Attorney general: Auction of Auschwitz prisoner tattoo stamp set unethical

In response to court over public sale of Holocaust items, top legal authority says it is ‘morally, ethically, nationally and publicly wrong’

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The sale at auction of tattoo stamps used by Nazis on Jewish and other inmates of Auschwitz is unethical and wrong, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told the Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday.

Mandelblit said the items should not be sold to a private individual at any price.

“Such trade is morally, ethically, nationally and publicly wrong,” Mandelblit told the court.

Earlier this month the court issued a temporary injunction against the sale following an appeal from the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors group, setting November 16 as the date for an “urgent hearing” on the matter.

Attorney David Fohrer wrote in the appeal: “Such an evil item can’t have an owner… Its sale is illegal and goes against the public decency doctrine.

“This is an item that is not private property, rather a horrific monument belonging to the entire public, and serving as evidence to the crimes of the Nazis and their aides.”

The stamps used to brand prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp, put up for sale at a Jerusalem auction house (Screen grab)

Tzolman’s Auctions, a Jerusalem seller, had listed the original tattoo stamps of digits used to brand inmates at the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp.

A million Jews died at Auschwitz-Birkenau along with tens of thousands of others including Catholic Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war, between 1940 and 1945.

“The original stamps used to tattoo the numbers on Auschwitz prisoners,” the Tzolman’s website said. “The most shocking Holocaust item.”

It did not say who had put the stamps up for sale, but valued the items at $30,000-$40,000.

According to Tzolman’s, there are only three such stamp sets known in the world, with this being the largest. The others are in a military museum in St. Petersburg and on display at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The sale, which had ben set for November 9, was protested by Yad Vashem, which called it “morally unacceptable” and said it should get the artifacts, as Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

According to the auction house, the kit includes the stamps and an instruction booklet from the manufacturer Aesculup on branding cattle.

The auction house notes that stamps for branding cattle were ten times larger than the stamps included in the set it was selling, so, it said, there was no doubt that they were manufactured for the tattooing of prisoners.

Meir Tzolman, the head of the auction house, has defended the sale.

“We want to increase awareness. I am the last to underestimate or diminish the value of the Holocaust. I want to make sure that the item gets into the right hands and does not disappear from the pages of history,” he told Army Radio earlier this month.

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