Second World War D-Day History at Normandy Sold Off by Struggling Museums

A sidecar equipped BMW motorcycle of the type used in General Erwin Rommel’s reconnaissance missions during the North African campaign during the Second World War, was the main attraction recently at an auction of war vehicles at Catz in Normandy. It sold for 130,000 euros, almost three times the estimated selling price of 45,000 euros.

Similarly, a 1943 Harley-Davidson sold for 54,000 euros, double its maximum estimated price of 25,000 euros.

Other memorabilia that riveted attention were two tanks – a Cadillac M5 A1 which sold for 230,000 and a Chrysler M4A Sherman which sold for 280,000 euros.

These were some of the 131 pieces from the Normandy Tank Museum offered for sale after museum founder Patrick Nerrant decided to close the museum and sell off the entire collection.

The museum, which opened in 2013 close to D-Day beaches in Normandy, closed due to a drop of 30 percent in visitors this year.

This year, there have been numerous problems with the French economy. Due to terrorism, there was a 30 percent drop in the number of visitors this year. There have also been strikes, such as the petrol strike, that has affected us,” Nerrant had told RFI in August.

He also said that difficulties with financial support had played a major role in his decision. Public museums receive government backing and do not pay VAT. That isn’t the situation with private museums.  They can no longer pay the rent, he said.

The veteran former Air France pilot, age 67, said that the appeals filed by residents against the demonstration flights that frequently take place on the museum’s Second World War 2 airfield, prompted him to end the project, RFI reported.

The museum’s 3,000-square-metre exhibition housed 40 vehicles and other objects of the Second World War. It also had an airstrip and five hectares of land for demonstrations.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE