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Hitler's Treasure

The Hitler Treasure was found in the last days of World War Two. It was hidden under the bed of a US soldier for three decades. He sold it to a Nevada businessman who revealed it briefly. Now the treasure has disappeared again. The only traces of it are Hitler’s Golden Gun which was sold to and is on display at West Point Military Academy and these world exclusive photographs of the treasure taken by Ron Laytner. By Ron Laytner Copyright 2011 Edit International GENOA, NEVADA - For 29 years the treasure lay wrapped in a box under an American soldier's bed somewhere in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It had belonged to Adolf Hitler and it's priceless. The American, a former combat veteran of the U.S. Army's 144th Division had taken part in the plunder of a Munich building in 1945 at the end of the Second World War What he brought home sheds some light on the last thoughts of a beaten Adolf Hitler. What the soldier lost and gave away staggers the imagination. For many years the treasure belonged to a retired millionaire American cheese manufacturer who kept it in the vault of a Nevada bank for his own private satisfaction. But then Ray Bily, of Genoa, Nevada, 14 miles south of the state capitol at Carson City, decided to let the world share in the secret treasure he had acquired. For many years it was believed Adolf Hitler had considered leaving an almost-defeated Nazi Germany for Argentina, much like Kaiser Wilhelm before him who abdicated and went into exile in Holland, ending the First World War. Instead, Hitler died a suicide in his bunker below the Reich Chancellery building in Berlin. But if he had escaped, what would he have taken? What was precious to a man who had his choice of anything in the Germany of his time? This is the treasure Bily revealed. It happened in Munich as an American combat soldier (Bily would never reveal his identity) entered the largely untouched Fuhrerbau - one of several buildings in the Konigsplatz, next to a building honoring the Nazi party's first members killed in the 1923 Munich Putsch for which Hitler went to jail. In a tape recording owned by Bily, the Sergeant said: "We were being billeted in a building next to a Nazi shrine in which a bunch of Hitler's top men had been buried. The building had already been partly looted by GI's and local Germans. Most of the furniture had been pulled out. But there were still racks of oil paintings, all carefully marked as to artist, country and frame-size. Boxes of broken crystal, much of it engraved with the initials "A H" lay scattered on the first floor, some still unbroken. Heavy stuff, or glass, nothing soldiers could carry off. "I was one of three survivors of a platoon that had been wiped out and replaced twice in the three years it had taken us to get to Germany after our original landing in North Africa. "We were looking for souvenirs, flags with swastikas or maybe a ceremonial dagger but this building had been pretty well gone over." And yet, in the basement of the Fuhrerbau, that simple US soldier found one of the great treasures of the Second World War. “The water system had been knocked out,” he said, “And there were two or three inches of water across the basement floor. In the water was a box everyone was using as a stepping stone to keep their feet dry. “I gave it a kick and it broke open on one side so I started to examine it, thinking it contained more broken crystal glasses. "It was full of things wrapped in newspapers and I was sure it was going to be glasses. But when I reached inside I pulled out a box containing a gold watch with the same initials we saw on the crystal glasses, "A H". "I reached in again and found a heavy red leather covered book, some kind of a diary. On the cover were the initials "A H" again. I looked inside but it was just pages and pages of handwriting in German. So I threw it down in the water. (This was probably Hitler’s diary). "I reached in again, hoping not to attract the other soldiers, also searching in the building. And this time I pulled out a gold pistol. It had these same initials "A H" on it and I was thrilled. 'Boy,' I thought, 'A gold pistol. You've really got something here.' Scooping up the box, the sergeant climbed to the abandoned offices nearby on the third floor in which he and his platoon were bedding down. "I reached in and pulled out another black box," he recalled, "Inside was a silver ball, like a world globe with engraved swastikas on its sides. Then there was another box, something like people got Purple Heart decorations in, only bigger. Inside was a bunch of diamonds - from little ones all the way up to the size of quarters. But I knew they couldn't be real. "Then I opened this other black box and by God inside was another gold pistol, this one finer than the first one, with engravings all around it and inscriptions, one containing the name of Hitler and a lot of German words. "Then I got really excited. All those "A H" initials on everything. I realized all this stuff must have belonged to Adolf Hitler. I'd really hit the jackpot. And that book that I threw down in the basement must have been Hitler's diary. It'd be important." With his booty wrapped in an Army poncho and guarded by a trusted friend, the combat soldier raced back to the basement, "But the diary was gone. Somebody must have picked it up," he said in the 90-minute recording made when he retired from his job on an American railroad after thirty years. Upstairs, he opened the silver globe to find a ring made of gold, platinum and rubies fashioned in the shape of a swastika rising out of a city. There were other items; a leather box held a few dozen individually felt-wrapped mint condition ancient German gold and silver coins, an oval painting on ivory of a lady with strong blue eyes (Adolf Hitler's mother), a silver framed photograph of a dog with the handwritten identification, 'Blondi' (Hitler's famous pet), various cutlery all engraved "A H", an ornate blood-red flag with a large swastika (later identified as the banner of an early brown-shirt Nazi regiment), and an iron cross and eagle medal celebrating Hitler's triumphant return of the Saar region to Germany in 1935. An ornate leather-bound book with an Eagle holding a swastika on its cover was to have been presented to Benito Mussolini on a state visit by the Italian leader to Monaco and Munich in 1937, but Hitler apparently kept it for himself. The book contained hour-by-hour details of the visit to Hitler and many hand-painted pictures of the sights Mussolini would see. Also included and undoubtedly precious to Hitler was the dog-eared March 13, 1933 edition of Time Magazine which for the first time featured him on its cover and reported his keynote speech to the German Reich stag parliament, 'Rebirth or Bolshevism!'. It was a treasury of Hitler's precious belongings, poised for a flight he never took. The US sergeant was thrilled, but still didn't realize he possessed what may be the most valuable and historic treasure plundered by any private individual in the Second World War. Now he unwittingly began giving away and losing parts of the treasure; "My Captain came into the room and saw one of the gold guns, the bigger one, which was unwrapped. "'Hey!' he said, 'You've got a lot of Hitler stuff there. Gimme that gun.' He picked it up," said Sgt. Joseph, "and started toward the door. I pulled out my Browning 9 mm automatic pistol and warned him, 'You step over that threshold and I'm going to blow your foot off." After a heated argument, the sergeant was brow-beaten into selling the gun to his captain for $500. It disappeared with the captain. Until he was shipped home, the sergeant carried the intricately engraved remaining gold gun, which has been authenticated (see separate story: Authentication) as having belonged to Adolf Hitler and professionally appraised as 'priceless', loaded in his tunic, going out nights and drinking with his U.S. Army occupation buddies. But when it came time to leave, a lieutenant warned the sergeant he'd never get his booty back into the United States without customs officials seizing it. Since foot lockers of officers were not being searched, he'd bring the sergeant's belongings through for a price. Going through Hitler's belongings, the lieutenant opened the box of cut diamonds and gasped, "I'll take this," he ventured. "In exchange I'll get everything through when we reach the U.S." The sergeant, certain the diamonds were imitation, agreed. The lieutenant fulfilled his part of the bargain and the US solder, minus one of Hitler's two guns, his personal diary and a box full of what must have been a perfect collection of diamonds, returned to America and got a job on a railroad. From time to time he dipped into the treasure, kept in a box under his bed: He gave a girlfriend the swastika ring and she wore it for eleven years hanging on a string around her neck. "My wife finally made me go over one day," he said in the recording," and convince her to let me have it back." He gave the gold and silver German coins and much of Hitler's silver service away to friends and relatives. For a time he wore Hitler's watch, so advanced in design it had a calendar movement. Once, he left it lying in the men's room of a Pittsburgh coffee shop after washing his hands. A week later he spotted the watch on the wrist of a taxi driver. He proved to police the watch was his by showing photographs he'd taken of it and got it back. But he later lost it once and for all in another public restroom. Over the years the treasure made the sergeant famous within his family and a relative working for Ray Bily in a California cheese plant, mentioned it one day. After many attempts Bily flew east to view the treasure and purchased it for an undisclosed price. For many years Ray Bily stored the gun and the other Hitler possessions secretly in a bank vault in Reno, Nevada, dropping in often to sit in silence in the vault, touching and staring at the Fuhrer's golden gun, trying on his ruby swastika ring, hefting the weight of the big silver and ambergris shooting trophy, studying the blue eyes of Hitler's mother and the arrogant stance of his dog, Blondi. Mr. Bily retired and began putting his affairs in order. "My wife doesn't want me to keep the gun any longer," Ray Bily told me, "If I don't sell it in the next year or so I'm going to bequeath it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Hitler's golden gun has been promised a permanent exhibit there with my name as donor on its case." The last time I spoke with Ray Bily he told me he had sold Hitler’s gold gun to America’s Military Academy, West Point. UPDATE: West Point Curator of Arms, Les Jensen, tells me: “Hitler’s gold gun is an object of inestimable value here at West Point. It sits in a closed case beside the marshal's baton of Hitler’s Second in command, Herman Goering. In 1983 Germany's famed Stern Magazine and the London Sunday Times were duped by a German reporter and a forger into paying $5 million for false Hitler Diaries. The real Hitler diary was likely thrown away in the cellar of the Fuherbau. Ray Bily died in 1994. He never told anyone what he did with the rest of the Hitler Treasure. By Ron Laytner Copyright 2011 Edit International

Hitler's Ring
"I reached in and pulled out another black box," recalled the US combat soldier, "Inside was a silver ball, like a world globe with engraved swastikas on its sides. Inside was a ring shaped like a Swastika.” When he returned to America he gave the ring to a girlfriend who wore it for eleven years hanging on a string around her neck. "My wife finally made me go over one day," he said, "and convinced her to let me have it back." Photo copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Ring Closeup
Dr. August Priesack, art historian employed from 1935 to 1939 in the main archives of the Nazi party, under the command of Rudolf Hess, said, "The ring on a silver-mounted pedestal, which forms the swastika in the colors black, white and red, has precious rubies on its top - a fine example of modern goldsmithing. It's very plain that this treasure remained in his (Hitler's) possession. The signature K. Berthold should increase the value of this discovery....” Photograph Copyright by Ron Laytner, Edit International.


Priceless
Hitler's golden gun is now estimated to be worth from $51 million dollars to 'priceless'. Photograph copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Finger
For many years Ray Bily sat in the silence of his bank vault going over the Hitler Treasure piece by piece, often trying on Hitler's swastika ring. Photograph copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Gun With Clip
Dr. August Priesack, art historian employed from 1935 to 1939 in the main archives of the Nazi party, under the command of Rudolf Hess, said: "The gold plated extravagant pistol (manufactured by the Weapons Factory August Menz from Suhl; a model 11A caliber 7.65 mm; engraved by Richard Schilling from Suhl was a gift from Max Kehl fromSuhl and Munich. Because Hitler always carried a pistol with him, he liked very much this especially fine model from Suhl, a well known weapons center, engraved by a highly qualified engraver. This exquisite model, particularly because of the inscription on both sides, was not suited to pass on to others as a present...”.For several years Hitler kept the gun on him in a specially-sewn pocket of his pants. Photo copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.



Back
For several years Hitler kept the gun on him in a specially-sewn pocket of his pants. This back view of Hitler’s golden gun shows the exquisite engraving with a goddess above and signed by the engraver and the company in Suhl, Germany. Photo copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Blondie
This is a painting of Blondie, Hitler's favorite companion, a giant German Shepherd which Hitler Put to sleep trying out poison he planned to use on himself and his just-married wife, his mistress Eva Braun. Hitler's authenticated handwriting shows the word 'Blondie'. Photograph copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Trophy
Authenticators of the treasure said this about the large circular winner's medal: "The decorated plate (made of 800-point silver and ambergris) from the Bernsteinland, East Prussia, was intended for presentation, by the High president of East Prussia, to the (winner of a pistol shooting match amongst the German political leaders on Reich Party Day 1939. Because the 'Reich Party Day of the People of Nurnberg 1939' could not take place, (Germany was at war), Hitler kept this object of great value to present at a more peaceful time...." Photograph copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Iron Cross
Adolf Hitler cherished this iron cross and eagle medal celebrating his triumphant return of the Saar region to Germany in 1935. Photograph Copyright by Ron Layner and Edit International.


Program
An ornate leather-bound book with an Eagle holding a swastika on its cover was to have been presented to Benito Mussolini on a state visit by the Italian leader to Monaco and Munich in 1937, but Hitler apparently kept it for himself. The book contained hour-by-hour details of the visit to Hitler and many hand-painted pictures of the sights Mussolini would see. Photo Copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Mussolini
The book for Mussolini contained hour-by-hour details of the visit to Hitler and many hand-painted pictures of the sights Mussolini would see. The book is dedicated to the 'Great Benito Mussolini', Fascist head of Italy who was much more famous in the beginning then Hitler. Photo copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Silverware
This is a sampling of Hitler's silver service, some of dozens bearing the initials "AH". It may have been the first set owned by Adolf Hitler with his initials on it. The sergeant gave much of it away to friends after the war. Photograph copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Ray Bily
Ray Bily, the retired businessman who bought the Hitler treasure, shows one of the priceless items from his collection: a banner of one of the original Nazi stormtrooper (Brownshirt) regiments that fought during Hitler's rise to power. Photo copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Mother
Perhaps the most remarkable item from the Hitler treasures is a colored portrait on ivory of his mother. It is the only known picture in color of the woman, and Hitler wrote "Mutter" (the German word for mother) on the back of the portrait. The picture, which shows the extraordinary physical resemblance between mother and son, is believed to have been Hitler's most treasured possession. (Hitler was very close to his mother and historians have long speculated about the effect of that relationship on the dictator's psyche) Photograph copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Time
Like any celebrity Adolf Hitler was pleased to have his face on the cover of the March 13, 1933 issue of TIME; which reported on his famous "Rebirth or Bolshevism" speech and was the first TIME cover Hitler ever appeared on. For twelve years, through the rise of the Third Reich and the devastation of Europe, Hitter preserved his dog-eared, well-read issue of TIME. Photograph Copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.


Hitler
Dr. August Priesack, art historian employed from 1935 to 1939 in the main archives of the Nazi party, under the command of Rudolf Hess, said in his authentication: “Because Hitler always carried a pistol with him, he liked very much this especially fine model from Suhl, a well known weapons center, engraved by a highly qualified engraver. This exquisite model, particularly because of the inscription on both sides, was not suited to pass on to others as a present...”.For several years Hitler kept the gun on him in a specially-sewn pocket of his pants.”


West Point
Hitler's golden gun now rests safely inside the museum of West Point military academy in New York State on the Hudson River. Photo from Edit International.


Plaque Caption:
Presentation Pistol of Adolf Hitler
Few personal war souvenirs are of such great significance as the ‘Lilliput”, Model I, .32 caliber automatic pistol make by August Menz Company, Suhl, Germany. The Pistol was a gift to Adolf Hitler from an early Nazi Party member, Max Kehl, sometime prior to the Second World War. During the American occupation o Munich in 1945, an American sergeant found the pistol and other personal effects of Hitler in the Fuhrerbau, a government building, where they had been moved for safekeeping. For many years the existence of the pistol was unknown. It was kept as a private war trophy until it was discovered by the donor.
The inscription on the visible side of the pistol reads: “Presented to the revered Leader Hitler by Party Comrade Kehl in Munich from his home, the city of Weapons, Suhl.” On the reverse is this inscription: “In defiance of the Red Front and the Reaction, for the protection of our leader.” Presented by Ray R. Bily 1966

Hitler's golden gun now rests safely inside the museum of West Point military academy in New York State on the Hudson River. Photo of Hitler's golden gun in display case by Eric Bartelt, West Point for Edit International.