Monday, 25 Sep 2023 - 10 of Tishri, 5784

Fighting to stop the sale of Nazi items

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With antisemitism on the rise in Europe, the sale and purchase of Nazi items defies logic, decency and humanity and helps legitimize a culture of Hitler enthusiasts

The recent outcry over the sale of Nazi memorabilia has again highlighted the need to lead an uncompromising fight against this phenonemon in Europe and elsewhere.

With antisemitism on the rise in Europe, the sale and purchase of Nazi items defies logic, decency and humanity and helps legitimize a culture of Hitler enthusiasts

The sale is prohibited in some parts of Europe. In France, the Internet portal site Yahoo! was sued by the Union of Jewish Students and the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism for “justifying war crimes and crimes against humanity” by allowing such memorabilia to be sold via its auction pages. Yahoo!’s response was to ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia through its website.

Fearing similar litigation, auction website eBay enacted new guidelines regarding the sale of Nazi memorabilia in 2003. eBay’s policies prohibit items relating to Nazi media propaganda, items made after 1933 that contains a swastika, Nazi reproduction items such as uniforms, and all Holocaust-related products. But memorabilia such as coins, stamps, or printed period literature such as magazines, books, or pamphlets are not prohibited.

European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin: ”We believe that the trade in such items is morally unjustifiable.”

Since several years, a Brussels-based organization, the European Jewish Association (EJA), has been spearheading the fight against the sale of Nazi items by pushing European lawmakers to ban this sale as part of an overall plan to tackle antisemitism across the continent.

Just in the last few days, another auction of Nazi items made media headlines. This time, an auction house in Belfast announced  the sale of  items which belonged to mass murderer Adolf Hitler, in particular a pencil that he received from his wife Eva Braun.

Following this announcement by the Bloomfield Auction House, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who heads the European Jewish Association, wrote a scathing letter to Carl Bennett, the Auction House manager, in which he urged him to withdraw from the sale the Nazi items. ‘’This is not a legal appeal but a moral one,’’ he wrote, pointing to the grave damage such a  sale would do to the feelings of millions of people who lost their loved ones in the Holocaust.

Rabbi Margolin wrote: “Let there be no doubt, items of genuine historical interest do belong in museums or places of learning. This we fully support. But the buying and selling of items such as yours are dangerous on a number of fronts: they create a macabre trade in items belonging to mass murderers, the motives of those buying them are unknown and may glorify the actions of the Nazis, and lastly their trade is an insult to the millions who perished, the few survivors left, and to Jews everywhere.’’

Margolin’s organization, which represents Jewish communities throughout Europe, is leading the fight against those who make business with the trade of Nazi items. EJA is working in several arenas, including the legal side

‘’We are regularly exposed to more and more auction houses across the European continent that make huge profits from selling Nazi items to the highest bidder,’’ explains Attorney Shlomo Dahan, who heads the legal department of the European Jewish Association.

‘’Unfortunately, there are private individuals who are willing to pay a lot of money to have an item that belonged to the leaders of the Nazi regime,’’ he adds.

Some countries prohibit the trade of Nazi items, others only prohibit their display in public spaces.

‘’We in the legal department have been examining and analyzing the laws in a number of  European countries for a long time, in order to understand how it is possible that even in countries where there is a law against the sale of Nazi items, such trade is still carried out without any interference and what we should do in order to reduce the scope of this trade,’’ says Dahan.

Flawed laws

Afte examining in details the relevant laws and rulings that exist in those countries, the legal department came to a simple conclusion: in the countries that have laws against the trade in Nazi items, these laws are flawed and full of loopholes which are exploited and allow trade of those items.

Dahan gives the example of Germany where there are laws limiting the trade of  Nazi items and even foreseeing sanctions for those who violate these laws.

Attorney Shlomo Dahan, head of the legal department of the European Jewish Association: ”Laws against the trade of Nazi items are flawed and full of loopholes.which are exploited and allow trade of those items’.’

‘’But there is something totally absurd. In section 86a of the German Detention Law, the law broadly says that trade in Nazi items and those with ties and symbols of the Nazi Party is prohibited and illegal within the borders of the country, unless it is done for educational purposes, research institutes and science.’’

What happens in the practice is that auction houses in Germany sell Nazi items without any hindrance under the auspices of the law by writing in the terms of service on their website that they are selling those  items that are considered prohibited for trade for the benefit of research and learning, Dahan explains.

‘’In reality it does not happen for the simple reason that no one in the auction houses checks who is the person who is in front of a computer screen at any place on the globe and purchases from the auction houses, for example, Hitler’s watch or Eva Braun’s coat… there is no supervision and no control over the identity of the buyers,’’ he adds.

‘’We are working to change that,’’ he says. The EJA has recently formulated position papers and proposals for amendments to the existing laws in several countries. ‘’’’If adopted we believe that these amendments will reduce the phenomenon of trade in Nazi memorabilia to the required minimum, which is sales to museums and research institutes just as the German legislator had intended.’’

‘’It is important that they be displayed in order to teach the public and the younger generation about the darkes period in the history of the world and the need not to close our eyes to the evil, hatred and anti-Semitism that again  rears its head all over the world,’’ stresses Dahan.

‘’At  the European Jewsih Association, we will continue to fight both in the legal arena and in the media until we bring about the long-awaited change that Nazi items be only sold for the benefit of studying the Holocaust.’’

In 2019, following EJA’s campaign and its media coverage, a Lebanese businessman  bought over 600,000 euros of Nazi memorabilia from a Munich-based Auction House and donated them to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.







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