Don Moore's

Soldier tells about looting Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in his own words

In Army, World War II on September 27, 2010 at 4:38 am

This was Sgt. Fred Butts when he served with the 290th Engineering Battalion and looted Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat in the Bavarian Alps at the close of World War II. Photo provided by Jill Butts

Fred Butts, a Cape Cod industrialist who wintered in Boca Grande, Florida, was the first American soldier to loot Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat high atop Kehlstein Mountain in the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden at the close of World War II. Sixty years later, shortly before his death, he told his family the story which they captured on tape.

Here is his story in his own words.

“My name is Fred Butts. During World War II I was a platoon sergeant in Company B, 2nd Platoon, 290th Engineering Battalion. On May 17, 1945 I became the first GI to break into Hitler’s chalet they called The Eagle’s Nest.

“Our unit was attached to the French 2nd Armored Division and we were outside of Berchtesgaden on May 16, 1945. Because I could speak a little French my platoon was sent into the town with the armored division.

“World War II in Europe had ended a few days earlier. What was left of the German Army in Bavaria was retreating. Hundreds of German soldiers were walking aimlessly along the roads west away from the advancing Russian Army.

“We rolled into town in six by sixes (Army trucks) early in the morning. French soldiers were running around looting everything in sight and getting drunk. It was total confusion. No order no nothing.

“From Berchtesgaden I could see The Eagle’s Nest atop the 7,500-foot mountain that was covered with snow even in May The next day myself and a French soldier, I didn’t even know his name, decided to climb up to Hitler’s nest.

“After a couple of hours of climbing the mountain and going through several tunnels carved through the rock the French soldier and I could see The Eagle’s Nest a couple hundred feet above us There was no one else around, just us.

This special leather-bound phone book was Hitler’s. Fred Butts took it out of the Furhrer’s living room while serving in an American engineering battalion that looted his Eagle’s Nest retreat. Photo by Mark Futch

“We walked through knee-deep snow the last few hundred feet to Hitler’s house. We tried all the doors, but they were securely locked. I took out my .45 pistol and broke a rear window, reached inside and unlocked the door.

“The French soldier and I went inside. We found a house that had been put to bed for the winter. All the chairs and tables had covers on them. It was very evident no one had lived there since the proceeding fall.

“We went through The Eagle’s Nest looking for things to take, because by then we were pretty good looters.

“The main room was octagonal with six huge windows on all sides. The windows were 10 to 12-feet wide and 8 to 10 feet high. They were so well-constructed you could raise or lower the bottom half of each window with almost no effort.

“There was a pocket beside each window with a photograph in it. The picture showed what you were looking at through the window in front of you. All the mountains in the picture were named so you could tell what mountains you were looking at.

The main room with all the windows must have been 50-feet in diameter. A few steps took you to an L-shaped room that had a huge fireplace at one end. The short end of the L contained a mahogany desk with a chair.

“A tapestry covered the desk. There was a phone book and telephone and nothing else on the desk. I took the tapestry and the embossed leather-covered phone book that was made especially for Hitler. I brought both of them back to the United States from the war.

The two monogrammed wine glasses and the stainless steel tray Butts is holding once belonged to Adolf Hitler. He stole them from The Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s Bavarian retreat at the end of World War II. Photo by Mark Futch

“The nearby bedroom was very sparse. It contained a single bed, a chair and a chest of drawers. The bed was covered with a camel’s hair blanket. I took the blanket and brought it home with me.

“The kitchen and storage room had all sorts of cooking utensils, china and serving dishes. There were very fine crystal glasses with the Nazi eagle on them and the letters A on one side of the glass and H on the other.

“I also found a large stainless steel serving tray, a key to the front door and a couple of awards presented to Hitler by the mayors of various German towns that I took. They were in specially designed folders making him an honorary citizen of the particular town.

“I pulled a sheet off Hitler’s bed, wrapped my loot in it, and threw it over my shoulder. As we started to head down the mountain a couple of newspaper reporters and several more American soldiers arrived at The Eagle’s Nest.

“Up on the mountain there were storage areas for The Eagle’s Nest. They contained some of the finest wines and liquors you ever heard of. There were also 20 or 30 cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes in one storage room.

“By the time I got my loot down the mountain most of the wine glasses with Hitler’s initials on them were broken. People have asked how we got all the stuff home. Two of the lieutenants in our battalion were being reassigned directly to the war in the Pacific. We used their foot lockers to get the stolen stuff back to the USA.

“The town of Berchtesgaden wasn’t very large, but it contained some magnificent homes owned by the big wigs in the Nazi party. People like Goering and Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, both had homes there. Hitler also had a house, down the mountain in Berchtesgaden that had been badly damaged by bombs dropped by the British Royal Air Force.

Butts holds a gold-hilted sword he took from Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s retreat in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria during the end of the Second World War. Photo by Marks Futch

“I also broke into Goering’s house and took a sword with a gold hilt. I suppose it belonged to the field marshal, but I couldn’t prove it.

“The 101st Airborne Division is credited with capturing Berchtesgaden. However, the French 2nd Armored Division we were with came into the town from the other end at the same time.

“I don’t know which division got there first. I do know the 101st took over the town and The Eagle’s Nest and managed both after the war as occupation troops.”


This story first appeared in print in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, September 27, 2010 and is republished with permission.

Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook. 

Click here to search Veterans Records and to obtain information on retrieving lost commendations.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.


About these ads
  1. [...] battalion’s soldiers celebrated by making a trip to Berchtesgarden and Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” retreat in the Bavarian [...]

  2. I was very interested to read your report of being the first GI to reach the Eagles Nest after the war. My father was one of the war correspondents you passed as you left the Eagles Nest and started back down the mountain. I wish my father were still living and could read your story.

  3. I enjoyed your story! My father was in the 101st Airborne Division, 506, and was one of the first in that division to go into the Eagles Nest! Many of the men were plundering the treasures but my father was more interested in the wine vault!! Especially the hard liquor!! My father had passed away in February, 2009. He never talked about it much but this is one of the stories he had told me. I wish I knew more!

    Sherry Robinson Pagoria
    April 8, 2012

    • Sherry -
      Thank you for your response to this story. I’m glad your father shared with you at least a little bit of his World War II experience. Equally glad this was helpful in filing in some of your gaps.
      Thank you, again.
      Don Moore

  4. A soldier that loots, is a criminal. Picking up a souvenir on the battlefield is one thing, looting is something totally different. Civilians get shot for looting, so what makes a soldier any different? Butts was a thief in uniform who lacked self-discipline, a disgrace to his country and uniform. To the victors go the spoils……I say bull s**t. Artifacts that were stolen belong in a Military or Cultural Museum.

  5. Steve, I agree.
    This man stole extravagant items which had been paid for with the wealth stolen from the victims of the holocaust. These items should either be in museums or destroyed.
    The reality is that those items will likely end up on an auction block sometime in the future, and this thievery will be handsomely rewarded.
    I found it appalling to read that one of “Hitler’s globes” was auctioned for $100K a few years back, effectively rewarding the craven selfishness of some former GI. To think of the survivors of the holocaust coming to America after the war and having to live as paupers for a generation makes these sort of acts more disgusting.
    Not to mention the resale market for these items, which greatly consists of followers of Hitler’s ideology. Hitler’s globe was bought by a child of holocaust survivors who bought it to keep it out of the hands of those people, but I’m sure that most people in the market for Hitler’s glassware or address book is in for darker reasons.

  6. [...] GI brags about looting Der Fuhrer's house Soldier tells about looting Hitler [...]

  7. […] like a castle. On the flip side of the picture he took it notes: “The main entrance to ‘The Eagle’s Nest’ , Hitler’s hideout. Germany, July […]

  8. if 1 actually researched military history you would know that the 290th didn’t arrive until 4 days after the 506th had arrived even members of the 506th(101st) have stated at least 1 Nazi officer committed suicide there and some of servants who worked there throughout the year have stated that the US Airborne were the 1st to arrive as some of the servants have stated they were starting to loot the nest when soldiers with eagle patches on their arm arrived and scared them off.Besides the military would not send in engineers 1st over combat soldiers to liberate a town.Even a private of the 101st stole Hitlers private photobook from 1 of his COs who looted it from the nest..I appreciate this mans service but he would have looted Hitlers personal belongings instead of wine glasses if he was the 1st,as of all of his personal stuff is well documented of being looted and still in the hands of members of the 101st.As far as the comments of soldiers looting should be ashamed of themselves looting during war has always been around since the dawn of man and even Jews looted during their war with Romans,christians and muslims and it is a known fact that when the US civil war broke out out of 150,000 jews only 10,000 or less served and a large number served in an officer role.capacity and looted southern sympathisers homes.I’m not racists by any means but just because of the holocaust we’re are supposed to excuse jews who did the exact same thing.In the early 30s before Jews were rounded up a Jewish man sold a painting he had to a German officer (because he ran into financial trouble) for over $150,000 then(worth over $300,000 today)which was far above the fair market value of the time meaning the officer payed more than what it was worth.A few years ago a daughter of the man who sold the painting because of a loophole that she found said any property sold or confinscated after 1928 are deemed illegal property gained found she could make a claim and get it back which she did and turned around and sold it for over $38.This would constitute as greed in my opinion..

  9. So, this guy robbed, looted, pilleaged… And he’s proud of it!… I don’t get it!… Does stealing from someone who’s considered bad (evil, or whatever word you want to use) make stealing acceptable? I always thought of measuring my own conduct based on what is right and last time I checked stealing was not acceptable under any circumstance… Now, if those were the bad guys, this guy had the chance to show that he was above their level, and the first thing he did was behave like a thief!… Honestly! Someone tell me why this is honorable and why there should be a whole article throwing laurels at this man…

  10. […] and headed for the mountain getaway,” he said. “Salzberg was 30 or 40 miles away and Berchtesgarden was another 30 or 40 miles. It took us an hour or so to get there in our […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 417 other followers

%d bloggers like this: