BERLIN – Letters written by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and clothing and jewelry belonging to his wife Eva Braun are just some of the controversial objects that will go under the hammer in Munich on Wednesday despite the outrage of the European Jewish Association.
The objects will be auctioned as part of the German Historical Collectibles from 1919 Onwards sale organized by German house Hermann Historica.
The Munich-based auction house will be selling military paraphernalia, including helmets and swords, among the contentious Nazi memorabilia, but Hermann Historica has barely made mention of these objects on its website.
The EJA has criticized the organization for stocking a considerable number of objects that have a direct relationship to Hitler’s personal life.
The catalog of the collection allows prospective buyers to browse the offerings of 842 lots, ranging from sculptures with Nazi motifs to the armbands Nazi soldiers would sport.
One of the most expensive pieces is a Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, which was the highest military and paramilitary award in Nazi Germany and features a Maltese Cross with a Swastika engraved in the middle and has a starting price of 95,000 euros.
But it is the objects that belonged to Hitler and Braun that stand out, as well as those that belonged to other individuals, within the dictator’s closest circle, such as Hermann Göring.
A map of Germany from 1937 that belonged to Göring, one of the most senior Nazi figures, will also go under the hammer.
For only 350 euros prospective buyers can bid on a silver fork from Hitler’s informal collection which the dictator used at home.
The price goes up to 500 euros for a piece from the Austrian’s formal collection of cutlery.
HITLER’S TOP HAT
But perhaps one of the items that has grasped most attention is Hitler’s top hat, which he used on special occasions and for private events and which goes on auction for 12,500 euros.
An edition of Mein Kampf with a silver cover, a book written by Hitler in 1925 in which he profiled the National Socialist ideology, also joins the auction for 75,000 euros.
Dedicated photographs and letters from the dictator, Braun’s clothes, daggers and swords with engraved swastikas complete the unique collection that has sparked the criticism of the president of the EJA Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
A MORAL ISSUE FOR THE EJA
Margolin sent a letter on November 11 to Hermann Historica that read:
“I am writing to respectfully ask you to withdraw the auction.
“This is not a legal appeal to you, but very much a moral one.
“What you are doing is not illegal, but it is wrong.
“I need not remind you of the many millions of lives lost as a result of national socialism, nor of the approximately six million Jewish lives that were lost due to mindless antisemitic hatred. This is history.
“Yet today, across Europe and including Germany (which now has the highest recorded cases in Europe), antisemitism is on the rise, and we believe the sale of such memorabilia has little intrinsic historical value but instead will be bought by those who glorify and seek to justify the actions of the greatest evil to affect Europe.
“The trade therefore in such items should simply not take place,” the rabbi concluded.
The auction house has said that it intends to carry on with the sale regardless, but that prospective buyers will be questioned to find out what they intend to bid on, local media reported.
The organization said that most of the buyers were museums and state collections although it did admit that in practice the screening of shoppers could not prevent sympathizers of the Nazi ideology from bidding.
AUCTIONING OBJECTS FROM THIRD REICH
It is not the first time that the auction house has come under fire for selling Nazi memorabilia.
In 2016, it grabbed headlines when a buyer from Argentina (whose identity was not disclosed) spent 600,000 euros in lots similar to those that will be auctioned on Wednesday, including a jacket that belonged to Hitler.
There is some precedent of withdrawing controversial objects from auctions though.
In March, the Bloomfield Auctions house, based in Belfast (United Kingdom), auctioned a tablecloth embroidered with the letters DR for Deutsche Reichsbahn – German National Railway – and a swastika, allegedly designed for the dictator’s 50th birthday.
The auction house was hoping to raise around 23,370 euros for the piece, but after the backlash the sale generated among the Belfast Jewish community, the director of Bloomfield withdrew the lot and pledged he would not try to auction it again.