LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is considered one of the most racist and heinous screeds in modern history, but an auctioneer says two rare, early editions signed by Hitler could sell Thursday for more than $20,000 at an online auction.
Nate Sanders, owner of Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles, said Hitler gave the books to Josef Bauer, an early follower who participated in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Hitler was arrested and jailed for the attempt to seize power. While behind bars, he dictated "Mein Kampf" — two volumes of autobiography and anti-Semitic manifesto — to Rudolf Hess to raise money for his criminal defense. Hess later served as Hitler's deputy.
The fly leaves of both volumes feature Hitler's signature with best wishes to his friend for the Christmas season. Sanders said volumes of "Mein Kampf" from the 1930s are common because they were popular wedding gifts in Nazi Germany. However, a copy signed by the author is rare, he said.
Selling Nazi memorabilia is prohibited in many European countries that experienced the horrors of World War II. Sanders, however, defends collecting items connected with the Nazi regime, saying most collectors are military history aficionados.
"The same people who collect Adolf Hitler (items) collect George Washington, or World War II, or George Patton," said Sanders, who is Jewish. "You have the whole gamut. There's white supremacist collectors of Hitler, and there's Jewish collectors of Hitler" items.
The auctioneer said the 1925 and 1926 editions of "Mein Kampf" for sale were purchased by a collector at a Bonhams auction in London several years ago. Sanders is also auctioning off a leather trench coat he said was worn by Albert Speer, a Nazi government minister who took responsibility for the Holocaust at the Nuremberg trials and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime.
An Allied soldier found the jacket in a German chateau and stole it, along with a necklace, as a war trophy to bring home to his parents, Sanders said. The soldier tells the story in a letter to his mother that he signed only "Ralph."
"When I come home I have a gift for you. But do not tell anyone about this. For you I have a gold necklace that I found in the house," the letter reads. "For Dad I have a great leather jacket that I found in the closet."
The soldier found a receipt written out to Speer in the pocket of the jacket, Sanders said.