Israel welcomes Lebanon-born businessman who bought and is donating Hitler items
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Chatila tours Yad Vashem, gives items he bought at auction

Israel welcomes Lebanon-born businessman who bought and is donating Hitler items

Visiting Jerusalem, diamond and real estate magnate Abdalla Chatila says he considered the prospect of the collection landing in ‘the wrong hands’ a ‘potential lethal injustice’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila, who purchased items belonging to Adolf Hitler at a public auction in Europe to ensure that they do not get into neo-Nazi hands, visits the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on December 8, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila, who purchased items belonging to Adolf Hitler at a public auction in Europe to ensure that they do not get into neo-Nazi hands, visits the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on December 8, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Hitler artifacts that a Swiss-Lebanese businessman purchased from a controversial German auction house in November will be donated to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, the head of the institution said on Sunday.

Abdalla Chatila, who has amassed his wealth from diamonds and real estate in Geneva, purchased 10 items associated with the Nazi fuhrer on November 20 from the Munich-based Hermann Historica auction house. He later announced that he acquired them to keep them away from neo-Nazis.

“We are not going to display it as a collection,” Avner Shalev, the chairman of Yad Vashem, told reporters alongside Chatila at the Keren Hayesod association’s headquarters in Jerusalem, while noting that the museum may use one or more of the artifacts in “the right context of telling the story of the perpetrators.”

Chatila, who toured Yad Vashem on Sunday and intends to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in January, said that he considered the prospect of the artifacts landing in “the wrong hands” a “potential lethal injustice.”

This file photo taken on November 20, 2019 shows a man holding a top hat with the initials “AH” from the J A Seidl hat manufacturer on November 20, 2019 in Grasbrunn near Munich, southern Germany, prior to an auction of personal belongings from German dictator Adolf Hitler and other notorious World War II Nazi leaders. (Photo by Matthias Balk / dpa / AFP) )

“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” Chatila, who moved from Lebanon to Europe with his family at the age of 2, remarked, adding that “Hitler is the personification of evil. Evil for everyone. Not evil for the Jews. Not evil for the Christians. Evil for humanity.”

The items he purchased include a hat believed to have belonged to Adolf Hitler, a typewriter thought to have been used by one of the Nazi leader’s assistants, a silver-plated edition of his manifesto, “Mein Kampf,” and other objects. He said all of the items cost him approximately 600,000 euros.

Chatila announced some two weeks ago that he would give the items to Keren Hayesod, an Israeli fundraising group, which confirmed that it would turn them over to Yad Vashem. He said on Sunday that he hoped the artifacts would be delivered to the Holocaust museum and memorial before the end of 2019.

Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila (L), who purchased items belonging to Adolf Hitler at a public auction in Europe to ensure that they do not get into neo-Nazi hands, receives from Sam Grundwerg, World Chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA foundation, a certificate of appreciation at the Israeli fundraising association’s headquarters in Jerusalem on December 8, 2019. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Chatila said that while he had received thousands of messages from Jews regarding his decision to purchase the artifacts and give them to an Israeli organization, he was only sent a handful from Lebanese people.

“I got four or five messages from Lebanese friends who told me they were proud that a Lebanese did something like this,” he said, adding that he also received some messages from Lebanese people calling him a traitor and warning him not to return to the country.

He said he was not concerned about the threatening messages he received because he does not travel to Lebanon, but noted that his parents still do and that they were worried about them.

Lebanon and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. The Hezbollah terror group, which controls a significant part of the Lebanese parliament, and the Jewish state fought a 34-day war in 2006.

A framed portrait of Adolf Hitler is pictured on November 20, 2019, at the Hermann Historica auction house in Grasbrunn near Munich, southern Germany, prior to an auction of personal belongings from German dictator Adolf Hitler and other notorious World War II Nazi leaders. (Matthias Balk/dpa/AFP)

Rabbi Menahem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, said it was a big relief to learn that Chatila had purchased the artifacts.

“This was great, great news — I’m sure not only for the Jewish people but for the entire people in the world who care for the future and the situation,” he said.

Margolin said he originally wanted to purchase the items and burn them in the center of Berlin to send a message that “nothing that related to the heritage or the message of Adolf Hitler has to be kept.”

The European Jewish leader, however, said he was content that Keren Hayesod has said it would give them to Yad Vashem.

Keren Hayesod chairman Sam Grundwerg thanked Chatila for donating the Hitler artifacts and gave him a sculpture of a rose made from shrapnel of rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

“You took something very negative and you turned it into something beautiful,” Grundwerg said to the businessman.

Chatila said that there were two items related to Hitler sold at Hermann Historica on November 20 that he failed to purchase because of “confusion” with one of his assistants and the auctioneer. He said that he does not know who ultimately acquired those items from the auction house, explaining that it was difficult for him to communicate with it.

Hermann Historica has a long tradition of dealing with Nazi memorabilia. For example, in 2016, it auctioned off one of Hitler’s uniforms for $304,270.

Chatila is among Switzerland’s 300 richest people.

Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila meeting President Reuven Rivlin on December 8, 2019 in Jerusalem. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

He also met Sunday with President Reuven Rivlin, who heaped praise on him.

“Your donation is of great importance at this time, when people are trying to deny historical truth. These artifacts, which you are generously donating to Yad Vashem, will help convey the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation who will not meet survivors,” Rivlin said.

“What you did was seemingly so simple, but this act of grace shows the whole world how to fight the glorification of hatred and incitement against other people. It was a truly human act,” he added.

Chatila, who said he has met with Holocaust survivors, told Rivlin, “I feel a shiver when I understand how important this is for the Jewish people, but I think there is a wider message for the whole world, that ‘never again’ is not a meaningless slogan. Through acts such as this, we can ensure that these things never happen again.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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