Daily Israel Report

French Jewish Group Urges Hitler Furniture Auction Ban

Jewish group in France moves to stop Hitler's furniture from being sold at auction.
By Rachel Benaim
First Publish: 4/14/2014, 4:46 AM

 Sotheby's auction house (illustrative)
Sotheby's auction house (illustrative)
Reuters

On Sunday, France's main Jewish body called for the cancellation of an auction of Adolf Hitler and Nazi air force chief Hermann Goering's personal effects due in Paris next month.

CRIF, the French associate of the World Jewish Congress, said the sale, planned for April 26, was "a form of moral indecency" and disrespectful to "the victims of Nazi barbarism.”

It asked the culture ministry to block the auction. The ministry has yet to do so.

The objects and documents to be put under the hammer were brought back by French World War II fighters from the Bavarian Alps homes of the two Reich stalwarts in May 1945 after Hitler's mountaintop retreat was bombed by Allied planes.   

They include Goering's passport, a monogrammed mat with the Nazi eagle belonging to Hitler bearing the letters A H, and a wooden chest presented to the Nazi leader and emblazoned with swastikas.

One of the older pieces is a 17th century manuscript presented to Goering in 1935.

Another organization, the National Office of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, similarly called for the ban on Saturday on what it called an "obscene" auction.

This sentiment is not exclusive to France. With sales of Hitler memorabilia booming world wide, there are those who wonder if it’s in bad taste to profit from such materials. Some countries, such as Germany, definitively ban the sale of Hitler’s personal effects for this reason. 

Recently, the Nate D. Sanders auction house in Los Angeles sold a signed two-volume set of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" to a private collector for $65,000.

In the same vein, last month, military-antiques expert Craig Gottlieb, 43, auctioned off a collection of Hitler’s personal effects in Louisville, Kentucky. The collection, including a 1930s-vintage Nazi Party brown shirt, a Nazi political visor, a "blood order" medal and a small collection of other implements taken from the Hitler's Munich apartment by American soldiers in 1945, proved a sale that turned significant profit, but also stirred up controversy for the same reason as the French furniture sale.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Gottlieb acquired the collection with the intention of selling—"and I'm going to make a profit," he told the Journal.

Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit group that fights anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, speaking to the Journal, noted that he is "concerned" with how such items are used by those who buy them.

He said he would like for Nazi military dealers and auctioneers "to ask themselves pretty strong questions—think about what is ethical and what's right about it." While acknowledging there are people whose interests are purely historical, he said "there's also a kind of perverse aspect to it."

Major auctioneers, such was Southeby's, limit sales of Nazi materials or ban it outright, presumably because of the question of tastelessness. eBay Inc., for example, doesn't allow posting any items for sale whose value comes from the fact that they were owned by Nazi leaders including Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering or Heinrich Himmler. 

AFP contributed to this report.