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SEPTEMBER 2017

GEARING-UP FOR MAX

I hope everyone is getting geared-up for the collecting season, arriving October 6th with the MAX Show in Pittsburgh's Monroeville Convention Center. As new young collectors continue to avoid the big shows, preferring to sit behind their computer and buy from there, it is my assumption that the MAX, once again will be more a "fun time" to see great old acquaintances and have sumptuous dinners and too much to drink with friends, more than it will be a sales frenzy like things used to be. But, that is all right, and at least I have the chance to see everybody and show them that I am still alive and well. I will be bringing 15 tables worth of artifacts and even if you are not buying anything, at least our display will have much to look at, covering the ultra-rare and the more-than common - something for everyone.

Also, keep in mind that if I have something on my website that you have an interest in, but want to see it in person and finger it a little, by all means please let me know and I will be glad to bring the item to the MAX show. I'll keep it under the table with your name on it for the asking. No obligation and I am glad to do it. Also, don't forget that at Wittmann Militaria, we are negotiable. If you want to make an offer on something, please do so. You never know, as sometimes the magic number can be reflective of the purchase price - we still are able to occasionally purchase an item very reasonably, and if we can share that good fortune with you we are thrilled to help.

WHAT COMES AFTER CHARLOTTESVILLE?

In my last Banter (I was writing it as the Charlottesville episode was occurring), and when I saw that there was a "white supremacist" involved with mowing people down with a car, I was immediately fearful for our beloved hobby, and became even more scared when I learned the creep was found to have "Hitler" pictures in his apartment. Further, the clash between the KKK and Neo-Nazis with those of the Leftist and Anarchist groups proved to also be a concern for our hobby, despite Trump's legitimate efforts to calm things, especially since, like them or not, the KKK and Neo-Nazis actually did have a permit to march and were attacked by others armed with clubs and guns, only there to start trouble.

Well, what has now happened is a very frighting trend begun by the politically correct and by those that do not understand, (and never will), that we are just history buffs and are collectors interested in history that actually happened. There was a large militaria show scheduled to be held in Chantilly, Virginia on October 15th, last week. But, guess what happened? It was cancelled because of Charlottesville being in the same state. Also, there has been a show in Minneapolis that has run for over 30 years. The facility is owned by the state and now the promoter has been informed that no longer will any 3rd Reich items be allowed to be brought to the show, sold at the show or displayed at the show. Obviously, this is death for the show as about half to 3/4's of the show featured these collectibles. I do not know where this kind of thinking will end and I have a bad feeling that it will only get worse. The politically correct public obviously wants to "forget" and even "rewrite" any unpleasant history as we have seen with the removal of historic monuments.

Will it stop with monuments? Maybe not. It is imperative that MAX and SOS attendees keep a low key. The MAX rules for many years have been that no 3rd Reich flags are to be flown or hung on walls, but must be folded, no uniforms with swastika armbands are to be displayed on manikins or hangers, and that Hitler busts are to be turned face down on the table. Oh, I know, this is contrary to our 1st Amendment rights, but it is a small price to pay to maybe prevent our shows from being closed. Is it better to bite our tongue a little or to lose our hobby? I mean things are just not going to stop. The other day I heard they want to change the name of the Charles Lindberg Air Terminal in Minneapolis saying he was an anti-Semite and pro-Nazi. This is one of the greatest American heroes of our time. While it is true, Lindberg admired the Luftwaffe in the 1930's (and who would not have), he later changed his mind about Germany, once he saw what they were really about. But apparently that is not good enough and I am sure this national hero will now be disgraced with his name X''d out, as though he was Jerry Sandusky. "Bad history" is now being erased from sight and even worse, probably from memory. We want to forget what us "righteous" Americans did to the native Americans, we want to forget that half of our country fought and died fighting the other half, and lastly, we certainly don't want to see or be allowed to purchase a legitimate war trophy that our father or grandfather risked his life to bring home as a memento of the last good vs. evil war.

I guess if you had any affiliation at all during the time with Germany you are forever cursed as being sub-human. One of my favorite people was Leni Riefenstahl. I collect her autographed pictures and her books. As I know you readers already know, Riefenstahl directed "Triumph of the Will", the award-winning documentary of the 1934 Party Day Rallies. Even today, the film is lauded for its effectiveness in portraying an actual event in the manner that it happened. Yet, Leni suffered her whole life (she lived to be over 100 years old) from criticism that she had glorified Hitler and his henchman. In 1964, she was interviewed and said that she was not promoting Hitler and Nazism, but rather was simply documenting the reality of events in Germany. She said, "If you see the film today you ascertain that it doesn't contain a single reconstructed scene. Everything in it is true. And it contains no tendentious commentary at all. It is history........ it reflects the truth that was then in 1934, history. It is therefore a documentary. Not a propaganda film." Even after her death Riefenstahl remains controversial.

So, where does it end? I think that eventually anything on display in this country that represents unpleasant history will be removed, and probably installed in a museum somewhere in North Alaska. And after that, anyone that is seen going to the museum will be labeled as pro-slavery, or pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic. It's all kind of like Isis destroying the historical religious temples and sites that they don't like, isn't it? I believe our hobby is at stake - currently in Germany there is a move to ban the sale, display or collecting of 3rd Reich material. Obviously, the German PC group thinks that anyone who would want to collect these artifacts is mentally unstable. And to prove it, they recently destroyed all of the remaining historical buildings at Berchtesgaden including the Platterhof Hotel and now are in the process of removing any eagle on a building in Germany that once had swastika even though the swastika was removed after the war. They want no traces left for anyone to see. So, the way I see it, I hope that we are not going to eventually become a group of "closet collectors" sneaking around with each other in order to display or talk about our beloved artifacts. But it could happen if we are not careful. We need to avoid the media as much as possible, as always, they will make you out to be a nut or sicko. If they get into a show with their cameras, all of the local TV's will have a Nazi armband taking up the entire screen.

I am reminded of an article written in Forbes magazine from December 2000, called, "Collecting Evil". A number of prominent collectors of the time were contacted and I had made the comment that I liked the "quality" of German edged weapons. As you know that is like saying that you think "Hitler was a good painter" or that "Speer was a good architect".The paragraph stated, "But 'quality' or no, if you scratch a collector you can hear the skeletons rattling away in the unconscious. Thomas Wittmann is of German extraction. He collects Third Reich daggers for their 'eye appeal', even though he considers the society that produced them to be, 'the embodiment of evil'. So why collect them? 'I've been trying to put my finger on it for 30 years", says Wittmann, sounding genuinely bewildered. 'I'm attracted to it, but I don't understand why.' " Well, of course, by me saying that I don't understand why I collect daggers, makes me sound like an imbecile, which is what the magazine writer wants his readers to think. Although I don't like my answer, but now after collecting for almost 50 years, I still do not have the answer. I doubt that many of you do either. It is something in our genetics. The "disease" does not exist in other family members usually, but it may pop-up in a grandson or a cousin or maybe in future generations. I don't think there is a real sensible answer to this question of why we collect, but I do know that I enjoy it immensely and would rather be in this business more than anything else in the world. I am very proud of what I do.

MORE BILL LARET TALES

As I usually do with these Banters, I like to tell a few of the fond experiences I had with my late Dutch friend, Bill Laret. Whenever Bill would come over to America, (he lived in England, but also had a home in Holland as he liked the free health care better), he always wanted to do some traveling around the country, so a few summers ago, we decided we would attend the show in Kansas City, being right around the corner and "only" a three-day drive from New Jersey. Plenty of time to talk and smoke some cigars, as he would say. After the Pennsylvania mountains and the Turnpikes of Ohio and Indiana, we passed endless miles of corn and wheat fields in Missouri. But, this country has a lot to offer with his sheer openness that we city dwellers often fail to see. While on route, somewhere in Missouri, there was a sign for "General Pershing's Birth Place" and of course, we made a left and after a few country miles, found ourselves in a lovely Victorian town.

At the end of the town was a fine Victorian home which had actually been declared a "government-owned property" and came complete with US Park Rangers. Well there was only one Ranger, but what a nice lady she was. There was no one there - just Bill and me - and I think she was pretty glad to see somebody and couldn't wait to give us the royal tour - all for free, of course, courtesy of the US Government. We went through the house noting the nice furniture and pictures and thought all of it was kind of hum-drum until we got up in the second floor. There on top of a bureau was a fine sword box. We asked if we could see what was in the box, and the lady ranger opened it up with zest, and damn, here was one of the most beautiful swords I had ever seen. It was given to Pershing as a gift from Great Britain for his services with the Expeditionary Forces that had won the Great War. The hilt was spectacular and blade was stunning with its beautiful etchings and dedication to General Pershing. An incredible piece of history and there it was in this bedroom in this little house in the middle of no where! We were delighted at seeing it, as certainly we had no clue that such a sword even existed. I doubt that anyone reading this knows about the sword either. So, it pays to read the signs along the country road.

Eventually, we made our way to the end of the state where Kansas City is located and found a motel next to the show hall. I'll never forget the steak I had that night. Wonderful and the best one I had ever had. Since Kansas City is where most of the beef in this country ends up, I should not have been surprised. I brought a number of daggers for the show and we set-up the next morning. I remember a lot of people saying, "That's a nice collection you have, sir", and kept walking. Usually those are the fat guys with that little "for sale" sign sticking out the barrel of the shotgun they are carrying. One guy with a girl with a lot of tattoos picked up a Red Cross Officer dagger off the table and rammed the blade back in the scabbard at full force, breaking the crossguard - always a thrill, especially when you have not sold anything. But, it's part of the business, and now you have a spare Red Cross scabbard, blade, grip and pommel that eventually you will use on other daggers needing these parts, so although it is painful, it's not the end of the world. The one thing that hurts the most at a show is when a biker type shows up with his buddy and is going to demonstrate how "deadly" he is with a Gravity Knife. He grabs the knife and flicks out the blade about 100 miles an hour, and while the blade is coming out, the experienced ear will hear that distinct "cracking" sound, where you know he just broke the Gravity Knife spring and is already heading out the door. You are screwed when this happens, as the old guy that used to be able to fix these things has become demented, and as far as I know, no one reliable has stepped up to the plate to fix this frequently occurring problem. Well, after someone asked, "can you do any better on the simi-chrome", than Bill and I decided it was time to count our losses and mosey along out of there.

Well, since we were in Kansas City, we thought we may as well have a look a Harry Truman's house, located in a neighboring town called, Independence. The house is in a fine Victorian neighborhood, painted all white and in superb condition thanks to the US Government. We were in a tour group with a nice young man leading us all around the house. We heard all the stories of Truman getting mad when some reporter criticized his daughter Margaret's singing and we saw the baby grand piano that Harry used to play as well as his poker table. But, when you were with Bill, something out of the ordinary was always bound to happen. There was a couple of old German woman behind us on the tour and they kept interrupting the guide with stupid questions like why they could not go upstairs after the guide had already told us that the upstairs was still used by the Truman family and was closed to the public.

I may have told you before that Laret was a partisan in Holland against the Nazis when he was a teenager. Despite the fact that he loved German daggers, he still never got over his hatred for the Occupiers and as soon as he heard a German accent I always would notice a sour look on his face. These two women, though, despite Bill glaring at them, never stopped with the stupid questions. Bill was visibly irritated. Finally, at the end of the tour, the very nice guide asked Bill where he was from and Bill told him he was a Dutchman. The guide proceeded to comment that he had been in Rotterdam the previous year and was surprised that all of the buildings were modern. Well, this was exactly what Bill wanted to hear and Bill proceeds to turn around right in the face of the two German old ladies, and growls, "there are no old buildings in Rotterdam because these bloody Germans bombed the shit out of it!" Man, although it was funny when I think about now, I was really embarrassed and slithered out of the house. And, of course, Bill was still fuming, failing to acknowledge his faux pas, nor caring in the slightest. Well, back in the car we went and Bill lit up a cigar, looking rather proud of himself. We headed toward New Orleans next, which I'll tell you about another time. I used to get mad when Marie would sarcastically ask me, "Where are you and Bill going on your vacation now!" I would always tell her that these trips with Bill were strictly all work.

WE'RE HERE TO BUY, SELL, CONSIGN OR REPAIR YOUR ARTIFACTS

I hope everyone has a good Fall now and don't forget about us. We want to sell our militaria, so give us a call. If the price is too high, make us a reasonable offer. I hope you will also continue to watch our YouTube videos, and after the MAX Show, we'll have a video of the show for you all to see what you missed. And don't forget we are always looking to buy or to consign militaria - I believe we are easily the largest consignment source internationally these days. We do a great job with it, and you don't have to do a thing. We have sold many millions of dollars in consignments over the years, so if you are faced with getting rid of your collection due to age, divorce or whatever, we can handle the whole thing for you. You will definitely get a lot more for your collection through our consignment process than you will selling it outright. Also, if you have something that needs some repair, we are ready to help. Our rates are very reasonable and our service is outstanding - in most cases, a one week turn-around period. We are specialists in repairing wood grips, taking dents out of scabbards, re-covering leather scabbards or grips and many, many other things. Please feel free to call us with any questions.

HOPE TO SEE YOU AT THE MAX!!!!

Thomas T. Wittmann