The Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA), Rabbi Menachem Margolin, on Tuesday wrote to the Managing Director of East Belfast Auction House Bloomfield urging him to withdraw from sale two items belonging to Adolf Hitler up for auction in June.
The two items are an initialed pencil given to the dictator by Eva Braun, and a signed and framed photograph.
In his letter, Rabbi Margolin, whose organization represents hundreds of Jewish communities across the continent, wrote: “I am writing to respectfully ask you to withdraw these items from the auction. This is not a legal appeal to you Mr. Bennett, but very much a moral one.”
“In comments attributed to you in a national newspaper, you say: 'But for me, as a high-end collector of militaria items, they preserve a piece of our past and should be treated as historical objects, no matter if the history they refer to was one of the darkest and most controversial in recorded history.'
“We simply cannot fathom how a love trinket such as an engraved pencil or a signed photograph constitutes a historical object of any inherent historical value.
“In Europe today and indeed further afield, auction houses are buying and selling to the highest bidder other items such as watches or ashtrays belonging to Hitler, Hermann Goring cutlery sets, even Wehrmacht toilet paper. The defence from Munich to Maryland is the same, these items are of historical interest. They are anything but.
“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.
“Of course, one cannot compare, but Mr. Bennett, but would you sell the pen that belonged to Robert Murphy who killed 12 and injured 30 at the LaMon Restaurant not far from you in East Belfast? We are repeatedly told by auction houses that Hitler sells. This may indeed be true. But what is sold and to whom is a matter of public decency and moral responsibility at the end of the day. It is in this spirit of decency that I ask you again to withdraw the Nazi auction items, to send a message that some things particularly when so metaphorically blood soaked, should not and must not be traded.”