Fakes & Frauds VI: Third Reich Memorabilia

Fakes & Frauds of the Fourth Reich

By Gregory Douglas

The on-going and hysterical attacks by bankrupt and disgraced British writer, David Irving, on myself and others might appear on the surface to be the result of severe psychological problems. In fact, the root cause of Irving's hysteria is far less esoteric in origin, and far more interesting.

Irving, it is noted, has attacked Gregory Douglas for a number of years, accusing him of being one Peter Stahl, according to Irving, a criminal and document forger. In point of fact, Gregory Douglas is not Peter Stahl, but it is in the earlier writings of Stahl that we find the very clear reasons for Irving's shrill invective.

Gregory Douglas' first book was on Gestapo Müller, first published by Druffel Press in Germany in 1994.

Peter Stahl's first book was published in 1969 and subsequent to that, he published other historical books such as a book on ceremonial dress daggers of the Third Reich period, "Basic Nazi Swords and Daggers" (1969), "The Afrikakorps" (1972), "Kreta: the German invasion of Crete, 20.5.41-2.6.41" (1972), "Kriegsmarine; uniforms, insignia, daggers & medals of the German Navy, 1935-1945" (1972), "A History of the Fallschirmjäger troops," "Uniforms and Insignia of the German Luftwaffe," and "German Panzer Troops, 1935-1945". There was a final work that appeared in 1990 and we will deal with that work directly.

The great bulk of these books dealt only with military subjects and were considered to be accurate and informative. It was the first book and the last that sowed the seeds of rage in the fallow ground of a small group of persons dealing in Third Reich militaria.

"Fakes & Frauds Of The Third Reich," by Freiherr von Mollendorf aka Peter Stahl, 1969

The first book (in two volumes) was called "Fakes and Frauds of the Third Reich" and was published under the pseudonym of "Freiherr von Mollendorf." The last book was entitled "The Crooked Cross, A History of Counterfeit Third Reich Memorabilia." It was published under the pseudonym of "Mike Hunt."

The military history books were of no concern to anyone but historians, but the two books on Nazi-era fakes were quite another matter. Stahl's books dealt extensively with a widespread and very, very lucrative trade in rare and extremely expensive items. These items consisted of uniforms, helmets, caps, orders, decorations, dress daggers, and swords, and, most importantly, relics of the top leadership of the Third Reich to include uniforms, headgear, and, significantly, documents signed by these personalities.

These three books dealt very heavy blows to what was essentially a small but powerful group of dealers. The prices obtained for, example, for a fake military hat of Adolf Hitler ($10,000), a fake Herman Göring dagger ($25,000), a fake tunic of Josef Goebbels ($15,000) indicates the profitability of this business which is very much akin to the international art market, and just as full of counterfeit items.

The dealers in these objects, seeing their profits diminished and their carefully enhanced reputations tarnished by the Stahl books, reacted quite predictably. A whispering campaign against the author was commenced and a number of the more important dealers went to great pains to then have "reference books" published under their name, that firmly established not only their unassailable expertise but to display a significant number of thoroughly fake items as illustrations. Not surprisingly, these "authenticated" items were later offered for sale to a very gullible public and advertised as being the "very one" that was seen on this page of that book.

American and translated German press clippings about the Berlin Document Center theft. (Click on documents to enlarge)

In the mid 1980s, another issue concerning German militaria surfaced. Discovering an unusually large number of original SS personnel documents surfacing in the American and British collector markets, Stahl conducted his own investigation and notified the office of the State Attorney in Berlin that he strongly suspected that the Berlin Document Center, controlled by the U.S. State Department, was being looted of material contained in its files. Irving's spurious claims about discovering these massive thefts are entirely incorrect and in fact, for reasons about to be made clear, he was highly agitated about the discussions of these thefts.

According to a letter from Oberstaatsanwalt Detlev Mehlis, who conducted the investigations, Peter Stahl had provided the notice of the thefts and worked closely with him over a two year period in which over 10,000 stolen documents were recovered in Germany, England and the United States, and scores of dishonest dealers jailed or otherwise convicted in German courts. As a direct result of these revelations, the control of the Document Center was removed from the U.S. Department of State and given to the government of the German Federal Republic.

Also being stolen at the same time and sold to collectors were so-called Soldbücher and other official personal documents of famous German military leaders, high ranking officers of the Heer, SS, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine aces.

The ensuing uproar, which spread to the United States and England, seriously impinged on the sale of such documents. These were liable to seizure and therefore could not be advertised for sale.

Some time after this, in 1993, the author began work on his Müller manuscripts after first publishing a series of articles on the Gestapo Chief in the Merced Sun-Star, for whom he worked as a reporter.

Shortly after the first book was published in Germany in 1994, the author received a letter from the premier American document and autograph dealer, Charles Hamilton of New York. Hamilton was interested in information the author might have on personalities of the Third Reich he could use in a forthcoming book dealing with the subject.

Mr. Hamilton was also in direct contact with Peter Stahl, at that time living at Norden, California, in the Sierra Mountains near Lake Tahoe. Hamilton, as he told me, was aware of Stahl's role in the Document Center scandal and had been mining him for information, especially on the question of fake and stolen documents then circulating in the international document market. Hamilton, the author of numerous books[1], was renowned as a handwriting expert and had been responsible for the detection of many forgeries and, even more sinister, many stolen Third Reich and American historical documents. During the course of these conversations with myself, Stahl and others, Hamilton discovered the degree and extent of theft and fraud extant in the field of German documents and was preparing a manuscript on the subject.

Ch. Hamilton's book "Leaders and Personalities of the Third Reich", vol. 2, front and back cover, as well as page 29 about Hitler's autopen signature. (Click on documents to enlarge)

In 1997, Hamilton's work "Leaders and Personalities of the Third Reich", volume 2, was published by Bender Publishing of San Jose, California. This book is currently available from the publisher at $45.00 or from Amazon.com. It contains biographies, photographs and examples of handwriting and signatures of many top military and civilian Third Reich personalities. Both Mr. Stahl and myself received acknowledgement from the author for our respective help. On pages 29-30, Hamilton publishes five examples of period Adolf Hitler signatures that were machine-signed with what is called an autopen. This device used a template and can sign thousands of documents with what appears to be an ink pen.

It has been known for some time but is a well-kept secret, that Adolf Hitler signed very few documents, either using the services of one Vittorio von Ihne, attached to the Chancellery, or a Major Baumann in the Army Personnel Office (for the signing of military promotional documents.)

Letter from Charles Hamilton to the author from August 19, 1995. Top: Click on document to enlarge; bottom: transcript

From the Desk of Charles Hamilton

Mr. Gregory Douglas
75 West Alexander Ave., No. 10
Merceg, CA 95348

Dear Gregory:

August 19, 1995

     Like to take this opportunity of thanking you for the Christian Wirth signature! This is a scarce one indeed!

     The second volume should be out in a few months and I am now working on the third. Since the German Army is one of your specialties, would appreciate anything you might have in the way of signatures.

     Just send these to Roger with a copy to me.

     I thought I would keep you up to the mark an my problems with David Irving.

     He has been sending me quantities of Hitler, and other personalities, papers for sale in my auctions. So far, until this month at least, no problems but Irving is really terrible to deal with. No manners and very rude.

     The last batch contained a number of Hitler documents. I had to tell Irving that some were mechanically signed and he became very abusive…as usual.

     I had my suspicions about the origins of several of these and found a circular from the former Soviet Archives about stolen Hitler papers. Sure enough, one of these Irving pieces turned out to be stolen.

     Well, as you know, I am careful about this so I did some more digging and discovered that all of these Irving pieces had been taken from

various archives over the past few years.

     I naturally informed Irving about this and he became extremely abusive, telling me that he had no idea (hah!!) that they were stolen (but all seem to have come from archives that he had visited) and then absolutely demanding their immediate return!

     When I told him that these pieces were being returned to their legal owners, he really let fly at me! He demanded their return, threatened to actually sue me for stealing [sic!] his (stolen) documents! He also said that if I ever mentioned his name in connection with all of this, he would also sue me for defamation!

     Of course he won't get them back and he will be damned lucky if he isn't permanently 86’ed out of these archives. He has a bad reputation for selling very, very dubious Nazi relics and now this!

     I think I made a mistake when I told him off because I said that Pete Stahl knew all about his diddlings and cons. I am sure he now hates Stahl and will now turn on him!

     I did blow it but perhaps he will realize that I can no longer have any dealings with him. (J. Costello told me three years ago that Irving was stuffing original papers into his briefcase at the NA.)

     Thanks again for your courtesy and I promise not to put your name into this sorry business.

[signed Charles Hamilton]

During the course of correspondence and telephonic communication with Hamilton, I was told by this expert that he had incurred the wrath of British writer, David Irving. According to a letter sent to the author by Hamilton (see reproduction to the right), Irving had supplied a number of original Third Reich documents to Hamilton for inclusion in his periodic document auctions. Hamilton said that although the documents were completely genuine as to the period, a number of the Hitler signatures were mechanical. Of much greater concern to Hamilton was the fact that he had discovered that all of the documents had been removed from various European and American libraries and archives. They were, in fact, stolen. The document expert then instituted steps to have these documents returned to their original owners.

When he advised Irving about this, true to form, Irving shouted at Hamilton that he demanded the return of these documents to him. He also stated that he had no idea that they had been stolen and that if Hamilton did not immediately return all of the documents, he, Irving would immediately sue Hamilton and charge him with theft. Hamilton stated that he would not return the documents and would inform the looted archives from whom he had obtained the stolen documents. Irving then threatened to sue Hamilton for defamation. These documents were duly returned to their rightful owners and Hamilton said he had to undergo constant and continuing verbal harassment from a livid Irving.

As the sales prices of these documents, had Hamilton bowed to Irving's ugly pressure, would have been in the high five figures, Irving's fury at being balked of his profits is easily understood. Unfortunately for myself and Mr. Stahl, a furious Hamilton mentioned both of our names to Irving as having knowledge of stolen and forged high-level Third Reich documents. He also said, and it would have been better left unsaid, that both of us would cooperate with the authorities as Stahl had in the late Berlin Document Center thefts. Irving said, and Hamilton's letter clearly shows this, that Irving would "make everyone pay dearly" for what he saw was malicious obstructionism.

However, it appears that Irving had been attacking Stahl for some time previously because of his role in exposing the Berlin Document Center thefts as well as his earlier published works on fake Nazi militaria, in specific faked Hitler items.

It is well known in the collecting world that David Irving has been selling "rare and unique" documents and other items allegedly belonging to famous Third Reich individuals about whom he had written. Also, Irving was well known to have sold off what he (and others) claimed to be "original Adolf Hitler table service" for very large sums of money. This so-called "Hitler silver" was, in fact, not Hitler's personal silver but what was known as "State Silver." This consisted of the block letters 'A.H.' with the Nazi eagle and swastika in between the letters. This allegedly rare material could have been found in various German public buildings during the course of the Third Reich and was certainly neither "Hitler's personal silverware" nor especially rare. As Stahl had published a lengthy study of this "Hitler tableware" in the "Crooked Cross", the value of these items sharply dropped while the blood pressure of Irving and other dealers rose accordingly.

In determining the causes for Irving's aparently irrational behavior, it is always a good idea to look to the rational for explanations. Given these reasons, it is easy to understand Irving's obsessive hatred of both Stahl and myself. We had, in essence, crossed his path and had caused, and were causing, (at least in his eyes) him loss of both money and face. It is pleasant to contemplate that Irving now has very little of either commodity.

[1] Some of Hamilton's titles are: "Collecting Autographs & Manuscripts", Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1961; "Big Name Hunting", Simon & Schuster, 1973; "The signature of America: a fresh look at famous handwriting", Harper & Row, 1979; "Great Forgers and Famous Fakes", Crown Pub., 1980; "Auction Madness", Dodd Mead, 1981; "In Search of Shakespeare: A Reconnaissance into the Poet's Life & Handwriting", Harcourt Brace, 1985; " The Book of Autographs", Simon & Schuster, 1987; "The Hitler Diaries: Fakes That Fooled the World", Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1991

About Irving's Lack of Expertise and Character | About Irving's Paranoid Attacks on the Author

© Gregory Douglas, June 12, 2002

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