Yad Vashem: ‘Auschwitz tattoo stamps’ likely not used on Jewish prisoners

But Holocaust memorial, in report for court on a controversial sale, notes it ‘cannot be determined with absolute certainty’ that dies weren’t used on Jewish inmates at Nazi camp

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)

Yad Vashem has concluded that a set of tattoo stamps put up for sale in a controversial auction in Jerusalem were unlikely to have been used on prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Last year a Tel Aviv court halted the sale of the stamps and asked Yad Vashem to investigate their provenance.

According to a five-page report seen by the Reuters news agency, the Holocaust memorial said: “It would appear highly unlikely that these dies were used to tattoo Jews, though this cannot be determined with absolute certainty.”

The Yad Vashem report is to be submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court, which is expected to rule at a later date whether the sale can go ahead.

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

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.

People arrive for commemorations at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Jan. 27, 2020 (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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

The auction house noted 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.

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 Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel filed a request with the Tel Aviv District Court that the sale be frozen.

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

A Yad Vashem security guard in the empty Hall of Names in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on April 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

When Yad Vashem chair Dani Dayan was asked on Twitter last year if a donor could be found to prevent the objects falling into the wrong hands, he said that the Holocaust remembrance center does not buy objects at auction because it does 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, 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.

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