An original piece of fabric from the Hindenburg airship stunned auctioneers in Boston this week, after it smashed its estimate to fetch over $35,000.
The large red swatch was recovered from the wreckage of the German airship, after it tragically crashed in New Jersey on May 6, 1937, killing 36 people.
It had originally been expected to sell at RR Auction for around $5,000, but soared to a final price of $36,282.
The fabric was accompanied by a letter from the consignor Joshua Lamont, who recounted the story of how he came to own it:
"My grandmother Rose was 14 when she and her sisters convinced their father Patrick to bring them to NAS Lakehurst the night he was assigned to the Hindenburg’s landing crew.
"Hours later, engulfed in flames The Hindenburg infamously crash landed, killing 36 and effectively ending the era of the great airships.
"The sisters were hurried to a safe spot as their father joined the search and rescue efforts for the 95 survivors. The sisters roamed around the crash site, finding relics including burnt coins, melted dining spoons and an odd red swatch of material my grandmother found and took home.
"She kept it inside a book for more than 70 years, until she passed away in 2008."
The swatch of fabric had remained in the family collection for more than 80 years, during which time it found its way into the White House.
Lamont worked as an aide in the Obama administration, and kept the piece of family history on his desk, tucked inside the same book his grandmother had placed it in.
When he shared the story with his colleagues, his boss, First Lady Michelle Obama, was curious to know more and asked him to research the artefact further.
Lamont contacted experts from the National Archives and The Smithsonian, and they confirmed that the fabric was a section of the airship itself, rather than on object that had been carried on board.
Not only that, but its distinctive red color could only mean one thing: it was a piece of the gigantic Swastika flag of Nazi Germany, which had originally adorned the tail section of the airship.
The Hindenburg was regarded as "the pride of Germany", and had been used as a symbol of strength by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels as the party rose to power before WWII.
"For many, this represents much more than the Hindenburg — but an end to the powerful propaganda tool used by the Nazi regime," said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.
"We are thrilled with the price achieved that is well above our initial pre-auction estimate of $4,000 – $5,000."