• Van Weyenbergh Fine Art

The sale of Adolf Hitler paintings became an evil business

Updated: Mar 23, 2019

Nuremberg. The auction on February 8 by Weidler auction house in Nuremberg of five paintings attributed to Adolf Hitler turned into a fiasco . None of these paintings showing bucolic landscapes, with estimates between $ 20,000 and $ 50,000 did find buyers. Three days earlier, the authorities seized 63 works signed "AH" or "A. Hitler" because of a doubt about their authenticity . Among them, 26 watercolors, drawings and paintings were to be auctioned by Weidler who defends any irregularities and claims to cooperate with the police and justice. "We are conducting an investigation at the Nuremberg Prosecutor's Office on suspicion of falsification and attempted fraud, " said the Attorney General .

f it is proven that they are fake, we will check who in the chain of possession knew that. Most experts welcomed this initiative. "There is a long tradition for this devotional trade with Nazi items. Each time, there is a media buzz around them the prices are continually rising. " This speculation, however, could not last ...

In his early years, Adolf Hitler dreamed of becoming a great artist. In Vienna in 1907, Hitler failed to pass the entrance examination of the Academy of Fine Arts, which even refused him the following year to participate in his entrance examination. This "failure struck me like a thunderbolt in a clear sky , " explained in Mein Kampf the future dictator. The following years, however, the young man continued to paint. "Hitler invariably made copies, sometimes looking for his subjects in museums or galleries,". His friend Reinhold Hanisch was selling his "works," most of which had the format of a postcard, touring Viennese pubs. Ironically his most regular customers were Jewish merchants.

An abundant production of copies

Nobody knows precisely the number of paintings painted by Hitler. Many books put forward the figure of 2,000 to 3,000 works, but this estimate seems to be much too high today. In the mid-1930s, the main archives of the National Socialist Party of German Workers (NSDAP) attempted to record all Hitler images circulating at the time and, if possible, to buy them. Of the 50 watercolors and drawings acquired by the Nazi group, 33 are currently in the Berlin Federal Archives. Dutch journalist Bart Droog has studied them and has detected at least seven fake ones in this collection. From the arrival of the leader of the National Socialist Party to Chancellor of the Reich, copies have indeed begun to circulate on the art market. His former partner, Reinhold Hanisch, has sold many works that were supposed to have been made by the Führer. Paintings and drawings executed between 1900 and 1930 were also mistakenly attributed to Hitler. Bart Droog further revealed that two NSDAP official painters had been commissioned to make copies of the dictator's alleged originals in order to offer them to party officials.

Several counterfeiters also realized that they could make big money by signing "AH" "AA" or "A. Hitler". The best known of them, Konrad Kujau, has been particularly active in this area. The author of the so-called "Hitler's Notebooks", who managed to sell them 9.3 million Deutsche Marks (€ 4.75 million) to the German magazine Stern in 1983, painted his first fake at the request of customers. "One day a person came to his shop to ask him if he was not selling Hitler's souvenirs and he started making fake canvases," says Marc-Oliver Boger, the creator of the museum dedicated to the German counterfeiter, the Kujau-Kabinett (Bietigheim-Bissingen). Nobody knows exactly how much he has done. I personally own five but there are many more. "

Will be continued.


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