SAN FRANCISCO – Days after the end of World War II, an American soldier entering the wreckage of Adolf Hitler's mountain stronghold found that fierce Allied bombing had left the "Eagle's Nest" in ruins.
Hitler was dead, and other soldiers had already looted the inside of his private residence, even stripping the leather from furniture. Nearly everything of value was gone — except for the Fuhrer's globe.
"Literally, the place is all bombed out and here this globe is sitting there on the desk," said John Barsamian, now 91.
Now Barsamian is putting the artifact up for auction, along with all the military paperwork that allowed him to bring it back to the United States, including a certificate that reads "1 Global Map, German, Hitler's Eagle Nest."
Other globes presumed to have been owned by Hitler have been extensively researched for authenticity. But there is no uncertainty about the origins of Barsamian's wartime trophy.
"This is probably the most airtight documentation I've run across in some time," said Greg Martin, proprietor of the auction house that will handle the sale. "We have pictures of the guy there at the time, standing in the ruins holding the globe like a newborn baby. The guy is a meticulous record keeper."
Barsamian found the globe in April 1945 in Berghof, Hitler's home in the Bavarian Alps town of Berchtesgaden. He boxed it up with a few other keepsakes, including a pistol and a dagger, and shipped them home.
For more than 60 years, he kept the globe at his home in Oakland. It wasn't displayed prominently, and he only told its story when close friends would ask.
"Hardly anyone knew I had it," Barsamian said.
Today, the globe rests on a plain wooden pedestal and wouldn't seem out of place in a grade-school classroom. A weathered ribbon of transparent tape encircles the globe at its equator.
For Barsamian, it evokes memories of another era, when he was a 28-year-old chief warrant officer.
Running his finger across a World War II-era map of Europe, he described his division's advance into Nazi territory and recalls every battle.
"This is where we cleaned out the enemy," Barsamian said, tracing a line eastward from Normandy.
But the war was also a painful time. "I lost those years," he said. "Those years with my father and mother and brothers are gone."
After beating cancer and burying his wife, Violet, in 2004, Barsamian is finally ready to part with the globe. He's selling it now, while he's still alive, so he can personally tell the story behind it and share his experience in the war, says his son, Barry.
The globe is to expected to attract bids from $15,000 to $20,000 when it is auctioned Nov. 13 in San Francisco.
Other items up for auction include rare documents signed by Hitler, and a box of cigars that belonged to Hermann Goering, a leader in the Nazi Party.