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Hitler's golden bookmark stolen

The sale of Nazi memorabilia has angered some countries
The sale of Nazi memorabilia has angered some countries

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MADRID, Spain -- A gold bookmark given to Hitler by his lover Eva Braun to cheer him up after Soviet troops crushed the German army has been stolen.

Professional thieves stole the 18-carat gold gift that was on show at the Duran Subastas auction house in central Madrid and was due to be auctioned on Tuesday for a starting price of $5,000, according to officials.

In January 1943, the German 6th Army capitulated to Stalin's Soviet troops after the long, grim Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd).

The defeat pushed Hitler into depression. His long-term lover Braun tried to coax him out of it with the bookmark gift, engraved with words of encouragement, a portrait of Hitler himself, a swastika and a four-leaf clover for luck, auctioneer Santiago Duran told Reuters last month.

"My Adolf, don't worry ... (the defeat) ... was only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory. My love for you will be eternal, just as our Reich will be eternal," the inscription reads.

Last week three East European men entered the auction house, forced open a cabinet containing several gold objects -- including the bookmark -- grabbed them and made a run for the door, police said on Monday.

"Shop staff managed to catch one and recover several items but the other two escaped with the bookmark and another piece," a police spokeswoman said.

A source at the auction house said the gang said probably had no idea what they had snatched.

"These guys, from Moldova we think, are part of a professional gang specialising in valuable objects, but we don't think they were stealing to order or even that they knew what they were actually taking," the source said.

The last robbery in the two-story auction house was about 10 years ago, she added, Reuters reported.

The owner of the bookmark has not been revealed but newspaper reports last month said it belonged to a relative of Wilhelm Keitel, former commander-in-chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, who was executed as a war criminal in 1946.

The sale of Nazi memorabilia has inflamed passions in some countries. There are severe restrictions in Germany itself, while in France a criminal court said earlier this year it would try U.S. Internet giant Yahoo for allegedly condoning war crimes by allowing such sales on its Web sites.

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