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Eagle that once adorned Hitler's private train recovered by Wisconsin historical center

Douglas County Historical Society director, Tony Tracy, right, hands Bob Fuhrman, director of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center a chromium eagle that once adorned Adolph Hitler’s private train. The Nazi artifact was donated to DCHS in 1946, was lost from the collection for at least four decades, and was recovered by Superior police after Tracy found it for sale on Craigslist. Shelley Nelson

A piece of history recovered from a storage shed in Eveleth, Minn., is getting a new home at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center.

A chromium eagle that once adorned the private train of Adolph Hitler will be on display in the new acquisitions case until late in the fall, said Bob Fuhrman, director of the Bong Center.

The Douglas County Historical Center donated the lost and recovered war trophy to the center that shares military history with the public.

The eagle with a Nazi swastika beneath its talons was donated to the Douglas County Historical Society in 1946. Documented by an article and photograph in the Evening Telegram, and given an ascension number, the artifact vanished from the society’s collection.

It was recovered when DCHS director, Tony Tracy, spotted the artifact last August on Craigslist while scrolling through antiques. Tracy notified Superior police of his suspicions about the artifact — that it could be one missing from the historical society’s collection.

Once the artifact was verified it became a question of what to do with it for the historical society and its board.

"I bet that will bring a lot of people in," said Sam Pomush, a member of the historical society board. He said when Tracy suggested donating the artifact to the Bong Center, it made perfect sense to him.

The veterans historical center was originally founded as a repository for the region’s historic involvement in World War II.

"It’s an important piece of history that needs to be displayed," Tracy said. "The historical society is really about Douglas County and the people, the lives and the communities of the county, and not so much about this piece of history."

Tracy said the artifact was a much better fit for the Bong Center.

Fuhrman said in addition to what the chromium eagle represented in Nazi Germany, it’s transfer to the Bong Center symbolizes the cooperation among the museums in the area.

Pomush, of Jewish faith, said before Hitler claimed the eagle symbol as his own, it was a symbol of peace and used by many families.

"This artifact fits in in a lot of ways for us, not just because of the era," Fuhrman said. "A lot of things in our World War II collection are souvenirs — things that guys and gals brought back home with them."It’s an interesting artifact. There’s a lot of things in the collection that have that Nazi symbolism with them."

Since the end of World War II, there are fewer souvenirs that soldiers have brought home, and today, it’s not allowed, Fuhrman said.

"When those things came back over in 1945 and ’46 … what these were is more along the line of what I’ll call war trophies," Fuhrman said. He said it’s akin to 18th and 19th century soldiers capturing the enemy’s battle flag, taking their symbol away from them.

"Frankly, one of the interesting things about it is the story of what happened to it when it came home," Fuhrman said.

Superior police detectives Kirk Hill and Jack Curphy took on the case, recovering the artifact for the historical society. They determined the eagle had been missing from the collection for at least four decades but were unable to determine who took it.

"That will be one of the things our docents tell people about when they take people on tours through the museum," Fuhrman said. "It’s one of those stories that docents will love to share. That’s why they call it his-story."