Auschwitz prisoner tattoo stamp set goes on sale at Jerusalem auction house

Yad Vashem condemns sale by ‘greedy traders,’ says there may be a need for legislation; auctioneer defends sale

Stamps ostensibly used to brand prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp, put up for sale at a Jerusalem auction house (Screen grab)
Stamps ostensibly used to brand prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp, put up for sale at a Jerusalem auction house (Screen grab)

A Jerusalem auction house is selling a set of stamps used to tattoo numbers on the arms of prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp, in a sale condemned by Yad Vashem, which additionally questioned the authenticity of the lot.

The Tzolmans auction house valued the items at $30,000-$40,000. On Tuesday afternoon, the highest bid stood at $1,810. The auction was set to close November 9.

“The original stamps used to tattoo the numbers of Auschwitz prisoners — the most shocking Holocaust item,” the auction house said on its website.

It did not say who had put the stamps up for sale.

According to the auction house, the kit includes 14 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.

Holocaust survivor Bracha Ghilai, 75, shows her tattooed arm at her house in Holon near Tel Aviv, January 23, 2005. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The set up for sale in Jerusalem is one of three kits known to have survived the war. Another is in a military museum in St. Petersburg and the third is on display at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Yad Vashem condemned the move, as well as questioning the authenticity of the stamps.

The organization told the Walla news site that based on the photo on the auction house’s website, it is difficult to determine whether the items are authentic.

When Yad Vashem chair Dani Dayan was asked on Twitter if a donor could be found to prevent the objects falling into the wrong hands, he said that the Holocaust remembrance center did not buy objects at auction because they do not want to encourage “greedy traders,” adding that there may be a need for legislation on the matter.

“On principle, Yad Vashem opposes the existence of a market for Jewish or Nazi objects from the time of the Holocaust, and therefore does not purchase such items. Fortunately, the number of items donated to Yad Vashem is dozens of times higher than those traded,” Dayan tweeted. “The solution may be in legislation, and certainly not in putting in bids to greedy traders that will encourage them to continue [with the sales].”

But Meir Tzolman, the head of the auction house, 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.

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