Rare Surrender Papers of Last Nazi Leader to Be Sold

Adm. Karl Doenitz's 'we give up' message could fetch up to $30K
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2015 11:16 AM CDT
Rare Surrender Papers of Last Nazi Leader to Be Sold
This May 18, 1944, file photo shows Adolf Hitler, left, shaking hands with head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler. Adm. Karl Doenitz appears third from left.   (AP Photo/str,File)

Tomorrow at Bonhams auction house in New York, more than 300 lots of WWII memorabilia—uniforms, flags, cigarette cases—from nearly 10 countries will go on the selling block. But one piece of memorabilia is especially rare, somehow making it out of war-torn Germany before it could be thrown into the fire pit. The surrender order signed by Nazi Adm. Karl Doenitz, who took over the Third Reich for Hitler after he perished, is expected to bring in between $20,000 and $30,000 during tomorrow's sale, the Guardian reports. "This is a very important historical document, and it could go to any country that values that," Tom Lamb, curator of the sale, tells the paper. Doenitz's note—put together while he was holed up on a military base in northwest Germany—to Robert von Greim, the head of the German air force, spelled out an "unconditional" end to fighting as of 1am on May 9, 1945.

"This was unavoidable in order to prevent the complete destruction of certain parts of the front … and, in so doing, to save as many people as possible for Germany," the telegram reads, per the Guardian. The surrender note was found in von Greim's briefcase when he was captured by US forces in Austria on May 8, 1945; he killed himself a couple of weeks later. Doenitz, for his part, was convicted of war crimes, served 10 years, and died in 1980 in Hamburg, per the Jewish Virtual Library. The fact that the surrender papers even made it to auction is "extraordinary," Lamb says. "The Germans had a scorched-earth policy as they pulled out, so they burnt, destroyed every piece of paper they had," he tells the Guardian. "And if they didn't do it, the Russians did it." (A handwritten notebook of WWII code-breaker Alan Turing was sold for $1 million earlier this month.)

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