FORGERIES OF HITLER ARTWORK IS A THING & LUCRATIVE
Six sketches — five in pencil and one in charcoal — attributed to Adolf Hitler will be sold at auction at a place in Tallahassee, Florida.
One is signed “A. Hitler, 09” and another, a portrait of a young girl the auctioneer’s website speculates may be Hitler’s niece, is dated 1921.
Some have challenged the authenticity of the sketches and Hitler’s autograph. Include me with the skeptics. I am confident in saying most, if not all, of the pieces are forgeries.
“We believe them authentic because of the way it appears, and because of the source. They came from a reliable source. We deem them authentic, and we guarantee them to the buyers.”
What if the source is wrong, believing them to be genuine, but duped?
<!– Thousands of miles away, in the Netherlands, editor and poet Bart Droog is raising questions about the authenticity of the sketches, and the person who verified them as such for Whitworth.
“The oldest brother of my father was killed by the Nazis,” Droog, a native of the Netherlands, said of his motivation for questioning the sketches. “It keeps me involved.”
Droog, who works as chief editor of the Netherlands Poetry Encyclopedia, stumbled into the world of forged Hitler artifacts when he says a poem originally penned by a 19th century German poet was attributed to the dictator.
Some paintings suspected of being done by Hitler haul in more than 100,000 euros, Droog added.
The first reason Droog was on high alert about the sketches at Whitworth’s auction house was the subjects they depict – several portraits of faces and landscape scenes.
“It was known that Hitler only made cityscapes in life, no portrait made by him is known. So, these are really stupid forgeries.”
The man who authenticated the sketches, Pennsylvania-based forensic handwriting expert Frank Garo, begged to differ.
“He did a lot of still lifes, and he did some portraits,” Garo said of the subjects shown in Hitler’s art. “A lot of pastel scenes, flowers, things like that. He also did a lot of country scenes, showing things like the woods, or a farmhouse in the background.”
Droog insisted the high number of what he calls forgeries spanning so many artistic styles creates a problem.
“Some people want to make Hitler bigger than he was,” Droog said. “If you look at all these forgeries, the picture emerges that Hitler must have been a genius, as he painted in all different styles. It’s all .”
Last year, he said, an alleged Hitler watercolor surfaced in the Netherlands. Droog found out it was presented at auction “where many times Hitler paintings are accompanied by certificates of authenticity by Mr. Frank Garo.”
“If the sketch stinks, it’s probably by Hitler”
Garo has more than 50 years experience in the forensic handwriting field and started out in his career verifying sports autographs. A signature authentication done by him carries real weight.
Garo’s website features photos of items authenticated by him, which have sold at auction with eye-popping price tags. One such photo shows what appears to be a baseball signed by legendary slugger Babe Ruth, which Garo says sold for $10,000.
For about the last 25 years, Garo said he has worked to verify artwork, much of which has historical significance and has analyzed in his estimation “about 700 Hitler drawings.”
He did not give the sketches glowing reviews, from an artistic standpoint.
“If the sketch stinks, it’s probably by Hilter,” Garo said, adding he similarly detests all things Nazi – artistic or otherwise. “The guy, his stuff is just so routine. There’s no life to it, no color.”
Yet, Garo stands by his opinion that what he saw in Whitworth’s six sketches are authentic in their origin. He said a Hitler signature can be hard to pinpoint because it changed so much over his lifespan.
“He had various signatures over the years, he usually used a ‘block printing’ I would call it. I see so many of them, I can tell if they are good from across the room,” Garo said.
Droog did once get Garo to slip up under false pretenses. He and his colleague, a man named Jaap van den Born, made their own forged Hitler painting and skillfully Photoshopped a similarly fake Hitler autograph onto it.
Weeks later, they received their certificate of authenticity.
“We tested it out. We fabricated our own fake Hitler (painting), by taking a photo from the internet of a painting from around 1900, Photoshopped a fake signature of Hitler on this painting,” Droog said. ”We paid $45 for it, and he returned to us a certificate of authenticity.
But Garo said that’s not an accurate depiction of his work.
“We authenticate online, and it’s possible to fool anybody, when you Photoshop a signature,” he said. He includes in each analysis a recommendation that the owner get their art checked out, in person, by an appraiser.
“We can tell you about the signature as best we can. We don’t have it in our hands, and you should get it to an expert because there are gorgers out there.
“Nobody in this business is perfect,” Garo said, “but I don’t make too many mistakes.”
The morality of selling Hitler’s works
Sheri Zvi, Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Florida region, understands demand by historians and the like for Nazi artifacts, but voiced concerns about where they might end up.
“We understand that there is a market for World War II memorabilia, and that devoted collectors may have interest in items such as those that have been listed in the Affiliated Auctions lots,” Zvi said, “However, we would not want to see these items winding up in the hands of someone who would use them to glorify Hitler or the deplorable actions of the Nazis.”
Zvi indicated there are ways to mitigate the sale of such items.
“Around the country, some auction houses have donated part of the proceeds from the sale of Nazi-era items to anti-hate campaigns or Holocaust awareness efforts, which is a good model for others to emulate. Ideally, pieces such as these should be housed in a museum, in order for them to be understood in their proper context.”
Barbara Goldstein, director of the Holocaust Education Resource Council, did not chastise the auction house for selling the works. She said viewing what could be Hitler’s artwork is part of “learning” about the Holocaust.
“There was nothing moral about Hitler … there was nothing positive about him as a person,” Goldstein said. “You look at the whole person, and where did this person come from, what was he doing before the Holocaust. It becomes a very interesting part of the education.
“It’s like the book he wrote, Mein Kampf, people want to buy it because it’s almost like a collector’s item. This artwork might be considered a collector’s item. But, is it actually his artwork? That’s the question.” –>