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84-year-old German man faces prison for 40-ton Nazi-era tank, 88mm anti-aircraft gun at home – here’s what happening to them

A Panther tank. (Photo by Alf van Beem, Wikimedia Commons released. Representative photo)
August 10, 2021

An 84-year-old German man was sentenced last week nearly six years after authorities discovered an arsenal of Nazi German-era weapons at his house, including a 40-ton Panther tank and an 88-mm anti-aircraft cannon.

The unnamed German was given a suspended prison sentence of 14 months and has been ordered to pay a €250,000 ($292,920 USD) fine, the Associated Press reported August 3.

In addition to his prison sentence and fine, the German man was ordered to sell or donate the tank and the anti-aircraft cannon to a museum or collector within the next two years.

It is unclear how to German man came into possession of the collection of Nazi German weapons. Authorities raided the man’s property in 2015 after receiving a tip about the building’s contents by officials in Berlin, who had previously searched the home for stolen Nazi art.

After the raid, a neighbor told the local Kieler Nachrichten newspaper that the man had even used the Panther tank to help plow his neighbors’ snow during the particularly harsh winter of 1978-79.

The Associated Press reported the man made no secret of his weapons collection, which also included machine guns, automatic pistols and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

After authorities discovered the Panther tank in 2015, it took 20 soldiers nearly nine hours to remove it from the man’s property, as the tank’s tracks were not installed at the time.

The German public radio station Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) reported in May that the German man’s defense team argued the weapons were no longer functional and thus should be considered “demilitarized historical-museum objects that do not meet the criteria of a war weapon.” NDR reported at the time that if the court found the man’s collection was in fact demilitarized, he would have been eligible to see the confiscated weapons returned.

NDR reported the court initially found three of the four items designated as war weapons were in fact no longer functional, but that the court would have to more closely examine the 88 mm anti-aircraft cannon. The defense argued at the time that regardless of its functionality, the cannon had no ammunition and that manufacturing such ammunition would have been prohibitively expensive.

Following his sentencing, the German man’s lawyer said a U.S. museum is interested in purchasing the Panther tank. The BBC reported many U.S. historians view the Panther tank as one of the most efficient tanks developed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

A number of German collectors have also reportedly approached the German man for other items in his collection, including various rifles and pistols.