In a sting operation, authorities in the United States have recovered a stolen 18-carat gold bookmark that reportedly was given to Adolf Hitler by his long time mistress, Eva Braun.
The bookmark was reportedly a gift from Eva Braun
Thirty-seven-year-old Christian Popescu, a Romanian national, was arrested this week in a Starbucks coffee shop parking lot after trying to sell the bookmark to an undercover agent for $100,000 (77,600 euros), according to papers filed in the US District Court.
Authorities in Spain, where it was stolen in 2002, estimated its value at about $13,000.
The bookmark is engraved with a portrait of Hitler as well as an imperial eagle clutching a swastika, and its inscription indicates that Braun gave it to Hitler to console him after the Soviet Red Army defeated Nazi German forces in the 1943 battle for Stalingrad, a key turning point in the war on the eastern front.
"My Adolf, don‘t worry," it reads, adding that the loss was "only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory. My love for you will be eternal, as our Reich will be eternal. Always yours, Eva."
Artifacts are not souvenirs
The bookmark had been stolen from a Spanish auction house
Six years ago, thieves in a Madrid auction house stole it along with other items in a "smash and grab" robbery just days before they were to go under the gavel. Most of the items were later recovered, but the Hitler bookmark had been missing until now.
At the time of the theft, some antiquities experts questioned the authenticity of the bookmark.
Authorities believe the bookmark had previously belonged to the family of Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German armed forces under Hitler, who was executed following the Nuremberg trials.
Regardless of its authenticity, federal agents said its theft broke the law.
"Artifacts of historical significance are not souvenirs for illegal sale to the highest bidder," Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Investigations in Seattle, said in a statement.
The Justice Department said that federal agents in Seattle learned that someone was trying to sell a bookmark that allegedly belonged to Hitler.
US Attorney Jeff Sullivan told AP news agency that agents were still investigating how the bookmark arrived in Seattle. Five people were detained in the operation, but only Popescu was arrested and charged, he said.
Popescu faces 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted.