PARIS - A German auction house hinted Wednesday that it was re-thinking its plans to sell off a cache of Adolph Hitler's personal items, after Jewish groups expressed horror at the idea and accused the organizers of making money off their country's Nazi past.
The auction by Hermann Historica in Munich next month would feature the Fuhrer's reading glasses, complete with their original black leather and blue velvet case (with a reserve price of 4,800 euros ); his silver A.H. monogrammed cigarette case, which the non-smoker used to offer cigarettes to visiting dignitaries (bids to begin at 10,000 euros ); and five of his monogrammed forks and knives (for 1,800 euros ).
Also up for auction are a Hitler Youth badge, encrusted with diamonds and rubies, given to Hitler in 1942 and marked up for 22,000 euros; Hitler's sugar tongs from the study at his mountain retreat, valued at 1,100 euros; and a copy of his book "Mein Kampf," which he signed and dedicated to his former deputy Rudolf Hess, with a starting bid of 5,000 euros.
While public display of the swastika is illegal in Germany, and the symbols were thus carefully airbrushed out of the auction catalogue, there is no ban on the sale of Nazi memorabilia. Bild newspaper reported that the auction house had asked its bidders to sign a declaration confirming that any of the Nazi artifacts purchased would be used for educational purposes.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, fiercely criticized the auction. "Those who attempt to monetize these macabre heirlooms are a shame and a stain on modern-day Germany," Kantor said.
"As we at the European Jewish Congress try and preserve the memory and historic lessons of this dark period, these types of events are completely counterproductive and damaging towards educating younger Germans and Europeans about the Holocaust," he stressed.
The auction house responded that while "public media coverage does not seem appropriate ... we feel that the general public may quite rightly feel offended by the subject matter and for obvious reasons."
The auction house did not indicate whether the bidding would go ahead as planned, or who stood to profit from the auction. Media reports have indicated that Hess' estate would profit.