By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Josef Mengele's diary, written in exile after he fled the Auschwitz concentration camp as Allied troops advanced in 1945, has been sold to the grandson of a camp survivor who vividly recalls how the "doctor" used to wear white gloves while pointing to prisoners as they arrived, indicating who would live and who would die.
Auctioneer Bill Panagopulos, who first revealed the document to Washington Whispers, would not disclose the final price or name of the buyer but told us he is confident the rare Mengele document would end up in a Holocaust museum. In a statement, he said, "The Josef Mengele document offered by Alexander Autographs has just been privately sold for an undisclosed sum to a U.S. East Coast Jewish philanthropist who wishes to remain anonymous. The buyer is the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor who personally encountered Mengele at the infamous death camp. He intends to donate the manuscript to a museum devoted to the Holocaust."
Panagopulos, president of Alexander Autographs, also said that "it is better that it goes somewhere where the public has access to it than a collector's closet." He plans to give a portion of the proceeds to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Two Jewish groups criticized the sale in press statements, but Panagopulos said it is important to preserve and share historical documents, even those of war criminals. He also indicated that he has not received a single E-mail or telephone message criticizing him for offering the text. Besides Americana items like a Cal Ripken baseball, the recent sale included several items that used to belong to Adolf Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, and John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
And despite the slumping economy, Panagopulos said that high-quality historical items remain in demand. "We saw very spirited bidding for fresh, high-quality material. Collectors and investors never really left the autograph market. On the contrary, they see better material as a good investment and a potential hedge against inflation, and as a result, we're seeing prices that at times exceeded our estimates by a factor of five or 10 times." Just consider the super-rare Nazi silver presentation frame of a signed Hitler photograph. The expected price was $15,000 to $20,000, but the winning bid was $55,000.