Berlin auctioneer expects British, Russian interest in Hitler watercolours

January 24, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – The pictures – three anemic watercolours showing a mountain scene, a river and a distant figure sat beneath a tree – are little different from wares on sale at flea markets the world over, except for the autograph scratched in the corner: “A.Hitler”.

But it is thanks to that attribution to Germany’s wartime Nazi leader, guilty of some of the worst crimes in history, that a Berlin auction house hopes a sale on Thursday afternoon will net thousands of euros for the family selling them.

“They are watercolours by Adolf Hitler,” said Heinz-Joachim Maeder, a spokesman for Kloss auctioneers. “In my view they have no artistic value – it’s simply adequate craftsmanship. The value of these objects and the media interest is because of the name at the bottom.”

Before the outbreak of World War One, in which he fought, a penniless Hitler eked out a living as a jobbing painter in Munich, churning out dozens of postcards and paintings for petty cash.

His earlier dream of becoming an artist was dashed when the young man twice failed to pass the entrance exam for the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

“If you walk down the Seine and see 100 artists, 80 will be better than this,” Maeder said.

The paintings’ elderly sellers did not want to be identified.

Hundreds of Hitler artworks are known to exist, though most are held by the United States Army, which confiscated them after the allies defeated his regime at the end of World War Two. That collection is never exhibited.

There are also many forgeries in circulation, though these three paintings have been authenticated by a U.S.-based handwriting expert Frank Garo, whose certificate of authenticity noted the autograph “shows spontaneity, proper letter size … and no sign of being drawn or forced.”

The auction house expects strong demand from online bidders in Britain, Scandinavia, the United States and, above all, Russia.

“They (Hitler paintings) hardly get sold in Germany,” said Maeder, reflecting Hitler’s taboo status in the country responsible for crimes, including the genocide of more 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)