The auction of three alleged watercolours by Adolf Hitler was stopped in Berlin when police seized the paintings shortly before they were due to go under the hammer on Thursday.
The police action had nothing to do with the longstanding controversy over the trade in artworks by Hitler. Instead the paintings were seized as suspected forgeries.
“We received an online tip-off that the paintings are fakes,” Patricia Bremer, a police spokeswoman, told journalists.
The watercolours had a reserve price of €4,000 (£3,450) each, and the Kloss auction house said interest was expected from collectors in the UK.
The paintings depict two Alpine scenes, one with a distant figure beneath a tree, and a view of the Rhine river.
“In my view they have no artistic value, it’s simply adequate craftsmanship,” Hans-Joachim Maeder, a spokesman for the auction house said. “If you walk down the Seine and see 100 artists, 80 will be better than this.”
“The value of these objects and the media interest is because of the name at the bottom.”
Hitler aspired to be an artist as a young man but was twice rejected by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.
While modern Germany has strict laws on the sale of Nazi memorabilia there is no restriction on selling Hitler’s paintings, and one of his watercolours fetched £103,000 at auction in 2014.
Prior to Thursday’s seizure of the three suspected forgeries, the Kloss auction house said it was expecting considerable interest from online bidders in the UK, US, Scandinavia and Russia.
Hundreds of Hitler watercolours are known to still exist, but most are held by the US army which seized them at the end of the Second World War and never exhibits them.
Many forgeries are known to be in circulation, and the Kloss auction house had its watercolours authenticated by experts ahead of the auction.
But police said there was “reasonable doubt” over the authenticity of the paintings.