The ornate baton of a Nazi field marshal convicted of war crimes against Italian citizens during World War II caused a sensation in Towson Saturday when it brought $731,600 at auction, far more than Alex Cooper auctioneers or the baton's owner ever expected.
The 19-inch ceremonial baton, once the property of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe, had been listed with an estimated value of between $10,000 and $15,000 by Alex Cooper before the auction. The baton was wrapped in bright blue velvet and adorned with white and yellow gold and enamel insignias and crosses.
P. Raab Christhilf of Alex Cooper said the baton drew international attention and both online and in-person bids. He declined to name the owner who had consigned the baton for auction, but a description of the item's provenance appeared on Alex Cooper's website.
"Consignor states that his father was a Private First Class, and served as a scout for the United States 2nd Armored Division during World War II," the website said, noting that the unnamed private was "in the first American Jeep to enter Berlin in July 1945."
In Berlin, with the war over, the private was ordered to explore castles that had been used by German officers. One of his duties was to check rooms for booby traps. "He recovered the Field Marshal Baton in one of those reconnoiters," the website said. "It was in his possession from that time in 1945 until his death in 1977, and then remained with his widow subsequent to his passing. The baton then passed to her son, the consignor, upon the passing of his mother."
Alex Cooper did not release the name of the baton's consignor or the high bidder.
The original owner, Kesselring, is described in the Encyclopaedia Britannica as "one of Adolf Hitler's top defensive strategists during World War II." After being released from prison because of ill health in 1952, Kesselring died at age 74 in 1960.