Saturday, November 9, 2013

Platinum watch given to Eva Braun by Hitler

For decades, item number 471/96 has only seen the light of day in exceptional cases. On those rare occasions, fingers encased in clean, white cotton gloves carefully lift the platinum watch out of its velvet-lined case. Diamonds encircle the round face, refracting the ambient light into a glittering cascade.

The watch, made in the southwestern German city of Pforzheim by Eszeha, was kept in a plain cardboard box after the war. It isn't difficult to discover whose wrist it once adorned. The following inscription, along with a handwritten signature, appears on the back of the casing: "On February 6, 1939. With all my heart. A. Hitler."
That February day was the 27th birthday of Eva Braun. The Reich Chancellor had dedicated the diamond-studded watch with a chain clasp to his mistress, 22 years his junior. The precious watch survived the turmoil of the ensuing violence virtually unharmed.

Today the watch is kept in storage at the Pinakothek der Moderne, a modern art museum in Munich, where it is registered as "Estate of Eva Hitler, née Eva Braun" -- in a cabinet that contains a large number of other devotional objects from the darkest period of German history.
Even today, this remains Germany's preferred way of dealing with the treasures that Hitler, Göring and all the other Nazi leaders snatched up and stole from others during 12 years of tyranny. The items being kept in a Munich museum's storage rooms are merely a tiny portion of the Nazi legacy that fell into the lap of postwar Germany.

Almost seven decades later, the German state continues to hold paintings, rugs, furniture, graphics, sculptures, silver vessels, tapestries, books and precious stones appropriated by the Nazi clique. The German government owns about 20,000 items, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, books and coins. According to a 2004 estimate, the 2,300 paintings alone have an insurance value of €60 million ($81 million). Hundreds more are in the storage rooms of museums in the country.