It's been called history's "most destructive 'weapon'"—but it might just be a convincing forgery. Frank Gnegel, head of collections at the Frankfurt Museum for Communication, believes the telephone auctioned off as Adolf Hitler's personal phone is "clearly a fake." The phone was made in Germany, but the handset was made in England, suggesting it was assembled there, he tells German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine, per Deutsche Welle. He says he finds it very odd that the phone was painted red instead of being made from red plastic. "Everything to do with Hitler was produced in a high-quality fashion; why should an engraving ... simply be painted over?" he says.
Gnegel says he finds it hard to believe that Hitler had a phone with a rotary dial, "because he was always hand-connected in the telephone exchange." The phone was sold for $243,000 earlier this month, and auction house owner Bill Panagopulos has rejected the "insulting" claims that it was a fake. In England, Maj. Ranulf Rayner tells the BBC he is "extremely angry" about the claims. He says his father, Sir Ralph Rayner, was the first Allied officer to enter Hitler's bunker and was given the phone by a Soviet officer. Rayner says he did his own research and was told by a former phone operator in Hitler's bunker that the leader brought the phone everywhere during the last two years of the war. (Mein Kampf was a "surprise bestseller" last year.)