Adolf Hitler's red telephone through which he ordered the deaths of millions of Jews will be sold at an auction later this February.
May Fetch As Much As $300,000
The phone, which was recovered from the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin in May 1945 and features the engraved name of the dictator on it, will be sold by Alexander Historical Auctions in Maryland and is estimated to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.
"It would be impossible to find a more impactful relic than the primary tool used by the most evil man in history to annihilate countless innocents, lay waste to hundreds of thousands of square miles of land, and in the end, destroy his own country and people...with effects that still menacingly reverberate today." Alexander Historical Auctions said in a statement.
Given By Russian Forces That Captured Berlin
British officer Ralph Rayner recovered the telephone from Hitler's bunker shortly after the end of the war. Rayner was sent to the German capital with the mission of establishing contact with Russian forces who captured the city.
He was likely the first non-Soviet victor who managed to get into Hitler's bunker after the Nazi leader's defeat. Russian officers gave the phone to Rayner while the latter was visiting Berlin on orders of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. The phone was handed down to Rayner's son Ranulf after his death in 1977.
A War Trophy
The younger Rayner, now age 82, said that his father did not see the phone as a relic of Hitler's glory days but rather a battered remnant of the dictator's defeat, a war trophy. Ralph Rayner neither thought that the phone would become an important artifact.
"He could still smell burning flesh," Ranulf Rayner said while recalling how his father described the bunker where the phone was found.
Black And Red Telephones
Ralph Rayner was initally offered the black telephone in the room of Hitler's bride, Eva Braun, but he opted for the red phone at the side of the dictator's bed, telling the Russians that the phone's color was his favorite.
Ralph Rayner described the horror he witnessed in Berlin in a May 1945 letter to his wife Elizabeth but he did not include details about the phone he had in his possession. Ranulf Rayner explained that British soldiers could face a court martial for looting items from the Germans.
Reminder Of The Nazis' Crime
Ranulf decided to sell it with hopes that it will be displayed as a reminder of the crimes that were carried out by the Nazis.
Ranulf described the phone as Hitler's personal instrument of death and cited several eyewitness accounts telling that one of the last calls Hitler made on the phone was to order that his brother-in-law, General Hermann Fegelein, be shot for treason.
He said that he hoped the phone, along with a porcelain model of an Alsatian that was made by slave laborers at Dachau concentration camp, would be bought by a museum instead of a private collector.