About a year ago, on a cold, nearly-sub-zero day in January, I visited Greg Kohfeldt’s auto repair shop in New Jersey to inspect and report on an unusual object that had come into his possession: Hitler’s Toilet. The toilet, which was taken off Hitler’s yacht when the ship was scrapped after the war, has been in Greg’s garage since he bought the place. It remains, a year later, one of the strangest stories I have ever written.
I called Kohfeldt and he confessed that he had no idea what was going on. “I’ve never actually looked for a buyer,” he said, “it’s not openly for sale, but if someone offers me a good sum of money I’m not going to say no.” In short, the toilet is not at an auction house or at an appraiser’s office, or on a website. It is not for sale, but it isn’t off the market. When I asked Kohfeldt if he would donate it to the Smithsonian or to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, he responded immediately: “Absolutely!”
But let us imagine for a minute that the newspapers were right, and that the toilet is for sale. What would that even look like? Would it be on Craigslist?
Führer Toilet for sale.
Shows signs of use but still in working order.
Manufactured in Germany
Original owner had a German Shepherd but it has been stored in a pet-free environment since the 1940s.
Kohfeldt told me, just as he did last year, that nobody has ever made him an offer. It is a fact I find hard to believe; American troops in Germany during the war (when Nazi memorabilia was in abundance) were known for for bringing all manner of souvenirs back, from the easily concealed lugers and armbands, to the larger, more conspicuous items like flags. Wouldn’t Hitler’s toilet be the ultimate Nazi souvenir, rare even in the 1940s, and a treasure by today’s standards, 70 years after the war’s end and as the last Nazi officers die on their own?
Perhaps nobody wants to buy it because it’s not the sort of flashy artifact you can hang on a mantelpiece, or a thing you can impress guests with: Fun fact, Tim. That toilet you used in the bathroom down the hall? Hitler used it. Perhaps it is because the item itself presents a dilemma: do you leave it as is, on display like Greek pottery, or do you install it and use it like a toilet?
Kohfeldt has taken a fascinating and novel approach: using the toilet, not as Hitler’s toilet, but simply as his garage toilet. In fact, perhaps it is ultimately for this reason that nobody has made an offer. By making an offer it becomes more than a toilet; it takes on again the title Hitler’s toilet. And in that case, it is impossible not to put it on display without seeming a Hitler fanatic, and impossible to use it without feeling a little bit like Hitler.
Alexander Aciman is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in, among other publications, The New York Times, Vox, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.