One Car’s History at the Kemp Auto Museum

1939 Mercedes Benz 540K

Today’s post topic was referred to me by reader Wes Miller. He shared with me that a car kept at the Kemp Auto Museum in Chesterfield, Missouri had a connection to Adolf Hitler not too many people were aware of. Thanks to some of his own research, I learned a lot about the connection, the car, and local history.

Erhard Milch

120 years ago today, Erhard Milch was born in Germany. Milch joined the German military and rose through the ranks. He was named Air Inspector General of the Luftwaffe during the Nazi invasion of Europe, working closely with Adolf Hitler. After Germany’s downfall in WWII, Milch was captured by Allied forces in 1945 and was convicted in Nuremberg of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

1939 Mercedes Benz 540K

This all connects back to St. Louis thanks to a car. Milch was quite proud of his car, a 1939 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet A. His car was 1 of 5 of its specific body type and it was delivered to Milch on November 6, 1939. In the Kemp Auto Museum archives they have a copy of a photo with Adolf Hitler standing next to the car. It’s very likely Hitler himself rode in the car.

1939 Mercedes Benz 540K

After the tide turned in the war, Milch made arrangements to move his car to Switzerland and while the car eventually made it, Milch clearly did not. Instead, an English Count, Count Hartenburg, took possession of the vehicle in the late 60s/early 70s. The car was in disrepair and the Count restored the vehicle to its current state. It was eventually purchased in 1991 by Fred M. Kemp, Sr., who had founded the Kemp Auto Museum.

1939 Mercedes Benz 540K

The museum briefly mentions the connection to Milch but in an effort to respect the victims of the Nazi regime they don’t highlight it or attempt to make a spectacle of it. They handle the connection quietly and after interviewing employees you can tell that their main purpose is to highlight the history of the brand and the fact that this car is 1 of 3 of its style remaining today. In 2008, the car took home the “Most Significant Mercedes-Benz” honors at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance and even in that press release they preferred to speak of the car rather than the owner. I mention the history because it often can be difficult to reconcile the negative associations with items we appreciate today but I want to applaud the Kemp Auto Museum’s take on the vehicle and the knowledge of their employees.

1939 Mercedes Benz 540K

Thanks again to my very helpful source, Wes Miller for his invaluable assistance on discovering the history hidden at the Kemp Auto Museum and also to the staff at the Kemp Auto Museum for the history lessons they shared with me. Next week I’ll share my full experience at the Kemp Auto Museum and the many Mercedes Benz cars in their collection. In the meantime you can see more photos of the 1939 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet A over on my flickr page.

Kemp Auto Museum

Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Location: 16955 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield, MO 63005
Tickets: Adults-$8, Seniors-$6, Children-$3, Audio Tour- $2; A coupon to buy one ticket get one free is available in the St. Louis Entertainment Book.
Additional visitor information can be found on the website

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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