Houstonian Jack McConn has a desk set he wants to sell. It’s not just any old desk set, mind you. It’s the one Hitler used to sign the Munich Pact back on this day in 1938. (For those of you who skipped history class that day, the Munich Pact was an agreement by France, Britain, Italy and the up-and-coming fuher that allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia, it should be noted, was not asked for any input. The Munich Pact is considered to be a major milestone leading to WWII.)
As WWII was winding down, McConn, a young GI, was in Munich, guarding the building that had once been Hitler’s headquarters. “I was a lieutenant at the end of the war,” he told Hair Balls by phone. “My CO had assigned me and my platoon to guard a place called the Feuerbau, which had been Hitler’s headquarters in Munich. I found a desk set in the cellar of the building. I boxed it up and sent it to my dad.”
“I was just looking for a souvenir. I didn’t realize that it was the desk on which the Munich Pact was signed. Then maybe ten or twelve years ago when I saw a news reel that showed Hitler, Mussolini and Daladier, and Chamberlain signing the Pact and they were using that desk set.”
By then the desk made the rounds from his father’s office to McConn’s office and then to McConn’s home. When he realized the historical (and hopefully financial) significance of the desk set, McConn wisely moved it to a bank vault. McConn and his family decided the 70th anniversary of the Munich Pact would be a good time to test the waters and see what the desk set might bring at auction.
Estimates in Europe put the possible price tag at half a million pounds (that’s around $900,000 in American dollars) “I think it will bring more than that, but I’m no expert on it, the Lord knows,” McConn says. (85-year-old McConn, who is still a practicing trial lawyer here in Houston, has exciting plans for the money: “I’ll put it in a bank account,” he says. “And leave it to my children.” Take that, Bill Gates.)
“I’ve had longer than Hitler did,” McConn laughs. “But still, it’s a unique piece. It has a great deal of historical significance.”
Enough historical significance to warrant his donating it to a museum?
“It depends on what the museum is willing to pay for it,” he says, smoothly skipping over the "donating" part. “I think I’m entitled to the value, whatever it is. If a museum steps up and pays enough for it, well then fine. The best place for it really would be in a museum, more people would have access to it under those circumstances.”
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And what if someone who is pro-Hitler buys it as remembrance of the furher?
“I would not like that at all,” McConn says firmly. But, experienced lawyer that he is, he doesn’t rule the possibility out. Would he withdraw the desk set from sale if a pro-Hitler group makes the winning bid? “Well, I guess I have to wait and see all the circumstances in order to answer that question,” he says thoughtfully. “We just have to use our judgment on that.”
For a look at the desk set and information on how to bid, visit www.munipact.com.
— Olivia Flores Alvarez