.”

The owner of the house had just passed away; he was apparently a senior British diplomat who, in his regular trips to Germany in the lead-up to the war, amassed a sizable collection of Nazi memorabilia. He continued to collect after the war had finished, the most interesting items hidden in a safe room behind a secret panel.

“It’s stunning,” Wheatcroft told me, by telephone, his voice fizzing with excitement. “There’s a series of handwritten letters between Hitler and Churchill. They were writing to each other about the route the war was taking. Discussions of a non-aggression pact. This man had copied things and removed them on a day-to-day basis over the course of the war. A complete breach of the Official Secrets Act, but mindblowing.” The authenticity of the papers, of course, has not yet been confirmed — but if they are real, they could secure Wheatcroft a place in the history books. “Although it’s never been about me,” he insisted.

It seems our meeting in the winter stirred something in Wheatcroft, a realization that there were duties that came with owning the objects in his collection, obligations to the past and present that had become burdensome to him.

“It’s the objects,” he told me repeatedly, “the history.” It also seemed as if Wheatcroft’s halfhearted attempts to bring his collection to a wider public had been given a much-needed fillip.

“An awful lot has changed since I saw you,” he told me when we spoke in late spring. “It refocused me, talking to you about it. It made me think about how much time has gone by. I’ve spent, I suppose, 50 years as a collector just plodding along, and I’ve suddenly realized that there’s more time behind than ahead, and I need to do something about it. I’ve pressed several expensive buttons in order to get some of my more valuable pieces restored. Because you did just make me think what’s the point of owning these things if no one’s ever going to see them?”

RZM CODES CHART

RZM

Company Name

M9/1

F. W. Assmann & Söhne, Lüdenscheid

M9/2

Rud. Mayer, Pforzheim

M9/3

L. Chr. Lauer, Nürnberg

M9/4

Gustav Brehmer, Markneukirchen

M9/5

Fugen Schmidhäussler, Pforzheim

M9/6

Julius Dinnebier Nachf., Lüdenscheid

M9/7

Foerster & Barth, Pforzheim

M9/8

Christian Thomas Dicke, Lüdenscheid

M9/9

Ferdinand Wagner, Pforzheim

M9/10

Robert Hauschild, Pforzheim

M9/11

Carl Poellath, Schrobenhausen

M9/12

C. Baimberger, Nürnberg

M9/13

Gustav Hahl, Pforzheim

M9/14

M. Kutsch, Attendorn

M9/15

Otto Schickle, Pforzheim

M9/16

Berg & Nolte AG, Lüdenscheid

M9/17

Friedrich Keck, Pforzheim

M9/18

Karl Wild, Hamburg

M9/19

Ernst Schneider, Lüdenscheid

M9/20

“Walgo”. Inh. Goseberg, Kierspe

M9/21

Glaser & Sohn, Dresden

M9/22

Dr. Franke & Co., KG., Lridenscheid

M9/23

Ossenberg & Co., Dahle und Altena

M9/24

Wilhelm Schroder & Co., Lüdenscheid

M9/25

Richard Sieper & Söhne, Lüdenscheid

M9/26

Hessische Fahnenfabrik Georg Schubkegel, Darmstadt

M9/27

Bockle & Co., Geringswalde

M9/28

Ferdinand Hoffstätter, Bonn

M9/29

Rud Wachtler & Lange. Mittweida

M9/30

Bernhard Haarmann, Lüdenscheid

M9/31

Biedermann & Co., Obercassel

M9/32

G. Danner, Muhihausen

M9/33

Karl Hensler, Pforzheim

M9/34

Werner Linker, Duisburg-Hochfeld

M9/35

Gebrüder Gloerfeld KG, Lüdenscheid

M9/36

Philipp und Gustav Fest, Hanau

M9/37

Carl Winkler, Hanau

M9/38

Tweer & Turck, Lüdenscheid

M9/39

Wilhelm Deumer, Lüdenscheid

M9/40

Karl Wurster, Markneukirchen

M9/41

Julius Maurer G.m.b.H., Oberstein

M9/42

Fritz Zimmermann, Stuttgart

M9/43

Lohmann & Welschehold, Meinerzhagen

M9/45

Dransfeld & Co., Menden

M9/46

Otto Fechler, Bernsbach

M9/47

Adolf Baumeister, Lüdenscheid

M9/48

E. F. Wiedmann, Frankfurt am M.

M9/49

Heinrich Muth, Hanau

M9/50

Steinhauer & Lück, Lüdenscheid

M9/51

Hermann Aurich, Dresden

M9/52

Schmidt & Bruckmann, Pforzheim

M9/53

Friedrich Linden, Lüdenscheid

M9/54

Funcke & Bruninghaus, Lüdenscheid

M9/55

Hermann Wemstein, Jena-Löbstedt

M9/56

Werner Redo, Saarlautern

M9/57

Gebrüder Lange, Lüdenscheid

M9/58

Alfred Stubbe, Inh. Herben Tegge, Berlin

M9/60

Paulmann & Crone, Lüdenscheid

M9/61

Gebrüder Albert, Menden.

M9/62

Berthold Kuhn, Catterfeld

M9/63

Albert Ihne, Lüdenscheid

M9/65

Friedrich Keller, Oberstein

M9/66

Gottlieb Fr. Keck & Sohn, Pforzheim

M9/67

Overhoft & Cie, Lüdenscheid

M9/68

Gebrüder Mardey & Co., Wuppertal-Langerfeld

M9/69

K. E. Haas, Hamburg

M9/70

Walter Demmer, Lüdenscheid

M9/71

Stuttgarter Metallwerk-Fabrik Mayer & Wilhelm, Stuttgart

M9/72

Wilhelm Kolwitz, Bergedorf b. Hamburg

M9/73

Julius Bauer Söhne, Zella-Mehlis

M9/74

Heinrich Vogt, Pforzheim

M9/75

M. Nett, Fürth

M9/76

Hermann Bauer, Schwäb.-Gmünd.

M9/77

Josef Fuess, München

M9/78

Stefan Merkl, Nürnberg

M9/79

Max Kamper, Lüdenscheid

M9/80

Kruse & Söhne, Wuppertal-Barmen

M9/81

Franz Reischauer, Idan

M9/82

Matthias Ochsier & Sohn KG., Ansbach

M9/83

Lehmann & Wundenberg, Hannover

M9/84

Gebrüder Rood, Solingen

M9/85

Gebrüder Hahne, Lüdenscheid

M9/86

Adam Donner, Wuppertal-Elberfeld

M9/87

Adolf Besson, Schwäb.-Gmjind.

M9/88

A. Kunze & Co., Buchholz

M9/89

Hillenbrand & Bröer, Lüdenscheid

M9/91

Wilhelm Fuhner, Pforzheim

M9/92

Paul Meybauer, Berlin

M9/93

Frank & Reif o.H.G., Stuttgart

M9/94

Walter Horn]ein, Schwäb.-Gmünd.

M9/95

Pleuger & Voss, Lüdenscheid

M9/96

Kallenbach, Meyer & Franke, Luckenwalde

M9/97

Gebrüder Fobke, Stettin

M9/98

Theodor Seibod, Offenbach a. M.

M9/99

Hans Aich, Schwäb.-Gmünd.

M9/100

Emil Oberholz, Reiligenhaus

M9/102

Gebrüder Bender, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/103

Schimmel, Schmieder & Co., Schmölin

M9/104

Fritz Zobel, Breslau

M9/105

Karl Kahle, Flensburg

M9/106

Richard Masseck, Weisswasser

M9/107

Ossenberg-Engels, Iserlohn

M9/108

L. 0. Stillgebauer, Solingen

M9/109

Emil Vogelsang, Glauchau

M9/110

Fritz Kohm, Pforzheim

M9/111

Schauerte & Höhfeld, Lüdenscheid

M9/112

Wurttembergische Metallwarenfabrik, Geislingen a. d St.

M9/113

Ernst Conze, Lüdenscheid

M9/114

Hermann Knöller, Lüdenscheid

M9/115

Rob Hasenmayer Jr., Pforzheim

M9/116

Wuh. A. Jager, Frankfurt a. M

M9/117

Chn Bauer, Welzheim

M9/118

Josef Preissier, Pforzheim

M9/119

Alois Rettenmaier, Schwäb-Omünd.

M9/120

Gustav Schuft, Cottbus

M9/121

Furstenberger Porzellanfabrik, Furstenberg a. d. Weser

M9/122

Stempel-Reich, Breslau

M9/123

Gebrüder Cramer, Menden

M9/124

Karl Pfohl, Pforzheim

M9/125

Jakob Bengel, Inh. E., Hartenberger, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/126

Fried. Wuh. Schnurle, Duisburg am Rhein

M9/127

Heinrich Schmidt, Sprottau

M9/128

Paul Schulze & Co., Lubeck

M9/129

Jörgum & Trefz, Frankfurt am Main

M9/130

Bruno Mitlehner, Berlin

M9/131

Noelle & Hueck KG, Lüdenscheid

M9/132

Hermann Schulte Sohn, Lüdenscheid

M9/133

Bebritpressstoffwerke G.m.b.H., Bebra

M9/134

Seiler & Co., Geldern

M9/135

C. W. Lots, Adorf

M9/136

Ernst Scheiter, Eibenstock

M9/137

H. Dürvel, Braunschweig

M9/138

Prokop, Jager & Söhne, Rosenthal-Schweizermuhle

M9/139

Bruno Winkler, Zittau

M9/140

Leop. Kleins Witwe, Wien

M9/141

Glöckner & Co., Annaberg

M9/142

Otto Kunze, Fraureuth

M9/143

R. Conrad Nach & Co. KG, Schmiedeberg.

M9/144

Julius Moser sen., Inh. C., Moser, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/145

Kuhr & Langer, Eisenach

M9/146

Mayer & Sohn, Erbach

M9/147

Eduard Mutscheiknauss, Pforzheim

M9/148

E. O. Friedrich, Leipzig

M9/149

Willy Annetsberger, Munchen

M9/150

Friedrich Roediger & Co., Hanau a. M.

M9/151

Petz & Lorenz, Unterreichenbach

M9/152

Stuffmann & Co., Haan

M9/153

Staatl Bemstein-Manufaktur, Königsberg

M9/154

Karl Forster & Grat Schwäb-Gmünd.

M9/155

Lindner & Maak, Dresden

M9/156

Ad. Schwerdt, Stuttgart

M9/157

Lind & Meyer, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/158

Ochs & Bonn, Hanau a. M.

M9/159

Wilhelm Helbing, Leipzig

M9/160

Max Kremhelmer, Munchen

M9/161

Sohni, Heubach & Co., Oberstein a d. N.

M9/162

Ziemer & Söhne, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/163

Otto Wolter, Schwäb-Gmund.

M9/164

Paul Merkens, Dusseldorf

M9/165

Giesse & Schmidt, Ruhla

M9/166

Hymmen & Co., Lüdenscheid

M9/167

Emil Büxenstein, Pforzheim

M9/168

Gustav Mössmer, Offenbach am Main

M9/169

Deschler & Sohn, München

M9/170

Karl Erbacher, Pforzheim

M9/171

Rudolf Freund, Solingen

M9/172

Eduard Hahn, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/173

P. C. Turck Witwe, Lüdenscheid

M9/176

List & Hertl, Wien

M9/177

August Menze & Sohn, Wien

M9/178

C. W. Motz & Co., Brandenburg a. d.H.

M9/179

Karl Gschiermeister, Wien

M9/180

Adalbert Kanngiesser, Wien.

M9/181

Sohni & Co., Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/182

Karl Kuhn & Co. AG, Wien

M9/183

Schar-Smolka, Schwechat b. Wien

M9/184

Bruno Mulde, Bremen

M9/185

J. E. Hammer & Söhne, Geringswalde

M9/186

Konrad Seiboth, Gablonz a. N.

M9/187

Grossmann & Co. Inh. Lorenz Hoffstätter u.L. Siefener, Wien

M9/188

Schaeffer, Homberg G.m.b.H., Wuppertal -Barmen

M9/189

Rudolf Stärz, Gablonz a. N.

M9/190

Rudolf Richter, Schlag Nr 244

M9/191

Wilhelm Borgas, Entingen

M9/192

Albert Noswitz, Gablonz a. N.

M9/193

Emil Peukert, Gablonz a. N.

M9/194

Franz Schiffner, Gablonz a. N.

M9/195

Franz Schmidt, Gablonz a. N.

M9/196

Rudolf Lucke & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/197

Gustav Miksch, Gablonz a. N.

M9/198

Camill Bergmann & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/199

Rudolf Pfeiffers Nachf., Hoschka & Pesch, Gablonz a. N.

M9/200

Heinrich Stärz jr., Gablonz a. N.

M9/201

Otto Lang, Gablonz a. N

M9/202

Josef Rössler & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/203

Wilhelm Pala, Gablonz a. N.

M9/204

Franz Wenzeis Sohn, Braunau Heuscheuer

M9/205

Fritz Zasche, Gablonz a. N.

M9/206

J. C. Gante in, Berlin

M9/207

Georg Patzner, Breslau.

M9/208

Josef Feix Söhne, Gablonz a. N.

M9/209

Gebrüder Jäger, Gablonz

M9/210

Rudolf Lang, Kukan Nr.226 b. Gablonz

M9/211

Adolf Scholze, Grünwald a. N.

M9/212

Julius Rauchfühs, Schonwald u. Pirna

M9/213

Eduard Gorlach & Söhne, Gablonz a. N.

M9/214

August G. Tham, Gablonz a. N.

M9/215

Rudolf Tham, Gablonz a. N.

M9/216

Matth. Ochsier & Sohn AG, Riegersdor b. Bodenbach

M9/217

A. Karneth & Sohn, Gablonz a. N.

M9/218

Matth Salcher & Söhne AG., Wagstadt

M9/219

Augustin Hieke, Tyssa b. Bodenbach

M9/221

Richard Simm & Söhne, Gablonz a. N.

M9/222

Otto Glausch, Grunwald b. Gablonz

M9/223

Bruno Schöffel, Kukan

M9/224

Walter & Henlein, Gablonz a. N.

M9/225

Franz Maschke & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/226

Heinrich Wander, Gablonz a. N.

M9/227

Vereinigte Knopf-Werker Alfred Maborny, Wohlau

M9/229

M. Schaubmayr, Wien

M9/230

Josef Rücker & Sohn, Gablonz a. N.

M9/231

Louis Keller, Oberstein

M9/232

Magnus Richter, Schwarzbach

M9/233

Gustav Könd, Peterswald b. Bodenbach

M9/234

Franz Bernhardt, Tyssa b. Bodenbach.

M9/235

Heinr Ulbricht’s Wwe., Wien

M9/236

Florian Schwarzer, Wien

M9/237

Gebr Eichenauer, Hainfeld

M9/238

Lenkwerk Brüder Schneider AG., Wien

M9/239

A. Beladas Nach. Frz. Jungwirth, Wien

M9/240

W. Gruber & Co., Wien

M9/241

Ranns Pacher, Wien

M9/242

Friedrich Orth, Wien

M9/243

Josef Heintschel, Wien

M9/244

Franke & Sohn, Heidenreichstein

M9/245

Albert Bloudicek, Wien

M9/246

Eduard Gösel, Wien

M9/247

Rudolf Menschiga, Wien

M9/248

Christlbauer & Sohn, Wien

M9/249

Josef Mayr, Linz

M9/250

Andreas Unger, Wien

M9/251

Rudolf Schanes, Wien

M9/252

Phil. Turks Wwe., Wien

M9/253

Argentor-Werke, Wien

M9/254

Hans Hischer, Wien

M9/255

Schwenner & Cie., Eggenberg b. Graz

M9/256

Franz Petzl, Wien

M9/263

Adolf Klinger, Grünwald a. N.

M9/264

Rudolf Dressier Jr., Gablonz a. N.

M9/265

Eduard Kratzert, Gablonz a. N.

M9/268

Franz Klamt & Söhne, Gablonz a. N.

M9/269

Arno Wailpach, Salzburg

M9/270

Wilhelm Tschinkel Abtl. II, Ober Kreibitz -Schonfeld

M9/271

Gustav Wenzel, Nieder-Preschkau, Kr. Tetschen

M9/272

Rudolf Fischer Jr., Nixdorf

M9/273

Franz Lang, Gablonz a. N.

M9/274

Karl Unger & Sohn, Gablonz a. N.

M9/275

Erwin Hoffmann, Seidenschwanz

M9/276

Josef Pörner, Gablonz a. N.

M9/277

Franz Erben jr, Seidenschwanz

M9/278

Reichelmann & Co., Tellnitz b. Aussig

M9/279

E. Wohlmann, Gablonz a. N.

M9/280

Rudolf Bergs, Gablonz a. N.

M9/281

Richard Feix, Gablonz a. N.

M9/282

Wilhelm Hammesfahr, Solingen

M9/283

Emil Herrmann & Co. Gablonz a. N.

M9/284

Robert Rudolf, Gablonz a. N.

M9/285

Oskar Frech, Gablonz a. N.

M9/286

Adolf Kofer, Sebnitz

M9/287

Ewald Turck, Lüdenscheid

M9/288

Klein & Quenzer AG., Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/289

Gottlieb & Wagner, Oberstein a. d. N.

M9/290

Otto Geiger, Lüdenscheid

M9/291

Oswald Posselt, Gablonz a. N.

M9/292

Ernst Hübner, Gablonz a. N.

M9/293

Adolf Seidel Gablonz a. N.

M9/294

W. Lehmann, Karlsbad-Weheditz

M9/295

Josef Bergs & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/296

Franz Schönbach, Riegersdorf

M9/297

August Halter, Tolkemit, Kr. Elbing

M9/298

Brüder Paul, Tyssa b. Bodenbach

M9/299

Paul Garthe, Muspe

M9/300

Volkskunst der Grafschaft Glatz, Kurt Klammt, Glatz-Neuland

M9/301

Otto Sedlak, Gablonz a. N.

M9/302

Bruno Pfeifer, Gablonz a. N.

M9/303

Anton Markovskys Söhne, Gablonz a. N

M9/304

Karl Schlenker, Schwäb.-Gmünd.

M9/305

Rudolf Zappa, Bad Schlag b. Gablonz a. N.

M9/306

R. Richard Haasis, Zittau

M9/307

Kamill Schöffel, Grunwald a. N

M9/308

Laurenz Müller, Gross-Schonau.

M9/309

Willy Engel, Morchenstern, Kr. Gablonz

M9/310

Otto Mischek, Gablonz a. N

M9/311

Gralit-Kunstharzpresswerk, Grossmann, Pietschmann & Co., Nixdorf

M9/312

Fritz Mannheim G.m.b.H., Kaiserslautern

M9/313

Karl Pichl, Innsbruck

M9/314

Moritz Hertwig KG., Tannenberg

M9/315

Arno Melzer, Dresden

M9/316

Rudolf Strake, Leipa

M9/317

Franz Simon, Gablonz a. N.

M9/318

Heinrich & Heinrich, Gablonz a. N.

M9/319

Buttig & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/320

Zappe & Co., Gablonz a. N.

M9/321

Wiliy Zappe, Gablonz a. N.

M9/322

Oskar Zappe Jr., Gablonz a. N.

M9/323

Max Hering, Oldenburg i. 0.

M9/324

Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen

M9/325

Rosenthal-Porzellan AG., Selb.

M9/326

Karl Schram, Brunn (Protektorat Mähren)

M9/327

Otto Müller, Gablonz a. N

M9/328

Julius Gerhard. Pforzheim

M9/329

Max Ulbrich, Gablonz a. N.

M9/330

Ewald Ress, Wien

M9/331

Erhard & Söhne AG, Schwäb.-Gmünd.

M9/332

Dmk. Schönbaumfelds Sohn, Wien

M9/333

Alfred Simet, Wien

M9/334

Augustin Prager, Gablonz a. N.

M9/335

R. Kreisel, Gablonz a. N.

M9/336

W. Hobacher, Wien


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