A rare German gun that may have belonged to Adolph Hitler -- allegedly taken as a souvenir 60 years ago when U.S. forces captured one of his secret hideaways -- could fetch thousands of dollars in an online auction next month, organizers said.
No one knows for sure whether Hitler owned the Krieghoff Drilling combination shotgun and rifle engraved with the initials "A.H." It is to be sold by Midwest Exchange, a Bloomington pawn shop, at auction at www.gunbroker.com.
Randall Gibson, author of The Krieghoff Parabellum, a reference book on the gun maker, said the gun likely is authentic. The company gave engraved guns to Hitler and other high-ranking German officials as it sought military contracts before World War II.
The gun's unnamed owners, who live in central Illinois, will donate net proceeds of the auction to the Anti-Defamation League, a group that combats anti-Semitism and bigotry, said Midwest Exchange owner Wes Lane.
A league official said Friday that the organization welcomes donations but would rather the owners donate the gun to a museum where it could be preserved and safeguarded.
"When you auction it off you never know who might buy it. ... We prefer it not fall into the hands of people who praise or laud Hitler, because there certainly are still people out there who do that," said Adam Schupack, associate director of the league's Chicago office.
The gun likely would sell for at least $7,000 without a connection to Hitler, and there's no telling how that possible link might drive up the price, Lane said.
"Twenty, 30, 40, 50 thousand? I don't know," Gibson said.
Lane said the online auction will begin Jan. 30 and will run at least 15 days.
According to the gun's owners, Lane said, the weapon was taken as a souvenir when Hitler's hideaway in the Bavarian Mountains was seized in May 1945 by the U.S. Army's 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, profiled in the HBO cable TV miniseries "Band of Brothers."
The paratrooper later sold the gun to an Army lieutenant who was unaware of the connection to Hitler, Lane said. The soldier settled in Illinois and kept the gun under his bed for years, taking it out only occasionally to hunt. He died more than a decade ago, and his family no longer wants the gun.