A German resident in the northern town of Heikendorf was sentenced this week to a suspended prison sentence of 14 months nearly six years after authorities discovered a World War II-era arsenal in the defendant’s cellar, a collection that included a 1943 40-ton tank aptly known as the “Panther of Heikendorf” and an 88 mm anti-aircraft cannon.
The defendant, named only as Klaus-Dieter F. in German reports — as German privacy laws restrict full identification — was ordered to pay a €250,000 fine, or approximately $300,000 USD.
The defendant reportedly purchased and restored the tank in late 1970s, when it was brought to Germany after sitting untouched in an English junkyard for decades.
Although he stored it in his cellar, Klaus-Dieter F. wasn’t shy about showcasing his prized possession. According to local reports, the defendant drove it on multiple occasions, even using it as a snow plow during a particularly harsh winter.
The 84-year-old former financier had his house raided in 2015 after authorities saw some of the artifacts while conducting searches for stolen Nazi art.
In addition to the tank and flak cannon, officials found a mortar, a torpedo, 70 rifles and machine guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Most items were determined to be non-operational.
The topic of the weapons’ working order, meanwhile, instigated debates as to whether the defendant violated the country’s War Weapons Control Act. Sentencing reflected a ruling that nearly all items in the arsenal were “not war weapons within the meaning of the War Weapons Control Act, because they are no longer usable as such,” a court spokesman said.
Instead, the collection was classified as museum items.
In addition to the weapons cache, the 2015 search turned up an array of Nazi memorabilia, including busts of Hitler, Reich eagle decorations, Nazi uniforms, swastika pennants and SS rune-shaped lamps.
It took nearly nine hours for two dozen soldiers from the German army to remove the items from the house.
According to reports, numerous U.S.-based museums have expressed interest in purchasing the tank, which was ordered to be donated to a museum or licensed collector as part of the sentencing.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.