Jewish leaders are urging Belfast-based Bloomfield Auctions to remove items relating to Adolf Hitler and Nazism from its auction scheduled for Tuesday, June 6.
Among the items set to go under the hammer in Belfast is an inscribed, silver-plated "pencil owned and used by Adolf Hitler, given to him by Eva Braun on his 52nd birthday." It could fetch up to $99,000.
Other items in the auction include an autographed photo of Hitler from the 1920s, an LP of Hitler speeches and Nazi songs, Hitler's personal silverware and glassware, as well as several items featuring Swastikas.
The sale of Nazi memorabilia is illegal in some European countries, including Germany, Austria, and France. There is no ban on such sales in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the United States.
Oliver Sears, the Founder of Holocaust Awareness Ireland, wrote a letter to the Managing Director of Bloomfield Auctions Karl Bennett stating that "making money out of such material is immoral and unethical."
He said: "The arguments for trading in this material are very thin. There is an abundance of such material in museums around the world and, if there is a place for these items, that is surely where they belong."
"There is a very good reason why most auction houses refuse to handle this material, including Sotheby's and Christie's. Simply put, this material is tainted beyond any mitigation or redemption.
"There is only one reason to go ahead with the sale and that is to make money, regardless of the circumstances. The very idea that anyone should make money out of the suffering of the millions murdered in the Holocaust is shameful."
“There must be a line somewhere where a moral sense of decency simply precludes an individual from wanting to make money out of this trade.”Oliver Sears, Founder, Holocaust Awareness Ireland. Thanks @Diarmuid_9 @TheJournalNews for highlighting this issue https://t.co/lL0ja1FvNZ— Holocaust Awareness Ireland (@Holocaust_Irl) May 31, 2023
Earlier, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the chairman of the European Jewish Association, issued a "moral" appeal to Bennett urging him to withdraw the Nazi items from next week's auction.
"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," Rabbi Margolin wrote on behalf of the EJA.
He continued: "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."
He added: "...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?"
Rabbi Margolin acknowledged that there is no legal ground preventing the Belfast auction from going ahead, but said that his organization is working with high-level EU groups to end such sales.
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Defending his decision to go ahead with the sale of the pencil, Bennett told RTE that while he "respects those people who may feel offended or may feel hurt by the items that we're selling … I firmly believe that these pieces will end up in serious military collections".
He went on to deny any attempt at profiteering and suggested that the pencil could be purchased by a museum.
He denied any attempt at profiteering, saying these items are of historical military significance. He also suggested the pencil could be purchased by a "well-known museum."
Dublin Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, who raised the matter of Nazi memorabilia sales in the Seanad earlier this year, told RTE that she intends to introduce a private member’s bill that outlaws the sale of Nazi memorabilia in Ireland.
Clifford-Lee said: "Other countries like Germany, Austria, France, Sweden and Brazil have done similar.
"I think it is a very fitting thing to do because it's absolutely repulsive that anybody should seek to profit from the most horrendous regime in memory."