"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.
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