Bookmark linked to Hitler recovered by Feds

SEATTLE — An 18-carat gold bookmark reportedly owned by Adolf Hitler and stolen from an auction house in Spain six years ago has been recovered by American authorities in an undercover operation halfway around the world.

Christian Popescu, a Romanian national, was arrested Tuesday outside a Bellevue Starbucks after trying to sell the bookmark to an undercover agent for $100,000, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court.

Federal prosecutors said the bookmark was among several items taken in an auction-house heist in Madrid, Spain, six years ago. At the time, some antiquities experts questioned its authenticity.

The bookmark was reportedly given to Hitler by his longtime mistress, Eva Braun, to console him after German forces surrendered at Stalingrad. The bookmark is engraved with a portrait of Hitler as well as an imperial eagle and swastika.

“My Adolf, don’t worry,” it reads, adding that the loss was “only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory. My love for you will be eternal, as our Reich will be eternal. Always yours, Eva. 3-2-43.”

Regardless of its authenticity, federal agents said its theft broke the law.

“Artifacts of historical significance are not souvenirs for illegal sale to the highest bidder,” Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s office of investigations in Seattle, said in a statement.

Popescu made an initial appearance in federal court Wednesday, where he was represented by a public defender who left without speaking to reporters.

A man who described himself as Popescu’s roommate called the undercover operation a “setup.”

“I don’t think Christian is involved in anything. He doesn’t have any prior record. He’s a business owner, a clean person,” the man, Kleon Tona, said outside the courthouse. “We came over as normal people. Just looking for a better life, not a life to do things like this. I think it’s a big setup.”

Tona said Popescu immigrated to the Seattle area about 12 years ago.

Popescu is being held on one count of sale or receipt of stolen goods. A detention hearing was set for Monday.

According to charging papers, ICE learned in August that Popescu was trying to sell the bookmark in the Seattle area. Through an informant, agents learned that Popescu had shopped the bookmark in the area three years ago, and would pay a 10 percent commission if the informant could find a buyer.

The informant helped arrange the sale to an undercover agent, the papers said. Popescu allegedly wanted $150,000 for the bookmark, but settled for $100,000.

Spanish authorities estimated its value at $13,000 to $17,000, court documents say.

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said agents are still investigating how the bookmark arrived in Seattle. Five people were detained in Tuesday’s operation, but only Popescu was arrested and charged, he said.

In 2002, three thieves — described as Eastern European — walked into the Duran Subastas auction house in Madrid during work hours and stole the bookmark along with several pieces of jewelry from a showcase.

The bookmark’s owner at the time was described as Brazilian.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A person walks in the rain at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
First heavy rain event predicted Sunday night for Snohomish County

Starting Sunday evening, 1 to 1½ inches of rain is expected in western Washington. It marks the end of fire season, meteorologists said.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Clinton man, 61, dies in motorcycle crash Friday

Washington State Patrol lists speed as the cause. No other people or vehicles were involved.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

Most Read