17th Mar, 2021 10:00

The Spring Auction

  Lot 227

Italian silver cigarette case gifted from Benito Mussolini to Admiral Dönitz

An Italian silver cigarette case, stamped 800, formally engraved with floral and scrolling decoration, interior with engraved signature 'Mussolini' and the inscription 'Luglio 1944 - XXII', 8.5cm wide, 12.3cm high, contained with a purple pouch with a white leather trim.

Provenance: By family repute, this cigarette case was a personal gift from Benito Mussolini to Admiral Dönitz. It was acquired by Major William George Cole who served with British Military Intelligence from 1940-46, including attendance at the Nuremberg Trials.

Mussolini is known to have given out several such silver cigarette cases to potential allies or friends. For example, Ruth Hannah's Leaflets of Our Resistance: VOL 1 (Exclamation Publishers, 2009) includes an interview with Federico Stallforth, a prominent New York businessman, who dealt with both the German Foreign Office and German opposition simultaneously in the attempt of postponing entry of the United States into the war. In this interview, Stallforth mentions receiving a very similar cigarette as a gift from Mussolini as thanks for his work.

Alongside Mussolini's engraved signature, the cigarette case in this lot is inscribed with the date 22nd July 1944 (Juglio 1944 – XXII). Further research shows this date does indeed coincide with the recorded meeting between Mussolini and Dönitz at the Wolfschanze, shortly after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler.

After Hitler's suicide, Dönitz was arrested alongside his provisional government and staff at Flensburg on 23rd June 1945 where they were taken into custody by the men of the 4th (Territorial) Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. At some point before transfer from Flensburg, Dönitz’s bags were searched and several items were known to have been stolen. Notable items taken from those bags at the time include a ceremonial baton, which was later donated by Brigadier Jack Church to the Shrewsbury Regimental Museum.

This item is offered via direct descent from Major Cole.

Sold for £750


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