Published on Thursday, 22 March 2012 03:07 Written by Ketlan Ossowski
Are there any valid reasons why artifacts from the Holocaust should be bought and sold? Yes, and I can think of two that satisfy my own sense of standards. The first is historical: the teaching of history is physically validated by fossils, Grecian urns and great paintings, for example. The second is in remembrance: as a memorial to those affected by or who were involved in the shaping of historical events.
The constant claims of the far-right that the Holocaust either never happened at all or occurred on a much smaller scale can be countered by a great deal of evidentiary material; photographs, maps, the Nazi's own records and so on. But far more important is the evidence that came from witness testimony from those who survived the camps, the liberating troops and yes, those Nazis from whom accurate statements were obtained. That, along with the historical evidence, gives the Holocaust its resonance and allows us to engage, inasmuch as it is possible and/or desirable, with the shameful events of those terrible times.
Controversy has recently attached itself to the auction/sale of Nazi and Holocaust-related memorabilia. Labour MP Fabian Hamilton tabled a Commons motion a week or two ago, condemning such sales as 'profiteering on items promoting and glorifying hatred and violence'.
Companies such as eBay refuse to sell this type of material, as do auction houses Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams. Sadly, other companies do not and we have recently seen the sale of such worthless crap as Hitler's bed linen (sold at the knockdown price of £2,000 - what a bargain!), and a tray that was presented to Hitler on his 50th birthday by Albert Speer, his Minister of Armaments and Munitions. The tray, embossed as it was with Hitler's personal German eagle crest and initials, fetched £28,000 at auction.
Rather more disturbing (to me) was the sale of an arm band designating the wearer a Jew, pass document and Star of David cloth insignia (pictured above). Worth a mere £360, these items represent to me the horror of a people who have been designated less than human and thus become societally worthless, with all that implies.
Even worse, though I guess that's a matter of personal interpretation, was the proposed auction of surgical equipment that was believed to have been owned by Major Anton Burger, one-time commandant of Theresienstadt concentration camp, where over 33,000 inmates died as a result of hunger, sickness or the treatment meted out by their captors. Theresienstadt was also used as a transit camp for European Jews en route to Auschwitz. And here's a hellish statistic - some 1,600 Jewish children from Bialystok, Poland, were deported to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt, none of whom survived.
This proposed sale was withdrawn from an auction in Cornwall after phone and email threats, and I will state very clearly here that I applaud those who protested this sale and got it stopped, no matter how it was achieved.
As it happens, Bristol auctioneers Dreweatts, who were responsible for some of these sales, have now announced that it is to stop selling items directly associated with the Holocaust (though bizarrely it will continue to sell other Nazi memorabilia). Furthermore, it announced this week that it will make a donation to the Holocaust Education Trust, presumably by way of making some sort of amends. Fair enough, and well done to Dreweatts for going as far as it has, but there are better ways of dealing with this trade in horror.
Nazi memorabilia sales are illegal in France, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Isn't it about time that these types of sales were made illegal over the whole of the EU, except where bona-fide historians are concerned (which does NOT include people like Holocaust-revisionist and Hitler-apologist David Irving)?
Apart from the historical and personal trade in Holocaust-related material, there is no valid reason for it to be bought and sold, as far as I can see. As Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, said recently; 'It's immoral to have a trade and profit from the personal effects of the victims of the Holocaust'.
Time to stop it, then, and the first stage is to write to your local MEP. And who is my local MEP? BNP leader Nick bloody Griffin, long-time nazi and Holocaust-denier.
Fabian Hamilton's Parliamentary motion stated that; 'this House deeply deplores the sale of dozens of items of Nazi memorabilia, including items of oppression belonging to Holocaust victims...' and described such sales as 'this abhorrent trade'.
He's right and it's time that it was stopped. If you agree, you can write to Mr Hamilton, giving your support for his Parliamentary motion and maybe asking him to refer your letter on to a sensible and non-racist MEP with his endorsment, here.