Hitler's Armored
Mercedes Center
Of Museum Controversy
Chris Cobb
The Ottawa Citizen
Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen / Lucie Brosseau, communications officer with the Canadian War Museum, stands beside the Mercedes used by Hitler.
U.S. National Archives / Hitler shakes hands with Hermann Goering after delivering a 1940 speech at Kroll Opera House. The war museum's Mercedes awaits with Hitler's driver, Erich Kemka, at the wheel.
Adolf Hitler's bulletproof Mercedes limousine should be removed from Canada's War Museum because it glorifies the evils of Nazism and sends the wrong message to visitors, says the museum's chief.
Jack Granatstein says the sleek black car could fetch millions of dollars at auction -- perhaps as much as $20 million -- but concedes that if the museum does decide to sell the vehicle it could face a horrible dilemma.
"If we put it up at auction," he said, "we can't control who buys it. This car would be such a powerful icon for a neo-Nazi or extreme group. If it fell into the wrong hands, we would feel very foolish, and worse. The possible consequences are frightening."
But, said Mr. Granatstein, money raised for the car would help the cash-strapped museum in its struggle to fund a new home.
"There would be a wonderful sense of satisfaction in using Hitler's car to help build a new Canadian war museum and honour Canada's ordinary men and women who helped defeat that s.o.b.," he said.
No decision has been made by the museum's board of directors about whether to sell the car, which was given to the museum as a gift in 1970 by a Quebec City businessman who wrongly thought it belonged to Hitler's Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering.
The museum's research was able to uncover the link to Hitler about a decade later, and it has been able to confirm the serial number with Mercedes.
The limousine, one of the most popular exhibits at the museum, is surrounded by the exterior wall of a Bavarian-type house. In the background is a huge Nazi flag and opposite the car is a small photograph of the Holocaust obscured by a bust of Hitler. Next to the bust is a dummy in the black suit of Hitler's notorious SS.
Mr. Granatstein says the exhibit is badly done, objectionable and conflicts with the war museum's mandate, which allows the exhibition of enemy weaponry, such as tanks, used against Canadians, but not personal vehicles.
Canadians' ignorance of history makes matters worse, the prominent historian says.
"If you look at the car, the instinct is to say, 'Hitler must have been a real cool guy to have such a sharp car.' People come away with a sense of the power and glamour of that regime rather than its horror. Because of the passage of time, and a lack of historical knowledge, Hitler is as far removed for most Canadians as Napoleon and Julius Caesar. They don't have the context because they know nothing about Hitler or the Second World War."
There have been no public complaints, or compliments, about the limousine.
The car, one of seven in the German leader's fleet of Mercedes limousines, is more than six metres long and two metres wide. It weighs 4,100 kilograms and was capable of speeds of up to 170 km/h.
There is a compartment in the front dashboard, and two in the rear seats, for holding pistols. The doors and windows are bulletproof and an armour plate could be raised behind the rear passenger seat.
Claude Pratte, the Quebec City businessman who donated the car to the museum, bought it from a Montreal collector who had purchased it for $2,725 at an American army auction in Maryland.
The car was discovered by a U.S. serviceman in a Salzburg, Austria, railway siding in April 1945 and was painted in U.S. army colours and driven around Germany before being shipped to Boston in 1946. It stayed in storage for 10 years.
The car has a bullet-shattered window by the front passenger seat and seven bullet holes, all of which were there when it was found in Austria. The circumstances of the damage are not known, but it may have been caused by aircraft fire near the end of the war, after Hitler committed suicide.
The Mercedes is the same car seen in many newsreels and newspaper photographs of Hitler. The whereabouts of the six other cars in the Hitler fleet is a mystery, but Mr. Granatstein doubts any of the others still exist.
Mr. Granatstein has little doubt there would be potential buyers for the car.
"Some fellow wrote from Kingston a few months ago and offered $15,000 to take it off my hands," he said.
"I wrote back and told him I could do a little better than that."
The Ottawa Citizen 2-8-2000
OTTAWA (CP) -- After a flood of irate phone calls and e-mails, Jack Granatstein, head of the Canadian War Museum, has abandoned the idea of selling a black Mercedes limousine that once belonged to Adolf Hitler. "It's clear it would be flying in the face of public opinion to try and sell this car," said Granatstein, who mused last week that the vehicle might bring $20 million at auction.
He argued that displaying the vintage car gave the wrong image and glamourized Nazism and that money from the sale would help build a new museum.
However, he also worried that the car might fall into the wrong hands. It would be a powerful icon for a neo-Nazi group, he said. Now, the question of the sale appears to have been answered.
John English, chairman of the board of trustees which controls the museum and would have to approve such a sale, said the public has spoken. "We now know how important the car is to many Canadians," he said. "It's good we had this debate because it's shown the interest people have in the War Museum."


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