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AND NOW! LOERZER’S PILOT-OBSERVER BADGE WITH DIAMONDS


Bruno Loerzer with his old comrade Hermann Göring in 1942


Scheduled for the next Hermann Historica auction in October: no less than Bruno Loerzer’s badge, complete with supporting documentation, or so it seems from the catalog entry. It is contained in one of the DGW cases and presented with a couple of photographs and some sort of document. Even from here, we can see that this badge does not conform to the style of known original award pieces. Note the form of the laurel leaves and the upper three laurel leaves on the outside of the wreath. At a glance, the obverse seems more like that of the official B-Stück dress copies worn by some recipients, like General Otto Dessloch, below. However, it is not the same. 

Otto Dessloch’s denazified B-Stück badge (Private Collection)



However, the righthand wing of the eagle on the period dress copy worn by Dessloch ends in four points, like the B-Stück “IMIT” badge attributed to Erhard Milch in the above extract from a Wolfe-Hardin catalog. The alleged Loerzer badge offered by Hermann Historica has six points on the end of the righthand wing. Readers will note that the award badge attributed to Milch does not conform in appearance to the known originals shown in this series of articles. Even more troubling is the fact that the alleged Loerzer badge, which seems to be the child of a union between A and B Stück badges, is housed in another of the blue velvet DGW cases that nobody can remember seeing before 2005. 

Photo: Christopher Ailsby

In correspondence, Chris Ailsby states that the RAF Museum at Hendon, near London, commissioned a copy of the badge for their Göring mannequin because the genuine Göring badge was not included in the medals and badges left to the museum by Eric Campion when he died in 1982. According to Mr Ailsby, who acquired the Göring badge, the author and movie consultant Andrew Mollo was probably involved in the manufacture of the legitimate museum copy displayed on the museum’s mannequin. Mr Ailsby clearly believes that Mr Mollo, who resides in France, is also involved in the production of the fake badges currently offered through leading dealers and auction houses in Europe and the United States. The above detail from a snapshop of the Göring mannequin in question shows a badge that looks like the Loerzer badge offered for sale in the October 2011 Hermann Historica sale of Nazi memorabilia. The eagle’s left wing is slimmer than those of the current fakes and those of known originals. The ends of the feathers of the eagle’s right wing seem as pointed as those of the alleged Milch and Loerzer badges and seem to end in six points. So they are trying to be A-Stück badges.




A well-known photograph by Hoffmann of Josef Dietrich wearing his Combined Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds. The badges attributed to Erhard Milch, Bruno Loerzer, Hugo Sperrle, Otto Skorzeny and Miklos Horthy are not the same as this badge or other documented originals. But hundreds of thousands of dollars have changed hands since the fake Skorzeny badge was sold through Manion’s in 2004. Those are just the transactions we know about. So what is going on here? Why have we not not heard from furious, duped collectors? 
WAF: a front for fakers?
Is it due to the censorship policies in force on the leading Internet forums like http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com? Or are we witnessing some form of international money-laundering operation involving the dealerships and auction houses handling these items? Where do the diamonds used in these fakes come from? Mr Ailsby himself has confirmed that he engaged a master jeweler named Keith Thompson to produce a replica of the badge for the discredited dealer Roger Honts. Other sources suggest that the current crop of fakes originates in Germany. Whatever the case, none of these badges resembles the badges shown in prewar and wartime photographs or the known originals of the award and dress copy badges created and authorized by Hermann Göring. 

MORE PILOT-OBSERVER BADGES WITH DIAMONDS


Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle was awarded the Combined Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds by Hermann Göring, which he is wearing in the above photograph, taken in by LW-Kriegsberichter Fischer on 1.2.1942. This badge resided for a while in the Eric Campion Collection, along with the badge that belonged to Hermann Göring himself. 


LTC Angolia describes the case quite clearly. The Perchermeiers are a family of jewelers who have been active for several generations in the Munich and Salzburg areas, not far from Berchtesgaden, where Hermann Göring had a country house. It was examined and photographed by various leading collectors and authors, including the British specialist Frederick Stephens and LTC John Angolia, who described it in the first volume of his two-tome reference work For Führer and Fatherland.


This very rare badge was sold for €65,000 by German auctioneers Hermann Historica in 2007.  The catalog text stated:

AUSZEICHNUNGEN DRITTES REICH
Lot Nr.7654

Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle, Supreme Commander of Luftwaffenkommando West.

A Combined Pilots and Observers Badge in Gold with Diamonds, in its original case of issue. The oak leaf and laurel wreath in gold, the cambered eagle and the swastika are silver, in open work set with more than 170 diamonds, assembled with two slit nuts on soldered threaded pins. The swastika pinned to the ribbon binding at the bottom of the wreath. The pin with a roller hinge and a safety catch. Weight 30.70 g, 51.55 x 60.19 mm.


The extremely rare case covered and lined with purple velvet, the lid with white silk lining and the maker’s name “DGW – Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst-Werkstätten Berlin-W.”.
Including a 2006 photo expertise by Detlev Niemann.

Condition: I-II Limit: 65000 EURO sold









The Sperrle badge seemed to have undergone a transformation since it was viewed by various specialists at Eric Campion’s home in Britain back in the 1970s. And as the following view of the reverse of the righthand wingtip of the Hartmann badge shows, the strengthening frame soldered to the reverse of the eagle incorporated none of the little cutouts backlighting the diamonds.

Hartmann

Moreover, it was now housed in an imperial flock case bearing the logo of the DGW – Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst-Werkstätten Berlin-W, which translates as “German Goldsmiths Guild – West Berlin”. An article in the German magazine Der Spiegel (17.2.1997) discusses Dr Ing Kurt Hermann, a jeweler who was a donor to the Nazi Party and a protegé of Hermann Göring. Dr Hermann was a regular guest of the Görings by the mid-1930s, often accompanying Göring on hunting trips: Doch im Jahre 1936 will das niemand so genau wissen. Kurt Herrmann setzt mit seinen Firmen Millionen um und pflegt geselligen Umgang mit den Repräsentanten der Macht. Er geht mit Hermann Göring auf Jagd und ist Ehrengast an der Hochzeitstafel von Hermann und Emmy Göring am 10. April 1935. […] Kurt Herrmann weiß, wie man Freunde bei Laune hält. Er gibt regelmäßig und großzügig: 50 000 RM an den ‘Herrn Reichsjägermeister Göring’ und 50 000 RM an den ‘Herrn Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler’, 10 000 RM an den ‘Herrn Reichsminister Goebbels’.

Amongst other things, Dr Hermann was a director of the DGW. The article continues: 1942 erhielt Herrmann die Gelegenheit, sich preiswert aus dem von den Nazis in Frankreich geraubten Vermögen der Familie Rothschild zu bedienen. Für die “Überlassung französischer Juwelen an die Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst-Werkstätten” überwies er an die Reichshauptkasse genau 1 619 887 RM und 5 Pfennig. Die Pretiosen wurden ihm, wie es später ein Mitarbeiter im “Stabsamt des Reichsmarschalles Göring” bestätigte, zum “Materialwert” abgetreten.”

Did a DGW jeweler produce the the Sperrle badge for Hermann Göring’s office? It is possible. And yet, for decades, phalerists and collectors the world over have believed the sole supplier from 1935 to 1945 of these badges to Hermann Göring’s office to have been the Viennese jeweler Rudolf Stübiger. The Stübiger company has stated that they made these badges before, during and after the Second World War.  But Germany did not annex Austria until March 1938 so why would Göring commission a foreign company to produce an award he certainly saw as the highest honor it was in his gift to bestow as Chief of the German Air Force? Despite the Certificate of Authenticity supplied by the German dealer Detlev Niemann, The so-called Sperrle badge failed to sell but was purchased just after the auction ended for an undisclosed price.  

This badge was also sold by Hermann Historica and was attributed to the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Horthy.  The obverse  of  the eagle features the spine and the lack of fletching to the head but the reverse is a more accurate representation of the original badges with the plain strengthening frame as on the Hartmann badge and other indisputable originals made from 1935 to 1945. 








Admiral Miklós Horthy von Nagybánya (1868 – 1957) – a Combined Pilots and Observers Badge in Gold with Diamonds.

The oak leaf and laurel wreath in gold, marked “585”, the domed eagle and the swastika of platinum, adorned with more than 160 diamonds set à jour (one missing), assembled with two slit nuts on soldered threaded pins, the perimeter of the eagle reinforced on the reverse side by a gold-plated frame. The swastika pinned to the wreath binding at the bottom of the wreath. The attachment needle fitted with a roller hinge and a safety catch. Weight 45.67 g, 51 x 61 mm (Nie 7.07.04). In a contemporary case of identical but smaller make than the cases of issue, covered and lined with purple velvet, the lid with white silk lining and barely legible maker’s name “DGW – Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst-Werkstätten Berlin-W.”. 

Provenance: Given in the 1950s by the Horty family to a Portuguese noble, who supported them to settle in Estoril.
Göring, wearing his badge, just before presenting a badge to Horthy, on his left
So now we have a badge attributed to Horthy with an alleged provenance dating back to the 1950s and contained in one of these DGW – Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst-Werkstätten Berlin-W presentation cases. Some prominent figures who are very active on collector-oriented Internet forums have suggested that Göring’s office engaged the Berlin Goldsmiths Guild who then farmed out the commissions to different jewelers from 1935 to 1945. This is a reasonable argument but also a convenient one as it would help dealers to explain all the variations in construction and style between known 1930s and early 1940s badges and the plethora of variants in circulation since the early 1990s and probably before then, making it easier for them to “rehabilitate” and sell dozens of the older fakes as well as newer fakes to rich but ignorant collectors in the emerging markets in Russia, China and India. 
However, it is worrying to note that the genuine badge worn by Martin Harlinghausen, who had a second career in the Bundeswehr from 1957 to 1961 and died in 1986, is now contained in a DGW – Deutsche Goldschmiedekunst-Werkstätten Berlin-W presentation case. If one looks at the above photograph of Erich Hartmann looking at his awards in the 1970s, his Combined Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds can be seen in a case on the table. Note the shape of the eagle’s left wing. Note also the shape of the case and its dimensions in relation to the badge it contains. The Hartmann case is square where these DGW cases are rectangular. There is also less space between the top of the badge and the hinged edge of the case in the photo than in the case of the modern cased fakes. Where were all these cases before 2006, when they started appearing through top dealers and auction houses, along with empty mappe and casettes said to be for the award documents? 

Empty cassette and folder for the award document – The Ruptured Duck 2008
Folder or mappe added to the Skorzeny grouping between 2004 and 2009
Copyright © Christopher Ailsby
Whatever the case, every clear wartime photograph of a recipient of the Combined Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds shows a badge conforming precisely in shape and outline to the known original examples like Göring’s badge. Note the shape of the wings, their upturned tips, the lack of the  eagle’s spine on the originals and the feathers or fletching absent from the heads of the eagles on all of the badges that have been offered by leading dealers and auction houses in Europe and the United States over the past few years. 
Copyright © Christopher Ailsby


As for the DGW presentation cases, there was a link between Göring and the DGW but Göring gave his custom to many different jewelers, including Tiffany’s (Paris), Otto Klein of Hanau, various top Berlin houses who would have been members of the DGW and, probably, Rudolf Stübiger of Vienna. And then there was the Perchermeier case containing the genuine Hugo Sperrle badge, although this does not prove that August Perchermeier had anything to do with the production of the Combined Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds.



The badge presented to Generalleutnant Erhard Milch by Göring on 11.11.1935. Or is it? The eagle’s spine indicates otherwise, as does the engraving. These badges had to be returned to Göring’s office upon the death of a recipient or upon demand. Göring considered them him personal property and is recorded as having been very insistent in the case of the Korten badge after Korten’s death in the July Bomb Plot explosion in 1944. The badges would not therefore have been personalized. And again, we have the backlight cutouts in the rear frame of the eagle. 


Here are the Erhard Milch badges when they resided in the Wolfe-Hardin Collection. The presentation badge conforms more closely to the shape and style of known originals. The righthand wingtips of the Milch badge in the Wolfe-Hardin Collection seem more pointed and defined than those of the badges worn by Göring, Rudel and Hartmann. However, when one looks at the outer row of laurel leaves above the eagle’s wing, two and a half leaves are visible. On the originals with provenance to Göring, Rudel and Hartmann, less than two of these leaves are visible yet the eagle seems to be the same shape and mounted at the same angle. However, the badge in the photograph below appears to match these anomalies so they may be due to slight differences in workmanship in 1935, when Milch received his badge, and later badges. 


Another fake badge, photographed in the characteristic style of the now-discredited German dealer and self-appointed expert Detlev Niemann, who reportedly sold it to a Russian millionaire for €60,000 in 2006. This is the same type of fake as the alleged Sperrle badge, although the laurel leaves are better-defined and the righthand screw post is more central in its hole. 
Inquiries welcome: Craig Gottlieb’s website on 9.9.2011
At the time of writing, the Californian dealer Craig Gottlieb’s website was inviting inquiries from collectors interested in the above badge. This badge is identical to the badge sold by Detlev Niemann in 2006. Mr Niemann went out of business in 2010, having failed to repair the damage done to his reputation by the Paul Conrath Eichenlaub document scandal in 2004 and subsequent revelations relating to his selling of fake Nazi memorabilia as well his sideline in selling Certificates of Authenticity, many of which were as worthless as the one offered by Hermann Historica with the cased Sperrle badge in 2007. 

Wilbur C Stump


A flock of fakes for hundreds of thousands of dollars



FAKE NAZI DIAMONDS BADGES: CHRISTOPHER AILSBY RESPONDS


The noted British collector and author Christopher Ailsby has sent in a very useful comparison chart, which I reproduce here for the benefit of readers.

Mr Ailsby wished to clarify a few points regarding the fake Skorzeny Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds as well as other fakes of this award and his alleged role in passing fakes of the badge onto the market through an American contact. I have duly made a couple of minor amendments, notably in relation to the alleged conspiracy between Mr Ailsby and one Roger F Honts to manufacture and sell fakes of the badge as originals, and will address later on the question of other fake Pilot-Observer Badges with Diamonds that have been offered for sale through various high end dealerships and auction houses in recent years.



From: Christopher J Ailsby
Date: Fri, Sep 9, 2011 at 6:18 PM
Subject: Re: More Skorzeny Scamstering
To: Wilbur C Stump 


Dear Mr Stump
Thank you for the mail. I am impressed with your findings. This is a case I have been on a long time. But you have made a few mistakes, first and fore most you quote, “the best Ailsby could do with his fakes was get that fat freak who burglarized Jack Angolia’s home to front them in the US. “. I would like to inform you, we produced one piece for Mr Rohnts and that is the only piece that has been comisioned. It was as the original and produced in platinum, gold and set with the correct diamonds. It has a small jewller mark to inentify it. So no selling of pieces by any one other than those that are comisioned. I would also hasen to say that to make another to the same specification would cost in access of £20000.00.
Having put that in the right perspective, the piece you show as ex Campion, is in fact in my collection and the photo you use is one that I took. It is the piece as you correctly identify, that was Gorings. It was brought back with the other medals which are now currently at the RAF Museum in Hendon. This is important since the Museum comisioned a copy to be made for wear on the maniquine that is on display. I believe that Mollo was responcible for advising and could have been instrimental in the comisioning of the award and the uniform parts. So this is a possible leed to the producer of the awards that are currently doing the rounds.
The next point of interest is these awards are often found with the recipients name engraved upon them. This has to be the GREATEST NO NO. These awards had to be returned to the Office of the Reichsmarshal on request or death.
I take the liberty to give you some of my research,”

The criteria for the award was that each recipient must be the holder of a pilot’s licence.  This pilot’s licence could have been either in the civil form, to encompass single engine aeroplanes and even to have allowed the consideration of the holder of a glider pilot’s licence.  This would have qualified them for the badge.  This explains the entitlement of the badge for some of the more unusual bestowals namely, Himmler and Dietrich.  It is also believed that Dr. Fritz Todt was a recipient of the award but this has yet to be fully confirmed.  Upon the death of the holder, the badge had to be returned to Göring’s personal office.  This was the case with General Korten who was mortally wounded in the bomb plot attempt of 20 July 1944.  After his death, the badge was not immediately returned and Göring’s office was most indiscreet in requesting its return before his body was cold in its grave. 
So any one who had their name on the reverse would be have a small future problem. 
I have studied as many photos of recipients as possible, all have shown the same type. That is the Göring one. I have attached a few photos for your interest.  
I look forward to your comments 
My very best wishes 
Christopher Ailsby 

Mr Ailsby makes some valid points, particularly with reference to the fact that Göring’s office retained ownership of these badges and they had to be returned upon the death of a recipient or on demand for whatever reason. 


The surrender of Hermann Göring.

The ex-Eric Campion Collection Göring Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds, now in the Christopher Ailsby Collection. This is the badge Göring was wearing when he surrendered to US forces in May 1945.

The RAF Museum: the Andrew Mollo replica









Roger F Honts in Dachau


Asked if he thought the replica Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds he supplied to Mr Honts might have been copied, Mr Ailsby replied: “I think it is possible. When we found out his purpose, we did not undertake any further commissions.” Roger F Honts, a weightlifter who works night shifts in his father’s Kewanee, Illinois video store watching and renting porn movies, is familiar to many Nazi memorabilia collectors for various reasons. Mr Honts was a notorious Ebay scamster, back when the auction site allowed the sale of Nazi relics. He was implicated in the break-in of Jack Angolia’s home, the noted author and collector. Mr Honts was successfully sued by Bill Simmons of Colorado for selling him over $100,000-worth of high-end fakes, misrepresented by Honts as original. And as Mr Ailsby confirms, Mr Honts commissioned a high-quality Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds from an English silversmith and jeweler via Christopher Ailsby. 
The alleged Hugo Sperrle badge: sold by Hermann Historica in 2010
Referring to the current plethora of cased and uncased badges appearing on the market, attributed to figures like Hugo Sperrle, Admiral Mikos Horthy and Martin Harlinghausen, more of which in a further article, Mr Ailsby remarked: “My thoughts are that these have been made in Germany, possibly in Hamburg. The quality is good, but as your Father would have said, no cigar.” As for the alleged Skorzeny badge, which differs from the new generation of fakes, Mr Ailsby had already given his opinion, that this badge was a fake dating from the early 1990s and quite possibily produced by the collector and movie costumier Andrew Mollo, author of a number of books on Nazi memorabilia and director of the cult 1950s British movie It Happened Here, about what might have happened had the Nazis invaded Britain. 

OTTO SKORZENY’S PILOT-OBSERVER BADGE WITH DIAMONDS #2


Further research into the ever-evolving Otto Skorzeny Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds grouping shows that the badge and document passed through the Czerny auction house in Italy in March 2009, offered for a starting bid of €60,000.  As the photographs from the Czerny website show, the badge and document are the same as those offered previously by Manion’s in 2004. However, the ensemble had gained a leather mappe bearing Hermann Göring’s insignia, as well as a wartime photograph of Skorzeny and the previously mentioned letter of Ocrober 26th 1944 from Göring to Skorzeny, awarding him the badge. Someone else, clearly impersonating Göring, had awarded Skorzeny in the Führerhauptquartier on September 16th 1943, over a year previously and almost fifteen months before Skorzeny earned the rank engraved on the reverse of the badge. 





Lot 366
translate email


Otto Skorzeny’s gold, platinum and diamonds badge

Dating: second quarter of the 20th Century

Provenance: Germany

Description: Pilot and Observer Badge in gold, platinum and diamonds; marked SS – Ostubaf. O. Skorzeny” and “585” on the back; vertical pin.

Together with its relevant document dated “16.9.1943” signed facsimile Göring, and an original of the confirmation by a Colonel-General beside the stamp.

Together with a personal letter from Hermann Göring, on his personal writing-paper, to Skorzeny, in which he anticipates the ordinance of the decoration along with the small version of the document where he confirms the sending of the bigger version in a second moment.

Moreover, the original, brown leather cover, with gilded impressions, in the middle is an eagle with crossed sticks.

Finally, a picture of Skorzeny in his uniform, with the Knight’s cross of the Iron Cross.Otto Skorzeny (1908-1975), a legendary character among the Officers of the Waffen-SS, became worldwide known for his sensational actions, the most famous of which was the release of Benito Mussolini on the Gran Sasso on Sept. 12, 1943. Four days later, he received this honor from Göring.



Condition report

excellent


The very same badge as handled by Manion’s in 2004, Hermann Historica in 2007, Czerny in 2009 and André Huesken in 2011. The same badge, with same engraving in that postwar German handwriting taught to primary school pupils from the 1950s on.




After the badge and document passed through Manion’s in 2004, some added a handsigned letter dated 26.10.1944 from Göring to Skorzeny and a small photograph of Skorzeny with  some dubious-looking handwriting on the reverse. The 2007 Hermann Historica catalog stated: “Concerning the award of the double badge in gold and diamonds, there is a letter from Hermann Göring dated 26 October 1944 with the letterhead, “Der Reichsmarschall des Großdeutschen Reiches” in which Göring declares, “for your tireless activity in the struggle for Greater Germany’s victory over her enemies and your outstanding contributions to the joint completion of the difficult task given our two branches of service, the Waffen-SS as well as the Luftwaffe…”. As at this time the letter is in the possession of the Office of the District Attorney for Stuttgart, we can only include a copy with this lot. “ The 2007 catalog also described a 1938 curriculum vitae written by Skorzeny: Skorzeny’s curriculum vitae, written in ink in his own hand is included. It is signed and dated, “Wien 15 Dez. 1938 – Otto Skorzeny”, and in it, he describes among other things his entrance into the NSDAP in 1932 (No. 1083671) and his entrance into the SS in 1934 (No. 295,979). 



This is a photocopy of a handwritten CV signed by Skorzeny on January 30th 1941, from his SS Personnel File. Skorzeny would have been asked to write his CV up when he joined the SS in 1934 and perhaps to update it from time to time. He was was promoted SS-Untersturmführer on 30.1.1939 so he probably had to sit down and write out a CV during his officer training course. But how did this original, handwritten 1938 CV from his SS-Personalakte come to be in the possession of the person selling the grouping through Hermann Historica in 2007? This document is not mentioned in the Czerny catalog for their March 2009 sale. Nor is the little photograph. 


However, the October 1944 letter from Göring to Skorzeny is mentioned, indicating that the Stuttgart District Attorney had returned it to the owner of the grouping. Why would the Stuttgart DA return the letter? Did the Stuttgart DA compare the signature purporting to be that of Hermann Göring with known prewar and wartime examples?








Göring’s letter to Skorzeny informing him of the award of the Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds over a year after someone looking like Göring had presented him with the badge and the document referred to an operation in which the Luftwaffe and the Waffen-SS had collaborated:“Lieber Skorzeny ! Für Ihren unermüdlichen Einsatz im Ringen um Großdeutschlands Sieg überseine Feinde und Ihre hervorragenden Leistungen bei der gemeinsamen Bewältigung der schweren Aufgabe unserer beider Waffengattungen, der Waffen-SS sowie der Luftwaffe, verleihe ich Ihnen ehrenhalber das gemeinsame Flugzeugführer- und Beobachterabzeichen in Gold mit Brillanten. Die dazugehörige große Urkunde wird Ihnen zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt überreicht. Lieber Skorzeny, ohne Soldaten wie Sie gäbe es heute keine Wehrmacht mehr, so wenig wie es eine deutsche Ehre und eine deutsche Freiheit gäbe……..”.  The Reichsmarschall valued honor and honorable behaviour. The rescue of Benito Mussolini spoke for German honor. 
Otto Skorzeny, Harald Mors, and Benito Mussolini in front of Hotel Campo Imperatore, Gran Sasso, Italy, 12 Sep 1943, photo 2 of 3

The kidnapping of Admiral Horthy’s son during Operation Panzerfaust in October 1944 was effective but a man like Göring would never have described it in the context of German honor. Skorzeny’s coup in Budapest was rewarded with a promotion to SS-Obersturmbannführer. The collaboration to which Göring might have referred in a letter about his award to Skorzeny of the Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds was that between the paratroopers of Fallschirmjäger-regiment 7 who landed on Gran Sasso on September 12 1943 and the twenty or so SS-Jagdverband men, accompanied by their commander, who accompanied the Luftwaffe force after turfing Luftwaffe paratroopers out of two gliders and commandeering them. This letter could not have been written in October 1944 in relation to Operation Panzerfaust because Skorzeny had by then held the Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds for more than a year. So, the District Attorney’s office in Stuttgart clearly decided that the letter was a worthless fake and returned it to its owner. The omission of the exclamation mark from the German Greeting was another clue. 



In March 2009, the grouping was offered by Czerny, a northern Italian auction house. The handwritten 1938 CV was not mentioned but the alleged Göring-Skorzeny letter of 26.10.1944 was listed. The writers and editors of the Czerny catalog clearly failed to notice the incoherence of the 1943 award document and the 1944 letter telling Skorzeny that he was going to receive the award in question. By now, the grouping had gained the leather mappe for the document. 



The grouping was offered again in 2011, this time through the German dealer André Huesken for around $120,000, with the mappe and the personal letter from Hermann Göring to Otto Skorzeny as well as the small photograph listed in the 2007 Hermann Historica catalog but not in the 2009 Czerny catalog. In summary, this fake badge and document ensemble passed through Manion’s in 2004 for around $54,000, Hermann Historica in 2007 for around $70,000, Czerny’s in 2009 for around the same price and then, with the addition of the mappe, André Huesken for around $120,000. And this is not the only fake Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds attributed to famous recipients doing the rounds through top dealers and auction houses in Europe and the United States. 

OTTO SKORZENY’S PILOT-OBSERVER BADGE WITH DIAMONDS


There are no known photographs of Otto Skorzeny wearing the Honorary Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds awarded to him by Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring after the rescue of Benito Mussolini from Gran Sasso in September 1943. However, the badge and document pictured above are fakes. But this has not prevented three major auction houses in the US and Europe from selling this ensemble to gullible buyers for high sums, the most recent price being around $120,000. 

As the Hermann Göring Grand Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 award document recently sold to a Chinese collector or the Keßelring baton reportedly sold to a Russian collector show, the emerging markets in Russia, China and, soon, India have tempted top dealers in the United States and Europe, where the bottom has dropped out of the Nazi relics market thanks not just to factors like the economy but to buyer confidence in a market over-salted with high end fakes by increasingly cunning dealers who have moved on from promoting fakes through nicely-produced hard-bound reference books to gulling journalists on papers like the New York Times and The New York Post into stories on such treasures as the Adolf Hitler desk set, oil paintings by Hitler, who was known never to have worked in oils and, just recently, portraits of Hitler’s parents that are said to have hung in the Führer’s office. 

Skorzeny was certainly awarded the badge, as this page from his SS personnel file shows, allowing for the clerical error giving the year as 1944. Some sources suggest that recipients had to have held a pilot’s licence. A private pilot’s licence was sufficient. However, some recipients of the badge are not likely to have been qualified pilots. Otto Skorzeny had initially volunteered for the Luftwaffe, where he trained as a pilot and earned a military pilot’s permit. But he was too big to fly fighters so he transferred to the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler in February 1940. Otto Skorzeny’s Honorary Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds and certificate was sold by the American auction house Manion’s in 2004 for $54,000, the year before it was acquired from Ron Manion by Jody Tucker. This ensemble was then sold in 2007 by the German auctioneers Hermann Historica for the equivalent of around $70,000. The Hermann Historica catalog stated:

Otto Skorzeny (1908 – 1975) 











a Combined Pilot and Observer’s Badge in gold with diamonds 

The oak leaves and laurel wreath is of “585” yellow gold, the curved eagle and the swastika are of platinum. open in back with a thin gold overlay and attached with two headed nuts and soldered threaded pins. The swastika is riveted below in the loop of the wreath. The pin has a rotating hinge (hallmark “585”) and a safety clasp. The back of the wreath is engraved “SS-Ostubaf. O. Skorzeny”. 43 g. (OEK 4011). 

This comes with the extremely rare citation for the honourary award of the combined pilot and observer’s badge for 16 September 1943 with Göring’s facsimile signature and Loezer’s in ink. Folded once. 

Concerning the award of the double badge in gold and diamonds, there is a letter from Hermann Göring dated 26 October 1944 with the letterhead, “Der Reichsmarschall des Großdeutschen Reiches” in which Göring declares, “for your tireless activity in the struggle for Greater Germany’s victory over her enemies and your outstanding contributions to the joint completion of the difficult task given our two branches of service, the Waffen-SS as well as the Luftwaffe…”. As at this time the letter is in the possession of the Office of the District Attorney for Stuttgart, we can only include a copy with this lot. 

Skorzeny’s curriculum vitae, written in ink in his own hand is included. It is signed and dated, “Wien 15 Dez. 1938 – Otto Skorzeny”, and in it, he describes among other things his entrance into the NSDAP in 1932 (No. 1083671) and his entrance into the SS in 1934 (No. 295,979). 

Skorzeny received the Knight’s Cross for his most spectacular operation during World War 2, the liberation of Mussolini from Gran Sasso in a Fieseler Storch in September 1943. He was awarded the Oak Leaves in April 1945 for his defense of the Oder bridgehead with the Schwedt Division. The award of the Combined Pilot and Observer’s Badge in Gold with Diamonds must certainly be in connection with Operation “Panzerfaust”, the kidnapping of Nicolas Horthy, which forced his father to step down. Skorzeny also received the German Cross in Gold at the end of 1944 for that operation. 

Condition: I- Limit: 50000 EURO 50000 EURO


Otto Skorzeny himself stated on a number of occasions after the war that Göring awarded him the badge for Gran Sasso. However, as readers of my website have seen, Otto Skorzeny was not a very reliable source of information regarding his awards, especially when he was selling them to gullible American collectors. And German documents can also contain errors. The certificate presented to Benito Mussolini in 1937 was for “Das Goldene Flugzeugführer und Beobachterabzeichen. Mussolini received the badge with diamonds on September 28th 1937. This might explain the manner in which the SS clerk described the badge when typing up this page for Skorzeny’s personnel file. 


Some sources, including Andrew Mollo in a letter in the December 1981 issue of Guns, Weapons & Militaria, refer to the creation by Hermann Göring of a third class of the Combined Pilot-Observer Badge, this being a gold version of the basic badge awarded by Göring to foreign monarchs and heads-of-state like King Boris of Bulgaria and Benito Mussolini. But we know that Mussolini received a diamond-studded badge and we know that the first award of the Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds was to Generalleutnant Walter Wever on November 11th 1935.


In his own memoirs, Skorzeny stated quite clearly that “The next day, September 16, 1943, Hermann Göring arrived in a special train and asked me a multitude of question. He awarded me the Flying Badge in Gold, but remarked that I had assumed a great responsibility when I went along with the Duce in Gerlach’s machine”. In fact, Skorzeny’s insistence upon joining Hauptmann Gerlach and Mussolini in the tiny Fieseler Storch had almost killed all three men when the overloaded aircraft, unable to lift off properly, went into a dive as it rolled off the edge of the plateau, 


While Operation Panzerfaust was a successful operation, it had nothing to do with the Luftwaffe whereas Operation Oak, the Gran Sasso mission, was entirely planned by the Luftwaffe, hence Göring’s arrival at Hitler’s Headquarters to claim some of the kudos. Skorzeny’s reward for Operation Panzerfaust was his promotion to SS-Obersturmbannführer. The SS-Personalakte is therefore wrong. The date should be December 1st 1943, which might have been the date inscribed on the award document Skorzeny would have received from Göring’s office. 


The document sold by several top auctioneers gives the date as September 16th 1943 and is made out to Skorzeny as SS-Sturmbannführer. Yet the badge is engraved to SS-Obersturmbannführer Skorzeny, a promotion he received on December 10th 1944. Yet none of the sellers and buyers of this extraordinary ensemble, the Honorary Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds awarded by Hermann Göring to Otto Skorzeny for the rescue of Benito Mussolini, depending on which auctioneer’s patter you prefer to believe, managed to spot these glaring discrepancies. 
Michael Dick, head of Hermann Historica’s German Orders and Collectibles department, did not respond to my emails about the Otto Skorzeny Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds and the discrepancy between the award document of September 1943, the letter of October 1944 and the rank on the reverse of the badge. 

This is Hermann Göring’s badge, formerly in the Eric Campion Collection. This is an indisputably original Honorary Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds. 


Although not as clear as the photograph of the Göring badge, this detail from an early 1980s photograph of Hans-Ulrich Rudel’s awards is clear enough to show that the Rudel badge is identical to the Göring badge and other known originals. 


Another original badge previously in the Eric Campion Collection: the badge awarded to Hugo Sperrle. It is identical to the other known, original badges. The badge was photographed by the noted British collector and author Fred Stephens, who noted the dimensions of the case in which it was contained as well as the Perchermeier. The Perchermeier family have been jewelers for several generations in the Munich and Salzburg area in southern Germany, not far from Berchtesgaden. 


Another original badge, awarded to Erich Hartmann. It is identical to the Göring, Rudel and Sperrle badges. 



This side-by-side comparison of the Hartmann badge on the left and the Skorzeny badge on the right tell the sad story immediately. The alleged Otto Skorzeny badge has just surfaced again, this time offered for sale by the German dealer André Huesken.

The award certificate now seems to have gained a brown leather case or mappe complete with an outer carton. So someone has improved the ensemble. The price has also risen from €50,000 to €90,000, which is around $120,000 at current exchange rates. But at least Herr Huesken manages to state correctly that the badge was awarded for the Gran Sasso rescue mission. The text refers to a letter from Göring to Skorzeny on October 26th 1944, in which Göring informs Skorzeny that he has been awarded the “gemeinsame Flugzeugführer – und Beobachterabzeichen in Gold mit Brillanten”. So who awarded Skorzeny the badge on September 16 1943 at FHQ? A Göring impersonator? 

Deutsches Reich 1933 - 1945 COMBINED PILOT´S AND OBSERVER´S BADGE WITH DIAMOND
Deutsches Reich 1933 - 1945 COMBINED PILOT´S AND OBSERVER´S BADGE WITH DIAMOND


Whatever the case, none of the glut of Combined Pilot-Observer Badges in Gold with Diamonds on the market recently look like the indisputably original badges shown in this article. But they are being sold as originals by top dealers and auctioneers to a new market of gullible Chinese and Russian millionaire collectors and there is no excuse for this because access to original badges and documents for study purposes is possible. Like Herr Dick of Hermann Historica, André Huesken did not respond to my emails about the Otto Skorzeny Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds and the discrepancy between the award document of September 1943, the letter of October 1944 and the rank on the reverse of the badge. As the photos show, the badge offered by Herr Huesken is the same badge that passed through Manion’s in 2004 and Hermann Historica in 2009. The question is: who made it and when? 

OTTO SKORZENY’S UNIFORM AND OTHER NONSENSE


The well-known New York auctioneers Mohawk Arms recently offered a cap and tunic ensemble that allegedly belonged to the legendary World War Two German special forces commander Otto Skorzeny, with a starting price of $40,000.

The auction catalog stated: “A-19 Rare offering of the uniform of Waffen-SS Oberststurmbannfuhrer [sic] Otto Skorzeny, the “rescuer of Benito Mussolini”. . [sic] Included are: (1) Fine green wool, four-pocket, silver wire piped open-collar tunic. Silver bullion “SS” runes and SS-Sturmbannfuhrer rank (four pips) collar tabs. (One “pull” in middle of rank tab, indicating an earlier rank which was upgraded with Skorzeny’s promotion.) Twisted silver bullion cord on white/black underlay, slip-on shoulder boards. Thread loops for four badges and a ribbon bar. Quality high relief silver bullion arm eagle. “Slit” under bottom left pocket flap to accommodate a dagger hanger. Green silk lining with striped sleeve linings. “Alexander Sohn – Wien…” tailor’s label. Owner’s pocket label named to “Stbf. O. Skorzeny, X.43″. (Tunic pocket has an unopened box of German wartime “MILDE SORTE” cigarettes). With walking-out dress fine gray wool trousers – piped in white. Both tunic and trousers in excellent condition. For display purposes, a pair of fine black patent leather period dress “saloon boots” have been added. With original soles and heels. (Dress “saloon boots” were a favorite of Austrian officers during the imperial, WWI and Third-Reich Periods.) (2) Waffen-SS officer’s black grained leather belt and buckle. Tan leatherette lining. Two matching black leather “slides”. Round aluminum buckle bearing a relief down-swept winged eagle/swastika and legend with “Meine Ehre Heisst Treue”. Inner belt tongue shows some use, but overall in very good to excellent condition. (3) High peaked quality Waffen-SS officer’s cap. Black band with white piping. Silver bullion cap cord and a “polished” black vulcan visor. Tan leather sweatband and gold silk lining show some wear. Eagle logo/”Extra Klasse” marked moisture shield – with owner’s label “O. Skorzeny -…1943 – No. 260. II”. Close examination shows some minute fine surface matting (hardly noticeable) – would still rate excellent. The above uniform was part of the Otto Skorzeny Collection listed and sold as item A-18 in Mohawk Arms Auction 60 on November 21-22, 2008. Also with a matted and framed postwar 7″ x 5″ color photo of Skorzeny and “cut” signature. Oak frame measures 15 3/8″ x 12 ¼”. SS-Hstufhr. Otto Skorzeny earned a place in history for leading a group of SS commandos in a daring glider raid to free Mussolini from captivity on a mountaintop near Rome, Italy. A rare historical uniform.”
Wartime photographs of Skorzeny show in wearing tunics cut in both the high and open collar style. The above portrait, taken at Hitler’s headquarters the day after the Gran Sasso rescue mission on September 12 1943, show SS-Hauptsturmführer Skorzeny in a standard issue high collar officer’s tunic.  
Bob Coleman, a noted collector of Nazi militaria and a moderator on the War Relics internet forum, wrote in November 2008 about the previous sale through Mohawk Arms of this tunic and cap: “A wonderful, original grouping of Otto Skorzeny material was sold today at auction by Mohawk Arms. I first saw this grouping, which was sold by his daughter, in 1970 at a Ohio Valley Military Collectors Society Show.

“The grouping included a gray open collar tunic, an officer’s visor cap, an officer’s belt and buckle, an engraved German Cross in Gold, his preliminary document for the Ritterkreuz, an officer’s cap for the Vienna Studentenbund along with a leatter [sic] to Skorzeny referencing the cap, a presentation bronze eagle on marble pedistal [sic] given to Skorzeny frorn [sic] the Studentenbund for his rescue of Il Duce and numerous other documents.

“What I found amusing was an underground movement of disparity of these items is to be found on other forums. Numerous on line “experts” panned these items although they never examined them. As I mentioned, I had an opportunity to study these items 38 years ago. They were sold directly to a collector by Skorzeny’s duaghter. [sic] She sold them only after Skorzeny suffered a stroke. I have since learned that other items exist in Austrian collections with the same provenance from Skorzeny’s daughter. Even with the internet chatter on the collection, it sold for $66,000”.

The collector who bought this grouping for $66,000 put the tunic and cap up for sale in Mohawk Arms’ June 2011 sale, together with a pair of white-piped pants that do not appear to have been part of the grouping when it was sold in 1970 and then 2008. The tailor’s label in the tunic gives the date of manufacture as October 1943. Skorzeny was given a home leave after the Gran Sasso operation so perhaps he commissioned the Viennese tailor Alexander Sohn to make him a smart new uniform while he was visiting his family and friends. The reference to the altered rank tab is convincing; Waffen-SS officers often had difficulty sourcing regulation insignia, frequently in short supply, so it is believable that the newly-promoted SS-Sturmbannführer und Ritterkreuztrager might have given Herr Sohn a set of tabs from his time as, for the sake of discussion, an SS-Untersturmführer. The rank tab would have just required an extra pip and a bit of careful repositioning of the existing three pips, with no need to unpick the tresse.

Here is a photograph of SS-Stubaf und RKT Skorzeny at the central railway station in Vienna in October 1943 before returning to duty. He is dressed in what appears to he a brand-new open collar-style tunic with brand-new regulation collar tabs. His visor cap looks new and  the crown appears to be match the shade and color of the tunic. His epaulettes are of the sew-in rather than slip-on type and are clearly Heer pattern as they lack the black underlay of the Waffen-SS regulation epaulettes. However, this tunic and this cap are clearly not the same as the ones sold several times by Mohawk Arms.

In another famous photograph of Otto Skorzeny, taken just after the successful conclusion of Operation Panzerfaust in Budapest in October 1944 as he crossed the palace yard with Walter Girg and Adrian von Folkersam, Skorzeny is wearing an open collar tunic. This is not a high collar field tunic with the collar pressed flat. Nor is the tunic Skorzeny was wearing at the railway station a year before. His SS-Stubaf epaulettes are the slip-on type. Some observers have suggested that this is the tunic said to have been sold by Skorzeny’s daughter in Ohio in 1970 and more recently by Mohawk Arms in 2008 and 2011. However, this tunic has pleated external hip pockets and is noticeably shorter than the tunic offered through Mohawk Arms.

This still from a color newsreel shot at the same time shows Skorzeny emerging from the palace a few moments before the famous photograph taken in the yard. Adrian von Folkersam can be seen just behind Skorzeny. It is quite clear that this tunic is completely different than the one worn in the October 1943 photograph and completely different than the tunic sold by Mohawk Arms. The auction catalog text refers to “fine green wool” whereas the tunic they sold is more of a gray than green hue and more like the tunics worn by Sicherheitsdienst and Polizei officers. Folkersam’s tunic is green, far more so than that of his commanding officer but, even so, Skorzeny’s tunic is not grey or even grey-green. It is green. Apart from the obvious differences in the cut of the lapels, the length and the style of the pockets, this tunic also bears Skorzeny’s Das Reich cuff title whereas the tunic alleged to have belonged to Skorzeny shows no evidence of any cuff title or any means of attachment of a cuff title, even temporary.

When sold in 2008, the alleged Skorzeny grouping included an engraved German Cross in Gold. Of course, it cannot have been the same “engraved” German Cross in Gold involved in a part-exchange deal between Otto Skorzeny and  American collector William McClure as pictured above. The decoration is shown with five letters from Skorzeny to McClure on the former’s Madrid letterhead and dating from January to July 1973, three years after Skorzeny’s daughter is said to have sold the grouping containing the tunic and cap, together with another engraved German Cross in Gold.


On January 25 1973, Skorzeny tells Mr McClure: “…a new original German Cross in Gold is very very rare to find and it costs in Germany between DM 2.800 and DM 3.500…this is really too much money for you…” On February 12 1973, Skorzeny writes: “I received the German cross, exactly the same, in Hitler’s headquarters in double, i.e. two pieces. I kept one, and this is the one which is completely new, and the other one I have been wearing during the war…this German cross in gold was awarded to me for my Budapest action and with the date 16th October 1944. But I certainly will not mention, that I sold it to you…”  Otto certainly earned the German Cross in Gold for Operation Panzerfaust, as this write-up from his personnel file shows.

Otto reassures McClure on April 26 1973: “…this medal is my second authentic exemplar…which I send you in exchange for other war documents I received from you…” McClure questions the date stamped into the reverse of the German Cross and Otto comes back on May 17 1973 with: “I am really astonished to hear from you that the inscription of the year on the medal is wrong. I received this medal with the inscription about two months after having received the first medal, and I put this medal away immediately, and it was kept for me by an old aunt in Austria till I fetched it, about 10 years ago…somebody in the Headquarters made a mistake…”


McClure is wavering so Otto reassures him on July 7 1973: “Concerning the experts for medals there are certainly some who understand a lot and other who understand much less. I am certain the qualities of German medals during World War II have changed. I caught my German Cross in gold only end of October 1944 and the second duplicate perhaps December 1944. I can only assure you that the medal I sent you is an original one…”. But wait a minute! On February 12 1973, Otto told McClure that he got this German Cross at the same time as the one awarded to him by Hitler in October 1944.
  
If there was indeed a mistake in the Führerhauptquartier, it was not that the motor pool mechanic entrusted with stamping the reverse of the German Cross in Gold with Skorzeny’s name and the date of the award got the date wrong. It was that they slipped up in providing evidence that the Nazis were capable of time travel. The Führer managed to give Skorzeny a decoration consisting of a 1957 pattern German Cross in Gold made by Steinhauer & Lück, who were not authorized to produce this award during the Second World War, fitted with a nice-looking swastika.

The Skorzeny family seem to have made an industry of gulling American collectors. How many tunics did Otto have during World War Two, when cloth and materials were tightly rationed? Most Waffen-SS officers were lucky if they had two tunics, one for the field and one for parade or walking-out. Many just had one. Otto was a rich boy and was even richer after the war so maybe he had dozens of tunics. Just as he had dozens of German Crosses. And a time machine. One thing is sure, though: he was one of the most-photographed and filmed of the late war German military celebrities but not a single photograph shows him wearing this tunic or a visor cap with such a low crown.

The collector who paid $66,000 in 2008 for the Skorzeny grouping seems nevertheless to have decided to keep the engraved German Cross in Gold and the preliminary Knight’s Cross document with a very questionable Schmundt signature, as well as some other objects, including the Viennese Studentenbund cap and the Studentenbund’s magnificent gift to their former member marking his rescue of Benito Mussolini. The Schmundt signature? Oh yes, it was upside-down. 
 Otto Skorzeny Grouping Sold At Auction-dscn3094.jpg
This lavish gift consists of a large bronze eagle mounted on a bronze base with a dedication in Fraktur text. Otto Skorzeny was an honorary official of the Vienna HSDStB. But did Skorzeny’s youthful fans at the Vienna branch of the NSDStB knew that bronze was a restricted resource by that stage of the war and that Martin Bormann had issued a decree on January 3 1941 on behalf of the Führer banning the use of Fraktur for the following reasons: “It is false to regard or describe the so-called Gothic typeface as a German typeface. In reality the so-called Gothic typeface consists of Schwabacher-Jewish letters. Just as they later came to own the newspapers, the Jews living in Germany also owned the printing presses when the printing of books was introduced and thus came about the strong influx into Germany of Schwabacher-Jewish letters.” 


The Viennese Studentenbund was a National Socialist Party organization. As such, they should also have picked up on the misspelling of the rank abbreviation: SS-Stuf. The normal abbreviation was SS-Stubaf or SS-Stbf, SS-Stuf being meaningless in terms of SS-Sturmbannführer. Perhaps the dedication was done by the same craftsman who produced the SA-Feldherrnhalle presentation dagger given to Hermann Göring by Viktor Lütze in 1937, or so whoever salted that particular auction would like some fool to believe.
Otto Skorzeny
In the above still taken from a newsreel shot on the Oder Front in in the Schwedt Bridgehead February 1945, Skorzeny, promoted SS-Obersturmbannführer in December 1944, is wearing a high collar field tunic. 

This photograph of SS-Obersturmbannführer und Eichenlaubtrager Skorzeny, taken just after his surrender in May 1945 shows that the tunic he wore into captivity was indeed the one he wore in Budapest in October 1945: note the high position of his arm eagle. 


Skorzeny in captivity a few months later. Is that the outline of a packet of Milde Sorte cigarettes in his righthand breast pocket? Perhaps, but this appears to be the same tunic Skorzeny was wearing in Budapest in October 1944. It must be remembered that materials like cloth were strictly rationed in wartime Germany and the Occupied Territories and that Waffen-SS officers, as the dwindling numbers who are still with us, were lucky if they could acquire a spare tunic for walking out purposes. Most of them had to make do with just one tunic. 

According to photographic evidence, Skorzeny certainly had three tunics from late 1943 through the Spring of 1945: the regulation high collar tunic and two low collar designs. He may have had a second high collar tunic. Neither of the low collar tunics shown in the photographs and films of “Scarface” resemble the tunic that has changed hands for tens of thousands of dollars. Nor is there any photograph showing Otto Skorzeny wearing a cap resembling the one sold with the alleged Skorzeny grouping.

How many gullible collectors did Otto turn over after the war? We shall probably never know but the tradition continues, with the German dealer André Huesken offering this ensemble for around $120,000 at the time of the 2008 Mohawk Arms sale of the Skorzeny grouping. However, Skorzeny’s Pilot-Observer Badge with Diamonds will be the subject of a future article.


Wilbur C Stump
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