Yad Vashem: Hitler’s Personal Items Sold at Auction Should Be With Us

The Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem says it’s the best guarantor that the objects will not be used to try to glorify the Nazi past

Exhibits from the Nazi era in a cupboard at the auction house Hermann Historica in Munich,  November 20, 2019.
Andreas Gebert / Reuters

The personal items of Adolf Hitler that were auctioned off last week to a Lebanese businessman – who plans to donate them to United Israel Appeal – should be housed with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum said Monday.

Among the items brought to auction were a top hat, a cigar box, a typewriter, personal letters and a silver-covered edition of “Mein Kampf.” This version of Hitler’s 1925 book is embossed with an eagle and a swastika and actually belonged to the Nazi leader Hermann Goering.

The Lebanese businessman who won the auction near Munich, Abdallah Chatila, said he would donate the items to Jerusalem-based Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.

Chatila, who lives in Switzerland, reportedly paid 600,000 euros for the artifacts that Yad Vashem believes it should house.

The Hitler top hat auctioned off at Grasbrunn near Munich, Germany, November 20, 2019.
Matthias Balk / AP

“The murderers were part of the story of the Holocaust, and to prevent a warped use of their items, such as commerce or a cult of personality, they should be kept at Yad Vashem, which is responsible for commemorating the events and collecting objects from that period,” the institution said in a statement to Haaretz.

An official at United Jewish Appeal told Haaretz: “We will handle the items with great respect, and after they reach us, we will consult with all relevant bodies to make the best decision on how to deal with them.”

The great majority of objects at Yad Vashem are from Holocaust victims, “with the goal of conveying their voice and presenting the Jewish story during the period of the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem said.

“Unlike the collection and display of the items of Holocaust victims, which are of important moral value and aim to present and commemorate the story of a Jew who no one would know about otherwise, the goal of collecting Nazi items is to show the entire phenomenon and those who were behind the murders.”

A German navy flag from the Nazi period at the auction house Hermann Historica in Munich, November 20, 2019.
Andreas Gebert / Reuters

Yad Vashem called the collection, preservation and presentation of Nazi items “means to demonstrate how a human society created an ideology that led to the systematic murder of another people.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, had launched a campaign to prevent the auction. He said he was greatly impressed by Chatila’s gesture to donate the items to Keren Hayesod.

“We believe that the trade in such items is morally unjustifiable and it seemed, given the uproar and outrage that led up to and following the auction and acres of media coverage, that we were not alone,” Margolin said in a statement.

“We were not prepared, however, in this cynical world in which we live, to expect an act of such kindness, such generosity and such solidarity as demonstrated by Mr. Chatila” – who has ensured that the items would not be used to glorify the Nazi past.