German auction house rejects criticism as Hitler items go under hammer
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German auction house rejects criticism as Hitler items go under hammer

After Jewish group slams sale of items such as Hitler’s hat, Eva Braun’s dress, auctioneer insists ‘overwhelming majority of buyers’ are museums and known collectors, not neo-Nazis

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs, June 1942. (Bundesarchiv bild)
Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs, June 1942. (Bundesarchiv bild)

BERLIN (AP) — A German auction house rejected criticism on Wednesday of its planned sale of Nazi memorabilia, including Adolf Hitler’s top hat, a silver-plated edition of his book “Mein Kampf” and a black cocktail dress owned by his longtime partner Eva Braun, after a Jewish group condemned the auction.

Bernhard Pacher, owner of the Hermann Historica auction house in Munich, rejected the criticism, telling The Associated Press that his house goes to “great lengths” to make sure people who purchase items at their auctions are not neo-Nazis.

“The overwhelming majority of buyers are national and international museums and research facilities, plus some well-recognized collectors,” he said.

Customers who participated in Wednesday’s auction in Munich in person had to sign papers stating they do not adhere to Nazi ideology, Parcher added. However, he conceded that the screening process for online customers, who could also participate in the auction, was less strict.

A man holds a hat with the initials of Adolf Hitler prior to an auction in Grasbrunn, Germany, November 20, 2019. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)

In a response to the European Jewish Association’s demand to cancel the auction — obtained by the AP — Parcher writes that the items “bring to life that the worst perpetrators of the worst crimes in history presented themselves in everyday apparel that you and I could have worn.”

In a letter to the auction house earlier this month, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the chairman of the EJA, had asked Hermann Historica to cancel the auction given the millions who lost their lives during the Nazi years, including around 6 million Jews in death camps and executions. He also said that the sale was inappropriate in light of the rise in anti-Semitism across Europe.

“It’s wrong to make money off these blood-soaked items, especially in Germany of all places,” the European Jewish Association, or EJA, said about the auction.

“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,” he said.

Employees hold a cocktail dress, a wallet and a straw hat that belonged to Eva Braun, the wife of Adolf Hitler, prior to an auction in Grasbrunn, Germany, November 20, 2019. (Matthias Balk/dpa via AP)

Referring to Hitler’s top hat that was up for auction, Parcher wrote: “There is a strange fascination emanating from the cylinder that Hitler wore when being sworn in as Reichskanzler in 1933.

“Blood-soaked as it is, the item brings to life past events, it makes history tangible, but it does in no way glorify its bearer,” he wrote in the letter.

Hermann Historica has a long tradition of dealing with Nazi memorabilia. In 2016, it auctioned off one of Hitler’s uniforms for 275,000 euros ($304,270).

In 1987, the auction house sold Hitler’s typewriter and 69 items once owned by the Nazi dictator, and in 1988, they sold jewelry, an oil portrait, the passport and last letter by Braun before she committed suicide together with Hitler on April 30, 1945, a day after they married and shortly before Germany surrendered in World War II.

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