An important piece of World War II history sold at auction this week—a telegram to Hitler from aide Hermann Goering that angered the fuhrer so much some think it helped drive him to suicide. And the crazy part is that the telegram got scooped up by an American soldier as a souvenir—he didn't speak German and apparently didn't recognize its importance—and was nearly lost to history, reports the Washington Post. In the telegram of April 23, 1945, Goering, knowing that Hitler is holed up in a bunker and cornered by enemy troops, tells Hitler that he will assume command of Germany if he doesn't hear back from the fuhrer by that night. Hitler had previously designated Goering as his successor if anything happened to him, notes the Telegraph.
Despite that past agreement, Hitler, egged on by others, became convinced that Goering was staging a coup. He flew into a rage, accused his aide of treason in a radio message, then settled into an all-consuming depression, says the Post account, which cites the autobiography of Hitler aide Albert Speer. Hitler killed himself a week later. The telegram was found in the bunker by US Army Capt. Benjamin Bradin, who brought it home with him to South Carolina and stuck it in a safe with other war documents. Years later, his son found it, showed it to his history professor at The Citadel, and wrote his senior thesis about it. This week, Alexander Historical Auctions sold it for $55,000 to an anonymous North American buyer, reports wire service DW. That's about three times higher than the expected price. (Click to read about the German man who refused to salute Hitler.)