Opinion

Decrying the Commodification of Nazism – While Self-promoting in Israeli Media

Auction of items allegedly belonging to Hitler
Screenshot from The-S

An Israeli lobby by the name of the European Jewish Association has chalked up another achievement. The check, one may assume, is already on its way.

Again, for the umpteenth time, these wily public relations figures managed to feed Israeli media with a rating-busting “item” – Hitler’s salt shaker! In doing so they also managed to insert the name of the rabbi heading this association. The deal benefited both sides. The media, always looking for a sensation, pounced on the item as though it were a gem. The association – with no one in the media bothering to check who stands behind it, what it does and why it exists – got some positive media coverage. And the public? It wasted a few more minutes on some nonsense which was unworthy of anyone’s attention in the first place.

There was hardly any website, newspaper or TV and radio station this week that did not report the auction of “Hitler’s personal items.” As any novice editor knows, let alone this writer, the word “Hitler” guarantees good ratings. If you punch in his name on Google together with “news,” you get a plethora of important news reports. You can read that he was actually Jewish, or that he was a homosexual, or a drug addict.

Adding to this list there is now an important report about the sale of the fuehrer’s “personal items,” no less. These appear in the catalogue of a German auction house. Prices begin at a few hundred Euros, indicating unimportant, uninteresting items with little value. Did Hitler actually handle these? Is his spittle still on them? Did he even know of their existence? Apparently, we’ll never know. But what does it matter? We have the name Hitler in the headline.

Yet let’s assume Hitler did sit down for breakfast once and use the salt shaker that’s now up for auction. Why is this a news item? A quick review of auction websites reveals that Hitler’s “personal items” are sold all the time, unimpeded and without evoking much interest. Hitler, like any other person, had many personal items. Most of them, naturally, were devoid of any value. There is a huge difference between the sale of a diary, letter or historical document, from which one may learn something or which has some value for researchers, and the sale of inane items such as these. All their significance derives from an admiration of the Nazi leader, in the worst case, to the boredom of antiquities dealers searching for an “exceptional” item to spice up their collection.

If media outlets are truly interested in this topic, they should report other such auctions on their own initiative, instead of copying such press releases, the sole purpose of which in this case is to provide public relations for the head of the European Jewish Association. The public in Israel can go about its daily routine even without the important information about the association trying to cancel the auction on the unpersuasive grounds that it “would encourage hate crimes in the present.”

The truth is that this auction poses no risks. If there are Nazis who wish to own Hitler’s napkin, bon appetit. If there is a dealer who thinks there is some value in Hitler’s spoon, good luck to him. The only risk in this matter is the granting of importance, publicity and public relations to this auction. If the association really wanted to combat the shameful phenomenon of trading in Nazi memorabilia, the worst thing it could do is give it publicity. If that is not its intention, what does it want to attain? Self-promotion, obviously. With an assist from Hitler.