Hitler's phone sells for $240,000 at auction

A US-based auction house says the red phone, complete with Nazi party symbol, was bought by an unnamed bidder. The phone was described as "arguably the most destructive 'weapon' of all time."

Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler's phone sold on Sunday afternoon to a person who bid by phone, said Andreas Kornfeld of Alexander Historical Auctions, without naming the buyer.

Bidding for the phone started at $100,000 (94,000 euros) and the successful bidder paid $243,000, the Maryland-based auctioneer added.

Germany, the original drug lab

Off to war

The Nazis sent doped-up soldiers to the front in Poland in 1939 and to France the following year. During the invasion of France, a whopping 35 million tablets of the methamphetamine Pervitin were distributed to soldiers, who named the miracle pill "Panzerschokolade" ("tank chocolate"). It wasn't just the Germans, however: the Allies gave their troops drugs, too.

Germany, the original drug lab

Alert and fearless

A Japanese chemist created a liquid version of what was to become the German Wehrmacht's miracle pill. The Berlin-based drug firm Temmler refined the drug and took out a patent in 1937. A year later, Pervitin was sold over the counter. It left people alert, fearless, and without need of food or drink. Pervitin is still on the market - illegally - and under a different name: Crystal Meth.

Germany, the original drug lab

His own best customer?

Historians disagree over whether the Führer himself was addicted to Pervitin. Files kept by Hitler's personal doctor, Theo Morell, show a scribbled "x" in reference to a cocktail of medication he was given on any given day - but it isn't exactly clear what it refers to. We do know, though, that Hitler was on a mix of powerful drugs.

Germany, the original drug lab

"Miracle drug" Heroin

German chemists' inventive talents go back even further than the Nazi era, however. "No cough thanks to heroin," was the ad slogan for a cough medicine produced by the German drug company Bayer in the late 19th century. Heroin was prescribed to patients - adults and children - suffering from epilepsy, asthma, schizophrenia and heart disease. Any side effects? Bayer listed constipation.

Germany, the original drug lab

Creative Chemists

Felix Hoffmann is perhaps best known for inventing Aspirin. But that's not all. He also developed heroin while experimenting with acetic acid. Hoffmann combined the acid with morphine, an extract from the poppy pod. Heroin was legal in Germany until 1971 when it was finally outlawed.

Germany, the original drug lab

Cocaine for opthamologists

In 1862, the Darmstadt-based firm Merck started producing large amounts of cocaine as a local anesthetic for ophthalmologists. German chemist, Albert Niemann, had previously isolated an alkaloid he named cocaine from South American coca leaves. Niemann died shortly after discovering cocaine - of lung problems.

Germany, the original drug lab

Euphoria and vitality

Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the "father of psychoanalysis," consumed cocaine for scientific purposes. In his Cocaine Papers study, Freud described the drug as harmless. He observed "euphoria, more vitality and [a] capacity for work." His enthusiasm waned, however, after a friend died of an overdose. At that time doctors prescribed cocaine for headaches and stomach problems.

Germany, the original drug lab

MDMA patent

American chemist, Alexander Shulgin, is widely believed to have invented the party drug ecstasy. But in reality, he rediscovered the compound. The German firm Merck had originally developed and filed for a patent for a colorless oil under the name 3,4-Methylendioxymethamphetamine - MDMA - in 1912. Back then, chemists thought the substance had no commercial value.

Germany, the original drug lab

The past casts a long shadow

These German chemists' inventions are still having an impact today. According to estimates by the United Nations about 190,000 people died worldwide in 2013 because of illegal drug consumption. However, alcohol, a legal drug, is responsible for far more deaths. The WHO says 5.9 percent of all deaths in 2012 were due to alcohol consumption - that's 3.3 million people.

Originally a black Bakelite phone, later painted crimson and engraved with Hitler's name, the relic was found in the Nazi leader's Berlin bunker in 1945 following the regime's defeat in World War II.

Occupying Russian officers gave the phone to a British officer, Sir Ralph Rayner, whose son inherited it and later put it up for sale.

Genuine article

Research and photographs prove its provenance and authenticity, according to the auction house. 

The phone was used in vehicles and trains as well as Hitler's field headquarters.

According to an online catalog, the handset of the phone must be rotated almost 60 degrees before it can be lifted out of its cradle. This feature kept the handset from shaking loose while being transported.

The auction house labeled the phone a "weapon of mass destruction," noting that the orders Hitler gave over the phone took many lives.

A spokesman said the seller and auction house hope it ends up in a museum, where people who see it "really understand what extreme fascist thinking can bring about."

Kornfeld says a porcelain figure of an Alsatian dog, also owned by Hitler, also sold Sunday to a different bidder for $24,300.

More than a thousand other items were also auctioned off.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)

As Hitler's Propaganda Minister, the virulently anti-Semitic Goebbels was responsible for making sure a single, iron-clad Nazi message reached every citizen of the Third Reich. He strangled freedom of the press, controlled all media, arts, and information, and pushed Hitler to declare "Total War." He and his wife committed suicide in 1945, after poisoning their six children.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

The leader of the German National Socialist Workers' Party (Nazi) developed his anti-Semitic, anti-communist and racist ideology well before coming to power as Chancellor in 1933. He undermined political institutions to transform Germany into a totalitarian state. From 1939 to 1945, he led Germany in World War II while overseeing the Holocaust. He committed suicide in April 1945.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945)

As leader of the Nazi paramilitary SS ("Schutzstaffel"), Himmler was one of the Nazi party members most directly responsible for the Holocaust. He also served as Chief of Police and Minister of the Interior, thereby controlling all of the Third Reich's security forces. He oversaw the construction and operations of all extermination camps, in which more than 6 million Jews were murdered.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Rudolf Hess (1894-1987)

Hess joined the Nazi party in 1920 and took part in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, a failed Nazi attempt to gain power. While in prison, he helped Hitler write "Mein Kampf." Hess flew to Scotland in 1941 to attempt a peace negotiation, where he was arrested and held until the war's end. In 1946, he stood trial in Nuremberg and was sentenced to life in prison, where he died.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962)

Alongside Himmler, Eichmann was one of the chief organizers of the Holocaust. As an SS Lieutenant colonel, he managed the mass deportations of Jews to Nazi extermination camps in Eastern Europe. After Germany's defeat, Eichmann fled to Austria and then to Argentina, where he was captured by the Israeli Mossad in 1960. Tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity, he was executed in 1962.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Hermann Göring (1893-1946)

A participant in the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Göring became the second-most powerful man in Germany once the Nazis took power. He founded the Gestapo, the Secret State Police, and served as Luftwaffe commander until just before the war's end, though he increasingly lost favor with Hitler. Göring was sentenced to death at Nuremberg but committed suicide the night before it was enacted.

mm/bw (AFP, AP)