Taken completely aside from it's historical attribution, this is a very nice factory engraved Walther PPK semi-automatic pistol, showing a fine gold finish and over 90% coverage factory engraving. The majority of the engraving is fine Germanic oak leaf patterns, with additional punch dot and zig-zag borders, geometric in-fills, and scroll accents as well as a delicate gold inlay on the traditional Walther legend and logo on the left side of the slide. Matching external numbers are present on the right side of the slide and frame, with Nazi-era "eagle/N" proofs on the chamber, muzzle and slide; an uncommon gray-tone single piece grip with a starburst-engraved gold screw, and a gold-finished magazine with scroll decorated flat floor plate. The pistol comes with a red leather bound case with a white velvet lined French-cut interior, "WALTHER/PPK" in gold inside the lid, three inert cartridges, and a vintage postcard featuring Hermann Goering. Even if one were to completely disregard the history, this would be an extremely nice PPK worthy of a place in an advanced collection. That said, the history makes it into something else entirely. This was the handgun that Field Marshall Hermann Goering surrendered to American forces at the close of World War Two. At war's end, Goering found himself in a supremely dangerous position, having severely alienated Adolf Hitler by attempting to officially assert himself as Hitler's 2nd in command and heir; at that point Hitler was effectively trapped in Berlin, and his capture or death seemed extremely imminent. Convinced that this was a prelude to a coup, Hitler had Goering stripped of rank and put under house arrest by the SS. A few days after Hitler's suicide, Goering was sprung from captivity by Luftwaffe soldiers, and made a beeline towards the Americans; this was pretty much his only remaining play, as falling into unfriendly German or Soviet hands would likely not end well for him. Sending a top aide forward to make arrangements, Goering got stuck on the road before he could make a meeting with elements of the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion led by General Robert Stack. Stack's unit was positioned well ahead of enemy lines and occupied a castle still populated by armed SS men led by Waldemar Fegelein, brother of Hermann Fegelein, brother in law to Eva Braun. General Stack ordered Lieutenant Jerome Shapiro, a New York raised officer with the 142nd Intelligence & Reconnaissance Platoon, to take a detachment and find Goering. Taking a jeep, four men and Goering's aide, Shapiro set out into unsecured Austrian territory, in real and present danger of getting shot by any pockets of German troops who hadn't gotten word that the war was over, and found Goering's convoy. Approaching the marshall with weapon drawn, Shapiro found him to be very cooperative. He also found him to be in possession of two handguns. One, a Smith & Wesson revolver, he intended to deliver personally to the President of the United States in a ceremonial formal surrender of Nazi Germany; he was allowed to retain this pistol sans ammo, though the honor of formally ending the war in Europe would fall to Admiral Doenitz, and the revolver and his reichsmarshall baton are currently on display at the West Point Museum. The second was this Walther, that Goering handed to Lieutenant Shapiro; eyewitness accounts specify that Goering handed the pistol over in a red case. Returning to the castle at the head of a convoy of Luftwaffe men and ranking Nazi officers, Shapiro among the soldiers responsible for keeping Goering and his family safe and secure, which included making sure that none of the Luftwaffe or SS troopers came into conflict or, in the case of the latter, tried to execute their prisoner, who was technically a fugitive from Nazi "justice". When the lines were crossed and Goering was successfully delivered to the Allies there was good news and bad news for Shapiro; good news, he would be allowed to retain the pistol as a war trophy and was awarded the Bronze Star for the adventure, and bad news, Goering took a liking to him and specifically requested Shapiro for his guard detail, belaying his return to the States until the Nuremberg Trials closed out. During his captivity, he reportedly parceled out several of his possessions to the guards, which in Shapiro's case included his party armband, a wristwatch that was reportedly a gift from Hitler, a typewriter, and other items. On the day before his scheduled hanging, Goering committed suicide via potassium cyanide; which was smuggled to him by another guard. Returning home with the assorted loot, Shapiro became a minor celebrity, speaking of the experience at schools and showing off the captured pistol. Settling in Delaware, the Walther, along with the 1911A1 pistol that was his sidearm during the capture and the other Goering trophies, remained with Shapiro until the end of his life. Next in the line of possession was Major Ronald Lane, United States Air Force. The major made Lieutenant Shapiro's acquaintance while stationed a Dover Air Base, Delaware in 1961, and offered Shapiro $1000 (a bit over $7000 adjusting for inflation) in exchange for the right of first refusal if he ever decided to sell. Following the lieutenant's passing in 1975, his widow formalized a sales agreement with Major Lane, who acquired the lion's share of the items. In the following years, Major Lane successfully contacted members of Shapiro's unit, securing notarized affidavits verifying that this cased Walther was the one Shapiro received from Goering. The Walther was retained by the major until 2001, when it was brought to sale via an auction house in a grouping that included Shapiro's Colt 1911A1. The lot was acquired by one Mark Gould, a collector of Nazi artifacts. Gould held onto the pistol for several years, performing additional research. Sometime in the mid to late 2000s Gould, with this pistol and evaluations from James Rankin (who evaluated the pistol at $1 million) and the firm of Wolfe & Hardin (who put it at $2 million), approached Ignition Capital LLC of Los Angeles to secure financing for an odd scheme. Offering up the Walther as collateral, Gould intended to perform a multi-year, independently managed undercover operation against Bernhard Frank, an aged SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer. Originally a literary student, Frank signed on with the SS in 1933, continuing his studies while building up a library of racial history material at the SS nerve center at Wewelsburg, earning his doctorate in 1938. When the war started properly, he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant with the Waffen-SS, serving on the Eastern Front and later taking command of the overall defense of Berchtesgaden. Ironically, one of his last duties was to oversee Hermann Goering's captivity at the end of the war, which led to him ignoring an order issued by Martin Bormann after Hitler's death to go ahead and execute the Luftwaffe chief. While Frank was essentially cleared of significant wrongdoing after the war, Gould was convinced there was more, as Frank had co-signed an order issued by Himmler in 1941, ordering a mass execution in Belarus. Spending multiple years moving in Neo-Nazi circles pretending to be a well-heeled sympathizer, Gould made contact with Frank, and spent a number of years pretending to be his friend while clandestinely recording their conversations. In 2010 Gould went public with his recordings and theories regarding Frank's role as one of the last unpunished kickstarters of the Holocaust. The revelation fell flat, as Frank was widely disregarded as nothing more than a pencil pusher, a minor functionary of no significant note. Reportedly having had an eye on a book for film deal, Gould was unable to turn any profit on the endeavor, and the backers called in the collateral, claiming the Walther. Reconsigning the pistol with Julia's auction house, the Walther had become separated from the treasure trove of nigh-irreplaceable documentation, along with the 1911A1 and other Shapiro trophies. Through that sale, the Walther went to Craig Gottlieb of Gottlieb Militaria Incorporated; while not explicitly recorded, Gottlieb appears to have been responsible for the bulk of the heavy lifting in reconstructing the paper trail, which resulted in the binder of photocopied documentation included with the lot. The binder, which breaks the chain of possession down from Shapiro to Gottlieb, starts off with the photocopied affidavits from Sergeant Rollie Christner and Private Alfred Frye of the 142nd I&R Platoon, and Lieutenant Golden Sill of the 636 TD Battalion, who testified that this was the Goering trophy pistol; Private Frye in particular was a direct eye-witness to the hand-over of the cased pistol from Goering to Lieutenant Shapiro. From there, it lays out about 60 years of travel, with particularly heavy coverage of Goering's surrender from multiple reporting parties. Also included with the grouping is a copy of "World War II" magazine, January/February 2006, which includes an account of the surrender and again verifies Shapiro's role in bringing Goering into captivity.
Fine with 60% of the original gold finish, showing areas of well-aged brown steel and a few minor handling marks. Traces of a green residue are present in some of the low areas. The grip is very good, bending outward slightly at the top front corners and showing some light handling marks. The case is good, with some scuffing and stains overall and the inner lining worn from contact with the pistol. Mechanically excellent. One of the most important trophies of World War II, which could be the crown jewel in an advanced military or Nazi artifact collection or a keystone piece for a museum display.
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