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Goebbels' early writings to be auctioned off this week
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The love letters, school papers and dramatic works of college-age Joseph Goebbels reveal a romantic young man beginning to show signs of anti-Semitism and egotistical and controlling behavior, according to a Connecticut auction house selling the pre-war writings of Adolf Hitler's propaganda chief.
Alexander Historical Auctions plans to sell the collection Thursday in Stamford, saying it may prove invaluable in providing historical and psychological insights.
"It sums up the formative years of the number two man in the Third Reich, who was responsible for motivating the masses in Germany to back Hitler," said Bill Panagopulos, the company's president. "In my opinion, it shows how this rather simple, shy and love-struck college student really just became radicalized."
The thousands of pages include Goebbels' college dissertation, report cards, dozens of poems, school essays and letters from relatives, friends and girlfriends.
"You really get a feel for what's going on in his head," Panagopulos said. "There's a lot of information if somebody wants to dig into the mind of this man who grew into a lunatic."
In an early sign of his ego, Goebbels would sign some of his materials with numerous signatures. Toward the later years of the collection, Goebbels is starting to show anti-Semitic tendencies, Panagopulos said. He added that the auction house has only translated about 10 percent of the papers and has had a tough time with Goebbels' handwriting.
The sale sparked concerns by a leader of a Holocaust survivors group who criticized the auction house's sale last year of the journals written by Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele.
"Alexander Auction House is making a business out of selling Nazi artifacts and memorabilia," said Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. "They clearly have the legal right to profit here from such materials. I leave it to others to determine the morality of it all."
Rosensaft said such materials belong in an archive for historians to study. He expressed concerns that at an auction, the materials could wind up in the wrong hands and be used as a shrine to the Nazi leader.
Panagopulos said museums often depend on donations made by people buying items at auction. He said neo-Nazis don't collect the material.
Addressing another concern of Rosensaft's, that there is a cottage industry of creating fake Nazi memorabilia, Panagopulos said most of the Goebbels documents up for sale have been available to experts, scholars and researchers for years and no one has questioned their authenticity. He called their provenance "ironclad."
He said his own morals should not be questioned, noting that his father's hometown in Greece was largely wiped out in an act of German retribution.
The collection, which spans the period from Goebbels' childhood to shortly before he joined the Nazi party in 1924, is expected to sell for more than $200,000, Panagopulos said. It includes more than 100 letters written between Goebbels and Anka Stalherm, the first great love of his life, and show his desire to control others, he said. Letters from other girlfriends include a pair of sisters he seduced at the same time.
In a letter to his teacher after his sister died, he thanks his teacher for condolences but adds that his loss is minor compared to losses suffered by "our fatherland."
Goebbels and his wife killed their six children with cyanide before killing themselves the day after Hitler's suicide.
Panagopulos said the sale is on behalf of a Swiss company and would not benefit any relatives of Goebbels, but he said his auction house does not identify consignors. He said the company received the materials from a man who obtained them from an earlier owner who won the rights to the writings in a 1950s court case with Goebbels' sister.
The auction house last year said it sold the journals written by Mengele, drawing criticism from Rosensaft who said the business was profiting off the sale of materials by one of the worst mass murderers in history. Alexander officials said the Jewish buyer wanted to remain anonymous and is building a collection for a museum.
Panagopulos said at the time his profit would be $15,000 to $20,000 and that he would make a donation to a war memorial. He said Mengele's journals have historical value and that many auction houses deal with Nazi-related items and the buyers are reputable.