Golden Luger between Two Nazi Diplomats

The media was far from kind in reporting on the arrests of two top German World War 2 diplomats, understandably contemptuous and insulting toward the men who would both be tried for war crimes.

Franz von Papen, who served as chancellor of Germany but stepped aside to allow Adolf Hitler to ascend to the same position in 1933 then served as ambassador to Austria and Turkey, was described as “the man who maneuvered Adolf Hitler to power” and “not a Nazi but an aristocrat with no use for democracy.” He received a gold-plated Mauser P.08 Luger from German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Von Ribbentrop, who served as Germany’s ambassador to England and foreign minister leading up to World War 2 negotiated the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union that allowed for the invasion of Poland, pacts that aligned Germany with Japan and Italy, and oversaw annexation of several territories. Upon his arrest, in June 1945, the New York Times described him as vain and that as the ambassador to England he was known as “von Brickendrop” for his boorish behavior. Most articles also noted that he started life as a traveling champagne salesman, and the United Press called him an “evil star of European diplomacy.”

golden-luger-facing-rightThis golden Luger was presented by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to Ambassador Franz von Papen and features a beautifully engraved gold-plated finish.

Both men faced war crimes trial in Nuremburg following World War 2. Von Papen was acquitted while von Ribbentrop was convicted on all four counts against him and hung in October 1946. Von Papen didn’t get off completely. He was convicted at a de-nazification trial and sentenced to eight years in prison and fined, serving two years.

The golden Luger presented to von Papen by von Ribbentrop will be on offer in Rock Island Auction’s May 19-21 Premier Auction. The Mauser P.08 Luger has a small gold inscription plate on the left grip that reads “Seiner Exzellenz/Herrn Botshafter Franz von Papen/in tiefster Verehrung/uberreicht von Joachim von Ribbentrop/Aussenminister des Deutchen Reiches.” This translates to: “His Excellency/the Honorable Ambassador Franz von Papen/in deepest dedication/given by Joachim von Ribbentrop/Foreign Minister of the German Reich.”

The golden Luger is stamped 1939 for the year of manufacture and engraved with traditional German oak leaf, acorn, and scroll engraving with a punch dot background for shading that covers 99 percent of the Luger’s exposed surface, performed by a master engraver for its complex layout and meticulous attention to detail. A factory letter from Mauser dated 1986 indicated at the time that the golden Luger appeared to have never been fired.

golden-luger-facing-leftThis golden Luger is a Mauser P.08 with an inscription plate on the carved left grip that reads “Seiner Exzellenz/Herrn Botshafter Franz von Papen/in tiefster Verehrung/uberreicht von Joachim von Ribbentrop/Aussenminister des Deutchen Reiches.” This translates to: “His Excellency/the Honorable Ambassador Franz von Papen/in deepest dedication/given by Joachim von Ribbentrop/Foreign Minister of the German Reich.”

Franz von Papen

Franz von Papen was born in 1879 to a wealthy Catholic landowner in western Germany and by 1913 was a military attaché assigned to Washington, D.C., and for a time served as military attaché for the German ambassador for Mexico. Back in the United States, he was accused of espionage and sabotage at the start of World War 1. Von Papen was recalled to Germany in 1915 after documents that implicated him and another man of espionage were carelessly left on a train platform in New York City. Back on military duty, von Papen served in France and the Middle East during the Great War.

After the war he entered politics and served as a deputy in the Prussian state parliament as a member of the right-wing Catholic Centre Party.  In 1932, he was plucked from obscurity to be German chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg. Thrown out of his own party and with no political support, von Papen dissolved the Reichstag and lifted the ban on the Nazis thugs, the Sturmabteilung (SA). Von Papen declared martial law, arrested socialist leaders, and canceled war reparations as laid out in the Treaty of Versailles. Despite his authoritarian moves, he had no power base and was unable to shore it up without Hitler and the Nazis, but Hitler wasn’t interested in sharing power.

Von Papen lobbied the elderly Hindenburg to appoint Hitler chancellor and make him vice chancellor. Despite Hindenburg’s vow to never appoint Hitler as chancellor, he did just that in January 1933. Von Papen naively believed he could restrain the Nazis. He had a falling out with Hitler over his attacks on the Roman Catholic Church but avoided harm during the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934 that purged the SA. Two of his aides were murdered but he was placed under house arrest until he resigned as vice chancellor.

golden-luger-in-caseAmbassador Franz von Papen was presented with this golden Luger by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Von Papen was ambassador to Austria and Turkey during World War 2. Von Papen also served as German chancellor, enablng Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

Hitler appointed von Papen ambassador to Austria ahead of that country’s annexation by Germany. He served in that capacity from 1934 to 1938 when he was named ambassador to Turkey with his main goal to keep Turkey from joining the Allies. He served in Ankara until 1944, leading an espionage center and paying out millions of German marks in bribes.

After the war, von Papen was arrested and charged with war crimes but found not guilty despite committing “political immoralities.” A German de-nazification court convicted him of being a major Nazi figure and sentenced to eight years. He served a quarter of that. He later sought a pension for serving as a Prussian officer but was denied because he was among “the active servants of the Nazi state who violated the principles of humanity and lawfulness through their attitude during the Third Reich.” He died in 1969 at the age of 89.

golden-luger-closeupA closeup of this golden luger shows the amazing detail of the engraving as well as the carving of leaves and acorns on the top of the dark walnut grip. The engraving was likely done in Suhl, Thuringia, according to a factory letter dated 1986 that also stated it appeared the gun has never been fired.

Joachim von Ribbentrop

The Nazis’ top diplomat was once a traveling champagne salesman before World War 1, working in Canada where he learned English. Von Ribbentrop served as a lieutenant during World War 1, earning the Iron Cross. After meeting Hitler in 1932, he joined the Nazi party and became his chief advisor on foreign affairs. He served as Reich Commissioner for Disarmament at Geneva and negotiated an agreement with Great Britain in 1935 for the re-arming of the German navy. As ambassador to England, he advised Hitler that England would be of no help to Poland.

Von Ribbentrop brought the Japanese to the table for the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936, declaring them allies in the international struggle against communism. Italy joined the Anti-Comintern Pact the next year and in May 1939, signed the Pact of Steel that von Ribbentrop mediated.

Golden-luger-backstrapThe backstrap of this golden luger also shows amazing engraving with scrolling and oak leaves. More than 90 percent of this Mauser P.08 Luger is covered with engraving.

The grimmest feather in von Ribbentrop’s cap is the non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. Also called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the agreement was signed on Aug. 23, 1939 defining the two countries spheres of influence in Eastern Europe. Germany would invade Poland a week later, igniting World War 2. During the war as foreign minister, he tried to convince Germany’s Axis partners to deport their Jewish citizens to Nazi death camps.

As the war raged and the need for diplomacy waned, von Ribbentrop saw his importance fade. He was arrested in Hamburg in June 1945 after a friend he knew from his days selling champagne refused to give him shelter and another former friend turned him in to the British. During his trial he denied any knowledge of the Nazis death camps though prosecutors noted the proximity of his home to the Mauthausen camp and showed documentation of his leadership of the foreign ministry’s coordination of deportation of Jews from occupied territories to death camps. On October 16,1946, he was executed by hanging after his conviction during the Nuremberg trials.

golden-luger-closeup-leftA closeup of the left side of this golden Luger shows a small coat of arms of the von Papen family as well as the detailed scroll and oak leaf engraving on the gun. Franz von Papen, who served as Nazi Germany’s ambassador to Austria and Turkey, received this gun from German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Golden Luger for Sale

Both Franz von Papen and Joachim von Ribbentrop were key German figures domestically and internationally in the Nazis rise’ to power and to wage World War 2. A golden Luger presented to von Papen by von Ribbentrop links the two men and the horrors that would befall the world due to their actions and beliefs. This gold-plated Mauser P.08 Luger, is a truly historical piece that represents the scheming and intrigue that led to World War 2.


The New York Times

Holocaust Encyclopedia

Jewish Virtual Library

Rock Island Auction Company

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