Lot 3377: Highly Scarce Silver Bodied, Gold and Platinu
|Highly Scarce Silver Bodied, Gold and Platinum Accented Nazi Field Marshals Interim Baton of Werner von Blomberg, Hitler's First Field Marshal|
|Estimated Price: $95,000 - $180,000|
|Description||Born in Pomerania in 1878, Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg graduated from the Prussian Military Academy in 1907 and was appointed to the General Staff, nerve center of the Imperial Army, in 1908. During the First World War, he served with distinction on the Western Front, earning the Pour le Merite (aka the Blue Max, Prussia's highest order of merit) for his efforts. Following the war, Blomberg remained with the then-renamed Reichswehr, serving in a number of positions including chief of the "Troop Office"; one of many restrictions placed on the German military by the Treaty of Versailles was the abolishment of the General Staff, which was seen as a critical aspect of Germany's capacity to wage offensive war, so they just had a different group do the same job. Blomberg would lose this position in 1929 as a result of a political scuffle with then-General, later Chancellor/Defense Minister Kurt von Schleicher, who was looking to provide clandestine arms and training to civilian "volunteers" on the Polish border in violation of Versailles; far from being opposed to this plan, Blomberg wanted to do it on the French border as well, risking jeopardizing French plans to withdraw early from the Rheinland. As a result, he was sent to command the sole German division in East Prussia, an exile in all but name. It was here that Blomberg first came to work with the National Socialists, taking advantage of the SA as auxiliaries to bolster his own limited manpower. While having little, if any, interest in Nazi ideals, he saw the Party as the best chance to achieve the "Wehrstaat", a totalitarian nation where civilian power structures were consumed and fuzed with the military hierarchy. Many other high ranking members of the Reichswehr concurred, and Blomberg would be one of the chief bearers of this message to President von Hindenberg, and in 1933 Hindenberg cast Schleicher out as both Chancellor and Defense Minister; Blomberg received the latter position, and two days later Hitler received the former, on the condition that he accept Blomberg. In this role, Blomberg was meant to be Hindenberg's agent in preserving the autonomy of the military, and by extension Hindenburg's own power against the rising tide of the Nazis. On this front, he came into conflict with Ernst Rohm, Chief of the SA, who saw a future where the Reichswehr was absorbed by the Brownshirts, eventually prompting Blomberg to deliver an ultimatum to Hitler; put your house in order or the Reichswehr will do it for you. This ultimatum was one of the driving factors behind the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, which saw the death of Rohm and of a number of old enemies, including Blomberg's old "friend" Schleicher. In the following years, the Reichswehr was rechristened the Reichskriegsministerium (Reichs War Ministry) and Blomberg was appointed the first General Feldmarschall of the new service. This promotion inadvertently painted a target on his back, as Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Goering had an eye on the position. In 1938, Goering got his chance to strike when Blomberg, a widower, entered into his second marriage with Erma Gruhn, a young secretary. Even having stood as Blomberg's best man, Goering had no qualms about using information passed on to him by the Berlin police by way of General Wilhelm Keitel, specifically that Gruhn was a known criminal, the daughter of a prostitute, and suspected of both cohabiting with a Jewish man and posing for pornographic photos. In what would later be known as the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, Blomberg was forced to resign his posts on January 27, 1938 due to Goering's blackmail, with Army Chief Werner von Fritsch being forced out days due to accusations of homosexuality; these eliminations paved the way for the Reichskriegsministerium to become the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, and for Hitler to deepen his control of the armed forces; in short, exactly what Blomberg was trying to prevent. Following his resignation, the Blombergs took a year long honeymoon on the island of Capri off the Italian Coast, where Grand Admiral Erich Raeder reportedly dispatched an officer to convince the former General to kill himself in order to preserve the honor of the military. Declining the officer's helpful suggestions, the Blombergs spent the war in relative obscurity before landing in Allied captivity, where he was compelled to provide testimony for the Nuremberg Trials, specifically regarding violations of the Versailles Treaty and German preparations for offensive war. On March 14, 1946, while still in captivity, Blomberg dies of cancer. The baton in this lot is of the "Interim" style; it would be issued along with a fancier baton that, while attractive at parades and functions, was ill equipped to handle the everyday business of a high ranking military officer. Measuring 24 inches in overall length, the base of the baton is a solid ebony shaft 18 inches long and .66 inches in diameter near the top, with a red, white and black tricolor cord and tassel secured near the top of the shaft. The head is solid silver, bearing the hallmarks of a crescent moon and an Imperial-style crown next to the "900" stamp, with the lower collar marked "von Blomberg" in raised lettering around the base, flaring out to just over 1 1/2 inches at the top, with a pineapple-shaped top piece. Arranged below the cap are a pair of sculpted 18 carat gold Nazi Party eagles 9/10ths of an inch wide, with a 8/10 inch wide, 1 3/20 inch tall Army eagle on one side, and a 3/4 inch wide platinum Iron Cross with black enamel fill. Included with the baton is a number of photographs of the General and his wife, including images of the General with the baton and a number of vintage Associated Press wire service photos with attached text slugs, including a 1946 death announcement for the General and a 1936 photograph of the "Big Five"; Hitler meeting with Blomberg (overall military chief), Goering (Luftwaffe Chief), Fritsch (Army Chief) and Admiral Raeder (Navy Chief), capturing the brain-trust of the Nazi war machine in one image.
|Condition||The head of the baton is excellent, showing some light handling marks overall, such as a few dings around the upper edge. The embellishment is superb across the board; Blomberg's name is crisply executed, the platinum cross is detailed down to the level of the lightly beaded border around the enamel, and the eagles show a level of sculpting that could only be the hand work of a master, right down to individual details in the wreaths and eyes of the Nazi eagles. The tassel shows mild wear and staining, as would be appropriate for a military item intended for daily use. The ebony shaft has been broken, with a break across the midsection, a number of cracks radiating from the break, and a few chips and the tip absent. The exact cause of this damage is undocumented, but the honor weapons and regalia of top level German officers often took abuse when they were captured, including one documented case where a captured Luftwaffe Field Marshal (Erhard Milch) handed his Interim Baton over to a British Brigadier who promptly beat Milch with the baton until it broke; it wouldn't be too far out of place if some irate G.I. took this baton over his knee when collecting the Blombergs. Only issued to the Field Marshals of Nazi Germany, these batons are scare and unique in any condition.|
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