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LONDON (Reuters) - A series of paintings believed to be by a young Adolf Hitler fetched nearly 98,000 pounds ($143,000) including premium at an auction in Britain, well in excess of pre-sale estimates.
Among them was a watercolor of a pensive figure sitting at the end of a stone bridge with the letters "A.H." written beside it, which sold for 10,000 pounds.
The work is dated 1908, at a time when Hitler was a struggling artist in Vienna. The figure's face lacks a nose and mouth, as well the trademark square mustache.
Hitler applied to art school in Vienna but was rejected, and went on to join the army and fight in World War One.
An Alpine landscape painted in oils fetched 13,500 pounds.
"I was completely gobsmacked to be honest," said Richard Westwood-Brookes, a historical documents expert who ran Thursday's sale for Mullock's Specialist Auctioneers and Valuers.
He had expected the 12 watercolors, oil painting and two other works on offer to fetch between 400 and 1,000 pounds each.
"I put their artistic merit as on a par with a good, competent amateur," Westwood-Brookes told Reuters.
"But people do not want to acquire these for their artistic merit. They just want to have something that belonged to someone famous from history."
He said he believed the works, all signed "A. Hitler," were genuine. An Austrian expert issued certificates of authenticity for the pictures, which once belonged to a British soldier who was stationed in Essen, Germany, in 1945.
But Westwood-Brookes conceded that no one could be sure.
Two years ago, 21 paintings attributed to Hitler were sold for 118,000 pounds or more than twice the pre-sale estimate, by an auction house in England.
The authenticity of items associated with Hitler has long been a bone of contention. In 1983, German magazine Stern published what it said were extracts from Hitler's diaries. They were later exposed as forgeries.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato