How Hitler's snapshots ended up in Walsall

Experts vouch for the authenticity of items taken from the Nazi leader's Berlin bunker
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The Independent Online
Embossed in gold with an eagle and the initials AH, they were intended to carry the orders of the Fuhrer to the servants of the Reich. Instead they rest in a house in Walsall in the West Midlands.

Some of the contents of Adolf Hitler's desk, inside his Berlin bunker - including his personalised leather binder and a supply of headed notepaper - are believed to have emerged, 52 years after being seized as mementos during the fall of the Nazi regime.

Three private photographs of the Nazi hierarchy, which are believed to be previously unpublished, a Christmas card signed by the Fuhrer, and Nazi certificates bearing the signatures of Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, have also been identified.

For more than half a century, their existence was unknown to historians - until a fortnight ago, when the BBC Antiques Roadshow swung into Walsall.

Waiting in the line of would-be antiquarians was Dave Starbuck, 60, a retired Midlands journalist, who had acquired the Nazi material. He said it had originally been snatched up by Ronnie Read, a journalist with Paramount News, who was covering the advance of the Allied forces into Berlin.

Roy Butler, the Antiques Roadshow arms and armour expert, examined the material and had no doubts it was genuine.

"I believe that was Hitler's personal notepaper," he said. "The photographs are quite genuine. The documents with Hitler's signature looked all right to me."

Mr Butler was particularly impressed with the leather folder. "It was high-quality pale blue leather, gold bordered with a swastika below an eagle and the letters AH," he said.

Mr Butler said large quantities of Nazi memorabilia had been seized by the Allies.

"Whether it was the Reich chancellory or the bunker, all the lads raced through it to see what they could find for souvenirs.

"With all these people being in their 70s, these things are now being inherited and are coming onto the market."

Next week, in Llanelli, south Wales, a rare self-portrait of Hitler, also commandeered as Allied troops swept through Germany, is to go on sale at auction.

The nine-by-six-inch pencil drawing, which has been authenticated by an art expert in Manchester, is thought to be one of only six in existence. It was discovered by a former Royal Corps of Signals soldier, Donald Sims, in 1945. He was checking for booby traps in a house in Essen, Germany when he found the picture in a bricked-up wall. The drawing is expected to fetch pounds 2,000.

The documents and photographs taken from the Berlin bunker have been valued at around pounds 1,000, with the leather folder worth a further pounds 1,000.

Mr Starbuck said he was given the items by an unnamed businessman who purchased them from Mr Read's widow in 1960.

One of the photographs allegedly taken from the Fuhrer's desk shows Hitler enjoying an intimate meal with other senior Nazis.

Another shows the dictator posing with high-ranking Nazis including Martin Bormann, Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, while the third is a picture of Herman Goering.

Mr Starbuck said: "These three photographs have never been published. I know they are genuine. Anybody can examine them. I have no objections whatsoever, as long as they don't go out of my possession."

He also has an affidavit signed by Wilhelm Frick, Hitler's interior minister, giving a breakdown of who ran the Third Reich and photographs allegedly taken by the journalist at Hitler's bunker.

A spokesman for the Documents Department of the Imperial War Museum in London said the museum would be happy to provide an expert to examine the material.

"I suppose it's unique if he can prove that it has come from Hitler's bunker. If Mr Butler has looked at it and claimed it's the real thing, I'm sure it is," said the museum spokesman.

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