LONDON — Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust this week rejected the offer of a donation from an auction house that sold off numerous lots of Nazi memorabilia in a three-day auction that began on Yom Kippur.
The auction of Nazi memorabilia by JP Humbert of Northampton saw most items sold within the estimated guide price. A second auction, at London-based High Road Auctions, also went ahead, with a “German Nazi cast bronze eagle and swastika” sold for £130.
The trade in Nazi artifacts is apparently booming in the UK; it is banned in some parts of Europe.
The Holocaust Educational Trust, the intended recipient of a percentage of sales by JP Humbert, refused to accept any proceeds of this or similar sales. A spokesperson for the Trust, a charity which works in schools and the wider community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust and its modern day lessons, said it did not associate itself with the sales of such artifacts.
“The Holocaust Educational Trust will not accept any donations from organizations which profit from the sale of items associated with the Nazi regime. It is our view that these items are best placed in archives, museums or in an educational context,” said the spokesperson.
The Trust was contacted earlier this week by JP Humbert, which intended to offer a donation from the auction, at which some 200 items directly relating to the Nazis and SS regime were going under the hammer. The Trust declined the offer.
Earlier this year, it was claimed in the UK press that another auction house, Dreweatts of Bristol, had donated a sum of money to the Holocaust Educational Trust when the sale of a silver plate given to Hitler for his 50th birthday sold for £28,000 (around $45,000), exceeding its original list price of £600-800. In fact, The Times of Israel has learned, the Trust was not in touch with Dreweatts at the time, and would have rejected such a donation.
A real-time check online of JP Humbert’s auction indicated that most items did not sell for much more than their estimated value. With a guide price of £120-150, an SS bayonet went under the hammer for £180; a plate adorned with the Totenkopf logo, bearing a catalog price of £15-25, was sold for £10; a “very rare figurine of a colored fawn” marked with the SS logo was sold for £350, lower than its original £400-600 estimate. There were no bidders on a Totenkopf cuff. Unlike other auction houses, JP Humbert did not post its sale results online.
It was not clear whether saleroom owner Jonathan Humbert would now donate some of his profits to another charity; he did not respond to attempts to contact him by this reporter.
High Road Auctions, which listed six Nazi-related items for sale on the eve of Yom Kippur, reported its sales results online. Lot number 207, a “German Nazi cast bronze eagle and swastika” was sold for £130, while a collection of “World War Two German items” including a black-on-red Hitler youth armband, with catalog estimate of £250-350, apparently failed to reach its reserve price and did not sell.
The Holocaust Educational Trust does not advise those auction houses selling Nazi memorabilia on museums or charities which may accept donations, choosing to disassociate itself from the trade outright.
Jonathan Humbert told The Times of Israel earlier this week that the sale of the items in his auction serves to keep the public’s memory alive to atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.
“We hold international militaria sales three times a year and have been doing so for the past eight years. They are international, not specific to Nazi memorabilia,” he said.
“We do handle items sensitively and sensibly, and in no way do we wish to glorify the Nazi regime. This time, I have turned away items that I do not wish to be associated with: namely a cosh used at Bergen Belsen and a book entitled ‘Covenant with Death’ with horrific photos.
“As an auctioneer, it is not my place to make moral judgments, but part of what we do is to keep alive the worst element in human nature. If you keep these things alive in people’s consciousness — and don’t bury them — we can hope the terrible things will never happen again. No one is glorifying the SS or the Holocaust — far from it.”
Amir Ofek, press attaché at the Israeli Embassy in London, said: “There is only one reason, if one exists at all, to buy such items dating from the Nazi regime or from Jewish and other victims of that regime. The only legitimate reason for their sale and purchase is if such items are to form part of a ‘never again’ educational campaign.”
“However, if someone buys such an item because they think it ‘cool’ or for decoration, the embassy would condemn that in the strongest possible terms,” he added.