I cite my own essay above. Curiosa, sometimes erotica, are essentially the artifacts
of a historical period and in this instance the relics of the Nazi era. We have
German helmets, uniforms, insignia, bayonets, patches and medals, Adlerblick binoculars,
the accoutrements saved and preserved. As in every collection there is a holy grail
and I’ll discuss that momentarily. The collector’s wish list is extensive.
Historians and collectors would like to acquire and study the following:
—Himmler’s steel-rimmed glasses. His optician’s prescription would
be priceless as we cannot determine if he was near- or far-sighted. The case itself
has been said to be made of ostrich and has his initials printed in gold lettering.
—Mengele’s lancet set. We believe he was gifted with these two-edged
surgical knives, perhaps five, of sterling silver in a plush-lined leather case
by his medical staff on occasion of his birthday. Reputedly, he used them only once,
on a German woman guard to perform an appendectomy. He prized them too much to operate
—Any rifle or specialized shooting gun owned by Goering is highly sought after
as he was an avid hunter and ordered exquisitely designed and engraved guns for
his collection. A recent collector’s sale put up an Italian gun that Goering
used and sold it for $35,000. The gun’s provenance is guaranteed in that
it is in a photograph of Goering carrying a brace of quail, his gun by his side.
—Any brushes, mirrors, compacts or toiletries used by Eva Braun are exceedingly
valued, especially an acclaimed dresser set that has EB engraved on the back of
a hand mirror. One silver lady’s comb was given as a gift to a woman orderly
before the end and passed on to her daughter who had it auctioned off with a few
strands of Eva’s hair in the late 70s.
The list of desired items from the regime is extensive: intimate items are particularly
valued such as razors, combs, cigarette cases and lighters (preferably monogrammed),
gloves, field binoculars, jodhpurs, riding boots, fountain pens, lingerie, cuticle
scissors, penknives, wrist watches, liquor flasks (again initialed), bedside books,
ash trays, pipes made of meerschaum, eyeglasses, silk scarves, female
paraphernalia—dresser sets, evening purses, hand mirrors, pocket mirrors,
lipsticks, muffs, brassieres, and peignoirs as well as silk pajamas and panties.
Silk hose is especially sought after. And anything and everything dealing with
perfume flasks of the period.
I can personally attest to the magnetic appeal of these items, for I spent some
time living in Germany in the 80s. I visited with collectors who often, when they
came to trust me, showed me their oddities as well as most valued Nazi treasures,
a Breitling watch once owned by Goebbels, for instance.
After examining Goering’s billfold—he admired leather goods—one
collector, let me call him Peter, opened a drawer to reveal a copy of Mein Kampf.
It was in pristine condition, the dust jacket long since gone, but the cover was
mint. I was shown the front pages in which Adolf Hitler had signed his name. No
inscription for Goering who Hitler disparagingly viewed as an epicene.
Naturally the signature grabbed me at once. I sat down and stared at it; the collector
so proud of his find sat down next to me with much pride, taking much pleasure in
my elation. I cannot accurately describe to you what I felt except to say my imagination
took flight with the vision of Hitler using a pen, a pen that flowed black ink and
his inscribing his name. I could smell the event, so incised was it in mind. After
all, historians are also archaeologists. We like to hold bones as well.
“I tell you, Max, I cannot give you my holy grail, as it were, but given your background
as a scholar and your own record, I’d like to give you something to encourage
your future studies.”
I couldn’t imagine what that would be. In my hand was Mein Kampf with
Hitler’s signature. Its value beyond anything else, but I could not have this
nor would I ever ask for such a treasure. I did revel in it, so close to my self.
What could equal this?
“Peter, what is it you can give me?”
“What I have is choice, like a rare stamp; however, I have a pair, both in excellent
condition, good Egyptian cotton, no moth holes. I came upon them in a collector’s
secret showing and I want you to have one.”
With that Peter left the room and returned shortly with a black zippered soft plush
pouch. He removed an item wrapped in a soft cloth. Peter cleared the table before
us, the ash tray, his pipe stand and especially the schnapps and whiskey glasses.
Preparing the table as if setting out priestly paraphernalia for mass, he slowly
unrolled the cloth, revealing a large pair of man’s boxer shorts, although
Germans must have another name for them. Peter became very still. Awe was not his
expression but an abiding and residual smile broke out on his face of continuing
amazement and admiration.
“Well, Peter, the shorts are a little stained and there are aging signs.” I was
about to pick them up and examine the waistband as well as the brand name when Peter
quickly stayed my hand. He was wearing rubber gloves.
“For the moment, leave touch out of this. Admire with your eyes for before you are
the shorts of Adolph Hitler—one of only two pair extant.”
I was stunned. I was stunned all over again. All kind of images flooded me—and
questions above all, historian that I am. Were these the shorts he was wearing when
he committed suicide? And if so, who had the audacity—the thoughtfulness—the
wisdom, to remove them? And who was this person, the first to have set his eyes
upon the Führer’s genitalia? And did that person have help? Were these
the shorts he was wearing before he made love to Eva? And, of course, I had to consider
that these shorts simply were rarely worn, drawer shorts among others. How often
did he frequent them? That did matter, as long as I thought he may have held them
in his hands. All this went through my mind, electrifying to think so.
Both Peter and I just looked at the shorts, probably American XL (40-42). We were
contemplative, reflective. We mused. We thought and considered. Assuredly, each
one of us was having associations, making mnemonic connections to prior personal
experiences, events in our lives. As a historian I was immensely overwhelmed by
the historicity of Hitler’s shorts.
I associated to the possibility that the shorts had semen stains upon them at one
time but repeated washing had done away with them. And if one sperm had succeeded?
Much too much to grasp, a historical bewilderment for all time. I associated to
Hitler’s holding his penis to urinate. I could not, dare not, tell Peter what
I was feeling not only the obvious compulsion to handle Hitler’s drawers,
to place my hand into them and move about the crotch as well, but also to bring
them furtively to my nose, to inhale whatever cottony smell they gave off. Perversely,
I thought again of men who required a woman’s panties or slip in order to
get off. All this was jarringly interrupted by Peter re-rolling the precious shorts
into the cloth and inserting them carefully into the plush satchel.
“I don’t like them to be exposed for too long, as you can well understand,
to the smoke-filled air, the light, for this is not good for them. However, I give
this to you as a present, hoping that you will use Hitler’s shorts as an incentive
for future historical efforts.”
Recently, I composed an essay which established irrefutably that the contention
since the end of World War II that some Jews were turned into soap at one or two
camps is a myth. I spent months on that essay and had at least 40 to 50 footnotes
at the end. While I wrote, Hitler’s shorts were near me on a bookshelf. Whenever
I lost my way, when I felt blocked or the writing was not going well, I took them
down into my lap and stroked the plush bag as if it were a cat. Reinvigorated, I
returned to writing the truth not as I see it but as it is, trying to deny allegations
and accusations much too grandiose or delusional for the common man to accept. Hitler’s
shorts are fact, Jews as bars of soap are not.