Many history lovers are also collectors. Collecting could be intended as a direct way to own a little part of a bigger picture, a necessary method to touch with your own hands a little item related to the biggest events. Among the various sectors of collecting, the interest for military related items is very high, and when we say military items, we intend those you’re familiar with the WW1 or WW2.
Collect, collect, collect
No need to say that the bad guys always had a bizarre magnetism, and this rule seems to apply also on to the militaria market. The items related to the Third Reich and the Wehrmacht have always been the biggest star from the scene. The items related to the German army, are the most marketed and wanted. Starting from uniforms, awards, weapons or personal items, the Nazi memorabilia takes it all.
Collecting in directly connected to money, and money separates the entry/medium level collector from those who can afford to buy what you did not have thought that could be bought. History Key will unlock for you the story of one of those millionaires which happen to be a Nazi memorabilia collector, in special of Adolf Hitler’s personal items, if we keep in mind that he sleeps in Hitler’s bed. This is the story of Kevin Wheatcroft.
As for many other collectors, everything started with a “special item”, which eventually triggered the habit of collecting. At the age of five, Kevin asked for an unusual birthday present: a bullet-pierced German SS helmet. At the age of six, Kevin asked for a Mercedes, more exactly the G4 used by Hitler in 1938, in the Sudetenland. Kevin’s father, even if a millionaire, refused to buy the car. Kevin cried as a child after that car, so he bought it many years later when he became also a millionaire.
Becoming an adult with a lot of money was the perfect playground to take every step further. At the age of 57, Wheatcroft is recognized as the biggest collector of Nazi memorabilia. His name has become a reference among the specialized forums and communities of militaria collectors. His interest isn’t related to any political views, he collects the item as part of history, assuming all the criticism he has received. As you could imagine, he is frequently accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, but Kevin didn’t even bother to offer any explanation in such silly situations.
He lives in Leicestershire, having a net worth of £120m. His collection is estimated at over £100m but is only an approximate value, because there is no official record of all the items included in the collection. Kevin revealed some of the items to a larger public because the show-off is a collector’s rush. He managed to recover important pieces from all sorts of places, starting from demolished buildings to Hitler’s Berghof castle, from which he recovered some bottles of wine.
His collections made him famous
No need to talk about the common pieces that many of the collectors could get, let’s jump directly to the top. Among Kevin’s most precious pieces, we must highlight the following:
- The bed from Hitler’s cell in Landsberg recovered together with bricks and iron bars from the cell.
- A signed silver-bound edition of Mein Kampf
- The largest collection of Hitler heads in the world
- A German IV Panzer tank, valued at over £3m
- The commandant’s phone from Buchenwald
- A machine gun from Rudolf Hess crashed plane
And enigma machines, hundreds of helmets, uniforms of all kind and rank, including many of Hitler’s favorite costumes and clothes, Eva Braun’s gramophone, and record collection, and more tanks, more vehicles, all the furniture from Hitler’s room in Linz and so on.
Wheatcroft admits that he developed a particular interest for Hitler’s figure, so he became specialized in hunting Hitler’s personal items, all of them at very high prices. To this sector is related Wheatcroft’s best find, here the story related by Kevin:
”I was in Munich with a dealer and we had a call to go and visit a lawyer, who had some connection to Eva Braun. In 1944, Eva Braun had deposited a suitcase in a fireproof safe. He quoted me a price, contents unseen. The case was locked with no key. We drove to Hamburg and had a locksmith open it. Inside were two full sets of Hitler’s suits, including this one, two Sam Browne belts, two pairs of his shoes, two bundles of love letters written by Hitler to Eva, two sketches of Eva naked, sunbathing, two self-propelling pencils. A pair of AH-monogrammed eyeglasses. A pair of monogrammed champagne flutes. A painting of a Vienna cityscape by Hitler that he must have given to Eva. I was in a dream world. The greatest find of my collecting career.” (Kevin Wheatcroft for The Guardian)
Wheatcroft advised many war movies, being directly involved in the tank scenes from “Fury” or in “Saving Private Ryan”. It is for sure an obsession, but also an investment, considering that the collection’s value is a continuous value increase. Some of the items Wheatcroft owns are unique pieces with incredible historical value, so their market value can’t be fixed, considering that officially there is not a market for them.
We conclude with a quote from Wheatcroft, in which his intention comes out honestly:
“I want to preserve things. I want to show the next generation how it actually was. And this collection is a memento for those who didn’t come back. It’s the sense of history you get from these objects, the conversations that went on around them, the way they give you a link to the past. It’s a very special feeling.”
(Article was written using references from The Guardian.com)