Five paintings attributed to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler from his early days as a struggling artist have failed to sell at auction in the southern German city of Nuremberg, possibly over fears they could be fake.
The Nuremberger Nachrichten newspaper reported on Sunday that no bids were received on the paintings, which had starting prices of between 19,000 euros ($21,500) and 45,000 euros ($50,900).
The Weidler auction house did not comment on the reasons but said the paintings could be sold at a later date.
Nuremberg mayor, Ulrich Maly, had earlier condemned the auction as being “in bad taste”.
Among the items that failed to sell was a painting of a mountain lake view and a wicker armchair with a swastika symbol presumed to have belonged to Hitler.
Three days before Saturday’s auction, prosecutors seized 63 other paintings attributed to Hitler from the auction house to investigate allegations they were fake.
Nuremberg-Fuerth prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation against persons unknown “on suspicion of falsifying documents and attempted fraud”, chief prosecutor Antje Gabriels-Gorsolke told the AFP news agency.
“If they turn out to be fakes, we will then try to determine who knew what in the chain of ownership,” she said.
Last month in Berlin, prosecutors seized three other Hitler watercolours after receiving a complaint questioning their authenticity [Daniel Karmann/AFP]
Weidler said in a statement that withdrawing the paintings from sale did “not automatically mean they are fakes”.
Sales of alleged artworks by Hitler, who for a time tried to make a living as an artist in his native Austria, regularly sparks outrage that collectors are willing to pay high prices for art linked to the country’s Nazi past.
“There’s a long tradition of this trade in devotional objects linked to Nazism,” Stephan Klingen of the Central Institute for Art History in Munich told AFP.
“Every time, there’s a media buzz about it … and the prices they’re bringing in have been rising constantly. Personally, that’s something that quite annoys me.”
According to Klingen, Hitler had the style of “a moderately ambitious amateur” but his creations did not stand out from “hundreds of thousands” of comparable works from the period, making their authenticity especially hard to verify.
The watercolours, drawings and paintings bearing “Hitler” signatures featured views of Vienna or Nuremberg, female nudes and still-life works, the auction house said. They were offered by 23 different owners.
Last month in Berlin, prosecutors seized three other Hitler watercolours after receiving a complaint questioning their authenticity.