A medal awarded to a Nazi bodyguard who took five bullets meant for Adolf Hitler has sold for a “world-record price”, as Shoah a leading Shoah educator criticised the sale as “not appropriate”.
The Blutorden Blood Order Medal was awarded to Ulrich Graf, who helped protect Hitler when he tried to seize power in Bavaria in November 1923 – an event known as The Beer Hall Putsch.
The item fetched nine times its £3,500-£4,000 asking price at auction after selling for £36,500 at Derbyshire-based Hansons Auctioneers’ Militaria Auction on July 26.
After the buyer’s premium and VAT were added to the overall price, the figure paid by the private overseas buyer was £47,450.
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust, commented: “It has long been our view that it is not appropriate for items like this to be on the market for personal profit or macabre interest but rather placed in archives, museums or in an educational context.”
“Several leading auction houses and online sites already rightly refuse to sell such material and many countries have banned the sale of Nazi memorabilia. Perhaps it is time for clearer regulation on the sale of these items here in the UK. ”
The silver medal, which features the Nazi eagle on one side and an image of the Munich monument on the other, was given to Graf after he threw himself on Hitler and survived after being shot.
The former wrestler, who was one of the earliest members of the Nazi Party after it was founded in 1920, was one of Hitler’s personal protection squad during the battle – which ended with 16 party members and four officers killed.
Commenting on the sale, Hansons’ militaria expert Adrian Stevenson said: “It’s a world-record price for a medal of its type – a phenomenal result.
“Interest in this medal was high right from the start. It’s a remarkable historical piece with a huge story to tell.
“We know that in the 1950s Ulrich Graf’s family sold everything of his. They wanted no connection with his Nazi past.”
He continued: “Our vendor was a British doctor who had a large collection of German Third Reich medals which are among the most popular genres of medals.
“Some countries like France ban the sale of Third Reich but I think that does a disservice to the victims of the Nazis, it is almost like sweeping it under the carpet.
“The Nazis were walking to a monument that honoured the Bavarian Army when they met a police cordon across the road.
“Police opened fire and Graf took a bullet to the shoulder before throwing himself on Hitler and taking five bullets.”
Mr Stevenson added: “Now Graf was a big, burly wrestler and obviously Hitler was slightly built. Would he have survived those five bullets? Who knows?
“But what Graf did 96 years ago potentially changed the course of history. His name has faded into obscurity since but he is still known in the collectors’ market.
“There was interest in this medal from all over the world including Germany. You’re allowed to collect Third Reich material there but it is illegal to show it in public.”
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