Jewish group condemns Nazi auction in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — A Jewish group condemned an auction of Nazi memorabilia in Germany on Wednesday that included items such as Adolf Hitler’s top hat, a silver-plated edition of his book “Mein Kampf” and a black cocktail dress owned by his long-time partner Eva Braun.

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“It’s wrong to make money off these blood-soaked items, especially in Germany of all places,” the European Jewish Association, or EJA, said about the auction at Hermann Historica in Munich.

In a letter to the auction house earlier this month, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the chairman of the EJA, had asked Hermann Historica to cancel the auction given the millions who lost their lives during the Nazi years including around 6 million Jews in death camps. He also said that the sale was inappropriate in light of the rise in anti-Semitism across Europe.

“We believe the sale of such memorabilia has little intrinsic historical value but instead will be bought by those who glorify and seek to justify the actions of the greatest evil to affect Europe,” he said.

The auction house’s owner, Bernhard Pacher, rejected the criticism, telling The Associated Press that his house goes to “great lengths” to make sure people who purchase items at their auctions are not neo-Nazis.

“The overwhelming majority of buyers are national and international museums and research facilities, plus some well-recognized collectors,” he said.

Customers who participated at Wednesday’s auction in Munich in person had to sign papers stating they do not adhere to Nazi ideology, Parcher added. However, he conceded that the screening process for online customers, who could also participate in the auction, was less strict.

In a response to the European Jewish Association’s demand to cancel the auction — obtained by the AP — Parcher writes that the items “bring to life that the worst perpetrators of the worst crimes in history presented themselves in everyday apparel that you and I could have worn.”

Referring to Hitler’s top hat that was up for auction, Parcher wrote: “There is a strange fascination emanating from the cylinder that Hitler wore when being sworn in as Reichskanzler in 1933.”

“Blood-soaked as it is, the item brings to life past events, it makes history tangible, but it does in no way glorify its bearer,” he wrote in the letter.

Hermann Historica has a long tradition of dealing with Nazi memorabilia. In 2016, it auctioned off one of Hitler’s uniforms for 275,000 euros ($304,270).

In 1987, the auction house sold Hitler’s typewriter and 69 items once owned by the Nazi dictator, and in 1988, they sold jewelry, an oil portrait, the passport and last letter by Braun before she committed suicide together with Hitler on April 30, 1945, a day after they married and shortly before Germany surrendered in World War II.