GENEVA, Switzerland — A Lebanese businessman living in Switzerland has offered Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other former possessions to the Israel-based Keren Hayesod, an umbrella body for pro-Israel fundraising in Diaspora Jewish communities.
Abdallah Chatila, who made his fortune in diamonds and real estate in Geneva, said he had bought the items at a controversial auction in Germany last week in order to keep them out of the hands of neo-Nazis.
He “wanted to buy these objects so that they would not be used for neo-Nazi propaganda purposes,” Chatila told the Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche. “My approach is totally apolitical and neutral.”
Chatila spent 545,000 euros ($601,000) on 10 lots at the Wednesday auction in Munich by the German auction house Hermann Historica, including a top hat worn by Hitler, his cigar box and typewriter, as well as a luxury edition of his book “Mein Kampf” embossed with an eagle and a swastika that belonged to the Nazi leader Hermann Goering, one of Hitler’s chief lieutenants.
“Far-right populism and anti-Semitism are spreading all over Europe and the world, I did not want these objects to fall into the wrong hands and to be used by people with dishonest intentions,” Chatila told the Swiss weekly.
Born in Beirut in 1974 to a family of Christian jewelers, Chatila is one of the 300 wealthiest people in Switzerland.
He told the paper that the Nazi artifacts “should be burned,” but that “historians think that they must be kept for the collective memory.”
He said he had made contact with Keren Hayesod, which was acting “for the building and development of the State of Israel.”
“I’m going to give them those objects… that should be exhibited in a museum.”
The auction sparked an uproar in Germany, particularly in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, president of the European Jewish Association, said earlier this month that Germany was “in the forefront in Europe with regard to the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents.”
The EJA called on “German authorities to oblige the auction houses to disclose the names of buyers,” which “could then be placed on a government list of people to watch.”