Newsletter No. 226 October 4, 2016

Newsletter No. 226 October 4, 2016

Note: Here is an article by Mr. Stump, who is an expert on many aspects of German militaria fraud. This concerns a Knights Cross document for a German paratrooper general in specific but in general, it gives a great deal of valuable background on how fakes are created, advertised and sold. Names are mentioned. Mr. Stump has a number of such articles which we will be very pleased to publish for our readership. –ed

 

THE CONRATH DOCUMENTS SCAM PRELUDE

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Note: Here is an article by Mr. Stump, who is an expert on many aspects of German militaria fraud. This concerns a Knights Cross document for a German paratrooper general in specific but in general, it gives a great deal of valuable background on how fakes are created, advertised and sold. Names are mentioned. Mr. Stump has a number of such articles which we will be very pleased to publish for our readership. –ed

Generalmajor und Eichenlaubtrager Paul Conrath was the Commander of the Hermann Göring Division. One of the more remarkable scandals to hit the military world broke early in 2003, when I reported that the noted collector George Petersen, who concentrated to a great extent on Herman Göring Division-related documents, had been alerted at the 2002 MAX Show that two major pieces in his HG collection, the formal RK and OL documents to divisional commander Paul Conrath, were high quality fakes. Generalmajor Conrath died in 1979 and some time later, so the cover story fed to Mr Petersen went, the Conrath family had decided to separate themselves from these documents, amongst other things.
George Petersen confirmed that he was approached at a military show in Dortmund in the early 1990s by the Hamburg dealer Detlev Niemann, who offered him the documents set “straight from the family”. Mr Niemann was already gaining a reputation amongst American collectors as a dealer who could source extraordinary items for their collections of Third Reich memorabilia and, his reputation being clean, Mr Petersen clearly saw no reason for suspicion. Had he known, however, that the documents were actually straight from fellow Hamburg dealer Kai Winkler, he might have exercised more caution.

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Sebastian Bianchi
The fake documents were good enough to fool an experienced document collector of the calibre of George Petersen and were said by many to have been produced by the father of Kai Winkler. That the Oakleaves document and its cassette found their way into one of the two or three leading reference works on the Iron Cross 1939 is no reflection on the author, Gordon Williamson, who in any case would just have received publication quality scans. The Ritterkreuz folder, which was also shown in Mr Williamson’s book, and the Eichenlaub cassette were both original.
The following article was written in February 2004 and initially published in the form of posts on the Wehrmacht-Awards Dot Com and the German-Daggers Dot Com websites, where I had been a moderator with the late Bill Stump. It was quickly deleted from both websites. This version was subsequently published on the ‘rebel’ Militaria Collecting Forum website. Threads containing links to the MCF version were rigorously deleted by the managements of the WAF and GDC forums, whose webmasters Sebastián Bianchi and Craig Gottlieb were at the time trying to establish a joint-monopoly on militaria-related information on the internet and had no wish to upset the dealers backing their websites.

THE CONRATH DOCUMENTS SCAM
One of the bigger scandals to hit the militaria market was hushed up for a while but details are beginning to emerge as the victim speaks out. Legendary American collector and dealer George Petersen has a particular interest in the Hermann Göring Division and related units.

 

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Top German dealer Detlev Niemann reportedly approached Mr Petersen privately to see if he would be interested in the formal award documents for the Knight’s Cross and the Oakleaves presented to the Hermann Göring divisional commander, Generalmajor Paul Conrath in 1941 and 1943. Mr Petersen purchased the Conrath documents from Mr Niemann for a substantial sum, said to be in the region of $80,000.00.

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The document was subsequently featured in militaria author Gordon Williamson’s book The Iron Cross of 1939, published in 2002, which is considered to be the definitive reference work to date on the Iron Cross of WW2. At the MAX Show in October 2002, Mr Petersen was in the process of selling the Conrath Oakleaves document to another leading document collector. German dealer Helmut Weitze, intervened, recounting a disturbing story to the prospective buyer.
Mr Weitze said that the Conrath Oakleaves document was a fake and alleged that Mr Petersen had been the victim of a carefully planned ‘sting’ conceived and executed by Mr Niemann and Kai Winkler, another top German dealer. Mr Petersen was understandably sceptical because the three German dealers in question are bitter rivals. Furthermore, the Conrath document was perfect in every respect. Or so Mr Petersen thought. But according to his informant, the faker had incorporated a secret mark into his work in the form of a diamond-shaped full stop, known to a handful of accomplices but invisible to the untutored eye.
Mr Petersen duly examined the Conrath document and discovered the faker’s mark. The document was indeed a fake but such a good fake that it had convinced one of the world’s authorities on WW2 German documents to part with a high five-figure sum. According to Mr Petersen, he contacted Detlev Niemann and during the conversation that ensued, gave him an ultimatum; Mr Niemann was to reimburse Mr Petersen by the end of February or face exposure by Mr Petersen as a crook.
Mr Niemann was reportedly unable to refund Mr Petersen’s money in full because his accomplice refused to return his share of the proceeds of the scam, telling Mr Niemann that there was no proof that he was involved. According to sources close to Mr Petersen, he and Mr Niemann came to a financial arrangement and Mr Niemann was thus spared public exposure by Mr Petersen as a crook who had deliberately entered into an ambitious criminal enterprise with a business rival to swindle one of the world’s top collectors and foremost authorities on documents.
However, the story has been in circulation since the beginning of 2003. In January 2003, I put the story to Sebastian Bianchi, webmaster of the Wehrmacht-Awards Dot Com website, which promotes Detlev Niemann to its large membership as a trustworthy and reliable dealer. As Mr Bianchi wrote on on April 29th 2002: “Detlev Niemann has been a friend of this site and this forum since its inception. He not only sponsors the site in an official capacity but also provides support in ways that are above and beyond this commitment. You know from your purchase success rate that he hardly needs the advertisement, yet he supports the site and the hobby in ways that other dealers and auction houses would never dream of. If I sound like a cheerleading band it is because I personally hold deep respect for the man.”
Mr Niemann is widely believed to be a joint-owner of the Wehrmacht Awards concern, described dubiously as a non-profit organisation. Mr Bianchi and his forum moderators are well known for a tendency to discourage and to delete negative comments related to Detlev Niemann from the discussion forums hosted by Wehrmacht Awards Dot Com.
Mr Bianchi had called me to discuss some negative comments I had made about his “friend” and “sponsor” Mr Niemann in relation to several fakes that Mr Niemann had sold, including Army Parachutists Badges and a Legion Condor Tank Badge. I had previously been banned from Mr Bianchi’s website after a member there had linked to a Luftwaffe badge, purchased from Mr Niemann, displayed in the collectors’ gallery section of a website I co-own. The badge was discussed on Mr Bianchi’s forums and declared a fake. It was indeed a fake but when I produced the Certificate of Authenticity accompanying the badge when it was sold to a French collector, and published it on Mr Bianchi’s website, in the thread where my website was being criticised for showing fakes, the thread was closed, my post was deleted and my account was suspended. This is just one example from a catalogue of similar incidents involving several people who have all been banned by Mr Bianchi for “attacking” Mr Niemann.
Upon hearing the story of the Conrath document from me on the telephone, Mr Bianchi sounded very uncomfortable indeed. His aggressive tone evaporated. He was silent for a moment and then asked if there was “any proof”. I suggested that he call George Petersen. He was again silent for a moment before saying “Well, let’s wait and see what happens.”, referring to the ultimatum given to Mr Niemann by Mr Petersen. Mr Bianchi then changed the subject. Since then, Mr Bianchi has become protective of Mr Niemann to the point of hysteria as this quote when he closed down a thread shows: “This thread has run its course, Detlev’s integrity needs no further endorsement and I will not open this up for posts by those who do not have the sense to recognize that sometimes issues needs to be discussed via private e-mail
The reason, according to several inside sources, is that Niemann is not just a “sponsor” of the Wehrmacht Awards operation. He is a sleeping partner in an operation whose management – and certain members – devote a remarkable amount of energy to promoting Mr Niemann and his dealership. The Conrath Document Affair exposes certain truths that many militaria collectors are reluctant to face. If collectors as experienced as George Petersen can be taken for a ride in this way, what else is possible? As one collector said:
“The reason many of them are worried is that their knowledge of what they collect is actually insufficient in itself and instead of investing the time and effort in educating themselves, they place sheeplike faith in the dealer annointed as their guru. This is why they tend to shoot the messenger.”
Meanwhile, Mr Bianchi’s operation continues to grow in size, forming alliances with other websites like Militariaweb, derided by many top European collectors as nothing more than an outlet for dealers unloading questionable items which they either cannot risk selling under their own names or which have already been returned by dissatisfied customers and consequently are sold off through such auction websites by dealers’ frontmen or the dealers themselves, operating behind the anonymity afforded by the internet. As for Detlev Niemann, some idea of the man behind the myth can be gleaned from his own statements.
In another example from the record, Mr Niemann sends out a clear signal to Mr Bianchi that he is in difficulties, on this occasion over a flawed die Steinhauer & Lück Knight’s Cross for sale on his website. A number of forum participants had asked awkward questions about this cross. Mr Niemann had responded with customary aggression but found himself ‘on the ropes’. So Mr Bianchi duly obliged by stepping in to warn everyone off. His reference to the “ring” is interesting. He was confusing two issues. I had earlier made a reference publicly to the Conrath document episode and Mr Bianchi was furious as he had threatened me with immediate expulsion if I ever raised the matter publicly, not just on his forum but anywhere. I had not used the term “ring” – as in a ring of conmen or car thieves – so his slip is a telling one.
It would be surprising indeed if Mr Niemann were on speaking terms with his colleagues in Germany. One of them grassed him and his accomplice up over the Conrath document scam and the other, his partner in this criminal enterprise, left him holding the baby when the furious buyer came a-knocking. Presumably George Petersen is now on Detlev Niemann’s blacklist.

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6 thoughts on “Newsletter No. 226 October 4, 2016

  1. Now this is a very good article. Very well written and obviously researched. I see some militaria show is advertising “Hitler’s telephone from his bunker.” The Russians took the bunker and I have a picture of Russian soldier sitting in Hitler’s room, holding his phone. It is not the same phone! I guess the phone at the show must be the real one and the period picture just another boring lie. Interesting that after all the anti-Hitler books and so on that he is still of great interest. Go into any hobby shop and look at the plastic armor kits and 95% of them are German WW II. Shocking! What about Israeli tanks? Russian tanks? Or even Bulgarian tanks? What will the crooks come up with next? Hitler painting set? Eva Braun’s napkin ring? It’s very funny to look at all this silly garbage but what about the pin-heads who buy these fakes? Tens of thousands of dollars for very fake “rare” daggers, Hitler paintings that look like they were done by children, super rare diamond-covered medals found in some Austrian castle’s huge vault, and such like. The dealers practice delusion but even funnier are the collectors who practice self-delusion. Hitler’s gold-plated shoe horn anybody?
    Misha

    1. Yes, we will be putting up many more Stump articles in the future.
      I can just hear the howls of rage from the deluded ones on the forums!
      If I feel depressed with the American political scene, I look at the internet ads for “rare, unique” militaria and laugh for hours.
      The “camouflage” German military helmets, rare fantasy daggers and the entertaining lies frantic dealers and their customers make up about them and yes, the Klessheim Treasures!
      They found four medals there and all are in the West Point Museum as I speak but no, Famous Dealers discovered that a US Army unit (that wasn’t in existence until 1950) found and hauled away thousands of diamond-studded badges.
      The German Cross in Gold with Diamonds is an example.
      There were three prospective period copies made and all three are in the museum but suddenly, clever dealers have found dozens more hiding in the old suitcases of recently deceased veterans, many of whom served in the Pacific and never saw Europe.
      Lies have short legs and those who buy lies will vote for Hillary.
      ADR

  2. Gentlemen:
    I have published material on the many fakes of the Third Reich period and am impressed with the clarity and accuracy of the Stump article. I have some knowledge of this Conrath fraud which I uncovered when I was working with the German State Attorney’s office on the theft of German documents from the State Archives.
    I know who made both the papers and the cassette for the Grand Cross and I will forward this information to you under separate cover. Exposing the frauds and the fraud merchants is like trying to sweep sand off the beach but I am happy to see Mr. Stump’s excellent articles and hope you publish more of them.
    Regards,
    Gregory Douglas

    1. Mr. Douglas:
      I have read your book, “The Crooked Cross” and enjoyed your sense of humor.
      Others, need I say, have not.
      Yes, exposing fakes, fakers, liars and their many books on fakes is a very time-consuming project but I am not one to give up.
      We have a file of articles by Mr. Stump and a Russian dagger expert that we will be publishing.
      Like myself, Mr. Stump is hated by many ignorant collectors and many more dealers so using his excellent material will cause more spastic colon.
      And might we use excerpts from the “Crooked Cross?”
      And we just discovered who made the fake documents for the Grand Cross that were sold to a Chinese collector for one million dollars.
      Look for that article soon.
      Kind regards,
      ADR

  3. These articles by the Stump person are very good. Detailed and illustrated, I have been reading over a stack of them and I agree that you ought to publish far more of them. From the internet gossip sites, I gather the boobies hate him as much as they hate you so he must be OK.
    Misha

    1. We have a trove of Stump articles. Some have been around for a few years but all are timely and many collectors have not heard of him before. They will soon enough. He has dug up the name of the American dealer who had the notorious million-dollar “Grand Cross” document made in India (and China) and will be publishing the entire scandal on the Royster site in the very near future. And more information on fake Knights Crosses, rare prototype swords and daggers and other fascinating subjects. Stay tuned. Oh yes, also we are doing a hit piece on Jimmy Atwood’s “Hitler assassination rifle” that he had made while working for the CIA in Berlin. If you have copies of ‘Waffen Revue” you can see this abortion displayed on the cover of one issue.
      ADR

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