For the past month I have been hard at work on the subject of the enormous mass of fake German militaria being manufactured and merchandised to the collecting world as genuine.
These fakes fall into a number of categories:
The first one is counterfeiting of original pieces, such as belt buckles, steel helmets, medals and decorations, uniforms and uniform accessories, and edged weapons.
The second one are so-called personality items such as items belonging to famous personalities, such as Hitler, Goering, Himmler and various leading military personalities such as Rommel, Model, Blomberg, Moelders and Hartmann. This category has everything from a field marshal’s baton to uniforms, documents, decorations and signed pictures
The third one consists of fantasy items such as created daggers and swords, altered decorations such as a wound badge in gold with diamonds or a standard Wehrmacht Army officer’s dagger gold plated and called a “General’s Honor Dagger.”
Outside of Germany, it is not illegal to manufacture items with a swastika attached and it is not illegal for a militaria dealer to purchase such items.
It is, however, illegal for a militaria dealer, or an auction house, to sell such items as authentic.
This constitutes fraud and in many cases, tax fraud and if prosecuted, would either imprison the perpetrator or heavily fine them. Or hopefully, both.
A dealer who buys a fake military buckle made recently in India, China or Poland for, say $5.00 and sells it as an authentic piece for, say $50.00 is committing fraud but at this level, no law enforcement agency would have any interest in prosecution.
However, if a dealer were to purchase, let us say, an embroidered Imperial German standard from a Pakistani embroidery firm for $200.00 and then advertise, and sell, it for $10,000, this is considered by law enforcement as a serious criminal fraud and easily prosecuted.
It is standard practice in law enforcement to apprehend an individual engaged in criminal activities, interrogate them and then offer them either a reduced sentence for a minor offense or freedom on the condition they inform on any other person in their field engaged in fraud.
So, for the past month, I have been gathering information on manufacturers of fakes with the intent of showing competent authority, and eventually the media, of the degree and extent of the merchandising of fakes and fraudulent items.
To facilitate this project, I have sent emails to many manufacturers telling them that I was a good friend of this or that dealer who recommended their products. In very many cases, the manufacturer has responded, stating this this or that dealer had purchased, and was purchasing, their products.
This ploy establishes the fact that the dealer is well aware that certain items he sells are completely fake and that he is committing provable fraud.
And once this fact is clearly established, the process begins.
By diligent searches on the Internet, we have located about fifty dealers in militaria who knowingly purchase and resell known fake items and have brought all of this factual material to competent authority.
In such matters, there is always initial caution in a field that is not known but once even a tentative investigation establishes fraud, then the process becomes active.
And a fraud is not considered to have been committed until it has been discovered.