The Devil’s Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler’s Limousine in America

Written by Robert Klara
Review by Jo Haraf

In the waning days of World War II, American soldiers looted Germany for souvenirs: homebound plunder including lugers, daggers, and helmets—anything with a swastika. Not content with duffle bag-sized swag, one persuasive sergeant convinced the Army to ship his booty home—a twenty-foot long, five-ton, armored Mercedes-Benz convertible: Hermann Göring’s staff car. Or was it?

In June 1948, a Chicago businessman traded thirty-five thousand dollars of ball bearings for a cobalt blue Mercedes-Benz identical to Reichsmarschall Göring’s: der Führer’s personal behemoth. Or was it?

In The Devil’s Mercedes, Klara interweaves the two vehicles’ extraordinary journeys and America’s reaction to the Third Reich’s embodiment in chrome, glove leather, and two-inch thick bulletproof glass. On display at county fairs and car dealerships, the cars raised hackles as well as millions for charity and billions in bonds, inspiring both patriotic rallies and neo-Nazi adoration. Klara’s fast-paced and lively book will satisfy automobile fans with sensual details of cast-en-bloc eight-cylinder motors, inlaid firewalls, and toolboxes lined in velvet. After forty years, an unlikeable Canadian librarian untangles the cars’ ownership, rewarding both history and mystery buffs. The cars’ disparate fates should satisfy both their devotees and detractors.