The Nazi dictator’s wristwatch Adolf Hitler US$1.1 million (approximately R$5.7 million) was fetched at auction in the United States, and the sale did not take place despite requests from Jewish leaders.
The piece was purchased by an anonymous buyer and is inscribed with the initials AH, as well as the swastika and eagle representing Nazi Germany.
Maryland-based American auction house Alexander Historic Auctions, which has offered Nazi memorabilia in the past, backed the sale, saying its mission was to preserve history.
Hitler ruled Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, orchestrating the systematic murder of 11 million people – 6 million of whom were Jews.
The auction house said the watch was given to the dictator on his birthday in 1933 when he became chancellor of Germany.
Historians believe the sub was captured by a French soldier on May 4, 1945, when his unit became the first Allied force to reach Hitler’s retirement home at Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian mountains. Later, the watch was resold and remained in the same family for generations.
At the same location, the Wehrmacht (Nazi Germany’s armed forces), cutlery and champagne glasses belonging to Nazi leaders and belongings of Hitler’s associate Eva Braun, toilet paper including a dress and collar for her dog emblazoned with swastikas. The auction took place over two days this Thursday and Friday (28 and 29/07).
Jewish leaders condemn the auction
Before the auction, the Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA) asked the American auction house to stop selling Nazi items in an open letter signed by 34 Jewish leaders.
“This auction, wittingly or unwittingly, does two things: one, to help those who idealize what the Nazi Party saw as its ideals. Two: to give buyers the opportunity to cheer a guest or loved one with the object of a genocidal. His supporters,” EJA President Rabbi Menachem Margol wrote in the letter. .
“The sale of these items is an abomination,” he added. “Most of the lots on display have little or no intrinsic historical value. Indeed, one can only question the motivations of those who bought them.”
“While it’s clear that the lessons of history need to be learned — and legitimate Nazi artifacts are in museums or places of higher education — what you’re selling is clearly not,” the rabbi added, visiting the auction house.
Mindy Greenstein, senior vice president of Alexander Historic Auctions, told DW that the organization’s goal is to preserve history, and that most of its collectors have items they have purchased in private collections or donated to Holocaust museums around the world.
“If history is erased, there is no evidence that it happened,” he said. “A story, good or bad, deserves to be preserved.”
Greenstein added that the auction house sells all kinds of historical artifacts, but World War II remains a popular topic because of continued and substantial public interest.
She lost most of her Jewish family in Kiev, Ukraine during the Holocaust. Her husband Bill Panakopoulos owns the auction house, and her father’s hometown of Greece was destroyed during the war.
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