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Australian Auction House Faces Controversy Over Nazi Memorabilia

Jewish community leaders in Adelaide slam auction house for selling Nazi flags and swords as 'militaria.'
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 6/8/2014, 9:04 AM

auction (illustrative)
auction (illustrative)
Flash 90

Australian Jewish leaders condemned the auction of over 20 items of Nazi memorabilia on Thursday, blaming an Adelaide auction house for the "irresponsible" decision to allow the sale to go through despite the items being rejected by eBay. 

Mason Gray Strange Auction House held the sale, which included over 560 items from World Wars I and II. Nazi-related items included flags, a gas mask case, and SS swords; several of the items sold for between $300 and $700.  

"There are various ways of looking at this," Jewish Community Council of South Australia president Norman Schueler told the Daily Mail Thursday. "The obvious thing - but not in this case - is that people are hoarding and keeping manifestations of an evil part of world’s history." 

Schueler stated that the sale supports neo-Nazism, and is a blow to Holocaust survivors worldwide. 

"They [buyers] cling to it and see (Nazism) as unfinished work," he said. "'It’s particularly irresponsible of the auctioneer to profit by it, especially when the world’s biggest auction house, eBay, does not permit this stuff to be auctioned. That’s the crux of it." 

"They would not realize what it meant for someone to see a SS or swastika, they cannot know what it means to the family," he continued. 

Mason Gray Strange auctioneer Robert Hunkin insisted that the sale was not meant to cause offense, nor did any member of the Jewish community protest before the auction went up. 

"I do understand the history (of the Holocaust) and am aware of it, but there was absolutely no feedback [. . .] or furor at the sale," Hunkin said. "I am very sympathetic to the Jewish community and Mason Gray Strange had no intention of offending anyone and we regret if we have."

Hunkin firmly denied that the sale meant to cater to neo-Nazis. 

"'We weren’t selling it to any neo-Nazis or radicals or anything like that, they were all militaria enthusiasts," he insisted. 

Holocaust-related and Nazi memorabilia auctions have caused considerable controversy over the past several years, sparking debates in different countries across the globe on whether or not profiting from the sale equates profiting from genocide. 

In November, auction site eBay removed Holocaust memorabilia sales from its site after an expose from the Daily Mail, but other auctions - including the sale of Adolf Hitler's furniture and a rare edition of Mein Kampf in French auction houses - have been subject to various legal battles before being cancelled or retracted.