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Hitler's Gun of Destiny

Part One

 

Hitler's Gun
The Smith & Wesson, serial 709, which will now be recognized as one of
history's most famous weapons.

 

The Beginning

   Herein I present the historical background and saga of one of the most fascinating and interesting weapons that has surfaced in the last one hundred years, or more. The recounting of this tale, at times, puts the reader in mind of a strange mixture of a Harlequin romance novel and a docudrama that is infinitely real, yet so dramatic and profound as to stagger the imagination. This is a tale of intrigue, insatiable quest for power, unrequited love, and finally, a suicide out of desperation and frustration that did much to change the course of world history.
   If any thought exists that I might be stretching the imagination in this particular drama, then I suggest that at the end of this narration the reader reflect on just what the outcome might have been had things developed differently.
   It all revolves around a petite .22-caliber revolver, No. 709, manufactured by the Smith & Wesson firm. This insignificant-looking small-caliber gun, however, steps into the annals of history’s most famous and infamous weapons and joins the world’s fictional and actual implements of destruction throughout the ages: Excaliber, the sword in the stone wielded by King Arthur; Nothung, the sword that Wagner’s Seigfried used to cut the anvil in twain; the derringer used in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; the cheap Carlano carbine that struck down our president Kennedy; and, of course, the revolver that Jack Ruby used to kill the “killer,” Lee Harvey Oswald.
   Many weapons have gained notoriety, such as Bat Masterson’s .44, Billy the Kid’s Colt Bissbe, and the .38-caliber pistol that the “Dirty Little Coward” (Bob Ford), used to kill “Mr. Howard,” (Jesse James). All these guns have great historical value as demonstrated in a recent television special narrated by Mr. Greg Martin of the Butterfield and Butterfield Auction in California. The values of some of these, evidenced by their auction and sales records, document this fact. One must realize, however, that the provenance that accompanied most of them is meager, at best.
   The desire of collectors to own such an important piece of history is often insatiable and rather irrational—desirability oftentimes precludes reasonable discernment and perceptivity.
   The aforementioned television series, “The Gun,” was masterfully presented and one of the most interesting chapters was the one devoted to “Guns of the Famous,” narrated by Mr. Martin and others. We should applaud the efforts that were made to bring out the human-interest aspect and almost hypnotic fixation that grips the collector, historian, or dramatist when viewing, holding, or actually acquiring a weapon—dagger or gun—that helped to make history. Few other objects of antiquity can elicit such feeling as a gun, and nothing is as ominous or forceful as the firearm. The cotton gin changed history decisively enough, but the stone that David’s slingshot unleashed against the temple of the giant, Goliath, excites the imagination more directly, and brings forth that adrenaline flow and sense of high adventure that even modern man cannot entirely remove from his psyche.
   This is the story of the personal revolver of Adolf Hitler and its connections with at least two earth-shattering events that had far-reaching affects upon the history of the 20th Century and, most undoubtedly, will influence the geopolitical future of the centuries yet to come.
   When one who enjoys an active and healthy imagination visits a museum display of various weapons, one cannot help but to muster up visions of the wars, conquests, and hand-to-hand combats of the past as they flash before the mind’s eye: the Crusades, the War of the Roses, the various revolutions, the Indian wars on our continent, et al. On that note, let’s stop and examine the influence the American-Indian wars, in particular, had on the subject of this narrative. Someone once said that history is a continuum. The world conqueror who was most interested in this particular epoch was, strangely enough, the German leader, Adolf Hitler.

 

No. 709 and Adolf Hitler

Hitler's Gun     Ever since he was a small boy in Linz, Austria, he had read every story he could obtain in book or magazine form featuring the author, Karl May. May was a German writer whose tales of his character, “Old Shatterhand,” fighting the red Indians was a super adventure to the young Adolf in his formative years. He loved the regalia, buckskins, and the weapons of these American warriors—cowboy and Indian—and they influenced his perception of bravery, daring, and soldierly conduct. These impressions undoubtedly stuck with him throughout his life.
   The pistol in this story is a Smith & Wesson revolver serial number 709. We know that the revolver was the weapon of choice of the cowboys, the cavalry, and some of the Plains Indian warriors, when the latter could capture or trade for one.
   It just seems to follow that once the young Hitler had obtained his revolver, this would become his fervent “friend,” considering his past interests. Part and parcel to the huge amount of paperwork (provenance) that accompanies this gun is a letter from Smith & Wesson’s official historian, Mr. R. G. Jinks. It is dated September 2, 1982 and is basically an explanation and history of the S&W Ladysmith revolvers that were first introduced in 1902. They were manufactured until 1921 with a production total of 26,154 units. The letter is addressed to Colonel Larry Michael, who was the owner of the weapon. Mr. Jinks tells Col. Michael that “No. 709” is a first model and that this particular piece was shipped from Smith & Wesson on March 23, 1903 to the company of Andre Schaub & Piaso of Paris, France.

 

Hitler's Gun
Hitler, at right, during WWI. Did he acquire No. 709 in battle?
   We know that in 1914 the First World War broke out; and then, only 11 years after, No. 709 was shipped to Europe. It so happened that in 1914, a virtually unknown young Austrian national, who was now a corporal in the German Bavarian Army, was no different than all other Landsers (GI’s), who actively sought worthwhile or interesting souvenirs (booty) to shove into their field packs. History also relates that this particular Landser, Adolf Hitler, personally was responsible for the single-handed taking of several French prisoners in a ticklish combat situation that involved bravado and subterfuge. It was a very bold action and earned him the Iron Cross, First Class.

 

   At this point I will wildly surmise that a certain small-caliber pistol may have been among the “spoils of war” taken at this point in time from one of those prisoners. Remember, it was sent to France only a few years before. This is circumstantial at best, but historical research must, at times, be extrapolated from the facts that are at hand.
   From various proofs that I will soon reveal, we know Hitler possessed this revolver. We know that No. 709 went to Europe in the correct time frame and we have the future Führer, who had a fervent love of American guns, especially revolvers, on the scene at that particular time, and we must keep in mind Herr Karl May, Adolf Hitler’s literary hero. We do not have testimony to document this particular declarative, but the scenario seems at least credibly plausible.
   At this point, we will go to the later life of Adolf Hitler; beyond the post-World War One years spent as a spy for the Bavarian government, watching and reporting on radicals of the left and the right. This is how Hitler became the seventh member of the German Workers’ Party that was later to become the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (N.S.D.A.P.; Nazi). This has been documented in many books chronicling these turbulent times.
   In those early formative years, when the Nazi movement faltered more often than not, Hitler lived at many Munich addresses, and then, after having finally settled into an apartment at No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse, an incident eventually took place there that was a very tragic happening that would color his whole life and his perceptions in general. Not surprisingly, little No. 709 played the central role.

 

The Death of Geli

    The event to which I refer is the death by suicide of 23-year-old Fraulein Angela (Geli) Raubel, Hitler’s niece. Her mother, Angela Raubel, was Hitler’s older half-sister. Geli’s tragic demise set off a scandal of major proportions and nearly ended the future Führer’s rise to power1. Equally intriguing is the fact that a scandal surrounding her death in his apartment could have destroyed his political career before he ever came to power.
   Hitler’s relationship with Geli Raubel began after the failed 1923 beer-hall Putsch after which Hitler was jailed for 9 months. During his incarceration he wrote Mein Kampf 2 and took up the “struggle,” once more, along with loyal followers. After he served his sentence he summoned Angela and 17-year-old Geli to become his live-in housekeepers at his mountain retreat in the Obersalzburg near Berchtesgaden. Soon after, he actively began to “date” Geli and she was seen with him everywhere he went except for party-connected business outings. Later, after Hitler purchased the aforementioned nine-room luxury apartment in Munich, the Raubels came to attend these living quarters, as well. Soon, however, Angela returned to the Berchtesgaden retreat and Geli now had literally moved in with her uncle; although they maintained separate bedrooms.

Hitler's Gun
Angela (Geli) Raubel, Adolf Hitler's one true love.

Hitler's Gun
The "King and Queen" of Munich in the 1920's.
   Hitler lavished attention on Geli. Nothing she asked for or desired that they both do went lacking. Hitler, in those days, was called the “King of Munich.” Certainly, the in-crowd Munchiners had to consider Geli as the “Queen.”
   No one knows for sure what went on between the future Führer and this lovely, young lady, but regardless of the wide speculation and flights of fancy engaged in by decades of yellow-rag journalists, the more obvious historical facts seem to support a more stable and kinship-based relationship between the two, at first. Later, it seems there was fairly obvious desire and, from Geli’s perspective, unrequited love between them.
   It seemed to be a relationship that was normal—in Geli’s mind, no doubt it was true love in the classic form—yet strained by the around-the-clock schedule of one of the world’s busiest men. With Adolf, though, it was a day’s love trance that had to be equally shared with his party agendas and commitments. When speaking of his thoughts on the possibility of marriage, Hitler said, “…I must deny myself this happiness. I have another bride. I am married to the German ‘Volk,’  to its destiny!”
   At the time, many of the authors who where examining this subject seemed always to take the words of Hitler’s enemies and detractors, Otto Strasser, Gregor Strasser, and Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl, as having the ring of authority regarding Hitler and Geli’s relationship. They wax poetic about sexual perversions and weird practices, while serious historians doubt there was any sexual relationship at all. A love affair, yes, but authoritative history records Hitler as being very overly straight-laced and never demonstrative when it came to relationships with his close entourage, or women in general. The fact that she was dear to him is also fully documented3. In truth, though, he seemed more dedicated to his bachelor life. At this point, politics were the true love of Adolf Hitler, and, as we now know, it remained that way to the end. Hitler's Gun
“…and I resolved to become a politician!” –Mein Kampf
   The suicide incident, and another earth-shattering event that I will momentarily relate, may well make this pistol at least one of the most important firearms of world history. Now, for practically the first time, the true story chronicling its existence is brought forward, although more than 50 years later.
   To put it all in perspective, we must start at the middle, so to speak, when the German Third Reich was on the verge of collapse with its enemies moving in vigorously on all fronts.

 

Hitler’s Apartment House

   A major part of the American forces was moving into the city of Munich, called by the Nazis, Der Hauptstadt der Bewegung, “Head City of the Movement.” Of the units assigned, the task of securing the eastern section of the city and setting up command posts was given to the U.S. Army’s 45th Division, the “Thunderbirds.” One of the units of this Division was the 179 Infantry Company and there came a time when a lieutenant summoned four men of Headquarters Company and ordered them to secure “the house across the street.” That house looked like a good site for potential quarters and it had a good strategic layout in that it occupied a full street corner and would be a very good defensive position should further fighting necessitate its use for that purpose.
Hitler's Gun
No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse pictured in the 1930’s. Note the Nazi tapestry hanging from the balcony.
   Here fantastic fate takes a hand as it does elsewhere time and time again in this narrative. The house selected was No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse, the former apartment complex of none other than the German Leader, Adolf Hitler. This unit was, for the most part, incredibly untouched and intact, although most of the neighboring houses had been reduced to rubble.
   It is early afternoon on May 1, 1945. After studying a map of the immediate area, these selected men set out on their mission while trying to avoid rather constant sniper fire from Wehrmacht and SS units still entrenched. They finally arrive at the door of Number 16, which was not difficult to find because, although it was dark, this house has quite a few lights turned on. They later discover that it has its own power plant. Not knowing what to expect and with weapons ready they beat on the oak door while hollering that they demand admittance, as they were so ordered to do.
   At this very important moment in history the names of those who had knocked on the door are Sgt. Arthur Peters, Pvt. William Soltz, Pvt. George Sachs, and Pvt. First class Andrew Sivi.
   Suddenly the door is cracked and opens a few inches and then, hesitatingly, Frau Annie Winter opens it full and admits the GI’s as she announces to them that she is in charge of this house.
Hitler's Gun
No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse as it looked in the 1980s, when the author was covering this story.
Hitler's Gun
The American ‘guests,’ including Sivi (left), with a couple of the housemaids.
    Once inside, the GI’s also meet the janitor, his wife, and two maids. The soldiers questioned them as to who might be the owner of this stately house. Then, like a thunder bolt from Wotan, himself, this small assemblage reveals to them that this is a very special residence, indeed; none other than the former Munich dwelling place of the German Chancellor and Leader, Adolf Hitler4.
   The tallest of the Americans notices that Frau Winter is trembling as she discloses this startling information to these young men, who, after all, are wearing the uniforms of the declared enemy of the German Reich. At this point Private First Class Sivi puts down his M-1 carbine and steps forth slowly and unmenacingly tries to assure her that she and the other occupants have nothing to fear. This gesture immediately helps to strike up a friendship. Sivi, tall, blond, and blue eyed, has a Germanic demeanor and look about him, which seems to spur an immediate sense of trust in her.
   The GI’s then proceed to check out the house with the guidance of Frau Winter. As they had been ordered to do, they thoroughly search the entire premises. On the lower level they find the former quarters of the SS guards of the Leibstandarte, the Führer’s elite bodyguard detachment, as well as a bomb shelter, Frau Winter’s apartment, and a wine cellar full of Hitler’s supply of special bottled water.
    On the second floor is the Führer’s nine-room apartment, which seems to be virtually untouched5. In Hitler’s bedroom a 3 ½-foot-long banner-type drape made of silk is observed lying across his bed. At one end above some fringe is an embroidered design of a swastika surrounded by small, gold eagles. At the other end is a large Nazi eagle in gold-bullion thread. Pvt. Sivi picks it up as his first souvenir. Later, he finds out that this was a funeral drape and the design was that of the personal standard of the Führer. Hitler's Gun
Details of the silk funeral drape found in Hitler’s bedroom. The flag depicted on the left is der Führerstandarte, Hitler’s personal standard.
   During examination of other areas of the house, Sivi discovers a large, private office. He enters and finds the Führer’s desk and opens all the drawers and finds many photos and documents. The other GI’s excitedly help themselves to many of these items.
Hitler's Gun
The revolver in its specially designed case. The case was produced in Germany after Geli’s death.
    Sivi later recounts that what he did with that desk was foolish in the extreme. Loyal SS men had been the last occupants there, and it was anything but uncommon for them to booby trap things they believed would excite the interest of GI looters. Despite this concern, youthful exuberance and uncontrollable curiosity had gotten the best of him and Sivi continued searching through the drawers. When he opens the top drawer on the right side he suddenly becomes flushed with a flow of adrenaline when he sees a group of four medals joined into a ribbon-bar presentation. Underneath it is a black leather case, which he immediately fantasizes as containing gems; however, when he opens it he was no less excited than if it had been the Bavarian Crown Jewels. There, in the professionally cut-to-fit green velvet lining of the black leather box is a gleaming Ladysmith revolver of Smith & Wesson manufacturer. The petite pistol is fully loaded, and he notes that the serial number on the butt is “709.”
    More documents, photos, and sheets of personal stationary embossed with the Nazi eagle and swastika are removed at this point6.
    The following day, PFC Sivi is in conversation with Frau Winter, who speaks excellent English. She tells him that she still fears for her safety once the American officers arrive. Sivi reassures her that she will not be harmed. As they talk on she tells him that the banner that was on the bed is one of the types that the Führer would personally place on the casket of important personages of the Third Reich, military leaders, and heroes who died or fell in battle. However, this one in particular may have been the one that decorated the final resting place of Field Marshal and last German President, Paul Von Hindenburg, of WW I fame and glory. He was also the last President of the German Republic before Hitler became Chancellor. Hitler's Gun
Frau Annie Winter, who befriended PFC Sivi. She was Hitler's housekeeper.
   Frau Winter did not speculate on the medals, but we now believe they may have been the decorations of Ernst Röhm, the Storm Troop leader who was liquidated by the SS troops in the political purge that followed when the power of the Storm Troopers (SA) had to be broken and reformed7. The possibility of these being Roehm’s medals emerged into reality when one extrapolates that this drawer contained what might well have been construed as Hitler’s “sad memories” depository. It must be remembered that he considered Röhm a Kreigskamerad, or wartime comrade. Though they had not served together there was a bond between them of Korpgeist, the natural affinity of those who were baptized by the fiery hell of battle.
    The mood abruptly changes when the discussion of No. 709 begins. Frau Winter’s face becomes contorted and pale: a look of complete shock comes over her face. As quickly as the mood changed Frau Winter’s pale face now becomes quite flushed as she excitedly exclaims, “That’s the Selbstmord pistol,” forgetting for the moment to speak English. She then repeats for Sivi, “That’s the suicide gun. The gun that poor Geli used to kill herself.”
    Sivi then asks her who Geli was. She replies, “I can’t look, please put it away.” She turns her face while lifting an apron to dry the tears that had welled up in her eyes.
    Later in the day Sivi brews some canned, ground coffee and offers her some to help her relax and forget the incident of that morning. In return she gives him another group of documents as well as a stuffed toy dog that Hitler had reportedly given to Geli on her 15th birthday. Also among the items she gives him are some towels marked “A.H. Berglert-K MU.” This stood for Adolf Hitler’s staff in Munich. Through research I have discovered that there were other such towels at his other places of residence such as the Führer Headquarters in the Munich Königsplatz and the Reich’s Chancellery in Berlin. At this time, Frau Winter, in appreciation of numerous gifts bestowed by PFC Sivi, presents him with the overcoat, visor cap, and sword ensemble of her deceased husband. The coat and visored cap were that of an Allgemeine (Homeland Division) major with a sleeve-band designation in silver-bullion writing, which read SS Hauptant, or headquarters office.
    Herr Winter was an officer attached to the personal staff of the Chief of the SS, Heinrich Himmler. The swords included his dress sword from when he was an officer in a Bavarian Infantry Regiment in the First World War and the SS-officer’s sword that was issued to him.
    By now, other American soldiers arrive at the house. They had finally been alerted as to the importance of this particular building and its former occupant.
    Surprisingly enough intelligence officers were among the new arrivals, and they later ordered the janitor to burn many of the documents for no other reason than that it was rather chilly in the house during their stay there. No meticulous examination of the thousands of papers and documents was ever conducted8. According to the GI’s, anything of this nature, that was not taken by the dozens of soldiers, was burned at the orders of the officers and OSS people. The house was completely stripped in a few days save for those things that Frau Winter managed to put away possibly for a rainy day9.

 

No. 709 Goes to America

    As for our Pvt. Sivi, he had a few very tempting offers for No. 709 while still stationed at the house, but he turned them down. And after a little longer stay at Number 16, he was granted furlough to England. He took the pistol with him, never being far away from it. He thoroughly enjoyed showing it off. All who saw it and heard its story were fascinated and usually declared it to be “the greatest of all war souvenirs” that were brought back. Both civilians and military personnel lined up to see it at the pubs and restaurants that Sivi frequented in England. Then, on September 1945, he shipped out for home with the gun in his duffel bag, always mindful that it must not be far from him at any time. He sensed how important a relic this would be to future generations.
Hitler's Gun
Former PFC Andrew Sivi with No. 709 and the plush toy dog that belonged to Geli. Jamestown Post Journal. 12/2/1960.
    PFC Sivi was totally enthralled with its presence and his possession of it. It could be said that it had an almost “mystic” manifestation to him. He had shipped all of the other items to his Pennsylvania home while in England. He was discharged from the service on September 28, 1945. In 1946, Sivi loaned the revolver to the U.S. Army, which had displayed it first at nearby Jamestown, New York, and then in Buffalo. The Army personally rendered it inoperable for safety-display purposes and, along with the other items: documents, funeral banner, SS uniform, and a stuffed dog that had belonged to Geli, they placed a value of $50,000 on the group for purposes of insurance and public interest. The items were also displayed on the U.S. Army’s “Freedom Train” for an extended period of time and also at libraries and veterans’ posts in the area. In between they reposed in a safety deposit box at a local bank.
    At this point we will return to the historical narrative:

 

The Fateful Event

    Politics were the true love of Adolf Hitler, but he was very cautious of his political career and didn’t wish it to be put in the way of finger pointing because of his making Geli his mistress in his already-famous apartment and, particularly, because she was the daughter of his half sister. Hitler often stated that Geli was beautiful, fresh, unspoiled, happy with a bubbling personality, and, most important to him, intelligent. He guarded her zealously, but in 1931 Geli announced to him that she was going to continue her musical voice studies in Vienna. This upset him to the point of rage, and this rift between them may have been first concocted in Geli’s brain to force her Uncle Adolf to finally confess his true love and move towards a marriage proposal, which she obviously earnestly desired. She had done all she could to make him jealous, even to the point of manipulating a supposed love tryst with Emil Maurice, the Führer’s chauffeur, and letting Hitler discover a “secret engagement” with him.
Hitler's Gun
Hitler with Geli
Hitler's Gun
Geli’s love of animals was well known.
    Emil was also the Führer’s bodyguard and close friend, who had shared prison quarters with him at Landsburg after the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. When Hitler found out about this possibly contrived scenario, he flew into a rage and dismissed Emil. But even after that, Geli became involved with another young man, an artist from Vienna. After a terrible argument about her intentions to go to Vienna, Hitler stormed out of the apartment with the intention to attend an important Nazi meeting up in the north of Germany at Hamburg. Geli rushed into her room and slammed the door after leaving instructions with the household staff that she was not to be disturbed. Reports indicate that before the argument that ensued that day, and before Hitler’s angry exit, Geli’s pet canary, Hansi, had died and she was observed carrying it around the halls in a little box petting it, kissing the box, and softly talking to its lifeless body. Frau Winter said that Geli intended, at least for the moment, to bury it near Hitler’s Obersalzberg home, but later in her sadness...

Please go to part two of Gun of Destiny

 

___________________________
1Hermann Göring commented at the Nuremberg Trials that this suicide had such a devastating effect on Hitler that it changed his relationship with all other people.
2The famous book, outsold only by the Bible, in which he relates his background, struggle, and plans for the future.
3Once, he confided to a friend: "I could marry her."
4This is the place where most of the early development of the Nazi years began; a place about which Hitler later intimated was where his formative years were lived, and is the only place he ever felt completely relaxed—more so than Obersalzburg or the Reich’s Chancellery.
5The LAH (SS guards) probably removed many items just before its retreat from the inner city. Most of Hitler's articles of clothing were missing.
6They were translated many years later in 1972-1982.
7History has recorded this event as "The Night of the Long Knives."
8This reinforces the validity of the oxymoron "military intelligence."
9In later years, Frau Winter managed to sell much of this material to supplement her meager living. Much of it was sold in a special "Winter's Offering" at an auction house in Munich.
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