A phone used by Hitler is expected to fetch £400,000 at auction
The astonishing item, described as "virtually unequalled in historical importance", was recovered from the 'Fuhrerbunker' deep beneath Berlin – where Hitler killed himself as Russian forces approached in April 1945 – by a British officer who arrived on the scene shortly after the Nazi leader's death.
Brigadier Sir Ralph Rayner, thought to be one of the first non-Soviet soldiers to enter the German capital following the German surrender, was sent by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to establish contact with his Russian counterparts in Berlin.
They gifted him the scorched and battered blood red phone, which Hitler travelled with for the last two years of World War II, during a tour of the devastated command post.
It was one of the few objects left intact.
After the war he brought it back to the UK hidden in a suitcase, but refused to talk about his trophy, which was made by German electronics giant Siemens and is engraved with a swastika and Hitler's name.
For several years because he feared he'd be accused of 'looting' – an act British troops had been ordered by their superiors not to carry out under threat of court martial.
Brig. Rayner passed the phone on to his son, Ranulf Rayner, before his death in 1977 – and Mr Rayner, himself a retired army major, has now decided to sell it in the hope it is put on display as a reminder of the terrible crimes carried out by the Nazis.
The 82-year-old, who lives in Dawlish, Devon, said: "This was Hitler's personal instrument of death.
It is a very sinister piece of equipment
Brigadier Sir Ralph Rayner
"It is a very sinister piece of equipment, when you think about what it was used for.
"He would have used it extensively to scream brutal orders to those running the concentration camps, to his generals on the battlefield, and everything and anything inbetween.
"Several eyewitness accounts tell how one of the last calls Hitler made on it was to order that his new brother-in-law, General Hermann Fegelein, was to be shot for treason.
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"He then called his aides and told them to torch his apartments once he and his wife, Eva Braun, had committed suicide.
"As soon as their lifeless bodies had been removed, the two men tried to do so but when they shut the airtight door, after a brief conflagration, the flames had gone out. That's why the phone has been lightly scorched.
"Since the end of the war it has mostly sat in a safe, virtually unannounced. But I'm getting pretty elderly now, and this sort of thing should not be hidden away.
The item as been described as 'virtually unequalled in historical importance'
"I hope the buyer is someone who is able to display it, and its story.
"The orders Hitler shouted down the phone's mouthpiece, many of which are recorded in history, are a lesson we should never forget."
The phone is being sold by Alexander Historical Auctions, based in Chesapeake City, Maryland, USA, during a Militaria sale on February 18 and 19.
The phone was taken from Hitler's bunker deep beneath Berlin
Bids can be placed in person, or online.
Auctioneer and owner Bill Panagopulos, 58, said: "When Mr Rayner first called and described the phone to me, and the story behind it, I almost fell off my chair.
"His father was probably the first Brit officer in Berlin, and he brought back something extraordinary.
"This phone is as significant an item, in terms of historical importance, as I have ever come across relating to Hitler. It is virtually unequalled.
"We have sold uniforms and hats belonging to Hitler before, but when you consider what this was used for, this is remarkable.
"It is incredible to think what crossed over those wires. It is arguably the most 'destructive' weapon of all time, used to send millions to their deaths around the world."