Last week there was an intriguing story making the rounds, both online and off, that the globe at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin is not Adolf Hitler's globe, as believed. Written by Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times, the story describes Wolfram Pobanz' contention and proof that the museum's large Columbus globe is not the infamous one from Hitler's New Reich Chancellery that Charlie Chaplin satirized in "The Great Dictator." The story, which appeared on September 16, has since been picked up widely around the world in print and on the Internet. The controversy has piqued the interest of readers worldwide.
Separately, and by interesting coincidence, Greg Martin Auctions had planned to announce this week one of the highlights of its upcoming fall sale in San Francisco from November 12 - 14, 2007: Hitler's globe, taken just as World War II ended from the Berghof, Hitler's bombed-out personal residence near Berchtesgaden, Germany. Regarding this globe of Adolf Hitler, there's no mystery or doubt surrounding it. In fact, this desktop globe, taken personally by the current owner from Hitler's house, has impeccable provenance -- and an astonishing, first-person story to go with it. In May 1945, John Barsamian was Chief Warrant Officer for the U.S. Army's Headquarters 15th Infantry Corps. On the Inspector General's staff, CWO Barsamian's duties included investigations for the Commanding General, Lt. General Wade Haislip.
In early May 1945, Mr. Barsamian was based at a command post in Salzburg, Austria, after capturing the town of Berchtesgaden with fellow American troops. It was here near the picturesque town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps that a mountainside area had been purchased in the 1920s by the Nazis for the enjoyment of its most senior leaders. Within the Nazi compound was Hitler's beloved mountain residence, the Berghof, which Hitler purchased in 1933 with proceeds from Mein Kampf and continued to expand in stages until the war. Aside from Wolfsschanze, Hitler's Eastern Front military headquarters in today's Poland, the Berghof is where Hitler spent the most time during the war.* Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 in his Berlin bunker, as Russian troops engulfed the city. VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) was declared on May 7 & 8, 1945, when the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.
Just as the war ended, 28-year old John Barsamian requested and received permission to go to Hitler's compound, about 18 miles from Salzburg. As an officer and a member of the Inspector General's staff, Mr. Barsamian was provided a C & R (command and reconnaissance) sedan and driver -- plus access where he wished to go. On May 10, 1945, Mr. Barsamian entered the home of Adolf Hitler with two fellow American soldiers. There in the Great Hall of the bombed-out Berghof was a lot of furniture, from which most of the leather had been stripped, probably as souvenirs. No doubt for similar reasons the marble on the fireplace mantle had also been chipped away.
As Mr. Barsamian surveyed the personal retreat and residence of Hitler, now vanquished and dead after inflicting years of war and strife, he was awed to be in the home of the heinous enemy and jubilant that the war was finally ending. Looking around the room with the exquisite mountain view toward Hitler's native Austria, the young officer noticed a globe standing on a small table near a door. About 18 inches high and 13 inches in diameter, the globe was mounted on a plain oak pedestal. There on the base, something had been pried out -- perhaps a Nazi emblem, symbol or compass acquired by a fellow soldier as an easy-to-transport souvenir. The globe features ocean markings in blue, green and red written in German with a not-yet-translated legend -- perhaps illustrating submarine routes. The maker's marks on the globe read Columbus Erdglobus, Columbus-Verlag-Paul Oestergaard K-G., Berlin-Lichterfelde; the date on the maker's label is 1.10.1941.
Having access to a car to transport the globe, Mr. Barsamian picked it up, said "auf Wiedersehen" to the Berghof, Berchtesgaden and the war, and returned to Salzburg to prepare the proper paperwork to legally possess this unique war spoil. After these procedures were implemented, Mr. Barsamian sent the globe home to his parents in Oakland, California -- although the globe made another stop along the way. The U.S. government inspected it and verified its authenticity, including splitting the globe neatly along the seams to ensure there were no hidden messages inside.
Since its immigration to the U.S. over 60 years ago, Hitler's globe has remained in John Barsamian's possession. Stored away since then, the globe has been a solemn reminder of a painful era, when he and others struggled to stay alive. Mr. Barsamian always recognized that Hitler's globe was a priceless piece of world history, saying, "To think that Adolf Hitler consulted with this map in his home, touched it, planned his massive attacks -- it's mind-boggling." Now at 91 years old, the spry, articulate and enthusiastic war veteran is ready to let it go, while there are still opportunities to share this amazing story -- hopefully with a new owner who appreciates and values its significance.
Awarded the Bronze Star and other honors for his military service, Mr. Barsamian after the war then resumed his career with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, becoming a senior fraud investigator. His life-long precision and attention to detail will benefit the next owner of Hitler's globe, because many related items accompany the lot. These include numerous photographs, a letter to his parents describing the "wonderful souvenir" he picked up from Hitler's house, an importation certificate authorizing the globe's return to the U.S, the lid of the wooden crate in which the globe was shipped home, and much more.
Hitler's globe is estimated to bring $15,000 - 20,000 at the November Greg Martin auction.