A phone sold as one used by Hitler and billed as "arguably the most destructive 'weapon' of all time" has been called a con by a German expert. The authenticity of the phone's lineage has sparked online debate.
The unnamed bidder who last week bought was what was said to have been Adolf Hitler's phone for $243,000 (230,000 euros) may have been sold a fake, German media reported on Saturday.
"This is clearly a fake," the Head of Collections at the Frankfurt Museum for Communication told the respected daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine."
"The actual telephone was manufactured by Siemens & Halske, but the handset comes from an English telephone. It was never produced this way," Frank Gnegel said. "It must have been assembled later in England."
Gnegel presides over one of the most important collections of telephonic history in Europe.
The fact the phone and the Hitler emblem were painted red aroused further suspicions.
"Siemens would have built a proper example from dyed plastic, instead of unprofessionally painting over a black telephone," Gnegel told the paper.
"Everything to do with Hitler was produced in a high-quality fashion; why should an engraving be simply be painted over? In addition, it is totally implausible that Hitler had a telephone with a rotary dial because he was always hand-connected in the telephone exchange."
Phone enthusiasts skeptical
In response to incredulity about the device's authenticity, the US auction house that sold the phone posted photos from inside the phone, but that just aroused further suspicion among online phone enthusiasts.
Dutch telephone restorer and blogger Arwin Schaddeleeraised several questions about its authenticity.
"The claim that this was a custom-made telephone by Siemens is contradicted by several clues on the telephone itself. Firstly it is marked W38. That is a designation used by the German post office. This indicates the telephone was originally supplied to them," Schaddelee wrote.
"So if it was supplied to anyone else, it was not by Siemens but by the post office. If it was a custom telephone made by Siemens & Halske it would not, by definition, conform to the W38 specifications.
"Somebody found an interesting incomplete damaged phone, repaired it, painted it and cooked up a nice story to go with it," he concluded.
An American phone enthusiast and head of the small non-profit The Telephone Museum, was similarly skeptical, pointing out several problems with the phone.