Adolf Hiter's Smith & Wesson, serial 709.
Article about: The Smith & Wesson, serial 709, which will now be recognized as one of history's most famous weapons. Herein I present the historical background and saga of one of the most fascinating a
Adolf Hiter's Smith & Wesson, serial 709.
The Smith & Wesson, serial 709, which will now be recognized as one of
history's most famous weapons.
Hi All, this is a long read but very worth while. UPDATED WITH NEW INFORMATION IN THE FIRST HALF OF THIS THREAD.
Herein I present the historical background and saga of one of the most fascinating and interesting weapons that has surfaced in the last one hundred years, or more. The recounting of this tale, at times, puts the reader in mind of a strange mixture of a Harlequin romance novel and a docudrama that is infinitely real, yet so dramatic and profound as to stagger the imagination. This is a tale of intrigue, insatiable quest for power, unrequited love, and finally, a suicide out of desperation and frustration that did much to change the course of world history.
If any thought exists that I might be stretching the imagination in this particular drama, then I suggest that at the end of this narration the reader reflect on just what the outcome might have been had things developed differently.
It all revolves around a petite .22-caliber revolver, No. 709, manufactured by the Smith & Wesson firm. This insignificant-looking small-caliber gun, however, steps into the annals of history’s most famous and infamous weapons and joins the world’s fictional and actual implements of destruction throughout the ages: Excaliber, the sword in the stone wielded by King Arthur; Nothung, the sword that Wagner’s Seigfried used to cut the anvil in twain; the derringer used in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; the cheap Carlano carbine that struck down our president Kennedy; and, of course, the revolver that Jack Ruby used to kill the “killer,” Lee Harvey Oswald.
Many weapons have gained notoriety, such as Bat Masterson’s .44, Billy the Kid’s Colt Bissbe, and the .38-caliber pistol that the “Dirty Little Coward” (Bob Ford), used to kill “Mr. Howard,” (Jesse James). All these guns have great historical value as demonstrated in a recent television special narrated by Mr. Greg Martin of the Butterfield and Butterfield Auction in California. The values of some of these, evidenced by their auction and sales records, document this fact. One must realize, however, that the provenance that accompanied most of them is meager, at best.
The desire of collectors to own such an important piece of history is often insatiable and rather irrational—desirability oftentimes precludes reasonable discernment and perceptivity.
The aforementioned television series, “The Gun,” was masterfully presented and one of the most interesting chapters was the one devoted to “Guns of the Famous,” narrated by Mr. Martin and others. We should applaud the efforts that were made to bring out the human-interest aspect and almost hypnotic fixation that grips the collector, historian, or dramatist when viewing, holding, or actually acquiring a weapon—dagger or gun—that helped to make history. Few other objects of antiquity can elicit such feeling as a gun, and nothing is as ominous or forceful as the firearm. The cotton gin changed history decisively enough, but the stone that David’s slingshot unleashed against the temple of the giant, Goliath, excites the imagination more directly, and brings forth that adrenaline flow and sense of high adventure that even modern man cannot entirely remove from his psyche.
This is the story of the personal revolver of Adolf Hitler and its connections with at least two earth-shattering events that had far-reaching affects upon the history of the 20th Century and, most undoubtedly, will influence the geopolitical future of the centuries yet to come.
When one who enjoys an active and healthy imagination visits a museum display of various weapons, one cannot help but to muster up visions of the wars, conquests, and hand-to-hand combats of the past as they flash before the mind’s eye: the Crusades, the War of the Roses, the various revolutions, the Indian wars on our continent, et al. On that note, let’s stop and examine the influence the American-Indian wars, in particular, had on the subject of this narrative. Someone once said that history is a continuum. The world conqueror who was most interested in this particular epoch was, strangely enough, the German leader, Adolf Hitler.
No. 709 and Adolf Hitler
Ever since he was a small boy in Linz, Austria, he had read every story he could obtain in book or magazine form featuring the author, Karl May. May was a German writer whose tales of his character, “Old Shatterhand,” fighting the red Indians was a super adventure to the young Adolf in his formative years. He loved the regalia, buckskins, and the weapons of these American warriors—cowboy and Indian—and they influenced his perception of bravery, daring, and soldierly conduct. These impressions undoubtedly stuck with him throughout his life.
The pistol in this story is a Smith & Wesson revolver serial number 709. We know that the revolver was the weapon of choice of the cowboys, the cavalry, and some of the Plains Indian warriors, when the latter could capture or trade for one.
It just seems to follow that once the young Hitler had obtained his revolver, this would become his fervent “friend,” considering his past interests. Part and parcel to the huge amount of paperwork (provenance) that accompanies this gun is a letter from Smith & Wesson’s official historian, Mr. R. G. Jinks. It is dated September 2, 1982 and is basically an explanation and history of the S&W Ladysmith revolvers that were first introduced in 1902. They were manufactured until 1921 with a production total of 26,154 units. The letter is addressed to Colonel Larry Michael, who was the owner of the weapon. Mr. Jinks tells Col. Michael that “No. 709” is a first model and that this particular piece was shipped from Smith & Wesson on March 23, 1903 to the company of Andre Schaub & Piaso of Paris,
We know that in 1914 the First World War broke out; and then, only 11 years after, No. 709 was shipped to Europe. It so happened that in 1914, a virtually unknown young Austrian national, who was now a corporal in the German Bavarian Army, was no different than all other Landsers (GI’s), who actively sought worthwhile or interesting souvenirs (booty) to shove into their field packs. History also relates that this particular Landser, Adolf Hitler, personally was responsible for the single-handed taking of several French prisoners in a ticklish combat situation that involved bravado and subterfuge. It was a very bold action and earned him the Iron Cross, First Class.
Hitler, at right, during WWI. Did he acquire No. 709 in battle
At this point I will wildly surmise that a certain small-caliber pistol may have been among the “spoils of war” taken at this point in time from one of those prisoners. Remember, it was sent to France only a few years before. This is circumstantial at best, but historical research must, at times, be extrapolated from the facts that are at hand.
From various proofs that I will soon reveal, we know Hitler possessed this revolver. We know that No. 709 went to Europe in the correct time frame and we have the future Führer, who had a fervent love of American guns, especially revolvers, on the scene at that particular time, and we must keep in mind Herr Karl May, Adolf Hitler’s literary hero. We do not have testimony to document this particular declarative, but the scenario seems at least credibly plausible.
At this point, we will go to the later life of Adolf Hitler; beyond the post-World War One years spent as a spy for the Bavarian government, watching and reporting on radicals of the left and the right. This is how Hitler became the seventh member of the German Workers’ Party that was later to become the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (N.S.D.A.P.; Nazi). This has been documented in many books chronicling these turbulent times.
In those early formative years, when the Nazi movement faltered more often than not, Hitler lived at many Munich addresses, and then, after having finally settled into an apartment at No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse, an incident eventually took place there that was a very tragic happening that would color his whole life and his perceptions in general. Not surprisingly, little No. 709 played the central role.
The Death of Geli
The event to which I refer is the death by suicide of 23-year-old Fraulein Angela (Geli) Raubel, Hitler’s niece. Her mother, Angela Raubel, was Hitler’s older half-sister. Geli’s tragic demise set off a scandal of major proportions and nearly ended the future Führer’s rise to power1. Equally intriguing is the fact that a scandal surrounding her death in his apartment could have destroyed his political career before he ever came to power.
Angela (Geli) Raubel, Adolf Hitler's one true love.
The "King and Queen" of Munich in the 1920's.
The "King and Queen" of Munich in the 1920's. Hitler lavished attention on Geli. Nothing she asked for or desired that they both do went lacking. Hitler, in those days, was called the “King of Munich.” Certainly, the in-crowd Munchiners had to consider Geli as the “Queen.”
No one knows for sure what went on between the future Führer and this lovely, young lady, but regardless of the wide speculation and flights of fancy engaged in by decades of yellow-rag journalists, the more obvious historical facts seem to support a more stable and kinship-based relationship between the two, at first. Later, it seems there was fairly obvious desire and, from Geli’s perspective, unrequited love between them.
It seemed to be a relationship that was normal—in Geli’s mind, no doubt it was true love in the classic form—yet strained by the around-the-clock schedule of one of the world’s busiest men. With Adolf, though, it was a day’s love trance that had to be equally shared with his party agendas and commitments. When speaking of his thoughts on the possibility of marriage, Hitler said, “…I must deny myself this happiness. I have another bride. I am married to the German ‘Volk,’ to its destiny!”
At the time, many of the authors who where examining this subject seemed always to take the words of Hitler’s enemies and detractors, Otto Strasser, Gregor Strasser, and Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl, as having the ring of authority regarding Hitler and Geli’s relationship. They wax poetic about sexual perversions and weird practices, while serious historians doubt there was any sexual relationship at all. A love affair, yes, but authoritative history records Hitler as being very overly straight-laced and never demonstrative when it came to relationships with his close entourage, or women in general. The fact that she was dear to him is also fully documented3. In truth, though, he seemed more dedicated to his bachelor life. At this point, politics were the true love of Adolf Hitler, and, as we now know, it remained that way to the end.
The suicide incident, and another earth-shattering event that I will momentarily relate, may well make this pistol at least one of the most important firearms of world history. Now, for practically the first time, the true story chronicling its existence is brought forward, although more than 50 years later.
To put it all in perspective, we must start at the middle, so to speak, when the German Third Reich was on the verge of collapse with its enemies moving in vigorously on all fronts.
Hitler’s Apartment House
A major part of the American forces was moving into the city of Munich, called by the Nazis, Der Hauptstadt der Bewegung, “Head City of the Movement.” Of the units assigned, the task of securing the eastern section of the city and setting up command posts was given to the U.S. Army’s 45th Division, the “Thunderbirds.” One of the units of this Division was the 179 Infantry Company and there came a time when a lieutenant summoned four men of Headquarters Company and ordered them to secure “the house across the street.” That house looked like a good site for potential quarters and it had a good strategic layout in that it occupied a full street corner and would be a very good defensive position should further fighting necessitate its use for that purpose.
No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse pictured in the 1930’s. Note the Nazi tapestry hanging from the balcony.
It is early afternoon on May 1, 1945. After studying a map of the immediate area, these selected men set out on their mission while trying to avoid rather constant sniper fire from Wehrmacht and SS units still entrenched. They finally arrive at the door of Number 16, which was not difficult to find because, although it was dark, this house has quite a few lights turned on. They later discover that it has its own power plant. Not knowing what to expect and with weapons ready they beat on the oak door while hollering that they demand admittance, as they were so ordered to do.
At this very important moment in history the names of those who had knocked on the door are Sgt. Arthur Peters, Pvt. William Soltz, Pvt. George Sachs, and Pvt. First class Andrew Sivi.
Suddenly the door is cracked and opens a few inches and then, hesitatingly, Frau Annie Winter opens it full and admits the GI’s as she announces to them that she is in charge of this house.
Here fantastic fate takes a hand as it does elsewhere time and time again in this narrative. The house selected was No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse, the former apartment complex of none other than the German Leader, Adolf Hitler. This unit was, for the most part, incredibly untouched and intact, although most of the neighboring houses had been reduced to rubble.
The American ‘guests,’ including Sivi (left), with a couple of the housemaids
Once inside, the GI’s also meet the janitor, his wife, and two maids. The soldiers questioned them as to who might be the owner of this stately house. Then, like a thunder bolt from Wotan, himself, this small assemblage reveals to them that this is a very special residence, indeed; none other than the former Munich dwelling place of the German Chancellor and Leader, Adolf Hitler4
The tallest of the Americans notices that Frau Winter is trembling as she discloses this startling information to these young men, who, after all, are wearing the uniforms of the declared enemy of the German Reich. At this point Private First Class Sivi puts down his M-1 carbine and steps forth slowly and unmenacingly tries to assure her that she and the other occupants have nothing to fear. This gesture immediately helps to strike up a friendship. Sivi, tall, blond, and blue eyed, has a Germanic demeanor and look about him, which seems to spur an immediate sense of trust in her.
The GI’s then proceed to check out the house with the guidance of Frau Winter. As they had been ordered to do, they thoroughly search the entire premises. On the lower level they find the former quarters of the SS guards of the Leibstandarte, the Führer’s elite bodyguard detachment, as well as a bomb shelter, Frau Winter’s apartment, and a wine cellar full of Hitler’s supply of special bottled water.
On the second floor is the Führer’s nine-room apartment, which seems to be virtually untouched5. In Hitler’s bedroom a 3 ½-foot-long banner-type drape made of silk is observed lying across his bed. At one end above some fringe is an embroidered design of a swastika surrounded by small, gold eagles. At the other end is a large Nazi eagle in gold-bullion thread. Pvt. Sivi picks it up as his first souvenir. Later, he finds out that this was a funeral drape and the design was that of the personal standard of the Führer.
Details of the silk funeral drape found in Hitler’s bedroom. The flag depicted on the left is der Führerstandarte, Hitler’s personal standard.
During examination of other areas of the house, Sivi discovers a large, private office. He enters and finds the Führer’s desk and opens all the drawers and finds many photos and documents. The other GI’s excitedly help themselves to many of these items.
The revolver in its specially designed case. The case was produced in Germany after Geli’s death. Sivi later recounts that what he did with that desk was foolish in the extreme. Loyal SS men had been the last occupants there, and it was anything but uncommon for them to booby trap things they believed would excite the interest of GI looters. Despite this concern, youthful exuberance and uncontrollable curiosity had gotten the best of him and Sivi continued searching through the drawers. When he opens the top drawer on the right side he suddenly becomes flushed with a flow of adrenaline when he sees a group of four medals joined into a ribbon-bar presentation. Underneath it is a black leather case, which he immediately fantasizes as containing gems; however, when he opens it he was no less excited than if it had been the Bavarian Crown Jewels. There, in the professionally cut-to-fit green velvet lining of the black leather box is a gleaming Ladysmith revolver of Smith & Wesson manufacturer. The petite pistol is fully loaded, and he notes that the serial number on the butt is “709.”
More documents, photos, and sheets of personal stationary embossed with the Nazi eagle and swastika are removed at this point6.
rau Annie Winter, who befriended PFC Sivi. She was Hitler's housekeeper.
Frau Winter did not speculate on the medals, but we now believe they may have been the decorations of Ernst Röhm, the Storm Troop leader who was liquidated by the SS troops in the political purge that followed when the power of the Storm Troopers (SA) had to be broken and reformed7. The possibility of these being Roehm’s medals emerged into reality when one extrapolates that this drawer contained what might well have been construed as Hitler’s “sad memories” depository. It must be remembered that he considered Röhm a Kreigskamerad, or wartime comrade. Though they had not served together there was a bond between them of Korpgeist, the natural affinity of those who were baptized by the fiery hell of battle.
The mood abruptly changes when the discussion of No. 709 begins. Frau Winter’s face becomes contorted and pale: a look of complete shock comes over her face. As quickly as the mood changed Frau Winter’s pale face now becomes quite flushed as she excitedly exclaims, “That’s the Selbstmord pistol,” forgetting for the moment to speak English. She then repeats for Sivi, “That’s the suicide gun. The gun that poor Geli used to kill herself.”
Sivi then asks her who Geli was. She replies, “I can’t look, please put it away.” She turns her face while lifting an apron to dry the tears that had welled up in her eyes.
Later in the day Sivi brews some canned, ground coffee and offers her some to help her relax and forget the incident of that morning. In return she gives him another group of documents as well as a stuffed toy dog that Hitler had reportedly given to Geli on her 15th birthday. Also among the items she gives him are some towels marked “A.H. Berglert-K MU.” This stood for Adolf Hitler’s staff in Munich. Through research I have discovered that there were other such towels at his other places of residence such as the Führer Headquarters in the Munich Königsplatz and the Reich’s Chancellery in Berlin. At this time, Frau Winter, in appreciation of numerous gifts bestowed by PFC Sivi, presents him with the overcoat, visor cap, and sword ensemble of her deceased husband. The coat and visored cap were that of an Allgemeine (Homeland Division) major with a sleeve-band designation in silver-bullion writing, which read SS Hauptant, or headquarters office.
Herr Winter was an officer attached to the personal staff of the Chief of the SS, Heinrich Himmler. The swords included his dress sword from when he was an officer in a Bavarian Infantry Regiment in the First World War and the SS-officer’s sword that was issued to him.
By now, other American soldiers arrive at the house. They had finally been alerted as to the importance of this particular building and its former occupant.
Surprisingly enough intelligence officers were among the new arrivals, and they later ordered the janitor to burn many of the documents for no other reason than that it was rather chilly in the house during their stay there. No meticulous examination of the thousands of papers and documents was ever conducted8. According to the GI’s, anything of this nature, that was not taken by the dozens of soldiers, was burned at the orders of the officers and OSS people. The house was completely stripped in a few days save for those things that Frau Winter managed to put away possibly for a rainy day9.
No. 709 Goes to America
As for our Pvt. Sivi, he had a few very tempting offers for No. 709 while still stationed at the house, but he turned them down. And after a little longer stay at Number 16, he was granted furlough to England. He took the pistol with him, never being far away from it. He thoroughly enjoyed showing it off. All who saw it and heard its story were fascinated and usually declared it to be “the greatest of all war souvenirs” that were brought back. Both civilians and military personnel lined up to see it at the pubs and restaurants that Sivi frequented in England. Then, on September 1945, he shipped out for home with the gun in his duffel bag, always mindful that it must not be far from him at any time. He sensed how important a relic this would be to future generations.
Former PFC Andrew Sivi with No. 709 and the plush toy dog that belonged to Geli. Jamestown Post Journal. 12/2/1960.
PFC Sivi was totally enthralled with its presence and his possession of it. It could be said that it had an almost “mystic” manifestation to him. He had shipped all of the other items to his Pennsylvania home while in England. He was discharged from the service on September 28, 1945. In 1946, Sivi loaned the revolver to the U.S. Army, which had displayed it first at nearby Jamestown, New York, and then in Buffalo. The Army personally rendered it inoperable for safety-display purposes and, along with the other items: documents, funeral banner, SS uniform, and a stuffed dog that had belonged to Geli, they placed a value of $50,000 on the group for purposes of insurance and public interest. The items were also displayed on the U.S. Army’s “Freedom Train” for an extended period of time and also at libraries and veterans’ posts in the area. In between they reposed in a safety deposit box at a local bank.
The Fateful Event
Politics were the true love of Adolf Hitler, but he was very cautious of his political career and didn’t wish it to be put in the way of finger pointing because of his making Geli his mistress in his already-famous apartment and, particularly, because she was the daughter of his half sister. Hitler often stated that Geli was beautiful, fresh, unspoiled, happy with a bubbling personality, and, most important to him, intelligent. He guarded her zealously, but in 1931 Geli announced to him that she was going to continue her musical voice studies in Vienna. This upset him to the point of rage, and this rift between them may have been first concocted in Geli’s brain to force her Uncle Adolf to finally confess his true love and move towards a marriage proposal, which she obviously earnestly desired. She had done all she could to make him jealous, even to the point of manipulating a supposed love tryst with Emil Maurice, the Führer’s chauffeur, and letting Hitler discover a “secret engagement” with him.
Emil was also the Führer’s bodyguard and close friend, who had shared prison quarters with him at Landsburg after the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. When Hitler found out about this possibly contrived scenario, he flew into a rage and dismissed Emil. But even after that, Geli became involved with another young man, an artist from Vienna. After a terrible argument about her intentions to go to Vienna, Hitler stormed out of the apartment with the intention to attend an important Nazi meeting up in the north of Germany at Hamburg. Geli rushed into her room and slammed the door after leaving instructions with the household staff that she was not to be disturbed. Reports indicate that before the argument that ensued that day, and before Hitler’s angry exit, Geli’s pet canary, Hansi, had died and she was observed carrying it around the halls in a little box petting it, kissing the box, and softly talking to its lifeless body. Frau Winter said that Geli intended, at least for the moment, to bury it near Hitler’s Obersalzberg home, but later in her sadness...
…this idea was abandoned. Geli then had a meal of spaghetti with her uncle, who had, for now, returned, momentarily, and the argument began again, in earnest. Hitler “slammed out” of the room and left.
After she retired to her room, the housekeeper heard soft sobbing for hours, and a dull thump from Geli’s room was heard during the early hours of the night. Frau Reinhart, the assistant housekeeper, heard this, but she said that she thought nothing of it. The next morning several attempts were made to awaken Geli by knocking on the door and calling out her name, but to no avail. Finally, the housekeeping staff called in a locksmith. Frau Winter and her husband were the first to pass through the open door. There, next to couch, reposed the lifeless body of Geli. According to Frau and Herr Winter, alongside her body lay the Ladysmith revolver.
Another picture of Geli photographed by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's personal photographer In the book, Memoirs of a Confidant, Otto Wagener, a well-known Nazi official, was quoted as saying that "…Hitler always kept a loaded pistol (and we now know what pistol) on his night table or desk. He had to be constantly on guard against the possibility that some desperado of the left might, as happened to Horst Wessel, one day burst into his home to assassinate him."
Geli, she, who had loved so desperately, had obviously made a final decision in a hopeless, unrequited situation that had no chance of fruition.
There are some variances in the accounts, but most historians agree that Frau Winter, at this point, notified Rudolf Hess by telephone immediately, and followed that up with a phone call to the Munich police. Hess notified Hitler, who was finishing up party business in Nuremberg just before going on to Hamburg. Hitler was totally devastated. He could not even verbally sign off with Hess; his voice was lost completely.
Heinrich Mueller, who was later elevated to Chief of the Gestapo after the Nazis came to power, was at that time, a detective on the Munich Police Department. He, along with other police officers, arrived to investigate the incident. When Mueller observed the body, the revolver, and a note, Frau Winter watched him pick up both the revolver and the note and shove them deep into the pockets of his leather trench coat. Before he arrived Mueller knew from Frau Winter’s call that this was the home of Adolf Hitler. Being rather an opportunist and aware of the political hay that the leftists could and would make of this, he decided to keep Hitler’s name out of it all and possibly gain favor with this man whom Mueller could see as an upcoming important political leader with excellent potential.
Mueller contacted Martin Bormann, an old friend, and who served as Hitler’s paymaster. They met, and he turned the revolver over to Bormann along with the note. Bormann arranged to have Geli’s body sent back to the Spital section of Austria, which is the birthplace of Hitler’s mother and the ancestral home of the Raubel family. The Munich police now closed its file with the verdict of suicide.
The note never surfaced. Is it possible that it was burned along with sundry other important documents in the furnace at Number 16, Prinzregentenstrasse to provide heat for those American intelligence officers in 1945? We will probably never know about the note, but we do know that the little, but deadly, revolver survived!
Hitler was a broken man after the incident. Her death to him was the “the ultimate tragedy.” Close friends such as Gregor Strasser, who later became his enemy, and Rudolf Hess, had to stay with Hitler night and day for several days ostensibly to keep him from taking his own life. For many years hence tears would come to his eyes when her name was mentioned. Her room was preserved as a shrine. Frau Winter sealed it off at Hitler’s orders and it was opened and entered by only the closest friends of Hitler and Geli, but no longer by Hitler, himself. He was never known to have entered that room after the suicide.
The room was opened for remembrance ceremonies on the anniversaries of her birth and death. It was brightened with flowers, and all of her clothes and cosmetics were just as she had left them. The viewing, however, was always from the roped-off door. No. 709 was put in the drawer, the sad-memory drawer of the Führer’s desk, where it probably remained in its unopened case until Private First Class Andrew Sivi had opened it sometime later.
Why did the Führer preserve the instrument that took the life of the maiden he often professed was his only love? Why did he not toss it into the nearby Isar River?
Hitler always envisioned a great museum dedicated to the beginnings of the N.S.D.A.P. to be opened in Berlin some day. He always foresaw complete victory and the grandeur that would even foreshadow Napoleon or the successful conquests and victories of the Ceasars of Rome. It is probably an educated guess or assumption that he would have had the memory of Geli enshrined in a very special section of this grandiose enterprise, and that anything, everything, left of her memory would then be almost religiously displayed in a place of honor and remembrance for him. I believe the revolver was merely sitting in the drawer while waiting to be included, although sadly, in this magnificent design.
Geli’s Death in Perspective
Over the years there has been much speculation as to whether Geli’s death was suicide, accident, or murder. Authors run rampant with various notions and stories. Of course, the sensationalists always choose the homicide story, and they embellish it in every way possible. In the popular American magazine, Vanity Fair, Ron Rosenbaum, a sensationalist author, even quotes Hitler’s one-time friend and later his most-hated enemy, Otto Strasser, as saying that the “murder” was perpetrated because Geli was getting ready to expose “perverse sexual acts that she was forced to participate in.” Serious historians, however, have completely discounted all of this as the ramblings of an angry man disappointed that he had been expelled from the Party and thus lost his ticket to leadership therein. Many other speculating stories abound and a self-proclaimed Hitler “expert” and furniture restorer in Vienna claims he has found Geli’s grave and presses the city fathers of Vienna to have her remains exhumed. This man sought to prove that Geli was carrying the child of Adolf Hitler, and that forensic tests would also show that she had been beaten before the fatal bullet had entered her chest. The most accepted theory, however, remain the findings of the Munich police, as it was corroborated by Frau Winter, and seems to be verified by all who had close contact with Geli and Hitler, that it was merely the tragedy of an unrequited love affair; no more, no less.
During the time just before Geli died, Hitler could have been described as almost overconfident. Historians generally agree that if he had continued on this political path, his fortunes may well have withered and crashed. The financial supporters among the mega-rich were beginning to perceive him as an “upstart” and a man too wild to deal with. They had a hard time seeing him and his followers as all that different from the Bolsheviks that they felt menaced by. When Hitler received the news of his Geli’s fate, he went into an almost comatose state. He was completely crushed and devastated, and for a period of time he could accomplish nothing. It was as if he had been suddenly stricken with polio or some other disabling disease. He talked to neither his friends nor followers. There was no sign that he was taking his meals or caring for himself, at all. For a time, Hitler was a broken man. After the grief finally abated the man that emerged was a significantly more quiet and serious politician who now had a grasp on the meaning of life and its inherent fragility. This tragic event nearly vanquished Hitler, but for him, it was the crucible that fired him up to a “keener edge” and very probably set him on the path toward the ultimate victory for himself and the Party.
Bronze bust of Geli by famed artist, Thorak. Hitler commissioned it and it was placed in a special room to commemorate her.
Geli’s death will be seen in the historic perspective as the catalyst for Hitler’s tactical change, and the little S&W No. 709 as the only physical instrument that survives this catastrophic event and, today, provides silent, although dramatic, testimony of this prodigiously important turning point in the historical accounting of the saga of Adolf Hitler.
However, No. 709 had actually already entered into “historic notoriety.” In 1923, because of the events in the next chapter (The Putsch) that I will later relate, the revolver virtually disappeared only to reappear 9 years later. After the death of Geli, in 1931, it disappeared again and emerged some 14 years later in 1945, in the hands of Private First Class Sivi. And now, 56 years later, No. 709 is brought forward into the new millennium with its dark secrets fully revealed here at last!
Equally as germane as Geli’s suicide was to Adolf Hitler’s career was the exciting and momentous episode known to history as “The Failed Putsch at Munich” in November of 1923. This has been referred to as “Hitler’s rehearsal for power.” Historians note that Hitler transcended the stalemate that existed between the Nazis and the numerous other parties that vigorously competed. He also transformed himself from a mere beer-hall orator and agitator into a real leader, who would be well on his way to ultimate world power as Chancellor and Führer of Germany.
"The Putsch," where Hitler & No. 709 were central to the entire plot.
We know that this S&W was the only gun Hitler ever carried in the days that history recalls as der Kampfzeit, or “days of struggle.” It follows that this was the very weapon that he would fire at the ceiling of the Burgerbraukeller, the famous beer hall where Hitler and his followers actually held the Bavarian Weimar Government captive on November 8th and 9th, 1923. It was here that he declared the government deposed, and announced that the National Socialist Revolution would now “break out.”
Now the circumstance most significant to us at this point in this enormously critical juncture of history is the fact that this important political “hooligan” held the all-powerful government leaders at bay with this diminutive revolver. Here, once again, we have an event that utterly and devastatingly changed the course of history. Please consider the fact that had Hitler not fired the shot into the hall’s ceiling, as I will relate here, and had he not fully intimidated the assembled politicians and officials, it is more than possible that they would have called his bluff and simply walked out, straightaway, and this melodrama would have ended. This brilliant showman and his followers would have more than likely had to settle down for the rest of the evening of oom-pa-pa music and had a good cry in their beer. However,our little No. 709 in the hands of the man called the “Political Mephisto” turned the tide.
In Ernst Hanfstaengl’s book, Unheard Witness, the author states that the National Socialists arrived at the Burgerbraukeller during a particularly boring speech of General Gustav Von Kahr, who was the Bavarian State Commissioner. He was at a particular sleep-inducing part of his address, when all of a sudden the doors flew open and Hermann Wilhelm Goring and 25 SA Storm Troopers armed to the teeth burst into the hall; all hell broke loose. People headed for cover. Tables with beer and food spilled over, and Adolf Hitler resolutely and hurriedly paced toward the speaker’s platform followed by the Nazi leaders and SA men. Hitler, as Hanfstaengl relates, clamored onto a chair and fired a round at the ceiling. Hanfstaengl said that it was often maintained that Hitler did this to terrify the gathering into submission, but he earnestly believed it actually was to wake them up. At this point, with revolver in hand, Hitler proclaimed, “…the National Revolution has broken out. The Reichswehr is with us. Our flag is flying on their barracks…,” and while brandishing the revolver, Hitler loudly proclaimed to the politicians and assemblage, "One last thing I can tell you, either the German revolution begins tonight, and the morrow will find a true nationalist government, or it will find us dead!"
November 9, 1923. The Putschisten; ready to “do or die.” Hitler then turned his pistol on the leading politicians: Gustav von Kahr, General Otto von Lossow, and Colonel Hans von Seisser, while all the time gesticulating the weapon and proclaimed, “Fight this battle with me, or die with me. If things go wrong there are four bullets in this pistol: one each for my three collaborators should they desert me.” Then, as if under a spell with eyes now glossy and dilated, he then pointed the revolver to his head and softly uttered, “The last one is for me. If I am not triumphant tomorrow, I shall be a dead man.”
History records that this was a point in time when Germany appeared to stand still between the convincing and desperate power play of this "upstart" of a revolutionary, and the little S&W revolver that he brandished so effectively; and it worked, for the moment.
A Karl Goetz caricature medal struck in 1923 commemorating the Putsch.
Note: Hitler’s holding revolver in hand with the captivated Otto Von Lossow standing alongside.
The officers completely capitulated at this point. Had they not, it is probable that Hitler’s followers would have, for the most part, finally deserted him and the historically important march to the Feldherrenhalle might never have occurred. This was without a doubt the “bluff of the century.” The moment was seized and thus began the march of the 'brown battalions' forging forward towards their appointment with destiny and the birth through martyrdom of the Third Reich.
Bürger-Bräu-Keller, where the Putsch began. This was a yearly reenactment that took place each November 9th on until the 1940s.
All of this is well documented. We know that the trial that ensued set the pace for the ever-increasing popularity of one who was nothing but a struggling nationalistic zealot who probably would have utterly failed if he had not stormed forth that night at the beer hall with his trusty American revolver. This was the incident during which No. 709 was first employed in historic use and deed.
PFC Sivi’s Treasures!
There is much evidence and historic provenance to prove that No. 709 is indeed the Hitler pistol. When PFC Andrew Sivi removed the pistol and its case from that desk drawer amid the obvious melancholy and grief of Frau Winter, he had no idea at all of the earth-shattering events that this innate object had already participated in. Frau Winter was very relieved to give away this pistol with its sorrowful tale still etched in her mind.
Sivi, with Frau Winter’s permission, had tucked it away in his duffel bag and during the next 20 days, while staying there, traded coffee (which Frau Winter loved) for many other souvenirs. Among the other items he acquired were more than 70 post cards that had been sent to Hitler, plus documents and telegrams that the Führer had sent to Frau Winter, and a stuffed dog that Hitler had given to Geli on her fifteenth birthday. Many important letters from familiar party leaders were among the treasures. Of particular note was a letter from Alfred Rosenburg to Hitler imploring him to cosign a loan for him or he might commit suicide within a short time. Other items having to do with or personally belonging to Hitler, and Major Winter’s uniform and swords began their journey to the USA via a short stay in England.
The little revolver and the fact that it had belonged to the man who, for a time, was the most powerful world leader awed all who viewed it. Sivi sold Major Winter’s outfit and the other items to the late Colonel Larry Michael in 1980. It has been stored away in safekeeping ever since.
A cozy nook in the apartment.
The N.Y. State pistol permit issued to Andrew Sivi when he registered No. 709. Included in the significant and weighty provenance that accompanies this pistol, articles from newspapers in Jamestown, New York; the Buffalo Evening News, and Buffalo Courier Express dating back to 1945 mention that PFC Sivi was quartered in Hitler’s house and tell of the souvenirs he brought home to include the SS uniform and a small American-made pistol. Other articles in these journals mention that Army officials at the time valued the collection at $50,000. Mentioned also is the fact the Sivi’s accumulation was taken to Buffalo for exhibition.
Lieutenant Robert Schermer, Buffalo Army Recruiting Officer, revealed this. The regimental history of the famed 45th Thunderbird Division that Sivi was a member of also documents Sivi’s post at the Hitler house. The Jamestown Post Journal in December of 1960 had a rather lengthy article on Sivi and his treasures, and featured a picture of him with letters, Geli’s stuffed dog, and the revolver. The present owner also has the original NY-State pistol permit (#6292-1946) from 1946 when Sivi registered the pistol, and the aforementioned letter from Mr. Roy Jenks, historian, and customer-service manager for the Smith & Wesson Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. His letter of September 2, 1982 traces the history—from factory to France.
It’s quite easy, and perhaps logical, for the mind to ascend to the possibilities given the 1903 destination of this weapon. Among the articles of provenance are signed and notarized affidavits from PFC Sivi and notably, one from a Mr. Arthur Peters, who, after stating that he was a member of the U.S. Army 45th Infantry Division holding the rank of sergeant, goes on to say that he was also quartered in No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse with PFC Sivi, and the others. He states he witnessed Sivi removing the small revolver in a black case. He identified it as a Smith & Wesson, and in 1984 he signed a photo of the gun for Larry Michael.
The Life magazine that chronicled the apartment story and the subsequent looting.
Sgt Peters on the bed at No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse. Peters went on to say that he is the same Sgt. Peters that is pictured on page 38 of the May 1945 issue of Life magazine. Peters is pictured as he sacked out on Hitler’s bed (which turned out to be Geli’s bed), while looking at a copy of Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf.
Recently on the History Channel in its series of “Tales of the Gun” a segment entitled “Million-Dollar Guns” was aired. A gun owed by Hitler was featured. This particular weapon was the Mod. PP Walther pistol that was presented to him by the Walther Family on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, April 20, 1939. It was gold plated with deep floral motif chiseling and ivory grips. The initials “A.H.” are found on the left side of the center panel. The provenance was convincing and the gun sold at auction for over $100,000 in November of 1987. It was a very beautiful piece and very historically important. However, the fact remains that by 1939, Hitler did not need to carry a gun because at this time he was guarded by the SS and didn’t need a personal gun and probably never even carried this Walther.
The Walther 7.65automatic pistol that was presented by the Walther family to Adolf Hitler on his birthday, April 20, 1939. He never carried this weapon.
Historians Agree Hitler Packed a Revolver
Contemporary history also documents that Hitler’s earlier preference in pistols was the revolver over an automatic. It has been many times noted with period photographs that he wore an old weather-worn great coat in those early years and it is usually observed that he continually had his right hand thrust deeply in the pocket, especially in the time of political struggle, der Kampfzeit. He was the world’s busiest aspiring politician at this time and had many very tough and dangerous enemies among the communists, and other reactionaries. Various historians almost invariably agree that down deep in this pocket the Führer gripped a revolver.
Hitler, visiting the Landsburg Prison where he was incarcerated after the failed Putsch.
Note his hand (perpetually) in his right pocket clutching No. 709.
Automatic pistols were as common as sauerkraut in Germany, but everyone in the know seems to always mention Hitler’s revolver. In his work, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, Robert Payne says in the chapter “The November Putsch,” “Hitler wore a trench coat and carried a revolver in his pocket.” Later, Payne states, “Hitler jumped on a table, fired two shots from his revolver into the ceiling and shouted, ‘silence!’”
Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl (left), Hitler, and other Nazi notables on the campaign tours. Note: Hitler’s hand in pocket, again.
On page 74 he recounts that Ullrich Graf, Hitler’s bodyguard, “…brought him a stein of beer, which he drained while waving his revolver at the three adversaries.” Page 181 refers to Hitler’s almost incoherent state of mind when, after the failed Putsch, he was hiding out in Uffing, a suburb of Munich, at the home of Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl, who was an early friend and later Hitler’s representative with the foreign press. Hanfstaengl was of German-American parentage and was descended from two American Civil War generals and was the son of an art dealer, who owned a shop on Fifth Avenue in New York. At this point in the narrative we see yet another intriguing “American connection” to the saga of Hitler and his revolver.
When Hitler had reached a point of complete desperation after the failure of the Putsch, and the horrible state of affairs, as he now perceived it, he believed his life had now reached “the point of no return” and now would attempt suicide. He suddenly announced at Hanfstaengl’s Villa, “This is the end! I will never let those swine take me. I will shoot myself first,” as he lifted the petite No. 709 to his temple. At this point something happened that also would affect world history forever. Herr Hanfstaengl’s wife, Helene, cried out, “What are you doing?” and seized his hand and wrested from him the revolver just as it was about to fire. She exclaimed, “Think of all your loyal followers who believe in you. How can you forsake all those good people who share your ideal of saving your country while you take your own life?”
Hitler then covered his face with is hands and Helene ran immediately into an adjoining room where she hid the revolver in a barrel of flour. It is a fascinating and captivating synopsis when one’s mind ascends to the implications of that moment when this man, who certainly made the largest mark in history since Napoleon, came within a heartbeat of finality. It becomes, again, very apparent especially at this momentous point in time not only how historically significant No. 709 is, but also at the same time imagine the earth-shattering implications had the future Führer succeeded in his suicide attempt with this now infamous revolver. Had Frau Hanfstaengl not intervened, what would the rest of the century and the future have held in store for our world?
The reader may now be surprised to know that Helene was an American citizen that “Putzi” had married in the U.S. in 1920. She was the daughter of a German-American businessman who had emigrated from Bremen. Also interesting is that in Hanfstaengl’s book, Unheard Witness, (Lippencourt, 1959), where he describes this incident, he clearly denotes “revolver,” not “pistol,” “gun,” “or Walther,” just “revolver.”
We believe the American connections to No. 709 are prodigiously engaging—American gun, German-American friend, American wife, who history records most assuredly saved the life of the future Führer and preserved the little revolver in the offing.
So, again, No. 709 continued its effect on history. Had the wife of "Putzi" Hanfstaengel not intervened history would have been very different, indeed.
It is bizarre that through political intrigues and such, the Hanfstaengls later became bitter enemies of the Führer; however, we must reflect at this point again on the importance of the Smith & Wesson revolver on 20th-Century history. In his book, HitlerM, Herbert Walther also references Hitler’s brandishing of a revolver at the beer hall. In the most famous work ever published about Hitler and Nazi Germany, William L. Shirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich states in the chapter on the Beer-Hall Putsch, page 104, that Hitler fired a revolver toward the ceiling. On page 105 Shirer states that when Hitler was holding the Bavarian officials at bay, “It was at the point of Adolf Hitler’s revolver.” He also recounts that one onlooker at the last event of the ill-fated Putsch known as the “Feldherrenhalle massacre” observed that Hitler might have fired the first shot with his revolver; this is speculative at best. The German author, Heinz A. Heinz, on page 178 of Germany’s Hitler, when describing Hitler’s actions at the Burgerbraukeller states as follows: “Hitler made an attempt to speak, but the excitement was so great he could neither make himself heard nor understood. So he drew his revolver (emphasis added) and a loud report rang out. He had pointed it upward to the ceiling.” In The Making of Adolf Hitler, subtitled “The Birth and Rise of Nazism,” author Eugene Davidson recounts on page 197 his firing of a revolver into the ceiling.
Many more eminent historians have noted the word “revolver” when describing the beer-hall Putsch. Because of the other circumstantial, but convincing evidence assembled, this writer believes it safe to make the logical assumption that little 709 was the beer-hall-Putsch weapon considering all the other prevalent facts.
As to the suicide of Geli Raubel, there can be no reasonable doubt whatsoever that this is the weapon used in the tragic moment. It is very interesting to note at this point that in a fairly new book entitled Hitler and Geli, by Ronald Hayman, he writes on page 170 of Adolf Hitler’s telling Friedelind Wagner that Geli was scared of guns ever since a fortune teller predicted that a revolver bullet would end her life. In the suicide incident we have some conflict in the narratives where authors quote the report and deposition of Gregor Strasser, later, Hitler’s archenemy, who identified the suicide weapon as a Walther 6.35 revolver. First of all, no such weapon exists, and it should be noted that Strasser was probably not at all familiar with the nomenclature or caliber of firearms. It was his original recounting that has been quoted by numerous historians; however, although the caliber has been disputed, all have agreed that it was indeed a small revolver that Geli used to end her life. In The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, author Robert Payne on page 227 recounts that “They found Geli Raubel lying on the floor in a blue nightdress at the foot of a sofa. The revolver lay on the sofa. She had been dead for many hours.” He also noted that she was dead at the age of 23!
So it is that the word “revolver” constantly emerges in the early history of the man, Adolf Hitler, but the Germans always preferred automatics from their earliest warfare—1870 on. In fact, there have been practically no revolvers manufactured in Germany except for one “hulking piece” that goes back very early; its manufacture or nomenclature unknown to us at this time.
Adolf was not the only Third Reich notable that preferred an American revolver. When he surrendered to American forces in 1945, Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring turned over his Smith & Wesson Model M&P (military and police) .38-caliber revolver to his American captors. It seemed S&W was the weapon of choice among the Nazi leaders.
In any case, I have not attempted to reconstruct the entire documentation or provenance that abound with No. 709. When one peruses the clippings, articles, affidavits, testimonies, and various literary works, one can readily see that there can be no reasonable doubt to the fact that here is the personal handgun of the German chancellor and wartime leader.
I have shown how Hitler’s faithful housekeeper, Frau Annie Winters, interacted with the American GIs of the 45th Division. Essentially Hitler’s personal items were given freely and exchanged because of the kindness shown by PFC Andrew Sivi and others, including Sgt. Arthur Peters. We know that Adolf Hitler was not a gun collector or weapons enthusiast as was the Reich’s hunting master, Herman Göring. Hitler despised the killing of animals—he was a vegetarian.
Hitler collected nothing, as he admitted in the collected works known as “Hitler’s Table Talk.” He was a plain and simple man who was not a materialist in any sense of the word. Unlike the flamboyant Hermann Göring, the Führer’s material possessions would fit into a traveling valise.
Adolf Hitler’s pistol permit issued on November 26, 1921, 3 years after he was discharged from the Army. In 1921 Hitler applied for and was granted a pistol permit. In his book, Hitler, the Pictorial Documentary of His Life, author John Toland shows a picture of this permit as photo No. 50. Unfortunately, on its face the number ‘709’ does not appear, but there is the number ‘22’ (for .22 caliber?) clearly showing.
We know that Hitler preferred to carry the small revolver tucked down into the pocket of his shabby greatcoat, but there is at least one historical reference to a holster. In the book, Hitler and Geli, published in 1997, author Ronald Hayman quotes Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl as describing Hitler’s wearing of a rather outlandish outfit occasionally consisting of a blue suit, a purple shirt, a brown waistcoat, and a red tie. The bulge at his hip was caused by a revolver in its holster. According to Hanfstaengl, he may have been modeling himself on Karl May’s cowboys. He also mentions Hitler as he arrived for coffee: he stopped at a coat hook in the hallway to discard his velour hat and trench coat, and hang up his cartridge belt, which had a revolver attached to it.
We are certain that even in the future more will be unearthed about this extraordinary, historically important relic. Even now, it is without doubt the most important piece to ever surface from the actual property of Adolf Hitler. Certainly there was never any item that was used by him for so long or depended upon so much. The revolver’s use was practically a daily event, until the day when it was retired after being part of the greatest tragedy ever to befall him.
After Geli’s suicide, Hitler put No. 709 in that desk drawer where he kept all the other sad or distasteful memories of the formative years of the Nazi epoch. This drawer was probably never opened by anyone but the Führer, himself, until a GI from New York’s southern tier entered No. 16, Prinzregentenstrasse and became the temporary custodian of No. 709, the “Gun of Destiny.”
Last edited by Silberkreuz; 11-30-2014 at 11:30 PM.
Hi, updated with additional information and photos.
A fascinating read. Thanks!
everytime I go to a gunshow, someone enters with a gold or chrome plate luger claiming it was Hitlers or the one hitler shot himself with
I want the half hour of my life back f4rom reading this. It reads like nazi worship...with a 22 pistol as the "hook". uugh !.