Florence, N.J., isn’t too different from other small towns in the Garden State, one marked, if anything, by a slew of very ordinary sights—chain flower shops at every major intersection, decidedly lower gas prices, and a few cozy diners. But it is also home to something else, acquired by Greg Kohfeldt when he bought Sam Carlani’s auto-repair shop here almost 20 years ago: Adolf Hitler’s toilet.I find this fantastically appropriate.
According to Kohfeldt, the toilet came off of Hitler’s biggest private yacht, the Aviso Grille, which was between 400 and 500 feet long, and at the time one of the biggest private boats in existence. “He wanted to ride it down the Thames in London and go live in Windsor Palace when he invaded,” Kohfeldt told me on a subzero morning last week as he pulled a sink—also from the ship, and now in pieces—out of a box and laid them out for me to examine each of the maker’s stamps and faucets. Another resident of Florence, Dick Glass—an expert on Hitler’s yacht—told me that the ship was armed, had a crew of 245 men, a private room for Eva Braun, and was bigger than J.P. Morgan’s ship Corsair. The Aviso Grille also played a significant role in one particular moment in history: Hitler’s Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz stood on the deck of the ship on May 1, 1945, and gave the first word of the Führer’s death and took command of Germany.
After the war ended, the Aviso Grille was taken to the United States and ended up in the hands of New Jersey shipyard owner Harry Doan, who illegally charged visitors 25 cents to board and tour Hitler’s Yacht. However, according to Glass, both Doan and the federal government wanted to prevent the ship from becoming a memorial to Hitler, and so it was scrapped in Doan’s salvage yard in the early 1950s.
At that point, Sam Carlani needed a new toilet. Doan, his close friend and poker buddy, told him he had one available.
...While Kohfeldt seems proud of his object’s notoriety, he seems remarkably unexcited by the fact that he owns Hitler’s toilet. This may be because the story of Hitler’s possessions in Florence only begins with his toilet.
When the ship came to the United States, it was taken apart, and many of the pieces were distributed throughout Florence. One man took the teak wood from the paneling on the yacht and built himself a porch. The American Legion Post 194 in Florence still has one of the tables from Hitler’s ship in their office. The aforementioned Dick Glass used a port window for his own house; he also collected the brass screws from the Grille with his father to build their own yacht. Other bits and pieces of the Grille—the relics of Hitler’s great aspiration of taking over the United Kingdom—are scattered throughout nearby towns.
I'm not making a joke about New Jersey. But the Jewish expression reflexively added on to the name of people who are as purely evil as Hitler is "yemach shemo," "may his name be erased."
Putting his artifacts in museums keeps his name alive. Destroying them in a solemn ceremony elevates them.
But having ordinary people - people he wanted to enslave - use these objects in such spectacularly mundane ways, where over time they will be discarded when they no longer have any utility, seems perfect to me.
There is no greater humiliation than to be ignored. And the people of Florence, NJ, while aware of the provenance of these items, ignore their attachment to the mass murdering madman and just use his stuff. They attach no importance to it, no sanctity or anti-sanctity - it is just stuff that will one day be replaced with something from Home Depot.
Yemach shemo v'zichro.