Last weekend, an American auction house sold a telephone used by Adolf Hitler for $243,000. It is impossible, however, to assign a true value to such an object, whether positive or negative. The phone was given to a British soldier, Ralph Rayner, by Russian forces shortly after World War II ended. The auction house says that the phone is “arguably the most destructive ‘weapon’ of all time, which sent millions to their deaths.”
The house, Alexander Historical Auctions, is located in Chesapeake City, Maryland and states, “Our goal is to deliver history into the hands of collectors.” Ralph Rayner’s collection included other Nazi items. His son Ranulf Rayner “hopes these objects will end up in a museum one day,” and adds,”I don’t want them to be hidden again . . . I want them to remind the world of the horrors of war.” Some individuals may hold moral qualms about buying and selling this “weapon”. The role of a historical auction house, though, is to make these rare, “lost” artifacts accessible. Ranulf Rayner believes that this is the correct way to raise awareness about the horrors of war. The mere fact that this auction is so heavily reported on shows that this method is effective. It is crucial that we continue to teach our youngest generations about history, and to do so in an interactive manner, through artifacts, can be very compelling. The person who purchased the phone chose to stay anonymous, so we may never know their intentions, but the outrage expressed over placing financial value on this item actually acts as a catalyst out of complacency.